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I have a question regarding the stern flag pole on my HMS Leopard rigging plans. The standing rigging plan shows what I believe to be a flag pole mounted to the stern. Seems reasonable until I look at the running rigging plan and see see that the spanker boom runs out past it.  How does the spanker boom go past center when rigged to the port or starboard side?  Far from a rigging expert, what am I missing?

 

Standing rigging plan

BBE6108D-E55A-452C-88F4-1DFAB22818D0.thumb.jpeg.d5276aebcee5f2072ef6a542dd57a828.jpeg
running rigging plan
BB74FCD5-9C18-4647-923A-33C6DE51C031.thumb.jpeg.85c39b0106d910c906876d28ce7f2810.jpeg

Any help would be appreciated. 
Tom

 

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Tom: that is a good question. The answer is that the ensign staff (its proper name) is pivoted at the base. A half-hoop clasp, not shown in the drawing above, is undone, the staff pivoted forward and down, the boom swung over and the staff raised again.

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, druxey said:

Tom: that is a good question. The answer is that the ensign staff (its proper name) is pivoted at the base. A half-hoop clasp, not shown in the drawing above, is undone, the staff pivoted forward and down, the boom swung over and the staff raised again.

I've never known that. Is there some reference work that explains it? It doesn't make any sense to me, but that's certainly no indication of its accuracy! :D 

 

No sailor would ever rig a vessel so that a stern staff flying her ensign would have to be lowered to accommodate the boom's crossing the centerline while under sail. A stern staff that pivots to be lowered makes perfect sense, but it would go down and stay down until the voyage was over and never be left up while sailing.

 

In support of my theory, I offer the following observations:

 

1.  The ensign was always flown from the aftermost gaff peak when the vessel was under sail. There would be no need for a stern staff whatsoever while the vessel was sailing, and so, never any need to "drop the staff" to permit the spanker boom to cross the centerline while sailing. 

 

2.  The large size of ensigns in the Age of Sail was to best identify the nationality of the vessel at sea, often over considerable distances and in poor visibility. On the other hand, when not under sail and moored, alongside, or docked, the ensign was never flown from the gaff peak, which might well be down on the deck, the sail having been lowered, but rather was flown from the stern staff. The ensign flown when not underway was sometimes considerably smaller than the ensign flown when underway and the stern staff would be correspondingly shorter. Flying a huge ensign in the harbor would obviously be unnecessary. The stern staff would be unshipped prior to sailing and stowed. If the model were displayed with the gaff hoisted, the stern staff would properly not be in place at the stern, but rather stowed, most likely on the spar rack.

 

 

Contemporary illustration: Large Red Ensigns flying from the gaff peaks while underway. (Note absence of stern staff.)

 

c9be6e1f-2894-4bc7-8cb1-c43dcc77db44.Jpeg


HMS Victory in 1884, flying smaller ensign from stern staff.

 

Battleship1.jpg

 

Earlier rigs carrying a lateen spanker, did not have the problem of a spanker boom crossing the centerline.

 

Early Sailing Ships

 

"But wait!" you say. "Here's a picture of a ship clearly flying its (smaller) ensign from the stern staff while under sail!"

 

c02cbb24fd4058eba8dab52f7588e31a.jpg

 

 

It's surely a neat picture, but... Gotcha! 

 

It's actually a modern depiction, not a period one, and it well-illustrates again the sort of errors we see from artists and modelers who lack first-hand experience as sailormen. (I'll grant that it might be argued that the ship had just gotten underway as evidenced by the boat "straining to catch up," and they were going to switch ensigns shortly.) It's not a masterpiece from the NMM. It's a paint-by-numbers kit! https://paintcanvasaction.com/products/diy-canvas-paint-by-numbers-old-war-ship-with-cannons

 

 

Edited by Bob Cleek

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Just a guess, but ...

 

Modern ships fly the flag from high on a mast when at sea, so it can be seen from a distance. When in port the flagstaff is raised on the stern, and jack staff on the bow, and the flags are flown from them. When the ship gets under way the flag is changed to the mast and the flag/jack staffs are stowed again.

