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the iron pin which holds it, so that the person sitting near the mast can liberate it the instant you order him to do so, and thus let down the sail. Whenever the weather happens to be boisterous and squally it is always prudent to have one person sitting near the mast with the halliard in hand. Be sure, also, to have sufficient ballast; this is of vital importance; without it there is no security, even if there be only an ordinary breeze, the day fine, and the sun shining on you. You are always exposed in sea-water lochs, to occasional strong blasts of wind, which you cannot always perceive arriving on the surface of the water, as they sometimes come over the tops of the mountains and descend upon you without notice; hence the danger in a small boat with sails, without skilful and prudent management .
If you apprehend danger with your entire sail, take in as many reefs as you can, lowering your sail proportionably at the same time; and if the breeze be too powerful for this reduced quantity of canvas, then luff up, down with the sail, and use your oars. Never allow your boat to be dead on the water or lose her way, by luffing her too much, i. e. turning her head too much to the wind when a squall strikes the sail, as this is a most dangerous position to be in,— but keep the sail full, easing it a little; and when you tack, never tack down wind, or you will infallibly be capsized, o
if there be anything of a breeze: this is what sailors call "jibbing" and can only be done in safety when the breeze is very slight, and then must be done cautiously, letting out the sail at the same time.
If you cannot tack cleverly, it is safer to relax your sail and use your oars, otherwise the boat may become stationary and exposed to considerable danger, in the event of a strong blast of wind arriving precisely at that moment. As I am merely a sportsman and no sailor, I must crave indulgence for any mistakes I may have made, either in the use of improper terms or otherwise, in conveying to the reader the little information I possess on this subject: it is, however, derived from practical experience, which on one or two occasions nearly proved too expensive. I therefore trust it may not be altogether without value.
ON SEA LOCHS, &c.
Since writing the preceding chapter, so many accidents have occurred within my own immediate knowledge, involving on each occasion the loss of lives, from the incautious use of the lugsail in small boats, that I cannot refrain from adverting to some of the circumstances connected with it, in order that those who visit the Highlands, and who may be induced to venture on the sea-water lochs in a small open boat, may be on their guard whenever the use of the sail is proposed, and not be deluded into a state of false security because the day is fine, and the men employed are reputed skilful, — as the accidents to which I allude have not happened to the inexperienced, but to men thoroughly conversant with the use of boats and the nature of the lochs, and well aware of the risks and dangers they might encounter, but who were either too bold, or negligent of the most ordinary precautions.
The sea-water lochs are generally surrounded by high land, mountainous and uneven, so that the wind, by being checked in some places, comes with redoubled and concentrated force in others, thereby occasioning squalls whenever there is more than an ordinary breeze; and if a squall strikes a small boat, and there be either insufficient ballast or too much sail, she will be in great danger of being upset; but, in any case, if either rashly or unskilfully managed—it is the affair of an instant.
Occasionally, during the summer months, there are days on which there is a fine steady breeze, exempt from squalls, on which a small boat, with its entire sail, is perfectly safe, if properly managed; but these occasions are rare. I have generally observed, that there is either too much or too little wind, for small boats; hence the necessity of being on your guard. What I specially recommend is, attention to ballast and to the size of the sail. Never omit a proper amount of ballast; and you must be guided in this respect by the trim of your boat, — and this is relatively to her depth in the water fore and aft; and, if there be more than an ordinary breeze, take in as many reefs as you can. When a small boat is made thus snug, if she be a good, well-built one, she cannot easily be upset, provided always every vigilance and precaution be exercised. But, in taking in reefs, you must on no account omit at the same time to lower the sail; for, without doing this, your boat would derive little or no relief, the undue preponderance at the distance counteracting the good effect of the reduced quantity of canvas.
A boat, with nine workmen in it, was recently upset in crossing a loch, and five of the men drowned. This accident happened in consequence of the sail being too large and too heavy,—a squall having suddenly caught it, and capsized the boat. If this sail had been reefed in, it would not have happened, provided there had been sufficient ballast in the boat,—and this I very much doubt; and in all probability the sheet was fastened, as the boat could not have been upset if any one of the nine men had had the sheet in hand and liberated the sail at the proper moment. But the man holding the helm ought to have had the sheet in hand, as he is the most competent person to know exactly the moment when this relief can be judiciously and advantageously afforded; and great skill is required in doing it, in order that it be not overdone, so as to cause the boat to lose its way.
One would have thought that men bred on the banks of a sea-water loch would have acted with more circumspection, — more especially as this identical sail had previously occasioned loss of life under precisely similar circumstances. But the most experienced and most skilful are occasionally the most bold and venturous; and only a fortnight has elapsed from the time I am now writing, since an accident occurred in this immediate vicinity, involving the loss of two lives, which corroborates this opinion.
Four men had gone on the loch to try a new fishing-boat; she was of moderate size, with a lugsail. The parties were, as they termed it, anxious to see what she could do—how she could sail. There was more than a moderate breeze, with squalls sufficient to demand caution. The man at the helm was a fisherman, who had passed his life upon sea