RE: Onedin Polls

Forum Forums General Discussions Onedin Polls RE: Onedin Polls

Reefing a square sail was back in the days when topsails and topgallants were single sails and very large, it wasn't an efficient way to reduce sail requiring reefing tackles and lots of men going aloft to tie the reef points. Common sense and practicality eventually prevailed and both sails were divided into uppers and lowers particularly on really tall ships with double t'gallants, mostly it was the topsails that got divided, the whole upper yard being able to slide up and down it's section of mast (see Sorlandet photo and the crew having finised the upper topsail and climbing straight down to help on the lower topsail), most of the work being done from the deck and a much quicker way of reducing sail.
Goosewinging was I'm afraid to say, done the other way around. When running down wind or more likely with the wind on the quarter it was the windward side of the sail that was left full to catch the brunt of the wind and the leeward side simply clewed up because it was in the lee and flogging, it was not a practice done in particularly heavy weather, more the direction of wind. Modern yachts do it for the same reasons when sailing downwind, the mainsail goes one side and the headsail the other so as not to flog. There are old photos of square sails in a goose wing condition with the windward side clewed up and men on the yard reducing sail but that was an attempt at 'killing' the sail to allow them to furl it. I've been in that situation and can tell you the ballooned out winward end of the sail is like concrete and you can do nothing with it.
Please forgive me for taking you to task again, I'm not trying to be argumentative and it's all too easy to fall out by email but reef points were never tied around spars, they still aren't, the grommets and usually triangular patches they are sewn into simply aren't man enough to take the strain of heavy weather, the whole reason for reducing sail.
In the case of reef points on square sails the sail was bunted up to the yard and the points were taken either side of the reduced canvas and around the boltrope along the top edge of the sail, not the yard, the reefing tackles would then pull the new head as taught as possible, the individual reef points then share the load with the boltrope.
Reefing square sails died out long before James' day!   
I don't think I would have liked going aloft on your Coast Guard cutter either, motor vessels have a much sharper roll, at least tallships rolled long but slow! Did you ever serve under Capt.Cassidy on the US barque 'Eagle' by any chance? He was my captain onboard the four mast barque 'Sea Cloud' in the Med.

— On Thu, 2/5/13, <> wrote:

From: <>
Subject: Re: [shiponedingroup] Re: Onedin Polls
Date: Thursday, 2 May, 2013, 16:14


"R" sent a very detailed reply on what going aloft is like. I'm just glad I never had to do that in my Coast Guard career, other than to work on a wonky radar pedestal, and even that was a bit of a trial when the Cutter was rolling (and as I got older I found that I could no longer handle heights!). But there was one thing in R's reply I didn't see: Reefing sail.

Have you ever noticed those horizontal bands on a square sail, and how those bands have "strings" dangling from then every few feet across? Those bands are Reefing bands. (Excuse my terminology if I get something a little off; it's been ages since I've talked about this in my living history group.) And those "strings" are Reefing Points: pieces of line (rope) that run through grommets in the sail so the line dangles on the fore and aft sides of the sail.

Those are used to reef, or "shorten sail" so the ship can keep some sail rather than furling the whole sail and leaving the yard "bare". You heave in the sail just as R described until you reach one of the reefing bands. (Some large sails such as the topgallant can have upwards of three reefing bands. The captain will determine just how much sail he wants to leave out, and that determines which reefing band you'll use.)

Once you have the reefing band at hand, those reefing points I mentioned are used to tie the sail around the yard; the line is tied off with a square or "reef" knot (not a "granny" knot, which looks similar, but will slip loose). That's how you reef and tie off a sail. The captain would order sails reefed if the weather was turning harsh and carrying full sail would result in either a broken mast, snapped rigging, or worse. If things got really bad then all sails would be furled and the ship would continue under "bare poles"; the wind would be strong enough that the rigging would catch enough of it to push the ship along. (But we're talking winds near hurricane force now.)

The captain could also order a sail – usually one of the forward, lower sails such as a lower topsail – to be "goose-winged". This is when the weather side of the sail (the side taking the brunt of the wind) would be completely furled, and the lee side (the part of the sail on the other side of the ship, where the mast and rigging would block some of the force) would be reefed; you had a triangular portion of a square sail exposed, so you weren't under bare poles. It offered a little more speed and that gave you a little more rudder control.

As for sluicing sails… I believe that's when buckets of water (and this would be sea water) are hauled up the mast and poured on the sails to wet them down. As most people are aware, a wet cloth will catch and hold the wind better than a dry one, and the same holds true for sails. During the War of 1812, in one engagement, the USS CONSTITUTION used this method to catch a little more wind and outrun a heavier armed British warship. (I believe Onedin used this trick in an episode or two to overtake another ship.)


—–Original Message—–
From: Lee Bonnifield <>
To: shiponedingroup <>
Sent: Wed, May 1, 2013 10:56 pm
Subject: Re: [shiponedingroup] Re: Onedin Polls

I'm not clear on what you do up there — raise the
bottom edge of square sails (reef)? tie it (with what?) to yard
(dictionary says sailor rolls it up hence he's called "reefer".) Untie
it? And why sluice sails S?N? ?

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]