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“These are my personal observations on sailing in the Brigs. Anyone reading this material must, of course, check that they conform to current operating procedures on any ship that they propose to sail on by reference to The Master, First Officer and Bosun; and to current versions of any operational handbooks for the particular ship." Being produced by an amateur means it is likely to contain errors and is sent to you for your comments which will be welcome. Regards Pete




The sheets attach to the bottom corner of the sail (clew), they travel down to the yard below, pass through it, around a pulley at the bottom of the yard and around another pulley down to the base of the mast. All the sheets, excepting the coarse, follow the same route. The coarse sheets go straight to the deck because there is no yard below to route via. Round the base of the mast there is a steel spider band and wood topped Fife rails with belaying pins set in. The fore mast and main mast rails have certain differences and the fore mast rails of P.W. and S.S.N also differ slightly. Don’t ever trust the right rope to be on the right pin, you have to learn to identify them as you will regularly find them to have been made up onto the wrong pin by trainees. This is why the pins don’t have name tags on them and pin rail diagrams can never be relied upon! The pin diagrams I have drawn are for guidance only- DO NOT rely on them! Further Down – Further Forward. Further Up. Further Back. Fore-Mast. The sheets should be made up to the pins working front to back LTS to Royal. The course lifts are easily identified because they are by far the biggest ropes on the rail and run through huge blocks. I have shown them on the pin after the Royal but in truth I can’t remember which pin they make up to - they are so easily identifiable that I’ve never committed it to memory, as I say you have to learn to identify the ropes for yourself. Another rope which gives rise to confusion is the Upper Topsail down-haul (so called – I will explain the ‘so called’ later). On the fore mast it will be found wound over the front of the Fife rail because there is no pin for it. This rope is often mixed up with the sheets – be careful! Moving further back down the rails, after the sheets and course lifts on S.S.N will be the Main T’gallant and Royal braces. On P.W. there will be Main Staysail, down hauls and in hauls. The back rail has what’s not on the side rail, so to speak i.e. Main T’gallant and Royal braces on P.W and Main Staysail down-hauls and in-hauls on S.S.N. I have no idea why they are rigged differently. Don’t forget – the T’gallant and Royal braces at the base of the fore-mast are for the MAIN mast T’gallant and Royal yards.



So, now you know, or know how to find the fore-mast sheets, we will move to the main-mast.


Main-Mast With regards to the sheets, the set up is the same as the fore-mast. Further Down. Further Forward. LTS-Royal. Main difference here is the Upper Topsail down-haul has its own pin and isn’t wound over the front of the rail. The down-haul comes after the sheets and as I say the course lifts are so big you can’t miss them.So, we have covered the square sheet locations, excepting the course sheets and tack, which I will come back to.



Clewlines and Buntlines (and Leechlines) The diagram shows the route of the clewlines and buntlines, single side only for clarity.

So the sheets effectively pull the sail down and the clewlines and buntlines pull the sail up. The clewline is attached via the sail to the sheet so if you pull one you have to 8

ease the other. The buntlines pull the bottom (bunt) of the sail up or let it down. The leechlines attach to the side (leech) of the sail and pull it in or let it out. To avoid confusion when setting or handing, we treat the leechline as a buntline so you never hear it mentioned. Also, not all of the sails have leechlines. It’s enough you know it exists. All the clewlines and buntlines come down to the side pin rails and are easily identified. They are grouped together in sail order. Further Down. Further Forward. Further Up. Further Back. They all pass through a leader board, which is a length of wood with holes drilled through it. Only clewlines and buntlines pass through the leader board. To identify is easy. The clewline for each sail starts the group for that sail and it is always heavier than the preceding or following buntlines.




All that’s left now to identify for the square sails are the halyards for taking the 3 upper yards up and down. These are also on the side rails. They are easily identified – they are the only ones going through a purchase (block/pulley) attached to the deck. The halyards are located as per sketch, the reason they alternate sides front to back is to avoid clashes of the heaving teams.





