Our Ships Rig

Recently we hosted a symposium on the building of the new Maryland Dove, the archaeological and historical research which informs our architectural choice, as well as US Coast Guard standards to be observed in constructing a certified vessel. As you may know, very little exists by way of primary source material and no original fabric from the historic Dove which was lost in 1635 during a return voyage to England. I thought I’d present my research on the vessel’s rigging construction detail and sail plan, much of which finds some voice in painting of the time period, specifically that of the “Dutch Golden Age”. I apologize in advance for this technical post!

Much of our design is informed by historical research and previous architectural work on the Dove by architect William Baker. William Baker drew a small pinnace with a three masted ocean going rig to approximate a likely historical type which was to be constructed by Jim Richardson in 1978.

The Baker/ Richardson Dove with a common but cumbersome three masted ocean going rig complete with: (aft to fwd/ bottom to top) mizzen lateen, main course, main topsail, fore course, fore topsail, and a furled spritsail

The Baker/ Richardson Dove with a common but cumbersome three masted ocean going rig complete with: (aft to fwd/ bottom to top) mizzen lateen, main course, main topsail, fore course, fore topsail, and a furled spritsail

Later in William Baker’s life he found reflection on his research concerning the Dove and wrote in his 1983 ‘The Mayflower and other Colonial Vessels’ that, “I see a strong possibility that the artist who molded Lady Anne’s ceiling was trying to portray the Dove as a ‘square bojort’ or whatever the English may have called it. From details of the Ark it is obvious that the artist was not familiar with ships in general.”

The aforementioned Hook House tile from Lady Anne’s ceiling crudely depicting the Dove, and providing at least some inspiration for the idea that the Dove may have been rigged as a square bojort during her ocean crossing in 1633. This is William Bakers line tracing of the tile.

The aforementioned Hook House tile from Lady Anne’s ceiling crudely depicting the Dove, and providing at least some inspiration for the idea that the Dove may have been rigged as a square bojort during her ocean crossing in 1633. This is William Bakers line tracing of the tile.

Lucas Waghenaer’s illustration of a square bojort (1584). (Baker, William A. The Mayflower and other Colonial Vessels)

Lucas Waghenaer’s illustration of a square bojort (1584). (Baker, William A. The Mayflower and other Colonial Vessels)

Historical record tells us that the ‘Dove’ was to have been a purchased 40 ton (burthen) commercial vessel. Most likely built within the first quarter of the 17th century. She is assumed to have an English rig in construction detail, but as with all English rigs of the 17th century, she is strongly influenced by the Dutch in rig type. As noted above, William Baker had suggested the Dutch “boyer” or “bojert” type for such a rig as it would have been a prevalent rig type with cross regional equivalents found in Germany, England, and Scandinavia. Maritime historian Ab Hoving notes of the Dutch boyer’s trade with the French, German, and English and testifies to the types influence (Hoving, 17th Century Dutch Merchant Ships. 2014). The boyer rig type was superseded by the galliot and equivalent rig forms in the Netherlands in the late 17th century. Hoving suggests boyers of up to 72’ in length, with lee boards or without, and with either standing gaffs (half sprits), bezan rigs or sprit mainsails. The boyer type carries a small lateen mizzen often depicted stepped far aft sheeting to a boomkin. The rig also carries a square topsail, an inboard fore staysail, and is most often depicted with a square spritsail.

Reinier Nooms. 1650. Een Boeÿer, Een Galioot. The author suggests that the standing gaff rig to have not yet been in common use during the 1630s, otherwise, Nooms’ print provides an accurate depiction of a common Dutch Boyer of the early 17th century.

Reinier Nooms. 1650. Een Boeÿer, Een Galioot. The author suggests that the standing gaff rig to have not yet been in common use during the 1630s, otherwise, Nooms’ print provides an accurate depiction of a common Dutch Boyer of the early 17th century.

A key for sail types: R to L, top to bottom: square, lateen, gaff, sprit, gunter, and standing lug

A key for sail types: R to L, top to bottom: square, lateen, gaff, sprit, gunter, and standing lug

