In preparation for a circumnavigation of Australia, the Endeavour replica’s standing rigging is being completely renewed for the first time since the ship was launched in 1993.
In the last blog we looked at the nature of the ropes that make up Endeavour’s rigging, how it’s made and how it gets its strength. Then we looked at pre-stretching all these ropes and what we did to preserve them. Once these preparatory measures have been completed, we can start turning the ropes into ship’s rigging.
All the ropes that are to become standing rigging are stretched out firmly between strong posts. The centres of the eyes that sit over the mastheads are marked along with the areas that are to be served; these areas are then wormed. A few definitions will help here:
Worming: Winding a rope close along the groove between the strands, to strengthen it, and make a fair surface for parcelling and serving.
Parcelling: Wrapping worn canvas around ropes, to prepare them for serving.
Serving: Encircling a rope with small rope, line or spun yarn, for all or part of its length, to preserve it from being chafed.
Seizing: The joining together of two ropes, or the two ends of one rope, by taking several close turns of small rope, line, or spun yarn round them.
After worming the rope is stretched out tight again, under loads similar to those that the rigging will encounter upon the ship. This allows us to accurately place all the required seizings at the lower ends.
The rope then acquires another coat of tar before a layer of parcelling is wound spirally with the lay of the rope, from the lower end up toward the eye that will fit over the masthead. The parcelling then receives another coating of tar.
The serving is then applied against the lay of the rope and in the opposite direction to the parcelling. Hence the age-old sailor’s expression, ‘Worm and parcel with the lay, turn and serve the other way’.
Once the ropes are served, the eyes are either seized or spliced into the ropes where they sit over the mastheads.
Next, the lower ends of stays and shrouds are marked and are turned and seized ready for the placement of the deadeyes. These are round blocks with three holes, fitted at the ends of standing rigging. Lanyards threaded through the holes of a pair of deadeyes allow for adjusting and tensioning the rigging once it is on the ship.
In the standing rigging alone, there are almost 500 seizings and approximately 400 metres of serving. If we then add the seizings of ratlines and all the other components, the number of seizings comes closer to 1,000. If all of the blocks and components employed in the running rigging are included, this figure can easily be doubled again.
The lower ends of standing rigging are always seized around a deadeye or block rather than spliced. This allows adjustments to be made to the length of the rigging, if required over time, as well as maintaining the strength of the rope. A splice weakens the rope, whereas seizings do not.
Once the rigging is completed and placed into service upon the ship, the focus changes to full-time preservation. The number-one enemy is chafe, held at bay by the addition of leather, rope mats and additional lengths of serving. The rig requires regular retensioning until it settles in, and tarring is constant.
Add to this the oiling and upkeep of nearly 700 blocks, eight kilometres of running rigging, 30 spars (masts, yards and booms) and 10,000 square feet (930 m2) of canvas that make up Endeavour’s sails. It is little wonder that the original Endeavour carried a sailing crew of 60 seamen.
Anthony Longhurst, ANMM leading-hand rigger and shipwright