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No Ratlines on Revenue Cutter Dallas?


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I am building the Revenue Cutter Dallas from 1815. The rigging plans show no ratlines. This is simpler for me since this is my first attempt at rigging but is it accurate? How would the crew have tied up the sails other than by climbing up to the yards? Would they have just used a one of the ropes? The Cutter 'Alert' plans from around the same time also have no ratlines. The American schooner in Petersson's 'Rigging Period Fore-and-Aft Craft' does have ratlines but that is for a larger ship.

 

So what do people think?

 

Thanks,

Richard.

 

p.s. I assume the yard would have had foot ropes?

Edited by RichardG
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Yep - those 2 were much larger and different design. I think Dallas (1815) was one of the Doughty 51ton cutters. I'm home at last so going through some of my books for info. I recall a similar thread here on MSW last year.

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Okay, here is what I have come up with.  First, I was wrong on the plans for the ship - The Revenue cutter Dallas was built by A & N Brown of New York and was completed in 1816. She was one of the several cutters built to replace vessels the service had lost during the War of 1812 and was one of two vessels of the "Surprise" class, the other being the Revenue cutter Surprise, also built by A & N Brown.

 

In the case of the Dallas (and several contemporary cutters), I have seen models both with and without ratlines.  Many similar sized topsail schooners used as fishing or merchant vessels of the same era also did not have ratlines, with the topsail yard being lowered to the deck and not always at the head of the mast.  As Chris mentioned, may have used a bosun's seat to get to the tops if needed.

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Thanks everyone for your replies.

 

I also found a drawing of the cutter 'Surprise' (a sister ship) in 'The Global Schooner: Origins, Development, Design & Construction 1695-1845' by Karl Heinz Marquardt, this also has no ratlines.

 

So no ratlines it is then!

 

Thanks again.

Richard.

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I don't know anything about these specific vessels, but ratlines would only be needed, if crew had to go into the mast on regular basis for working the sails (e.g. for furling them). On smaller boats all the sails would be operated from the deck, so there is no need for ratlines. In an emergency, a crew would be aided/hoisted up in an bosun's chair, just as it is done on modern yachts.

 

wefalck

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Many traditional fishing boats with gaff-sails and -topsails don't have them. Even when they have a square foresail (which would be lowered to the deck for furling/unfurling. It is a question of how often and how many men you would need in the mast. If the gear is small enough that one, or may be two men are sufficient to sort out gear aloft, the bosun's chair is probably a safe and fast option. It would be needed mainly if something fouled aloft in a way that gaffs or other spars and sails cannot be lowered to the deck. In this case the work is likely to be done close to the mast.

 

wefalck

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Couldn't it just be that the ratlines are just not shown on the plans? Probably all who consulted them would have known what ratlines looked like, so there was no need to show them. The shrouds are drawn, of course, to illustrate their positioning.

 

I think I agree with Frankie here, as I can't imagine a vessel with yards having no ratlines. I suppose however, it is possible.

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Richard

 

Sorry I am late to party.  Still working my way around the site.    The responses that advised no ratlines because the sails were worked from the deck are correct.  The model Dallas depicts an 79 ton cutter. The other vessels that were referred to were larger vessels.  The large square sail (light weather sail) was bent to the yard on deck and raised and guided by a horse. The horse is actually on the Dallas plans on the fore mast. The topsail is a smaller sail and yard than it might appear.  It was also bent to the yard on deck and raised from the deck.  Therefore no ratlines AND NO foot ropes or jack stays on the yards.

 

This also puzzled me as well.    If they needed to go aloft, someone suggested to me that the crew simply climbed  the mast hoops/rings.

 

Phil Roach

NRG Director

President Southwest Florida Ship Modeler's Guild.

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I have read that in smaller sailing vessels that if a sailor needed to go aloft for some reason, clear a block or untangle a line, he could climb the mast hoops like a ladder.  After seeing a large (by our modern standards) schooner at a tall ships parade it made sense.  The mast hoops were easily larger enough and strong enough to be used as a ladder when the sail was hoisted.

Edited by grsjax
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  • 3 months later...
  • 6 years later...
On 6/16/2014 at 8:55 AM, wefalck said:

Many traditional fishing boats with gaff-sails and -topsails don't have them. Even when they have a square foresail (which would be lowered to the deck for furling/unfurling. It is a question of how often and how many men you would need in the mast. If the gear is small enough that one, or may be two men are sufficient to sort out gear aloft, the bosun's chair is probably a safe and fast option. It would be needed mainly if something fouled aloft in a way that gaffs or other spars and sails cannot be lowered to the deck. In this case the work is likely to be done close to the mast.

 

wefalck

I have some disagreement with this. A bosun's chair rigged and sending one man aloft in a severe storm or hurricane to fix a problem by himself would be suicide! That man is at the whims of a storm without any firm footing or handholds. That's a task for crew utilizing rat lines to accomplish. More so if it meant repairing rigging on spars or replacing canvas. Than footholds and handholds on spars would be necessary also.

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In 1794 Royal Navy Officer George Tobin painted a number of real life pictures of Virginia Pilot Boats operating off the Virginia Capes, the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.  These boats not only didn’t have ratlines, they didn’t have shrouds or stays.  Neverless at least one of his pictures includes a lookout at the masthead looking for an arriving ship to pilot.  Maybe he used the mast hoops as ladder rungs?

 

 

D61074F8-1120-4431-A285-A0970216353D.jpeg

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It is sometimes quite difficult for us in the 21st century to understand working conditions in previous times.  It was common for even very large sailing ships not to have ratlines on at least part of their rigging. In his book "The Last Grain Race", Eric Newby describes how he had to climb to the main truck on first joining the ship.  When he got to the head of the topmast, he found that the only access to the royal yard and mast truck was to 'shinny' up the mast!

 

John

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On the large Arab-lateen rigged boats of the Arab-seas there were no shrouds, only the halliard for the antenna. Arab and Indian seamen would 'shinny' (as John expressed himself) up the antenna to put in reefs.

 

The rule was 'One hand for me - one hand for thee (the shipowner)' ...

 

Dana's book is always a good non-fictional read of sailing-ship practice around the middle of the 19th century and the hard-ship the men had to endure.

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Wow, 6 years later 🙈

 

I shouldn't have looked - it just reminds me how little progress I've made. 

 

However, I have made some progress and still haven't given up - so I'm calling that a win.

 

I also have some radical plans for the rigging. So here's to 2021 😀.

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