Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rigging the Yacht America

With the presentation to the Rocky Mountain Shipwrights a week away the Yacht America is finished and ready to go.  I thought I'd take this opportunity to show her off and talk a little bit about rigging.

There are several ways to rig ships in bottles.  I chose the simplest form for the America which is the hinge method.

In this photo you can clearly see the hinge at the base of the mast.  This hing allows the masts fold back so that the ship fits in the bottle.  After the ship is in the forward stays are pulled tight raising the masts back into position.  There's a lot that goes into creating a ship that can do this but before I go over that I want to go over some very basic parts of rigging.

There are three basic parts of rigging.  The back stays the forward stays and the sheets.  The stays hold the masts straight up and down with the back stays pulling the masts backwards and the fore stays pulling them forwards.  The sheets move the sails in order to best catch the wind.

In building rigging in this method I recommend starting with the back stays.  To me these are the most important of the three.  They control not only the forward back ward angle of the mast but also the left and right.  The lines have to be precise or the ship will not look right.  If they are to loose the mast will lean forward.  If they are too tight they will lean backward.  If on side is to tight or to loose they will sit sideways.  You need to get it where you want it glue it down and hope it works.  They can try your patience a bit.

The next step is the fore stays.  These run from the top of the masts to the bow and out of the bottle.  They are then used to pull the masts up when the ship is in the bottle.  Once the mast's are in position the fore stays are glued down and cut as close to the bow as possible.  The tricky part about fore stays is getting them to run to a point where they can be easily cut and glued while in the bottle.  To do this you will either need to drill holes in the mast for the lines to run through or build thread blocks.  In my opinion thread blocks are the way to go.  It's hard to drill though a sanded toothpick and if your not careful the mast you spent all that time sanding and painting will break and you'll be starting all over making a new one.  Thread blocks eliminate this problem.  I've posted this link before but, in case you haven't seen it John Fox III, whose America ship in bottle I heavily based this one on, has posted a great video on how to create thread blocks.

Finally the sheets.  In a real ship I dare say there is no such thing as a decorative rope.  Each line has a use and a purpose.  SIB's are different in that sheet's are typically decorative and serve no function in folding or unfolding the masts.  It is smart though to be aware of them while you build.  It's horrible not being able to fold your mast's back because a decorative sheet line got in the way.  Typically with SIB's the sheet's move to the back of the ship so they fold back with the masts.

It's important before building your rigging to have a plan especially when the rigging gets complex like a square rig or my recent stay sail schooner the Star Flyer.

I tried to make this picture as big as possible so you can see the details.  This is the rigging plan for the America.  Filled in circles are places where the lines are tied down to the masts.  Open circles are thread blocks.  Arrows are where the lines run out of the bottle.

The last thing I will talk about in this post is the flag.  Almost all pictures of the America I found have her flying a flag so I decided to include it.  I did a little research to make sure I had the right one.

The America won the America's Cup in 1851 which is also the year the US got it's 31st state.  So I did a little research and found a 31 star flag.  I then used Photoshop to create a version that could be folded in half.
I ran a line between to thread blocks and glued knot inside the fold of the flag.  This allows the flag to be raised or lowered to find the best look.  I personally like it raised high.  Here's a few other flags I've used in the past.  

Also the eagle on the back of the America.  

This one I glued on the back and painted around so it would blend in.  It will probably not be able to be seen after the ship is in the bottle but it's still a fun detail.  

I also included some other details on deck including life boats and the iconic cockpit around the tiller the America is known for.  

Thank you for reading about my yacht America.  I will update this post after the meeting and include the finished bottled ship.  If your in the Denver area come join us on December 15th at Rockler Woodworking and Hardware. 2553 S. Colorado Blvd.  Denver CO 80222.