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Knights in 17th Century Ships

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I am researching the Sovereign of the Seas (1637), but this question could pertain to many other English and Dutch ships of the same era. Specifically, RC Anderson, in his book "The Rigging of Ships in the Days of the Spritsail Topmast", notes that the knights associated with the fore and main masts were between decks (see pages 76-77 of his book). This implies that the ropes leading to the knights went through a hole in the deck. Is that correct? If not, how did they travel to the knights? If this is correct, then I have several questions:

(1) Are there any "rules of thumb" for how big to make the hole?

(2) Was the hole directly above the knight or somewhere else? If somewhere else, where?

(3) Was the hole covered in any way (such as with a leather flap) to keep water from leaking through it to the lower deck where the knight was?

(4) Was there any protection on the ropes that led to the knight to protect them from abrasion?


Thanks so much for your help!

Edited by anaxamander49
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Here are my thoughts on this subject, and I may be wrong, but I think a little common sense may apply.

The reason to have the knight on a lower deck was to have it on the same level as the capstan.

The hole for the halliard should be just large enough or slightly larger than will fit the six parts of the tackle fall plus the top rope so that they run fair to the rams head block on the tye.

The hole should be above the knight otherwise you will have much abrasion and loss of purchase due to friction.

The halliard would be free of any service to allow it to pass readily through the sheeves on the knight and rams head blocks.





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I’ve been fascinated with this topic for a while. On the one hand the weather deck must be able to be rendered watertight, all the hatches and openings can be sealed with covers and canvas. But a few bits of running rigging certainly passed through this deck. So I imagine the holes were no larger than necessary while at the same time not so small as to cause chafe. 




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