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Great Eastern Rigging


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Brunelrussell here:  having fractured a bone in my left pinkie and being a southpaw I am temporarily barred from the shipyard, so I've decided to do some research on the rigging, even though that phase is far in the future.  I'm pretty much up on squaresails but less so on the fore-and-aft kind.  The Great Eastern has a loose-footed gaffsail on every mast.  Since these seem to be employed on steamships for the most part, Mr. Underhill has little to say about them.  Mowell's book on the Great Britain has a lot of info plus a belaying chart which is very helpful, and even Bowcock's book on the C.S.S  Alabama has some very clear diagrams.  It seems that the sheets of these sails ran through blocks on deck and from there to somewhere on the bulwarks.  I seems to me that this would make getting around on deck a bit of a pain, though it explains the row of ringbolts on deck just outside the saloon decks that I've noticed in photographs.  If any of youse guys can help me with this I'd be plumb grateful.  I'm also in doubt  about the fore staysail sheet, which also apparently runs through a deck block to a pin.  In other words, I need to get my sheets together.  Maybe some of you rigging experts out there can hep me.  Thanks in advance!

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The website/app Pinterest is a very useful research tool. You can create folders and store any number of photos and keep them organized and freely a ailable. Or you can use it to look at the photo collections of others, AND there is a LOT of historic ship material on Pinterest. And more appearing every day. Here is a pretty good Great Eastern board someone is maintaining, it’s got a LOT of photos : https://pin.it/g36atwlxjvovsv

 

It’s free to use Pinterest. I can’t remember if you can view people’s boards without registering? But it’s a simple and free process to register. I never get spam from them. Here’s an example of a Great Eastern deck photo, showing eyebolts, from the link above: 

63D667B0-9C1F-4B09-971C-89FE1A661122.png

Edited by JerseyCity Frankie
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As regards sheets on Fore-and-Aft sails on Great Eastern here are my thoughts. She’s BIGLY HUGE. So the sails are enormous and powerful. Like all sailing vessels you would need to be able to tack her, go about through the wind and get on the other tack. So every Fore-and-Aft sail will need two sheets. Very large robust sheets with enormous tackle on them, to handle the forces involved. I’m picturing blocks as large as watermelons on sheets as thick as your wrist, at a minimum. 

If you look at Pride of Baltimore II, she’s got a loose footed Fore. When she goes about the crew has to attach a safety line to the Clew just to control the flopping sail during the short period she’s in the eye of the wind and the sail is flapping. The Leeward sheet is taken up on, the sail draws on the other tack, and then this safety line is taken off, it’s job done.

Im certain Great Eastern would need this safety line too. Sails as large as hers, as she goes about, would be dangerous deadly thrashing monsters, those sheet blocks would be exactly like wrecking balls destroying everything as they whipped around. Even with the safety lines in place I’m certain that no member of the crew looked forward to tacking. So many masts! So many sails to tack! I’m certain they would go to great navigational lengths to assure tacking happened as infrequently as possible.

 

certainlty the gear on deck to handle the sheets would be correspondingly enormous. I doubt there was ever a pin made that could handle those sheets, I’m betting they had large bits on deck for those.

sheeting tight would be impossible in high wind and it seams likely they would have a steam powered capstan just for the sheets? That’s a lot of gear on deck though.

Edited by JerseyCity Frankie
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I've heard that the sailors on the maiden voyage were afraid to ascend the rigging. and it took two hours to furl one of the lower squaresails.  The blocks for the braces, which were mounted on the paddlebox, look to be about a foot and a half long!  Many thanks for the communication.

Edited by brunelrussell
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The Great Eastern had around four feet of teak bulwarks - higher at the bow - which seem to have all kinds of attachment gadgets like kevels and staghorns and things I don't know the name of.  There don't seem to be any under weigh deck photos.  There is one photo showing a bunch of bigwigs posing at the base of 'friday' mast and there are so many rope coils on both spider bands that you can't actually see the mast!

Edited by brunelrussell
boo-boos
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To Jersey City Frankie: the photo you reproduced is a classic and full of useful details; the end of one of the pin racks for 'tuesday' mast is visible in front of the deck house, which itself is useful for figuring those out.  Also if you look up on the mast you can see the lower yard truss, which is a double u shape just like those on the USS Constellation.

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