Pretty much all work was physical. A sailing ship is like a living creature heaving & moving with wind & waves - - - the propulsion being sails a man had to be prepared to scamper up ropes to incredible heights and there were no excuses for being afraid of heights! One had to let loose and haul in sails, heavy canvas sheets weighing several hundred pounds, in all sorts of weather.
Let us go back to the beginning; daylight, after a night spent sleeping in a hammock a few inches below the sweaty stinking reeking body of fellow seaman in the bowels of the ship, one is awakened at dawn. One immediately swabs the deck; this involves cold seawater and heavy stones, while one man throws buckets of water on deck, another man squats and scrubs the deck. Then it is off to breakfast on hardtack crawling with worms, actually old salts see the worms as a treat - - - - Meat!!!!!
The day is spent hauling in and loosening 'sheets,' the sails. This involves scampering up ropes to the top of the mast. The tallest mast is fifty to seventy feet above the deck and the motion is like a modern roller coaster.
Here is a 'funny' one. You have seen those movies where a man is leasurely twisting the ship's wheel. HAH>>>!!!!! There were no hydraulics in those days. The ship's wheel was link to the tiller/rudder by chains and it was a backbreaking task requiring both strength and finesse. Fighting the current, the wind, often two men or in a storm three men had to man handle the wheel.
Man the pumps: sailing ships leaked like a sieve and many required constant pumping utilizing a device like a fireplace bellows. Backbreaking strenuous work often deep inside the ship, squatting in the foul cold slimy water in the bilges. Many a time captured prisioners were given this chore.
Now suppose your ship has cannons. Unwieldy beasts atop wooden wheels they weighed from a friendly 500 lbs to over 1,500 pounds. It took a crew of four to eight men to tug them away from the gun ports, once again recall the ship is heaving & slithering about, and it took four to eight men to push the cannon back into place. Since the cannons were unwieldy and since most ships officers were harsh and unrelenting one was expected to tend to the task of loading and running out the guns swiftly. So if you were a bit slow or clumsy you might suffer a crushed foot or a broken leg.
Oh and during the heat of battle the ropes holding a cannon in place might be severed thus a loose cannon would be careening around mowing down men!!
Say you age ten or so - - - you are employeed as a 'Ships Monkey.' You are expected to carry charges of powder and nine to twelve pound cannon balls from deep in the ship up to the gun deck. And did I mention that many ships were cramped and doorways were not only shorter than a man's head but had a lip on the bottom. This still bedevils a sailor; you have to step up while ducking your head down!! Trust me it is not easy - - - a newbie bangs his shins while smashing his head- - - ouch!!!
Old sea salts suffered many a rupture. Hernias. And those days - - - well there were no commercially made hernia straps so essentially you wore a tight diaper. Your mates help you do this - - - you lay on your back while a friend strapped your crotch with a swatch of cloth - - - tight enough to keep your innards from spilling out!!!
Heavy Weather Sailing
extracts from article by Barrie Jackson
The wind's backed and freshened. Dark, foreboding clouds blot out the sun. It's chilly now. The sea fetches up. A wave breaks. The signs are there, and you are headed for heavy weather.
But what exactly defines heavy weather -- a hurricane, a gale or just strong winds? There are two components that contribute to the severity of a storm at sea: the force of the wind and the sea state. For the average person, heavy weather is anything over 25 knots. On the open sea, high waves are intimidating, but are not necessarily dangerous. Inshore, on the other hand, strong currents, shoals and other underwater obstructions can make riding out a storm in coastal waters treacherous. For one, strong currents inshore can add appreciably to wind strengths. A four-knot current running against a 30-knot wind, for instance, creates an apparent wind of 34 knots. And, in a strong rip, wave lengths decrease and the seas can become choppy, will break often, and can be dangerous.
Predicting Heavy Weather
For the coastal sailor, the best heavy weather strategy is "Don't go!" Avoidance is the best heavy weather tactic. A common reason why sailors get caught in heavy weather is because they disregard weather warnings in their rush to get to the next harbor or home port. This is also a major factor in aviation accidents. It is called 'get homeitis'.
Weather is capricious. Conditions can change suddenly, rendering the forecast obsolete. So if you do get caught out on the water in a blow, what do you do? Firstly, create a plan and work out your current position and the safest course to sail. "If the present course is no longer safe, bear away onto a reach or run. Head to the alternate destinations you have established in your sail plan. Are you on a lee shore or in the lee of the shore? In the lee, one can expect less fetch and smooth seas. The best advice in this situation is to anchor and wait out the storm. But if you can't find shelter, get ready to meet the storm. If you have advance warning, prepare for heavy weather early and create a check-list with these three headings: on deck, below deck and crew.
It's easier to shake out a reef than put one in. Therefore, reef early and progressively, ahead of the weather. The longer the crew waits, the more difficult it is to reef. A rule of thumb about reefing is to shorten sail to balance the boat in the gusts and squalls, not just the average wind conditions. Better still, for safety, carry less sail than the yacht can stand. There will be little sacrifice in speed but a huge gain in comfort. The extra sail required to achieve the last quarter knot places a load on a yacht's sails, gear and crew which is out of all proportion to the gain.
What about storm sails?
"They're not essential for the coastal sailor. Instead, consider a good roller reefing/furling system. This headsail will work better in a breeze if it is equipped with a foam-luff draft regulator to flatten the sail as it is reduced in size. "As well, your mainsail should have two, and perhaps three, deep reefs - not the tiny ones found on most production boats." If you are planning a longer blue-water passage, cruisers can consider retrofitting a detachable inner forestay on a lever or pelican hook on which to hoist a hanked-on storm jib or heavy air staysail. The addition of an inner forestay is a major boat modification and requires various structural modifications to the deck, anchor bulkhead and mast, and may involve adding running backstays. But for those offshore sailors who have sailed with their storm jibs rigged on inner-forestays and with three reefs in main, this retrofit is well worth the investment and is an excellent heavy weather configuration. They key point here is that the inner stay allows you to centre-up the sail plan to the mast. This will keep the centre of effort and lateral resistance close together for balance. A balanced boat will not have excessive windward or lee helm in high winds and seas.
