HINTS ON BOAT SAILING Boat sailing may be looked upon as the nursery for ship sailing, the same general princi ples apply in both cases, and although it is quite possible that an accomplished boat sailor may know nothing of ship sailing through not having had any opportunity of practicing it, still, it is certain that a good knowledge of boat sailing will be an excellent foundation for seamanship in all its branches. Even as children learn to ride on donkeys and ponies before they are allowed to mount full-sized horses, so our " sucking Nelsons " may lay for themselves a thoroughly sound found ation for the noble art of seamanship by paying close attention to the management of their boats under all circumstances of wind and weather, and if the few hints which I propose to throw out in this little book in any way assist them, I shall feel myself amply rewarded.
Seamanship may be described as an inexact science, it certainly cannot be reduced to formula, nor learnt out of a book, therefore, let no young son of the ocean think that he is going to learn boat sailing by reading this book, all I can do for him is to give him a few hints which may prove useful in combination with practice, and to try and impress upon him that the only way to learn it is to practice it with his eyes open, and to lose no opportunity of sailing in any style of craft that he can get hold of, from a punt to a ship's launch. Sailing in a boat which is being cleverly handled by an experienced helmsman will no doubt teach something, but it will not make a good helmsman, nor a good seaman, practice alone will do that It is the custom amongst yachtsmen and watermen to deride man-of-war boat sailing, and to laugh at our boats when they see them in difficulties, managed or probably mismanaged, by an inexperienced midshipman, a green coxswain, and an untrained boat's crew, trying to work their boat against wind and tide, with a dipping lug, and finally having to resort to their oars, or per haps getting a tow from a friendly steam launch, if they have been lucky enough in the meantime to escape laying their boat thwart-hawse of some vessel at anchor, or getting her stove against some twirling buoy. Such exhibitions are no doubt
legitimate sources of merriment for outsiders, particularly for yachtsmen, who not uncommonly try to ape the manners and customs of men-of war's men ; but they can only be subjects of mor tification and pain to all officers unto whom the honour and credit of their profession is dear.
It is on the face of it obviously unfair to compare a man-of-war's boat to any yacht how ever small she may be, or even to a well-found wherry ; but whereas any lubber can beat to windward in a ten ton racing cutter, it takes some skill to do so in a fiat-bottomed ship's launch, without a false keel, or any ballast except a few barricoes, nevertheless it can be done by paying close attention to the setting of the sails, staying of the masts, trim of the boat, and watchful and attentive steering, and when really well done, is a very creditable performance.
It should always be remembered that man of-war boats are not built exclusively for sailing, far from it, they are intended to fulfil a variety of purposes, they must be able to row fairly well, they must be good sea boats, they must be able to go into shallow water, to land on beaches, be strong enough to carry guns, gatlings, rockets, provisions, or a large number of men, and yet fairly light for hoisting up ; and if they fulfil moderately all these conditions it is absurd to expect them to sail on equal terms with boats of their own size built exclusively for sailing.
Before entering into descriptions of the different classes of boats used in the navy, it may be as well to make a few remarks upon the sailing of boats in general, as the same broad principles apply to all boats with all rigs, subject to some slight modifications, according to the size, build, and rig of the boat.