No matter how small a craft the yachtsman owns she will, after a
winter’s lay-up, require a good deal of attention before she is fit for
the water; and there is no reason why a keen yachtsman who owns a tidy
little craft should not fit her out himself in his spare time. In fact,
I am acquainted with many boat-owners who find nearly as much delight in
getting their own vessels into proper fettle for the season’s sport as
they do in navigating them. There is much to be said in favor of this
enterprise. The principal argument is that a man overhauling the hull of
the boat which belongs to him will not be at all likely to “scamp” the
work. On the contrary, it is to his interest to do the job thoroughly
while he is about it, for he is improving his own property; whereas if
he employs a mechanic to do it by piece work, or by the day, the task
may be performed in a manner more or less perfunctory, or at any rate
without the attention to minor details which the actual proprietor would
be expected to bring to the task.
I would not counsel a man to attempt repairs which call for the skilled
shipwright or boat-builder. The result would in all probability be a
lamentable failure, and in the end a mechanic would have to be called
in. But the work of cleaning, painting and varnishing a hull
intrinsically sound may be accomplished by the man or boy of average
intelligence and industry.
What is true about a hull is still more so of her rig. When I first went
to sea on a deep-water voyage, as soon as the ship was out of soundings
the crew’s first duty was to undo the work of the professional rigger,
stay the masts anew by shrouds and backstays, and replace the hurried
botch-work of knots and splices by seamanlike and shipshape work.
Anything in the shape of a boat may be made water-tight, no matter how
leaky she may be, if treated with careful ingenuity. I would be the last
man to suggest patching and puttying up a ramshackle craft whose frames
and planking are rotten. Supposing, however, that the hull is fairly
sound, but through exposure to the hot sun her planks are cracked in
sundry places, and that in fact she leaks like a sieve, there is no
reason why she should be condemned. There is a lot of good fun to be got
out of a craft of this kind, if the proper repairs are made. If put in
the hands of a professional boat-builder the cost would be very high,
even if he could be induced to undertake the work. Here, then, is where
a handy man or boy has a capital opportunity to try his hand as a
craftsman. I repaired an old 18 foot boat in my younger days, when money
was scarce and I had the alternative of giving up my pet diversion of
sailing or making the ancient bucket tight.
This is how I went about it.
The craft in question was hauled out on the shore above high-water mark.
She had been abandoned by her rightful owner, who had moved inland and
left her to the tender mercies of the sun in summer and the snow in
winter. For sixteen months she lay on the beach neglected. Every day I
cast covetous eyes on her. I will make a clean breast of it now in my
old age and confess that I had contemplated stealing her. That sin was,
however, spared me, as I found her owner’s address and wrote, asking if
he would sell her. He replied that he would give her to me and welcome,
and thus made me the happiest youth in the land.
The boat was originally a first-class little lap-streaker of good model,
built of teak throughout and copper-fastened; but there were many cracks
in her planks and most of her fastenings were loose, and in a general
way she might be described as “nail-sick” all over. With the help of a
couple of chums I placed her on chocks and shored her up on an even
keel, supporting her well, so that she should not suffer from any
unequal strain when I filled her later on with water. She was very dirty
inside, and I remember it took me the greater part of a day to
thoroughly clean her with soap, hot water and a scrubbing brush. Then I
put the plug in and started to fill her up with water. Although I had
plenty of help from the village boys, who were never so joyous as when
pottering about a boat, it took a long time to fill her, for the water
poured out of her like the streams from a shower-bath. But her dry and
thirsty planks soon began to swell a little and the leaks to diminish. I
kept her as full of water as possible for two or three days, marking
with chalk every leak that appeared. I may remark that the chocks on
which her keel was raised were high enough for me to crawl completely
under her bottom and get at every part of her. Her hull, which
originally had been varnished to show the grain of the natural wood, was
pretty well checkered with chalk-marks by the time I had finished. Then
I let the water drain out of her, and waited until she was dried
thoroughly by wind and sun.
Meanwhile I bought a lot of copper nails of the requisite length and
rooves to match, with the use of which I had become thoroughly familiar
from watching the men in the boat-shop hard by.
Then I began operations, aided by an apprentice from the boat-builder’s
establishment whom I induced, by the proffer of pocket money, to turn
out of his bed at dawn and lend me a hand till the clang of the bell
summoned him to his daily toil. We replaced all the rivets that had
worked very loose with new ones of a larger size, and drove an
additional nail between every two originally driven. The old nails,
which were only a little slack, I hardened with a few taps of the hammer
from the inside, while Toby, the afore-mentioned apprentice, “held on”
against the heads of the nails with another hammer on the outside. This
was slow and tedious work, but it paid in the long run, for it made the
boat almost as good as new, her frames, as I have already mentioned,
being in capital condition.
My next operation was to borrow a pitch-kettle from the boat shop and to
put in it a pound of pitch and a gallon of North Carolina tar. Kindling
a fire under it I let it boil until the pitch had melted, stirring it
constantly. This mixture I applied boiling hot to the inside of the boat
with a paint-brush, filling every crevice and ledge up to the level of
the underside of the thwarts. It was astonishing what a quantity of this
composition the planks absorbed. I put only half a ladleful of the tar
into my paint-pot at a time, so that it should not stand long enough to
cool, replenishing every few minutes from the boiling kettle. Tar when
at the boiling point is comparatively thin, and has superior penetrative
qualities, so it can be worked with the point of the brush into every
crevice, no matter how minute. When it hardens it forms a water-tight
seam which possesses, from the nature of its ingredients, a certain
amount of elasticity.
There were a number of sun-cracks in the planking, which I filled with
fish glue, run in hot from the outside. This composition dries very hard
and does not crack. My next task was to sandpaper the outside, smoothing
the very rough places with pumice-stone after wetting them well. I ached
all over by the time this process was completed but I got her as smooth
as glass. Then I gave her outside a couple of good coats of raw linseed
oil applied on a hot day. As a finish, not caring to waste money on
varnish, I gave her a final coat of boiled linseed oil, in which a
generous lump of rosin had been melted. This is the mixture used from
time immemorial by the Dutch on the bottoms and topsides of their
galliots, and it wears well and looks well, resisting the action of both
fresh and salt water. I may say that this method of making my boat
water-tight was economical and successful. The example may be followed
with similar results by anybody who owns a leaky lapstreak craft.
Another method, as practiced on a St. Lawrence skiff that was badly
checked and rotten in places, is thus described by a veteran boatman who
made the successful experiment: “The boat was of lapstreak construction,
and many of the seams had opened. I went entirely over the boat, first
closing the seams as much as possible by drawing together with
clout-nails. Next, where there were cracks through the 3/16-inch
planking, I cleaned the painted surface, and where the paint had
blistered I removed all of it by scraping. When the surface was in
proper condition I cut a strip of eight-ounce duck of a length and width
to cover the crack (generally 3/4 inch was wide enough) and smeared one
side, by means of a stick, with liquid glue. The canvas was applied to
the crack and pressed down, and the glue-stick drawn over the raveled
ends from the center outward, to make them adhere closely to the boat.
Then the canvas and surrounding wood were brushed over with enamel
paint. The painting must be done before the glue sets, as otherwise the
canvas is apt to warp. Open cracks 1/8 inch wide were covered in this
manner, and also cracks at the butts of the strakes. After all of the
cracks were treated I gave the boat two good coats of paint over all,
and the result was a comparatively smooth surface, and one that was
absolutely watertight.” The veteran very truly adds that an old boat
repaired in this way will not stand any rough usage, and the patches are
not proof against being dragged over rocks, or even a sand-beach; but by
a little labor a boat that is practically worthless may be so made
serviceable for an indefinite time.
By either of the methods mentioned above a lapstreak boat may be made
tight as a bottle. A carvel-built craft—that is, one with the planks
flush, edge and edge, and the seams between calked and payed—may
generally be made tight by recalking her with threads of cotton prepared
for that purpose and sold by ship-chandlers, driving the cotton well
home with iron and mallet, and afterward puttying up the seams. Care
should be taken, however, not to put the cotton in too tight, or drive
it right through the seam. Serious damage has often been done to a boat
in the way of increasing her leakiness by too hard calking. Or the
boat’s hull may be completely covered with light duck nailed on with
copper tacks, and afterward well painted. This, however, is rather
difficult for a greenhorn to accomplish so as to make a neat fit of it;
but I have seen several boats repaired and renovated in this manner by
young men gifted with ingenuity, and a great deal of patience. I may say
that the result, if the work is well done, is worth the pains thereon
Rowboats, sailboats, and launches propelled by any kind of power may
have their hulls treated after one of these fashions, with quite
If the owner does not think he is sufficiently handy to undertake the
stopping of leaks he can, at any rate, paint and varnish his craft. To
paint a boat outside or inside a perfectly smooth surface is necessary,
and to obtain this all rough spots should be smoothed with pumice-stone
and sand-paper. Enamel paint should be used above the water-line, and
the bottom may be painted with any one of the excellent compositions now
in the market, which prevent grass and barnacles from flourishing too
luxuriantly on the underbodies of boats.
The interior of the boat, after being thoroughly washed and scrubbed,
should also have a coat or even two coats of enamel paint, as this
composition is lasting and wears three times as long as the ordinary
preparation of white lead, oil, turpentine, and pigment. One thing,
however, is worth remembering. Never use washing soda or boiling water
to clean wood covered with enamel paint. Rub it with a sponge or flannel
cloth dipped in lukewarm water and a little soap. For protecting and
beautifying natural wood above deck or below, use a good brand of spar
varnish. This will resist the damp, salt air of the ocean, or the more
penetrating moisture of fresh-water lakes and rivers, far better than
the higher grade of varnish used for the indoor decoration of dwelling
houses, which, when it gets damp, acquires a plum-like bloom on its
surface by no means beautiful.
Mr. W. Baden-Powell, than whom there is no better authority, says very
truly, that there is no more dangerous time in their lives for the spars
of canoes than when stowed away in a boat-house roof for the damp
winter’s rest. Bamboo spars are more liable to suffer than pine, or
solid spruce, but each and all are in danger of splitting or kinking,
especially so in the case of built spars, if glued up, instead of
screw-built. With such convenient lengths as are found in canoe spars,
there is no excuse for leaving them in damp boat-houses, as they can be
stacked in a room corner, on end, and the sails and rigging in drawers
or boxes. In this way each item of rigging can be overhauled, mended,
improved, and set in order for the coming year, just as convenient spare
About the middle of March in these latitudes we generally are blessed
with ideal sailing breezes, a trifle blustering and boisterous, perhaps,
when the merry music of the stiff nor’wester pipes through the rigging,
but nevertheless vastly enjoyable to the ardent amateur, who grasps the
tiller of his stanch shippie and fearlessly luffs up to the strident
puffs, knowing that he has a stout hull beneath him, and that sails and
gear are of trusty strength.
It is all very well for the steam-yachtsmen and such-like marine
Sybarites to wait for the hot days of July to arrive before ordering
their floating palaces to go into commission, but he who depends upon
sails can ill afford to allow all the glorious winds of the fresh and
fragrant springtime to blow themselves to waste in such reckless,
feckless fashion. There may be a chilly sting or bite in the spray that
breaks on the weather bow in a silver shower and smites the helmsman
mercilessly in the face, but there is invigorating ozone in wind and
water, and a glow of triumph after a successful battle with breeze and
[Illustration: IN DRY DOCK.]
Photo by Dr. Titus.
HAULED OUT FOR PAINTING.
It is prudent, too, to fit out early and lay up late, for life, alas! is
brief, and it behooves us, my boating brethren, to enjoy as many brave
sailing days as possible ere we make our final voyage across the Styx,
with grim Charon, the ferryman, taking his perennial trick at the
tiller, while his pets, the frogs, plash and play and croak in his muddy
If the yacht is a small one—a knockabout or a 30-footer—and she has
wintered afloat, the first thing is to haul her out and prepare to clean
her hull of barnacles and grass, of which a goodly crop is sure to have
grown on her below the water-line. Start in with scrubbing brushes, sand
and canvas and use plenty of elbow grease until she is thoroughly
cleaned and all rough places smoothed with pumice stone. Use plenty of
fresh water, with a flannel cloth as a final application to her hull.
Then leave her until she is thoroughly dry. Carefully examine her seams
for leaks, calking where necessary.
When your boat is out of water open her wide to the fresh air. Rig up a
windsail, and let the healthful breezes circulate through her interior.
If she has hatches or skylights, lift them off; if portholes, unscrew
them and give the wind a chance to blow all close impurities away. Rig
the pump and relieve her of all malodorous bilge water, the most
nauseating and offensive evil that is met with by mariners. Take up the
cabin flooring. If the ballast consists of pig iron, rout it out, clean
off the rust, and before replacing give it a good coat of coal tar,
applied hot. Clean the limbers and flush them with plenty of water,
using a bristly broom to remove the dirt. Splash the water about
lavishly, and then pump it out dry. If there happens to be a cooking
stove below, as there generally is in a vessel of any size, light a
roaring fire and do your best to kill all fungoid germs or spores that
may have gathered in damp places during the winter. Examine the ceiling
Should, through imprudent oversight, any bedding, matting, carpet, or
clothing, have been left in the boat since last season, take them out
and have them cleansed and dried. If mold and mildew have attacked them,
destroy without compunction, and resolve to take better care next time.
After thoroughly cleansing the craft inside from the eyes of her to
right aft with soap and hot water, you can paint her cabin, if you deem
she needs it, using enamel paint if you are willing to go to a little
extra expense, or, at any rate, if not, using a generous quantity of
spar varnish with the oil and dryers you mix your white lead with. This
dries good and hard and is easily cleansed with warm water, soap and a
sponge, and is far more durable and satisfactory than paint mixed in the
ordinary manner. Two coats should be given.
The next process is to clean the deck of the coat of varnish with which
it was doubtless covered when the yacht was prepared for the winter. To
accomplish this in the most efficacious manner, procure from a ship
chandler a sufficient quantity of one of the many preparations of
caustic soda, with which the market is well equipped. Dissolve it in an
iron bucket in hot water, mixing it strong enough to act as a powerful
detergent. These preparations vary in power, so it will be well to
experiment on a section of the deck with a sample and then add more soda
or more water as required.