 

I do not know how long this practice has been used, but from some of the pictures posted above it may be that it was the practice several centuries ago.

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Posted (edited)

Good Morning Everyone;

 

An important point to keep in mind here is that the fore and aft rigged sail on the mizen mast evolved considerably over the years. In the 17th century, all ships of any size had a lateen yard, with a triangular sail. This had no boom at its foot. This mizen sail then became shortened, so that although the yard remained at the same length, the sail ended at the mast, becoming four-sided, with the luff laced to the mast or perhaps hoops on it. This sail was still called the mizen sail, and was loose-footed, with its free corner controlled by the sheets. This sail did not extend aft of the taff-rail, and, in common with its predecessor, did not interfere with the ensign staff at the stern when going about. Numerous paintings from this period show the ensign flying from the ensign staff at the stern while the ship is under sail. Models from this period show that the ensign staff was indeed hinged at its base, normally by inserting the foot into a pivoting block, and retained in the upright position by a metal clasp on the taff-rail. 

 

The boom at the foot of the sail was only introduced in the last two decades of the 18th century. There may have been a transition phase, during which ships for a while did indeed lower and raise the ensign staff, since it was already fitted in a manner to allow this to be done. Doubtless the realisation that this was not really practical set in quickly, and the custom of flying the ensign at the gaff peak when under sail became customary.

 

Below is a painting of the Battle of the Saints, 1782, by Nicholas Pocock. All ships have ensigns flying from the staff, and loose-footed mizen sails.

image.png.ebcc090ec26c73e88143d35450b78199.png

Below is a painting of Duckworth's action of San Domingo, by the same artist, but dated 1806. All ships have the ensigns at the gaff peak, and on several of them driver booms can be seen at the stern. None has an ensign staff rigged.

 

image.png.b4bea797962487629f049be4ee64ea18.png

James Lees, in his book on rigging, gives the date of the introduction of the driver boom as 1793. However, the contract for Fortitude, a 74 gun ship, signed in 1778, specifies a driver boom crutch on the quarter.

image.png.bbd8c50e5c8fe60fec806a1ee8a511fc.png

This was presumably to rest the boom in when not under way, as was certainly done later, to take the strain off the rigging. It would be interesting to know what length the boom was when first introduced. Did it extend beyond the taff-rail or not. I am not sure when the driver became the spanker, or what the exact difference between them was (my main period of interest stops at around 1790) but both needed a boom at the foot. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

 

Added an hour later as an afterthought, on further consideration:

 

Is it possible that the driver, when first introduced, was actually rigged in a manner similar to a studding sail, with a boom on each quarter, and the head fixed to a short yard hoisted up to the gaff. This sail being un-rigged before tacking, then re-set on the opposite side afterwards. The ironwork on the quarter, referred to above, actually seems to describe such an item. However, I have no idea if drivers were ever rigged in this manner. Lees depicts a driver with a short yard, hoisted to the gaff, but in conjunction with a full-length boom pivoting on the mizen mast. 

 

 

 

Edited by Mark P
Greater clarity. Later, for a new thought.

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Mark,

Your attention to detail and facts based on actual research of contemporary sources is fantastic and I,  for one, very much appreciate the time and effort I am sure you take to do this kind of research.  

Allan

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Posted (edited)

Thanks Allan;

 

It's amazing where a quest to ensure that the model you build is as accurate a depiction as possible will take you! I now get as much fulfilment from digging through archives as I expect to get from my next model; the draught for which is well under way.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

 

PS: see back to my previous post for a new thought.

Edited by Mark P

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Bob: There are several contemporary models I've examined that have this feature. Unfortunately I can't post photos due to copyright restrictions. One variety of 'hinge' at the foot of the staff is similar to a whipstaff rowle. Two small fore and aft bearers have the rowle pivoting in them. The base of the staff is fixed in the socket bored into this rowle. 

