July 8, 2011
The shipyard of L’Hermione has now acquired a new dimension with the start of the rigging workshop.
On L’Hermione, the rigging consists of about 25 km of rope—just over 8 km of standing rigging and close to 16 km of running rigging—and 1500 different pieces.
The term “rigging” encompasses the collection of elements related to the canvas of a ship: the ropes that maintain the masts and allow the functioning of the sails.
Jens Langert, a rigger for more than 15 years and currently on L’Hermione shipyard, states that one could see the rigging as a kind of “engine” of the ship.
The rigging consists of two types:
- The standing rigging: ropes in manila, a natural fiber from a banana tree species (named abaca) grown in the Philippines, that keep the masts up. The standing rigging is manufactured from the bottom to the top (starting with the lower shrouds) and from the bow to the stern (starting with the lower foremast).
- The running rigging: ropes in hemp, grown in the Netherlands, spun in Belgium, and manufactured in the Netherlands, that allow the sails to move. Some ropes that carry heavy loads (less than 10% of the running rigging) will be manufactured using synthetic fibers.
In the first phase, the rigging team has done the maintenance of the rigging of the three jolly boats of L’Hermione and the re-tarring of the boltropes of the sails, as well as the ropes of the canons and the pumps. Next, work started on the real rigging, aiming to prepare all ropes while waiting for the masts to arrive.
The work began with the stretching of the halyards (a wire in manila used to hoist a sail), an operation necessary to avoid future elongation of the ropes by strong wind.
The dimensions of the ropes depend on their function and place on the ship. The diameter changes according to the load the rope has to take. For example, the shrouds for the foremast and the main mast have a diameter of 62 mm (2.5 in), while those for the mizzenmast are 54 mm (2 in). The biggest ropes are the lower stays, at 108 mm (4¼ in) diameter.
Langert is passionate about three things in his job: research for the historical details, the creative side, and teamwork. As such, he hopes that the public will be interested in this little-known craft.