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December 19, 2008

Sailing questions

A couple of people who have read my books have asked about some of the terms I use in relation to ships and sailing - particularly the older types. so here are a couple of pictures which may help. The first is a painting of a rather famous fishing 'smack' - a small handy craft capable of putting to sea after fish (Bigger versions would be labelled 'trawlers') and very seaworthy. Their relatively shallow draught meant they could be beached or at least allowed to "dry out" on a mudbank at low tide. In my first book, Harry and Ferghal rig a cargo hulk (barge) to cross from an island to the mainland and this is the rig they use. It is relatively simple, and can be handled by a small crew quite easily.

de19-001Gimp.jpg The gaff cutter rigged Hyacinth seen in her fastets point of sailing, a broad 'reach' with the wind on her quarter and her sails adjusted to give the maximum power.

Out of Time makes reference to a seventy-four gun ship of the line, HMS Spartan and to a frigate HMS Rajahstan. The next picture shows the frigate HMS Indefatigable (40 guns) 'hove too' off St Mawes in 1795. The number of "guns" given are those mounted on her "gun decks" - the line of gunports seen in the picture as black squares. Her "rate" of 40 guns is the thirteen guns on each side that made up her main battery and the rest on her quarterdeck and Fo'c's'le. It didn't include the "smashers" or Carronades carried on her fo'c's'le. These short barrelled and short range weapons fired large hollow caste iron balls filled with shrapnel which burst on impact - and you may imagine what that did inside a crowded gundeck. The French rightly feared the British carronade and HMS Victory's 68 Pdr forward carronades may well have decided the outcome of the Battle of Trafalgar with their first shot.

de19-003Gimp.jpg HMS Indefatigable hove too to await despatches or a pilot. Note that the sails on the "middle" or Main Mast are "backed" while the others are still trying to drive the ship forward. In effect the counter effort stops the ship and holds her in position.

The entry port can be seen in the ships "bulwarks" the raised "Wall" (The origin of "Gunwales" - literally "Gun Wall" on a ship) running around the upper deck and the "gangways" are a walkway built along the top of these and linking the Quarterdeck to the Fo'c's'le at the bow. Nettings running around the ship at this level were stuffed with the rolled up hammocks used by the seamen during the day and also served to protect the crew from musket fire, shrapnel and splinters in battle. The "Heads" or crew toilets were located on a platform just above the decorative "beakhead" at the bow of the ship and in rough weather their use would have been a wet and rather unpleasant experience on a ship like this.

Posted by The Gray Monk at December 19, 2008 01:00 PM

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how do you become hove to

Posted by: john bennett at December 23, 2008 06:18 AM