After sundown apply plentifully to the deck with a mop, rubbing the
mixture well into the planks. Next morning before sunrise arm yourself
with a good hard deck-scrubber, and set to work in earnest, using plenty
of hot water and scrubbing the deck planks (fore and aft, mind you,
always, and never athwart-ship) until every particle of the old varnish
and every speck and stain is removed. If the detergent is allowed to
remain on the deck while the sun is shining, it is bound to eat into the
planks and burn them.
The next operation is the painting of the boat inside and out. There are
many excellent compositions for coating the hull below the water-line,
but if you do not care to experiment with them, use the recipe given in
the chapter on “Useful Hints and Recipes.” Choose a clear, dry day and
apply the paint. For above the water-line use pure white lead of the
best quality reduced to the proper consistency with equal parts of raw
and boiled linseed oil and copal varnish. Add a dash of dryers and a few
drops of blue paint, strain and apply.
Personally, I prefer to varnish the deck of a small craft, though I am
quite willing to acknowledge the superior beauty of a spotless deck
white as a hound’s tooth. The friends of a yachtsman often wear boots
with ugly nails in them, both on soles and heels, and these are apt to
play havoc with the spick and span appearance of a deck innocent of
varnish. After cleaning the decks thoroughly let them dry well. Wait for
a sunny morning and a northwesterly wind, when the air is comparatively
free from moisture. Get your can of spar varnish out, and after sweeping
the decks and dusting them thoroughly with a feather-duster, apply with
a regular varnish brush of convenient size. It is advisable to pour out
the varnish into a shallow jar, a marmalade pot for instance, in small
quantities as required, as varnish loses its virtue rapidly by exposure
to sun and air. It is expedient, therefore, that the varnish can, or
bottle, should never be left uncorked. The varnishing process should not
be undertaken until the last thing, after the boat has been cleaned and
painted inside and out, spars and blocks scraped and polished, standing
rigging set up, running rigging rove and sails bent. Two thin coats of
varnish will be ample for the decks and spars, as well as all the
hardwood fittings and trimmings of the yacht inside and out.
Should the varnish be too thick to flow freely from the brush, _don’t_
thin it with oil or spirits of turpentine unless you wish to dim its
luster and deprive it of much of its preservative quality. Simply place
the varnish can in a bucket of hot water, and let it remain there until
it gets warm, when you will experience no difficulty in applying it to
advantage. Another hint worth taking is never to buy cheap and inferior
varnish. The best is none too good.
These suggestions may appear superfluous to a professional yachtsman,
who, if he happens to read this yarn, might feel tempted to observe:
“Why, every darned chump knows that!” As a matter of fact, amateurs as a
rule are not familiar with these little “wrinkles,” which are in many
cases tricks of the trade. This yarn is spun for amateurs only, and not
for the edification or instruction of veteran professionals. About half
a century ago, when I first became a boat owner, I should have been
delighted to get the fruits of a practical man’s ripe experience.
Fashionable craft with spoon bows and long overhangs forward have
abolished the long bowsprits and simplified the head gear. The short
bowsprit is secured with a steel bobstay extending from the stem to the
cranze iron on the bowsprit, the bobstay being set up taut with a
turnbuckle of galvanized iron. The bowsprit shrouds are of steel wire
also set up by turnbuckles.
The polemast has also done away with all the topmast gear, the mast
being secured by a forestay which sets up to the stem head and by one or
sometimes two shrouds on each side set up by turnbuckles. The days of
deadeyes and lanyards and of reefing bowsprits are departed. A sailor to
be quite down-to-date should combine with his nautical knowledge some of
the art of the blacksmith. Strength and lightness and handiness are the
watchwords of to-day, and with modern methods the gear of a small craft
is so simple that it takes little time to rig her.
I suppose I may take it for granted that all the running rigging was
neatly coiled up and labeled and stored ashore when you went out of
commission last fall. I know many smart young yachtsmen who while away
many a long winter evening with pleasure and profit overhauling sheets
and halyards, stropping blocks, varnishing them, splicing, serving and
generally repairing all of the running gear that needs attention, making
manropes, scraping and polishing the gangway ladder, the tiller, etc.,
and in other ways preparing for their summer’s amusement. The study of
navigation, the rule of the road at sea, the coast pilot, the learning
of marlinspike seamanship and a rudimentary knowledge of the use of the
palm and needle, so that if a sail should need some simple repairs they
may be made without loss of time and without seeking aid from a
sailmaker—all these the amateur will find useful. It is astonishing how
much one can learn in one winter if he devotes only an hour a night to
the acquirement of nautical lore.
But supposing that his running gear has not been touched since it was
unrove, it will take only a short time to get it in tip-top order, and
the work may be done in the evening when it is too dark to potter about
While you are about it you may as well make a thorough job of this
fitting out. Shin up the mast and make a tail-block fast to the masthead
as high as possible, reeving a gantline through it so that you may sit
in a boatswain’s chair or in a bowline while you survey the stick. If
the collars of the shrouds or forestay show any sign of chafe, they must
come down and be served over again with spun yarn or covered with canvas
sewn on with a palm and needle, using plenty of lead colored paint in
the process to prevent rust. Examine the masthead carefully for weak
parts, which generally are to be found in the wake of the rigging. If
rot and signs of serious strains are met with, it is evident that a new
mast is needed. Longitudinal cracks may be disregarded unless they are
glaringly apparent, but transverse cracks should be viewed with
If, after close inspection, you conclude that the mast is good enough to
stand, you may as well begin to scrape it, engaging your chum to lower
you down by your gantline. After scraping, use sandpaper until it is
polished smooth. Then give it a couple of coats of spar varnish. If the
boat has a bowsprit, treat it in the same way. If she carries a topmast,
scrape and varnish it and the boom, gaff, spinnaker-boom, boathook and
the oars of your dinghy as well as all blocks ashore, wherever
Next set up your rigging good and taut, taking care to stay the mast
perfectly plumb—no rake aft or forward. If you carry a topmast, send it
up and stay it in the usual way. Get your boom in position by means of
the gooseneck and the crotch; reeve your topping-lift and hook it on to
its place at the end of the boom. Get the gaff in place, hook on the
throat and peak halyards, and there you are all ready to bend sails.
It is imperative that your vessel, whether she be a cruiser pure and
simple or a racer, should have a well cut suit of sails. If it is your
intention to treat her to the luxury of a brand new suit, I hope that
you placed your order with a responsible sailmaker weeks ago. The winter
is the correct time to have your sails made, when the knights of the
palm and needle are not so apt to be rushed.
Yacht owners have the habit of procrastinating where sails are
concerned, and postpone their orders for new canvas to the very last
moment. This causes such a hurry in the loft that large orders are apt
to receive the first and best attention of the sailmaker, while the
owner of a moderate-sized vessel has to wait the foreman’s convenience;
whereas, if an order is placed before, say, Christmas, one of the firm
is as likely as not to give the matter his personal attention, measure
your craft himself, and let the cut and the sit of the sails have the
benefit of his own supervision. It is also a fact that the sailmaking
firms make it a point to keep their best men at work all the year round,
while the mere ordinary workmen are “laid off” when the season closes.
The consequence is that the yachtsman who orders his sails in good time
has the advantage of the most skillful craftsmen in the market, and he
is likely, too, to have better prices quoted him than in the rush of the
season, when all hands are hard at it. Therefore, my advice is to take
early action and win the best results at the most favorable figure.
It was always my custom, before unbending my yacht’s sails preparatory
to going out of commission, to summon my sailmaker aboard and take him
for a short trip, pointing out what I considered to be the defects in
the muslin and listening to his suggestions for their remedy. He would
make notes in his memorandum-book and inscribe certain hieroglyphic
marks on the sails themselves. When the canvas was unbent he would send
for it, make the repairs and alterations at his leisure and store the
sails for me until the spring, when I would find them in perfect
condition for setting. All this was done for moderate compensation,
considering the excellence of the workmanship.
The importance of a well-cut and well-sitting suit of sails cannot be
over-estimated. No matter how well the naval architect may have executed
his work in the design of a vessel’s hull, if the sailmaker has failed
in his task, success in racing is an impossibility. You might just as
well expect a fast homing pigeon to attain his normal speed with a
crippled wing as a yacht to win a cup hampered by sails of poor material
and faulty construction.
If low-grade material is used, despite the best efforts of the
scientific sailmaker, the sails are sure to be unsatisfactory. The
climate on the Atlantic coast is peculiarly trying even to the finest
grades of cotton duck, which is assuredly the best fabric known that can
be used for the purpose of the sailmaker. The hot and arid westerly
winds dry out the sails so that they become soft and open, causing them
to stretch abnormally and to get full of what are technically termed
“hard places.” The wind shifts to the eastward, a damp, moist quarter,
and the result is a severe shrinking, which, in conjunction with the
previous violent stretching, is enough to play havoc with the best and
closest woven material, no matter how scientifically designed and
constructed. You can imagine how a suit of sails of cheap and common
duck, botched by some ordinary tentmaker, would be likely to behave
under such circumstances.
My advice is to order your sails of a reputable firm of experience, have
them made of the best material, and take care that they are bent by a
man of judgment and skill and not by some habitué of a hay-mow or a
pig-drover fresh from the farm. I have known a suit of sails that cost
several hundred dollars irretrievably ruined by being overstretched in
the first instance by a sailing-master ignorant of the first principles
of his calling.
A well-known sailmaker, who has made sails for some of the crack racing
yachts of America, gives the following admirable instructions for
setting the sails of a 40-foot single-sticker: Cast off the tyers from
the mainsail; hook on the peak halyards; see that the gaff goes up
between the topping-lifts as you hoist up on the throat and peak
halyards; hoist up on the throat until the luff-rope is straight; if the
sail has a slide on the boom, haul out on it till the canvas is just
straight and smooth on the foot; too hard a pull will throw a heavy
strain on the diagonal, from the end of the boom to the jaws of the
gaff, giving a bad after leech when the peak is swayed up; next sway up
the luff pretty taut; it is not necessary to top the boom up to too
great an angle out of the crotch; man the peak halyards and hoist on
them until the after leech is so lifted that it spreads and stretches
every square inch of the after angle of the sail; as soon as the peak
begins to lift the outer end of the boom, the mainsheet should be made
fast (unless the boom extends so far over the taffrail that it would
bring an undue leverage on the boom and spring it to breaking); now
sweat up the peak halyards until the stretch is entirely taken out of
the halyard canvas; if the peak is hoisted beyond its proper angle, it
puts an undue strain on the diagonal, from the end of the gaff to the
center of effort of the sail, the consequence being a nasty gutter just
inside the leech, which gives rise to the groundless complaint that
there is a tight cloth inside the after leech. It should be remembered
that the trouble lies in stretching the head and foot of the sail too
taut, and over-setting, the peak.
These instructions are so clear as to be intelligible to the merest
tyro, and should be followed out on all occasions. A good mainsail costs
a large sum, and there is no reason why it should be ruined by neglect
of proper precautions.
In setting a thimble-headed topsail hoist away on the halyards, then
bowse the tack down with a purchase, then sheet it out to the gaff end
so that there shall be an exact and even strain on both foot and leech.
The proper angle of the jib-sheet depends entirely on the position its
clew occupies in relation to the stay. It should always hold the foot of
the sail a little more than it does the after leech, so as to allow the
proper flow, which is so effective as well as so beautiful.
If you determine that the craft’s old suit is good enough for another
year, overhaul it for holes. Perhaps the sails have been stowed away
where rats or mice have had free access to them. If so, they will need
repairs. If they were rolled up damp, or stored in a damp place, they
will probably be badly mildewed. The unsightly stains of mildew can be
partially removed by scrubbing the sail on both sides with fresh water
and soap, and afterward rubbing whiting over it and leaving it to dry
and bleach in the sun.
If the sails are discolored, they may be improved by laying them on a
plot of clean sand, scrubbing them on both sides with sea-water and
salt-water soap, and afterward sprinkling them with salt-water in which
whiting is dissolved until it looks like milk. Let them bleach in the
sun until one side is quite dry, and then turn them over.
To prevent mildew from spoiling the sails, keep them dry and well
ventilated. If a sail is furled when damp, the inner folds will mildew.
Always roll up a wet sail loosely, and shake it out and dry it the first
chance you get; in any case open it out and give it air, even if rain
continues to fall. Remember that new sails will mildew very quickly
because of the “dressing” in the duck, which sets up a fungoid growth or
fermentation. For these reasons don’t depend too much on your watertight
sail-covers, but give your canvas frequent air and sun baths if you wish
your “white wings” to remain things of beauty.
The same attention to the sails to avoid mildew should be given to the
hull to prevent dry rot, which is quite as frequently caused by the lack
of ventilation as by the use of unseasoned timber in the construction of
The principal labor of fitting out has been described, but the cabin is
yet to be fixed up for occupation, and stores taken aboard for the
opening cruise. It is well to have a list prepared of the actual
necessities in the way of supplies that must not be left ashore when you
get under way. Here are a few things that cannot be dispensed with:
Anchor and chain, small kedge anchor, tow-rope, life-buoy, side-lights,
anchor light, oil and wicks, bell, foghorn, compass with binnacle, hand
lead, chart of waters you intend to navigate, dinghy, either on board or
towing astern, properly fitted with oars, boathook, rowlocks and plug,
all secured by lashings. A good supply of fresh water should be taken
along, and a stock of provisions suitable to the tastes of the skipper
and his guests. An awning for the cockpit may prove a great comfort both
in hot and rainy weather, when becalmed or at anchor.
I recommend that a storm trysail, a storm jib and a drogue, or
sea-anchor, form part of the yacht’s equipment, and that they be stowed
away in some place convenient for instant use. Perhaps they may never be
needed, but it is often the unforeseen that happens, and in this world
of uncertainty it is best to be always ready for an emergency.
Thus prepared the yachtsman may safely venture for a cruise, selecting
those waters with which he is most familiar or most anxious to explore.
He will find April an ideal month for yachting, and if he puts in his
time to the best advantage he will have his craft “tuned up” to racing
pitch, his amateur crew so admirably drilled and disciplined, and his
sails and gear in such capital shape that, if there is really any speed
in the craft at all, prizes should be the inevitable reward of his skill
and his enterprise.
