All commenters on this post through 11:59 P.M. CDT, May 18, 2013, are eligible to win either a print or e-book copy of Heart’s Safe Passage, book #2 in The Midwives series. Answer the question at the end of this post or share a story of a boating/sailing experience.
|Hearts Safe Passage|
For the adventurous soul, few machines created by man are more a call to adventure than a ship. Thousands of books have been written where the setting is a wooden sailing ship. Unfortunately, the terminology aboard a ship can begin to sound like a foreign language to the average reader. Here, I hope to give a brief primer on sailing ships.
When I was twelve, my family took a vacation to Florida, where I enjoyed the privilege of exploring the ship used in the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty”. Yes, that tall ship from the age of sail that foundered and sank, taking its captain with it, during hurricane Sandy last October. That incident saddened me, for I fell in love with sailing ships upon that wooden lady. For two decades, I read every book I could find on sailing ships, the age of fighting sail and other resources. I even sailed on the HMS Rose, rechristened the Surprise for the movie “Master and Commander”. So I know more than anyone needs to on an average reading day; therefore, will make this simple.
|More info here on the HMS Rose|
Let’s begin with the truth that a ship is a specific type of vessel. It is square rigged and has three masts. Just because something sails on the ocean does not make it a ship. We have brigs and sloops; schooners and brigantines; luggers and. . . you get the idea. These differing names are due to number of masts and type of rigging, lessons to which entire books are devoted and too complex for this post.
Ships themselves are broken into various categories. In the Age of Fighting sail, these delineations were crucial. For an example that drives me a little crazy, a frigate is a naval vessel. Although the lengths vary, it is around 150 feet long and usually carried 32-42 guns. Frigates were not used by private citizens except perhaps a pirate who had stolen one. And if he did, you better believe somebody’s Navy was hot on his rudder.
And what is a rudder anyway? It’s that big piece of wood that drops down into the water and helps steer the ship. Cables connect it to the wheel or tiller, in a smaller craft.
And speaking of cables, sailing vessels have lines and hawsers; cables and chains; they do not have ropes. These things may be made of hemp and look like ropes to landlubbers. They, however, aren’t called ropes upon a ship, as each type of “rope” has a specific purpose.
One of those purposes is the rigging. That’s really complicated, so let me talk about a few things here. A sheet is a type of line. Despite how it sounds, it is not a type of sail. It’s attached to the sails to help keep them from flying off to nowhere, which is where we get the expression “three sheets to the wind” for someone who’s inebriated. If a vessel has three sheets of a sail flapping in the wind, that sail is likely to tear away and leave the craft wallowing and going nowhere.
Other rigging lines are shrouds and ratlines. Shrouds are the horizontal lines that help support the masts. Ratlines are the vertical lines, which, along with the shrouds, form a sort of ladder to the top.
Come back on June 15 for Part II and more chances to win Heart’s Safe Passage and. . . Something else.
What books set aboard a sailing craft have you read? If you haven’t read any, will you tell us why not?