Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guest Post: Crow's Nests, Tops & Crosstrees... oh my! by Regan Walker


When I began to write historical romances set on a ship (and I have two, Wind Raven and my latest, To Tame the Wind), it became necessary for me to get the ship’s terminology right. One thing I noticed in fiction I’d read was that there appears to be confusion out there at to what is a crow’s nest. When we think of an old sailing ship, many of us might picture a barrel mounted on the mast from which a crew member with a spyglass might stare into the distance. But unless it’s a whaling ship of the 19th century, and he’s looking for whales or ice, likely it is not a crow’s nest.

If you look on the Internet for pictures of crow's nests on a ship, about half of the photos are the images might be of crow's nests, and the other half are actually "tops." Landlubbers who don't know the difference would call them all "crow's nests" but to a sailor, they're distinct and different. There were round tops with railings on ships going back to antiquity... as far back as there are doublings of the masts. They might look like the ones pictured below:
 

Tops can serve as lookout stations but since they actually have standing rigging attached to them (that is, they support the upper masts) technically they're "tops." Flat platforms, round platforms, oval platforms, boomerang-shaped platforms, two straight sticks set at right angles...with or without railings... if the shrouds of the upper masts attach to them, they're "tops" not crow’s nests.

On the other hand, if it's a basket or barrel attached to the mast strictly for the purpose of affording a place for a lookout to standing, with no rigging or shrouds to support, then it's called a crow's nest. The barrel crow’s nest was invented in 1807. It was lashed to the top-gallant mast (the highest section of the mainmast). Later it became a specially designed platform with protective railing.

Closeup of a top.

The picture of the two men in the crow's nest pictured to the left is from the Whaling Museum. It’s the type used in the South Pacific whaling fleet in the early days of the Nantucket industry, so they didn't need a basket or barrel to keep the lookouts warm. (The double iron ring high on the main mast is a certain sign that the ship is a whaler.)

Now if you are talking about my hero, Capt. Powell’s schooner in To Tame the Wind, set in 1782, or Nick’s ship in my Regency set in 1817, you’re talking about crosstrees, or timber supports that spread the upper shrouds to support the mast (see picture below).

The shrouds are the heavy lines, which go from the top of a mast to some anchoring point away from the bottom of the mast. The act like guy-wires to keep the masts from falling over sideways. After the 1600s, they usually had ratlines tied to them so that the sailors could use them as ladders to climb aloft.

I’m convinced many readers have no idea the lengths to which we authors go to “get it right” but it makes the story so much more authentic if we do the work, don’t you think?

The Book
“A sea adventure like no other, a riveting romance!” —Shirlee Busbee, NY Times Bestselling Author

Paris 1782…AN INNOCENT IS TAKEN

All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear... her.

A BATTLE IS JOINED

The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.

Get your copy at AMAZON




Meet the Author
Bestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits were encouraged. One of her professors suggested a career in law, and she took that path. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown.” Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” Each of her novels features real history and real historic figures. And, of course, adventure and love.

Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, who she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.

WEBSITE  |  BLOG  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER

Let's join Regan Walker on this grand sea adventure!


Note: All images in this post were provided by the Regan Walker. 

16 comments:

  1. Hi, M.K.! I'm delighted to be back on your beautiful blog. Thanks so much for having me. Hope your followers find the post (and my story!) entertaining.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As always, a pleasure to have you with us, Regan! I love old ships, so I found the post quite interesting. Thank you for sharing with us.

      Delete
  2. What a great post! Thanks, Regan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome, Alexa! Glad you liked it. And thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  3. Very interesting post, Regan! Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am as ever impressed by the width of your research, and the fascinating nuggets you come up with! Cheers for you yet again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Beppie. I love the research and writing stories set on a period schooner was a real challenge!

      Delete
  5. Great pictures, Regan. They make your descriptions quite clear. You have your historical facts down pat. And, as always, it was a very enjoyable post. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Cate. I hope it proves helpful to other authors.

      Delete
  6. Fascinating, Regan. Love the pictures too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you liked it, Collette. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  7. Great post! I'm not a sailor but now I can say I know the difference between a crow's nest a a top. =]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Then you know more than most, Diana! And when you read about a crow's nest in a book set in the 16th or 17th century you'll know it's wrong.

      Delete
  8. Love the post, Regan, as I'm always interested in old ship's info. I think my favorite discovery in my research of sailing ships was the term 'rat lines'. I absolutely *had* to find a way to get that in my story, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you, Mairi. I love that term, too. Really conveys a picture, no?

      Delete