Fore Mast

The 3 lower yards come down directly to the sister blocks in the waist. Further Down. Further Forward. Further Up. Further Back. That just leaves T’gallant and Royal braces to find. Due to the height of these yards, the angle is too severe to go straight down to the deck so they are routed straight back to the main mast and then down to the side pin rails ending up in proximity of the life jacket locker port side and battery locker starboard side. They are probably amongst the most difficult bunch of ropes you will have to learn or for me to explain. I am not even going to attempt to tell you what pins they are on – from memory I would probably get them wrong anyway, but hopefully I can tell you how to identify them, and this is a process I go through every time I go on board at the first opportunity. You know that every rope coming through the leader board is a clewline or buntline, the last set towards the back being the Royal. From the end of the leader board, heading back to the last pin, near the gangway going up to the open bridge, are the following ropes, although not necessarily in this order. Port side Main topmast staysail halyard Fore T’gallant brace Fore Royal brace Main T’gallant yard halyard Main Royal staysail halyard Gantline 14

All you have to do is work out which is which. The Gantline should be on the last pin. It goes from the pin to a block at the top of the mast and straight back down. The other end will be tied off within arms reach somewhere. This is a utility rope used for lifting. There are 4 altogether, one either side of both masts. You will have seen the front two used on the gangway. Next obvious one is the T’gallant yard halyard. It’s the one with the block on deck. Four left. The T’gallant and Royal should always be next to each other. Usually you will see position marking strips of leather through the Lay. They will attach with a shackle to the wire which then leads up the main mast and then to the foremast without taking them off the pins, take hold of them and, after checking there is noone up on the fore-mast, pull. If you have the right ones, you will see the yards moving. The one in your right should be the T’gallant and the one in your left the Royal. Remember which ones they are. Normally they are where the pin rail narrows. The remaining two are the main top-mast staysail halyard forward and the main royal staysail halyard back these will pass through a block and back down to side where it will be shackled (standing part), the block it passes through will be shackled to a wire which is the halyard. Q.E.D. Easy, isn’t it ???. Well, it is with the ropes in front of you. So that’s the Port side back rail. Stbd side From the end of the leader board to the back pin. Again, not necessarily in this order. Main upper topsail yard halyard Main T’gallant staysail halyard Fore T’gallant brace Fore Royal brace Main royal yard halyard Gantline. Same process of identification as the port side. You know which ones are the main upper topsail yard halyard and the main royal yard halyard, they have blocks on the deck. Further Down. Further Forward. Further Up. Further Back. The last one should be the gantline. Three left. Grab the pair together that are shackled directly to a wire. Check the mast for rig-rats, look at the yards and pull. Got the right ones ??. The remaining rope is the main T’gallant staysail halyard and again will go through a purchase and shackled to the side the puchase (block) being shackled to the halyard wire.


I should add that you will find the odd dressing line or flag halyard mixed up with this lot. Have you ever thought of doing one of the Volunteer Crew training weeks? About now it should seem like a good idea. So, where were we? That’s the Fore-mast braces sorted.

Main Mast Braces


Again, the three lower yard braces go straight down to the sides on the Bumkins at the very back, easy. We have now run out of boat/ship, ok, Brig then. So, because there is no room further back, the T’gallant and Royal braces have been routed (led) forward. They go from the ends of the yards to the Fore mast and down to the rail at the bottom and to keep things simple they cross on the way down so all the pullers


and pushers are on the same side. Remember, they are different on P.W. to S.S.N. On P.W. they should be the last two side pins, on S.S.N. they are the 4 pins on the back rail.

Confusion often occurs on the main royal and T’gallant braces because when you pull on the stbd side, the stbd end of the yard goes away from you. This is because hauling on the stbd side actually pulls the port end of the yard towards you because the ropes cross on the way up the mast! So, braces sorted then…..good.

UPPER TOPSAIL DOWNHAULS So, what do they do ?. Why are they called Upper topsail Down-hauls ?. The best description I can give them is variable length lifts for the Lower Topsail yard. If you stand at the back end of the boat deck facing forward and look at the fore-mast yards (best done with no sails set and yards square) you will see a heavy wire going up from the ends of the yards to the mast on all but the Lower Topsail yard. The Upper topsail yard is too close to the Lower Topsail yard to permit lifts. The lifts support the end of the yard and prevent it from tilting or ‘cock billing’.