Preparing the crew
A well-built boat will take more punishment than its crew. In the 1979 Fastnet race the people gave up before the boats did. Many of these sailors drowned after they abandoned their yachts during a fierce storm that raked this infamous Admiral's Cup offshore race. Most of the boats were recovered still floating after the storm and during the search for survivors. Had these crews "stayed with the boat", they would still be racing today.
An alert crew is vital; but when the going gets rough fear and fatigue will often sap crew morale. And someone comatose with seasickness is of no use at all. So, prepare your crew physically and psychologically for the challenge ahead. Boat preparations, in themselves, help psychologically. Serve a hot meal beforehand and insist that everyone take sea-sickness medication well before the storm - for even seasoned sailors get queasy as wave heights increase.
Prone rest combats exhaustion almost as effectively as sleep, so encourage your crew to rest, even if sleep eludes them. On deck, dress for the weather. If anything, overdress slightly - being too warm is better than being cold. After you've addressed fatigue, what about fear? People never really overcome fear so come to terms with the fact that you will be frightened on occasion. Overcoming it is part of the challenge. That's why reefing in time is so important. Being over-canvassed is very scary - the boat will heel excessively, will become difficult to steer, and will fatigue the helmsperson quickly. Take heavy weather in a controlled way. Sail to the ability of the crew, not the skipper or boat.
Heavy Weather Tactics
Strain on the helmsperson generally determines the amount of sail to carry when close hauled. In coastal waters or lakes, you may have to sail a bit fuller and carry a little more sail to punch through short, choppy seas. Assessing wind strength on a run is more difficult as an increase in wind speed across the deck is difficult to gauge easily. But don't run with more sail than you would carry close hauled. There is a huge load on the boat and steering gear. You are being lifted and slewed all the time and take the waves on your quarter if you are off the wind. When beating, round up slightly as you approach the crest of the wave and turn away as you sail down the back side towards the trough. Bearing off at the crest prevents the stern from falling into the trough.
When it's too windy to sail
In a gale it may be prudent to heave to. In this state, the boat will make leeway rather than resist the wind or sea. Surprisingly, the ride when hove-to is quite comfortable compared to being underway. But perhaps more importantly, the boat is safe.
Most offshore sailors are sceptical of sea anchors. Shaped like a wind sock and made from heavy canvas and/or webbing, sea anchors are run from the bow or stern. In fact, these storm devices impose dangerous loads on the yacht. Drogues spin, twisting up the tether. If you can deploy, operate and retrieve a sea anchor you're not in trouble! But what else can you do?
When it gets really crazy, above 60 knots of wind, offshore sailors will "lie a-hull". In this state, a yacht is left to find its own position in the waves under bare poles and rides, rather than resists, the waves.
Another effective tactic is to tow warps in hurricane-force winds. Although a warp won't slow the boat much, it will provide directional stability, keeping the stern to the seas. In very bad storms, though, the most vulnerable part of the boat (ie. the stern) will be exposed to breaking waves.
Alternatively, run before the gale. Some say the following sea may break dangerously in the quarter wave. At five- to six-knots, the quarter wave is insignificant, but watch that the speed doesn't fall too low, otherwise the boat will loose steerage and will become hard to manage in the troughs. Quick helm response is lost just when it is needed most. In summary, either run fast enough for absolute control or slow down with warps to steady the stern.
Gybing in heavy weather
Only gybe when the boat is at maximum speed and not while it is accelerating. The pressure of wind on the sails will be less, making the boom easier to pull across the boat.
It is easier and safer to gybe from run to run rather than from reach to reach.
The centreboard should be about halfway up (or down!) which will allow the boat to slip sideways and avoid a broach. Some plate is necessary to give some grip on the water to turn and to climb up on should a capsize occur.
Crew weight should be kept as far back as possible to prevent the bows digging in and the boat broaching.
The boat should be sailed upright throughout the gybe to maintain stability and prevent the chine digging in causing a broach.
Kicker, Cunningham and Outhaul should be tightened to flatten the sail to prevent a "Chinese gybe". Minimal twist and belly in the mainsail will help a great deal to get the boom over with the least drama.
The sequence of events for a successful gybe is as follows:-
Approach the mark wide giving yourself plenty of room for manoeuvre.
Crew sits in. Helm sits back.
Kicker, Cunningham and Outhaul on.
If sailing with spinnaker, put leeward twinning line on and let windward one off.
Spinnaker guy is hauled in until pole is 90 degrees to boat.
Bear away until sailing by the lee and genoa starts to back.
Crew lets off genoa.
Helm pulls in mainsheet until sail is just off the leeward shroud.
When everything is right helm shouts "Gybe Ho!" and crew hauls the boom over using the kicker while helm simultaneously crosses the boat, sheets in and puts tiller across to new side.
As boom comes across the boat the helm lets mainsheet off. The boat should now have rounded the mark and be on the new gybe.
To prevent broaching at this stage the helm should pull the tiller to windward momentarily .It is important at this stage to keep the boat upright and trimmed aft as it is all too easy to screw up to windward and capsize due to centrifugal force.
Genoa is then sheeted in and crew does the necessary with the spinnaker pole. Helm must keep weight right aft as crew works near the mast.
Trim sails and zip off to the next mark with grins all round.