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Cathead

Did all topsail schooners have ratlines on both masts?

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I'm struggling with a rigging question for my current built, the Corel Ranger, which is a fictional version of a US Revenue Schooner from around 1820.

 

The plans for the standing rigging show only one normal shroud per mast (per side), with no allowance for ratlines. Then it shows two other lines from the top of the mast, through the crosstrees, down to blocks along the rail and deck, which appear to serve as shrouds but are not listed as such and don't use deadeyes or blackened lines.

 

My confusion is twofold: One, what are these other lines for, as they don't appear to be operational (don't attach to any sails, yards, gaffs, etc) but aren't treated as standing rigging either. Two, with only one shroud per mast and no ratlines, how would sailors reach the crosstrees and the upper yards/gaffs for handling the topsails and any other repairs? One respondent in my build log suggested a bosun's chair, which might make sense for occasional access, but the crew would have to get up there quickly and commonly in normal sailing operations. Below is my attempt to diagram the situation.

 

post-17244-0-44022400-1486246689.jpg

 

Most of the contemporary images I can find show these schooners with two or three shrouds per mast (per side) with ratlines, as I would expect. So is the kit just full of guano when it comes to this rigging plan, or is there a reason to do it this way? I would greatly appreciate any advice.

 

 

 

Edited by Cathead

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Cathead, wondering about this myself I hit my books and found several drawings of Revenue Cutters in the book The Coast Guard Under Sail by Irving King. It showed every ratline configuration from none on any mast to being included on every mast. Several were shown with 2 shrouds on the foremast, including ratlines, and a single shroud on the mizzen without rat lines. In every case of missing ratlines the masts were equipped only with fore and aft sails, no square sails. It seems conceivable that type of rig could be managed entirely from the deck. If your model has no square sails then this lines up...

Edited by jwileyr4

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jwiley, this particular model has a square course and topsail on the mainmast along with a fore-and-aft mainsail; the mizzen has just the fore-and-aft sail although it also has a fore-and-aft topsail which I don't know the exact name for. See the image in the first post of my build log for the kit's intended sail plan.

 

It makes sense that ratlines would be most necessary on masts with square sails; I still can't understand the purpose of the pseudo-stays run through blocks (the red and blue lines above).

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Cathead, your sail plan description lines up exactly with one of the diagrams I looked at. Foremast with fore and aft mainsail with 1 or 2 crossed square sail gaffs above. This mast had ratlines. The mizzen was a single shroud, no ratlines and no square sail gaffs.

 

So far so good...

 

I looked at the book Rigging Period Fore and Aft Craft by Lennarth Petersson. There were several illustrations of a "Main Tackle Top" that was part of the standing rigging but was not terminated in a deadeye. The line would reeve through 2 blocks presumably allowing the hands to adjust the shroud tension as required. Both ends of this arrangement were terminated on the channel. Your diagram only shows one terminating there but I bet you have a version of this arrangement. This theory does require a block attached to a line terminated at the crosstree through which this line reeves. I've attached a picture of the illustration to this post.

Cathead.pdf

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There would be at least two lower stays on each mast, probably three on the foremast, and two stays with deadeyes or bullseyes on the cross-trees, for each topmast.  The foremast would have backstays for the topmast where the tops'l peaks, and the t'gallant if there is provision for one,  both on block-and-tackle, "running back-stays."  The main tops'l would have at least one running back stay where the main-tops'l's jack yard peaks.  The fore would have rats at least as far as can reach the tops'l yard as would the main if there's a square set on it, otherwise, the main probably didn't have any at all, or only on the lower shrouds.   The main on sharp-raked craft would also have two running fore-stays from the mast-head to either side of the base of the fore-mast, and did not have a stay running from mast-head to mast head - it would foul the fores'l gaff peak.

 

This is pretty standard for Baltimore clippers, pilot boats, revenue schooners, coastal schooners, etc.

