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Re: On Working Aloft

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  • Bob Johnson
    pvanderwaart wrote == ... You assumed correctly. The bowline is a line attached to the side or edge of a squaresail. Generally there is a bridle of two,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29 9:38 AM
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      "pvanderwaart" wrote ==>

      > Very interesting post.
      > I have a couple of questions left over my reading "Two years before
      > the mast" several years ago. Dana said in a prolog that he was not
      > going to explain nautical terminology, and didn't. Anyone who knows
      > the answers to these may chime it.
      > He used the phrase "on a taut bowline", apparently to mean, "sailing
      > to windward." I assume that means that a rope from the rig to the bow
      > was taut.

      You assumed correctly. The bowline is a line attached to the side or edge of a
      squaresail. Generally there is a bridle of two, three, or more short lines
      spread out evenly along the vertical edge, that converge into the one line
      known as the bowline. The bowline is led to some point forward (depending on
      the sail, it may be the end of the bowsprit for the foresail, or the fore
      shrouds for the main, etc.) then through a block and back and/or down to the
      pinrail. There is a bowline on each side of the sail. The purpose of the
      bowline is to help create a tight, straight leading edge when sailing into the
      wind. The bowlines are not used when running before the wind with the
      squaresail braced more or less purpendicular to the course of the ship; they
      only come into play when the sail is braced around to close-hauled, ie., one
      edge of the sail is hauled forward of the mast and the other edge is aft. Now
      the squaresail is functioning as a fore and aft sail with a luff (leading
      edge) and a leech (trailing edge). Just as with a modern jib or genoa, the
      sail must have a strait, tight luff in order to be able to sail against the
      wind efficiently. So the bowline on the side of the sail that is now the
      leading edge is used to pull tension into the edge. The bowline works in
      conjunction with the downward pulling tack line that leads from the clew
      (lower corner) of the sail down to a block or hawsehole in the rail of the
      ship. There is a tack line on each side also, attached to the clew along with
      the sheet, but as with the bowline, only the one on the side that is the
      leading edge will be in use. Generally the tack is tensioned first, then the
      bowline will be tensioned. When the sails are square to the ship (when it is
      running) both the tacks and bowines will be slack.

      The bowline is fairly ancient, there is evidence that the vikings used it. The
      forerunner of the bowline was a bowstick which was just a diagonal yard fron
      the rail of the ship aft leading up and forward to the middle of the leading
      edge pushing tension into the edge of the squaresail. It can be seen in very
      old pictures of ships.

      > Does it have anything to do with the use of "bowline" as
      > the name of a knot?

      I think the knot and its name were derived from the knots used to tie the
      bowline or bowline bridle to the sail.

      > There is also description of furling sails in bad weather which
      > suggests that the topman nearest the end of the yard had a
      > particularly tricky task in getting a line/gasket/?? properly in
      > place. Possibly he had to pass a loop over the end of the yard. Any
      > insight?
      I think you are correct, plus the additional factor that the motion at the end
      of the yard is more violent than that closer in to the mast. Also, near the
      ends of the yard the footropes converge closer to the yard (being attached to
      the end) so that it is harder to stand securely on them, and keep your weight
      bellied over the yard.

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