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    Re: Massachusetts schooners, 1750s
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2008 Dec 23, 18:22 -0000

    It's always gratifying when a new topic tempts old-lurkers from their dens
    and brings them out, blinking, into public view. I hope for further
    postings. So thanks to William Sellar, John Rae, and  Frank Reed too, for
    helpful and perceptive comments about the New England schooners of colonial
    days. Clearly, I need to consult Chappelle when the University awakens after
    its break (not until Jan 5).
    
    Both William and John mention a stay that joins the heads of the two masts,
    the "triadic" stay, as John calls it, though I'm more familiar with
    "triatic". That was indeed a common way of supporting, from forward, a
    schooner's mainmast (and also the further-aft masts on multi-mast jobs). It
    had serious snags, though. Because the masts were no longer supported
    independently, if one failed, it could bring down the others too.
    
    In their book on the 4-mast Schooner, "Bertha L Downs", Greenhill and
    Manning describe an event on the 5-mast "Gov. Ames", which must have been
    around 1900-
    "The stretch which developed in her new rigging gave concern, so she was
    anchored and her sails furled. The violent pitching that ensued caused a
    splice to fail in one of her headstays. Almost immediately the foremast and
    mainmast snapped close to the deck and crashed overboard to starboard,
    followed in short order by the three after masts, which fell fore and aft
    along the deck".
    
    But my curiosity about the smaller and earlier schooners wa aroused by the
    attached picture of "Baltick", a thumbnail of a well-known picture by an
    unknown artist held at the Peabody Essex Museum. The text (rather fuzzy in
    this low-resolution image) reads  "This shews the Schooner BALTICK Coming
    out of St Eustatia, ye 16th Novr 1765". That's a schooner of the right
    period, presumably of New England build.
    
    It's a pretty picture, but does it represent reality? You will see that the
    mainmast is held up by a mainstay, which judging from its angle won't reach
    deck-level until some way along the bowsprit, and what's more, carries its
    own, large, staysail. And that stay, and staysail, occupy just the
    swinging-room, aft of the foremast, which the boomed gaff-foresail needs to
    occupy when changing tack. The arrangement Frank described, having two such
    forestays, going down to deck-level port and starboard, presents similar
    problems.
    
    So how would you contrive to put such a vessel about? It would be somewhat
    easier if the foresail was loose-footed, without a boom, and the sail could
    then be brailed up and over the mainstay when going about, perhaps given a
    pair of sheets, one each side: the leeward one held taut, the other passing
    loosely over the mainstay. It would be even harder to manage, if the
    foresail was boomed, as the Baltick picture clearly shows it was. Many
    pictures of schooners I've seen show that it was common for two masted
    vessels to have a loose-footed foresail and a boomed mainsail.
    
    Does that rig of Baltick give others the same difficulties that worry me?
    Not all ship-artists knew about the practical working of such vessels,
    commonplace though they would have been in their era. Did this one get it
    right?
    
    George.
    
    contact George Huxtable, at  george@hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    
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