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Topmast Shrouds for Sherbourne


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I am working on the belaying plan for the Caldercraft model of HMS Sherbourne, cutter, and can't figure out how the ropes holding the topmast shrouds are fixed. There is no indication of those particular shrouds in the kit's plans for the standing rigging.


Petersson's book on Rigging Period Fore and Aft Craft shows them being fixed via pulleys hooked to the channels, but the pulleys are shown with the pulling rope merely wound round the top of the upper block of the two that are hooked to the channel. Would the loose end of that rope have been fixed to the main shrouds with a cleat, or would it have been placed on a belaying pin on the rack by the channels?


I hope this makes sense -- having had no sailing experience I am doing this all from a theoretical viewpoint!



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I am not certain that Sherbourne was actually rigged with topmast backstays, which is probably why they are not shown on the plans (and seemingly something they have got right!).


The cutter shown in Petersson's 'Fore and Aft Craft' is based on the model in the Science Museum (or was), which I believe dates from around 1785. Earlier cutters, which of course included the Sherbourne, don't seem have had them due to the positioning of the topgallant mast, abaft the lower mast head. This was thought sufficient support, and thus they were not necessary.


Goodwin mentions this in his AOTS book on the Alert and goes on to say that topmast backstays were introduced later (around the 1780's), when the topgallant mast began to be stepped on the fore side of the lower mast head. The length of the upper mast was also lengthened which made them even more necessary. Even then, however, they don't seem to have given much support from aft. In the book, there is a drawing of the Alert on page 104, which shows a ticked line indicating a breast backstay, ie. on each side of the topgallant mast, but he stresses this may or may not have been fitted.


Consequently, I don't plan to fit any stays or shrouds to my topgallant mast. I know this looks odd to us, and I queried it myself, when we are used to backstays. However, historically, there doesn't seem to be any evidence for them on cutters of this date. Another oddity is the yards and their method of hoisting, but I won't go into that here. In passing, I'm not surprised that it all changed to 'big ship' practice – presumably because they found it didn't work too well!

Edited by Stockholm tar
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That's a really informative reply, Kester (as usual!). I was just about to go to the AOTS Alert book to see what it said there, but you have saved me the trouble -- although now I will go and look and read up more about the rigging now that I am learning the terms and in a very few cases actually remembering and understanding them. Anyway, I am pleased in that it seems there is one less job to do!


I look forward to any comments you might have on the oddity of the method of hoisting, as I am sure that other Sherbourne builders as much as myself would benefit from your wisdom.


I have also been trying to square the kit plans for the bowsprit rigging with Petersson's outlines, and still find it rather confusing -- but I know that with perseverance I shall get there in the end.


I wrote to the Science Museum in May and they sent me a list of all the cutters in their collection and where they were stored. It looks as though the model Petersson drew from is in Blythe House in West Kensington (where I used to live), so I might pop over there and see if I can check that out as well as the other contemporary cutter models they have there.


Thanks again for the trouble you take in general to lay straight the record.



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  • 2 months later...

Tony, it seems I have missed all your questions outside your log. But here is another solution for the topmast shrouds; beautifully executed by Jean Boudriot on his cutter Le Cerf (http://modelisme.arsenal.free.fr/artdumodelisme/Le%20Cerf/index.html). This method is also shown by Wolfram zu Mondfeld, I made it just like that in my Sherbourne.


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Thanks very much, Gregor. I must remember to look at zu Mondfeld's book more often and more thoroughly!


I'm still on the bowsprit. I was clinging on to the idea that I could stain the kit wood. After various experiments, including dyes, stains and tea (with and without using steel wool dissolved in white vinegar/acetic acid), as well as finishing with linseed oil, I have finally decided that I can't continue with the kit wood nor with birch dowel as both simply are too blotchy (or too light in comparison with the rest of the wood on the ship) with whatever combination I have tried. So I have just ordered some pear.


So there's plenty of time yet before I get to the shrouds -- and I am going to rebuild my ropewalk and make a serving machine before doing that. I was happy, though, to experiment with putting a sheave in the bowsprit. That went really well. So I'm ready now for the final version.


Oh -- the reason I haven't been doing my log is that I wanted to get all the different deck fittings finalised and in harmony before posting. I have been through so many iterations of windlass, belaying pin racks etc that I thought it would be silly to post and then show all the undoings and redoings.



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