HANDLING FORE-AND-AFTERS

CHAPTER XXXIV.

HANDLING “FORE-AND-AFTERS.”

The student is referred for more detailed information on this subject to Qualtrough’s “Sailor’s Handy Book,” where it is treated with special reference to yachts and yacht sailing.

We shall confine our attention chiefly to the two principal types of fore-and-afters peculiar to the waters of the United States, viz.: the two masted schooner, Fig. 515, Plate 123, and the sloop.

The Schooner has a fore and aft foresail and mainsail, both usually laced to booms and gaffs and attached to hoops on their respective masts. It has also a fore and main gaff topsail, triangular in shape, the luff attached to the topmast by hoops; the sails furling aloft at the lower masthead.

The head sails of coasting schooners are variously named according to the position of the stays.

When the forestay goes to the bowsprit cap, or nearly to it, the first head sail from inboard is thejib, beyond which are the flying jib and outer jib.

But if the forestay sets up at or near the knightheads, the sail set upon it is called the fore staysail, and the others are the jib, flying jib, and outer jib.

An additional jib, on the fore topmast stay, is called a jib topsail. Its tack lashing may have a long drift to enable the sail to hoist above the other jibs.

It will be seen from the above that the jib of a schooner is that sail whose tack is nearest to the bowsprit cap.

In our description of manoeuvres, &c., we assume the inner head sail to be a fore staysail.

The staysail sheet and fore and main sheets have their lower blocks strapped to a thwartship traveller. This traveller for the main sheet is a short bar of iron, and for the other sheets extends across the deck, and for the staysail sheet may be a wooden spar. Stout tail ropes or clew-ropes for the staysail and foresail enable those sails to be held to windward, if necessary, in tacking.

The foresail may be a combination of “boom and lug,” in which case the forward part of the foot has the usual


Plate 123, Fig 515-516.  Schooner with stayail boom detail.

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boom and traveller, and the clew of the sail extends much further aft than in the ordinary type. Such a sail sets better than a common boom foresail, particularly on a wind, when the boom foresail sheet must be trimmed so flat to fill the foresail and fore gaff topsail, that much of the propelling power is lost. But the boom and lug foresail requires more attention in tacking. The lug foresail, without anyfore boom, is rarely seen in our coasting craft.The main mast of schooners is stayed by a triatic stay from one lower mast head to the other. Large schooners may have in addition a double stay to the deck, the ends setting up with runners and tackles at the waterways, abreast the after part of the fore rigging. The lee stay must be overhauled, when under way, to clear the foresail.

The main boom topping lift is usually single, shackled to a bolt in the after part of the main masthead, the lower end fitted with a whip or whip and runner with a block on the outboard end of the boom and a sheave through the boom for the hauling part. The topping lift may be double in large schooners, in which case they come further in on the boom, and the lee one must be overhauled when the sail is set.

The fore boom topping lift is a pendant supporting the boom end. The upper end of the pendant is fitted with a whip or tackle, upper block hooked under the main trestle trees, fall leading on deck.

Halliards.-The fore and main peak halliards are generally rove through three single blocks on the gaff and two double blocks on the mast-head placed vertically one above the other, the distance apart varying with the length of the gaff. The hauling part leads through one sheave of the upper block to the outer block on the gaff, back to the upper block on the mast-head, thence to second block on the gaff; then through one sheave of the lower masthead block and the inner gaff block, finally the standing part reeves through the remaining sheave of the lower masthead block and to the deck, where a purchase is fitted to the end.

Throat halliards consist of a treble block aloft and double block at the jaws of the gaff, the standing part of the halliards fitted with a purchase which generally travels on the topmast backstay, similar to the topsail halliards of a square rigged vessel.

Reef Pendants for a boom mainsail consist of a long pendant with a Mathew Walker knot in one end. The pointed end reeves up through an eyebolt on one side of the boom, through a reef cringle in the leech and down on the opposite side through a sheave on the boom. When reefing, the end of the reef pendant is hitched to the hook of the outer reef-tackle block, the inner block of the reef tackle hooking to an eyebolt under the boom.

There are no reef pendants required for the foresail,


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ordinary reef earings being passed through the reef cringles lower when required, the end of the fore boom being generally lowered on deck while the reef is being taken.Gaff Topsails.-The gaff topsail sheet reeves through a sheave in the gaff end, and thence through a block at the jaws of the gaff, and to the deck.

