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How were boats launched from the deck?

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The USS Constitution has a 36 foot pinnace stowed on the main hatch cover. That must have weight a lot. How were boats like that launched?

Does anyone have a drawing of the rigging involved? I am sure the capstan would be used, but what about the overhead rigging and the way it was swung over the railing? Did the spars get involved?

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Here are two illustrations from 'Seamanship in the Age of Sail' by John Harland that explain the operation of launching a boat from the deck of a sailing ship.


This is an excellent reference book for those members who build models of wooden sailing ships and wish to understand more of their methods of operation and handling.






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Thanks John,

I had a sneaky suspicion that the lower spars had to be used to make the transfer. To carry the heavy load I see additional 'lifts' were added to the spars. Great drawings.


For the 36 foot pinnace I did a quick calculation and came up with a weight between 6000 and 7000 pounds. That means that each tackle had to carry around 3500 pounds. Even when that is broken up with a double and triple block it still is a heck of a job to man handle that kind of load. Obviously it took many deckhands to do this.

Edited by Modeler12
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then i suppose all the other stays and lines would prevent the yards being pulled together under the weight of the boat,

still a big task and made worse in bad weather, with a pitching sea,

which brings me back to why on bigger ships, why were they not always carried external to the poop deck, but thinking about it i suppose they would be more liable to damage, from the elements and cannon fire

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Those stay tackles were also used for cargo handling and provisioning: one was directly over the main hatch and the other over the fore hatch.

Just so I don't get too confused, when you are referring to 'stay tackles' you are talking about the line that goes between the two pendant (one on the main and on the foremast). Right?


One thing that is not cleat to me is when a boat, for example, is lifted off the center of the ship, the main stay would be in the way. It is right above the center and low enough to be a hindrance. I assume that some more manhandling would take care of that as the 'main and fore tackles' lifted part of the boat???


Were the main and preventer stays, per sec, ever used to help lift cargo (with an additional tackle, of course)?? I suppose that the pendants really got a workout for all of this.


This whole subject is interesting.

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