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The Illustrated London Reading Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 275 pages of information about The Illustrated London Reading Book.

The higher the wind, the fewer the sails which a ship can carry; but as a certain number, or rather quantity, of canvas is necessary in different parts of the ship to allow of the vessel being steered, the principal sails, that is, the courses or lower sails, and the top-sails, admit of being reduced in extent by what is termed reefing:  this is done by tying up the upper part of the sail to the yard by means of rows of strings called reef-points passing through the canvas; this reduces the depth of the sail, while its width is unaltered on the yard, which is therefore obliged to be lowered on the mast accordingly.

[Illustration:  SHORTENING SAIL IN A STORM.]

[Illustration:  PREPARING TO MAKE SAIL.]

[Illustration:  LOOSED SAILS.]

Ships are principally distinguished as those called merchantmen, which belong to individuals or companies, and are engaged in commerce; and men-of-war, or the national ships, built for the purposes of war.  The latter receive their designation from the number of their decks, or of the guns which they carry.  The largest are termed ships of the line, from their forming the line of battle when acting together in fleets; and are divided into first-rates, second-rates, third-rates, &c.  First-rates include all those carrying 100 guns and upwards, with a company of 850 men and upwards; second-rates mount 90 to 100 guns, and so on, down to the sixth-rates; but some ships of less than 44 guns are termed frigates.

[Illustration:  TOP-GALLANT-SAILS HOME.]

[Illustration:  SAIL ON THE STARBOARD TACK.]

[Illustration:  REEFING TOPSAILS.]

[Illustration:  DOUBLE-REEFED TOPSAILS.]

There are three principal masts in a complete ship:  the first is the main-mast, which stands in the centre of the ship; at a considerable distance forward is the fore-mast; and at a less distance behind, the mizen-mast.  These masts, passing through the decks, are fixed firmly in the keel.  There are added to them other masts, which can be taken down or raised—­hoisted, as it is termed at sea—­at pleasure:  these are called top-masts, and, according to the mast to which each is attached—­main, fore, or mizen-topmast.  When the topmast is carried still higher by the addition of a third, it receives the name of top-gallant-mast.  The yards are long poles of wood slung across the masts, or attached to them by one end, and having fixed to them the upper edge of the principal sails.  They are named upon the same plan as the masts; for example, the main-yard, the fore-top-sail-yard, and so on.  The bowsprit is a strong conical piece of timber, projecting from the stem of a ship, and serving to support the fore-mast, and as a yard or boom on which certain sails are moveable.

According as the wind blows from different points, in regard to the course the ship is sailing, it is necessary that the direction of the yards should be changed, so as to form different angles with the central line or with the keel; this is effected by ropes brought from the ends of the yards to the mast behind that to which these belong, and then, passing through blocks, they come down to the deck:  by pulling one of these, the other being slackened, the yard is brought round to the proper degree of inclination; this is termed bracing the yards, the ropes being termed braces.

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