The halliards reeve through a block at the topmast head, or sheave in the topmast. The tack leads from the tack of the sail to the deck.*

The clewline and downhaul, in one, is secured to the clew of the sail and reeves thence through a leader at the head and down on deck.

The Sloop has but one mast, placed about two-thirds the vessel’s length from the stern. The mainsail is like that of a schooner. The sloop also carries a gaff topsail similar to those already described.

The jib of a sloop sets on the forestay, which in this case goes to the bowsprit cap. A jib topsail is carried usually, in addition, being set upon the topmast stay.

The topping lifts, halliards, &c., are similar to those already described for schooners.

Getting under way.-Schooners.-Heave short, loose and hoist the mainsail, keeping the peak square with the throat until the throat is up. If the mainsail has two topping lifts, see that the gaff is hoisted between them. If the topping lift is single hoist the gaff so that it will be to leeward of it; the peak can then readily be dropped in case of any accident in casting. **

Get the final pull of throat and peak halliards on the purchase on the standing parts. Now, hoist the foresail and loose the head sails.

To cast to starboard, heave up the anchor, putting the helm a starboard, main boom steadied over to starboard, fore sheet trimmed down, but playing on the traveller; hoist the staysail, or staysail and jib, with the port sheets aft. When she has paid off sufficiently to starboard, “Draw” the head sheets, right the helm, and trim the fore and main sheets.

If blowing fresh the foresail may not be set till after casting.

If intending to wear and stand out before the wind, the peak of the mainsail may be left down until after casting.

In a close place, with little room astern, hoist the head sails before breaking ground.

* Or the gear of the gaff topsail may be named on the principle adopted with studding-sails; when the outhaul is known as the tack and the tack is called the sheet, which is the case on board many coasters.

** A peak downhaul should always be fitted to a gaff; it is rove through a bull’s eye at the gaff end, ends of the downhaul leading to cleats on opposite sides of the boom.
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Sloops.-Heave short, hoist the mainsail, clear away the jib; when ready to trip, to cast to starboard, put the helm a starboard, hoist the jib, haul the sheet to port; shove the main boom well out over the starboard quarter. Heave up, and when she has paid off sufficiently, right the helm, “draw jib,” haul aft the main sheet.If to stand out before the wind, leave the peak of the mainsail down until after wearing around, and shift the helm when headway begins.

Riding to the tide, in getting under way, use the helm as in casting a square rigged vessel; in casting to starboard, put the helm aport until she gathers sternboard, when it must be shifted.

Coasting vessels as a rule do not take the trouble to ease off the main sheet in casting, simply guying the boom well over to leeward, sheet trimmed ready for the first stretch.

Tacking. – Schooners. – Under ordinary circumstances, moderate breeze and smooth sea, clew up the fore gaff topsail, “hard a lee” very gradually, keeping all sheets fast just as long as they will do any good, haul all over as she comes head to wind, especially avoiding keeping the staysail sheet one instant to windward if she will pay off without its assistance. Trim the jibs down at first quick and flat, but as she gathers headway ease them slightly.

If the schooner is out of trim, or a dull sailer, or if the circumstances of wind and sea are unfavorable, the staysail sheet is held to windward to assist in paying off, and the clew rope let go at the order “Draw” or “Let draw.” If she goes around with a stern board, the helm must be shifted.

When around on the other tack set the fore gaff topsail to leeward of the triatic stay by unbending and dipping the sheet aloft. In making short legs, the fore gaff topsail is not set, as a rule.

If the schooner has a boom and lug foresail, a couple of hands can take care of that part of the sail not controlled by the boom and traveller. A lug foresail requires more force, and the sheet must be hauled over briskly to avoid making a back sail of it; it is likely to foul the pins, &c., on the mast band, and is altogether unsuitable for coasting vessels with small crews. The boom foresail requires no attention.

Should the staysail not be fitted with a traveller, it will probably be because the clew comes very far aft, which will require considerable overhauling of one sheet and hauling in on another, and this is seldom done in good time. A decided disadvantage of having the clew come abaft the foremast is that it throws the wind out of the lull of the foresail.

One hand ought to take care of the flying-jib sheets on a schooner not over 100 tons; if blowing fresh, the flying-jib (and gaff topsails) would probably be in.


