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Thread: Small Boat Square Rig

  1. #1
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    Default Small Boat Square Rig

    Can anyone point me toward a book discussing square rig for down-wind work on otherwise fore-and-aft rigged small boats?

    For instance, an acquaintence of mine had a 28' gaff-rigged cutter (Plumbelly) on which he would set a squaresail for longer downwind runs --and he took the boat around the world, so he did a fair number of those.

    I seem to recall reading an article(?) at some point, discussing optimum width-to-height ratios, taper from head to foot, ways of setting up jackstays, etc. It's that sort of info I'm curious about.

    This is mostly idle curiosity; I doubt I'd ever set Bucephalus up with a squaresail --principally because I can't afford the materials to make it all happen. But it could be fun! And it's far more interesting to think about squaresails than boring old double-headsails...

    Alex

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Jan Godal, Director of the Fosen School in Åfjord, Norway wrote a monograph about the old single square sail vessels from Northern Norway, don’t believe it has been translated into English. But this is a little different from adding a square sail to another rig.
    Then there is Harold Underhill’s “Masting and Rigging...and I can’t remember the rest of the title about all the details of full rigged ships.
    The museums in Norway and Denmark also have a lot of materials on this,again, don’t know if there are English translations.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    I think Tom Cunliffe's book on Gaff Rigs covers this as do the various books on yacht rigging published before WWII. The four volume Godal set has detailed information on rigging single sails for open boats, but hasn't been translated.
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Cunliffe's "Hand, Reef, and Steer" mentions square rig favorably, but says only, "if you're interested, go hunt for pre-WWII books on it." Maybe he has another book on it? (I first thought of him, since the image I have in my head of the article I read has an illustration very much in his style.)

    Underhill's "Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier" only looks at the big girls, not little boats. Good general info, but not the specifics I'm hoping for.

    I've got both of those on the shelf. They're good books.

    Godal gives me another reason to learn Norwegian...

    Thank you, though. Keep 'em coming; the madness fuel is welcome.

    Alex

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Cunliffe mentions the watersail in "Hand, Reef, and Steer", which is basically any spare piece of cloth hung below the boom for downwind running

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Thread (with links) on another forum:
    http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread...yone-used-one&

    The Hellenic Traders (LINK) series has a fair amount of ancient square rig seamanship and sail handling you might enjoy reading.
    Hellenic Traders refers to a series of historical fiction books published by TOR and written by H.N. Turteltaub (a pseudonym of Harry Turtledove). The books center around cousins Menedemos and Sostratos who work as seaborne traders in the years following the death of Alexander the Great. The series is notable for a high degree of historical accuracy.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Bolger has a chapter on square rigs in "103 Sailing Rigs"

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    They have a lot of strings to pull, even for one sail.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Watersails are fun. I've improvised one out of an old jib, just as Cunliffe suggests, and got a lot of funny looks and not much more speed. It can be quite a psychological advantage on a racecourse, though.

    Turtledove is always good, so I might pick those up eventually, but they don't sound like quite what I'm looking for.

    Sounds like I need to start keeping an eye open for Bolger. I don't have him on my shelf yet, which seems a shortcoming.

    I've played with square rig a bit myself, aboard Californian, and working as a rigger at Mystic Seaport got me pretty familiar with the demands of the rig in general. It's that I could swear I've read up on the specific evolution of the square rig in the context of a down-wind alternative to a spinnaker, or to twin-headsails, for smaller fore-and-aft rigged vessels.

    I have it in my head that the article(?) I once read had a considerably simplified version for small boat work. There were a required minimum of strings to pull, of course --braces, sheets-- but no worse than a spinnaker. I remember a sail laced to a yard with a halyard system that somehow combined halyards and lifts, so two braces, two sheets, and two halyards, which really isn't bad for a downwind sail on a long run. I want to say there was another version that was essentially a raffee and course combined, with the yard spreading the corners of the raffee and the head of the course, but with a single halyard simply coming to the peak of the raffee and carrying the weight of the (light) yard and course as well. I just wish I could remember where I saw all of that!

    Neither of those would be as simple as twins, of course, but to my experience they'd be the same complexity as a spinnaker and a lot easier/safer to fly. And, since this is all in my realm of fantasy, much more interesting to contemplate than a spinnaker.

