tall ships

Details that caught my eye

Photos from the tall ships that came to toronto for the Redpath Waterfront Festival 2013. Boaty things that I liked.

For a list of the ships see my page on the Tall Ships.

Tall ship bellTall ship bell

All the tall ships had bells.

The purpose of the ship's bell was to indicate time on board the ship. The main reason to keep time was to time the sailors watches. The times when they were expected to work.

A watch lasted 4 hours and each half hour was marked with the bell. First half hour had one bell rung, the next half hour, 2 till the 4th hours was rung with 8 bells. The rings were grouped in 2 so the second hour for example would have 2 groups of 2 dings. ding ding, space ding ding.

The name of the ship is often engraved on the bell. They were made of brass. (link to my page on brass)

Tall ship sail

All the tall ships I visited had synthetic fabric sails but with hand done detailing. The stitching was machine though.

Canvas would have been the traditional choice. Linen, flax and cotton have all been used and vary in weight and strength but share the disadvantages of rotting if kept wet and being sensitive to sun damage. The natural fibres are also quite heavy, particularly linen. All the natural fibers absorb water when wet making them even heavier and more difficult to handle particularly if the weather is freezing.

For much the same reasons, most of the tall ships use synthetic rope. A couple had real manila. The crew found it tricky to use when wet and had to take care and not allow it to remain wet. For this reason in the traditional boats, the standing rigging would be covered in various mixtures of rosin, tar and oil to protect the fibres from sun degradation and rot.

It's interesting that the builders of the Viking Replica Draken Harald Harfagre which came up the Great Lakes in 2016, had a sail made from Silk.


Fun ladder made of wood and rope. There is also a thin metal rod running in each rung. The end of the metal rod had a metal washer which was covered with leather. The ends of the rod were hammered so they acted like rivets.

The wooden end pieces had a groove to fit the rope.

The rope had been woven back into itself to form a continuous loop before it was made into the ladder. Metal grommets were imbedded in the end loops.

I think such a ladder would be easier to use than a rope ladder. The wood on the sides would provide some rigidity. The rope would also pad the ladder so it would not scratch or damage whatever it leaned against.

ladder ladder

Most of the tall ships had wheels with a compas nearby. One of the ships The Niagara if memory serves had a large tiller instead. The tiller was controlled with blocks because of the forces required. The ship had been build quickly to fight in the war of 1812 and had not had time to be fitted with a wheel.

Tall ship anchorTall ship anchor Tall ship anchorTall ship anchor

A capstan was used to weight the anchor. The style of anchor was called Admiralty Pattern, or AP for short. It is also called fisherman anchor. I have a page on anchor styles and anchoring.

Tall ship tenderTall ship lapstrake tender Tall ship tenderTall ship lapstrake tender

Several of the ships had lovely wooden tenders prominently displayed.

Tucked away in the side of the lake where the visitors could not see were several inflatables! Not all wooden dinghies take to motors gracefully, particularly if they are pointed at both ends.

Books about Tall Ships

Tall Ships Today: Their remarkable story
Last of the Cape Horners : Firsthand Accounts from the Final Days of the Commercial Tall Ships
Ship: The Epic Story of Maritime Adventure
Barefoot Pirate: The Tall Ships and Tales of Windjammer

I try to be accurate and check my information, but mistakes happen, especially to me. This information is provided for entertainment purpose. Don't go building cannons or firing them without talking to an expert.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: