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Rigging a bowsprit heel rope on Cutter Sherbourne 1763

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In his table of dimensions for 90-ton cutters, Steel gives the dimensions of the heel rope for the bowsprit, and describes the heel rope as follows: the "Heel-rope reeves through a leading block, hooked to an eye-bolt in the bow, then through a sheave-hole in the heel of the bowsprit, and the standing part makes fast to a timber head or eye-bolt, and the leading part is connected to the windlass".

 

I find this a bit hard to follow, as I understand that the heel rope is to haul the bowsprit out. I wonder how the mechanics of this worked. So I would be grateful if any one could point me to drawings, pictures or models that demonstrate how this is rigged.

 

It may also be that the ropes are generally left off whilst not positioning the bowsprit, but I am particularly interested in how the sheave was placed in the heel of the bowsprit.

 

As usual, any advice from the more knowledgeable will be gratefully received!

 

Thanks

 

Tony

 

 

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Thanks, SpyGlass. I had seen that illustration whilst doing a web search and understand that the whole lot has to be done inboard, but it didn't seem to match how the bowsprit on a cutter of 1763 would be rigged with a sheave on the heel. I also noted a lot of references to current methods of hauling a bowsprit on sailing boats, but again what I saw didn't quite match how the bowsprit on my cutter is set up.

 

I should also say that I am aware that rigging before 1780 or so was different, so it's possible that Steel is referring to an newer type of rigging of the bowsprit heel. All the same, since it is a running bowsprit, there should be ways of hauling it in and out.

 

Tony

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Yes - I just thought that the illustration show the setup of the tackle as described. My reading of the pic is  that there is shown a sheave let into a slot at the heel presumably led to the standing fix point at the other side.

 

A lot of modern vessels have sprits which are in and out like yo yo.  But they dont use the method described  I have sailed on a couple of ilder cutters about Sherbourne size and they both had the butt clamped and fitted into a stop with no fittings at the end. But they were not routinely taken in.

 

I have just found this but you may have seen it too

Cyclopædia: Or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and ..., Volume 22   1819

"Bowsprits of small vessels have an iron hoop with an eye on either side and one on the upper side; it is let on and fastened at the outer end.  A sheave-hole is cut through the heel and one at the outer end

 

and that is repeated exactly in several sources including  The Elements and Practice of Rigging, Seamanship, and Naval Tactics etc -1800  that explicitly says "small vessels, as cutters &c"

Edited by SpyGlass

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That's very interesting, SpyGlass. I hadn't seen the quote, and although I have just purchased the Cambridge Steel reprint I hadn't seen the quote there either -- so I'll have a look there.

 

I've had another look at the illustration you referenced, and now see that the place marked 'm' in fact refers to the bowsprit and not (as I had thought) to a sheave underneath. I can understand how the rope might push the bowsprit in if the sheave is horizontal as in the diagram and the rope is pulled by the windlass round a timberhead forward of the sheave. As for pulling it in, would it be that the rope is wound round a timber head more to the rear?

 

Thanks for any further guidance!

 

Tony

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Sounds to me like this arrangement is exactly like that of the Top Rope on a topmast. If you look at how topmasts are swayed up, its very easy to imagine this same principle being used horizontally for the bowsprit. I built a cutter once and at the time I was frustrated at the lack of documentation of how the bowsprit was run in and out, and exactly how the bits or samson post at the windlass forward was shaped in order to control the bowsprit. But there must be a fid of some sort to hold the spar in place once its located properly.

But that led to further unanswered questions concerning the Bowsprit. For instance, were there only two positions available, All the way inboard and all the way outboard, or was there a way to run the spar out only halfway? If this is so, there would have to be another fid hole somewhere along the inner third of the bowsprit?  But I can't see the riggers allowing a hole in the spar anywhere along its length, particularly on a cutter. Alternatively there could PERHAPS have been a fitting on the fife rail to accept the fid at the spars heel?

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No comment upon getting it in again - though  i would have thought with a couple of eyes on the heel as described and a windlass to hand  it would be a doddle !

 

On fids in bow sprits I have no experience or knowledge of such - all I am aware of is  a " butt stop" of some description ,  a wooden fitting as the sprit passed through the bulwark and either metal clamps or  rope bindings to hold it.

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Yes, SpyGlass, I hadn't thought through the business of using the eyes on the heel. Good thought!

 

I presume the sheave would be right at the heel, before the three holes for the fid.

 

In terms of a fitting, wouldn't the ring round the bowsprit that is attached to the stem act as a stop? You could then say, without too much of a smile on your face, "The butt stop's here!"

 

Tony

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Tony,

 

Interesting discussion.

 

On my Sherbourne there is about 3.5cm between the butt end of the bowsprit and the mast, which doesn't seem to make a lot of fore and aft movement possible. However, on the real vessel fine tuning might be the order of the day, so it could be worthwhile.

 

I squared the butt end of my bowsprit, and also gave it three fid holes (although not a sheave hole) – although I have to admit these were for appearance, rather than for any practical use in reality! Since the spar on the actual cutters was pretty hefty, I wouldn't have thought that two or three reasonably-sized fid holes would have weakened it over much – and it is supported either side of the hole.

 

Do you intend rigging the blocks etc, or just have the fittings? I wouldn't have thought they were permanently rigged. In passing, it seems difficult to find information on this.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks, Kester. I was thinking it wouldn't be permanently rigged as I suspect the way it is rigged would be different for moving the bowsprit outwards and inwards. I was looking at the position of my windlass and it's clear that the fid holes in the bowsprit heel lie aft of or immediately above it. This would make it very difficult for a sheave at the very heel (aft of the fid holes) to work as any rope would then have to go round the bowsprit step.

 

The kit plans, and several cutter models I have seen show three fid holes. I presume they allowed for the three positions that could be adopted by the bowsprit. This would mean removing the iron bar which runs through the bowsprit step and the fid hole, then moving the bowsprit so that relevant fid holeis in alignment. I have seen pictures of a few models with such a bar going through the step and the fid holes.

 

My puzzle then remains: no matter where a sheave is placed in the heel, how would it work to move the bowsprit?

 

According to Steel the rope starts at an eye-bolt in the bow, goes through the sheave in the heel, then goes to a timber head and thence to the windlass. If the timber head he mentions is forward of the windlass, then that makes some mechanical sense: at least when moving the bowsprit outwards -- although the rope would be moving around the timber head. For this to work, the sheave would have to be forward of the fid holes in order to avoid going round the bowsprit step.

 

It's when pulling the bowsprit inwards that the sheave does not make particular sense if the rope starts by being attached to an eye-bolt in the bow,  as I don't see how the windlass would then come into play. That's why I wondered if it was handled differently when being pulled inwards -- as suggested by SpyGlass in his earlier note.

 

It is indeed odd that it is hard (at least on the internet) to find much detail about this in diagrams, pictures or explanations (although Steel seems at least to describe the geometry in words, and makes it clear that a sheave in the heel was a way of moving it) as I thought that one of the key aspects of a cutter was its movable bowsprit.

 

It may be one of those things that is so abundantly obvious to a seafarer that it wasn't worth mentioning.

 

Tony

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Well I am not so sure about a moveable bowsprit being a "running" adjustment for length The main reason in actual practice on the couple of vessels  that i was on was to unship it  so the length didnt cause problems when along side .

 

But this one was fixed NOT to move ! It only came out forwards !

 

post-905-0-84446900-1424726025_thumb.jpg

 

 I has this awful experience when coming into the refueling pontoon  on the Hamble when I  both neglected to allow for the tidal speeds and made a turn against the prop bias and watched as the sprit swung in a gentle arc straight at the four petrol pumps on the pontoon. Missed by about a foot - but the sticky-out bit was a nuisance at times.

 

BUT unshipping it was a major job - all the stays etc had to be adjusted, the netting, the outhauls for the sails etc ect etc etc the mind boggles at doing that as a running adjustment .

 

The difference between hauling  a sprit out using the pulleys and sheaves etc was that was against the resistance of at least some attached rigging and fittings tending to hold it back. 

Hauling it in - the attachments tends to pull it backwards anyway so fastening a line to one of the rings and using the windlass would be very quick and easy.

 

Am I missing a problem but  - sorry about the drawing skill - is the attached not how it was described and would be done?

 

post-905-0-16836100-1424725094_thumb.jpg

 

Just to help me visualise has anyone a pic of these fid positions ??

Edited by SpyGlass

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Great description, SpyGlass. The right hand sid of your drawing is exactly how I see the outhaul of the bowsprit. The inward is as you described it before. Your experience and interpretation are invaluable.

 

I fully understand now your explanation that it was not really a 'running' change. It makes sense.

 

The difficulty with the left hand drawing is that the windlass in all the Sherbourne models is fore of the bowsprit step and the fid holes in the bowsprit.

 

Another thought is that your suggestion of hauling it in with a single eyebolt seems to put a lot of strain on that eyebolt for such a heavy spar. Might it have been a bolt that went right across like a fid iron, with rope wound round both sides?

 

I attach the diagram of the bowsprit from the cutter Alert AOTS book by Goodwin.

 

I also attach a picture of a rough-up first attempt at fitting the bowsprit which shows the relative position of the windlass. The bowsprit in this picture is run in to its full extent.

 

post-229-0-76666700-1424726093_thumb.jpg

 

post-229-0-21017100-1424726980_thumb.jpg

 

Tony

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Tony,

 

I agree largely with what you say in your previous post.