 

It's also quite possible that the ensign was flown from the gaff when under sail and only from the staff when anchored in harbour. A time machine would settle this point.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you everyone for your input.  As always, I learn from the MSW site.  It seems to me that the majority of information points to putting it at the top of the gaff.  That doesn't make it right as Druxey points out only a time machine would settle the point.  I just happen to notice this situation as I am getting ready to make all the yards.  I intend to put sails on her so she would be out to sea.  Based on all the info above I am thinking about going with the ensign at the gaff peak. I am still a ways off from this point in my model construction so I will have plenty of time to change my more than once.🙂

 

Tom

Edited by toms10
Misspelling of site. My wife is an English major and made me do it.

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6 hours ago, druxey said:

Bob: There are several contemporary models I've examined that have this feature. Unfortunately I can't post photos due to copyright restrictions. One variety of 'hinge' at the foot of the staff is similar to a whipstaff rowle. Two small fore and aft bearers have the rowle pivoting in them. The base of the staff is fixed in the socket bored into this rowle. 

 

It's also quite possible that the ensign was flown from the gaff when under sail and only from the staff when anchored in harbour. A time machine would settle this point.

Quite so. The stern staffs would have been hinged for ease of raising and lowering them. It would have been some sort of mechanism similar to a small boat tabernacle, depending upon the creativity of the builders. I don't have a reference at hand at the moment, but I believe the Admiralty issued standing orders for the flying of ensigns and signals which designated the ensign to be flown from the aftermost gaff peak when underway.

 

9 hours ago, Mark P said:

I am not sure when the driver became the spanker, or what the exact difference between them was (my main period of interest stops at around 1790) but both needed a boom at the foot.

The names of masts were not standardized beyond "fore, main, and mizzen." Sometimes, they even varied on the same ship under different masters. 

 

ship-masts-7.gif

 

The Thomas W. Lawson, (above,) built in 1902, the only seven-masted schooner ever built, seems to have had her mast names changed as often as she changed skippers.

 

lawsonmasts1

 

The terms "spanker" and "pusher" were generally used interchangeably to designate the aftermost mast, while the term, "driver," was generally used to designate the mast immediately forward of the aftermost mast in vessels having five or more masts. 

 

At one time, it was a custom that sailing masters in the American Merchant Marine would ask prospective hands to name the masts of a seven-masted vessel as a test of their knowledge and seamanship. The expected answer, which many memorized for the occasion, was "fore, main, mizzen, jigger, driver, pusher, spanker," but the real answer depended upon who was the Lawson's captain at the time.

 

9 hours ago, Mark P said:

Added an hour later as an afterthought, on further consideration:

 

Is it possible that the driver, when first introduced, was actually rigged in a manner similar to a studding sail, with a boom on each quarter, and the head fixed to a short yard hoisted up to the gaff. This sail being un-rigged before tacking, then re-set on the opposite side afterwards. The ironwork on the quarter, referred to above, actually seems to describe such an item. However, I have no idea if drivers were ever rigged in this manner. Lees depicts a driver with a short yard, hoisted to the gaff, but in conjunction with a full-length boom pivoting on the mizen mast. 

It would seem not. The evolutions required for tacking, jibing, or wearing a square-rigged vessel are complicated enough without having to strike a sail beforehand and setting it afterwards. That would be particularly so with an "aftermost fore and aft sail" (spanker) which served not only to provide motive force, but also was employed for purposes of steerage. (Note above that Captain Howland on the Lawson called the aftermost fore and aft mast the "rudder mast," obviously in recognition of this function.)  Quarter booms would most likely have been employed to hold the lower aft-mast's stuns'l sheet turning blocks outboard in the same manner as the forward masts' stuns'l sheet turning blocks forward of the quarters.

 

The below video illustrates the evolutions practiced in sailing a square-rigged ship and the manner in which the spanker is employed to provide steerage. Studying the manner in which the vessel one is modeling is actually sailed, and indeed all of the operations aboard, makes modeling the vessel, and particularly rigging it, a much clearer task for the modeler. It's often difficult to rig a model by looking at a drawing and an instruction book when one doesn't have a working familiarity with how the mechanism they are modeling actually works in real life. Once the operation of a rig is understood, rigging becomes intuitive and one hardly needs to refer to any instructions at all. This fact is apparent in the many Admiralty models which were unrigged. There was no need to explain to the riggers what the rig looked like because they knew how it had to work. 

