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Cutter forward boom


vossiewulf
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I'm doing Lady Nelson, one thing I haven't figured out is why instead of a bowsprit we have something called a boom, and I also read one of the advantages was they could bring it partially on board when necessary. But it didn't explain why they would want to bring it partially on board in the first place. Can anyone explain those two?

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It's to reduce sail. At its full length, a typical Cutter of the periods bowsprit is rediculously long and a sail is made to fit its length. But you can only get away using that much canvas if the wind isn't too strong or the sea too rough. You are going to outsail everyone else though in light air, because presumably your opponent has a fixed and unchangable head rig that is scaled to an entire range of possible conditions and thus has to be shorter. When it gets rough, you run the bowsprit back inboard and bend on a smaller headsail, one cut to the shorter length you now have.

An interesting comparison would be two images of the same Cutter side by side, one with every stitch of canvas set (stunsails, ringtail,etc) and the other completely reefed down. Now that I'm imagining this I would also like to see the figures for the square feet of sail area each configuration represented, the difference would be big.

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Thanks Frankie but I'm not sure I understand why taking the boom in was required to set shorter sail, I'm wondering why the smaller sail couldn't be bent to wherever they wanted on the length of the boom. If it's not fair weather it's assumed we also have running seas, was it because the long boom would also start burying itself in waves if seas are high?

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That's my guess. It's true the boom had a traveler on it so they could have adjusted the point at which the tack of the sail met the spar without having to run the spar in or out. When I made my model of Le Reynard I read what I could on the subject but was always full of more questions and I STILL have a lot of questions. It's a VERRY BUSSY bowsprit and very complex, the entire rig must have made tremendous demands on the crews seamanship, I wonder if there are any alive today that could truly put a cutter through its paces? And then imagine when your off watch,what do you do? There's not even room to stand on deck and life below must have been awfull. But it must have been thrilling to sail them in a stiff breeze knowing nobody afloat could lay a hand on you.

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That's my guess. It's true the boom had a traveler on it so they could have adjusted the point at which the tack of the sail met the spar without having to run the spar in or out. When I made my model of Le Reynard I read what I could on the subject but was always full of more questions and I STILL have a lot of questions. It's a VERRY BUSSY bowsprit and very complex, the entire rig must have made tremendous demands on the crews seamanship, I wonder if there are any alive today that could truly put a cutter through its paces? And then imagine when your off watch,what do you do? There's not even room to stand on deck and life below must have been awfull. But it must have been thrilling to sail them in a stiff breeze knowing nobody afloat could lay a hand on you.

 

I once was on the trapeze of a Hobbie 18 doing about 18kts on one hull in a beam reach in a 25-30kt wind when I got my weight just a tad too far forward and the one hull in the water pitchpoled. I hadn't worn my sailing gloves but I still grabbed for the side stay as I went flying forward, and held on while I slid most of the way up the side stay, but at least it stopped me from trying to do a human maypole on the mast. However you can assume the result of totally removing a thin stripe of skin on your palm felt every bit as spiffy as you might imagine.

 

That is absolutely what made me think about what would happen when a boomsprit as long as the ship buried itself in the face of a wave.

 

And it's also always interesting to see what history has preserved and what hasn't been, obviously we have phenomenally detailed information about many aspects of this subject but apparently one of them isn't the sailing and sail handling of a Royal Navy cutter. Even though there were lots of them, they were highly engineered specialists designed for speed, and performed an important naval role pretty well.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi guy's,

I've enjoyed your perceptive comments and observations, some rather thrilling.

Just a thought to put my ha'perth in; as I understand it, a ship would only go to a full spread of canvas (including stunsails) during and to maximise from a period of light winds. Presumably in such conditions the sea would be relatively smooth. Surely it would be folly to be crashing through a heavy sea with all sails set. The entire plot would be ripped apart!

Heave Ho, lads!

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8 hours ago, shipman said:

Surely it would be folly to be crashing through a heavy sea with all sails set

Not long ago I read of an account of a topsail schooner who did just that in a desperate attempt to avoid being captured by a more heavily armed British ship. Desperate times make for desperate measures. Can't remember the exact outcome but I do believe she did loose her topsail after several hours.

 

Lou

 

 

Edited by lmagna
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Hi LOU,

Another factor I've read in several sources:- if battle was expected (like Trafalgar) ships would take down their best sails and use older well used sails, knowing damage was inevitable, knowing the French tactics were to disable an opponent by destroying his motive power. Those top-men must have been busy chaps!

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Hi shipman

I suppose that if there was time, changing out sails was always certainly an option and in battles like Trafalgar where closing was carefully planed and not really much of rush, it could have happened on a number of ships while waiting their turn to close with the enemy who was not really trying to avoid the engagement. But it seems like an awful lot of work when there were so many other things to do while closing for battle. If it was a along chase like it seems so many smaller engagements were, then there is also the fact that while changing sails you would loose the extra speed, not good whether you were the chaser or the chasee! 

 

As for the tops being a busy place to be during a battle it seems that may be an understatement. Between people shooting back and forth with muskets and small cannons loaded with grape or whatever, and cannon shot trying to take out rigging it is a wonder that anyone was willing to go up there at all.

 

Lou

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