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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 maneuvered 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.

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 modem 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 perfection.

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 different rig.

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 in 1903, 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 off 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.

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.1.


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.2.
Running Before the Wind.


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 jib topsail 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 jib topsail 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 her course.

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 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 maneuver 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.


Diagram No.3.

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 maneuver is easily performed.


Diagram No.4.
Close Hauled on Port Tack.


Diagrams Nos. 4 and 5 show the same racing yacht close hauled on the port and starboard tack. The spinnaker and balloon jib topsail are taken in. A small jib topsail 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.5
Close Hauled on Starboard Tack.


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.6
Dead Beat to Windward


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.7.
A Long Leg and a Short Leg.



Diagram No.8 depicts the maneuver 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.


Diagram No.8.



In beating to windward in a strong breeze and a heavy sea leeway must be considered.

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 leeward.

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 points.

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 better."


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.




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.


Whip purchase and traveler.
[used on sprit rig, below]


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 watertight 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.

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 regret.

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 masthead 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.


Jib and Mainsail Rig.


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 life-preservers.

The boat should be equipped with three oars (as one may be broken), a boathook 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 self-reproach.

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 eve 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 stargazing. 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 box.

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 linen-draper.

That is one reason why I don't go sailing single-handed any more 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 be.

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.

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 Fig.1.

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 mast head 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.


Sprit Rig.



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.


Leg-of-Mutton Rig.


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 bobstay. 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.


Sliding Gunter Rig


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 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.


Detail of Sliding Gunter Rig.


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.


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 bobstay, may help to secure the mast.


Cat Rig.



Folding Centerboard



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1.0 07/30/00

Edited by Craig O'Donnell.
Etext & images ©2000 Craig O'Donnell, all the usual whining applies.