 

 

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Good Evening Bob;

 

Thank you for your thoughts and the video. I can see that you know a great deal about sailing square-riggers. However, you seem to have slightly missed my point regarding the driver/spanker. I do not know how old these terms are, but the first use of them of which I am aware occurs towards the end of the 18th century, and is to name the sail fixed to the mizen mast of a three masted ship, and is unconnected, at that time,  with the later development of merchant ships with more than three masts. My query was in relation to the development of that particular sail, not the mast.

 

It is necessary to remember that the original question in this post concerns the Leopard, a Royal Navy ship launched in 1790. Navy ships were never fitted with mizen studding sails, so there is nothing to be gained from trying to make this item relate to a mizen studding sail boom. The quote from the contract for Fortitude is quite specific, in that it talks about the 'driver boom', and this can only be in relation to the sail, attached to the mizen mast, the existence of which is an acknowledged fact and is the subject of many paragraphs in books on the rigging of Navy (and other) vessels. It is possible that the name of this sail later became used for an additional mast with a driver sail attached, on merchant ships, but that is beyond the scope of the original query in this topic. 

 

Regarding whether or not it would be possible to rig and re-rig a rather small sail when going about, it is not a valid comparison to describe what was done in later days of merchant sail, with relatively small crews whose size was dictated by the needs of profit generation. The Navy ships of the 18th century had crews in the multiple hundreds, and would have had no problem with finding sufficient men to perform such a manouevre. In the days of the lateen mizen, going about involved passing the fore end of the mizen yard, which protruded many feet in front of the mizen mast, to the rear of the mizen mast and then re-positioning it on the other side of the mast. This must have been a lot of work, and would have required large numbers of men, and yet it was a matter of routine. 

 

What I was wondering about in my afterthought post was whether or not the original driver sail started as a studding sail type cloth rigged to the head of the gaff, and with its foot attached to a boom fastened in the quarter. This would seem to be a reasonable hypothesis, as a short-term stage in the development process from loose footed mizen sail to a driver sail with a full-length swinging boom on the mizen mast. Any further thoughts on this, in regard to Naval vessels, would be welcome.

 

Added a little later as a further afterthought: it would also seem a reasonable hypothesis that the driver boom referred to above is actually used in conjunction with the loose footed mizen sail, and was used to extend the aft-most corner of the sail outboard of the stern, thereby providing a means to increase the sail area. This could then easily have led, in a relatively short period, to the introduction of the driver boom, with which are all more familiar, which extended from the mizen mast, and performed the same function. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

 

 

Edited by Mark P

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The spanker and the driver were originally different sails.  The spanker sets from a gaff on the mizzen mast.  It started out as the loose footed mizzen sail which was itself a modification of the lateen mizzen of the 17th century.  At this point it is still referred to as the mizzen sail.  By the late 18th century the foot was extended by a boom.

 

The driver was a sort of studdingsail that was set in addition to the mizzen.  The head of this sail was extended by a small yard that was hoisted by a halyard in the center to the peak of the gaff.  When set square the foot was sheeted out to a boom lashed athwartships to the taffrail and extending out from the sides of the ship.  The driver could also be set more fore and aft as sort of an extension or enlargement of the mizzen in which case its boom was lashed to extend the boom of the mizzen.  (BTW, I think it is at this point that you start to have problems with interference with the ensign flag staff)

 

Eventually, this enlarged and extended fore and aft mizzen/driver combination becomes standard and is called the spanker sail.

 

Regards,

Edited by popeye2sea

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Good Morning Popeye;

 

Thank you for the clear explanation. That makes perfect sense of it all, and fills in the gaps in what I knew. Now if you can fill all the rest of the gaps which still remain.....

