RE: Onedin Polls

Forum Forums General Discussions Onedin Polls RE: Onedin Polls


Let me start off by saying that I'm the first one to say "I stand corrected" when I make a mistake, so worry not about "falling out" by e-mail. (As I mentioned, it has been some years since I was active in my living history group, so some of my info has gotten a little cloudy.) Once you started in about where the reefing points were tied off to and which side of a sail was goosewinged, I pulled a Homer Simpson… "DOH!"… and promptly had the heel of my hand make contact with my forehead. To be fair, I talked mainly at the Navigation Display – qualified underway Quartermaster of the Watch, which as an Electronics Tech was an accomplishment – helped me out there. I also did the Small Arms display (OJT for that one), and I developed a Ship's Carpenter display, again learning it all OJT while restoring an old wooden skiff for one of our local historic houses: accumulated a lot of period tools to work with, too. That was fun! (Seriously, it was.)

I rarely stood by at the Rigs and Rigging Display (which also dealt with sail-handling), but back then I knew that stuff. But as they say, 'if you don't use it, you lose it'. So I haven't "completely" lost the bit on sail-handling, but I have gotten cloudy and I do thank you for clearing up my misinformation, and for refreshing my memory. The other three Displays I worked I did so much they're ingrained in me and I doubt I'll forget those. 😉

Coast Guard Cutters – at least the ones from the mid 1980s on – are top-heavy, and to coin a phrase, "roll like pigs". More aptly, they ride like a Styrofoam cup in a jacuzzi! They have "stabilizer fins" at the bilge keel to counteract the rolling, but all they do is turn what would be a smooth rolling into a 'whipping' action, so the ride is even worse. I was on the CGC Harriet Lane during The Perfect Storm and we got the crap knocked out of us. Then in August 2004 when I was on CGC Legare, just back in the Atlantic from coming through the Panama Canal, with the seas at an 8-foot chop we rolled so badly that it threw my back out and I ended up having lower back surgery which haunted me from then on, leading to a series of ER visits, a second surgery in mid 2010 after my back slipped out again, this time causing sciatic nerve damage, which finally forced my retirement in Feb 2011 (and a third surgery about a year later, and things are still not right).

Now my buoy tender (vintage 1940s) that I was on in the early 1980s didn't have those fins, and she rode so much better even though she rolled quite a bit (round, pig belly hull with an ice-breaking bow). Aboard her we found and placed a wreck buoy at the MARINE ELECTRIC when she went down in a storm. It would be more correct to say the M E found us. It was the middle of the night and we could see the shape of a broken hull on the depth sounder chart recorder, and on a final pass to make sure, the M E's mooring line drifted up and caught us by our screw. Brought us to a screeching halt and held us there until we could get divers to cut the line from our screw later that day. (The divers also confirmed the wreck was the MARINE ELECTRIC, and not another ship.) Now that was creepy: looking off our stern and seeing a heavy line disappearing into the water knowing that 120 feet down at the other end was a 600-or-so-foot cargo ship that had sunk only a day or so before taking 31 of her 34-man crew with her.

I never got to sail aboard EAGLE, though before my tour on LEGARE I was Fleet Support for the AN/SPS-73 Radar and spent many hours (and days) aboard EAGLE repairing her radar. (During OpSail 2000 in Norfolk, VA, my wedding ring ended up inside EAGLE's radar somehow, and they still haven't found it!) I spent all of OpSail aboard her trying to get that radar working. Again just before I went to LEGARE I was aboard EAGLE in New London, CT for a week in May 2003 giving her radar a full going over because she was on her way to the Med for several months. That was way after CAPT Cassidy was the CO, though (1972-1973). The COs when I worked on her radar were CAPT Ivan Luke (OpSail), and CAPT Eric Shaw, who had just taken command from Luke in 2003, though as an enlisted guy like I was, their first names were always "Captain"! And that CO info comes from the CG Historian's web site:


—–Original Message—–
From: R <>
To: shiponedingroup <>
Sent: Thu, May 2, 2013 2:35 pm
Subject: Re: [shiponedingroup] 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.


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