Here we are, almost at the end of discussing the rigging of Mayflower II sails. Hopefully I haven’t put too many blog followers to sleep as I’ve gone along. I hope that you’ve found it informative and remember, don’t be shy – if you have any questions or comments about one of Peter or my postings don’t hesitate to utilize the “Comments” feature attached to each blog entry.
This edition of sail rigging will discuss the fore and main courses, the ship’s primary sources of forward thrust, her driving sails. These sails are rigged much like all the others with mostly all of the same running gear we have discussed already. To set the courses, we have “sheets” and “tacks” which control the lower corners (or “clews”) of these square sails. The rigging plan drawn by Mr. Baker displays the courses and the spritsail all with sheets rigged with purchases.
This is one of a few notable discrepancies between what was planned and what actually came into reality. Captain Villiers felt that with an experienced crew the sheets’ purchases weren’t necessary so they were dispensed with and so far in the last 51 years sheets with purchases have never been fitted, although we discussed it back in early 1990. However the time and expense of having rather large lead blocks manufactured by block-maker Arthur Dauphinee in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia put an end to any of our perhaps overly-ambitious plan, although Mr. Dauphinee would at different times supply us with deadeyes for our new topmast shrouds and blocks and bullseyes for topsail and course bowlines.
To douse the courses, there are the usual lines that we’ve mentioned before – “clewlines,” “buntlines,” and “martinets,” the latter talked about when the mizzen sail was explained. To better help smother these large sails in 1957 there were 5 buntlines on the main course and 4 buntlines on the fore course. There were also metal-ring “buntline thimbles” sewn into the forward side of each sail through which the buntlines were led, thus drawing the sail up tighter to the yard, rather than just somewhat “halving” the sail. The new sails now on the Mayflower follow the rigging plan quite closely and there are only the requisite (and “historically accurate”) 3 buntlines on each of the courses and buntline thimbles are not present. And let us not forget the “martinets” which on the main and fore sails are a bit more complicated than those on the mizzen. There basic purpose is the same on the courses – to form a web-like net around the leeches of the sail to draw it up to the yard so that it can be securely lashed there with gaskets. As I said the martinets on the courses are a bit more complex than those on the mizzen…the upper ends of the martinets have a pendant slung over the topmast heads and below that a block-and-tackle purchase arrangement is formed with the hauling parts led down to the deck. Even though it sounds like a strange set-up in place of just a single leechline or two on each sail, the martinets when rigged properly do work well to spill the wind from the courses and help to draw them up snugly to the yards. Also worth mentioning here are a couple of interesting things about the main yard and fore yard. When the ship was built in England these yards were fitted with large wooden saddles at their centerlines. These served the purpose of helping to prevent the heavy lower yards of crashing back into (and gouging) the lower masts. When correctly aligned these saddles also allowed the main and fore yards to sit out away forward of the masts. This was significant because it allowed the yards to be braced around even more sharply when the ship was sailing close-hauled; with the saddles the yards could swing further around before they actually started to chafe against the lower masts’ forward shrouds. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for those concerned with historical accuracy) the saddles were removed in the mid-1960’s so the lower yards can no longer be braced around quite as far as in Mayflower’s earlier days. And, also, I’ll mention the other deciding factor on how much the yards can be braced – the brace pendants which lead aft from the yardarms. We discovered in 1990 that these pendants, too, had stretched out and were longer than what they should have been. This would have the net effect of the brace pendants becoming “two-blocked,” that is to say the pendant blocks would meet the lead blocks and no amount of hauling on the running parts of the braces from the deck would allow the yards to brace around any further. So we had to go to work and shorten ALL the brace pendants on ALL of the yards. After this, we had no further troubles.