 

It also means that the illustration in Lees' book, showing the driver as an alternative to the mizen sail (p 112) with no obvious reason why it should be replaced (the area of the sail is almost identical) is incorrect. The driver actually worked with the mizen, to extend its area, as your post makes clear.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P

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13 hours ago, Mark P said:

I do not know how old these terms are, but the first use of them of which I am aware occurs towards the end of the 18th century, and is to name the sail fixed to the mizen mast of a three masted ship, and is unconnected, at that time,  with the later development of merchant ships with more than three masts. My query was in relation to the development of that particular sail, not the mast.

I got that. I thought you were speaking of the name of the sail. My point was that the fore and aft sail on the aftermost mast was called by several different names. It was, however, the same sail, whether it be on a naval ship or a merchant bark with however many masts. It was, of course, a successor to the lateen sail previously in use. It's variants included a gaff headed sail, and even sails with two gaff booms, and, much later, jib-headed sails. These sails all had lower booms. I think the only line of demarcation in types that makes much difference between lateen yarded sails and gaff rigged boomed sails. There were plenty of gaff-rigged boomed mizzen sails on smaller craft long before the demise of the lateen rigged mizzen sail on larger European ships and the evolution was a natural one prompted by their better suitability for the use intended. The lateen rig endured during an overlapping period on Mediterranean-based naval ships, such as the xebecs, and owing to its heritage, the lateen ("Latin") rig continues to this day on the small craft of areas which were part of the Roman Empire.  In this "transitional period," even the lateen rigged xebecs began to replace their lateen rigged sails with square sails, while retaining the lateen fore and aft sail on the aftermost mast, as with this square-rigged xebec of the 1780-1815 period:

 

1024px-Chebec_Mistic-IMG_8860.jpg

 

 

13 hours ago, Mark P said:

It is necessary to remember that the original question in this post concerns the Leopard, a Royal Navy ship launched in 1790. Navy ships were never fitted with mizen studding sails, so there is nothing to be gained from trying to make this item relate to a mizen studding sail boom.

That's certainly true. There are, of course, any number of other uses for a temporarily rigged outboard boom on the quarters. My point was, however, that there would be absolutely nothing to be gained by sheeting a boomed fore and aft sail outboard, would there?

 

13 hours ago, Mark P said:

The quote from the contract for Fortitude is quite specific, in that it talks about the 'driver boom', and this can only be in relation to the sail, attached to the mizen mast, the existence of which is an acknowledged fact and is the subject of many paragraphs in books on the rigging of Navy (and other) vessels. It is possible that the name of this sail later became used for an additional mast with a driver sail attached, on merchant ships, but that is beyond the scope of the original query in this topic. 

I don't think whether it's a naval vessel or a merchant vessel makes any difference when we are talking about the aftermost fore and aft sail. The Fortitude contract quote is indeed specific. They do seem to be speaking of the "driver boom," but as Popeye explained so clearly above, they are using the term "driver" to designate a sail that basically extends the leech of the gaff-rigged spanker sail to add sail area in light airs. That sail is "set flying" with its halyard run to a block at the gaff peak and its foot secured to "the driver boom abaft on the quarter" The specification speaks of ironwork, including a "hoop and swivel for the driver boom." The driver boom (or booms) port and starboard would be run out through an iron hoop and swivel, much like a stuns'l boom. These temporarily rigged booms would not have anything to do with the lower boom of the gaff-rigged spanker, though. The driver sail, unlike the spanker, was only used when the ship was off the wind in very light air. It had no utility in windward work.

 

13 hours ago, Mark P said:

Regarding whether or not it would be possible to rig and re-rig a rather small sail when going about, it is not a valid comparison to describe what was done in later days of merchant sail, with relatively small crews whose size was dictated by the needs of profit generation. The Navy ships of the 18th century had crews in the multiple hundreds, and would have had no problem with finding sufficient men to perform such a manouevre. In the days of the lateen mizen, going about involved passing the fore end of the mizen yard, which protruded many feet in front of the mizen mast, to the rear of the mizen mast and then re-positioning it on the other side of the mast. This must have been a lot of work, and would have required large numbers of men, and yet it was a matter of routine. 