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Many schooners are fitted with a “boom jib” (Fig. 516), the foot of the sail being secured to the boom. The outboard end of the boom is fitted with a gooseneck, the lug of which slides on a short iron rod on top of the bowsprit. When the sail is hoisted, the outer boom end is hauled aft on the traveller by a whip and runner belayed at the knightheads, which gives the foot of the sail the proper stretch.The jib sheet is rove through a double block on the inner end of the boom, and two single blocks in the waterways-one on each side; standing part made fast to one single block, through one sheave of the boom block, then through the other single block, back through the second sheave of the boom block and the first single block, the end being belayed on the same side of the forecastle as the block which carries the standing part. By this arrangement the boom end travels to and fro on the sheet, avoiding the inconvenience and danger of a traveller, with its sheet sweeping the deck. To hold the jib to windward if need be, a tail rope is fitted to the inner end of the boom, clear of the double block. A light topping lift from the fore trestle-trees supports the inner end of the boom.

Sloops.-The vessel going a good full and by on the port tack, ease the helm down, when hard a starboard and the sloop is nearly head to wind, let go the jib tail rope (jib fitted with a traveller).

If she hangs in stays, trim the jib sheet to windward again as she passes the direction of the wind, in this case keeping it over to starboard, and shove the main boom well over on the port quarter. As she gathers headway on the new tack, “Draw jib,” let go the clew rope and the sheet will fly to leeward on the traveller; trim aft the main sheet and right the helm.

Should the sloop in tacking gather a stern board, the helm must be shifted and put hard a port (in this case) till she gathers headway again.

A large centre-board schooner or sloop in a fresh breeze may require part of the board hauled up on going about, to prevent too much strain on the board and trunk, and to have the craft stand up better. These vessels will swing around in stays much faster than a keel vessel.

To Wear. –Schooners.-Clew up the main gaff topsail, if set, drop the peak of the mainsail, up helm and ease off the main sheet. While paying off, round in the slack of the main sheet just enough to keep the sail full; when the wind is aft shift over the boom and head sheets; hoist the peak of the mainsail, haul out the gaff topsail, and meet her with the helm as she comes to. The head sheets, when shifted over, should not be trimmed down flat, as that tends to prevent her coming to.

For a sloop, proceed in a similar way, clewing up the gaff topsail and dropping the peak as necessary.


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Gybing.- Having the wind on one quarter, if a change of course or of the wind itself brings the wind on the other quarter, the main boom must be shifted over, and the operation is called gybing. To gybe a main boom, blowing fresh, is an operation requiring much skill, as it is not unfrequently attended with accidents-such as springing the boom, splitting the sail, or wrenching the masthead or jaws of the gaff.In a smooth sea and with a moderate breeze, with the wind aft and the boom guyed out on the starboard quarter; give a careful sheer with a starboard helm, hauling the main sheet flat aft and the boom nearly amidships; then take a good turn with the sheet, shift the helm handsomely to port till the wind is on the starboard quarter, when the main sheet may be slacked off briskly but kept under control, and the vessel steadied to her course.

As a rule, the peak of the mainsail should be dropped, if only to get the gaff to leeward of the topping lift, besides rendering the operation of gybing much safer.

Many fore-and-afters (particularly sloops), instead of gybing, will, under these circumstances, frequently luff into the wind and come around on the other tack, thus:

The boom being off to port, luff up gradually with a port helm, hauling in the main sheet and getting the jib sheet in, but not enough to fill the sail. When she is head to wind the jib sheet is kept to port just enough to pay her off on the new tack, and as the boom comes over, the main sheet is eased off, keeping headway all the time, if possible.

A flat bottomed sloop drawing little forward will come around in rough water almost always without hauling in much of the main sheet, and, if she has a jib traveller, without hauling in the jib sheet at all, taking care to catch her at the right time with the clew rope, to make the jib assist in paying her head around. A deep keel schooner would require more management.

Wing and Wing.– In running with the wind aft, schooners with the main boom guyed out on one quarter and with the fore boom guyed out on the opposite side, are said to be “wing and wing.” The main boom is guyed out by a boom pendant, into which hooks a tackle (boom-tackle) taken forward of the main rigging and inboard. The fore-boom is guyed forward by a similar pendant and tackle, the latter hooked to an eyebolt well forward. Small craft may use a line rove through a block on the bowsprit. The fore boom topping lift must be overhauled as required.

In running with the wind on the quarter or aft, accidents from unexpected gybing would probably be serious, and for this reason very careful steering is required.

