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Shrouds, hammock cranes and how to climb up


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Working on the hammock cranes of my 1805 Victory, I was surprised by the heights. Most of them chin-level, just enough to put a gun onto, but even difficult to shoot downwards. On pictures it is easy to see the hight of the cranes especially at the side of the poop stairs.


One question arose: How did they enter the main and mizzen shrouds ?!? Did they already have jacobs ladders as seen some years later? Especially the mizzen shrouds, that still had the davids and the boats lashed onto?



Austrian fregate Austria 1817 on its way to Brasil.



Edited by dafi
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Indeed the top rail is about six feet above the deck (on my model). One would have to assume that the crew would climb on top of the guns or fife rails to then climb over the netting to the outside of the shrouds, etc.

Do I understand your question correctly?



Current build Cross Section USS Constitution  http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/10120-cross-section-forward-area-of-the-uss-constitution/

Finished USS Constitution:  http://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/103-uss-constitution-by-modeler12/


'A picture is worth a  . . . . .'      More is better . . . .

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Exactely, but do consider, there are no guns on the poop ...


It would mean to climb over the not too stable hammock cranes and nettings, and then - standing on this flexible structure -  still having to cross the gap as the shrouds are more outwards. Does not sound too practical. On top of it, there are often the boats of the side davits being secured/lashed to the mizzen shrouds, which makes the passage there rather tricky.


In the picture of the first entry of this thread one can see two small jacob ladders attached to the main shrouds coming down to the deck. A very logical thing to have. The earliest proof I found was this picture of 1817.  It would be logical to be introduced much earlier. Are there earlier signs of this?


Cheers, DAniel

Edited by dafi
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I can see the logic of your argument Daniel but such items are not included by Steel as 'Necessary Ropes' yet he mentions Entering ropes and stern ladders. Although I have seen Jacobs ladders rigged on contemporary models, I've not seen those shroud ladders rigged on British ships at least.


Perhaps British Tars were more agile than you imagine :)



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I would agree with BE here, in that I have never heard or read of this arrangement for going aloft, at least not on British ships. I have only heard of them being used for climbing up from the boats under certain conditions.


Climbing a rope ladder is not easy, even if you are not being followed by twenty or more men behind you, all in something of a hurry! I would also imagine they would have created something of a bottleneck. Given those circumstances, I would think they were out of the question and would certainly have hamperered the men's getting aloft. Don't forget too that the majority of seamen, certainly the topmen, were young and fit and performed feats which would leave the majority of us standing today. Therefore, I think they would have considered clambering over the bulwarks, pinrails, hammock nettings, etc, to get to the shrouds as child's play. Once the gang of shrouds was reached, they would probably then have made their way to either the fore end, or the after end of the gang, swing round to the outside of the shrouds and then ascend, holding the shrouds not the ratlines. This is always drummed into you on the training ships today, as is also ascending the windward side in anything of a blow for safety reasons, but I would think much of it held true in Nelson's day.


So, since I have not read about such ladders, and they seem not to be mentioned by such an authority as Steel, I would hazard a guess and say they weren't used for ascending the rigging – at least in British ships. I stand to be corrected of course! ;)




Current builds: Sherbourne (Caldercraft) scale – 1/64th;


Statsraad Lehmkuhl (half model) 1/8th" – 1'.


Victory Bow Section (Panart/Mantua) scale – 1/78th  (on hold).


Previous build: Bluenose ll (Billings) scale – 1/100th.

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Thank you B.E. and ST,


yes, this is a fitting on a french build frigate and maintained by the austrians in an italian style ;-)



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