Masts & Rigging

Masts & Rigging

Very few detailed contemporary Rigging Plans exist, as ships were rigged to proportions derived from formulae when UNICORN was built.  Rigging at the period (1824) was therefore well standardised, and any of the rigging tables of around 1820-30 would provide suitable information.

The Unicorn Preservation Society has a spreadsheet  Unicorn Mast Tables with an extracted table of dimensions of masts and spars based upon several manuscript lists used in the preparation of Sir Wm. Symonds “Instructions for the Guidance of the Mastmakers Department” (see below).  This extracted table is complex and contains some ambiguity and contradiction, but provides a good starting point.

Particularly recommended secondary sources are:

Fincham, John            Treatise on Masting Ships and Mastmaking (1829, but a reprint of the 1854 edition is published by Conway Maritime Press, 1982.  Most of the basic information is unchanged).

Harland, Dr. John            Seamanship in the Age of Sail.  (Conway Maritime Press, 1984).  A highly detailed account of the mechanics of the sailing ship, based on contemporary sailing manuals.

Steele, David            Steele’s Art of Rigging.  (Many editions but 1818 edition reprinted by Fisher Nautical Press in 1974).  A classic, but the information is based largely on current practice in the late 1700’s.  A particular point to note is that the rating system changed in 1817, when 38 gun frigates were re-rated at 46 guns.  This can be a source of considerable confusion, as Steele’s lists refer to 44 gun vessels, which were entirely different from the re-rated 46 gun frigate.

Symonds, Sir Wm            Instructions for the Guidance of the Mastmakers Department of His Majesty’s Dockyards, 1836.  (Very rare, but the National Maritime Museum has at least one set).  Symonds was the Surveyor of the Navy when he issued these tables, which cover mast and spar dimensions in great detail.