When running in fore-and-aft vessels, to avoid the yawing and difficulty of handling the helm when before the wind, particularly in sloops, it is advisable, when circumstances


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permit, to “tack to leeward,” by bringing the wind well on one quarter, sailing a certain part of the required distance, and then accomplish the balance of the run with the wind on the other quarter.Running in a gale, bear in mind the use of a drag astern, as dwelt upon elsewhere (page 479).

Squally Weather, Reefing.- In sailing a fore-and-aft vessel by the wind in squalls, it is usual to touch her up in the wind. A careful person ought to be at the helm in carrying sail in squally weather, when it is necessary to luff and touch the sails. Should the wind prove variable, in direction as well as in force, sail ought to be made snug, for if a squall should come suddenly on the quarter it would be too long a luff before the sails touch, and if it comes out ahead they will then be thrown aback.

To reef the mainsail, bring the vessel to the wind, hauling in the main sheet; lower the throat and peak halliards till the reef band is below the main boom, pass the tack lashing at the luff, hook the reef tackle to the reef pendant, and haul out the reef band close along the boom. Pass an earing through the reef cringle at the leech, come up the reef tackle and shift the pendant to the second reef cringle, in readiness for another reef. Tie the points around the foot rope of the sail, never around the boom. Hoist the sail finally, getting the throat taut up before the peak.

When the third (close) reef is taken, the pendant is left rove through the cringle with the reef tackle hauled taut, and acts then as a backer to the reef earing.

To take the balance reef, if fitted, ease the peak halliards enough to let the jaws of the gaff come close down, pass a lashing around the throat, fit and tie the points around the foot of the sail, and pull up the peak halliards.

The balance reef extends from the close reef-band nearly to the throat.

To Reef the Staysail (or Jib).-Being by the wind, haul down the sail, bringing the reef cringle to the bowsprit and lashing it, unhook the sheet block and hook it to the proper cringle on the leech; tie the reef points around the foot of the sail; when ready, hoist and trim aft the sheet. If fitted with a bonnet, come up the lacing or keys, and take the bonnet off, securing the tack and shifting the sheets as before.

To turn out Reefs. Bring the schooner or sloop to the wind, if necessary, cast off first the reef points, then the tack lashing, and finally the reef cringle lashings (earings); overhaul the reef pendant; man throat and peak halliards and sway the sail up to a taut leech.

To Heave to. Moderate weather. Haul flat aft the main sheet, putting the helm down, and haul the staysail sheet to windward; if a boom foresail, ease off the fore sheet to spill the wind out of the sail.


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Man Overboard. If on a wind, put the helm down, throwing overboard a life buoy or grating to the man, bring the vessel around on the other tack and stand toward him.If running free, say wind on starboard quarter and plenty of room, luff around by all means, on the opposite tack; haul in roundly the main sheet, putting the helm a port; let her luff around, but keep the jib sheet to windward (port) when about and the main boom trimmed flat. Lower the boat in stays.

Circumstances might require the vessel to heave to on the same tack (starboard tack in this case), in which event perform only the first half of the evolution, and meet her with the helm and head sheets as she comes to, but she will be further from the man, and this is not recommended. The boat in this event would pull off the weather beam.

Laying to in Heavy Weather. Concerning the best mode of laying to in heavy weather, too much depends upon the type of vessel and state of the wind and sea to lay down any fixed rules. An ordinary keel schooner of 150 to 200 tons, which has been running under a close reefed mainsail, reefed foresail and reefed fore staysail, having the hatches battened down and everything secured about the decks, is brought to the wind by easing down the helm, and with all hands on the main sheet, watching for a smooth time to put the helm down, and hauling down the staysail (generally) as she comes to. The mainsail is then lowered and the fore sheet hauled aft.

In a gale of wind, a sharp built schooner is hove to under double reefed foresail, with the sheet trimmed as on a wind, or flat, if necessary to keep the vessel from head reaching too much, and to keep the sail from shaking as she comes up head to wind. When the foresail is full, the vessel head reaches enough to keep up a certain amount of steerage way and consequent action of the rudder.

In some schooners it is frequently essential to hoist the head of the mainsail to assist in keeping them to.

Most of them are provided with a storm “trysail,” similar in shape to the storm mizzen of square-rigged vessels, and used for the same purpose.

The helm should not be lashed alee, but tended as circumstances may require, and the vessel should keep steerage way if possible.

A flat-built schooner is often hove to under a balance-reefed mainsail; but if this be done she must be very flat, and when she will not lay to, in any way, under a foresail.

