Needed Help with Rigging Conundrums

We need some insight into rigging the RELIANCE model. She has a metal mast, boom, and gaff, so we suppose her rigging differs from wooden-sparred large cutter/schooner rigged boats. You can see this in the mast drawing (86-111), where there are angle iron cheeks.


Here are some questions we have:
1. How exactly is the main sail lashed to the gaff? What material is used?
2. What line is the mate holding onto below?
3. What line are the sailors hauling below?
4. What is the attachment half-way along the gaff which has a loose pennant hanging down? Is that the attachment for the Club Topsail Club? How was that rigged?

Raising Mainsail

5. How are Gaff Span wires attached to the boom? RELIANCE rigging plan (86-101) indicates that these are attached to “collars” which we’d presume are angle irons like the ones on the mast. (P.S.: on the Museum’s large model of COLONIA, it has thumb cleats mounted on the underside of the gaff, but then she had a wooden gaff.)

86-101-2 - Copy

Some insight would be greatly appreciated!

Plan drawings courtesy of the Curator, Hart Collection, MIT Museum
Photo courtesy of Mystic Seaport

Another Busy Day

Mike and Sandy have been working on the angle iron “cheeks” on our mast. The forestay, preventer stays, throat halyard, and upper main shrouds will hang from these mechanisms. We’ve also got angle irons for mounting the spreader to the mast. Mike will make wax molds of these complex, compound curve angles.

In the meantime, our worm, parcel, and serve crew has been focusing on the bowsprit area and standing rigging. Our splicing and rigging crew have yet to catch up.


Burr delivered the bowsprit retaining bar and took a drawing with him to make chain links that fasten the topmast forestay to the bar; he did some final fitting in our shop. What a joy to watch him work, even gently bending the brass between his fingers, over a mandrel or with mallet! A true master craftsman…



Manila and Wiring

Martin Combs from North Carolina sent us the last half of our “manila” cordage, so now we have our full allotment of scale 7/32″ and 1-1/2″ through 4″ manila. Except for the extra small stuff, manila was measured in circumference, unlike wire rope, which is measured in diameter. The big spool on the end is overwhelming, so we went back and checked. Research concluded: RELIANCE carried 3,000′ of 4″ manila line!

Thanks Martin!

1 Supply of manila cordage

We’ve also been worming, parceling, and serving wire rope; in this case, the bowsprit shrouds.

“Worm and parcel with the lay; serve the other way!”

2 Serving wire

Ever Closer to the Finish Line

We’ve had snowstorm after snowstorm up here in New England, which has cancelled a number of volunteer days; luckily, we did manage to sneak in a Saturday and Tuesday along with some home work. Burr delivered 27 sail hoops that will be nickel-plated along with a number of the fittings and castings we’ve recently received.

1 Sail Hoops2 Sail Hoops

He also delivered the capstan winch located on the boom near the gooseneck. Interestingly, it is the same size as the deck capstans, but with a slightly different base to fit the circumference of the boom. We then tasked Burr to make a scale bowsprit retaining bar; it has to be made just like is was by the HM Co blacksmiths.

4 Original  Bowsprit Retaining Bar3 Boom capstan

A few hours later, Burr returned with a model to check fit the piece. Now he’s off making the whole thing, which we’re excited to see!

6 Bowsprit Retaining Bar

Zach, our Roger Williams University intern, has helped out in preparing Mike’s bronze castings for plating. Zach’s also working on some exhibits for our opening day.

7 Zach prepares fittings for plating

Lastly, the boom and gaff have received final painting and are awaiting their fittings.

9 Final painting of metal spars

Great Strides and New Toys

It may only be 10 degrees (F) outside, but we’re keeping busy in our slightly warmer shed. We’re in the stage of fabricating and assembling piece parts for the next stage. RELIANCE seems to go together in periodic leaps, and to visitors, we seem to be in one of our dormant phases; but it really are these “back-shop” activities which make progress happen.

Tim has brought down our boom and gaff for final preparation and painting; they really look like the real metal spars!

1 Tim working on the gaff2. First finish coat on 68' gaff

In the meantime, Bill has been working with our friends Andrew and Paula Wright of AMA Engineering to fabricate sail track on our boom. In one of those serendipitous RELIANCE moments, one of their standard “H” channel products fit our bill perfectly. Grind away the smaller, thicker base and you have the out-haul car track; grind away the thicker top and you have the sail track, and the rivet/screw holes are correctly spaced according to scale. How neat is that!

4 sail slide sample4a sail slide cross section

We’re also at the point where we can show you all the pieces that go on the boom. From left to right, they are as follows:

Footrope straps, reef haul eye, boom guy strap, quarter lift straps, main sheet span straps, twisted main sheet block shackles, main sheet block shackles, sheet block attachments, main sheet strap attachments, out-haul at boom end, out-haul car and clue attachment, clue out-haul forward end, oak reef cleat and sheave, boom crotch tackle attachment, boom capstan (winch) barrel with crank handle and assembly.

The background shows sections of the sail track and boom.
The silver-colored fittings are mold masters. These will be cast in bronze and then nickel-plated to look like the real nickel steel parts.

3. Boom fittings

Laura, our master rigger, has been splicing the two bobstays, and when our two apprentices get up to speed, we’ll be in full production mode. Her splices have been fantastic in tough 1/4″ 7×7 galvanized steel wire, just like the real thing. It’s tough work, and if you don’t believe me, come visit and try it yourself! She’s a tough lady, bundled up in the coldest section of the building, and you can see she’s wrapped her index finger with electrician’s tape over a wire cut.

5. Laura Splicing bobstay eyes6. Finished bobstay eye - wormed, parcelled, served and spliced

Mike just delivered cast bronze rudder pintles and gudgeons; each set is matched to fit the scale taper of the rudder. Keith will soon have to get cracking on the rudder assembly. He also delivered a full set of cast eyes and a spinnaker boom socket for the mast.

7. pintles and gudgeons8. mast fittings

Also, Burr delivered a beautiful set of bowsprit spreaders. What you can’t really see is that these rods are oval in cross-section and perfectly tapered to scale, just like the real ones. Both Mike and Burr have incredible attention to detail and fidelity to scale accuracy!

9. bowsprit spreader assemblies