Rigging progress

This week we’ll stop into the rigging loft and look at some of the rope work being done. Sara took most of today’s photos and she describes what’s going on.

We are working on the running rigging for the Morgan. That’s all of the natural fiber lines, made of manila, that control the sails etc. We are working in the basement of the mill since there is enough room and it’s a dry location. Currently, we are only doing this when it’s too cold to work outside. The work is being done by Haley, Libby and myself.

The way we work is first to set up the temporary flooring. This serves to keep the cordage as clean as possible for as long as possible.

Lengths 2

Haley has made a cut list from measurements done by Dean earlier. We have been working one size of cordage at a time. I.e.: cut all of the 3/4 inch manila. Once we have cut a length, we mark it off on the cut list but we also put a tag on it so we can identify where it will end up. The tags are written in color coded marker so we can tell which mast. Blue is head rig, red is Fore, green is Main and yellow is Mizzen. We have some other bits and pieces that we are using orange for. Other information on the tag tells us what size the material is and how long the piece is.

Lengths 1

Once we have some of the pieces cut, we use a tool called a Swift to coil the line.


[Ed note: here’s a cool little description of one from the Antiques Road Show.  Click on picture below.]


By using a swift, we ensure that all of the coils are the same no matter who is doing which step. The swifted coils look pretty cool.

Swifted 1

Swifted 2

Once the cord is swifted, we have to do something to the ends so they don’t get unlaid. At one end we put a constrictor knot.


At the other we put a double whipping. A whipping’s size should be the diameter of the cordage being worked on, or as we say, “square.” We do both of our whippings with a single piece of waxed linen sail thread. Here are a series of photos that illustrate the process. In the last one, we’ve trimmed the end.

Whipping 1 Whipping 2 Whipping 3 Whipping 4 Whipping 5 Whipping 6 Whipping 7

After we have finished with the ends, we put the bundles into big white bags by mast where they’re ready to go.  We’ll have photos of these later.

Thank you Sarah!

It’s been busy up in the rigging loft, the crew has been working steadily on all manner of lines. Here are (l to r) Alex, Cassie, and Tim working on the standing rigging.

IMG_0262 IMG_0263

I think that this is a forestay. Mostly sure.

The rigging is often held in tension while being served. You can see how Cassie has a spliced eye held with blue rope on the right and a vise on the left as she serves it.


Sometimes the splicing can look like an impossibly complex mess.


Yeah, no problem.


Here are the foot ropes that will hang down along the undersides of the yards.


Before and after serving:


When sailors go aloft to work with the sails, they need something to stand on as they move along the yards. The foot ropes are what they stand on. As they lean their torsos over the yard to grab the sail, their feet (and the ropes) swing back and up. It can look quite unnerving from the deck, and it probably feels that way at first. Here’s a little video of the crew of the tall ship Elissa demonstrating loosing and furling her sails.

Down below the rigging loft, John has been working on some of the lignum vitae deadeyes. Lignum is a very tough, naturally oily wood.  It’s heavy enough to sink in water, and its oily nature makes it ideal for locations where friction would be a problem. It’s been used for bearings in machines for instance.

John starts a deadeye with a chunk of lignum and scribes the outline of his deadeye onto it.


After roughing out the shape on the bandsaw, he refines it on the lathe.


A finished deadeye is at hand for reference.

Here is a blank and the piece that it came out of, along with a turned deadeye in the foreground.


They’ve been lightly oiled to slow down moisture transfer (and thus checking).

Once the deadeye has been turned, John brings it over to the Bridgeport milling machine to cut the groove that goes part way around the deadeye.


The finished groove.


He’ll next drill and shape the holes in the deadeye.

More soon!