King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 eBook

Edward Keble Chatterton
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 351 pages of information about King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855.


[9] “Shallop, a sort of large boat with two masts, and usually rigged like a schooner.”—­MOORE.



We have spoken during the preceding chapters of the revenue cruisers sometimes as cutters and sometimes as sloops.  For the reason that will quickly become apparent let us now endeavour to straighten out any confusion which may have arisen in the mind of the reader.

Practically, sloops and cutters of these days were one and the same, with very minor differences.  In a valuable French nautical volume published in 1783, after explaining that the cutter came to the French from England, the definition goes on to state that in her rigging and sail-plan she resembles a sloop, except that the former has her mast longer, and inclined further aft, and has greater sail-area.  The cutter also has but little freeboard, and in order to carry her large sail-area she draws more water.  This authority then goes on to mention that such craft as these cutters are employed by the smugglers of the English Channel, “and being able to carry a good deal of sail they can easily escape from the guardships.  The English Government, for the same reason, maintain a good many of these craft so as to stop these smugglers.”  Our English authority, Falconer, described the cutter as having one mast and a straight-running bowsprit that could be run inboard on deck.  But for this, and the fact that the cutter’s sail-area was larger, these craft were much the same as sloops.  Falconer also states that a sloop differs from a cutter by having a fixed steeving bowsprit and a jib-stay.  Moore, who was also a contemporary, makes similar definitions in almost identical language.  The real difference, then, was that the cutter could run her bowsprit inboard, but the sloop could not.

Now, in the year 1785, a very interesting matter occupied the attention of the Board of Customs in this connection.  It appeared that in an important trial concerning a certain vessel the defence was set up that this vessel had changed her character by so altering her “boltsprit” that it became fixed and could not be run inboard.  It was found that all which her owners had done was to pass an iron bolt through the bits and heel of the bowsprit, clenching it.  The defendant insisted that thus he had rendered it a complete standing “boltsprit,” and not a running one:  and that, therefore, by such alteration, his vessel became transformed from a cutter to a sloop.  And, according to the definitions which we have just brought forward, one would have thought that this was a good defence.  However, the Crown thought otherwise, and contended that the alteration was a mere evasion of the Act in question, and that the vessel remained a cutter because such fastening could be removed at pleasure, and then the “boltsprit”

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King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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