Yarmouth Lugger, “Gypsy Queen”


Coastal Sailing Craft 1871-1904

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The form of lugsail used on fishing craft was descended from the square sail and the early 3-masted lugger evolved from the square-rigged buss. The end of the 18th century was characterised by smuggling and privateering. Design of the lugger accelerated so they could show a clean pair of heels to any revenue ship. The lugsail was loose-footed and, with no boom, could easily be let fly if the vessel was pressed too hard. The Gypsy Queen was a typical mid-century Yarmouth lugger. The centre or main mast disappeared to give more space for net handling whilst the fore and mizzen masts became larger. Built in 1859 she registered 20 tons, 60 ft long and beam 17 ft. The heavy foremast, stepped in a tabernacle, is rigged with a large dipping lug with three lines of reef points; the tack is hooked to a short iron bar on the stemhead and the sheet is carried well aft to the mizzen thwart. There is no standing rigging and all the support for the mast comes from heavy hemp rope reeving through large blocks. This support comprised a heavy forestay consisting of a burton, hooked to the stemhead, and a halliard and burton, set up on the weather side of the mast. The halliard had to be shifted over every time the boat went about. The forestay was also used to lower the mast onto its mitchboard (a corruption of midships board). The mizzen mast, also stepped in a tabernacle, set a standing lug. This sail had little of its area forward of the mast and was always set to port irrespective of the tack the vessel was working on. It was sheeted through a single block at the end of the large 31 ft stern outrigger, to a purchase inboard. The topsail completed the normal working canvas on the mizzen. Apart from the large bowsprit which could easily be run inboard to rest on the deck, other noticeable features include the large conical capstan and lumber irons. The latter, 1 ft iron rings, were mounted on the quarter rails and were used for the storage of spars, sweeps, sails and boathooks. She had a crew of from eight to twelve. When fishing, she was put before the wind and, if possible, across the tide, and the many fathoms of net and warp were shot over the side. When all the nets were clear, another 20 fathoms of warp were paid out as a swing rope and the lugger was brought head to wind. The foresail was taken in and the mast lowered and a small drift mizzen set and sheeted home amidships. Finally, as the operation had commenced at sunset, lights were hoisted. After about four hours, the process of hauling in began. The warp was led through a block to the capstan and as it was slowly hauled in the nets were disconnected, buoys and seizings were dealt with and the fish shaken from the nets into the hold. This work required considerable labour but perhaps that of the capstan men, tramping round and round for hours on end, was the most back­breaking and monotonous. In good weather this work was hard enough but, in a heavy nor’easter with sleet and hail squalls and the violent rolling and pitching of the vessel, it must have been well-nigh intolerable.

Additional information

Dimensions 44.5 × 35.5 cm