10 Oct Dousing the Tops’l
In this #TallShipTuesay, Providence’s Boatswain walked us through dousing the tops’l. This basically means taking in our square sail that powers our ship. To do this, it takes the work of several deckhands. On ships that sail for days or weeks at a time, it must be done swiftly and carefully underway. When out on the high seas, the swells of the waves make the topyard bounce up and down. A very unsteady footing for sailors. In the 18th century they didn’t necessarily have foot ropes to stand on and certainly did not have harnesses to keep them from falling.
Steps to take in the Tops’l
1. Ease the Halyard
To start, one person eases the halyard. The halyard is the line that holds up our yard (what the sail is attached to) and stretches out the sail. Hand over hand, the deckhand lowers the yard in a lively manner using this line. On a ship, we say lively to mean quickly and handsomely to mean slowly. Once the line is slack they can then let go of the line.
2. Cast the Sheets
To cast the sheets, one person must be ready on the port, and another on the starboard side to hold onto both of the sheets. These lines hold the corners of the sail in place. To take in that sail we must cast them off or untie them from the rail. once they are free, the crew may haul them up to the yard using different lines.
3. Haul the Bunts
Once the sheets are cast, one person hauls on the bunts (also known as the buntl’n). This pulls the middle of the sail up to the yard where the deckhand quickly ties it off to our shear poles. The bunts are the smaller of the two lines.
4. Clew Up
Once the middle of the sheet is up, the clewl’n is hauled up to yard. This line pulls the corners of the sail inboard. The deckhand then makes it off to the shear pole next to the buntl’n. The clews are the larger of the two lines.
5. Make Fast and furl the sail
Once the sail is doused, all of the lines are tied off so none of the lines move. Now the crew climbs up and furls the sail. This means they fold it in and tie it to the yard as to keep it from blowing around in the wind while not using the sail as that can cause damage not just to the sail, but the ship as well. Watch this week’s YouTube Video to see our crew dousing the tops’l.