Edited by GeraldTodd

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Here's an illustration of the backstays for a topmast. Your original picture shows the red and blue lines terminating there instead of the cross-trees. While this diagram shows these as separate lines terminated on the channel it could be a "running back-stay" as Jerry mentions.

Backstays.pdf

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Hmm, lots to think about. Both those images are quite different from what the kit suggests (no surprise there). I'm going to have to digest this. Unfortunately, I'm far enough along to make serious redos an interesting proposition. I just didn't think to pre-consult the rigging plan when I was building the hull and attaching the channels.

 

Another reference I should have mentioned is this drawing of USRC Louisiana, about the closest prototype to this kit, by Dr. John Tilley. It shows two shrouds forward and one aft, with ratlines forward. It also shows two stays running from the topmast down to blocks on the deck. This arrangement seems sensible to me.

 

By the way, another question: in a vessel like this, are the two masts considered fore and main, or main and mizzen?

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All other considerations aside, my mind balks at the idea of a single shroud on a side for ANY mast. Even today's 24' fiberglass sloops have two shrouds. It's impossible, in my mind, that a rig that tall could survive at sea with so little support.

on the subject of ratlines on shrouds, pilot cutters have been known to operate without them. I first heard about this here on MSW and I strongly opined that this was impossible or at least highly unlikely. But I was wrong and the no-ratline practice is well documented. In fact I was astonished later to learn that the schooner A J Merewald to this day has no ratlines! 

 

IMG_0689.JPG

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Looking at the diagram from the kit on your build log, the one showing a coast guard ship of the era and it's topsail rig, I was trying to imagine if you could plausibly set the square topsail from the deck. With no ratlines you would not be able to strike and furl that sail aloft, you would have to bring the entire sail and yard back to the deck. Pride of Baltimore does this with her t'gallant but I can't determine if the Pride sail and your ships topsail are of a similar size. To my eye yours looks awfully big to be regularly making the trip into and then back out of the rig.

 I THINK the idea of running the topmast shrouds down to the deck IS plausible but I wonder why the two topmast shrouds on your model are treated differently and belay in different places down on deck? I think I can recall seeing rigging plans that call for t'gallant shrouds on at least one ship to lead down inside the topmast shrouds to belay in the lower mast tops, so bringing shrouds down further than the foot of their own mast has some plausibility, but I can't say I ever saw topmast shrouds brought to deck level. On the other hand it's hard to find decent information on esoteric schooner rigs in the basic literature.

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I have a copy of Lennart Petersson's Rigging Fore-And-Aft Craft and I have to say I'm skeptical of a LOT of what he is showing, there is something cringworthy on nearly every page. The book is based entirely on the rigs he found on only three different models. He never tells us which models were used but does say only the French Luger had sails on her. Here is a two page spread showing the "belaying plan" for the lugger on pages 46 and 47. Note that on the Main pinrails he depicts eight pins out of twelve as empty. One of the pins he does show being occupied by a line is used for the signal flag!

IMG_0691.JPG

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Cathead, a bit more thinking after some further study of Petersson and your posting. One of the three vessels he studies is an "American Schooner". In his diagram the sail plan is almost identical to your diagram of the Louisiana linked above. While Frankie is correct in that this is documentation of a single museum model of the type, we might as well tap it for all its worth. Frankie's screen shot is of a Lugger belaying plan, not a Schooner (which is also in his book) and the pin locations are not the same. The third craft Petersson studies is a Schooner like yours. It is the Experiment of about 1812. She was purchased by the Swedes and used as a prototype for 4 more vessels.

 

Here's the way I'd break it down if I was building your model:

Your black line is pretty straight forward as a main shroud for the main mast. It is taken around a deadeye, the only one you have on your main channel. One for each side. Shown in one of my attachments above. One deadeye might seem unusual but I found other Schooner diagrams with the same characteristic. In these cases there were other shrouds, just not ones turned around deadeyes on the channel. I bet your rigging plan has other lines playing these roles.

