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Cross-Jack Yard on a cutter (Sherbourne 1763)


tkay11
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Biddlecombe, in his tables of measurements of 30, 60 and 90-ton cutters in his 'Art of Rigging', has a section on the 'Cross-Jack Yard'. I understand he is writing this in 1838, a long time after the Sherbourne, but I would be grateful if anyone could explain his use of the term, especially as he provides no measurements for the other yards (topsail, squaresail, spreadsail).

 

I understand from Falconer that the Cross-Jack Yard is a term mostly used for mizzen masts, or that the term can be used for a rigged as a Cross-Jack. However, that would mean that the yard in question carried no sail if I understand correctly.

 

Of course, I am very likely not to have understood correctly, so any and all explanations are welcome, together with why Biddlecombe should not give measurements for the other yards -- unless one of these is the Cross-Jack yard.

 

Sorry, as usual for my ignorance -- which arises from trying to cross-check the various dimensions I have found for the rigging of cutters of the period.

 

Tony

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http://www.schoonerman.com/sailingterms/Running-Rigging-Merchant-Ship.htm

 

I think this shows it exactly - on a larger vessel  - where it I believe was used to spread the foot of the lower Mizzen sail 

 

I dont think it was a fixed yard on fore and aft rig but I understand that the term was used for a yard carrying a temporary square sail on such fore and aft rigged vessels

 

It did exist though - the cutter "Admiral Mitchell " is recorded as having hers shot through I think a year or so before Trafalgar

Edited by SpyGlass
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Thanks, Spyglass. A lovely diagram and a thoughtful suggestion. Nice to know about the 'Admiral Mitchell'.

 

If I get you right, your suggestion is that the yard was for a temporary square sail. My puzzle is why Biddlecombe would have referred to that alone and not the other masts on cutters. And it leaves me wondering where it would have been placed in relation to the other yards, unless it was one of them.

 

One possibility is that Biddlecombe is referring to a class of cutter-yachts that is not the same as the cutters used in the 18th Century for customs purposes.

 

Tony

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Thanks, Joel, and thanks also for taking the trouble to look at my log. It's ok, I have the dimensions and placing of the other yards. What I am interested in is the dimensions of the ropes and blocks.

 

Biddlecombe's focus on a cross-jack yard without mention of the other yards just raised this particular question for me. The kit suggestions for the rigging are not only extremely basic and sparse, but lack the complexity and detail of a cutter of the period. This was why I was looking into the detail.

 

Most books on rigging of the period seem to cover three-masters or merchant vessels. I have come across very little for cutters. The most detailed I have found so far in books for cutters are Petersson's books.

 

In addition there are some fine detailed models of cutters available, but so far I have only seen pictures of those. I have an appointment at the NMM in April to have a detailed look at 5 of their models which of course will help enormously.

 

I remain puzzled (entirely due to my ignorance) about the mention of a cross-jack yard on a cutter without mention of the other yards. I do understand that cutters could sometimes have a mizzen mast raised, but Biddlecombe didn't seem to be referring to that possibility. I also realise, of course, that he was writing nearly a century later.

 

Tony

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A cross jack yard is the lowest yard on the mizzen mast which does not normally carry a sail. It's used to spread the sheets of the topsail.

 

So on your cutter it's just the lower yard.

Here in the pic you will see the cross jack yard on endeavour.

post-18517-0-13633200-1427276072_thumb.jpg

Edited by Tallshiptragic
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Tony,

 

I think this quandery is a case of different terms being used at different periods. I believe the yard was normally called the spread yard in our period, because it didn't normally carry a sail and merely 'spread' the foot of the topsail. :huh:

 

As has been mentioned, the crossjack was traditionally the name for the lowest yard on the mizzen mast of a square-rigged ship. Often it didn't usually have a sail bent to it, but served to extend the clews of the topsail above it, its sheets passing through sheaves in the yard arms and thence to the deck. In Falconer's Marine Dictionary (1780) it is mentioned only with relation to square-rigged ships, although he does say that the yard did have a sail but that it was little used. However, according to the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea (1979), the term could refer to the lowest yard below the crosstrees, on a fore-and-aft rigged vessel. I imagine, though, that might be later terminology.

