The lake still had a decidedly stormy look, and the white-caps were as
plentiful as snowflakes at Christmas. The wind had hauled from the south
to south-west; and off the mouth of Beaver River, it had a sweep of six
miles. Only the mainsail of the Goldwing had been set, but Thad was a
prudent skipper; and before the sloop reached the point, on which the
spray was dashing at a furious rate, he put the helm down, and ordered
Archie to throw over the anchor.
“What’s that for?” demanded Hop impatiently.
“It is blowing very hard, and I am going to reef,” replied Thad.
“What’s the use of reefing? She? will carry the mainsail well enough.”
“Perhaps she will, but she won’t while I am skipper,” replied Thad
decidedly. “Besides, we are in no hurry, for we have the whole forenoon
before us; and I want to finish the explanations I have to make before
you get scared by the slop of the waves, so that you can’t take an
interest in the subject.”
“But we want to see the fun when the robbers are hauled in,” added Hop.
“Dory is after them, and we want to see him do it.”
“Dory won’t do any thing that can be seen. If he takes the schooner, he
will bring her down to the school. The principal told me not to go near
her. The Sylph has not gone out of the river yet; and the fun, if there
is to be any, will not come off till she is ready to take a hand in it,”
said the skipper, as the boat came up to her cable. “If you are to learn
to sail a boat, you must know all about one.”
Thad did not give Dory credit for all the enterprise he was manifesting
in the capture of the robbers, though he certainly would not have helped
matters if he had approached the La Motte. Some of the boys grumbled
about the delay, but Thad did not abandon his plan.
“What is the principal sail in a sloop?” he asked.
“The mainsail,” replied Archie, who was very sure this time.
“This sail, as you may see in the picture or the real thing before you,
is irregular in its shape,” continued the skipper.
“I wish the real thing wouldn’t bang about so,” added Ash.
“Give a pull on the main-sheet,” added Thad; and it was done. “The real
thing won’t trouble you now any more than the pictured one. It is
supported at the top by the gaff, by the mast at the inner side, and
stretched out at the bottom by the boom. On the mast are hoops, which
slide up and down when the sail is hoisted or lowered.”
“I thought they were called hanks,” said Ash.
“Hoops is the correct word; but the rings, whether of wood or any other
material, by which a sail, a jib, or a staysail, slides on the stay, are
called hanks. There are six parts of this sail which you ought to learn
by heart, and know as quick as you know the sleeve of your coat from the
collar of it. If you are told by the skipper to take hold of the leech,
you ought to know what it is.”
“I should say a fellow couldn’t do any thing with it till he knew where
to find it,” added Ash Burton, laughing.
“In the first place, there are the head and the foot,” continued Thad.
“You know what they are, but you must know that they are called by these
names. To what is the head of the sail attached?”
“To the gaff: I mean the main-gaff,” replied Archie.
“Right both times. To what is the foot of the sail fastened?”
“To the boom,” answered Con Bunker.
“And the wood or iron by which it is fastened, or seized, is called the
jackstay. The up-and-down edges of the sail are called leeches.”
“Do they bite? How do you spell that word?” asked Hop.
“They don’t bite unless you miscall them. As to the spelling, you pay
your money, and take your choice, for it is spelled both ways. They are
the inner and the outer leeches. The inner leech, where the hoops are
attached, is the luff. The four corners of the sail are called the
clews, though some call only the outer lower corner by this name. The
upper outer corner is the peak. The lower inner corner is the tack.”
The skipper, after the manner of the principal, then examined the crew
on the subjects just explained till he had made them proficient. He
required them to point out the parts on “the real thing” before them.
“Now we will see what the jib (2) is made of. The names used vary
somewhat. The part of the sail to which the hanks are fastened is the
luff, or inner leech.”
“Inner?” queried Ash, almost sure he was wrong.
“The sail is treated in relation to the stay, and not to the mast or the
hull; and the inner leech of the mainsail is the part where the hoops
are,” replied the skipper, laughing; for he had made the same mistake
himself in his study of the subject.
“I see; and that makes it as clear as Champlain water.”
“The outer, or after, leech, called simply the leech by the high-flying
yachtsmen, is the same as on the mainsail. The jib has a head and a foot
also. The tack is the corner next to the stay; and the clew, as called
by yachtsmen, is the after lower corner, where the sheet is attached.
That’s all there is of the jib. What do you call the sail marked 3 in
“The gaff-topsail, because it is set on the gaff,” replied Ash.
“It has a head and foot, and the tack and clew are in the same positions
as in the jib. That makes all the sails usually set on a sloop. Now we
will see how they are set and managed; and what do you call the rigging
used for this purpose?”
“The running-rigging,” replied all at once.
“What do you call any rope used in hoisting a sail? The principal told
you some of the things I have to repeat.”
