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Thread: Observations on sprit rigged boats with topsails

  1. #1
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    Default Observations on sprit rigged boats with topsails

    I've been working on a topsail for my sprit rigged dinghy but I was a little unsure how these were rigged traditionally. I recently made it down to Atlantic Beach and went to a few museums that had some models of North Carolina shad boats which used topsails.


    This one doesn't have the topsail set, but I don't think I've ever seen a sprit rig with such a high peak.





    This one shows a light air rig with mainsail, foresail, topsail, and flying jib. A single sheet controls the topsail so the main must be small enough to not interfere. The topmast has a forestay which also holds a flying jib. The mast appeared to be all one piece and a pair of brail lines close up the topsail.





    Another model has a forestay but no flying jib. The main is so big that the topsail needs two sheets to control it. The topmast is hoisted by a halyard and sits on the front of the main mast in a kind of horseshoe shaped chock. A lashing around the bottom of the topmast keeps it vertical. I'm not quite sure I see how the lower yard swings around on port tack though. A pair of brail lines close up the topsail.





    Another model with a one piece mast and forestay. Despite the main being small enough the topsail's lower yard is controlled with a pair of sheets. I really like the mitered jib!



  2. #2
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    Default Re: Observations on sprit rigged boats with topsails

    Here is an old skiff with the topsail rigged. The boomless main is hoisted by a halyard with rope robands and there is no brail line rigged. The sprit is pointed and spears a loop at the sail's peak. The jib attaches to the stem and halyard with wooden toggles, and the turning block at the top of the mast looked like a wooden deadeye with a single hole. The topmast goes up with a halyard through a beehole at the top of the mast.





    A look at the jib's toggling tack arrangement.





    The mast fits through a rather wimpy looking thwart and the tack downhaul goes to a big staple driven into the mast. The jib's sheets attach with a wooden toggle, but I recommend running the starbord side one on the outside of the main halyard coming down the front of the mast.





    And here's the topsail. The yard sticks out far enough a single sheet will work. A pair of brails split the sail into thirds. The sail is laced to the topmast and yard with marline hitches. And finally the lower yard is attached to the topmast with a kind of sling/snotter that I don't think is adjustable.





    So, four different examples and they're all rigged differently. I'm thinking I need to add a forestay to my topmast and add a flying jib...

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Observations on sprit rigged boats with topsails

    In your photo of the North Carolina Shad Boat you will note the length of the vertical "topmast" . It's long enough so that some didn't bother with a halyard, just a ring that fit on the top of the mast. You could reach up and just hook the ring on the top of the mast. Apparently when sailing in narrow waters with high reeds, sometimes they'd just set the topsail to catch the wind above the reeds.
    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."

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Observations on sprit rigged boats with topsails

    Thank you Jeff for the great photos .I've not seen the rig in that detail before .

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Observations on sprit rigged boats with topsails

    Excellent and very interesting photos. Can you share more about the museums you visited?

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Observations on sprit rigged boats with topsails

    A different approach.
    Here too the two lines to control the top of the sprit
    .arnebrug.jpg
    hoogaars-sdv045.jpg
    Notice how the sprit, and with it the mainsail, have been moved aft as far as possible, presumably to maximize the area of the topsail.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Observations on sprit rigged boats with topsails

    Ben, I've heard about that ring fitting before. I attempted a similar idea on my topsail at first, but it didn't work so well. I run the sheet to the tip of the sprit so the top mast needs to be on the same side of the sail as the sprit. It also needs to be pretty long for easy handling and I found it too difficult to get the ring hooked while waving the mast around between the sail and the sprit. The shad boats used longer sprits so this wouldn't have been a problem. I remember seeing a period photo of one with just the topsail rigged, but for the life of me I can't find it.

    Glad you enjoyed the pictures Bill. It was an interesting study, although I do take it all with a grain of salt. I really wonder about some of the details... I don't see how the yard can swing around to starboard on model #3. Did model #4 need two sheets or did it to make handling easier or something? The centerboard pin on the original looks a little suspect, as does that staple the tack ties to. I think the main thing I learned is that my rigging method can't be wrong if it works.

    Timber_cruiser, I went to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort which has most of the models and the original shad boat. It also has a number of artifacts from Blackbeard's flagship Queen Anne's Revenge which ran aground just off Beaufort Inlet. Definitely worth visiting and there's a boatbuilding workshop across the street. I also went to the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum on Harker's Island. The only sailboat they had was model #4. Tons of decoys though which was interesting since my father was a big decoy carver and I've made a few canvas decoys. Lots of shotguns, but no mention of punt guns or battery guns which I thought was a little strange. Maybe they didn't use them in that area.

    AdB, super interesting! I've never seen such a huge gap between the mainsail and the mast... or a sail from the sprit to a boomkin before. What are they called so I can learn more about them? Now I'm thinking my boat needs that staysail thing in addition to the flying jib!

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