 

Your Red and Blue lines. I noticed (for the first time) that your picture seems to show both of these lines going through spreaders. If this is correct they are clearly topgallent shrouds. Petersson shows two treatments of these at the spreader. In one they are actually seized to lashings on the spreader directly and stop there. In another they pass through the spreader, are gathered back to the mainmast by a "necklace" through which they pass down to the deck. I can easily imagine on your ship they might not run through this necklace and run from the spreader to the channel/belaying pin rack.

 

The other ideas I posted earlier did not take into account the spreaders, sorry about that.

Topgallent Shrouds.pdf

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On small craft it was not unusual to have only one or even no shrouds on a mast.  The mast was a single timber and usually very heavy.  As for getting to the top sails sailors would use the mast hoops as a ladder and climb to the top that way.

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Eric

 

They may not have had ratlines and it is most likely that they climbed the hoops to the tops when it was necessary.  I concluded this two years ago with my build to the AL kit Dallas.   I have recently started a thread on my build using some photo's i had in the early stages of the model.  I also started a thread on setting a topsail flying.   Here is the link.  

 

 

Frank's memory is pretty good in remembering this thread.  He actually posted a video of the HMS Surprise hoisting the a sail flying.

 

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Here is my latest thinking on the standing rigging for this topsail schooner, having considered all of your input and studied a variety of resources:cathead_usrc_rigging_2.thumb.jpg.09c1d0cf08cdf0d26173726d089fcc90.jpg

The mainmast, which only supports a fore-aft sail, has one shroud, no ratlines. The foremast, which supports both a fore-aft sail plus a forecourse and foretopsail, has two shrouds with ratlines. Both masts have two topmast stays per side, which run through spreaders on the crosstrees, then down to a collar on the mast. I can either terminate them here in a collar, or run them through a collar down to the deck. I haven't decided which, though I'm leaning toward the former; thoughts?

 

I like this for several reasons. One, it captures elements of many different contemporary schooner rigs; any one part of this has a prototypical example. Two, it makes each mast different, so there's more visual interest. Three, it means I don't have to rig ratlines on both masts! Four, I can intuitively understand why every bit of this would be rigged this way, which I like. Five, it's similar to the USRC Louisiana drawing I've been using regularly as a reference for this build, giving it more justification. And since mine is a freelance build, I can decide to rig it the way I want as long as there's a sensible explanation.

 

Just to be clear, this doesn't show the rest of the standing rigging, which I'm pretty clear on.

 

Thoughts?

 

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I always try to stop myself from saying "I KNOW this thing is true/not true" so I'm still going to say this is my opinion and I could be wrong, but I'm ASTONISHED any rig plan would call for only a single shroud per side on a sailing vessel of any size but ESPECIALLY astonished and very skeptical that a rig like that could work on a schooners mainmast. And I can't imagine why the designer wouldn't put on three shrouds a side, which is normal for schooners. 

About the topmast shrouds going to a collar or mast band: you are still going to need a method by which those shrouds can be tensioned so you would have to incorporate deadeyes in there somehow.

 

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Frankie,

 

I am definitely not an expert here, so appreciate your input. I certainly could add the second shroud back in for the mainmast; the question then becomes whether to use ratlines there, too, or not.

 

As for the topmast shrouds, it depends on how I do them. If I run them through a collar and down to the deck along the mast, I'd rig them with blocks to a ring on the deck so they could be tensioned. If I stop them at the mast, you're right that I'll need something up there. Have to give that a bit more thought.

 

One problem I've had in trying to research this, is that most images I can find are of larger craft than mine, so they naturally have 2-3 shrouds per mast, but I have more trouble finding a little schooner like this one. Here's one image from the USCG website that shows the Massachussetts, a reasonably comparable vessel (though still larger); she has two shrouds per mast, with ratlines on both, and it appears that the topmast shrouds pass through spreaders and then down to meet at a point on the channel just aft of the deadeyes; I can't tell quite tell what happens there, though. Thoughts on that setup?

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