 

I disagree. I really don't see any validity to the distinction you make between naval vessels and merchant vessels for the purposes of this analysis. Efficiency in the operation of the merchant vessel was undoubtedly motivated by profit, but efficiency in the operation of the naval vessel was every bit as motivated by a desire to maximize the vessel's fighting capacity, i.e. the very survival of the ship and her crew. Naval vessels might have had enough men aboard to "find sufficient men" to "rig and re-rig a rather small sail when going about," but why in the world would they want to? The whole point of a boomed fore and aft sail is that all that needs be done when tacking is to let the boom swing from one side to the other! And would they really have sufficient men in combat when there were eight to ten men to a gun, plus powder monkeys, etc., and boarding parties, all specifically assigned, not to mention crew to sail the ship? No way. The less crew required, the farther the ship can travel without re-provisioning, the more guns, powder, and shot she can carry, and perhaps most importantly to the Admiralty, the less she costs to operate.

 

Actually, the management of a lateen sail is much more a matter of timing and trained coordination than it is brute force and muscle power. Frequently, the lateen boom isn't moved to the leeward side of the mast at all when short-tacking. Lateen sails are referred to as having "good tack" (boom to leeward) and "bad tack" (boom to windward) sides, one being more efficient than the other. A lateen boom is generally only moved from the "bad tack' side of the mast to the "good tack" side when it was expected that the vessel would be sailing on that tack for long enough to make the work of doing it worth the trouble. Actually moving the spar from one side to the other is easier than might be expected. The forward brace has a tackle attached. As the sail luffs, the upper brace is cast off, the throat halyard is two-blocked, space aloft allowing for the spar to be raised enough for its arm to clear the deck when vertical, and the forward brace is hauled aft by the tackle until the end of the spar is parallel with the mast. It's then pushed to the other side and allowed to swing, or is hauled, forward, the throat halyard is slacked off as necessary, the top brace set up, and the sail sheeted in. Easy as that may be for a few trained crewmen to accomplish, if the captain of a fighting ship could dispense with that evolution entirely and simply leave a gaff sail to tend itself, particularly in the heat of battle, why wouldn't he? Which is exactly why the gaff sail replaced the lateen over time.

13 hours ago, Mark P said:

What I was wondering about in my afterthought post was whether or not the original driver sail started as a studding sail type cloth rigged to the head of the gaff, and with its foot attached to a boom fastened in the quarter. This would seem to be a reasonable hypothesis, as a short-term stage in the development process from loose footed mizen sail to a driver sail with a full-length swinging boom on the mizen mast. Any further thoughts on this, in regard to Naval vessels, would be welcome.

Yes, it would certainly seem so. The driver was similar to a stuns'l, as Popeye explained, but was only "set flying" from the gaff peak, i..e. hoisted on a halyard. The foot of the driver would bent to a spar extending from the quarter, while the lower spanker boom would be sheeted separately. The two sails were separate, save for their common connection at the gaff peak. Obviously, it was a lot easier to simply extend the spanker gaff and boom to increase the sail area of the aftermost fore and aft sail (and adding reef points as needed) and this occurred in due course, rendering the driver sail, but not its name, obsolete. 

 

13 hours ago, Mark P said:

it would also seem a reasonable hypothesis that the driver boom referred to above is actually used in conjunction with the loose footed mizen sail, and was used to extend the aft-most corner of the sail outboard of the stern, thereby providing a means to increase the sail area. This could then easily have led, in a relatively short period, to the introduction of the driver boom, with which are all more familiar, which extended from the mizen mast, and performed the same function. 

No, that's not possible. The spanker places considerably more tension on its sheet than the driver and the driver, only a light air sail, wouldn't have the strength to carry the forces of the much heavier spanker on its own. However, there is such a thing as a watersail, which is a sail that is bent to a fore and aft sail's boom beneath the boom and sail bent on above the boom, sort of like a "skirt," for light air use. They don't really add much and are relatively rare outside of period yacht racing applications.

 

The mechanics of the thing defines it. If it doesn't work, it wasn't used. Simple as that. At least, for the moment, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. :D 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Bob Cleek

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On 3/26/2020 at 8:52 PM, Bob Cleek said:

I've never known that. Is there some reference work that explains it? It doesn't make any sense to me, but that's certainly no indication of its accuracy!

