You're right; fore-and-aft sails did/still do also have reefing bands and points, and no one had to go aloft to do the reefing when it was done. Notice how the reef bands are on the lower end of the sail. To shorten a fore-and-aft sail you just lower the gaff (the small boom at the top of the sail) and tie the reef points off at the bottom. That's what makes vessels like schooners easier for fewer people to handle. Theoretically all you need is one or two people per mast, plus one at the helm, a mate, and a captain (and a cook if you really don't want to "round robin" the job). So a three-masted schooner can operate with a crew of as little as 12-14, and they can work all masts simultaneously if necessary. A full-rigged ship (such as the CUTTY SARK) would take a crew upwards of 55 or more, and they'd be working one mast at a time.
And if I remember the episode in question correctly, James was chasing another ship down, gaining, and sluicing his sails to outrun even faster it before it entered someone's territorial waters. (Which didn't stop James anyway as I think he had to send his small boat into those territorial waters to get the person he was after.)
Thanks Richard & Dino for the descriptions of work aloft & the photos!
I'd rather navigate. Even with modern safety equipment it sounds
extremely dangerous. Not to mention the weight of the sail you're
pulling up and the difficulty of grabbing it when it is full of wind.
I just spotted what may be gaskets(?) 19 min 31 seconds in to S6N6 The
Reverend's Daughter . I think that's a fore&aft sail, so nobody would go
aloft to shorten it, but I suppose they're still used to tie it at
Yes, the context of sluicing S?N? was James trying to get more speed
(did he EVER want less?) by hauling buckets of seawater aloft and
throwing the water on the sails.
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