May 28, 2015

How to club haul your square rigger

ANY SAILOR with an enquiring mind will probably know what it means to club haul a ship. I’m afraid I did not; not, that is, until my copy of The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea fell out of its bookcase. It lay there, stranded on its back on the floor, open to the Cs. The sidehead “Club Haul” stared me in the face.

Well, well, what do you know. To club haul a ship is a method of tacking a square-rigged ship in a narrow space, according to the battered Companion. You accomplish this by letting go the lee anchor from the bow. But you lead the anchor line aft and stop it on the quarter as soon as the wind is out of the foresails.

“As the ship gathered sternway, the pull of the anchor brought her head around on the other tack, and the anchor hawser was cut,” says the good book.

“This method was only used in an emergency in heavy weather and when the ship was embayed. The most famous example of club hauling a ship was in 1814 when Captain Hayes extricated HMS Magnificent, a ship of the line, from almost certain capture by the French at the Basque Roads.

“It was blowing a full gale and, with the lower yards and topmasts struck, Hayes found himself trapped between two reefs. He got to sea again by club hauling the ship, and was known as ‘Magnificent Hayes’ from that day on.”

The Companion seems compelled to point out that you shouldn’t try this at home. “It is not applicable to a fore-and-aft rigged vessel, which does not normally gather sternway when head to wind while tacking,” it says.

Well, I don’t know. It might be fun to try. If you can afford to kiss your anchor goodbye, that is.

Today’s Thought
Good seamanship involves recovering  from a dangerous incident at sea. Great seamanship consists of avoiding dangerous incidents at sea.
— Anon

"I'd like to see General Bloggs, please."
"Sorry, sir, but General Bloggs is ill today."
"What made him ill?"
"Oh, nothing in particular, sir, just things in General."


Jack said...

John how this youtube thing works but I thought you would like to know how you influenced these folk, presuming that I didn't know already. Sorry for the blog drift but I wasn't sure where to let you know.

John Vigor said...

Thanks, Jack. Nice little interview. I'm glad I was able to help that couple make a good choice.


John V.