22 Aug How to set the Tops’l
Providence historically was a unique ship because of her small size and versatile sails. Each of her sails could be set or doused in different combinations to suit the winds. This allowed Providence to sail very quickly to catch up with or run away from larger enemy ships and to garner a reputation of being very fast and very lucky. On this week’s #TallShipTuesday, we set the Tops’l (or the “Top Sail” for you landlubbers). The Tops’l is Providence’s square sail. Square sails are “downwind” sails, meaning they provide the most power with the wind blowing from behind the ship. It is less versatile than our fore-and-aft rigged Mains’l, but when the wind is right it gives us the most speed out of any of our sails.
Preparing the Tops’l
Before we even begin to set the Tops’l, first our brave crew must climb aloft and single up. This means untying the sail from the yard. Each sailor dons a harness and climbs up the shrouds. Once aloft, they take off all but one of the gaskets that are holding the sail to the yard. The last one will be done while underway just before the sail is set.
Cast the Gear
First is the gear which is found tied to our port and starboard shear poles using a clove hitch. The gear consists of the Clewl’n and the Buntl’n these are used to pull in the sheets when dousing the sail, so they just need to be cast off when setting. To cast them off, untie the clove hitch down to one turn, then pull the single strand of the line, so the bight turns around the pole.
Next are our sheets, which are hauled upon when we are setting the sail to pull the corners into place on our Crossjack Yard.
Raising the Tops’l Yard
After that is the Halyard where you haul on the line to lift up the tops’l yard, and stretch out the sail. This will generally take more than one person. One to haul on the line, and the other to carefully tail.
While you do this, you must have hands tending the braces. When the halyard is raised, the line will become too tight and stop the yard from raising up any further. The braces are found all the way forward. The inboardmost lines are the tops’l yard braces. As the yard goes up, be sure to ease.
Make Fast, Coil, and Ballantine
Once the sail is set, the crew then must secure all of the lines. With our Halyards, it is important to Ballantine coil the lines. This will keep them from getting tangled up when we douse the sail.