Ocean College

From the Blog

Sail handling

Date: 04.12.2020
Author: Nora
Position: Atlantic Ocean
Geographical Position: 18°05.1 N; 049°05.2W
Etmal: 152NM (total distance: 5168NM)

Our Situation right now

We’re still in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s still really warm and we don’t have wind… for sailors in the 17th century this would have been an inescapable situation. How good that we have our beloved engineers on board and motor that can at least carry us through a wind hole. Even though we are cheating right now, we are still a sailing ship and that’s why I’m going to talk about sail handling.

Sails of the Peliacan
1. Outer Jib, 2. Jib, 3. Fore Sail, 4. Main Staysail, 5. Gaff Foresail, 6. Royal, 7. T`Gallant, 8. Topsail, 9. Course, 10. Mizzen Topsail, 11. Spanker

Head and square sails

So the two kinds of sails I am going to explain are our head sails and the square sails. On the Pelican we have three head sails, which are the triangle shaped one’s in the front and five square sails, which are the square shaped one’s on the main mast (mast in the middle of the ship) . Next to the most obvious difference (their shape), the main difference is how we set/hand them and when we set/hand them.

Square sails: Whenever we want to set a square sail there are mostly the same actions to be taken. The only exception is the smallest of them all (royal) which you set in the complete other way around. We climb up the main mast, take off the lines that are holding the sail up and pull it down on lower corners.

Head sails: For setting the head sails we are doing the opposite. We take off the lines that are holding the sails down and we pull the head corner of the sail up.

sailing ship pelican of London

Commands’ for sail handling

These are the commands that you will hear every day on the Pelican.

“Standby’’: Go to the line you’re told to standby and wait for the next command.

“Coils on deck, down to one turn’’: Take the coiled up rope from where it is made fast and take off the turns from the pin.

“let go and haul’’: Command to start what you’re told to do, let go of a line (ease) or pull on a line (haul).

“well there’’: Stop whatever you’re doing.

“hang your ass’’: Pull harder!

Sail handling at the Pelican of London

What do you have to look after while sail handling ?

Especially in bad weather, like the squall we had two days ago, it is really important to pay attention to everything that is happening around you. As Simon likes to say, a ship is a dangerous place, still he is the one hitting his head the most.

When it comes to things that can become dangerous on a ship because of weather, sail handling is the number one thing. When the wind picks up quickly, we usually only take sails in. So when you’re told to standby a line, you first check if its under load, just hit a little bit and feel if the rope vibrates back and forth. If it doesn’t, be careful, there’s weight on that line.

Nora und Malina im Mast

Another thing to look after are ropes laying on deck. That’s totally normal during sail handling because we will always hand or set all the sails first before we coil up (tidy deck is a safe deck). Better not stand in any bites or coils, or you might get taken up to the mast by it.

The most annoying challenge that we face everyday is of course the movement of the ship. Also during sail handling the swell and the waves coming on deck can make your life harder than it has to be. Top tips to prevent sliding and slipping around on deck:
“walk with a purpose” -> do not run or jump.
“one hand for yourself, one hand for the ship” -> always hold on to something.

With these terms you will hopefully understand a little bit more of the things we talk about sails and ropes and weird sailor words.

Bye Nora

Part of the Crew of Ocean College

Liebe Grüße an meine Familie, Carla, Lillith und Lôkassia

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