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Notes on Warrior Rigging 1860-1997

Captain T. Fraser Morgan, MRIN, MNI
HMS Warrior1860
Victory Gate
HM Naval Base
Portsmouth PO1 3QX
U.K.


Warriorand her engines were contract built in London but she was rigged by Chatham Dockyard as an 80 gun ship of the line in approximately ten weeks. The size of her masts, very similar to those of victory - was determined by her beam where the masts were stepped and since the mainmast was approximately amidships it followed that the ship's beam gave the shrouds the greatest spread and the mast the greatest height. The foremast was taller than the mizzen as the former had greater lateral support. To achieve correct sailing balance the foremast was placed just abaft the stempost and the mizzen between the main and the stern, which explains why there is a larger gap between the foremast and the main, and main and the mizzen. Unlike later ironclads Warrior's bowsprit had plenty of steeve - the angle between the bowsprit and horizontal to allow for pitching in a seaway.

Naval square ship rig was officially standardized not only in spar dimensions and cut of sails - proportioned to the size of the ship - but for the lead, reeving and fitting of every individual rope of the standard and running rigging as indicated by dockyard rigging models. A rigging warrant authorized the ship's boatswain to draw from he dockyard the exact quantity of each size of rope to enable her to be rigged to plan.

When built Warrior's lower mast were built up of lengths of yellow pine, scarphed and dowelled together with iron hoops driven in and screwed up. Lower yards were usually built up of pine while the remaining spars were made up of one length of timber selected by the dockyard. Trysail masts were fitted on the after sides of the lower masts for the trysail gaffs and spanker to work on.

Warrior's spar dimensions conformed to current usage for wooden masts, the fore and mainmasts being similar in length and diameter while proportionately larger than the mizzen. However, the main lower mast was 2" thicker at 40" than the fore lower mast and size feet longer at 66 feet from deck to trestle trees. Fore and main topmasts were 65 feet, topgallants and royals 53 feet wile the mizzen equivalents were 50 and 39 feet. Fore and main lower yards were two feet thick and 105 feet (crossjack 71 feet) and royal yards 33 feet (mizzen 25 feet). The spanker boom was 70 feet long and the lower and topmast stunsail booms 53 and 37 feet respectively. Fore, main and mizzen masthead lights from the upper deck were 169, 175 and 138 feet.

In 1861 the original 3.5 feet thick bowsprit of 49 feet carried a 49 feet jib boom and a 52 feet flying jib boom. In 1862 the new bowsprit was cut to 25 feet with a 42 foot jib boom and 45 foot flying jib boom. The jack staff measured 18 ft and the ensign staff 45 feet. Masts and spars weighed 107 tons.

Standing rigging was used to support masts, yards and bowsprit, lateral support being provided by shrouds and backstays. Warrior's lower shrouds (nine each side) improved the angle of support, similarly the topmast shrouds were spread by the width of the topmast crosstrees. Additional backing was provided for lowermasts and topmasts by pendants shackled to purchases. masts were supported forward by stays and named for the masthead they supported and used for bending on stay sails. Foremast stays were led to the bowsprit, which was held down by the bobstay shackled to the ship's stem, similarly the fore topmast and fore topgallant were stayed to the jib boom and flying jib boom and held down by martingale stays led via the jib boom by guys led via whiskers either side of the bowsprit. Shrouds and stays were parceled, served and blacked down with tar.

The weight of each yard was taken by lifts, its centre secured to the mast by a truss or parral, loose enough to allow it to be turned to the wind by braces. At intervals along the yard stirrups supported the footropes below and parallel to the yard to provide a foothold for men.

Warrior's upper masts were progressively raked from forward to aft, the foremast by 1 1/24 1/2o, the main by 3 1/24 1/2o, and the mizzen by 4 1/2o. The crossjack yard on the mizzen existed only to spread the foot of the mizzen topsail. Lower mast, topmast and topgallant shrouds and stays were of iron wire, as was the royal mast stay, all other standing rigging being of tarred hemp. No chain was used except for the martingale stay. yard fittings such as parrels, jackstays, lift and brace block strops were of wire while yard tackle pendants, footropes and stirrups were of help. All blocks, hearts and deadeyes were of wood, tye blocks of the topsail halyards and the jib and fore topmast staysail halyards were iron stropped.

Running rigging was used for handling sails and hoisting or striking yards. Fore and aft sails were hoisted by halyards and trimmed to the wind by sheets. Topsail, topgallant and royal yards were hoisted by tye (runner) and halyard (tackle), the falls being led either side of the upper deck. Each yard had two braces referred to as 'port' or 'starboard' and 'lee' or 'weather'. Each squaresail was trimmed by sheets. Running rigging was hawser laid, three stranded hemp with Admiralty yellow thread, denoting manufacture in Chatham ropeyard. Fore and main tacks and sheets were tapered rope for ease of handling. No left-handed rope was used aloft.