    Thank you all,
    Alex

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Maybe search the old Popular Mechanics put a sail on your canoe type articles from 70 years ago. Don't know if those contained real old world info or made up cartoons that wouldn't work.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    I think there was at least a photo in an early book on cruising of Thomas Ratsey's gaff cutter, "Dolly Varden" with a square sail (here's a Google Books entry from "Motor Boat" magazine - https://books.google.com/books?id=TO...20sail&f=false) and I also seem to remember a square sail on a Gartside small boat when reviewed by Mike O'Brien in WB magazine. It may have been the "Flashboat and Schooner" article

    As far as early (pre WW2) books, Francis B Cooke's work springs to mind. There's a .pdf sample here - http://dickdubya.com/lodestarbooks/w...nts-Sample.pdf, which unfortunately doesn't include the section on square sails. It's a lead though, and there's other material that may be off interest.

    Good luck!

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Claud Worth's 1934 Yacht Cruising has a couple of pages on the square. Summary, width twice beam, yard length also twice the beam.Deep reef or bonnet to half the area, wire jackstay runs down forward of the mast, yard is shackled to jacksta. Staysail halyard hooked to slings to hoist, fall is used as a down haul. Sheets to clews run outside the rig. Hoist almost equal to head and foot, should ride above the running lights. There is a page or two on handling the sail. He also recommends E. G. Martin's Deep Water Cruising. There is also information on proportioing the spar.

    My guess is that this information is also in other yachting books of that area, possibly in Uffa Fox's stuff. Some of the famous boats of the era are SAOIRSE and JOLIE BRISE which carried squares.
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Friend with a Benford 34ft gaff ketch had two yards on the mainmast and set square sails. Though, IIRR, he only used them once or twice at sea, as it was a bit of a faff to set while single handed.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Conor O'Brien used it. In Holland several charter vessels have it also to give the guests the illusion they are on a pirate ship. Find and study the pictures. Only time I sailed with it was in Viking Ship replica Roar Ege in Roskilde. Great fun. And I made a square sail for another Viking Ship replica that was built by boatyard 'De Hudson' in Rotterdam. I used Clipper canvas. From an article in a Dutch trad. sailing mag I understand it worked well. The nice thing with square sails is that you have to lay out only half the sail on the floor, as the other half mirrors them. Its not rocket science. Frank
    www.oarandsail.nl

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew2 View Post
    Friend with a Benford 34ft gaff ketch had two yards on the mainmast and set square sails. Though, IIRR, he only used them once or twice at sea, as it was a bit of a faff to set while single handed.
    The Martin book details how to set this up the two yard system.

    The big difference between the Norse et al and cruising boat rigs is the use of jackstays. Because you have a fore and aft sail on tracks, hooped or laced to the mast you can't use parrel systems or other means to hold the yard to the mast. You need a jack stay. The big Baltimore Clipper schooners of the 1812 era used them to set the light wind big fore courses with the yard equal to the beam of the schooner and the head cringles hauled out to the lower topsail yard.The yard itself ran up on the jackstay
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    I've done it, on Drake.

    It works surprisingly well. You can close-reach with it and get an airfoil curve to the sail. And you can't jibe! But it takes a lot of ropes, as was said. And unless you are running downwind all day, it takes an additional crewman to run it.

    Every time you adjust the braces you need to adjust the sheets. Busy work if the course or the wind keeps changing.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    You can do this very cheaply if you're not concerned with looking yachty. Heck, a blue tarp, a big piece of bamboo, and some spare lines would get you quite far. One big difficulty with squares on modern boats is that the spreaders often interfere with bracing the yard very far from dead downwind. Here's a simple bit on rigging one from Self-Steering without a Windvane by Lee Woas on the subject:

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/14ur3pyjET9Jc9Wj2

    Great book if you can find a copy of it. Would love to see the results if you get something rigged up.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hadfield View Post
    I've done it, on Drake.

    It works surprisingly well. You can close-reach with it and get an airfoil curve to the sail. And you can't jibe! But it takes a lot of ropes, as was said. And unless you are running downwind all day, it takes an additional crewman to run it.

    Every time you adjust the braces you need to adjust the sheets. Busy work if the course or the wind keeps changing.
    Worth only set up a brace for the yard when beam reaching otherwise it was just the sheets and just used one. And the use of an existing halyard. The jackstay was the key.

