The Sandman: His Ship Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Rigging Story

O NCE upon a time there was a wide river that ran into the ocean, and beside it was a little city. And in that city was a wharf where great ships came from far countries. And a narrow road led down a very steep hill to that wharf, and anybody that wanted to go to the wharf had to go down the steep hill on the narrow road, for there wasn't any other way. And because ships had come there for a great many years, and all the sailors and all the captains and all the men who had business with the ships had to go on that narrow road, the flagstones that made the sidewalks were much worn. That was a great many years ago.

The river and the ocean are there yet, as they always have been and always will be; and the city is there, but it is a different kind of a city from what it used to be. And the wharf is slowly falling down, for it is not used now; and the narrow road down the steep hill is all grown up with weeds and grass.

A great many years ago, when the ships still came to the wharf, a man had made a shipyard beside that wide river. And, in that shipyard, he had built the brig Industry  for Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob; and he had launched her and she lay beside the wharf of the shipyard, but she had no masts in, and no rigging and no sails.

So the master of the shipyard went to that little city, and he found the men who rig ships and put in the masts, and he told them to come to his shipyard and put in the masts of the brig Industry  and rig her in every way that a brig ought to be rigged. And the riggers of ships heard him and said that they would come to the shipyard. And they came.

Then they went on the Industry  and took two great strong sticks, and each one was so big that a little boy could hardly reach around it with both arms. And these sticks they tied together at the top, and they tied a block with three pulleys in it at the top where the sticks were tied together. Then they put a rope through the block and through another block, around and around, until they had the rope going over all the pulleys and coming out at the end. These blocks make it easier to hoist anything up, when the men pull on the end of the rope.

And they got the sticks standing up, almost straight, but straddling, so that each of the great sticks had its foot near the edge of the deck. And there was another rope that went from the top where the sticks were tied together and was fastened to the big thing that was meant for fastening the anchor chains. The two sticks fastened together at the top are called a pair of shears, or just a shears, and the rope was fastened to them and to the ship to keep them from falling over. And they were put so that the block at the top, that had the rope running around and around, was almost over the hole in the deck that was meant for the foremast to go in.

Then they had to get the foremast. And, for this, the master of the shipyard had a big log all ready. It was not a live-oak log, but it had been a pine-tree; for live-oak is too heavy for masts. And the master of the shipyard had had his men peeling the bark off of it, and making it all smooth and the right shape for a mast. So the riggers took that mast.

They rolled it close beside the Industry, and they fastened a great strong rope around it just above its middle with a loop sticking out. But the bottom was bigger around than the top, so that the bottom was heavier, and the mast would hang almost straight up and down. Then they hooked the hook of the other block into the loop, so that the rope ran from the block at the top of the shears, around one of the pulleys in the other block that was hooked to the mast, back to the block at the top of the shears, and around a pulley in that block, and back to the mast again, and so on, until it had been around every pulley in either block; and then it came down and went to the capstan. The capstan is the machine that the sailors use to pull up the anchor, and it is fastened to the deck. It is very much like the thing that they use in moving houses, that a horse walks around at the end of a long stick, only the sailors walk around the capstan, and each sailor pushes on a bar.

Then, when the riggers were all ready, three of them began to walk around the capstan, pushing on the bars, and another held on to the end of the rope. And the mast was raised, very slowly and very carefully, and some more men kept it from rubbing on the side of the vessel. And, at last, it was high enough to slide on to the deck, and it was just over the hole that it was meant to go into, but it was not straight up, so that it could not go in. Then the men hoisted some more, very carefully, until the mast was nearly straight up and was swinging clear of the deck. And they stopped to rest.

Then the riggers went to the mast and looked at it, and they saw that it was small enough to go into the mast-hole. And as many men as could got around it, and took hold of it, and they guided it while the other men lowered on the rope very slowly, and, at last, the end of the mast went into the hole.

Then the men stopped lowering on the rope, and the other men got long poles, and they pushed with the poles on the upper part of the mast and made it straight up and down. And the men who had the rope began lowering again, and the mast went down easily. But it was lowered very slowly, and every little while some of the men shifted their poles to a place higher up; for the mast was going down all the time.

And some of the men went down below, into the bottom part of the brig, where they could take hold of the lower end of the mast and guide it through the hole in the little bit of a deck and into the hole that was made for it, in the keel. For a square hole had been made in the keel, but it didn't go all the way through, for that would let the water in; and the bottom end of the mast was squared off to fit in that square hole. And the mast kept coming down, slowly, and the men guided it, and at last the square end went into the square hole, and it fitted tightly. They call that stepping the mast. And the men saw that it was all right and then they went up on deck again.

Now the mast already had the crosstrees fitted to the top of it, and all the iron straps and bands and hooks. The crosstrees are a sort of platform, with a square hole in front of the mast for the foot of the topmast to go in. The crosstrees have two other holes, one on each side, for the rigging to go through. They call these the "lubber-holes," because landlubbers, or men who are not used to being on the water, try to go through them instead of going around over the edge of the crosstrees, where the sailors go.

And they pulled the rigging up tight and fastened it to the straps that the blacksmith had made for it, and they put little ropes across and made it like a ladder, so that the sailors could run up it. And they fastened all the great ropes and stays that belong to the foremast.

And the riggers put in the mainmast, in the same way, and fastened all the stays that belong there, and made them tight. And they put all the upper masts in place, and fastened the stays that belong there, and the rigging and they put another stick on the end of the bowsprit, and under it they fastened all the ropes and chains that belong there.

A brig has only two masts. So, when the riggers had the foremast and the mainmast in place with all the rigging that belongs, they got up the yards. Yards are great sticks that go across the masts, and the sails hang from them. And they got the yards up, with all the iron straps and rings and hooks that belong to them, and they fastened the ropes, so that the sailors could hoist those that would have to be hoisted, and could pull them around. And when the yards were in place, the Industry  was all done but her sails. She didn't have any sails yet.

So the master of the shipyard went to the city again, and he found the sail-makers. And he told them that he would like to have them come up to the shipyard and measure the Industry  for a suit of sails. For a vessel has to be measured for her sails just as a man has to be measured for a suit of clothes. And the sailmakers heard him and said that they would come.

And the sailmakers came, and they measured the places where the sails would go, every one of them. And when they had measured, and got them right, they went back to the city and to the sail-loft.

A sail-loft is a great big room where the men cut the sails and sew them together. The canvas that they make the sails of comes in very long strips, like cloth. For canvas is a kind of cloth, very hard and strong. And the sail-makers marked out, with chalk, on the floor of the sail-loft, the sail that they were going to make. Then they laid the long strips of canvas down, and cut them right, and they sewed the edges of the strips together and bound the edges of the sail with strong rope. And that sail was done and they laid out another sail and made it in the same way. And so they did until they had made all the sails that the Industry  would need.

When the sails were all made, the sail-makers got two big wagons, and they folded up the sails as small as they could and they put them into the wagons; and the sails filled the two wagons. And they went to the shipyard with the sails. Then they fitted them on to the Industry, each one in its place. And when they were all in place, the Industry  had nearly square sails hanging from the yards on her two masts, and the jibs in front of those, on the stays that ran from the foremast to the bowsprit; and a little sail, called the spanker, out behind, where the spanker ought to be. And there were spare sails, that the men stowed away in a cupboard, or locker, down below.


And the sails were all on and the rigging all in place, and the anchors and the great chains were there, and the Industry  was all ready for Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob.


The Industry was all ready

And that's all.