Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cutty Sark 2005

Back in 2005, I visited the famous "Cutty Sark", a boat named after a torn nightgown. (No, really!) It is in drydock in Greenwich, just east of London. In the picture below, we are looking along the bowsprit, south across the Thames River. All these masts are built from Canadian pine and fir, and are not original to the building of the boat, but they DID serve her well for the last dozen years of her life at any rate. You notice all the chains and wire rope. In the picture above, you can see the figurehead...a terrified girl running away from the devil, and tearing her nightgown in the process. The chains are period to all vessels of the period, but the wire rope was a new material.
The great masts were Douglas Fir from British Columbia.

What a mess of rigging hmmm?

Above are the deadeyes, they form the end of the stays, or braces which keep the masts from blowing over.
Above is a picture of the doghouse, actually the head of a stairway into the bow.

The stairs are protected with brass step plates. Look how worn they are! The anchor chain is just behind is called a "barred" chain because of the "bar" inside each link. The bar keeps the links from squeezing together under tension, and effectively doubles the carrying capacity of the chain.

Inside the wardroom. The glasses are ready for the four o'clock grog ration. The paneling is all solid wood, and gorgeous. The lamps are on gimbals, as is the drinks table.

Above is another picture of the ward room. It is smaller than it looks in these pictures!

The poop deck, the outside of the wardroom. The cages in front are for chickens, who provide a welcome source of fresh eggs on long voyages.

Deadeyes, and belaying pins. The sheets are ropes which are used to twist the yardarms around, and they need to be loostened and re-positioned every time the ship changes direction. The belaying pins are helpful because you can tie the ends of the sheets quickly, and by yanking the pins up, you can loosten a nice bundle of rope in a hurry! You can see a wider deck plank almost hidden by the ropes. That plank is called the "devil". (No, I don't know why...grin!) When you are standing on or hanging over the railing (called a "gunwale", prunounced "gunnel") you are between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Above is a good pic of the lifeboats, the ratlines clearly visible. Those are the cross ropes in the stays. (the stays form a solid upright support for cross ropes, which act like ladders...they form support for sailors who scramble up the "ratlines" to take in sail, or do any other activities "aloft".

The anchor is held up and away from the side of the ship on a short cross beam called a "cat head". Here the cat head actually has the face of a cat!
Every Sunday, while at sea, the deck was sanded with a heavy stone which required 2 or sometimes even three men to push across the deck. Because this was a Sunday activity, the stone was called a "holy stone". You can see in the above picture that the deck has been holystoned to a beautiful whiteness, and the gaps between the planks have been filled with special tar mixed with talcum powder. This tar is slightly flexible, and will give with the regular give and take of the ship as the deck flexes in the waves. It keeps the deck watertight. Regulare maintenance of the tar joints was required, which involved prying out any loose tar, melting it, and "paying" the black liquid tar back into the grooves cut between the planks. The widest gap is usually at the "devil", the wide plank right at the edge, which naturally takes more tar than usual. We get a saying from this job..."The devil to pay and only half a bucket of tar". This is where the "old tars" lived. I understand they call them "tars", or "jack tars" because they are often spattered with black tar on their white trousers. Also, the job of "taring" was often considered to be so boring a job that a sailor who was mentally defective or injured was often put to doing it, and even now in Newfoundland, calling a person a "jacky tar" is fightin' words! Another pic of the ward room.

And the ward room ceiling, which I thought was particularly interesting, and a fine example of the wood worker's art.


Jorge said...


This is an excellent piece on an excellent ship.

I'm also looking forward to calling people "Tacky Jar" all the time now.


Jennifer said...

Very cool you saw her before the fire

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! I enjoyed being educated about the inner workings of a ship, and especially one as beautiful as this! ~ Jen