Bob,  there are photos of contemporary models, sketches, and comments in Franklin's book Navy Board Models on pages 156 and 159 clearly showing and explaining that there are rotating pieces and clasps for the ensign staff.  The clasp was opened and the ensign staff rotated forward and down to the deck.   

Allan

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Coming back to the original question on the use of the Ensign staff, I think current Royal Navy (and probably other Commonwealth, likely all other) provides the answer.  By tradition, an ensign is flown from the ensign staff only while not underway either in harbor or at anchor together with the union jack at the for jack staff during daylight hours.  Modern ensign staffs similarly pivot per Druxey's description to avoid any entanglement with the variety of modern operations that occur in the stern area.  While underway, the ensign is flown from a different location wherever the primary mast structure is, which is both most visible and least encumbering.  Taking this practice back to the days of sail, it would seem logical to infer from this the same practice (although I suspect the ensign staff would be removed entirely while underway) and with the sea going location being flown from the gaff peak and the ensign staff lowered or stowed.

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27 minutes ago, Beef Wellington said:

an ensign is flown from the ensign staff only while not underway either in harbor or at anchor

Not a historical example, but that's the way it is on the Sultana replica.  Here is a picture on the Sultana Projects Flickr showing the ensign staff.  Note that the staff is offset to starboard so that the boom can remain at the center line.  When the mainsail is raised, the flag is moved to the gaff peak and the staff slides completely out of its holder.

 

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16 hours ago, allanyed said:

Bob,  there are photos of contemporary models, sketches, and comments in Franklin's book Navy Board Models on pages 156 and 159 clearly showing and explaining that there are rotating pieces and clasps for the ensign staff.  The clasp was opened and the ensign staff rotated forward and down to the deck.   

Allan

Hi Allan,

 

I wasn't as clear as I might have been in that post when i said, "I've never known that. Is there some reference work that explains it? It doesn't make any sense to me, but that's certainly no indication of its accuracy!"  That statement was in response to druxey's statement way back in post #2, "The answer is that the ensign staff (its proper name) is pivoted at the base. A half-hoop clasp, not shown in the drawing above, is undone, the staff pivoted forward and down, the boom swung over and the staff raised again."

 

I'm familiar with the "tabernacle" fitting used with ensign staffs. My comments were directed to the language: "...the staff pivoted forward and down, the boom swung over and the staff raised again." It was that to which I was referring when I said, "I've never known that. Is there some reference work that explains it? It doesn't make any sense to me..." 

 

At this point in the discussion, I don't think anybody is suggesting that the ensign was flown on the staff while the vessel was under sail and, when tacking, "the staff pivoted forward and down, the boom swung over and the staff raised again." I seriously doubt they would be "striking their colors" every time they tacked! The ensign was flown from the gaff peak while under sail, not only for increased visibility, but also because flying it there didn't interfere with the sailing of the vessel. 

 

There were times, of course, when a lateen yard was carried on the mizzen, or the clew of the spanker didn't extend far enough outboard to foul the ensign staff, where there would not be any problem posed by fouling the staff when sailing, but that's not the case with the vessel depicted in post #1.

 

A much more interesting question is, "Just how much did they actually fly their ensign when under sail?"  I believe, but am not certain, that in actual practice, they wouldn't bother to hoist those huge ensigns unnecessarily when at sea, because they really weren't good for anything other than identification at great range and otherwise simply created a lot of useless windage. Besides, those large ensigns were probably pretty expensive and they wouldn't have wanted to beat them to tatters in daily use in all weathers. Also, it wouldn't have seemed prudent to identify your vessel's nationality to another vessel at sea until you knew who they were, or were ready to stand and fight! Mention of orders to "show the colors"  when another ship was sighted, or even of showing a "false flag" to conceal a ship's nationality, and to only at the last minute, "show your true colors," abound in the literature. Perhaps we worry about ensigns more than they did! :D 

 

 

 

 

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