Back-To-Back Transatlantics Voyage 2016 La Grande Traversee

Day’s Run – 20 June, 2016

Today was Studding Sail day (pronounced ‘Stun-s’l’). The last bit of canvass we can set in PICTON CASTLE extends out beside the square sails on booms. These sails are reserved for moderate conditions and long passages where there won’t be too much bracing or other sail handling. We carry three of them on the weather side of the Fore Mast (T’gallant, Topmast and Lower) and one on the weather side of the Main Mast (T’gallant). As the gear had already been rigged a day ago, we sent up the booms in the morning and the got all the sails out for a once over with the Sailmaker. Then we bent them onto their spars. After getting the mess of running rigging sorted out between the masts and attached to the sails, up they went. This is all great rigging work to do at sea: having to send the booms aloft and then get the complicated running rigging set up and fair led. To set them it takes careful coordination – to get each one to fly up into the right place and with many things possibly getting caught on the way up or down it requires very careful attention from the Mates calling the operation.

Picton Castle under stuns'ls
Picton Castle under stuns’ls

The Studding sails come from an older time when the all hemp rigging and wooden spars could not support the weight of vast spreads of canvass all the time. As a result ships rigged these auxiliary sails in moderate conditions to get the best passages possible out of their vessels. By the time of the great clipper ships with their very large crews the Studding Sails had become quite large and were routinely set in more than moderate weather.

The Clipper JAMES BAINES reportedly went 21 knots in the Indian Ocean with Studding Sails and Skysail set. But this sort of thing required great man power and, as the need for reducing cost increased in shipping, the large sail plans with all their extra gear disappeared. At about the same time iron and steel wire rigging was introduced and heavy steel masts and lower yards started to appear. This stronger rigging allowed ships to carry longer yards and add the sail area that had been the light auxiliary Studding sails into the area of the working sail plan, making the rigs every bit as powerful but requiring less gear and men. Though PICTON CASTLE’s rig represents this latter time it is not that uncommon to see pictures of Scandinavian and French barques carrying Studding Sail booms as late as 1910. Few modern sailing ships carry them today making it a rare bit of seamanship to handle them, and as a training ship there is no better way to continue the learning curve than to throw in a set of Studding Sails after the crew have become proficient in handling the ship.

SHIP’S WORK: Rig Studding Sail gear; replace Main T’gallant Staysail sheet; Quarterdeck dutchman; sailmakers continue work on Flying Jib and Upper Topsail.

FROM: La Rochelle, France

TOWARDS: Quebec, Canada


NOON POSITION: 30°03’N / 021°47’W

DAYS RUN: 130nm




WIND: NE, Force 4 – 5

WEATHER: Sunny, air temp: 22°C, water temp: 22°C