Shallow-built vessels, and such as have flat floors, are much more liable to be upset in a heavy sea than those of a different construction. This arises from their having so little hold upon the water, notwithstanding their great


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stability in a river, or smooth sea, where it would be almost impossible to capsize them in carrying sail.Large sloops are about the least desirable seagoing craft, their long mast and boom rendering them uncomfortable rough-weather boats, though in smooth water and going to windward they will be found the fastest. Such vessels are hove to under a few hoops of the mainsail and a storm jib, though here again the difference of model may render more after sail (as a storm trysail) necessary, and the boom may have to be well eased off. In this case, and indeed in any seaway, the boom should be well topped up.

The usefulness of a drag as a sea-anchor in riding out a gale may be reiterated here. The form of drag which probably gives the best results is that of a stout conical bag of canvas, with a heavy iron ring at the mouth. The ring may be hinged for facility of stowage, but in such a way that it will only close in the direction of the apex of the cone. The drag is fitted with a bridle at the mouth, to which is secured the riding hawser or cable; a tripping line from the point of the cone allows the drag to be canted for hauling in. The iron ring at the mouth should be heavy enough to keep the drag below the surface of the water.

Anchoring. Coming in on a wind, round to to leeward of your berth, haul down the head sails, and as she comes to the wind, meet her with the helm; keep her head to wind till headway is lost, then let go the anchor, and as she drops astern pay out the chain; lower and furl the sails.

If running to an anchorage before the wind, get the head sails and foresail (a schooner) down in good season to present no opposition to coming to.

When the helm is put down, drop the peak of the mainsail if blowing very fresh, haul the main boom amidships, and when she comes head to wind keep her so till headway ceases, then let go the anchor and pay out the chain as she takes it.

Beating in on a strong flood, lower fore and mainsail, wear around under jib, and when head to tide haul down jib and let go the anchor.

The Topsail Schooner. A class of vessel not especially considered in these notes may be briefly referred to here.

In getting such a vessel under way the yards are braced abox to pay her off; in tacking, the yards are handled like the head yards of a square-rigged vessel, and by the same orders. In running, the topsail, close-reefed, will be found a useful sail, but the reefed fore staysail and main trysail (or close-reefed foresail, according to the model) should be ready for setting in case it becomes necessary to heave to.

It must be recollected that the lee sheet of a schooner’s topsail should be the first clewed up, otherwise it may get over the lee yard-arm, on account of the sail having


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proportionally more spread at the foot than square-rigged vessels in general. Again, a schooner’s weatherbraces must not be too taut, from the liability to part, or to carry away the yard, by the spring of the masts. In squally weather the square sails should be furled.The topsail schooner rig is almost entirely superseded on the coast of the United States by the hermaphrodite brig.

Yacht Rigs and Sails. A cutter is similar to a sloop, but with a movable bowsprit, fitted to rig out or in, jib set flying. Her fore staysail is called a foresail.

A yawl differs from a cutter in having a small mizzen-mast, stepped close to the stern, with a lug or sprit sail set upon it, the sheet led to the end of a bumpkin projecting astern.

A gaff topsail for a yacht is similar to a coaster’s, or it is four-cornered, has the head laced to a yard, and the halliards bent on at a point determined by the shape of the sail.

A jib topsail is a light jib set on the topmast stay.

A balloon jib is a very large jib of light stuff, extending from the bowsprit end to the topmast head, clew extending well aft.

A spinnaker is a light triangular sail, the foot of which is extended by a boom goosenecked to the mast, and rigged out on the side opposite to the main boom, the sail being set on the side opposite to the principal sail on the mast. The halliards lead through a block at the topmast head, the outhaul to the end of the spinnaker boom; the boom itself is fitted with a forward guy from the bowsprit end, an after guy (or brace), and a topping lift.

Some yachts have a light temporary gaff goosenecked at the forward side of the mast-head, about the height of the regular gaff; this gaff is fitted with hoops for the head of the spinnaker, which in this case is a four-cornered sail and is called a shadow. It may be set in triangular form by keeping fast the head outhaul. When not in use the shadow gaff hangs up and down the mast by its gooseneck.

Water sails, usually triangular, may be set under the spinnaker boom.

A ring tail, usually triangular, is set abaft the main sail, between the gaff and boom-the halliards going to the peak and the sheet to a block at the end of the main boom, or to the end of a spar rigged out on the main boom.