by E.F. Knight



The choice of a boat — Description of the various parts of a cutter.

MORE, probably, could be written on boat-sailing than on any other sport; for this pursuit owes much of its extraordinary fascination to the fact that its science is practically infinite; the most experienced sailor has always something new to learn, and is ever acquiring fresh wrinkles. Of all inanimate objects a boat is surely the most beloved of its owner; there is something almost human in its ways and vagaries; and whereas it is possible to conceive the attainment of perfection in the design of the instrument employed in any other sport, the complexity of the problem involved in producing the ablest craft renders improvement ever possible, and the sailing of a boat is not more fascinating than the designing of one.

It is easy to acquire the art of sailing a boat under favourable circumstances; but it is only after considerable experience that the sailor is able to do the right thing promptly in the various emergencies which he is sure to encounter. The tyro will soon discover that the more he knows the more he has left to learn, and if once he commences to acquire this knowledge of seamanship, he will be thirsty for more; and he will never weary of his favourite sport all the days of his life.

This book is intended for the tyro, and in it, therefore, only the more necessary and elementary portions of nautical science will be treated of.

In the first place, he must have his boat, and to assist him in the selection of this is no easy task — so much depends on the idiosyncrasy of the tyro, the character of the waters he proposes to navigate, and other circumstances. It may be safely premised that he cannot possibly know what sort of boat will best satisfy his needs, and as his more experienced friends have each their separate views as to what he should procure in the.way of a craft — their views of course depending not on his, but on their separate idiosyncrasies — it is many chances to one that, whether he follows the friend's advice or his own inexperienced inclination, he will not in the first instance obtain the boat he really requires. It is, indeed, as an old salt remarked, as impossible to choose for another man the boat that will suit him as to pick out a wife for him; and some men — good sailors too — never succeed in mating themselves with the right craft, but are perpetually building or buying and selling again without ever satisfying themselves. We, therefore, recommend the novice not to be over-ambitious at first. Let him content himself with a modest and inexpensive craft until he has acquired at least the rudiments of the art of sailing, and is better capable of deciding what he wants. Of course, if he has friends who own boats, on board which he can pass his apprenticeship, so much the better; but we have observed that as soon as a young fellow is bitten with a taste for sailing, he — small blame to him — insists on having a boat of his very own, and will take little pleasure in the boat of another.

In recommending the novice to content himself at first with a cheap boat, we of course do not mean a cheap bad boat, not one of those extraordinary bargains one comes across in the advertisement columns of the newspapers — a five-ton yacht, for instance, going for the ridiculous sum of five pounds, an ancient hull patched up with paint and putty, which will certainly cause much heartburning to the innocent novice who acquires possession of her, and will probably so disgust him that he will abandon yachting altogether. For first she requires a new mast, then she must have new sails, then it is found necessary to re-timber her, possibly re-deck her, and then, after twenty times the purchase-money has been spent upon her, it is discovered that the hull is so rotten that it were madness to put to sea in her at all; so all the expense has been for nothing, and the great bargain slowly falls to pieces, neglected, on a mud flat.

The following hints may prove of some service to a novice who, despite what we have said, determines to commence his aquatic career by purchasing a second-hand yacht, without having a friend who can assist him in the examination of a vessel.

Though a craft will often be found to be as sound after thirty years or more as on the day she was launched, still if sappy wood was used in her construction, or if she has been neglected while Iying up, she may become utterly worthless in less than ten years.

In surveying an old vessel, soft spots can be detected by thrusting a penknife into the wood.

Those streaks of her planking that are between wind and water, alternately dry and wet, will generally rot first.

The interior of the bottom should be carefully examined, in order to ascertain the soundness of the planking and timbers. Dry rot is likely to find its way into the inner sides of the stem and stern posts. If possible remove some of the saloon panels, for the space between a vessel's skins is a favourite nest for dry rot.

If a vessel is coppered and she is hauled up, the sheathing will be wrinkled in a horizontal direction if she has been in any way strained. These wrinkles beneath the channels show infallibly that her sides have been strained by the rigging. Vertical or irregular wrinkles on other portions of her copper may merely indicate that she has rubbed against some hard substance.

Look to the nails and bolts and see if they are corroded, or if copper nails have worked loose in consequence of the vessel's straining.

If spars are cracked in the direction of their length, this is of little consequence, unless the cracks are very deep. Such cracks should be stopped with putty when the wood is quite dry, so as to keep the wet out. When a spar is sprung the cracks will be transverse as well as lengthways.

A mast is liable to decay where it passes through the deck, also under the hounds.

I.ook with suspicion on a vessel that has cement in her bottom; for this prevents a proper examination of her interior. To fill up the spaces between the lower timbers with Portland cement is, as we shall show further on, an admirable plan; but it is often resorted to in order to conceal serious defects. The bottom of many an old craft is practically held together by cement.

Before describing the various forms of boats suitable for pleasure sailing, it will be well to give to the reader a general idea of the rigging and other parts of a small craft, so that certain terms which we shall have to use constantly may be understood by him.

Fig. 1 represents a small cutter rigged as simply as possible.

Fig. I

The spars are (1) the mast, which is what is known as a pole mast. that is, a mast complete in itself, having no topmast above it; (2) the bowsprit; (3) the boom; and (4) the gaff.

To support the mast and bowsprit, shrouds and stays are employed. The mainshrouds (5) and the forestay (6) are now generally of iron wire rope; the former rest on the projecting shoulders known as hounds (13), and are attached to the channels (14) on the side of the boat; 7 is the bobstay and 8 are the backstays or runners.

The sails are, A, the mainsail; B, the foresail; C, the jib. The mainsail is spread between thc gaff and boom, being laced to the former. The foresail is hoisted up the forestay, to which it is attached by iron hoops. The upper edge of a sail is called the head; the lower edge is the foot; the fore edge is the luff and the after edge is the leach. The upper fore corner is the throat of a sail; the upper after corner is the peak; the lower fore corner is the tack, and the lower after corner is the clew.

The ropes by which the sails are hoisted are called halyards. The mainsail has two halyards, the throat halyards which hoist the fore end of the gaff, and the peak halyards which raise its after end. The topping lift (10) tops up the boom and relieves the sail of its weight.

The reef pennant (15), passing through an iron ring called the cringle (12) and the rows of reef points (11), serve to reef or shorten sail when necessary.