    I don't know about jibing. Worth had no problem with it but there isn't an issue as long as you don't have a brace in the way. I'd need to go back to the book but on a reach to reach jibe you would drop the spar, set up a new brace then rehoist. With my Norwegian square jibing is a non issue.
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Claud Worth's 1934 Yacht Cruising has a couple of pages on the square. Summary, width twice beam, yard length also twice the beam.Deep reef or bonnet to half the area, wire jackstay runs down forward of the mast, yard is shackled to jacksta. Staysail halyard hooked to slings to hoist, fall is used as a down haul. Sheets to clews run outside the rig. Hoist almost equal to head and foot, should ride above the running lights. There is a page or two on handling the sail. He also recommends E. G. Martin's Deep Water Cruising. There is also information on proportioing the spar.
    Perfect! That's the sort of summary I was looking for. Now I need to see if I can chase down a copy of those books. I've always been a fan of Tern IV and Alzavola, so it won't be any hardship to have a copy on the shelf.

    In light of contending with track, hoops, or lacings of the mainsail, it makes sense that the jackstay would be a critical element. What I have in my head, should I ever try this aboard Bucephalus, is to run the yard up on the jib halyard (gaff-rigged sloop, so only one headsail, no spreaders), with some sort of traveller at the center of the yard running on the fall of the halyard, so that the halyard serves as the jackstay as well. (I currently use a similar arrangement at the heel of Bucephalus's F&A topsail yard.) Follow Claude Worth's protocol and make off the bitter end of the halyard to the slings as well, to serve as a downhaul and to better tension the fall of the halyard/jackstay, thus preventing the yard from kiting.

    That makes sense that the braces wouldn't be entirely necessary unless one were on a beam reach. It sure reduces the number of strings, too: Halyard and two sheets. That's not too bad. And without braces to foul the main, jibing becomes a non-issue.

    I don't doubt that getting it aloft or back to the deck could turn into a mess, though. And unless you were holding a course for a couple hours, it seems like more nuisance than it's worth. There's a reason drifters and spinnakers are popular on daysailers and squaresails aren't.

    A detail I've been mulling is whether, on a boat as small as mine, one of Duckworks's carbon fiber ferrules in the center of the yard would provide sufficient strength and allow the yard to stow more compactly. The slings would want to be made off outboard of the ferrule, of course.

    Well, if I somehow come up with the cash for the sailcloth and a ferrule --I expect I could find the rest of the supplies in my "chandlery"-- it could be a really fun project.

    Alex

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    I know of several boats that include a square sail, in their sail inventory. I have photos, though none with me. L.F. Herreshoff included a square sail on the Marco Polo.
    I also knew a guy that experimented with a square sail on a telescoping mast on a fairly standard 20+ ft FG sailboat. The telescoping mast was to allow him to keep the boat in a boat house. I do not know how well the boat sailed, but saw him going out pretty much weekly for more than a year, including a lot of winter sailing.
    My own thoughts. I think I'd choose a flat cut spinnaker....(baggy drifter) much as what Mr Bolger used to recommend. The flatter cut meant the sail did not need as much attention (cruising not racing) but still pulled strongly. fewer strings and easier to manage....

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Koschmann View Post
    Bolger has a chapter on square rigs in "103 Sailing Rigs"
    Dipping into "Boat Design Quarterly" No. 5, I see there is a brigantine by Bolger featured and the entry offers plenty of detail. The same design shows up in Bolger's "Boats with an Open Mind."

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Have you thought of the old fashioned flat spinnaker?

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    You want braces. A square is not just a downwind chute. And the wind is seldom from dead astern.

    Braces also take take some of the pulling load, the thrust, relieving the mainmast.

    It's easy with a ketch. You run the braces to blocks at the mast head, and then down.

    You need 2 sheets, which run to blocks at the deck edge below and then aft.

    On Drake there is an eyebolt about 4 ft below the mainmast head. I haul the yard up to that on a bridle with the sail bent on and gasketted with rubber bands. When all is set, a sharp tug on a sheet breaks them and sets the sail.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Even though Drake has spreaders the yard can be swivelled 30 degrees or more each way. Probably more.

    Lowering the yard and sail in a breeze can be a bit of a flog. It helps a lot if someone is keeping a little tension on the braces. A jackstay would tame this, but it adds compression to the mainmast, which Drake doesn't need -- light spars.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Given the low-stretch, low-twist lines now available a twin-jib set up with a pole to windward and the leeward jib set to the end of the main boom (perhaps reefed or furled) I'd think the gear would be, by comparison, minimal and more easily set and handed than a square, yet just as entertaining for downwind and broad reaching. I was crew on a Tahiti ketch and we sailed from the Bahamas to Jamaica with the twins and mizzen set for close to the entire passage. Very steady and easy sailing. I sailed a smallish Norwegian boat (17') with its square and the number of different control lines were substantial, but that rig was intended for all points of sail. http://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/g...-three/?page=3
    "... and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago."

