Sea Stories

Vessels Of Large Size

We now come to speak of ships of large size, which spread an imposing cloud of canvas to the breeze, and set sail on voyages which sometimes involve the circumnavigation of the globe.

The Barque.

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This vessel is next in size larger than the brig. It does not follow, however, that its being larger constitutes it a barque. Some brigs are larger than barques, but generally the barque is the larger vessel. The difference between a barque and a brig is that the former has three masts, the two front ones being square-rigged, and the mizzen being fore-and-aft rigged. The centre mast is the main one. The rigging of a barque’s two front masts is almost exactly similar to the rigging of a brig, that of the mizzen is similar to a sloop. If you were to put a fore-and-aft rigged mizzen-mast into the after part of a brig, that would convert it into a barque.

The term clipper simply denotes that peculiar sharpness of build and trimness of rig which insure the greatest amount of speed, and does not specify any particular class. There are clipper sloops, clipper yachts, clipper ships, etcetera. A clipper barque, therefore, is merely a fast-sailing barque.

The peculiar characteristics of the clipper build are, knife-like sharpness of the cut-water and bow, and exceeding correctness of cut in the sails, so that these may be drawn as tight and flat as possible. Too much bulge in a sail is a disadvantage in the way of sailing. Indeed, flatness is so important a desideratum, that experimentalists have more than once applied sails made of thin planks of wood to their clippers; but we do not know that this has turned out to be much of an improvement. The masts of all clippers, except those of the sloop or cutter rig, generally rake aft a good deal—that is, they lean backwards; a position which is supposed to tend to increase speed. Merchant vessels are seldom of the clipper build, because the sharpness of this peculiar formation diminishes the available space for cargo very much.

The Ship.

The largest class of vessel that floats upon the sea is the full-rigged ship, the distinctive peculiarity of which is, that its three masts are all square-rigged together, with the addition of one or two fore-and-aft sails.

As the fore and main masts of a “ship” are exactly similar to those of a barque, which have been already described, we shall content ourself with remarking that the mizzen-mast is similar in nearly all respects to the other two, except that it is smaller. The sails upon it are—the spanker (a fore-and-aft sail projecting over the quarter-deck), the mizzen-top-sail and mizzen-top-gallant-sail, both of which are square sails. Above all these a “ship” sometimes puts up small square-sails called the royals; and, above these, sky-sails.

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