Heavy Weather Sailing


Kaines Adlard Coles
John De Graff, Inc.
11 Mb

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   'Any fool can carry sail on a ship—" burst out the master, indignant at the officer of the watch failing to order sail to be shortened. But the words were spoken a century ago in the Golden Age of seafaring before mechanical propulsion drove sail from the face of the great oceans. Indeed, the shipmaster often found himself between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand, his owners expected as fast a passage as the ship was capable of; on the other, a voyage account which included a long list of items of heavy weather damage— spars, sails and cordage carried away—was likely to incur the owners' displeasure and they were often not slow to make the master aware of it. Yet one cannot fail to draw inspiration from their achievements in an age when radio, weather forecasts and all the other aids to the safe conduct of a vessel of today were unknown. Of course, the sea exacted its toll and there were casualties. Ships were posted overdue and later, after weeks of anxiety, as lost without trace. All too often the reason for their being overwhelmed remained a matter for conjecture. The middle decades of the present century have seen the regeneration of sail and its reappearance on the oceans is now commonplace. The great square-rigger of yesterday with its towering masts and spread of canvas and a ship's company of two score men or more has given way to tiny vessels, some with less canvas than would make a belltent and manned by only four or five souls and often fewer. Although for the most part they are amateur sailors, they are the living heirs to a noble tradition of sail, and it therefore behoves them to acquire the skills of a seaman in order to be worthy of their inheritance. It is true that science and the ingenuity of man have made great advances. Our knowledge of the behaviour patterns of wind and sea has increased immeasurably and with it the means of placing this knowledge at the disposal of the seafarer a thousand miles or more from the land. But still the might of wind and sea remains unsubdued, ready to exact a toll of those who treat them lightly.

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