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Ratline Sequence


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Hi folks,


I am just starting the 'rattlin down' of my HMB Endeavour (Scale 1:60) and am a little confused with the various authorities in how these should be rigged.


The following depicts several possible options of interpreting what Lees, Steele, Lever and others have described but not illustrated.


Which would be the correct sequence noting it is a English ship, rigged Naval style (even though a collier) for the year  circa 1768.  I am reasonably sure (but stand to be corrected) that Endeavour did not carry Swifters, so I am assuming Option 2 is incorrect? 


Any guidance or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.







Edited by BANYAN
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Thanks for the feedback Mike; I have still a ways to go for research, but if you read the following you can see that it is confusing and I don't think there is really a wrong solution?


The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of 1625-1860 by James Lees

Page 42 - A Swifter was not always rigged and usually refers instead to the after shroud; where there was an odd number of shrouds, the after one was called a swifter.  There was nothing unusual in this shroud except that the upper end was fitted at the masthead by means of a eye-splice, the lower being secured exactly the same as other shrouds.

Page 43 - Ratlines were spaced 13 to 15 inches apart and had an eye spliced in one end through which they were seized to the fore shroud.  The other end was clove-hitched around each shroud in turn and had an eye spliced in the end which was seized to the second shroud from aft, counting the swifter as a shroud.  About every sixth ratline was taken to the swifter or aftermost shroud on some ships.  On some ships between 1733 and 1773 the first six ratlines started from the second shroud from forward, the rest of the ratlines being rigged as before.  After 1773 the first six ratlines and the upper six ratlines started from the second shroud from forward, and finished at the second shroud from after; the remainder covered all shrouds.


The Young Sea Officer’s Sheet Anchor by Darcy Lever

Page 25 - The ratlines are made fast to the shrouds, in the following manner.  An eye is spliced in one end, which is seized to the foremost shroud: the remaining part is made fast round the shrouds, with clove-hitches; and an eye spliced in the other end, it is seized as before to the shroud.  


18th Century Rigs and Rigging by Karl Heinz Marquardt

Page 61 – A single shroud was usually named a 'swifter', and on English warships it was set up after the shroud pairs, with an eye-splice over the masthead.  On French men of war, and on English merchantman, it was the foremost shroud, combined with the smaller mast tackle pendant.  Falconer referred to a swifter as that providing additional support to the mast, and suggested that they were not confined by catharpins, otherwise they were set up exactly like shrouds.  Roding suggested that a swifter were used as a preventer shroud.

Page 63- Ratlines running across the shrouds like the rungs on a ladder, began 13 inches below the futtock staves and were set a distance of 14 inches apart.  They were fastened to each shroud with a clove-hitch, except that the ends, where an eye was spliced in, and seized to the shroud.

The measurements quoted for the distance between ratlines varied greatly from one author to another.  Steel noted 13 inches, Lever 12, Anderson 15 to 16, and Boudroit 13 to 14 inches.  In view of the extra effort required from a sailor in running up ratlines which were widely spaced, a distance greater than Steel’s 13 inches seems unlikely.

Ratlines did not always run across all shrouds.  Illustrations of French ships show the foremost and aftermost shrouds omitted, or only every sixth ratline (that is, ratline’s 2 m apart) running across all shrouds.  Boudroit noted that the foremost shroud (and sometimes also the second) was not rattled, but his drawings indicated that ratline is normally ran to the aft most shrouds.

On Continental and English ships it can be seen that the foremost shrouds were normally rattled, but the aftermost shrouds were reached only by every sixth ratline.  After 1730 the last six ratlines on English vessels tended to omit the foremost shroud, and in the last quarter of the 18th century in the lower North the upper six ratline’s extended to the foremost or the aft most shroud.  All other parts of the shrouds were fully rattled.

Falconer noted in 1769 that all shrouds were rattled down without exception, and Lever confirm this. 


Captain Cook’s Endeavour Revised Edition by Karl Heinz Marquardt

Page 95 - Illustration H1

The illustration shows the foremast and mainmast shrouds rigged with ratlines starting at the foremost or leading shroud, and only every sixth ratline extending to the aftermost shroud.  The mizzen shrouds are rattled all the way across.


Falconer’s New Universal Dictionary of the Marine 1815 edition

Page 386 - Ratlines or rattling, are small lines, which traverse the shrouds of a ship horizontally, at regular distances from the deck upwards, and forming a variety of ladders, whereby to climb or to descend from any of the mastheads.

To rattle down the shrouds, is to fix the ratlines to them, in order to prevent them from slipping down by the weight of the sailors: they are firmly attached by a knot called a clove-hitch, to all the shrouds except the foremost or aft most; where one of the ends being fitted with an eye-splice, is previously fastened with twine packthread.


H.M. Bark Endeavour by Ray Parkin

Page 36 - Illustration

An illustration depicting the standing rigging in which only the lower six ratlines are shown foreshortened.  The lower six ratlines for the foremast and mainmast are drawn with the ratlines starting at the foremost shroud and terminating at the second from last shroud.  All the remaining ratlines, including the mizzen mast, are rattled all the way across.


So which interpretation is correct? Some of these descriptions even contradict each other.


Wayne:  I could not find any further reference in Steel (the version I have anyway) or other than what I have cited for Lever - if anyone can add to these it would be greatly appreciated.





Edited by BANYAN
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While the various citations are one thing, contemporary model rigging is another! Various museum models of the period have the ratlines carried across all the shrouds. One might argue that some rigging is not completely original, but this pattern seems consistent.

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Thanks Druxey, your input is most welcomed and appreciated. 


I had poked around the photos shown in Navy Board Models by Franklin and the predominant pattern is as you have suggested; but, as you indicated, there are some instances where the alternate options have been used also.  I will have a good look through the NMM models next.


I have also looked at some photos of the replica, and apart from the bottom 6 ratlines, the remainder span the full width of the shrouds - basically, as Lees has suggested for ships between 1733 and 1773.


I think your suggestion, or the Lees suggested pattern, may be the way to go.


Thanks all for looking in - any further evidence to support one way or the other will be much appreciated.

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