In-shore manoeuvring

26th November 2015, 04:36
Hello all!

According to the "Sailing in the Wind?" topic from a couple of years ago on this forum, tall ships generally could sail perhaps as much as 80 degrees to the wind.

I'd be guessing this would be due to two things:
* a very shallow, long and fairly ineffective keel that generally had very little 'lifting' characteristic in water
* square sails are poor at generating a perpendicular vector of force when wind blows at these off-normal

My question is, how on earth did sailors sail these mammoth vessels accurately in-shore? They dispensed with oarsmen (such as what you'd see on a longboat vessel) some time prior. Did they simply wait for good wind and anchor when it wasn't present? Did they ferry goods and people by paddled tender more often than not?


10th December 2015, 06:56
They didn't, the latter day big square riggers were dependent on tugs to get them in and out of harbours. But as an apropos I might mention that the continued use of brigs in the small coastal trade far into the steamship epoch, which might be questioned on the basis on the problem of working to windward that you mentioned, was often declared due to the brig's ability to stop immediately and to turn around on it's own axis. Sailing right up to the ships berth was considered an ordinary performance by the crews of such vessels.

But navigating performances were executed by big ships as well. Gavin Craig, who sailed aboard the in sailing ship terms gigantic Lancing, tells of beating up the narrow inner Oslofjord going intermittingly forwards and backwards, there being in no way enough room to turn the ship around.

There is a wonderful book by John Harland and Mark Myers called "Seamanship in the Age of Sail" (Conway Maritime Press, London 1984) explaining in clear text and illustrations the different manouvres necessary before the aid of steam became available.