In equipping a boat for a cruise, even in summer, it is always well to
remember that gales of wind are not unusual even in July. I once knew it
to blow with spiteful ferocity in the last week of that month, and to
disperse the Atlantic Yacht Club squadron and drive them to seek shelter
in various harbors of Long Island Sound, between Black Rock and New
Haven. Out of the whole fleet only two yachts reached their destination,
New London. One was the sloop _Athlon_, Vice-Commodore E. B. Havens, on
board of which I was a guest, and the forty-footer _Chispa_. It was
quite an exciting and hard thrash to windward in the teeth of an
easterly gale, but we got there. Had not the two yachts mentioned been
properly prepared for such an exigency, they also would have been forced
to bear up and run for some land-locked haven in which to linger until
the wind had blown itself out. Although these summer gales generally
exhaust themselves in twenty-four hours, they are often quite savage
while they last, and the sensible yachtsman will always be prepared to
meet them. His standing and running rigging will be in first-class
condition; whatever storm canvas he carries will be ready for bending at
a moment’s notice; his sea anchor or drogue will also be at hand for
letting go should the necessity arise.
Of course I need not impress upon the amateur boat sailer that a compass
should be taken along on a cruise. But I have mingled a good deal with
the owners of small craft, and have met many who either did not carry
one at all or, if it was aboard, as likely as not stowed it away in the
same locker with a hatchet, marlinespike and other tools not likely to
improve it. A compass should always form part of a boat’s outfit. A fog
often makes its appearance when a party of pleasure seekers are enjoying
a sail on sound or bay, and when it shuts down on you thick as a hedge I
will defy you not to lose your bearings, and consequently your way. In
times such as these a compass will prove a source of great comfort, and
instead of being compelled to anchor and await clear weather you can
steer for your destination under shortened sail. In such cases never
fail to blow the foghorn, which should be of regulation size and not a
penny squeaking trumpet such as a six-year old schoolboy affects. The
ordinary boat’s compass will answer admirably if only short sails are
contemplated, but on a long cruise where a heavy sea is not unlikely to
be encountered, a fluid compass should be carried. The motion of a small
craft in rough water causes the common compass card to jump about so
much as to be perfectly useless to steer by, while a fluid compass
remains steady and reliable under all circumstances and conditions.
There are several fluid compasses in the market at a reasonable price,
which can be depended upon in an emergency. The fluid on which the
needle floats is generally alcohol, to guard against freezing, and is
simply a development of a primitive compass used by the daring seamen of
the twelfth century. This old-fashioned instrument consisted of an iron
needle, one end of which was stuck into a piece of cork. The other end
was well rubbed with a loadstone, and when the cork was floated in an
earthenware bowl of water the end so treated pointed to the magnetic
North. In spite of the meager knowledge of those early navigators
concerning variation and deviation, they generally managed to make a
sufficiently good land-fall. It may not be generally known that a sewing
needle rubbed on a magnet and carefully dropped into a vessel of water
will float and point to the North.
The rule of the road at sea requires vessels in a fog to go at a
moderate speed and to blow the foghorn at intervals of not less than two
minutes; when on the starboard tack one blast, when on the port tack two
blasts in succession, and when with the wind abaft the beam three blasts
in succession. It also has certain imperative rules for a vessel at
anchor in a fog.
The law provides that a vessel not under way in a fog shall at intervals
of not more than two minutes ring a bell. It will be seen therefore that
a bell is quite as necessary as a foghorn. If a boat at anchor or under
way in thick weather, with neither bell nor foghorn in use as provided
by the law, should be run into and damaged or sunk by any other vessel,
her owner would have no redress. On the contrary, if he escaped with his
life he could be forced to pay for any damage, however trifling, the
vessel colliding with him sustained in the act. If he was drowned his
estate would be liable.
A bell should form part of the careful boatowner’s outfit. But if you
have neglected providing one, don’t despair. Get out a frying pan or a
tin kettle and kick up as much racket as you can by beating one or both
with a hammer or a marlinespike. A fishhorn has many times answered the
purpose of a foghorn, but I would not recommend it as a steady
substitute. All I wish to convey is that a frying pan and a fishhorn are
better than nothing.
The variety of anchor to be carried depends very much upon choice. There
are several kinds for sale quite suitable for small cruisers, all of
which have good points to recommend them.
[Illustration: PLEASANT CAT-BOAT SAILING.]
The law is imperative as regards the carrying of lights by night when at
anchor or under way. If your craft is very small, there is a light in
the market fitted with green and red slides to be shown when required,
which may suit your purpose. But if your craft has any pretensions to
size provide yourself with a pair of brass side lights and also a good
brass anchor light. Avoid those flimsy articles with which the market is
flooded. The best are cheapest in the end. See that all the lamps you
have aboard take the same sized wick. Buy the brand of oil known as
mineral sperm, which is used by all first-class steamship lines. Its
quality has borne the test of years and has never been found wanting.
For lamp cleaning take a plentiful supply of cotton waste and old
newspapers, the last named for polishing the glass. A hand lead and line
must not be forgotten, while an aneroid barometer, a thermometer and a
marine clock will be both useful and ornamental. Do not forget a canvas
bucket and a deck scrubber.
A few tools will be found necessary. A hatchet, hammer, chisel, file,
jack-knife, gimlet, screw driver, small crosscut saw and an assortment
of screws and nails will be about all that is essential in this
direction. A few yards of duck, palm and needles and sewing twine, a
ball of marline, one of spun yarn and a marlinespike may be stowed away
snugly, and their possession in case of need is often a great boon. The
adventurous voyager must use his own discretion as to his wardrobe. The
marine “dude” is in evidence in our midst, and who am I that I should
condemn a man for trying to look his prettiest, both ashore and afloat?
Don’t forget to buy a good suit of oilers, and don’t fail to slip them
on when it rains. When you come to get to my age, and feel the
rheumatism in your old bones, you will wish you had followed my advice.
Tastes differ so widely that it is hard to advise a man as to his
_cuisine_ when afloat. What would suit an old sea dog “right down to the
ground” might not be palatable to the nautical epicure with a taste for
humming-bird’s livers on toast, or other such dainty kickshaws.
Personally, I can enjoy a good square meal of sardines and hardtack,
wash it down with a cup of coffee and wind up with a pipe of plug
tobacco, and conclude that I have feasted like a prince. This is
probably due to my forecastle training. Others are more fastidious.
Luckily this is the age of canned viands, and almost every delicacy
under the sun is put up in convenient form, requiring only a can-opener
to extract the hidden sweetness.
The culinary difficulty that confronts the sailer of a small craft is
the cooking stove. Like the servant girl problem, it is still unsolved.
Many great geniuses have wasted the midnight oil and have nearly
exhausted the gray matter of their brains in trying to invent a stove
that shall be suitable for a little cockleshell of a boat with a
_penchant_ for dancing over the waves in lively style. Some have tried
cast-iron stoves with a smokestack, and coal for fuel, and have cursed
their folly ever after. Gasoline stoves, so long as they don’t explode
and set fire to the boat, are convenient and cleanly. Various kinds of
alcohol lamps, hung on gimbals to accommodate themselves to the
perpetual motion of a vessel, are in use and are thoroughly adapted for
making a pot of coffee, tea or chocolate, and for heating a can of soup
or preserved meat. A hungry boatman should not ask for more luxurious
fare. There are preparations of coffee and milk and cocoa and milk in
cans, which can be got ready in a hurry and with the least possible
trouble. They are also nice, and I do not hesitate to stamp them with
the seal of my approval. By looking over the catalogue of the canned
goods of any first-class grocer, you will find a quantity of varieties
to select from, all of excellent quality and moderate in price. In order
to provide against waste it would be advisable if cruising alone to buy
the smallest packages in which the viands are put up. Hardtack should be
kept in airtight tin boxes to guard against damp. Matches can be stowed
in a glass fruit jar, and in this snug receptacle defy salt spray and
sea air which threaten the integrity of brimstone and phosphorus. The
man who indulges in tobacco (and what lover of the sea does not?) will
find it well to pack a supply of wind matches in a glass jar, so that he
can keep his match safe replenished and be able to light his pipe or
cigar no matter how the breeze may blow. I have found tobacco a mighty
source of comfort under adverse mental and physical conditions, and its
soothing influence has made many a trick at the tiller seem less weary.
Cooking in a small craft tossed like a cork on the waves is a confounded
nuisance, but a hot meal tastes well after you have been stuck at the
tiller for four or five hours in squally weather. I remember an incident
that occurred on board my cutter, the _Heather Bell_, when ingenuity
provided a hot breakfast which otherwise we should not have enjoyed. We
were caught in a southerly gale in the English Channel, and under
trysail and spitfire jib we were doing our best to claw off a lee shore.
I had been at the tiller nearly all night, and when day broke I was
thoroughly exhausted. The little cutter—she was only fifteen tons—was
pitching and ‘scending at such a lively rate that lighting a fire in the
stove was out of the question. My chum, however, managed to make some
coffee with the aid of a spirit lamp, and also to cook a couple of plump
Yarmouth bloaters. This last-named feat was difficult, but my chum was a
man of genius. An inspiration came to him. He split the bloaters down
the backs, put them in an extra deep frying pan, such as should always
be used at sea, deluged them with Scotch whiskey, old and smoky, and set
fire to it. I can see him now, hanging on to the cabin ladder with one
hand and balancing the frying pan in the other, so that the blazing
whiskey should not overflow and set fire to the cabin. Those bloaters
were fine. They went right to the spot. It was rather an expensive mode
of cooking, for the whiskey in question was choice, but we both agreed
that the fishes were worthy of it. I suppose they would have tasted just
as well if they had been cooked in alcohol, but that idea did not occur
to my friend. A beefsteak prepared in the same way was delicious. We had
it for dinner and soon after there came a shift of wind which enabled us
to run for Newhaven and sleep comfortably.
You should take with you a box of seidlitz powders, a bottle of
vaseline, court plaster, a box of your pet pills, a bottle of extract of
witch hazel, a bottle of extract of ginger, a bottle of _Sun_ cholera
mixture, and a bottle of Horsford’s acid phosphate. These should be
stowed away in a medicine-chest, which, if you have any mechanical skill
at all, you can make yourself. If you are no hand at a saw or a chisel,
a small medicine-chest, filled with all the requisites and adapted for
use in a boat, can be obtained from any good drug-store at a reasonable
A locker for the storage of ice is indispensable for one’s comfort when
sailing in these latitudes in summer. The locker should be lined with
zinc, and should be fitted with a brass tap to draw off the waste water.
Wrap your ice up in paper first, and then in a piece of coarse flannel,
and you will be surprised at the length of time it will keep. A porous
earthenware bottle should form part of your equipment. It can be
suspended in a draught, and will supply you with a moderately cool drink
when your ice is all used.
Remember that sea air generates damp very quickly in a cabin. Bedding
should be aired and sunned if possible every day, and the cabin should
be well ventilated. Cleanliness and comfort go together in a boat, and
scrubbing-brush and swab should not be allowed to get dry-rot by disuse.
Cultivate order and tidiness so far as the domestic economy of your
yacht is concerned. Have a place for everything and everything in its
place, or your little cabin will present a slovenly appearance instead
of looking pretty and snug.
If the interior of your cabin is painted white, use enamel paint, which
dries hard and smooth, and can be easily cleaned by washing with warm
(not hot) water, soap and sponge.
Cocoa-nut matting is better than carpet or oil-cloth as a covering for a
small craft’s cabin floor. It is difficult to dry carpet when it gets
thoroughly drenched with salt water. Oil-cloth is comfortless and cold
to bare feet, but cocoa-nut matting is open to neither of these
objections. It is easily washed and dries quickly.
The cushions for the cabin may be stuffed with cork shavings or
horse-hair and covered with india-rubber sheeting. These may again be
covered with corduroy or blue flannel, as the india-rubber sheeting is
cold. Mattresses made of deers’ hair are in the market, and are quite
comfortable. Being buoyant, they can be used as life-savers in an
Cups, saucers, plates and dishes of enameled iron or agate ware are
unbreakable and much superior to those of tin, which rust and are hard
to keep clean. Crockery and glassware are easily destroyed in a cruising
craft, in spite of the ingenious racks and lockers invented to preserve
Don’t omit to include fishing tackle among your stores. There is lots of
sport in catching blue-fish or mackerel when under way, and many a weary
hour when your craft is becalmed may be beguiled with hook and line.
Besides, a fish fresh from the water forms an agreeable and appetizing
change from the monotony of canned goods. There is no necessity to
purchase expensive tackle for sea-fishing. All that is wanted is strong
and serviceable gear. For blue-fishing provide yourself with a well-laid
cotton line, which is not liable to kink. The line should be
seven-sixteenths of an inch in circumference for the big fish one
catches in spring and fall, and the hooks should be strong. It is well
to carry with you several varieties of squid. For smaller blue-fish a
lighter, cotton-braided line is good. When I go blue-fishing I take
rubber finger-stalls along to prevent my fingers being chafed by the
line. My readers should do the same. Horse-mackerel and Spanish mackerel
are often taken with a blue-fish line.
For navigating purposes all that is really necessary for a coasting
voyage is a chart of the waters you propose to sail in, a pair of
dividers and parallel rulers, and a book of sailing directions. A patent
log may be added if so desired, and will add to the accuracy of your
Thus equipped, the navigator may boldly venture forth either by himself
or with a congenial companion. If he does not enjoy every moment of his
cruise, and gain health and strength from the tonic sea breezes, he can
safely conclude that Nature never intended him for a sailor. In that
case he should dispose of his craft at once and seek such consolation as
agricultural pursuits afford.
BEATING TO WINDWARD.
There is an old nautical truism to the effect that a haystack will sail
well to leeward, but that it takes a correctly-modeled vessel to beat to
windward. It is easy to comprehend how a straw hat thrown into a pond on
its northerly edge will, under the influence of a brisk breeze from the
north, make a fast passage to the southerly bank. It is more difficult
to understand how the same straw hat, if put into the water at the
southerly end of the pond, might be so manœuvred as to make a passage to
the northern extremity of the sheet of water, though the wind continued
to pipe from the north. This was, no doubt, a tough nut for the early
navigators to crack, and the problem may have taken centuries to solve.
Diagram No. 1.