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Quote Originally Posted by rbgarr View Post
    Given the low-stretch, low-twist lines now available a twin-jib set up with a pole to windward and the leeward jib set to the end of the main boom (perhaps reefed or furled) I'd think the gear would be, by comparison, minimal and more easily set and handed than a square, yet just as entertaining for downwind and broad reaching. I was crew on a Tahiti ketch and we sailed from the Bahamas to Jamaica with the twins and mizzen set for close to the entire passage. Very steady and easy sailing. I sailed a smallish Norwegian boat (17') with its square and the number of different control lines were substantial, but that rig was intended for all points of sail. http://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/g...-three/?page=3
    On these threads I always wonder why we don't pay attention to the OP's question and then to the people that have actually done it ( which sometimes need research). When we think we are smarter, we tend to over complexify things. Rigging a downwind square for a fore and after, one that is hoisted from the deck has only superficial resemblance to squares that live on yards that stay aloft. Worth's directions are pretty simple and based on the number of boats of that era worked well. The twin jib rig I think was mostly post WWII. My guess is that winches, pretty rare in the 30s would make it easier.

    I don't know who rigged the A shop faering's square. I do know that my afjord's faering is vastly simpler. No braces, a continuous bowline that runs to the stem head from halfway up the luff, a continuous sheet, and a center priar or downhaul to control the foot. I can and have sailed mine with one other person who had never sailed one before. As I recall there was not as much research in those days.
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    a twin-jib set up ... would be, by comparison, minimal and more easily set and handed than a square, yet just as entertaining for downwind and broad reaching.
    Maybe, and I've read a lot about that arrangement --Street, Roth, etc.-- that's quite favorable, but it just doesn't interest me. And since this is for the most part a flight of fancy, I'm really focussing on the squaresail.

    Rigging a downwind square for a fore and after, one that is hoisted from the deck has only superficial resemblance to squares that live on yards that stay aloft.
    Having worked as a rigger on square-riggers, at Mystic Seaport, and having seen illustrations of auxilliary squares for small boats, that is certainly my impression. And my hope, if I'm to ever try it aboard Bucephalus.

    I've done it, on Drake.
    Tell us more about Drake --with pix, if you've got them?

    No braces, a continuous bowline that runs to the stem head from halfway up the luff, a continuous sheet, and a center priar or downhaul to control the foot.
    This is very interesting. It almost sounds like an intermediate stage between square and lug. How do you like it? That priar catches my attention, too; it seems a good addition for basic control, even if I would only be using the squaresail downwind.

    Alex

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    The pictures are on my thread in Designs, but PhotoStuffit has severed the links. I'll restore them as soon as I can.

    But yes, I did the dirty deed. I read all those books, then made and used the rig.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Pitsligo View Post
    This is very interesting. It almost sounds like an intermediate stage between square and lug. How do you like it? That priar catches my attention, too; it seems a good addition for basic control, even if I would only be using the squaresail downwind.

