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Shipcraft: Sail Handling

Once our crew masters the arts of line handling, they can put their new skills to use. In a sense, operating a sailing ship like the Half Moon is like manipulating a giant marionette, with each line moving a specific yardarm or sail in a specific way.

Working the sails requires a lot of hands, and thus a lot of cooperation. The crew divides into teams while sail handling -- one team working the fore mast while the other works the main mast. The spritzel and mizzenmast sometimes see use as well, though these require advanced training. The mast teams must coordinate their efforts to effectively steer and propel the ship when under sail.

These sails both propel and help steer the ship. In fact, the fore sails have more effect on determining the Half Moon's direction than its rudder!

We had a good start on this Voyage of Discovery, using light northerly winds to leave the dock at Catskill under sail. From that point onward, however, we encountered remarkably calm skies. Of course, considering our October time frame, the weather could certainly have been worse, but "good" weather is seldom "interesting" weather.

Fortunately, after a week of limited opportunities for sailing, we were once again able to set sail on the final day of the voyage. While pouring rains narrowly missed us to the north, we made good use of the accompanying southerly winds, granting us several hours to sail off the Yonkers waterfront.


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