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rigid ratlines

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   While researching the whaling bark Wanderer, I found that the ratlines were actually bars made from wood or metal. (not sure which but several other whalers were also outfitted with this feature)  You can see them in the circled area of the photo below that they were attached to the face of the shrouds, but I was also unable to determine exactly how they were lashed in place.  This is another detail that most contemporary models or plans of this ship do not show.  (including the Aurora kit and the A.J. Fisher blueprints)   


    If they were just tied in place, what would keep the ratline bars and the shrouds from shifting sideways?  Did they have some kind of notch or pin in the ratline bar to give them better purchase to keep them secured, or would the lashing alone be enough?  Does any one else have any suggestions?  :huh:

    By the way this photo was taken from Whale Ships and Whaling by Albert Cook Church, and it is a real good source of info and photos on this ship and several other famous whalers, (including the Charles W. Morgan) if anyone else is interested in modeling this type of ship.  :D

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When a lashing is applied correctly, there is no need for pins or notches.  Lashing techniques were developed specifically to connect dissimilar items in various configurations as an expedient repair or build.


I suspect that one reason that rigid ratlines were less commonly used relates to the loss of "flexibility" and adjustability for the shrouds.  With rope ratlines, they flex with the shroud and allow shroud adjustment without necessitating re-lashing each ratline.  A rigid ratline would apply additional twisting stress to the remsining shrouds were one adjusted.


When considering the use in the whaling fleet, is it perhaps because of the smaller crew (need to get up and down a mast quickliy to also serve the other mast or lines on deck) and/or use as work platforms when processing whales?


Two final considerations.  First, use of wood vs rope ratlines brings with it increased weight in the upoerworks, impacting stability in a detrimental manner.


Second, and then I will shut up, applies prinsipally to war ships.  Rigid ratlines would be more vulnerable to damage, potentially affecting the shrouds, but also impacting the ability of the crew to serve the mast.  Also, more shrapnel. 


Of course, I have no documentation, just a combination of 50 years is Scouting (knowledge of lashing) and an interest in traditional approaches to ship stability.

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Here’s some photos of me bending on some rat boards on Wavertree two years ago. Note I’m using a Heaver to put each turn on bar tight. This lashing is called a Square Lashing. The wood was, I think, white oak. The lashing material is tarred Marline  and as the heaver is applied it’s easy to break the marlin, but if you put it on Just Right the tar will start to squeez out of the fibers. That’s when the turn is on tight enough. When the seizing is complete, that ratboard isn’t going ANYWHERE.




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Thanks a lot for all the comments guys.  This is one of the great things about this forum, many different views on just about any facet of ships, be it models or full size ships!  I figured that someone here would be able to come up some answers, or at least where to look for them. :dancetl6:

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I believe that most sailors working in the tops were barefoot so would the rope ratlines be better for them? 

Wood ratlines on a warship where the shrouds might need repair under battle conditions would probably be more of

a of a workload (PIA) then the conventional ratlines. JMHO


Cheers, Harley

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