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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-water lochs, and was as skilful in the management of an open boat with a lug-sail as any man on the coast, but had the reputation of being very daring; and here was the evil. He relied too much upon his skill and his previously frequent hairbreadth escapes, and fastened the sheet; the consequence of which was, that, on a heavy squall arriving, the boat was capsized in an instant and went down—which would not have been the case had the sheet been in hand, as it ought to have been, with such a boat, under such circumstances. Two men were drowned, the other two picked up by a boat which was at hand and came immediately to their aid.
On several occasions this year, when out with a small boat with a lug-sail, mackerel fishing, I should have been capsized by squalls, had I not had the sheet in hand, and been able at the moment to have eased the sail. If you are any distance from the high land, you can always perceive the squalls arriving on the surface of the water from a considerable distance, and can therefore be prepared if you exercise proper vigilance, partially to counteract their effect, by easing the sail at the same time that you turn your helm or luff slightly to the wind.
Two other accidents happened from the same cause as before mentioned; one about six weeks since, and the other two years ago. The latter occurred to three fishermen, not far from the shore, and in the sight of several persons—the three men being old experienced hands. The boat was similar in make, size, and construction to any ordinary fishing boat—open, and with a lug-sail. They were sailing fast before the wind, with a strong breeze, when they encountered a sudden squall from the opposite direction, which of course jibbed the boat; and, as the sheet was fastened, the boat, not receiving sufficient relief from the helm, went over immediately, and the three men were drowned. In this case, if the sheet had been in hand, the boat would not have been capsized.
The reason for this extreme precaution of having the sheet always in hand, is, I think, evident, from the fact that, in these sea-water lochs, squalls frequently come on in an instant, either at right angles to, or immediately opposite the direction of, the wind filling your sail, and which is impelling you. The immediate and inevitable consequence of this counter action is the jibbing of the boat, and its capsize—if the sail be fast, and the boat be going before the wind.
The nature of the surrounding hills and mountains easily explains these back and counter-currents of wind, as well as their concentrated violence.
The other accident to which I have alluded remains unexplained, as the four persons who were in the boat were all drowned. This boat was an open one, as large as a good-sized fishingboat, from 22 to 25 feet keel, with a mainsail, jib, and foresail. The party consisted of two gentlemen and two sailors. The former had been on an excursion of pleasure, and were returning at night across a wide sea-water loch. The weather was rather squally, but not too much so for a boat of the above size: her beinocapsized is therefore attributed to mismanagement; and this opinion was strongly supported by the fact that, on recovering the boat, every halliard, sheet, and tack, was found tight and fast.
A boat recently strongly recommended to me for the purposes of all sorts of loch fishing, is one of 15 or 16 feet keel, 6 feet beam, sharp at the bow or forepart, round stemmed, and flat in the middle. A boat of this construction could not easily be upset, and would be very convenient, for long-line, hand-line, mackerel, and salmon and salmon-trout fishing. There is, I believe, only one sort of boat more safe, and that is a coble; and this is made purposely for salmon and salmon-trout fishing. This boat carries a lug