 

Re. the moving of the bowsprit inboard, and the seeming impossibility of the windlass being used due to its position, I wonder if the solution was actually not rather more simple. What if two ropes were fastened to the butt end of the spar, one on each side (using eyebolts or some other suitable means), and these were then simply hauled upon by members of the crew, stretched aft along their length? These cutters had a crew of around 40 men, so manpower wouldn't have been a problem and I can't see it as being that difficult. Running it out again, the windlass could obviously be employed.

 

Spyglass,

 

I would say that the bowsprit's being run-in, in harbour, was rather a different proposition to what we are talking about here. I have never been on a vessel where the bowsprit has been moved, but from what I've read on the subject and historical pictures of vessels with run-in spars, they have always been taken in completely.

 

Given that, I can't then see the reason for the three fid holes, other than to adjust its length when in use.

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I agree Tar.   Where so the fid holes come from - is there an historical source ?

 

I can see in initial set up that the bowsprit position may be sometimes adjusted - likethe rake of the mast etc ect. But once setup I see that as being it.

 

Mind we modern people always forget how many crew these vessels carried - things which seem huge jobs with  a modern crew on a 60ft cutter (6 in my case) compare with 40 skilled men on a similarly sized  18th century .   Big jobs become routine  and skill and practice make huge differences to what is practical working.

 

On the experience side four of us sweated our hearts out hauling up a main once  and were then shown by the skipper ( round the horn man) how to do it.  He appeared to lean casually against the mast while the canvas rose of its own volition !"

 

 And I was struck reading Cook's log how often they stowed the guns in the hold and took them out again. Its nice to sail old sailing vessels and they do give you a great insight into how they are worked - but it aint the real thing of the time!!

Edited by SpyGlass

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Taking a hint from what Brady says in 'The Kedge Anchor; or, Young Sailors' Assistant' (https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RvvBAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA52&lpg=PA52&dq=bowsprit+heel+fitting&source=bl&ots=fNp6eQe0a7&sig=k9G-34BqKNoBidgYTrWcdYDyVB4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Uj7sVOXoC4X3O9H7gcAO&ved=0CDkQ6AEwBTgK#v=onepage&q=bowsprit%20heel%20fitting&f=false) where they talk about taking in a bowsprit for fitting, blocks might have also been attached to the main mast. This might have given extra mechanical leverage.

 

Tony

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OK, after a bit more web searching, here are two more links.

 

The first refers to modern bowsprits which are much lighter: http://www.classicboat.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=189329&page=2.

 

The second appears to suggest that bowsprits were moved in and out according to the sea, but gives no mention of sheaves or methods. http://www.allthingsransome.net/literary/knight6.htm.

 

It should also be noted that Steel only mentions hauling the bowsprit out with the heel rope, and does not say anything about hauling it in. This might strengthen Kester's and SpyGlass' suggestions about hauling it in with manpower.

 

Tony

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And here's a better one. It's from 'Fore and Aft Seamanship for Yachtsmen: With Names of Ropes, Sails, and Spars' by Charles Wilson in 1878. It says:

 

"Q. How would you reef a Cutter’s bowsprit?

 

A: Slack up all the gear. Reeve a heel rope and heave taut upon it, and take out the fid. Slack the bowsprit in to the second or third fid hole, as required, ship the fid, and then set up the gear. Some vessels are fitted with a rack and pinion wheel, with a handle similar to that of a windlass for reefing the bowsprit."

 

Tony

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The spar would run inboard very easily in comparison to the effort required to run it out. The geometry of the standing rigging bearing on its outer end would always be trying to run it inboard. Also there are plenty of lines already attached to the spar convenient for hauling it inboard, and note that these lines need not be attached directly to the heel of the spar, a purchase at any point on the spar could be used for pulling the spar back inboard. 

Also the fid holes clearly are for adjusting the sail area and center of effort of the vessel. Considering the fact that cutters already had Bowsprit Travelers its a wonder the designers felt this extra bit of control was worth all the trouble of configuring a spar so it could be adjusted this way.

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It certainly makes me wonder what the circumstances were that would prompt the decision to run the bowsprit inboard. If you can simply take in sail, why go to all the trouble of physically running the bowsprit inboard? Consider that "all that trouble ALSO could mean striking the topmast, since the topmast stay would lose effectiveness the closer inboard it was made.

I suppose if the boat was pitching excessively it would run the tip of the bowsprit into the sea and threaten its breaking off and this would necessitate getting it in out of the way?

It certainly must have been an exciting life being crew on one of these cutters, the fastest thing afloat but with no creature comforts. Very little room for anything on deck and when the time comes to strike the rig, imagine the chaos for the leiutenant giving orders in the proper sequence. There would be no room for any shortcomings in crew competence. With everything struck, wouldn't every available inch of deck space be piled high with coils and spars? Then when the weather moderates, put it all back in place!

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