Our vessel most likely underwent a substantial rig overhaul after being purchased to achieve an increased sea worthiness. Rigging which would have been common in coasting vessels, such as unstayed and lashed topmasts, sheeting braces, spritsails and topsails set flying, and generally lesser stayed more scantly built spars (as in the Reinier Nooms’ painting of 1650, Een Boeÿer, Een Galioot) would have been done away with and the standards of more seaworthy rigging practices common in ocean going vessels would be observed. We should speculate that the Atlantic crossing may have been performed without the use of the sprit main, and perhaps as what William Baker calls a “square bojert” (Baker, The Mayflower and other Colonial Vessels. 1983). Baker suggests that the large main sprit was “replaced by a deep narrow square sail which was more suitable for deep-sea voyages” and is depicted in Lucas Waghenaer’s illustrations (see above image). The instability of both the gaff and the sprit have been noted by author of ‘Ship Building and Maintenance’ (1671) Nicolaes Witsen, he comments that at the time of his writing the Boyer was in “rear guard action” to that of the Galliot and Boot. This would suggest a main course and topsail with rigging to better support the spars and transfer load away from the masts to the hull; i.e., more standing rigging, lifts, gear, etc. After the vessel’s arrival to the Chesapeake bay, it seems likely that she would have been reconfigured once again to accommodate her larger sprit main which would allow her to explore the inner reaches of the Chesapeake. What seems entirely probable would be a new reduction of the rig. Unbending the square main, and a simplifying of the topsail (deck set, without lifts, foot ropes, braces, and stowing gear) as in the Baker designed ‘Adventure’, a 17th century replica built in 1969. This style of topsail is also seen depicted in numerous paintings. Vessels of this era and especially of this size, lowered their main yard to deck to be furled. Main yards carried on fore and aft vessels were also frequently lowered while sailing to weather in order to achieve stability by decreasing weight aloft lowering the center of gravity. Learning to sail in this manner may prove to be a learning curve. As with the majority of 17th century replica vessels, stability issues are a problem, thus the history of hull development and the evolution of more and more stable hulls. We should not scoff at the words of Witsen as we compare his disdain for ocean going gaffs and sprits with that of the relatively stable and very lofty rigs of the later clipper ships for example, as the latter vessels had far more stable hull forms. This amounts to an argument for the ability to lower all yards to deck and to practice such lowering frequently. It may not be uncommon for the new Dove to sail with a cocked main yard, a partially or fully lowered main yard and no top yard to be seen. We may also wish to lower the mizzen yard to deck on occasion. This being said, we may opt for a topsail with gear, i.e., buntlines and clewlines, to allow for more handy sailing when not experimenting. Two modes of operation could be conceived of, that of efficient and familiar sailing with passengers and students, and experimental sailing to better understand the likely operation of an early 17th century coasting rig.

Research of early 17th century vessels depicted in charts, models and paintings, have lead us to the conclusion that the gaff rig was not in popular use until the 1650s. Some believe that Charles the 2nd popularized this Dutch import in the second half of the 17th century through the frequent parading of his 1660 Dutch yacht, ‘Mary’. A simple cross generational analysis of the van de Veldes (elder: 1611-1693, younger: 1633-1707) provides an incomplete, yet telling story of the rig’s development. In the early works of the elder showing fore and afters we see a sea of sprit rigs. In viewing the later works of the younger we see a smattering of both standing gaffs and sprits. We may also turn to the art of Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1566-1640) or Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen (1575-1633) who were working more closely to the time of the Dove’s crossing (1633-34). If the gaff rig was known to English ocean going captains of 1634, it would have been such a novelty that the generally conservative prudence associated with seafaring would not have readily welcomed such a rig, especially given the context of an uncertain ocean passage. What we are attempting will be a challenge, a vessel which will be able to sail with a standing gaff if desired, but that will primarily carry the more lifely historically accurate sprit. The sprit rig depicted here includes all of the common elements of the larger dutch sprit rig, which rather than brailed were commonly scandalized or left gekaaid-kaaied (John Leather, Spritsails and Lugsails. 1989 pg 59; see also Chatterton, Fore and Aft Craft. 1922 pg 62). With an eye towards safety we will make use of brails rather than scandalizing and striking sail on all occasions. The use of brails has been seen in some sprit rigs of this time period but were certainly not always in use with the spirt rig. Consultation with our archaeologist Fred Hocker has lead us to believe that reef nettles may have been in use as early as 1600 and that the bonnet system of adding or shortening sail was fading out by the early 16th century contrary to what we find on other replica and recreation vessels. This conclusion comes from his study of various suits of sails found nearly perfectly in tact from vessels in the Baltic and North Sea. More information will be published on these findings in the coming years.

Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen (1580- 1635) Ships in a Squall on the Haarlemmer Meer.  Small spirt rigged vessels showing the common method of scandalizing or sailing “gekaaid-kaaied”. Today this is seen when a gaff rig eases the peak halliard to spill wind and is sometime done when slowsailing on the dock. Note a possible gaff rig upper left.

Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen (1580- 1635) Ships in a Squall on the Haarlemmer Meer.

Small spirt rigged vessels showing the common method of scandalizing or sailing “gekaaid-kaaied”. Today this is seen when a gaff rig eases the peak halliard to spill wind and is sometime done when slowsailing on the dock. Note a possible gaff rig upper left.

Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom. 1566-1640. Battle between Dutch and Spanish ships on the sea of Haarlem in 1573. Note the square sterned boyer top center as well as the dominance of the sprit rig type in this collection of fore and aft coasting vessels. Bottom left we have a Spanish “galley” a common Mediterranean type carrying a large lateen and dozens of rowing stations. The lateen sail replaced the square sail in the med by the 6th century and would come to be the primary aft most sail on northern European vessels all the way to the 18th century. The lateen is thought to have been the first fore and aft sail. Lateen comes from the french “latine” which simply means “latin”. Vroom may be one of the most helpful painters to study as he fits squarely within the time period of the original Dove. Compare this image with Willem van de Velde the Younger below.

Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom. 1566-1640. Battle between Dutch and Spanish ships on the sea of Haarlem in 1573. Note the square sterned boyer top center as well as the dominance of the sprit rig type in this collection of fore and aft coasting vessels. Bottom left we have a Spanish “galley” a common Mediterranean type carrying a large lateen and dozens of rowing stations. The lateen sail replaced the square sail in the med by the 6th century and would come to be the primary aft most sail on northern European vessels all the way to the 18th century. The lateen is thought to have been the first fore and aft sail. Lateen comes from the french “latine” which simply means “latin”. Vroom may be one of the most helpful painters to study as he fits squarely within the time period of the original Dove. Compare this image with Willem van de Velde the Younger below.

Willem van de Velde the Younger. 1633- 1707. A States Yacht and other Vessels in a Very Light Air.  Here we see a large sprit rigged yacht with an ornately caved transom (center) surrounded by a few scandalized spirt riggers as well as some sailing gaffers with square topsails (left) and a brailed gaff rig in the distance (right). The mid to late 17th century was an exciting time of innovation- the center board in England, the gaff rig, brailing sails, as well as the prevelence of frame first construction.

Willem van de Velde the Younger. 1633- 1707. A States Yacht and other Vessels in a Very Light Air.

Here we see a large sprit rigged yacht with an ornately caved transom (center) surrounded by a few scandalized spirt riggers as well as some sailing gaffers with square topsails (left) and a brailed gaff rig in the distance (right). The mid to late 17th century was an exciting time of innovation- the center board in England, the gaff rig, brailing sails, as well as the prevelence of frame first construction.

The use of the single staysail bent onto the forestay can be seen in much of the 17th centuries fore and aft coasting and inshore craft as well as some of the larger square rigged three masted ocean going vessels (although quite rare). Historian and model maker R.C. Anderson suggests the common use of a true jib, that is, a jib set flying on its halliard did not come into play until 1660 (although primarily interested in larger square rigged vessels) (Anderson, The Rigging of Ships. 1994). The likely date based on an analysis of artwork during the time period suggests a slightly earlier date (as the aforementioned 1650 boyer by Nooms clearly shows) The use of a square spritsail was far more common and can be seen in most depictions of boyers and other ketch equivalents of the 17th century. The bowsprit of the 16th and early 17th centuries functioned primarily as a place to lead bowlines and the topmast stay to, which provides its teleology. As jibs come into use so do bobstays and later, bowsprit shrouds, martingales, backropes and all of the other 18th century accoutrement. Bobstays were surely not in use during the early 17th century (ibid. pg 90) but can be seen on later vessels of similar size and rig such as hookers. Carrying a jib is very easy however from a rigging and sail operation perspective and the construction of rigging to accommodate the sail is in no way time intensive. While historical research on the matter is difficult, various other replica vessels of similar time period and rig (cf, Onrust 1614) have been built to carry a jib.

Our architect Iver Franzen’s artistic rendering of his sail plan for the new Maryland Dove. From aft to forward, bottom to top: A bonneted lateen mizzen, brailing sprit rigged main with reefing nettles, square topsail, inboard staysail with reef nettles, two outboard flying jibs, and one square spritsail.

Our architect Iver Franzen’s artistic rendering of his sail plan for the new Maryland Dove. From aft to forward, bottom to top: A bonneted lateen mizzen, brailing sprit rigged main with reefing nettles, square topsail, inboard staysail with reef nettles, two outboard flying jibs, and one square spritsail.

The new Maryland Dove should prove to be a very capable sailor with her scalable rig and variety of sail combinations. In heavy weather perhaps she will sail with a reefed main and staysail. In typical conditions, mizzen, main, topsail, staysail, and square spritsail. In light wind the full set. From a lay persons perspective, the rig will be the most significant change from the 1978 Dove to the 2021 Dove. Its a very exciting responsibility to build such a rig and to take part in the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the design- there will be nothing like her. More posts to come on build details, spar making, block making, and material usage.

Till next time

SH