With the introduction of steam, the number of fore and aft sails increased since they could often draw when steaming on a course too near the wind for square canvas to remain full however sharply braced up. Initially 'gaffsails' they were set on the fore and main trysail masts and, although later called trysails, they differed from storm canvas trysails.

The area of the main course was 5755 square feet and that of the mizzen royal 410 square feet and the total sail area, without studding sails, was 37,546 square feet. With all sail se the total area was 48,400 square feet. The total weight of canvas embarked was about 12 tons.

Warriorand her sister ship Black Prince were unique in that they were the only ironclads to be fitted with wooden lower masts like their wooden hulled precursors. all subsequent ironclads even those converted from two deckers were fitted with iron masts. the Black Prince was remasted with iron lower masts in 1875. Plans have been found for remasting Warriorwith iron masts in 1876 but is doubtful if this was ever carried out.

However, the iron mast plans have been used for the reconstruction. The cost of wooden lower masts to the scale require for Warriorwould have been astronomical, and wood does not have the durability of steel. Of Warriors's original rig little remained when she reached Hartlepool, save a few mizzen chain plates and the wooden steps of her bowsprit. In restoring the rig there were a few major decisions to be taken. Steel masts built to the plans of 1876 were an economical and durable alternative. Similarly the short bowsprit installed shortly after Warriorentered service was adopted. The yards were reproduced in steel although the navy had always preferred wooden yards. The chain plates were remade using the few that remained on board as patterns.

For most of the standing rigging Black Staple Polypropylene and Galvanized Steel Wire 6/12 Combination Ropes manufactured specially by the Barton Ropery Company of Hull were used and this has stood up to the elements very well. The stays are galvanized wire rope 6/36 construction parceled and served with Grade 1 Manilla heavily tarred. Here we have had problems with the natural fibre elements probably because they have not been blacked down frequently enough. The lanyards, ratlines and running rigging are polyester and again they have stood up well but most of the whippings and seizing are natural fibre and they have all perished. The servings to the shrouds in contrast to the stays is of polypropylene and again has stood up well.

Particularly irritating are the servings on the royal stays. These have broken down partly for the reason given above exacerbated by our very large masthead flags flapping against them when the ship is dressed overall. When I sent the riggers up to see if we could take them down for repair when the ship was in drydock in 1994 we discovered that the mast trucks which are sleeved to the masthead had a collar fully welded to the truck itself. Presumably this was to stop rainwater getting down inside the masts but in view of the height it has effectively stopped a proper repair until such time as we can lower the upper masts. We are now trying to persuade our riggers to get a mallet round, and we may even cover the serving with a split polythene pipe to protect both the serving and the flags.

The rigging is extensively surveyed every year and the most serious problem which has arisen so far was the discovery last year that the lower mast tables had a serious problem of rot. During the restoration period, the need for financial stringency had dictated that the tables be constructed of softwood and painted. Unfortunately, no proper means of drainage for rainwater was provided and with the ship being static, headed in the same direction year in, year out, rot had inevitably set in. On close examination it was found that the fid plate support had rotted away to such an extent the fore topmast had dropped by two inches. Whilst it was unlikely the whole rig would collapse it was realized that if the mast dropped any further there was a danger that it might not be possible to get back up again without striking the whole rig. The problem was solved by welding a bracket to the foremast below the table from which an arm reached up to a double plate fitted with four large, fine threaded jacking screws located under the heel of the topmast. by this means the topmast was lifted up sufficiently to enable the fid to be removed and replace the supports. Needless to say the opportunity was taken to install similar brackets on all the masts to ensure no further problems arise before each mast can be down rigged and thoroughly checked out and repaired. It is planned to start on this work in 1998.

Because the WarriorJetty is too narrow to enable the outriggers of a mobile crane large enough to work on the upper masts of Warriorto be extended a system has been developed which we hope will enable them to be struck and hoisted from the upper deck without outside assistance. A crane barge would be a very expensive alternative. One of the problems on Warrioris that there are no bits or cleats on the upper deck that can be trusted to take a substantial weight. The masts are, however, very strong and the plan is to weld strong eye plates one at the top and one at the bottom of each side of the lower masts situated in such a position as to give a good lead to a mobile winch on the upper deck. By this means it is hoped to provide adequate power to handle the raising and lowering of the upper masts. The yards, particularly the heavy lower yards would be lifted off by crane.

Having an iron hull, Warrioris fortunate in that the only major source of concern are the mast and rigging and upper deck. If enough money can be found to put these in good order using the proper materials there is a very good chance she could be economically viable.

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Version 1.01,  7 July 1997