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SailingRabbit

Question on the rigging of the Mainsail of a Brigantine

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Hello,

 

This is my fist post on these forums, I hope I'm not going against the etiquette by not posting in an introduction topic first.

 

 

I'm in the process of drawing building plans for a (scratch build) French brigantine from the 1740s. The problem I'm encountering is that, while a lot has been written on the rigging of ships, the (detailed) information on smaller vessels is scarce. While this makes the research all the more interesting, it also present me with questions now and then.

 

I'm trying to figure out how the mainsail (the gaff sail) was rigged. More specifically, I'm trying to figure out if in the 1740s a gaff sail was more commonly lowered to the deck (like that of more modern schooners) or clewed up to the mast/gaff in the fashion that is common with spankers.

I've seen several old painting which suggest that large gaff sails where indeed sometimes clewed up, but I've not been able to find out which was more common on a brigantine.

 

An image to illustrate my qustion:

1jkls7.jpg

My big question is: does somebody know which option was more common around 1740? or, in other words, is either option A or B more historically correct?

 

Regards,

Sailing Rabbit

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I am only familiar with English practice, but In the 1740's there was a substantial chance that there would not have been a boom and the sail was loose footed. Although the gaff could indeed be lowered the sail would have been laced to the mast and brailed up similar to your diagram. 

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post-2745-0-52756800-1394502958_thumb.jpg

 

Here is an English brigantine painted by John Cleverly in 1757. There is a lanteen yard instead of a gaff with a full mizzen sail. This sail is brailed up to the yard and the yard is lowered. French practice could have been different.

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That raises a very intersting point. If the gaff + boom combination was not yet in common use (on the continent) in 1740, the models I've been studying are either wrongly dated, repaired/changed at a later point in time or simply inaccurate.

I delayed my reply here because I wanted to find an answer to the question, but so far I've not been able to get any confirmation (either way). It would mean that I will have to shift the brigantine I'm planning by 10 years or so?

 

What I did figure out is what was more common with regard either (A) brailing it up or (B) lowering the gaff to deck. It seems that lowering the gaff to deck became more common later in the 18th century and became a viable alternative because the gaff shrank in size. With a large gaff, brailing it up (option A) is more convenient and the method continued to be used.

 

Regards,

Sailing Rabbit

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Here is an English "snow from the 1750's. The difference between a snow and a brig is that the snow has a small pole or mast just aft of the main mast. It stands on the deck and is secured under the main top. The driver or later spanker is laced to this smaller pole instead of the main mast itself. The sail is shown brailed to the gaff & mast. There is no boom. It appears as was often the custom, the same vessel is shown from the stern sailing away from the viewer. It can be seen that the driver/spanker is not extended past the stern with a boom as was common beginning in the 1780's.

post-2745-0-74384900-1394716822_thumb.jpg

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One resource you may want to consider is R.C. Anderson The Rigging of Ships: In the Days of the Spritsail Topmast, 1600-1720 (original publication in 1927, Dover reprint in 2012 - ISBN 9780486279602).  He is arguably one of the more authoritative sources on rigging practice - English, French and Dutch in particular - from that era.  Make sure you get the one listed above - he also has another version that updated it but focused only on the English methods of rigging.

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The sail is shown brailed to the gaff & mast. There is no boom. It appears as was often the custom, the same vessel is shown from the stern sailing away from the viewer. It can be seen that the driver/spanker is not extended past the stern with a boom as was common beginning in the 1780's.

As far as I know, it snows did not have a boom. I'm aware that in modern terminology the trysail mast is named as the distictive feature, but in older sources (in Dutch in this case) both the lack of a boom and the sharpness of the bow are named. The sharpness of the bow is even metnioned as the source of the name: 'snavelschepen uit zweden' (= beak ships from sweden), where 'snavel' in later times slowly changed into 'snauw' which is transliterated in English into Snow.

 

Where do you find the wonderfull images of the painting from? They are beautiful!

 

 

One resource you may want to consider is R.C. Anderson The Rigging of Ships: In the Days of the Spritsail Topmast, 1600-1720 (original publication in 1927, Dover reprint in 2012 - ISBN 9780486279602).  He is arguably one of the more authoritative sources on rigging practice - English, French and Dutch in particular - from that era.  Make sure you get the one listed above - he also has another version that updated it but focused only on the English methods of rigging.

 

I've a 'digital copy' of the book, but it has ISBN: 0-486-27960-X, so that may be the English focused one?

I'll see what I can find (I more or less ignored it, because it predates the period I'm mostly intersted in).

 

Thanks for all the help!

 

Regards,

Sailing Rabbit

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I've a 'digital copy' of the book, but it has ISBN: 0-486-27960-X, so that may be the English focused one?

I'll see what I can find (I more or less ignored it, because it predates the period I'm mostly intersted in).

 

Thanks for all the help!

 

Regards,

Sailing Rabbit

That is the same book, just the 1994 reprint.  One thing to keep in mind is that rigging methods evolved fairly slowly - what was in use in 1720 would likely still be in use in nearly the same form for 1740. 

 

I am also looking through (as I get the time) my copy of The Fore-and-aft Rig in America: A Sketch by E. P. Morris (1927).  While not specific to French practice, he uses a number of other nations to show evolutionary trends in the development of the rig in America.  You might also find some information in Fore and Aft: The Story of the Fore & Aft Rig from the Earliest Times to the Present Day by Edward Keble Chatterton (1912).  I haven't looked through it yet to see if there is useful info (actually, it just occurred to me as I was typing this missive).

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You might also find some information in Fore and Aft: The Story of the Fore & Aft Rig from the Earliest Times to the Present Day by Edward Keble Chatterton (1912).

 

Thanks a lot for this suggestion, I'm reading it (finished the second chapter) and it is a very interesting book. I'm not sure yet if it will provider the answers I was looking for in this particular case, but it is interesting non the less!

 

Through other sources, I found that in Sweden they employed the brigantine rig as early as 1669; with a gaff, but without the gaff-boom. The Dutch had coastal vessels with a gaff and a gaff-boom as early as 1672, but the image shows a vessel with a single mast. Steel, Goddard, & Co. "The Art of Rigging" London (1818) depicts an image of an English two masted vessel from 1725 which shows the complete rig (including gaff sail with gaff-boom) of what we would now call a brigantine. So, I'm less worried about the accuracy of the models I saw.

I will be in Paris in a couple of weeks, so I may as well try and visit the nautical museum there and see what more I can learn from contemporary models.

 

/Rabbit

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