Sailing under Varying Conditions
The paddle was naturally the first means of propelling a rude craft
through the water, and the ingenious savage (probably an indolent
rascal) who discovered that a bough of a tree, or the skin of a beast
extended to a favoring breeze, would produce the same effect as constant
and laborious plying of paddles, was presumably hailed as a benefactor
by his tribe. But this device, artful no doubt in its inception, was
only of avail while the wind blew towards the quarter in which the
destination of the enterprising voyager lay. If the wind drew ahead, or
dropped, the skin or leafy bough was no longer of use as a labor-saving
contrivance, and the wearisome paddle was necessarily resumed.
The primitive square sail of antiquity embodies the same principle as
that governing the motion through the water of the modern full rigged
ship, which is admirably adapted for efficient beating to windward, or
sailing against the wind. Superiority in this branch of sailing is the
crucial test of every vessel whose propelling power is derived from
canvas, and the shipbuilders and sailmakers of all seafaring nations
have vied with each other for centuries to secure the desired
Beating to windward may be described as the method by which a vessel
forces her way by a series of angles in the direction from which the
wind is blowing. Some vessels will sail closer to the wind than others.
That is to say, with their sails full they will head a point or more
nearer to the direction from which the wind comes than vessels of
Diagram No. 2.
Running Before the Wind.
Broadly speaking, an ordinary fore-and-aft rigged yacht with the wind
due north, will head northwest on the starboard tack, and northeast on
the port tack. That is, she will head up within four points of the wind.
Some will do better than this by a good half point. The famous old sloop
_Maria_, owned by Commodore J. C. Stevens, founder of the New York Yacht
Club, is said to have sailed within three points and a half of the wind,
and I am informed that _Constitution_, in her races this year, achieved
a similar remarkable feat.
A square-rigger, because the sails cannot be trimmed to form so sharp an
angle to the breeze as a fore-and-aft rigged vessel, rarely sails closer
than six points of the wind. Consequently, she has to make more tacks
and consume a longer time in accomplishing a similar distance in the
teeth of the breeze than a vessel driven by fore-and-aft canvas. It is
possible to make my meaning clearer by means of simple diagrams, and to
these I refer the reader.
Diagram No. 3.
A vessel is said to be close-hauled when the sheets are trimmed flat aft
and the boat is headed as near to the wind as the sails will permit
without their luffs shaking. When a vessel is so trimmed, she is said to
be sailing “full and bye,” which means as close to the wind as the craft
will point with the sails bellying out and full of wind. If a vessel is
sailed so close to the wind that the sails quiver, the pressure is
diminished and speed is decreased. Thus the art of beating to windward
successfully consists in keeping the boat’s sails full, while her head
should not be permitted to “fall off” for an instant. This requires a
watchful eye and an artistic touch. To become an adept, one should have
plenty of practice.
Diagram No. 4.
Close Hauled on Port Tack.
A boat is on the starboard tack when the main boom is over the port
quarter and the port jib sheet is hauled aft. The wind is then on the
starboard bow. The conditions are reversed when the craft goes on the
port tack. In diagram No. 1, four conditions of sailing are shown, the
figures representing a boat sailing with the wind astern, on the
quarter, abeam, and close hauled. It will be observed how the main boom
is trimmed to meet the varied changes of wind or course.
Diagram No. 5,
Close Hauled on Starboard Tack.
Diagram No. 2 shows a racing yacht running before the wind with all her
balloons expanded to the breeze. The spinnaker set to starboard not only
adds greatly to her speed, but it also makes the steering easier, as it
counteracts the pressure of the huge mainsail and club topsail on the
port side, thus causing a nicely-adjusted balance. The balloon
jibtopsail catches every stray breath of air that is spilled out of the
spinnaker, and it also has considerable possibilities as a steering
sail, in addition to its splendid pulling power. For a vessel, however
finely balanced and carefully steered, owing to various conditions of
breeze and sea, has a tendency to yaw and fly up in the wind. Thus a
strong puff or a heavy sea striking the boat may make her swerve from
her course in an effort to broach to. Then the jibtopsail does good
service as, when it gets full of wind, it pays the head of the boat off
the wind, and materially assists the helmsman in steadying the vessel on
Diagram No. 6.
Dead Beat to Windward.
It may be remarked that steering a yacht under these conditions, in a
strong and puffy breeze with a lumpy, following sea, calls for the best
work of the ablest helmsman. A boat will generally develop an
inclination to broach to, which means to fly up in the wind. Sometimes,
however, the notion may strike her to run off the wind so much as to
bring the wind on the other quarter, causing her to gybe. This would
mean disaster, probably a broken boom and a topmast snapped off short
like a pipe-stem, with other incidental perils.
Diagram No. 3 shows the manœuvre of gybing, which is to keep the vessel
away from the wind until it comes astern, and then on the opposite
quarter to which it has been blowing. Fig. 1 shows a boat sailing before
the wind with the main boom over to starboard. Fig. 2 shows the
operation of luffing to get in the main sheet. Fig. 3 shows the boom
over on the port quarter, and the operation complete, except trimming
sail for the course to be steered.
It may be remarked that gybing a racing yacht “all standing” in a strong
wind requires consummate skill and care. A cool hand at the helm is the
prime requisite, but smart handling of the main sheet is of scarcely
less importance. The topmast preventer backstays should be attended to
by live men. When a vessel is not racing, gybing in heavy weather may be
accomplished without the slightest risk; the topsail may be clewed up
and the peak of the mainsail lowered, and with ordinary attention the
manœuvre is easily performed.
Diagrams Nos. 4 and 5 show the same racing yacht close hauled on the
port and starboard tack. The spinnaker and balloon jibtopsail are taken
in. A small jibtopsail takes the place of the flying kite. This sail,
however, is only carried in light winds, as it has a tendency, when a
breeze blows, to make a craft sag off to leeward.
Diagram No. 6 shows a boat beating out of a bay with the wind dead in
her teeth, a regular “nose-ender” or “muzzler.” She starts out from her
anchorage on the port tack, stands in as close to the shore as is
prudent, goes about on the starboard tack, stands out far enough to
weather the point of land, then tacks again, and on the port tack
fetches the open sea.
Diagram No. 7 illustrates a contingency frequently met with in beating
to windward, when a vessel can sail nearer her intended course on one
tack than another. Thus suppose her course is East by South and the wind
SE, she would head up East on one tack (the long leg) and South on the
other (the short leg).
Diagram No. 8 depicts the manœuvre of tacking that is the method of
“going into stays,” or shifting from one tack to the other. Fig. 1 shows
a boat steering “full and bye” on the starboard tack. It becomes
necessary to go about. “Helm’s a-lee!” cries the man at the tiller, at
the same time easing the helm down to leeward and causing the boat’s
head to fly up in the wind. The jib sheet is let go at the cry “Helm’s
a-lee!” decreasing the pressure forward and making the boat, if well
balanced, spin round. A modern racer turns on her heel so smartly that
the men have all they can do to trim the head sheets down before she is
full on the other tack. Some of the old style craft, however, hang in
the wind, and it sometimes becomes necessary to pay her head off by
trimming down on the port jib sheet and by shoving the main boom over on
the starboard quarter (Fig. 3). Soon she fills on the port tack, and
goes dancing merrily along, as shown in Fig. 4.
In beating to windward in a strong breeze and a heavy sea leeway must be
Leeway may be defined as the angle between the line of the vessel’s
apparent course and the line she actually makes good through the water.
In other and untechnical words, it is the drift that the ship makes
sideways through the water because of the force of the wind and the
heave of the sea, both factors causing the craft to slide bodily off to
This crab-like motion is due to a variety of causes, to the shape of the
craft, to her trim, and to the amount of sail carried, and its quality
and sit. Boats deficient in the element of lateral resistance, such as a
shallow craft with the centerboard hoisted, will drift off to leeward at
a surprising rate. A deep boat of good design and fair sail-carrying
capacity will, on the other hand, if her canvas is well cut and
skillfully trimmed, make little or no leeway. In fact, she may, under
favorable circumstances, eat up into the wind and fetch as high as she
Diagram No. 7.
A Long Leg and a Short Leg.
Leeway is always a dead loss, and to counteract it is always the aim of
the practical seaman and navigator. Captain Lecky, in his admirable
work, “Wrinkles in Practical Navigation,” puts the case clearly, and his
advice should be followed whenever feasible. He says: “Suppose a vessel
on a wind heading NW by N, under short canvas and looking up within
three points of her port, which, accordingly, bears north; but, owing to
its blowing hard, she is making 2-1/2 points leeway. Clearly this vessel
is only _making good_ a NW by W1/2W course, which is 5-1/2 points from
the direction of port. Let her speed under these conditions be, say,
four knots per hour. Now, if the yards are checked in a point or so, and
the vessel be kept off NW by W, she will slip away much faster through
the water, and probably will make not more than half a point leeway.
This keeps the course _made good_ exactly the same as before, with the
advantage of increased speed. Therefore, if you can possibly avoid it,
do not allow your vessel to sag to leeward by jamming her up in the
wind. Keep your wake right astern, unless it be found from the bearing
of the port that the course _made good_ is actually taking the vessel
away from it, in which case it is obvious that the less the speed the
This excellent counsel applies to every kind of sailing vessel, whether
square-rigger or fore-and-after, whether used for business or pleasure.
It is of no avail to pinch a boat for the purpose of keeping her
bowsprit pointed for her destination, when it is obvious that she will
only fetch a point several miles to leeward. Keep the sails clean full
and the boat will make better weather of it, as well as greater speed.
It may frequently be necessary to “luff and shake it out of her” when
struck by a hard squall, or, by the aid of a “fisherman’s luff,” to
clear an object without tacking, but a good rule is to keep a sailing
craft moving through the water and not permit her to pitch and rear end
on to the sea.
Diagram No. 8.
The Manœuvre of Tacking.
COMBINATION ROWING AND SAILING
A boat intended for both rowing and sailing should be partly decked, and
have as high a coaming as possible round the cockpit. A folding
centerboard should be fitted as in Fig. 10, so as to avoid the
awkwardness of a trunk, which in a small craft takes up too much room.
Outside ballast is not necessary; a few bags of sand will do instead. An
open boat under sail is dangerous except in the hands of a skilled
boatman. In a scrub race the helmsman cracks on until the lee gunwale is
almost on a level with the water. He may go along like this for some
time, but if the water is rough, ten to one a sea will sooner or later
come in over the lee bow, and the weight of water to leeward may cause
the boat to capsize before the sheet can be let go and the helm put hard
down to bring her head to wind. This in itself is not agreeable; and
failing to right the boat one may be compelled to cling to the keel or
rail until relief comes, or till he gets too tired to hang on any
longer. The excellent sport of sailing in a stiff breeze is obtained at
its best only in a partly decked boat. The half-decked craft may also be
made into a life-boat with the aid of water-tight boxes of tin or zinc.
The cockpit should be made as narrow as is compatible with comfort.
The combination rowing and sailing boat should have as little gear as
possible. Sheets and halyards should always be kept clear for running
and never be allowed to get foul. If you are so unlucky or so imprudent
as to meet with a capsize, keep clear of the ropes, for a turn of one
round the leg may send you to Davy Jones’s locker.
[Illustration: Jib and Mainsail Rig. Fig. 2.]
In writing of rigs suitable for small craft I shall not weary my readers
with descriptions of sails that are not at all adapted for practical use
in American waters. The amateur desirous of becoming acquainted with the
rig of boats suitable for Bermuda waters, the Norfolk Broads, the Nile,
or the inland lakes of Timbuctoo must look elsewhere. Nevertheless the
amateur may rest confident that I give practical instructions for the
best possible rigs, and he may adopt any one of them after due
consideration of the comments on each variety without any fear of future
The mast of the combination sailing and rowing boat which is shown in
Fig. 2, should be so stepped that it can be taken down at a moment’s
notice. It should not be stepped into the keelson through a hole in the
thwart, but should be fitted with a strong iron clamp and pin screwed to
the after part of the thwart, so that it may be unshipped in a hurry.
The mast should be light and strong. The sheave-hole in the head should
be fitted with a galvanized-iron or yellow-metal sheave, and should be
sufficiently large for the halyards to travel freely when the rope is
swollen with water. A block may be fitted to the mast-head for the jib
halyards. The boat should be provided with a galvanized-iron horse for
the lower block of the mainsheet to travel on. This is a great
convenience in beating to windward as the boom will go over by itself
without the aid of the helmsman. The sail also sets better with the aid
of a horse to keep the boom down.
The jib sheets and all halyards should lead aft within easy reach of the
helmsman so that he may be able to handle them without letting go the
tiller. The cushions of the stern sheets should be stuffed with cork
shavings such as grapes come packed in from Spain. They should have life
lines sewed to them so that in case of need they may be used as
[Illustration: Sprit Rig. Fig. 3.]
The boat should be equipped with three oars (as one may be broken), a
boat-hook and a baler; and the plug in the bottom should be secured to
the boat by a lanyard and screw-eye. A tiller should be used for
steering when sailing and not a yoke and lines.
Remember that you must luff when the first breath of the squall strikes
the boat, for if way is lost and the boat is hove down on her beam ends,
lee helm ceases to possess its virtue and the boat may capsize. This is
a sound and wise axiom and one that a beginner should impress rigidly on
his mind. Never allow skylarking in a boat. Never attempt to climb the
mast of an open boat, as it is an operation fraught with danger. Rather
unstep the mast for any repairs that may be necessary. Never stand on
the thwarts of a small boat when under way.
