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Correct hitch and advice on rigging a flag needed


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Hello folks.

I'm almost done my first wooden build - AL's 'old' Swift - and I'm getting frustrated with the rigging. The plans and directions aren't much help in what knots or hitches should be used anywhere. I've been forced into doing lots of research (I have Lever, Longridge, and perhaps a dozen more books), which is ok but I can't seem to find a hitch or stop that would be used to attach the *middle* of a rope to a ringbolt. In this model the throat halliards are tied to ringbolts on the deck. With gaffs fully raised on the masts there should be a lot of rope on deck, and I'd like to tie off that line in a logical manner. The closest seems to be the slippery hitch - but was there a 'right' one?


A second rigging question is about the flag. Did flags in 1805 American ships have grommets? Were toggles used to rig flags at this time? I'd welcome any advice on how to attach the flag to the halyard.


By the way, does anyone who has built this model think that the rigging is haywire? Seems very illogical to me.



Gabe "So happy to be a part of MSW" K.

Edited by GabeK
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Hi GabeK,


I see no-one has come back on this yet, so perhaps I can help.


To be accurate halliards which had any weight on them, such as for hoisting a gaff, usually had a tackle at the deck end to aid in the hoisting, which gave a mechanical advantage. This normally consisted of two double blocks with line rove between them, the end of the line being belayed to a cleat or pin, thus a knot wasn't needed. In fact it wasn't really desirable, since it could become very difficult to undo, if it tightened up under strain.


The end of the halliard proper was seized around the groove in the upper of the two blocks, whilst the lower block was fastened to the ringbolt in the deck. The line rove between the two was of smaller circumference than the halliard itself, one end being fastened at the lower end of the top block (usually through a small loop made in the seized halliard). It then ran through all the sheaves in both blocks, coming off of the top one, from where it ran down to the pin or cleat, where it was belayed.


As you say, there was a lot of rope left on deck when the gaff was hoisted. This was then neatly coiled, and hung from the same pin or cleat. On a model it is easier to make the coils separately, and attach them afterwards. You'll appreciate that the positions of the two blocks, relative to each other, will be different when the gaff is at full hoist than when it is lowered – them being closer together for the former position, and wider apart in the latter. You'd have to judge their approximate positions, on the model.


Regarding the flag, or ensign, at the end of the gaff. As far as I am aware, the toggle was the normal arrangement used on British ships, and I am not sure that other nations used this method. However, since the ship is American, they very likely followed British practice. The toggle was fastened close to the top of the flag, usually passing through a loop in the thin line that was stitched along the flag's hoist side, ie. that nearest the staff or halliards. The other end of the line, which protruded from the bottom for a little distance, had another loop in it. One end of the halliards also had a loop, through which the toggle on the flag was threaded, the other end passing through the loop in the end of the flag line, and normally made fast with a sheet bend. The ensign was now ready to hoist. All the other flags used would have had the same arrangement.


Incidentally, you might come to find that research is one of the more rewarding sides of ship modelling. ;)

Edited by Stockholm tar
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Hi Gabe, I have been looking at the question of  Ensign rigging myself today in connection with my own build.


Here's a schematic of the arrangement on British ships that I did some time ago on a different forum.




Essentially it follows the narrative answer given by Kester, hope it helps.



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I knew I could count on the MSW community to respond!  


I couldn't agree with Kester more on every account.  It's funny - just before posting I took out the phrase "Which makes no sense to me" right after "the throat halliards are tied to ringbolts on the deck."  Exactly as you said, there is no mechanical advantage and there would be tremendous force on this rig.  And I totally agree that the research is a great part of the fun of building - but I'm getting impatient with these bad instructions.  (Oh, if you read my build log...this has been a 27 year project and I'm now stalled on a few knots!).  I have almost all the other rigging squared away.  


Super info on rigging a blue ensign, Blue Ensign!  Much obliged.  (Sorry to all our American cousins, but I am hoisting a Union Jack on this model!).


Thank you, folks, for all your advice.  I'm hoping that this weekend will be the last one on the Swift.




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One other point to consider.  If they were anything like the ones we use today the halyard is all one rope.  That is to say when the flags are bent on the halyard forms a continuous loop.  When no flags are present  the toggle on the downhaul end is attached to the loop of the uphaul end.  Both parts of the halyard are made fast on the same cleat

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Just an observation about flag halyards. They represent the thinnest rigging on the entire ship and no other lines in the rig are as thin. A convention of belaying plans is that the higher the point of origin of the line in question, the farther aft it will be belayed on deck. So if your flag halyard goes to the truck of the mast, it will belay farthest aft of all lines on that mast. The line is so thin its not necessary to put it on a belaying pin like the other running rigging, more often its on a very small cleat or very small pin. If you want to fly a large flag on a windy day you want the flag and its halyard to be free of any other lines as the flag is raised or lowered it has every opportunity of catching on something. As the flag moves up or down the line, it isnt tight yet and will blow off to leward and try to wrap around everything it touches so the flag halyard is best belayed well aft and outboard of everything else.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I thought I would just post the final result of everyone's advice here.

Thinner line for the flag halyard.

Small cleat installed on the mainmast.

Toggle above the flag, eye splice below.

Eye splice in the halyard for the toggle, sheet bend to attach the halyard to the eyesplice below the flag.

A little extra length in the halyard to join the two ends when a flag is not being flown.


And I added a few small drops of cyano to keep the flag in the direction I wanted.


And my first wood model is done! Thanks a bunch, mates.




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