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Sail Ships - Setting Sail

To make sail is to spread an additional quantity of sail, so as to increase the ship's velocity. To shorten sail is to reduce or take in part of the sails, with an intention to diminish the ship's velocity. While the order "Carry On" now mean only to proceed with any duty, it was originally a specific order not to shorten sail, but to carry on all canvas the ship would stand unless stress of bad weather dictated otherwise. The captain had to gauge the course of an enemy ship, and calculate whether it is better to raise more sail or instead to tack suddenly.

When sailing with the wind anywhere except directly astern, sailing ships make progress not only forward but also drift sideways, the drift increasing the closer the ship attempts to sail to the direction of the wind. A vessel in which the loss of ground downwind is minimal is described as weatherly, as opposed to leewardly.

When 'hands aloft' was called, the duty seamen swung out over the bulwarks and onto the main shrouds (standing rigging), climbing using the thin 'ratlines' as steps. When they reached the fighting top, the experienced seamen would swing out around the top while the inexperienced took the safer passage through the lubber hole inside. When they reached the yard, the men would spread out along the yard using the foot ropes for support. Some experienced seamen even ran along the tops of the yards, dropping onto the foot ropes when they reached their station.

In position, the seamen held on to the yard arm with one hand and hauled on the sail with the other. This was known as "one hand for the ship, one for yourself."

To "make all sail " -- from being closed hauled with reefs in before the wind -- the crew would square the yards by the lifts and braces; bowse taught the trusses; send the people up to let the reefs out; and send down the studding-sail geer. Thhe people on deck would get the studding-sails ready, while the men aloft let out the reefs. The reefs being let out, the crew would hoist the top sails; when hoisted up, loose, and set the top-gallant-sails. The crew would then get the royals on the top-gallant-yards; bowse taught the top-sail-lifts, burtons, and rolling tackles; settle a foot or two of the hallyyards, to let them all bear an equal strain, which will add both to the security, and appearance of the yard. The studding-sails being ready to send up, and the booms to rig out, the crew would man the boom-tackle-falls, top mast, and top-gallant-studding-sail-hallyards. With rig out, the crew would hoist away together, get the studding sails on the yards, cut the stops, and then man the lower and top-mast studding sail hallyards on deck, and the top-gallant-studding-sail-hallyards in the tops; when ready, hoist away all together.

To "shorten sail" when every sail in a ship is set, the room will not permit all to be reduced at the same time; some part must be neglected. On this account it was best to make two movements, that the whole may be performed with promptitude and regularity. In the first instance, therefore, the crew would haul down the studding-sails, take in the royals, and rig in the booms. When this was finished, the crew would haul up the courses, take in the top-gallant-sails, haul down the jib and stay-sails, and brail up the spanker.

The term "scandalise" was used to describe reducing sail in an unusual manner; for instance, instead of lowering throat-halyards and peak-halyards of a gaff sail together, rather to drop the peak and perhaps trice up and tack. On a gaff rig the sail is made loose footed, the clew is brought forward along the boom and the sail cloth is drawn up in folds along the gaff and mast. From this position the sail is instantly available for use. To scandalise a Mainsail, the peak is dropped downs between the topping lifts until square to the mast and the main tack triced up. Sometimes the throat is lowered also. Also, when ship at anchor sets its yards askew as a sign of mourning, it is said to be scandalised.

The mizen-topsail should not be used as a proper sail for conning the ship by. The touching of the mizen-topsail arises from the mizen-mast unavoidably being so near the main-mast, and that the force of the wind while gliding off such a powerful sail as the main-topsail, occasions an eaddy wind, which shakes the weather-leach of the mizen-topsail.

Only courses and topsails have reef points, and a reef is taken in on the head of the sail, not on the foot as in fore-and-aft sails.

Fighting Sail / Easy Sail The Easy Sails, where courses are furled, are sometimes referred to as Fighting Sail. This has tops and topgallants set, and would be used where possible in action to give Marine snippers in the fighting tops a clear shot at the enemy crew on the weather deck below. This was preferred because it got the lower sails out of the way. The sail set a vessel fought at was dictated by prevailing conditions. The British fleet at Battle of the Nile for example, commenced action at studding sail and then anchored. Similarly, at the Battle of Trafalgar, the British fleet commenced at studding sail whereas the Franco-Spanish fleet were aleaday at Fighting Sail. All Plain Sail All the square sails set, courses, tops, topgallants and royals. With all plain sail set, the main-sail is generally considered the best sail to steer the ship by; with the main-sail up, the main top-gallant sail is then the best sail to steer by; and with top-gallant sails handed, the main-topsail.
Studding Sail Studdingsails (pronounced stunsails) are set from booms rigged out from both yardarms of the topsail and topgallant yards of the fore- and mainmasts to extend temporarily the area of the topsails and topgallants. 'gull wing' - common for its sailing efficiency as it allowed the quartering wind to reach the fore sails more effectively. Full Sail Similar to All Plain Sail but with the inclusion of stay sails, the fore and aft sails rigged between the masts on a vessels stays.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:41:09 ZULU