    Alex
    The Norwegians developed their squares into high aspect ration sails. Bigger ones than mine had braces and the bowline running to a crowsfoot to stabilze the luff. The tack is bowsed down to a sailstick through a hole in the sheer strake, said sailstick looking like a belaying pin. They also had a small tackle that could hook into a luff cringle which could be used to tighen up the luff. Little boats don't have that tackle. Quite efficient.Easier to handle than a dipping lug.
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    The Norwegians developed their squares into high aspect ration sails. Bigger ones than mine had braces and the bowline running to a crowsfoot to stabilze the luff. The tack is bowsed down to a sailstick through a hole in the sheer strake, said sailstick looking like a belaying pin. They also had a small tackle that could hook into a luff cringle which could be used to tighen up the luff. Little boats don't have that tackle. Quite efficient.Easier to handle than a dipping lug.
    I was the builder Lance Lee brought back to the Apprenticeshop to build and rig the Sognabåt along with Dave Foster and rbgarr and other apprentices, the sail was fashioned by Nat Wilson. The hull form and build method were direct copies of the original. The rigging involved some extrapolation of data from this particular boat combined with the refinements that had been made in Northern Norway, ie, in Åfjord and Nordland, where the square sail remained in use into the early 20th century. There has been a lot of ethnographic research and experimentation with these older boats.
    Since even the smaller boats had several fishermen aboard, having various control lines such as braces, bow lines, sheets, hoist haliards and priar did not present the problem it might to a small crew or solo recreational user.
    The priar was like a downhaul, spliced to the foot rope of the sail and made fast around the lower portion of the mast. The truly amazing thing about the priar is that it not only helped control the foot of the sail, it helped transmit the tremendous lift of these square sails to the hull.
    It gets even more exciting to contemplate rigging these sails to small craft today when you read that it was one crew man’s job to work the haliard to control the speed when surfing downwind and to dump the sail in the event of a knockdown, you can’t just luff up to kill the power of the sail in a gust, you will be caught aback. And then there is the carefully picked and placed movable ballast-they had to be round stones that would roll out of the hull in a knockdown to help save the boat and crew.
    There were very few able bodied men buried in the graveyards in Northern Norway because the fishery went all winter out on the Norwegian Sea, it wasn’t that the boats or seamanship were poor, it was because they had no real weather forecasting to predict the sudden and vicious squalls.
    Still, given the chance, I think I’d build one in a heartbeat.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Quote Originally Posted by rbgarr View Post
    Given the low-stretch, low-twist lines now available a twin-jib set up with a pole to windward and the leeward jib set to the end of the main boom (perhaps reefed or furled) I'd think the gear would be, by comparison, minimal and more easily set and handed than a square, yet just as entertaining for downwind and broad reaching. I was crew on a Tahiti ketch and we sailed from the Bahamas to Jamaica with the twins and mizzen set for close to the entire passage. Very steady and easy sailing. I sailed a smallish Norwegian boat (17') with its square and the number of different control lines were substantial, but that rig was intended for all points of sail. http://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/g...-three/?page=3
    Good idea, of course. A square has the advantage of being up higher, where the wind is stronger, but in the trades that's not necessarily what you want.

    For a downwind run I think I'd go with whichever makes the boat steer easier. If it'll self-steer with the twin-jibs, that's probably a better choice.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Here's a photo taken from our companion boat, in the North Channel.



    That's my then-11 year-old daughter at the helm.

    And another, rather unusual photo, of the square up with a main backstayspritsail. (I was going through my "many strings" period.)



    I made these sails cheaply, out of polytarp, because I wasn't sure about their utility, and didn't want to invest $2000 in each experiment. Having said that, I did a fair amount of sewing, not just taping, and they worked out pretty well. Lasted better than I thought, and pulled as well as anything.

    Dave
    Last edited by Dave Hadfield; 12-04-2017 at 11:22 AM.

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    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig


  34. #34
    Join Date
    May 1999
    Location
    West Boothbay Harbor, Maine
    Posts
    22,952

    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Thanks for the detailed explanation, Paul. I should have mentioned you specifically in my post and pointed you out as the builder and helm of the boat in the linked photo.

    Ben- I read the OP and was merely adding an alternative, given that the question had already been thoroughly answered by others who knew more about squares, not unlike another poster who suggested another type of downwind sail. Pitsligo is certainly able to decide whether my post is worthwhile or not, as I'd expect from anyone. I didn't intend for it to be a disagreement or a claim to be 'smarter' and if it was taken that way I didn't express myself adequately.
    Last edited by rbgarr; 12-04-2017 at 08:20 PM.
    "... and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago."

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Cushing, Maine
    Posts
    3,144

    Default Re: Small Boat Square Rig

    Quote Originally Posted by rbgarr View Post
    Thanks for the detailed explanation, Paul. I should have mentioned you specifically in my post and pointed you out as the builder and helm of the boat in the linked photo.

    Ben- I read the OP and was merely adding an alternative, given that the question had already been thoroughly answered by others who knew more about squares, not unlike another poster who suggested another type of downwind sail. Pitsligo is certainly able to decide whether my post is worthwhile or not, as I'd expect from anyone. I didn't intend for it to be a disagreement or a claim to be 'smarter' and if it was taken that way I didn't express myself adequately.
    My recollection since I wasn't part of the building is that some of the early Norwegian boat building efforts at the shop was hampered by inadequate information. It got spelled out in the little monograph. Unfortunately the work that would have been handy is the Eldjarn/ Godal series published in 88, a decade or so later. As Paul says, the rig was kind of extrapolated. Of course we need to take other 'gospels' like Chapelle's work with the knowledge that it was early and he was moving fast. We build on information. Hassle is that in the internet age, if it is on the internet it lives. No worries.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

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