Re: [Revlist] Re: Backing (Up) Ships
- Actually Tom is right! Before there were tugboats, many an old square rigger
used both its stay sails and squared ones to use the wind to back ships.
This was done to get away from wharf or pier sides along with warping off
using the mooring lines. The run of the ship or the length of the keel will
always keep a ship on a true course, it's only when you want to turn you
will need a rudder. And even when you are moving backwards, the rudder will
still turn the stern of the ship.
7th Virginia, Captain Marshall's Co.
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Seitz" <jjseitz@...>
To: "Rev List" <Revlist@yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2001 12:02 PM
Subject: [Revlist] Re: Backing (Up) Ships
> Dear List,
> Regarding "backing up" sailing ships, Tom Burke writes <<< ... it isn't
> difficult, especially in a square rigger like the Constitution. ... If
> the wind is in front of the boat, and the sails are squarely set, the wind
> will push the boat backwards. ... >
> While this is quite correct, Mr. Burke fails to mention the minor point of
> steering the, er, boat. Since the rudder is now in front of, rather than
> behind, the focus of propulsion, this can prove difficult if not
> even in relatively calm seas.
> This is true, too, of modern craft, despite his comment <<< it's easier to
> turn the motor on >>>, as the rudder is generally is behind the propellor.
> (We have lots of fun in the Summer watching people here who confuse their
> (rented) 70-foot canal boat with their car...)
> I have the Honour and Pleasure to Be, etc. -- John Seitz
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All very good points concerning backing a square rigged ship. One thing
that I should have added in my post yesterday concerning the specifics
of that engagement was the wind direction. During the period when the
CONSTITUTION threw her main and mizzen topsails "Flat aback" the wind
was directly off the stern running East Northeast. Under those wind
conditions and with only the main and mizzen topsails aback and the top
gallants still set there is no way back for the ship to actually back up
but only to slow down - unless the water current exceeded the forward
speed of the vessel. There is nothing to indicate that to be the case.
Had the ship had the wind from ahead, on her bows or even abeam then a
square rigged shipped could brace her yards in a manner to put all her
square sails (or even most) aback and actually move backwards making
sternway. However, none of those wind conditions were the ones that
existed during that time during the engagement.
The backing of sails was normally used in coming to anchor, speaking
another vessel, putting over or receiving a boat, or if coming up a
narrow river or estuary. It was very unusual to find it being utilized
in a naval engagement.