From the diagram, which shows all the yards ‘In their Lifts’, which means they are being supported by the heavy wires, you can see how the lower topsail yard is effectively prevented from “cocking by” the Upper Topsail downhauls, which is their purpose. They are not for pulling that great huge lump of steel called the Upper topsail yard down. Before sending people out onto the Lower Topsail to stow, you have to ensure the downhauls are made off. If you don’t and you have both sets of Topsail sheets cast off for a neat stow just a couple of people on one side of the yard will cock it, and, yes I HAVE done it! That was when PW wasn’t fitted with Upper topsail downhauls though. So, why are they called Upper Topsail downhauls? Well, I’m told it’s to remind you to let them off when raising the Upper Topsail yard, because it obviously won’t go up with them made off. I don’t know if this is the real reason, although it sounds plausible.

COURSE SHEETS AND TACKS Nearly forgot these! They are probably the most often forgotten ropes when bracing too. As there is no lower yard, the course sheets go straight to the sides. The tack is there to pull the windward side of the sail as far forward as possible to achieve the best angle. No explanation on finding these – you can see them clearly; suffice to say the sheet goes back, the tack goes forward.


HEADSAILS Much simpler sails from a rig viewpoint, but they do have their own little confusion points because the ropes don’t necessarily follow the same pattern as the squares i.e. Further Down. Further Forward. Further Up. Further Back. From the front, going back: Flying jib, Outer jib, Inner jib, fore topmast staysail. FOIS. Flying, Outer, Inner, Staysail. To pull the sail up you have a halyard. To pull the sail down you have a downhaul. The two ropes are connected on the sail therefore you can’t pull one without easing the other.

To control the sail when set, you have sheets, one going to each side from the clew. So, four sets of ropes and the layout of these you have to commit to memory. The down hauls are onto a pin rail just forward of the Capstan. They are the only ropes on this rail so all you need to know is which one is which. As there are so many lines going out onto the bowsprit passing under other sails etc, it is virtually impossible to follow them, although if you give one a good tug, you should be able to see the sail move as with the halyard, but providing they are on the correct pins, they are as follows:-


Treat the pins as two pairs, Port and Stbd and the halyard as the other end of the downhaul, and then the halyards will be found in the order shown amongst the pins aft of the foremast clew and bunt leader board. By the Galley door Port and Stbd side. Although they are in the order shown they are not in pairs i.e. there are other ropes on pins in between, you have the same process of elimination to work out which are which. Headsail Sheets. The headsail sheets do not follow the pattern of Further Down, Further Forward etc. They are simply in the order of the sails i.e. FOIS and are on the pins at the side of the


gangways coming down from the Focs’l. A quick look at the leads on the edge of the Focs’l will tell if they have been put onto the correct pins. Obviously, the ropes should not cross on their way to the pins and they are configured outside to in FOIS. So, headsails sorted? Main Staysail. Bottom to top. Main topmast Staysail, Main T’gallant Staysail, Main Royal Staysail. As with the headsails they all have halyards to pull them up and downhauls to pull them down, and a sheet either side to control the clews. In addition to these, the top two also have clew in-hauls otherwise there would be a lot of sail flapping around whilst waiting to be stowed. The halyards are on the back pin rails adjacent to the foremast T’gallant and Royal braces etc. and as I have already described how to identify the ropes on these rails in the bracing section I will not do it again. The sheets are easily identified as the three ropes aft of the foremast sister block braces, fore of the main clew and bunt leader board. They should approach the pins Furthest Down Further Forward. Lastly, down-hauls and in-hauls. These are located at the base of the fore mast and are on the pins the Main T’gallant and Royal braces aren’t. They are easily identified being light ropes bottom and top sails Port side, middle sail Stbd side. Spanker Last but not least. This sail, mostly used as a wind rudder when tacking head through wind, is best described as a horizontal square sail and the ropes can be assimilated to those of a square sail. The confusion arises with these ropes because of their close proximity to each other. (diagram)


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