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What is a topgallant forecastle?


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Axes work good on line and you can cut a notch in a tree for falling but it is not quick as anyone who has used an axe to clear windfall from roads. So I would assume that a Topgallant Forecastle is not structural or the saws would be used. Be watching for the answer from someone who knows.


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I have found a few "dictionary" listings that all state it is a partial weather deck on top of a forecastle superstructure.  Crothers, in his 2013 American-Built Packets and Freighters of the 1850s, refers to this feature in a couple of spaces, including this excerpt -


By definition bitts are "sturdy timbers of squared cross section which are ... Where possible they extended from above the topgallant forecastle deck


In addition, there is this reference in Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 63



Sir, Glasgow, 16 February 1867.

In obedience to the instructions contained in letter (M. 269.) I beg to append a list, selected from about 100 vessels whose forecastles I have inspected, and the number in which I have taken the liberty to somewhat augment from that required, with the view of fairly representing the condition and size of those in ships of various tonnages, grades, and trades, and as recently found by. me about Glasgow and the Frith of Clyde. The plan I propose is simply to present the ships individually, with notes of the situation, condition, and size of their crewspaces as I saw them, reserving any general remarks to the last, and which arrangement I trust will meet with your approbation.


Ship of 744 tons, engaged in the North American timber trade; berths a crew of 16 people under topgallant forecastle, which is open from side to side, and where windlass and chains are wrought. No plugs seen for hawse-holes. No light except from four small dead-lights on top of forecastle deck, about seven inches long by two inches broad ; when windlass and entrance doors are closed no special ventilation. Space, clear of chains, and including bed-berth, about 14 square feet, and 84 cubic feet, per berth.


Ship of about 700 tons, engaged in the North American timber trade; berths a crew of 1-2 people under topgallant forecastle, which is open from side to side, and where windlass and chains are wrought; no doors to enclose forecastle above windlass : when ship is at sea only a small breakwater underneath; no dead- lights, no side-lights, no plugs seen for hawse-pipes ; light and air alone by doors at sides, and open spaces above windlass. Must be miserably cold living here in the spring and fall voyages of this trade. Space, berth included, clear of chains and other incumbrances, about 19 square feet, and 117 cubic feet per berth.


Continues describing several additional vessels.  The reference is about half way through the document (page 30 of the section titled Merchant Seamen's Accommodations

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I've read and heard what you would call seaman's slang use terms like "He was a full tops'l taller than his comrades."  But I never caught this particular reference.  Never too old to learn I guess.


Funny, I've read everything Forrester wrote except that one, guess I'm gonna have to slide over to Abe Books and hunt one down.

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A topgallant forcastle is a small deck in the bow of a ship. Obviously all forcastles are a small deck in the bow of a ship. It is the uppermost deck.


What makes it a top-gallant forecastle is when it is above the height of the main rail. Usually top-gallant forecastles were added to smaller vessels that did not have any foc'sle at all. On these smaller ships (brigs & sloops etc) the bulwarks were not tall enough to provide the minimum acceptable head room under a deck. Therefore an addition was added to the height of the sides. If you examine the print of the HMS Nautilus you will see the addition to the sides from the stem to about the last lower shroud. She began life as a typical Cherokee class 10 gun brig. This vary large class of brigs were generally flush decked. This ship had a top-gallant foc'sle added later in life. It may have been to provide an additional covered space. Maybe a platform was needed to get the sailors handling the head sails away from the crew handling the anchor cables.


Edited by michaelpsutton2
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