If women and children are on board never gybe the boom over. Many
accidents have happened through the neglect of this precaution. No
matter how expert a boat-sailer you may be, never take women and
children out in a boat with only yourself to handle her. Always take
care that you have with you either a skilled professional hand or an
amateur who knows the ropes, can take his trick at the tiller and does
not lose his head in a squall or other emergency of sea, lake, sound or
river. In default of being able to command the services of such a man,
leave the women and children ashore and postpone the excursion heedless
of the tears and entreaties of your best girl and the black looks of
your prospective mother-in-law. A lovers’ quarrel is easily made up, but
a capsized boat may mean loss of life and agonies of regret and
I was once persuaded against my better judgment to take out a party of
ladies for a sail in a jib-and-mainsail boat. We put out from a dock at
Perth-Amboy in the afternoon, with a cloudless sky and a soft, sweet
summer zephyr blowing. There was one other of my sex aboard and he told
me he perfectly understood the handling of a boat. He wore a yachting
suit and cocked his eye aloft in a knowing and nautical manner that
deceived even an old stager like myself. A huge black bank of clouds
arose in the northwest presaging the speedy approach of a savage
thunder-squall. I told my nautical-looking shipmate to lower the jib,
but he did not know how to find the halyards, and he was equally
ignorant of the whereabouts of the sheet. I gave the tiller to one of
the girls to hold, hauled down the jib, made it fast, lowered the
mainsail and furled it as snugly as I could and then let go the anchor
which, luckily, hadn’t been left ashore. All this time my
nautical-looking chum was star-gazing. As a matter of fact he knew no
more about a boat than a bull knows of trigonometry. His specialty, I
was afterwards informed, was measuring off tape by the yard and ogling
his customers. I had to do a good deal of hustling to get the craft snug
for the squall and to stow away my girl guests in the shelter of the
little half-deck forward, where they fitted as tight as sardines in a
When the squall struck us it was a hummer and no mistake. I veered out
all the cable there was and she rode to it quite well. There came a
deluge of rain with the blast, and the boat was soon nearly half full.
The girls screamed and prayed. The counter-jumper looked pale about the
gills and being too scared to bail flopped on his marrow-bones. Now
praying on shipboard is not to be scoffed at, but it should be delayed
until man has exhausted every possible means of saving the ship. I had
to do all the bailing myself and when the squall had blown itself out I
had to set the sails and hoist the anchor without any aid from the
That is one reason why I don’t go sailing single-handed anymore with a
boatload of girls. Do you blame me, shipmates? They are as likely to get
cranky as the boat herself, and one female at a time is all the average
man can keep on an even keel. Of course I know many girls who can give
me points and beat me easily in yachting and all that appertains
thereto; but fair ones of that sort are not so plentiful as they might
It should be remembered that these small rowing and sailing boats are
not intended for a spin round Sandy Hook lightship. They are for smooth
water and in their place are capable of affording their owners an
immense amount of wholesome enjoyment. On a pinch they will stand a hard
tussle with wind and wave, but it is never wise to tempt Providence. I
once knew an Irishman who often declared that he was so favored by
fortune that he could fall off a dock into the water and not get wet,
but the average man is not built that way. An ambitious amateur may well
begin his career on the water with one of these interesting little toys
I have described, and even if he aspires to become the owner of a
stouter and more seaworthy craft in which to essay adventurous cruises
of great emprise, he will learn much that is of value from her.
With these cautionary remarks I will proceed to describe the rigs which
in my judgment are suitable for boats measuring from twelve to seventeen
feet over all.
[Illustration: Leg-of-mutton Rig. Fig. 4.]
The leg-of-mutton rig, whether combined with a jib or not, is the
simplest and safest known, for there is no weight aloft such as is
inevitable with a gaff. It is a sail exactly adapted to the requirements
of a learner. The most nervous mother need not be alarmed if her boy
goes sailing in a boat equipped with this rig. The sail is hoisted by a
single halyard bent to the cringle at the head of the sail and rove
through either a sheave or a block at the masthead. Sometimes the luff
is laced to the mast, but it is better that it should be seized to
hoops, as shown in Fig. 4. If a boom is used a larger sail can be
carried, but it should be only a light spar and the foot of the sail
should be laced to it. The boom may be fitted with a topping lift and
the sheet be rove as shown in the illustration. In a small open boat no
stays are necessary for the mast, but the jib halyards should be belayed
to a cleat on one gunwale of the boat and the main halyards on the
other, so as to afford support to the mast.
[Illustration: Cat Rig. Fig. 9.]
The jib and leg-of-mutton sail is a deservedly popular rig. A short
bowsprit may be fitted to a boat and secured to an eyebolt in the stem
by a wire bob-stay. A wire forestay may be set up to the bowsprit end
and a jib may be bent to iron hanks on it and hoisted by a single
halyard. Or it may be set flying.
The advantages of the cat rig (Fig. 9) for general handiness have been
often explained. I should advise that the sail be hoisted by both throat
and peak halyards and not by a single halyard as is sometimes the case.
It is often most convenient to be able to drop the peak, when gybing,
for instance, or when struck by a squall. A single topping lift should
be fitted with an eye splice to the end of the boom and rove through a
block at the masthead and belayed to a cleat on the mast. The main sheet
should travel on an iron horse. A short boomkin, with forestay and
bob-stay, may help to secure the mast.
The balance lug, which is illustrated in Fig. 8, is quite a popular rig,
and it has much in its favor. The sail is laced to a yard and boom and
is hoisted by a single halyard rove through a sheave-hole in the
masthead and spliced to the eye of the hook of a galvanized-iron
traveler, to which a strop on the yard is hooked, as shown in the
illustration. On the other end of the halyard a single block is turned
in, through which a rope is rove, the standing part of which is made
fast to an eyebolt at the foot of the mast and the hauling part rove
through a block and led aft within easy reach of the helmsman. The tack
should be made fast to the boom and set up to the mast thwart after
being passed round the mast. The main sheet should work on a
galvanized-iron horse. This rig is quite handy and a boat so equipped is
smart in stays.
Balance Lug Rig. Fig. 8.
Showing Traveler and Halyards.
[Illustration: Sliding Gunter Rig. Fig. 5.]
[Illustration: Detail of Sliding Gunter Rig, Fig. 6.]
The sliding gunter rig, which is shown in Fig. 5, has this much to
recommend it: it is easily set if rigged as shown in the illustration
and it can quickly be reefed. It will be seen that the mast is in two
pieces, the topmast sliding up and down the lower mast on two
wrought-iron rings or travelers. The halyards are sometimes made fast to
the lower traveler and sometimes to the upper. They reeve through a
sheave-hole in the lower masthead and may be set up with a single whip
purchase. The lower mast may be supported with a single wire shroud on
each side and, if the double headrig is carried, with a wire stay to the
stem head. The sail should be laced to the topmast and secured to the
lower mast by hoops or iron rings leathered. These should be large
enough to slide easily up and down the mast, which should be kept well
greased. The topmast should be so rigged that the upper iron can be
unclamped and the topmast lowered down so as to permit the sail to be
stowed like a gaff-sail along the boom. With the sail thus furled the
boat will ride much easier in a breeze or a seaway. In Fig. 6 the
working of the rig is shown: 1 is the lower mast, 2 the topmast, 3 the
halyards, 4 the upper ring, or traveler, with a clamp and pin to permit
the lowering of the topmast, 5 the lower ring or traveler, which is
fitted with a hinge at 6; 7 is the gooseneck of the boom to which the
foot of the sail is laced. Reefing is simple. Lower away on the
halyards, make fast the cringle on the luff of the sail, at whatever
reef band is desired, to the gooseneck on the boom. Haul out the
corresponding reef earing, make it fast, tie your reef points and hoist
up the sail again by the halyards. A topping lift is necessary.
The spritsail is not often seen in these waters, but it is a good sail
for a small boat. I warn the beginner, however, against its use in a
craft of any pretensions to size, for he will find the heavy sprit much
more difficult to handle than a gaff. A spritsail is similar in shape to
the mainsail of a cutter, with the peak higher and the foot shorter, as
in Fig. 3. The sprit is a spar which crosses the sail diagonally from
luff to peak. It is thick in the middle, and each end is tapered. The
upper end fits into a cringle or eye in the peak of the sail and the
lower end into a snotter on the mast. The sprit stretches the sail quite
flat and thus a boat is able to point well to windward. The snotter is a
piece of stout rope having an eye in each end, one being passed round
the mast and rove through the eye in the other end, the heel of the
sprit fitting in the remaining eye. If the snotter carries away, the
heel of the sprit may be forced by its own weight through the bottom of
the boat; accordingly, as it has to stand considerable strain, it should
be made of stout stuff. To set the sail, hoist it up by the halyards,
slip the upper end of the sprit into the cringle in the peak, push it up
as high as you can and insert the heel into the snotter; then trim the
sheet. In large boats the snotter is made fast to an iron traveler which
is hoisted by a whip purchase as shown in Figs. 1 and 3.
[Illustration: Folding Centerboard. Fig. 10.]
The sprit rig cannot be said to be pretty, and when the sail is large it
is difficult to reef it. I should not counsel its use except in a boat
intended for both rowing and sailing, where the sail would be so small
as to be easily muzzled in case of a squall. The spritsail is hoisted by
halyards, rove through a block or sheave-hole at the masthead and hooked
to a cringle at the throat of the sail. The tack of the sail is lashed
to an eyebolt in the mast. In reefing the sprit must be lowered by
shifting the snotter further down the mast.
RIGGING AND SAILS.
Wire has entirely superseded rope for standing rigging, and deadeyes and
lanyards are fast giving way before the advance of the turnbuckle. An
old sailor cannot help regretting the decline and fall of his profession
and the growing popularity of the art of the blacksmith. So far as the
rigging of ships is concerned, when wire rigging was first introduced it
was thought that its rigidity would prove a fatal objection to its
Science has, however, set its foot down firmly on such objections. The
decree has gone forth that rigging cannot possibly be set up too taut,
and the less it stretches the better. The old argument that a yacht’s
standing rigging should “give” when the craft is caught in a squall,
which old sea dogs were so fond of advancing, has been knocked on the
head by scientific men who declare that a vessel’s heeling capacity
affords much more relief than the yielding quality of rigging. Thus all
or nearly all of the modern immense steel sailing vessels in the East
Indian and Australian trade have their steel masts stayed as rigidly as
possible by means of turnbuckles, and practice seems to have
demonstrated the truth of the theory. These ships encounter terrific
seas and gales off the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, and their masts
are thus subjected to violent and sudden strains, but I have been
assured by the commanders of several of these great freight carriers
that they have never known their “sticks” to be imperiled by the
rigidity of the rigging, and the tauter it can be set up the more secure
the masts are supposed to be.
SHROUD, DEADEYE, LANYARD.
There are, however, a number of old salts who condemn this theory as
rank heresy, and go in for deadeyes and lanyards of the old-fashioned
kind, and the greater the stretch between the upper and the lower
deadeyes the better are they pleased. There is no doubt that turnbuckles
look neater than deadeyes, and they are probably well suited for small
craft. The Herreshoffs have long used them for setting up the rigging of
the sloops and yawls of moderate size which they used to turn out in
such numbers, and which first laid the foundation of their fame. The
boat owner can please himself as to which method he may choose, and he
can rely that with either his mast will be perfectly secure. Both
methods are shown in the accompanying cuts.
There is one thing in connection with wire rigging that I must warn the
amateur against. Beware of shod wire rigging. “Shoes” are iron plates
riveted to the ends of wire rigging to receive shackle bolts. They are
never reliable. Eye splices in wire never draw. “Shoes” often collapse
Turnbuckles are very handy appliances for setting up rigging in a hurry,
whereas the same operation conducted by means of a deadeye and a lanyard
takes much more time and trouble. A small craft rigged as a sloop,
cutter or yawl, requires only one shroud on each side to afford lateral
support to the mast, and a forestay—which in the case of a cutter or
yawl should set up at the stem head, but on a sloop is set up on the
bowsprit. A simple way to fit the rigging is to splice an eye in each
shroud, forming a collar sufficiently large to pass over the masthead,
first covering the part that is to form the eye with canvas sewn on and
painted. The starboard shroud goes over the masthead first, then the
port one and last the forestay. In large yachts the lower rigging is
often fitted in pairs, the bight of the shrouds being passed over the
masthead and secured in the form of an eye with a stout wire seizing.
Many riggers shackle the shrouds to an iron band fitted to the hounds.
This plan is open to objection. There may be a flaw in the iron and the
band may give way suddenly, causing the mast to snap off short like the
stem of a clay pipe. Bands may look a little more snug than the collars,
but they are heavier aloft and not so reliable, and for these reasons I
am old-fashioned enough to prefer the collars.
For a small sloop, cutter or yawl, a pole mast is preferable; but all
boats more than twenty feet on the water line should be fitted with
topmasts, the rigging of which is shown in the cut.
The running bowsprit is almost obsolete now-a-days, but the device still
finds favor with certain owners of cutters and yawls of large size. It
certainly has its advantages. The length of the bowsprit is reduced as
the jibs are shifted, until when the “spitfire” or storm-jib is set the
bowsprit is run so far inboard that it looks like a mere stump. In a
sea-way the benefit of this is obvious, the weight being materially
reduced forward and the pitching consequently lessened. The jib also
sits well and does its work, and is far preferable to that horror of
horrors the “bobbed” jib of a sloop, which always makes a sailor’s flesh
creep when he sees it. How it has managed to survive is a marvel to me.
It is a lubberly and slovenly device not good enough for a scow. The
rigging of a running bowsprit is shown in the cut.
[Illustration: RIG OF RUNNING BOWSPRIT.]
When it becomes necessary to set the storm trysail, lower away the
mainsail and furl it as fast as possible. Lower the boom down into the
crutch amidships, and secure it by hauling the sheet taut and by tackles
or lashings from each quarter. Unhook the throat and peak halyards and
hook them on to the trysail gaff, the jaws of which parral on to the
mast, allowing the gaff end to rest on the deck. The topping lifts must
be unhooked from the main boom and taken in to the mast or the rigging,
so as to be out of the way of the trysail. Lace the head of the trysail
to the gaff. The clew of the trysail is hauled aft by a luff-tackle
which forms the sheet. Another tackle should be hooked to the clew and
made fast to windward over the main boom and gaff, so that in case of a
shift of wind the sheet may be hauled aft on the other side without
delay or the danger of getting aback. Then you can man the throat and
peak halyards and set the sail, trimming the sheet well down.