“Halyards, whether attached to a spar, or to the sail itself,” answered
“We will begin with the jib. The halyards lead down by the mainmast, and
they are belayed on a cleat at the foot of it. The down-haul is attached
to the head of the sails, as the halyards are, and leads down on the
stay, sometimes passing through more or less of the hanks to keep it in
place, to a block on the bowsprit, under the tack, and then inboard. It
is used for hauling down the jib, as its name indicates. I suppose you
all know what sheets are, and have got rid of the lubberly idea that the
sails are called by this name.”
“I think we all know that the sheets are ropes,” added Ash.
“The jib is made fast at all points except at the clew, or at the
after-clew, as some would say. By the sheets, the jib is trimmed so as
to sail on the wind or otherwise. In small craft, these sheets usually
lead aft, to the standing-room, or cockpit as it is sometimes called, so
as to be within reach of the person sailing the boat. If there is a
flying-jib, it is handled in precisely the same way.”
“What is the use of a flying-jib?” asked Archie.
“It adds so much more sail; and some boats need more head-sail than
others,” replied the skipper. “The gaff-topsail now, if you please.”
“It is a three-cornered sail, like a jib,” said Con Bunker.
“Not always, though it generally is. Sometimes, in the high-flying
yachts, there is a gaff-topsail yard; but this spar is not fixed, as
those on the masts of a square-rigged vessel, but is hoisted up from the
deck. The gaff-topsail (3) in the picture, is a three-cornered sail. A
rope is attached to the head of the sail, which passes through a block
near the topmast-head, and leads down to the deck. By this rope the sail
is hoisted to the mast-head. What is the name of this line?”
“The gaff-topsail halyards,” answered Hop.
“Of course, for the sail is hoisted by it. Another line is made fast to
the lower inside corner, next to the mast, which is called the tack; and
you can see that it corresponds with the tack of the jib or mainsail.
The third rope passes through a block at the peak, on the gaff; and this
is the sheet, as in the other sails mentioned.”
“But there is a pole on Dory’s gaff-topsail,” said Ash.
“The halyard is made fast to this pole, as it is to the yard when the
sail is square, at a point which will carry the upper end of the pole
above the truck, thus allowing the sail to be larger than it could be if
the halyard were attached to the head of the sail.”
“What sort of a cart is the truck?” asked Archie.
“I forgot to mention it, I suppose. It is a round piece of wood, fixed
on the end of the topmast, like a head upon a cane. It has a little
sheave, or a couple of holes in it, through which the signal-halyards
are passed. Now for the mainsail. I have already explained the throat
and peak halyards, so that you know what and where they are.”
“Archie knows,” said Ash.
“The main-sheet is the rope by which the position of the main-boom is
controlled; in other words, by which the sail is trimmed. Dory has
double blocks on his sheet, so that he handles it more easily than if it
were done with a single block on the boom; though he has to handle twice
as much rope in doing it. I do not think of any thing more to be said in
regard to the standing or running rigging of a sloop. If any thing comes
up, you will learn it while we are sailing. Now we will put two reefs in
“Don’t you reef the other sails?” asked Ben Sinker.
“The Goldwing works very well under the mainsail only, so that we
shorten sail by taking in the jib. The jib of this craft does not reef,
but it has a bonnet instead. This is really an additional sail, laced on
at the bottom of the jib. It can be taken off or put on at pleasure. In
some craft, the jib is made bigger, and is provided with one or two rows
The Goldwing had three rows of reef-points on the mainsail. The skipper
required the sail to be lowered enough to permit one reef to be taken.
“This is a reef-pennant,” said he, producing a cord of several feet in
length. “Sometimes it is called an earing. I pass it through this
cringle, which is only a hole in the sail, and then I carry the line
around the boom,–twice will make it strong enough. This I have done at
the clew, and now I do the same thing at the luff. Now, all hands, take
hold, and put in the reef by tying up the points.”
“This one is not long enough,” said Archie, when he had got hold of both
ends of a point. “It won’t go round the boom.”
“Of course it will not! You might as well try to pass it under the
keel,” replied Thad. “They don’t even go through the iron jackstay. Pass
them under the foot of the sail.”
“Is that right?” asked Con, when he had tied one of the reef-points.
“Certainly not; it is a granny-knot: you must make nothing but square
knots in a reef-point.”
Thad explained how to do it, telling them to make both ends come out on
the same side of the loop, or bight. They had been trained, or some of
the students had, in making the most useful knots; but they had the
talent for forgetting, as most boys have. A second reef was put in the
sail, in the same manner, on the top of the first one. The introductory
lesson was finished, the anchor was weighed, and the Goldwing stood out
into the lake.
“There comes that schooner!” shouted Ash Burton.
It was the La Motte, headed up the lake.