 

I have been speculating on how the name might have come about, for want of any written definition, and which might have a bearing on the sail's subsequent disappearance. My theory is that the sail obscured the view of the helmsman, ie. it was a'cross jack's (ie. the seaman's) line of sight, and so was later discontinued. I stand to be corrected however!

 

I'm sure we'd be interested in what you discover in your visit to the NMM. ;)

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Thanks, Jack and Kester. I was thinking the same as you, Kester, about the re-naming, and thinking it was probably just the spreadsail yard. I saw Falconer's description. It still remains puzzling as to why Biddlecombe would mention only that one yard.

 

I like the idea of poor Jack being cross at not being able to see properly, being cross-eyed or having his eyes crossed by a yard.

 

My last visit to the Science Museum was very disappointing in that I chose 2 models that were not very good (I could only go by the descriptions on their catalogue) -- so I posted no pictures of that. In the case of the NMM, though, I was able to see pictures beforehand, and so could choose with great confidence the models I want to study. I'll make sure you're kept up to date with the photos. The models are held at the Chatham Dockyard.

 

Tony

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As suggested, the yard used to spread the foot of the topsail could be called a cro'jack, even though it isn't on a mizzen mast.

Depending on the particular vessel, there might be a 'fair weather sail' spread below the topsail on a cutter which would have its own pair of yards, or it might be bent to the 'cro'jack' and have another yard to spread its foot.  If it had its own yard for the head of the sail, that yard might be hoisted on a 'horse' which was a rope running from the cap to the deck.  This keeps this portion of the square sail rigging from interfering with the gaff sail.  Biddlecombe has a listing for a 'jack stay' and I wonder if that is this 'horse'.

I welcome clarification on the terms used for these items.

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Jack - comes from the Middle English word jakke to describe any of various portable devices for raising or lifting heavy objects short heights, using various mechanical, pneumatic, or hydraulic methods.

 

Cross - it runs across the mast.

 

Jackyard - a short spar to spread the topsail away from the gaff.

 

Combined - cross jackyard.

 

The helmsmen wouldn't need to see where they're steering as they're either steering a course, steering to orders or 'full and by' in which you would be looking at the sails themselves.

Edited by Tallshiptragic
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Ah well! The romance of cross Jack has to go, I suppose. Thanks for the accuracy though!

 

Tony

I seem to recall a discussion on another group years ago about this.  I think the term comes over from Dutch, with the usual 'Englishification'.

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Robin,

 

Thanks for that. I am hoping to reproduce this earlier method of hoisting the yards on my Sherbourne, when I get to that point.

 

The helmsmen wouldn't need to see where they're steering as they're either steering a course, steering to orders or 'full and by' in which you would be looking at the sails themselves.

 

Anton,

 

Yes, of course, but I was really surmising that the helmsman and perhaps the officers aft, would get a better view of the sails on main and fore masts if the crossjack sail were not bent – as per your latter point.

 

I knew I might get shot down in flames for promoting the 'romantic' view! :rolleyes:

Edited by Stockholm tar
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Haha wouldn't say shot down at all.

 

Just remember when you're sailing 'full and by' the yards would be made sharp up, so due to the size of the main and fire course you would still see them. As for the disappearance of a sail fitted to the cross jackyard. There most likely was never an official sail, as the gaff mizzen replaced the lateen mizzen thus making it impossible for an earlier sail to have been rigged. On a cutter of course a 'course' could have and from paintings were set. Though these sails would taper towards the deck unlike traditional ship rigged courses. You find this shape of fore course on barquentines and topsail schooners... So really anything could have been done.

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Thanks a lot, guys. What I take from the conversation is that (in addition to obtaining all this wisdom from the forum) it is just as important to study contemporary paintings -- which so far I have not done.

 

Tony

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