If you should have the misfortune to carry away the main boom, and you
have no trysail on board, lower away the sail, unlace it from the boom,
close-reef it, and set it with a luff-tackle for a sheet. When about to
set the storm trysail and your vessel is yawl rigged, set the storm
mizzen. It will keep her head up to the sea while the sails are being
shifted. In a cutter, heave to by hauling the fore sheet to windward,
keeping the jib full. Shifting jibs in heavy weather in a cutter
requires care. The first thing to do is to get the sail up from below
and stretch it along the weather side of the forward deck with the head
aft. Haul the foresheet to windward and trim the mainsheet in flat,
tricing up the tack if the sail is loose-footed. Keep the boat as close
to the wind as possible. Let go the jib outhaul, and the sail will fly
in along the bowsprit. Muzzle it, man the down-haul, let go the halyards
and down with it! Then reef the bowsprit. Some cutters are fitted with a
rack and pinion wheel, with a handle like that of a winch, for this
purpose. If not supplied with this handy contrivance, reeve a heel rope,
and after slacking the bobstay fall and the falls of the shrouds and
topmast stay, heave on it until you can knock the fid out. Then rouse
the bowsprit in by the shroud tackles to the second or third fid holes,
as desired; ship the fid and set up the gear, beginning with the
bobstay, the weather shroud next and the lee shroud last, at the same
time taking in the slack of the topmast stay. Now to set the jib. First
hook on the sheets and take a turn with the lee one; next hook on the
tack to the traveler and the halyards to the head. Man the outhaul and
bowse the tack out to the bowsprit end. Hoist up on the halyards and
sweat up with the purchase. Trim the sheet, let draw the foresheet, ease
off the mainsheet and sail her along again. If these instructions are
carried out a storm jib may be set on a reefed bowsprit without parting
a rope yarn.
[Illustration: HORSE FOR MAIN SHEET.]
To shake a reef out in the mainsail, set up on the topping lift so that
it may take the weight of the boom. Untie all the reef points. Cast off
the lashing at the tack if the sail is laced to the boom, or come up the
tack tackle if it is loose-footed. Then ease off the reef earring and
hoist the sail, setting up the throat first. You can then ease up the
topping lift and trim sheet.
A convenient method of bending and unbending a storm trysail is shown in
Fig. X and Fig. E.
Fig. X represents the shape of the mast hoops, to each of which two iron
hooks are fastened. The hoops are of the ordinary size, but about
one-quarter of their length is sawn out and to the ends the iron hooks
are riveted. Fig. E shows how the thimble toggles are seized to the luff
of the sail at regular intervals. When it is necessary to set the
trysail, adjust the jaws of the gaff to the mast, make fast the parral,
hook on the throat and peak halyard blocks and mouse them. Hoist up
slowly, slipping the thimbles over the hooks on the ends of the hoops as
the sail goes up. The sheet must be hauled aft before the sail is
hoisted, and should be slacked off handsomely to allow the sail to be
properly set. Then all hands should clap on it and flatten it in.
If your boat is rigged as a cutter or yawl the foresail may have the
tack made fast to the eyebolt to which the stay is set up. The luff of
the sail is seized to galvanized iron hanks that run up and down on the
stay. If the foresail has a reef band in it (as it should) a lacing is
used between the reef and tack cringles. Don’t bowse up the halyards too
taut the first time you set the sail, and don’t break your back
flattening in the sheet. Give it a chance to stretch fairly. The same
remark also applies to the jib, whether set on a stay or flying on its
own luff, as it must necessarily do if your craft is equipped with a
For the sake of lightness, blocks are frequently made too small. Manilla
rope, of which both sheets and halyards should be made, has a habit of
swelling when wet. It is generally rove on a dry day, and renders
through blocks quite easily when in this condition. A rain squall will
swell this rope to such an extent, and halyards will jam so hard, that
sails will not come down when wanted, and disasters happen. The work of
setting and taking in sail is made very laborious through small blocks
and large sized halyards. It should be borne in mind that halyards ought
to run through blocks as freely when wet as dry. Blocks should always be
fitted with patent sheaves.
The running rigging of a mainsail consists of peak and throat halyards,
topping lifts, main sheet and peak down-haul. To bend a mainsail,
shackle the throat cringle to the eyebolt under the jaws of the gaff,
stretch the head of the sail along the gaff, reeve the peak earring
through the hole in the end of the gaff and haul it out, securing it in
the manner shown in the illustration. The earring is represented with
the turns passed loosely in order to give the amateur a clear and
distinct view of the proper method. It will be seen that _a a_ is the
peak end of the gaff; _b_ is a cheek block for the topsail sheet; _c_ is
a block for the peak down haul, used also as signal halyards, hooked to
an eyebolt screwed into the end of the gaff, the hook of the block being
moused; _d_ is a hole in the gaff end through which the earring is
passed. The earring is spliced into the cringle with a long eye splice.
It is then passed through _d_ round through the cringle _e_; through _d_
again and through _e_ again; then up over the gaff at _i_ and _k_, down
the other side and through _e_ again, and so on up round the gaff four
or five times; at the last, instead of going up over the gaff again, the
earring is passed between the parts round the gaff as shown at _f_,
round all the parts that were passed through _d_, as shown at _m_, and
jammed by two half hitches _m_ and _h_.
If the sail is new from the sailmaker’s loft, only haul the head out
hand taut or you will ruin it. I have seen yacht skippers clap a “handy
billy” tackle on the head of a new mainsail and haul on it till they
could get no more. I have seen them treat the foot in the same way, the
result being a great bag of canvas of no possible use in beating to
windward. A mainsail costs a good deal of money and is easily spoiled.
One of Mr. John M. Sawyer’s splendidly cut sails can have all its
utility and beauty taken out of it in half-an-hour by a lubberly sailing
After the head earring is passed, lace the head of the sail to the gaff,
taking a half hitch at each eyelet hole. Next seize the luff of the sail
to the mast hoops with marline. The foot of the mainsail should next be
made fast to the boom in the same manner as the peak, the lacing going
round a wire jackstay rove through eyebolts on the top of the boom. Do
not “sweat up” either the throat or peak halyards too taut the first
time you set it, and avoid reefing a new sail. Lower it down altogether,
set the trysail, or do the best you can under head sail and the mizzen
if on board a yawl. A mainsail should always be allowed to stretch
gradually, and the slack of the head and the foot should be taken up at
intervals. Remember that no greater injury can be done to a new sail
than to try and make it sit flat by hauling out the foot too taut before
it has been properly stretched. The best authorities advise that the
sail should be set with the leech slack, and the boat run before a
strong wind for several hours. Another excellent plan is to hoist the
sail up with the foot and head slack while the boat is at anchor, and as
it flaps about in the breeze the sail will stretch without injury. Of
course when the head and foot are thoroughly stretched they can be
hauled out taut as they can be got.
Personally, I prefer a mainsail with the foot laced to the boom, but all
are not of my way of thinking. A loose-footed mainsail still has
admirers and this is how it works. The mainsail outhaul consists of an
iron horse on the boom, a shackle as traveler, a wire outhaul made fast
to the shackle and rove through a sheavehole at the boom end and set up
by a purchase.
[Illustration: GEAR FOR HAULING OUT LOOSE-FOOTED MAINSAIL.]
If the mainsail is of the loose-footed variety it should be fitted with
a tack tricing tackle and a main tack purchase. The last named is handy
for bowsing down the luff of the sail “bar taut” for racing. Sweating-up
the throat halyards lowers the peak slightly, and peaking the sail
slackens the luff. By hauling up on the main tack tricing tackle till
you can get no more, and at the same time lowering the peak, the
mainsail is “scandalized” and the boom can then be gybed over in a
strong breeze with the least possible risk of carrying away something.
To prevent masthoops from jamming when the mainsail is being hoisted or
lowered, a small line is seized to the foreside of the top hoop and then
to every hoop down the mast. When the throat halyards are pulled on, the
foresides of the hoops feel the strain and go up parallel with the after
sides. The accompanying figure shows this at a glance.
It is true that this method has found little favor with amateurs, but I
tried it with great success on my first cruising craft, and later on in
a yacht of far greater pretensions. The “wrinkle” should by no means be
LAYING UP FOR THE WINTER.
The judicious yachtsman will personally superintend the laying up of his
craft. If he has that inestimable blessing, a good skipper, he should
not discharge him at the close of his summer season. If he does he will
bitterly regret it. A yacht requires as much watchful care as a baby,
and this is especially true during the trying winter season. So wise
yacht-owners who have in their employ faithful captains should hold on
to them like grim death to a deceased army mule. Good men are not too
plentiful these times.
A few practical suggestions as to preparing the vessel for the winter
are here appended. In the first place, sails should be well dried before
being unbent, and then should be carefully stopped and labeled, and the
same remark applies also to the running gear. By all means secure
storage ashore for sails, gear, cabin fitments and furniture, carpets,
upholstery and bedding, otherwise you may have cause to regret it in the
spring. In most of the buildings devoted to the storage of yacht gear
proper platforms or stages are provided, so that a free current of air
may circulate, and thus prevent damp, mildew and decay. The lower tier
on the platform should consist of the warps and running gear, on top of
which the sails should be snugly coiled. Above these the furniture,
bedding and upholstery should go. All can be covered over with an old
light sail to protect them from dust. This can be removed as often as
necessary for airing purposes.
On the other side of the Atlantic judicious owners of storage warehouses
make their platforms rat-proof, following out the same idea as the
farmer does with his wheat stacks. Each support to the stage is capped
with a metal cone, which effectually stops the upward progress of the
sail-devouring vermin. Well-conducted warehouses are well ventilated,
and the temperature is kept tolerably even by heat.
Of course, all articles of value, such as plate and nautical
instruments, should find repository in their owner’s dwelling.
All light spars should be sent ashore and lashed up under the beams of
the warehouse. The same with the rowboats, but with attention to the
fact that they should be so supported as to have their weight evenly
distributed, and thus prevent them from being pulled out of shape.
Many expensive boats are hopelessly ruined by neglect of this
precaution. This is the proper method of supporting a rowboat so that
straining her is impossible. Six eyebolts should be screwed into the
under side of the beams of the warehouse at proper intervals to take the
weight of the boat amidships and at the third of her length forward and
aft. From these eyebolts ropes of sufficient length should depend, to
which, in the bight, a handspike is passed, on which, bottom upward, the
boat is hung.
A yacht laid up without the greatest care deteriorates in value to an
enormous extent. The first process after dismantling is to clean the
vessel thoroughly inside and out, just as carefully as if she was about
to be continued in commission. After getting her as bright as a new pin,
all the hardwood—that which is varnished or gilded—should be covered up
After the yacht has been thoroughly skinned, as far as her internal
arrangements are concerned, the last process preliminary to paying her
out of commission, is to give her decks a coat or two of bright
varnish—shunning that mixture known in the trade as pure oil, as
deleterious to all decks.
It is cheaper in the long run to provide a yacht with properly fitted
winter hatches which entirely cover the hardwood deck fittings and
secure thorough ventilation, as then the regular skylights can be left
In small craft the sailing master will be sufficient to keep the boat in
first-class condition. On larger vessels, according to size, he should
have competent assistance.
Whether a yacht is moored alongside a quay or another vessel, winter
storms cause her to do a little rolling, which invariably induces
chafing. Unless a vessel is properly protected by fenders, her
planksheer and bulwarks are sure to be seriously injured, and to repair
this part of a ship is costly in the extreme, especially in regard to
the planksheer. Should the planksheer be “shoved up” by contact with the
dock or the ship to which she is moored alongside, the damage done could
only be properly repaired by the removal of both bulwark and rail. To
guard against severe injuries of this kind unceasing vigilance is
necessary. If you can induce your skipper to live on board, all the
better. In such a case your yacht will be kept in as dainty condition as
your wife’s boudoir. Snow is very penetrating. It will find its way even
through rubber boots. A little leak may at first have no significance.
But the leak increases and rot follows, fastenings are corroded and
Every vessel afloat suffers more or less from “sweating,” caused by the
difference between the temperature of the air outside and inside the
ship. To obviate this a fire should be kept going; not a furious furnace
that would involve a great expenditure of coal, but simply some heating
device that gives a moderate amount of warmth all through the ship.
Thus, when the owner returns to his yacht in the spring, he will find
her sweet and clean, and will never regret the few paltry dollars it has
cost him to keep his floating summer home in seagoing condition. The
careful skipper will see that his extra help is kept busy, so that not
only a casual visitor must compliment her owner on her spick and span
condition, but a naval architect or a Lloyd’s surveyor can find no flaw
or fault to peck at. For, down to her deadwood and timbers, by the
application of soap, hot water and plenty of elbow-grease, she is made
fit for repainting right down to her keel.
By conservative and preservative methods such as these a yacht’s life is
prolonged, and she will always fetch her value in the market, the
noisome odor of bilge water being unknown.
The foregoing remarks are applicable to pleasure craft that are kept
afloat during the winter. It is needless to expatiate on the benefit of
hauling out yachts of any size or construction, whether of wood,
composite, iron, steel or Tobin bronze or aluminum. The expense of
hauling large boats out is considerable, for obvious reasons, and thus
it is that yacht owners do not care to incur the cost. This objection
does not apply to small craft, which should invariably be landed for the
winter and efficiently protected by canvas, or other covering, from the
destructive influence of snow and rain. All that has been said above in
relation to the storage of sails and gear applies as much to a
one-tonner as to the largest pleasure craft afloat.
When we go into the question of steam yachts, no better advice can be
given than that contained above, so far as hull and equipment are
concerned. It is different when the proper care of machinery is
considered. There it is where the services of a loyal and skillful
engineer come into full play. Unless sufficient attention is paid to a
vessel’s boilers and engines during the critical time when she reposes
in dock, disastrous results, entailing vast expenditure, are sure to
follow. The complicated and ingenious mechanism which propels the modern
steam yacht requires devoted regard. Very expensive when new, repairs
during their second season, if in any way neglected in the winter, call
for the resources of the purse of a Crœsus. In matters of this kind the
old adage which relates to a stitch in time should be noted by the
prudent yacht owner. Thus it is that an engineer and a sufficient staff
should be kept on the pay roll in the winter for economic reasons alone.
By this means extravagant bills for unnecessary repairs will be avoided.
The engineer will take pride in his work and do justice to a liberal
It is well known that engineers can only become acquainted with the true
capacity of machinery by long and careful study. Statistics have proved
that marine engines in the navy under the direction of good men have
been run with less coal, less oil and greater working power year by year
when the same man has had control of the engine-room. All of which means
less strain on the owner’s bank account.
