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Lowering Yards


bartley
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I suspect that because the upper sails and yards were relatively small, it was easier and perhaps safer to furl these sails by lowering the yards (as opposed to rigging and stepping out on foot ropes and pulling the sails up).  During heavy weather the upper yards (with sails attached) and masts would be struck down to the deck to lower the ships center of gravity and reduce windage aloft...I think this was a common evolution for ship's crew.

 

HTH

 

Keith

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... and the yards were safely and squarely suspended from the topping-lifts in the lowered position, which eased the work of the men aloft. In general, these topping-lifts were standing to simplify the rig. See the recent discussion on EdT's YOUNG AMERICA.

 

Also, it would be difficult and dangerous to step out onto the yard of a top-sail in a hoisted position. The ratlines get very narrow up there.

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In port and whenever not being used at sea upper yards would be lowered as far as possible. Generally the lower yards and the lower topsail yards if the ship had double topsails were fixed in place. It would help lower the center of gravity for them to be closer to the waterline. That means in harbor less chance of rolling over or capsizing when cargo has been taken out and she is "riding high". At sea lowering all possible yards. reduced strain on the masts and rigging. Remember the upper yards and associated gear could weigh tons. All that weight shifting back and forth as the ship rolled with the waves could bring on failures. In preparation for really extreme weather conditions the upper sections of the masts themselves could be struck.

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The center of gravity might be an issue for those large ships from the 19th century, but lowering yards has been standard practice long before.

almost all dutch paaintings from the period 1600-1700 already show this lowering of the top yards, even though these are so small that the center of gravity would not be an issue.Iguess that the easier and safer handling was more an issue for this practice.

 

IMG_0504.thumb.JPG.a9b65e3465ca37a9137746f6c8dcce6f.JPG

jacob Loef, around 1650. French ship, build in the netherlands.

 

Jan

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I think the main point is that the yard is safely suspended from the toppng-lifts. If you were to achieve the same thing mechanically when the yard is in the raised position, the top-mast would have to be a lot higher in order to keep the angle between the topping-lifts and the mast reasonable. In this case the topping-lifts would need to be 'running', as one has to slacken them while the sails are set. All this would add weight to the top without adding any real advantage.

I never looked into this issue, but I would think the height of the centre of gravity would also be an issue in 17th century ships - think WASA.

Also, anything that can be lowered reduces the strain on the rig, when the ship is rolling and pitching, as the length of the fulcrum is reduced.

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Tagalents when lowered to the Topmast Cap are easier to reach for the crew when they lay aloft to furl tgalentsails. The tgalent shrouds don’t need to be rattled with ratlines if the crew never need to assend higher than the Topmast Cap. The weight of the crew furling out on the yards need not be supported by the Tgallant Mast itself now either, the wheight rests on the beefier Topmast. With yards lowered there is very little gear on the tagalant Mast.

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  • 1 month later...

I am arriving a bit late to this discussion, but I would like to toss out one thought that has not been mentioned.  I do not possess any authoritative knowledge on this apart from what I have learned or deduced from rigging of my current model. 

 

Except for the lifts, there is no rigging that maintains a square yard in the horizontal position until its sail is set and sheeted, ignoring the lower yards and lower topsail yards on double topsail rigs, which are at permanently fixed heights and are supported at the ends by topping lifts and downhaulers, respectively.   On models, upper yards may be held level by bunt and leech lines stopped in their yard blocks, but in practice these would have to be overhauled (loosened) for bending to the sail.  The bare yard would thus be free to rotate, constrained only by its mast parral, and would do so when loaded unequally as men worked their way out onto it to bend sail.  The standing lifts would maintain the level position of the bare yard when it was completely lowered.  This would be essential for men working on the yard to bend sail.  After the sail was set, the horizontal position of the raised yard would be maintained by the halyard at the top and the sheets at the lower ends of the sail as it was raised to its set height.  When lowering the yard for reefing and furling , it could be maintained fairly stable/level by reef tackle in the first instance and by lowering down on the lifts for furling.

 

This is deduction on my part.  Considering that yards are generally bared in port, it would seem logical to have them down on their lifts after unbending and leave them there until sails are bent.  Other reasons cited above - reduced upper mast loading/cg as well as reduced stress on the halyards - also seem appropriate.

 

Ed

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