Sea History 089 - Summer 1999

Page 36

raffiques & Discoveries in which we share odd facts about the sea a!ld seafaring, in the spirit of Richard Hakluyt's Principall Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, first published in 1589.

Schooners T

he schoon er, says Joseph Co nrad so mewhere, under sail o r at anchor, is rhe mosr beautiful of rigs. And who wo uldn 't agree, looking at rhe lithe form of rhe schooner- yachr Americashe who gave her name to whar o ne unsuccessful bur beloved co mpetito r, Sir Thomas Lipton (rhe Scorsman of rea-bag fame), call ed rhe "auld mug," rhat is, rheAmeri ca' s C up. She beat a fleet of 15 English yachts in 1851 ro win rhar C up, proving rhat good looks can go with high performance. Th e rig has been used in a remarkable varie ry of vessels, fro m the hardy little outporters of San Francisco, who wo rked rhe dog-hole lumber po rts of rhe rough Northern Californ ia coasr, always ready ro weigh anchor and bear rheir way off a rocky shore in case of an on-shore gale, to rhe huge mulri-mas red vessels of the northern New England coal trade. T he mosr famous (o r infamous) of rhese m ulri-masred schooners is surely the giant seven-masted Thomas W Lawson-so big she was barely manageable. She ended up wrecked in rhe Scilly Isles in 1907 when her m aster refused to rake a tow from an exposed position in a rising gale. But for m ost Americans, at leasr, rhe archerype of rhe schoo ner is th e fas r and ab le G loucesterman , a fis herman 's hull of comparatively recent origin. H ere, rhen, are some of the varieties of rhe schoo ner experience, as o ne person has encountered it. We hope thar rhi s may stir up suitable (or unsuirable!) ques rions, reburrals and more stories of rhis perennially alluring rig.

Lady of Good Voyage We spa rred rhis stalwart crafr o n a snowy January afternoon in 1965, noticing rhat her m as ts raked heavily aft amid the thicketed masrs of rhe fishing fleet in New York's Fulton Market. Going over to have a look, m y w ife No rm a and I we re thunderstruck to see she srill carried topmast hoops on her foremast! Topsails, a light weather sail , had vanished from rhe


The clipper yacht Ame rica in a print by Currier & Ives (above). Under a press ofcanvas on a breezy day in the 1920s, the Wesrward amazingly works out to windward ofthe King's yacht Britannia in the English Channel in this painting by David Brackman (below).

fleer almost half a centu ry earlier, when rhe internal combustion engine began to drive rhe schooner hulls, wirh sail relegared to an auxiliary. Later we pursued the Lady to her home in G lo ucester in our own schooner Athena. H ere we traced her original waterline, marked by a graved line inrerrupred where a fresh plank had been pur in here and rhere, and figured rhe lengrh of rhe bowsprit she once carried by rhe angle of rhe curwarer iron for rhe bobstay, still in place, low on the stem . Bui lr in 1942 on a G loucester pier, fully rigged to save fuel in wa rtime, rhe Lady (nam ed for a Portuguese church in Glouces ter) fished for years as a dragger ofren seen in Fulton Market. In rhe lare 1970s she went sourh to rhe Gulf of Mexico, where we larer heard she was losr ar sea.


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