Lincoln’s famous aphorism about the unwisdom of swapping horses when
crossing a stream applies with great precision to skippers and
engineers. It takes time for the most masterly and adroit captain to
become acquainted with the peculiar idiosyncrasies of a vessel, for it
is true that each one has her own individuality, and it takes time to
comprehend her. In this they much resemble the fair sex. It is a case of
whip and spur on one hand, and saddle and bridle on the other. Which is
to wield the whip or wear the saddle is a question between captain and
ship. The struggle is sometimes a long one, but in the end mind conquers
The captain, as in the case of Gen. Paine and the _Mayflower_,
eventually gets the hang of her, brings her into a state of submission,
and compels her to become a cup winner. The engineer in his own sphere
accomplishes similar results. His machinery runs with the regularity of
a chronometer. His owner’s bills for coal and oil are confined within
reasonable limits. There are no breakdowns. His firemen implicitly obey
his orders, and all goes well in engine-room and stoke-hold.
If these few practical suggestions and hints prove of any service to
yachtsmen, captains and engineers, the writer will feel happy. He has
simply touched on the limits of a wide and fertile subject that might be
expatiated upon at a large expense of paper and printer’s ink.
USEFUL HINTS AND RECIPES.
To whiten decks, mix oxalic acid with fresh water in the proportion of
one pound to the gallon. Apply lightly with a mop and wash off
Good elastic marine glue for paying seams after they are caulked, can be
made of one part of india rubber, twelve parts of coal tar heated gently
in a pitch kettle, and twenty parts of shellac added to the mixture.
When about to use this preparation, dip the caulking iron, used to drive
the oakum or cotton thread into the seams, in naphtha, which dissolves
the glue and helps to closely cement the seams. If oil is used instead
of naphtha, the glue will not adhere. When melting marine glue for
paying, take care to heat it very slowly.
Mildew on sails is almost impossible to remove, but the stains can be
rendered a little less unsightly by well scrubbing the sail on both
sides with soap and fresh water, and then leaving the sail to dry and
bleach in the sun. Avoid the use of chloride of lime or other caustics
or acids, which, while they might take out the mildew stains, would
certainly rot the duck. Sometimes sails must necessarily be stowed when
damp or wet, but they should be hoisted up to dry as soon as
practicable. Every boat should be provided with water-proof sail covers.
Composition paints and other mixtures for preventing the fouling of
boats’ bottoms are plentiful as clams. Each one is warranted to be a
specific against weeds and barnacles. But wooden or iron vessels,
however treated, if left for any length of time at anchor anywhere on
the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, are sure to become encrusted with
barnacles and to be covered with such a rich growth of marine grasses as
would take some particularly active work with a lawn mower to remove.
Luckily small boats can easily be hauled out and scrubbed, but those
with any pretension to size should most certainly be coppered. Copper in
salt water will keep clean for a long time, the exfoliation being
extensive. Some authorities recommend that the copper be coated with one
or other of the compositions prepared for that purpose, but I think that
to leave the copper clean will be more satisfactory in the long run. A
coppered cruising vessel should not require her bottom to be cleaned
more than four times in the season, but the oftener a racing yacht is
hauled out to have her copper burnished the better should be the result,
so far as speed is concerned.
There are several capital paints in the market with which to coat a
yacht or boat below the water-line. But admirable though they may be,
they are by no means weed or barnacle proof.
In choosing a binocular marine glass, take care not to be persuaded into
buying a trashy article. A good one should have a magnifying power of
seven times, as well as what is known as good definition—that is, the
quality of showing all the outlines of an object with complete
distinctness and without any haziness. To find out if a glass has this
quality, direct it at any object clearly outlined against the sky—a
church steeple, for instance. If the outlines of the object are
indistinct, or if they are bordered with violet, blue, orange or red
light, reject the glass, as it will never be worth anything. The frame
of the glass should be rigid, or the tubes will become twisted and then
you will see two objects in place of one. The more powerful a glass is
the less field it possesses. While high power is desirable, it is well
that a glass should have a large field. A poor glass is worse than none
That sterling seaman, Capt. S. T. S. Lecky, tells a capital story about
a marine glass, which I commend to anybody about to purchase one. In the
window of a shop he noticed a binocular with a tag on it, which asserted
that the glass had rendered an “object” visible at the distance of
ninety miles. This was attested by a letter to be seen within. The
captain’s curiosity was excited. On inquiry in the shop he found out
that the “object” was none other than the peak of the Island of Tristan
d’Acunha, in the Southern ocean, which is so lofty that it can be seen
in clear weather by the naked eye at a distance of one hundred miles.
Therefore I say let your motto be _caveat emptor_ when you go cruising
about in search of either a cheap marine telescope or binocular among
marine store dealers or pawnshops. Remember that clearness of definition
is more to be sought than high magnifying power, as in misty weather the
glass with the last-named quality in a marked degree magnifies the haze
as well as the object, and, of course, makes it still more blurred and
indistinct—a defect on which it is unnecessary for me to further
It is hard to distinguish with a low-priced binocular on a thick or
rainy night the color of a vessel’s lights, a white one sometimes
appearing with a green or reddish tinge, and a green one looking like a
white one. This applies also to lightships and lighthouses, and should
make you careful as to your selection of a glass.
Captain Lecky says the proper way to test a binocular for night use is
not to stand at a shop door in broad daylight, trying how much the glass
enlarges some distant clock-face, but to wait till nightfall and test it
by looking up a dark street or passage, and if figures before only dimly
visible to the naked eye are rendered tolerably clear by the aid of the
glasses, you may rest assured you have hit on a suitable instrument. It
is well to go in the first place to an optician, and not to a
“shoptician” versed in cheap-jack methods.
[Illustration: LUNCHEON IN THE COCK-PIT]
Iron ballast should be coal-tarred, painted, or white-washed with hot
Masts and spars should be scraped and sand-papered. If there are any
cracks in them, they should be stopped with marine glue before scraping.
Apply a coat of wood-filler, then a coat of spar composition. When hard,
give a second coat. Never apply varnish when there is much moisture in
the atmosphere. In the vicinity of New York, wait till the wind is
northwest if you wish to secure the best and most brilliant results.
If your boat is white, when repainting don’t forget to mix a little blue
with your white lead, raw linseed oil and dryers. This cerulean dash
improves the look of the paint, and is far better than black, which
produces a ghastly tint.
[Illustration: SCOWING AN ANCHOR.]
When for any purpose it becomes necessary or desirable to anchor a small
boat on ground known, or suspected, to be foul, it is advisable to scow
the anchor. Unbend the cable from the ring; make the end fast round the
crown shank and flukes with a clove hitch, and bring the end _a_ back to
_s_, and stop it round the cable with a piece of spunyarn; take the
cable back to the shackle and stop it as at _b_. When the cable is
hauled upon by the part _o_, the stop at _b_ will part and the fluke of
the anchor can be easily broken out and lifted. For larger vessels a
trip-line is sometimes bent to the crown and buoyed instead of scowing
A capital composition for painting the bottoms of boats up to the
water-line is made as follows: Take one pound of red lead, four ounces
of copper bronze powder, the same weights of arsenic, chrome yellow and
paris blue, one pint of dryers, one pint of boiled oil and one pint of
copal varnish. Mix thoroughly, strain and apply. If too thick add more
varnish. It will dry a rich copper color. It is neither barnacle nor
weed proof, but is as good as some of the more expensive paints which
pretend to possess both these qualities. Before painting, scrub the wood
well and smooth down with pumice stone. Let it thoroughly dry before you
begin to use the brush.
A good black paint for the outside of boats is made thus: To six pounds
of best black paint add one pound of dark blue paint and half a pint of
dryers. Mix with equal quantities of raw and boiled linseed oil until of
the proper consistency. Stir well. Strain carefully, and then add one
pint of copal varnish.
To stop cracks in a spar: When the spar is thoroughly dry run in marine
glue. When the glue is hard scrape some of it out and stop the crevice
with putty stained the same color as the spar.
Iron mould and other stains can be removed from a deck by a solution of
one part of muriatic acid and three parts of water.
THE LEAD LINE.
The hand lead weighs fourteen pounds. The line to which it is attached
is twenty-five fathoms long, and is marked as follows: At two fathoms,
leather with two ends; at three fathoms, leather with three ends; at
five fathoms, white muslin; at seven fathoms, red bunting; at ten
fathoms, leather with hole in it; at thirteen fathoms, blue serge; at
fifteen fathoms, white muslin; at seventeen fathoms, red bunting; at
twenty fathoms, strand with two knots in it. By the different feel of
the materials used it is easy to distinguish the marks in the dark. In
sounding when the boat is in motion, swing the lead round and heave it
as far forward as you can. By filling the hollow at the base of the lead
with grease or tallow, a sample of the bottom mud or sand adheres to it,
which may be useful in verifying the position of the boat by comparing
it with the chart on which the nature of the bottom is indicated.
The first fathom of the hand lead line for use in a boat of light
draught may be marked off in feet in any legible manner satisfactory to
The marks on the deep sea lead line commence with two knots at twenty
fathoms, another knot being added for every ten fathoms, and a single
knot at each intermediate five.
A hand lead for use in a small craft need not be so heavy as fourteen
It may not be generally known that all watches are compasses if used
according to the following instructions. Point the hour hand to the Sun,
and the South is exactly half-way between the hour and the figure XII on
the dial. For instance, suppose it is four o’clock; point the hand
indicating four to the Sun, and II on the dial is South. Suppose again
it is eight o’clock; point the hand indicating eight to the Sun, and the
figure X on the dial is South. Some cranks carry a compass card in their
watch case so that they may always determine without delay or trouble
the direction of the wind whenever the Sun is visible.
Photo by J. S. Johnston.
RULE OF THE ROAD AT SEA.
The boat sailer must possess a knowledge of the rule of the road at sea,
unless he wants his sport brought to an untimely end by collision. He
should become thoroughly familiar with the International Steering and
Sailing Rules, so that if he encounters steamships, fishing craft, pilot
boats, etc., he will be able so to maneuver his own vessel as to escape
The prudent skipper of a little vessel should always give steamships and
ferryboats a wide berth. Big steamships sometimes are slow to answer
their helms, and often will not get out of the way of small craft,
although compelled to by international law. Should your boat be run down
by one of these monsters of the deep you, of course, have your remedy in
a court, but you are apt to find litigation very expensive when suing a
steamship company, and a suit often lingers for years until, having
exhausted every process, it finds itself at last on the calendar of the
Supreme Court of the United States.
It is not advisable to attempt to cross the bows of a steamer unless you
have plenty of room and you are a good judge of distances. Steam vessels
go at a faster rate than they seem to, and the momentum of their impact
is very great. Instead of crossing a steamer’s bow go about on the other
tack, or haul your foresheet to windward till she has passed. Discretion
is always the better part of valor. Not to monkey with ocean steamships
or ferryboats is as valuable advice as that time-honored warning to boys
not to fool with the buzz-saw.
Do not get “rattled,” whatever you do, but keep your eyes “skinned” and
your head clear.
Skippers of ferryboats often try to show off their smartness by steering
as close as possible to small pleasure boats and then giving them the
benefit of their wash, sometimes swamping their unfortunate victims. It
is fun for the fellow in the ferryboat’s pilot-house, but it is the
reverse of pleasant to the man wallowing in the seething water.
Therefore, do not court danger by approaching too near these unwieldy
marine brutes, but if you are so luckless as to get into their wash
handle your boat so that she shall not get into the trough of the waves,
but take the sea on the bluff of the bow, where it will do the least
Navigation by daylight in fine, clear weather is easy, but when it is
dark and foggy special precautions must be taken or collision is
inevitable. I do not propose to reprint in this little book the full
text of the international regulations for preventing collisions at sea,
but I have prepared an abstract, which will be sufficient for the
practical purposes of an amateur sailor.
Between sunset and sunrise the following lights shall be carried by a
steamship when under way:
At the foremast head a bright white light, visible on a clear night at a
distance of five miles, showing the light ten points on either side of
the ship from right ahead to two points abaft the beam.
On the starboard side a green light showing from right ahead to two
points abaft the beam, visible at a distance of two miles.
On the port side a red light similar in all respects, except color, to
the green light.
To prevent these green and red lights from being seen across the bow
they must be fitted with inboard screens projecting at least three feet
forward from the light.
Steamships towing other vessels shall carry two white masthead lights in
addition to their side lights.
Sailing vessels when under way or being towed shall carry only the green
and red lights as provided for steamships under way.
Small vessels that cannot carry fixed side lights in bad weather must
have them on deck on their respective sides ready for instant exhibition
on the approach of another vessel.
All vessels at anchor shall show where it can best be seen, at a height
not exceeding twenty feet above the hull, a white light in a globular
lantern of eight inches in diameter, visible all round the horizon at a
distance of at least a mile.
Pilot vessels shall only carry a white light at the masthead, visible
all round the horizon, and shall exhibit a flare-up light every fifteen
Open boats are not required to carry fixed sidelights, but must, in
default of such, be provided with a lantern, having a green slide on one
side and a red slide on the other, which must be properly shown in time
to prevent collision, taking care that the green light shall not be seen
on the port side nor the red light on the starboard side.
Fishing and open boats, when at anchor or riding to their nets and
stationary, shall exhibit a bright white light, and may, in addition,
use a flare-up light if deemed expedient.
In fog, mist, or falling snow, whether by day or night, a steamship
under way shall blow a prolonged blast of her steam whistle every two
minutes, or oftener. A sailing vessel under way shall blow her foghorn
(which must be sounded by a bellows or other mechanical device and not
by mouth power) at intervals of not less than two minutes, when on the
starboard tack one blast, when on the port tack two blasts in
succession, and when with the wind abaft the beam three blasts in
Vessels not under way shall ring the bell at intervals of not less than
STEERING AND SAILING RULES
FOR SAILING VESSELS.
A ship running free shall keep out of the way of a ship closehauled.
A ship closehauled on the port tack shall keep out of the way of a ship
closehauled on the starboard tack.
When both are running free with the wind on different sides, the ship
which has the wind on the port side shall keep out of the way of the
When both are running free with the wind on the same side, the ship
which is to windward shall keep out of the way of the ship to leeward.
A ship which has the wind aft shall keep out of the way of the other
FOR STEAM VESSELS.
If two ships under steam are meeting end on, or nearly end on, so as to
involve risk of collision, each shall alter her course to starboard so
that each may pass on the port side of the other.
If two ships under steam are crossing so as to involve risk of
collision, the ship which has the other on her own starboard side shall
keep out of the way of the other.
Steamships must, in cases where there is risk of collision, keep out of
the way of sailing vessels.
A vessel, whether sail or steam, when overtaking another, must keep out
of the way of the overtaken ship.
