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Literally a Single-Handed Rig:

E.F. Knight "Small Boat Sailing" the Cheap Pages

20 March 1920.

SINCE I first took to sailing, many have been the inventions that simplify the handling of a boat for the amateur sailor. Thus, he can now provide himself with a roller jib and a roller mainsail, which enable him quickly and easily to reduce his canvas by rolling his sails up (somewhat as one does with a window blind) instead of having to shift one jib for another according to the strength of the wind, and perform the various operations needed for the reefing down of a mainsail. Then there is the useful auxiliary motor engine which is now carried by so many cruising yachts. The motor enables the owner of a small craft to venture on more extended voyages than would be prudent or even possible with a boat not provided with auxiliary power.

Thus, for example, if he purposes to make a passage across the North Sea from Harwich to Rotterdam, he awaits a 'slant' --conditions that favour the continuation of fine weather and fair winds until he has got to the other side. I have already explained that if one awaits the right moment one can practically insure fine weather for at least twenty-four hours. But fine weather often brings calms; when the small yacht is half way across the sea, the wind may fail her and leave her motionless, until a rapidly falling glass shows that the fine spell is nearing its end, and that she is likely to be 'caught out' and have a bad time of it. With an auxiliary motor to come to the rescue there is no such risk.

But if a novice wishes to make himself a sailor he should dispense with the auxiliary motor until he has mastered certain problems-for example, the way to come up to his moorings under canvas. Some young men make a practice, when entering their port, of lowering their sails, to approach their moorings under motor power. For such a one, who has not learnt his job properly, the day is sure to come when his motor will suddenly break down, as motors will; he will then have his canvas only to rely upon, and he is likely to make a pretty mess of things in his attempts to pick up his mooring buoy, possibly in a crowded anchorage with a strong tide running.

Valuable to all yachtsmen as are the modern inventions of which I have spoken, still more so are they to those who have lost arms or have been otherwise crippled in the Great War. I lost my right arm in the Boer War, so have had ample time to try experiments, and I have come to the conclusion that, with the aid of the devices which I have adopted, it is practically as easy for me now to sail a boat with the left hand only as it was in the old days when I had two arms but had not the benefit of these modern inventions. As many a man who has lost an arm in the war wishes to resume his boat sailing I think it may be of some service to such a one if I now convey the results of my experience as exemplified in my half-decked boat the Ripple, with which I am able to cruise alone, sometimes for a week or so at a stretch, living on board-for with her awning up one can make oneself quite comfortable in her when anchored for the night.


I bought the Ripple about twelve years ago from John Pickett, yacht builder of West Quay, Southampton. My first sailing boat was built for me by Pickett in the middle seventies, and in his yard I had fitted out for all my long voyages. But the yard is no more. My old friend Pickett died during the war, and the yard was commandeered and swept away by the Government -- an ancient landmark familiar to generations of yachtsmen that has disappeared never to return.

For a man who would handle a boat with one hand it is essential that the boat should be able to heave-to well and so enable him to leave his craft to look after herself while he reefs down her sails, or undertakes any other operation that must take him away from the tiller. 'Skimming dishes' and most of the small raters are not suitable for him, for they refuse to heave-to. What he needs is a boat with a good body to her; one that has a good hold of the water, and is therefore not too quick in her action and gives the owner time to carry on the necessary manoeuvres. The Ripple is a Bembridge lug-boat of the old racing class, nearly seventeen feet in length, with a good body, displacing, I think, over a ton, and drawing about two feet with her centre board up.

She was just the boat for me, save for her rig, which was the worst possible rig for a man with one arm. For she was rigged after the fashion of these craft with a mainsail that had a sprit or batten fitted across it. While retaining the old spars and fittings I did away with the batten, and the sail became practically a sliding gunter. The Ripple has a rolling jib, and a Turner's reefing gear is fitted to her boom, which enables the mainsail to be rolled up. The mast can be lowered easily by means of a tabernacle. The Ripple is provided with a motor engine, a Lozier, which is not in the way and can drive her at a speed exceeding six miles an hour. I use no patent cleats for main or jib sheets; for a wooden cleat of a size that fits the rope, in my opinion, is as handy as any patent contrivance. One turn will secure the sheet, and it can be belayed or cast off in the fraction of a second.

There is a socket on the transom, into which a crutch can be inserted for the purpose of sculling with a single oar over the stern - a useful method if one has to move one's craft for but a short distance. The one-armed mariner, if he has not acquired this art of sculling over the stern, should promptly learn it, in order that he may be able to use a dinghy.

Though the conversion of my mainsail from a Bembridge lug to a sliding gunter made it easier to hoist, it was still a very awkward sail to handle for a one-armed man. The sail (see Fig. 70) is bent on to a yard (A, B). At the foot of this yard are leather-covered iron jaws (B) to keep the yard in its place on the mast. Nearly in the centre of the yard is an iron eye (C) to receive the hook of the iron traveller on the mast (D).

To this traveller the main halliard - which is not shown in the diagrams - is attached. The lower portion of the sail between the jaws and the boom is laced to the mast. Now, when getting up the sail it is necessary before one can hook on the traveller, to raise the yard, and a considerable portion of the sail with it, until the yard, with the jaws resting on the boom, is parallel to the mast. When it is blowing hard, and the boat is tumbling about, it is no easy matter to perform this operation with one hand. So I realised that I must fit a topping lift to the peak, as this would enable me to raise the spar and secure it along the mast before I attempted to hook on the traveller. I therefore adopted the device shown in Figs. 70 and 71.

I fastened a jack-stay of wire rope (E) on the yard, extending from the head of the yard to near (C). This stay is rove through a brass thimble (F). To this thimble the peak topping-lift (G) is attached.

In order to get the sail up one first hauls on the peak topping-lift (see Fig. 70). When the peak has been hauled chock-a-block, and the topping-lift has been belayed, the yard lies securely up and down the mast. The traveller is now hooked on, and the hoisting of the sail is completed by hauling on the main halliard, the thimble allowing the jackstay to slide through it. To lower the sail one first lets go the main halliard, and down slides the yard until the jaws rest on the boom. Then the peak topping-lift is let go, which allows the sail to fall gently into the boat.

If the sail has been hauled up as far as it will go with the peak topping-lift alone, that is until the thimble (F) touches the topping-lift block, the head of the yard is level with the mast-head (see Fig. 70). If the foot of the sail is now rolled up by the reefing gear until the luff of the sail is taut, we have the sail close reefed, or nearly so. When reefed down to this extent it is not necessary to hook the traveller on the yard, and the reefed sail can be hoisted or lowered with great ease by employing the peak topping-lift only.


The main halliard is fitted with a gun-tackle purchase. Its fall, after passing through a hole in the deck, is rove through one of Lane's patent blocks, which is fastened near the heel of the mast. I have used these patent blocks for twenty years, but have never seen one in any other boat than the Ripple. If one takes a haul on a rope that has been rove through one of these blocks and then lets go, the rope does not run back, as it is jammed by the mechanism in the block. In order to release the rope, all one has to do is to raise the fall above the horizontal, keeping a slight strain on it, and away runs the rope. A boat rigged as the Ripple is now is a particularly handy one for a one-armed man. the Cheap Pages