Where by the above rules one of two ships is to keep out of the way, the
other shall keep her course.
The following rhymes should be committed to memory:
When both sidelights you see ahead,
Port your helm and show your red!
Green to green or red to red,
Perfect safety—go ahead!
If on the port tack you steer,
It is your duty to keep clear
Of every closehauled ship ahead,
No matter whether green or red.
But when upon your port is seen
A stranger’s starboard light of green,
There’s not so much for you to do,
For green to port keeps clear of you.
A ship which is being overtaken by another shall show from her stern to
such last-mentioned ship a white light or a flare-up light. This rule
was only adopted in 1884, but I saw it practically exemplified in the
ship _Rajah of Cochin_ in the year 1874. The _Rajah_ was running down
the Southeast trades one pitch dark night in April, homeward bound; I
was in charge of the deck. We had studdingsails set on both sides, on
the mainmast and foremast. Suddenly out of the darkness astern there
loomed up the sails on the foremast of a big ship whose jibboom seemed
to be right over the _Rajah’s_ stern. She carried no side lights, her
skipper being probably of an economical turn of mind. I took the lighted
lamp out of the binnacle, and jumping on the wheel gratings waved it as
high as I could, at the same time yelling with all my might. I could
hear the man on the lookout aboard the pursuing vessel roar out, and
then came a clatter and a rattle of ropes and a flapping of sails as
with her helm hard to port the ship that was pursuing us luffed out
across our stern. She snapped off a few stunsail booms, but that was
better than running us down. Capt. Sedgwick, who was in command of the
_Rajah_, was awakened by the noise and came up from below in his
pajamas. He quickly realized what a close shave his ship had
BUOYS AND BEACONS.
In approaching channels from seaward red buoys marked with even numbers
will be found on the starboard side of the channel and must be left on
the starboard side in passing in. Black buoys with odd numbers will be
found on the port side of the channel and must be left on the port hand
in passing in.
Buoys with red and black horizontal stripes will be found on
obstructions with channel ways on either side of them, and may be left
on either hand.
Buoys painted with black and white perpendicular stripes will be found
in mid-channel, and must be passed close aboard to avoid danger.
All other marks to buoys will be in addition to the foregoing and may be
employed to mark particular spots, a description of which will be found
in the printed Government lists.
Perches, with balls, cages, etc., will, when placed on buoys, be at
turning points, the color and number indicating on what side they shall
I have no space in this volume to write an exhaustive chapter on
navigation. It is, however, an art easily acquired, and may be wholly
self-taught. There are certain rudimentary rules for finding one’s way
at sea by dead reckoning, that everyone starting out on a cruise should
master. The instruments needful are a compass, parallel rulers,
dividers, patent log, lead line, aneroid barometer, clock, and the
necessary charts of the sea which it is proposed to navigate.
In a small cruiser a compass is generally carried in a portable
binnacle. When steering by it take care that the lubber’s point is in a
direct line with the keel or stem and sternpost. For the benefit of the
uninitiated, I will explain that the lubber’s point is the black
vertical line in the foreside of the compass bowl, by which the
direction of the vessel’s head is determined. A misplaced lubber’s point
is sure to cause grave errors in the course actually made. The compass
should be as far removed as possible from ironwork of any kind. A spirit
compass, as I have remarked elsewhere, is the only kind suitable for
small craft. Those with cards of hard enamel, floating in undiluted
alcohol, which renders freezing impossible, are the best. The amateur
boat sailer should become familiar with the compass, be able to box it
by both points and degrees, and to name its back bearings.
The points of the compass are thirty-two in number, as follows:
North by East
North-East by N.
North-East by E.
East by North
East by South
South-East by E.
South-East by S.
South by East
South by West
South-West by S.
South-West by W.
West by South
West by North
North-West by W.
North-West by W.
North by West
These points are sub-divided into quarter points, and again into
degrees. The table given on pages 142-143 shows the angles which every
point and quarter point of the compass makes with the meridian:
POINTS, ANGLES AND BACK BEARINGS OF THE COMPASS.
_Opposite or Back _Pts._ _Dgrs. _Pts._ _Opposite or Back
Bearings._ &c._ Bearings._
North. South. 0 0 0 0 0 North. South.
0-1/4 2 48 45 0-1/4
N. 1/2 S. 1/2 0-1/2 5 37 30 0-1/2 N. 1/2 S. 1/2
E. W. W. E.
0-3/4 8 26 15 0-3/4
N. b. E. S. b. W. 1 11 15 0 1 N. b. W. S. b. E.
1-1/4 14 3 45 1-1/4
N. b. E. S. b. W. N. b. W. S. b. E.
1/2 E. 1/2 W. 1-1/2 16 52 30 1-1/2 1/2 W. 1/2 E.
1-3/4 19 41 15 1-3/4
N. N. E. S. S. W. 2 22 30 0 2 N. N. W. S. S. E.
2-1/4 25 18 45 2-1/4
N. N. E. S. S. W. N. N. W. S. S. E.
1/2 E. 1/2 W. 2-1/2 28 7 30 2-1/2 1/2 W. 1/2 E.
2-3/4 30 56 15
N. E. b. S. W. b. N. W. b. S. E. b.
N. S. 3 33 45 0 N. S.
3-1/4 36 33 45
N. E. S. W. 39 22 30 N. W. S. E.
1/2 N. 1/2 S. 3-1/2 39 22 30 1/2 N. 1/2 S.
3-3/4 42 11 15
N. E. S. W. 4 45 0 0 N. W. S. E.
4-1/4 47 48 45 4-1/4
N. E. S. W. N. W. S. E.
1/2 E. 1/2 W. 4-1/2 50 37 30 4-1/2 1/2 W. 1/2 E.
4-3/4 53 26 15 4-3/4
N. E. S. W. N. W. S. E.
b. E. b. W. 5 56 15 0 5 b. W. b. E.
5-1/4 59 3 45 5-1/4
N. E. b. S. W. b. N. W. b. S. E. b.
E. 1/2 W. 1/2 5-1/2 61 52 30 5-1/2 W. 1/2 E. 1/2
E. W. W. E.
5-3/4 64 41 15 5-3/4
E. N. E. W. S. W. 6 67 30 0 6 W. N. W. E. S. E.
6-1/4 70 18 45 6-1/4
E. b. N. W. b. S. W. b. N. E. b. S.
1/2 N. 1/2 S. 6-1/2 73 7 30 6-1/2 1/2 N. 1/2 S.
6-3/4 75 56 15 6-3/4
E. b. N. W. b. S. 7 78 45 0 7 W. b. N. E. b. S.
7-1/4 81 33 45 7-1/4
E. 1/2 W. 1/2 7-1/2 84 22 30 7-1/2 W. 1/2 E. 1/2
N. S. N. S.
7-3/4 87 11 15 7-3/4
East. West. 8 90 0 0 8 West. East.
The mariner’s compass does not, however, give the true direction of the
various points of the horizon. The needle points to the magnetic North
and not to the true North, the difference between them being called the
variation of the compass, which differs widely in various parts of the
world, being sometimes easterly and sometimes westerly, and constantly
changing. The amount is generally marked on the charts. In New York the
variation for 1894 was 8° 26´ West, or three-quarters of a point to the
West of the true North. Thus, to make good a true North course, the
vessel would have to steer North three-quarters West. A rule easy to
remember is that westerly variation is allowed to the left of the
compass course, or bearing, and that easterly variation is allowed to
the right of the compass course or bearing.
To convert true courses and bearings into compass courses and bearings
with variation westerly, allow it to the right of the true course or
bearing, and with variation easterly allow it to the left of the true
course or bearing.
Deviation is another error of the compass caused by local attraction,
such as the ironwork and iron ballast in a boat, or the proximity of a
marlinespike to the binnacle. In a wooden boat, if proper care is taken,
there should be no appreciable deviation of the compass. Deviation can
be discovered by swinging the boat as she lies at her moorings, having
first obtained the true magnetic bearing of some distant object, such as
a lighthouse or a church steeple. As the vessel’s head comes to each
point of the compass, a compass bearing is taken of the object, and the
difference between that bearing and the true magnetic bearing is
observed and noted, and afterward tabulated. It will often be found that
the deviation differs not only in amount, but in name, for different
directions of the ship’s head, being easterly at certain points and
westerly at others.
The rule is to allow westerly deviation to the left to get the correct
magnetic course, and easterly deviation to the right to get the correct
To find out the error of the compass in order to steer a true course,
the _sum_ of the deviation and the variation when both are of the same
name, and their _difference_ when they have different names, must be
ascertained. For instance, deviation 20° West and variation 25° West,
would give an error of compass 45° West, which should be applied to the
If the deviation was 20° East and the variation 10° West, the difference
between them would be 10° East, which compass error should be applied to
the right to steer a true course.
In order to find the compass course or course to steer, proceed as
follows, the true course being North 40° East, the variation being 38°
West and the deviation 18° East:
Variation, 38° W., being of contrary names, take their difference.
Deviation, 18° E.
Correction, 20°, apply to the right, being westerly.
True course N.40° E.
Compass course N.60° E.
Another example is given where the variation and deviation are both
easterly and the true course is S., 75° West.
Variation, 24° W., being of same name.
Deviation, 16° W., add together.
Correction, 40°, apply to the left, being easterly.
True course, S. 75° W.
Compass course, S. 35° W.
A volume might be written on the mariner’s compass. It is a fascinating
study, but unfortunately my space is limited.
There is another correction to the compass that the amateur should have
cognizance of. It is called leeway, and is, in untechnical language, the
drift that the ship makes sideways through the water because of the
force of the wind or the impulsive heave of the sea. Some craft, because
of deficiency in the element of lateral resistance, such as in the case
of a shallow, “skimming-dish” sort of a boat, with the centerboard
hoisted up, will go to leeward like a crab. Others of a different type,
such as the “plank-on-edge” variety, with a lead line attached, will
hang on to windward in a wonderful manner. It requires, therefore, a
certain amount of judgment as well as of knowledge in this particular
section of nautical lore to be able to estimate with any degree of
approximate certainty the leeway a vessel may happen to make. It should
not be forgotten that build has much to do with this, and that trim and
draught of water are also two powerful elements in this connection. For
instance, a boat with outside lead and a centerboard in a strong breeze
and a lumpy sea, so long as the wind permitted her to carry a commanding
spread of sail, might make no appreciable leeway, but, on the contrary,
might “eat up” into the wind. But given the same boat without the lead
and without the adventitious aid that the centerboard affords, she would
be compelled to dowse her muslin at the first puff, and as a purely
physical consequence she would retain no hold on the water and would
drift off to leeward like an irresponsible she-crab.
Thus leeway must be estimated by experience. It is often a most
disturbing quantity, especially when the weather is foggy and the
channel in which you are steering is perplexing on account of rocks or
shoals. I have already expatiated on the wisdom of anchoring in such a
contingency as this whenever the elements will permit. But, of course,
one is a slave of the winds and the waves, and “bringing-up” is not
always possible. I should, therefore, advise the amateur to carefully
watch his boat and endeavor to find out approximately the amount of
leeway she makes when the first reef is taken in by comparing the
direction of the fore and aft line of the boat with that of her wake.
This method may also be pursued with advantage under all conditions of
wind and weather, and by this means a moderately correct and very useful
table may be made.
The old navigators like the Drakes and the Frobishers had this matter
arranged for them, so when they sailed forth on voyages of great emprise
and portent they were guided by certain tabulated formula that gave them
full and implicit directions for the allowance of leeway. Thus the
skipper of a ship with topgallantsails furled was told to allow one
point; when under double-reefed topsails, one point and a half; when
under close-reefed topsails, two points; when the topsails are furled,
three points and a half; when the fore-course is furled, four points;
when under the mainsail only, five points; when under the balanced
mizzen or mizzen staysail, six points; and when under bare poles, seven
This antiquated method of computation answered very well, for those
sterling and sturdy navigators of the olden times seemed to have had a
rare faculty of achieving their adventurous purpose and of gaining, too,
both fame and fortune. But the commander of a clipper ship, with whom I
sailed as a youngster, undertook to demonstrate to me the absurdity of
any such hard-and-fast rule. We had carried away our three topgallant
masts, off Cape Agulhas, while threshing hard against a westerly gale.
They were whipped out of us like pipe-stems. It took all hands a whole
day to clear away the wreck. Next day the weather moderated sufficiently
for us to have carried every stitch of canvas could we have set it.
There were a number of vessels beating round the Cape, and all took
advantage of the cessation of the gale to spread all their flying kites
to the breeze. Our ship, under three topsails, inner and outer jibs,
foresail, mainsail, crossjack, spanker, foretopmast, maintopmast and
mizzentopmast staysails, beat all the fleet. When it came on to blow
again we were the first to reef, because some of our rigging had got
badly strained in the squall that took our topgallantmasts away. Still
we maintained our lead, although jogging along comfortably while our
opponents were driving at it, hugging their topgallantsails and with lee
“Now,” said our captain, coming on the poop after he had worked up his
dead reckoning at noontime, “you see all those ships dead to
leeward—well they ought to be to windward of us unless all the books on
navigation are wrong. I have entered in my traverse-table the courses we
were supposed to have made good under the old rule, and have thus proved
its falsity. The fact is the ships that were turned out in the days when
these nautical axioms were first propounded were built by the mile and
cut off in lengths to suit. They had no shape to speak of below the
water-line, and perhaps the rule applied to each alike. Times are
different now, and leeway must be determined by the model of the ship.”
The rule for reckoning leeway is as follows:
Wind on starboard side, allow leeway to the left.
Wind on port side, allow leeway to the right.
Or you may thus define it:
Vessel on starboard tack, allow leeway to the left.
Vessel on port tack, allow leeway to the right.
In this connection it might be well to urge the young mariner against
keeping his boat all a-shiver and bucking against a head sea, and all
the while sagging off bodily to leeward. It is better far to keep the
wake right astern and keep way on the vessel—unless, of course, the
weather is too violent.
The direction and rate of tides and currents have also to be allowed for
when correcting a compass course. Thus in crossing Long Island Sound
from Larchmont to Oyster Bay in thick weather, the magnetic course as
given in the Government chart would have to be rectified and allowance
made for the condition of the tide, whether ebb or flood, or your boat
might never reach her destination.