In Columbus, Ohio we have a full-scale replica of Christopher Columbusí flag ship, the Santa Maria, a Spanish Nao that was the precursor to the Spanish Galleon.† It may seem unusual to find a full-size ocean-going ship in the heart of the landlocked Midwest, fitted out and ready to sail the high seas, but weíre quite accustomed to seeing it here.† Having a square rigger floating on a freshwater river in downtown Columbus gives us Midwest IGKT landlubbers a unique opportunity to do (in the words of another IGKT member) ďpracticalĒ knot work.† It also is a cause for some very interesting telephone conversations with various nautical suppliers.† (Youíre where!????)

Working on the Santa Maria

I had been in the IGKT for about three years before I finally worked up enough courage to volunteer on the Santa Maria.† After being asked a few questions by the head rigger, I was taken out to the ship to do some rope work.† I ended up spending a lot of time tying bowlines, clove hitches, rolling hitches, doing common whipping, and three-stranded splicing.† Knot work on the ship emphasizes speed and accuracy since you may have to tie the knots upside down, sideways, left handed, right handed, in rain, snow, cold, and windy conditions - all with the ship, masts, and yardarms swinging back and forth.† One has to know the knots cold - no time to go back to the books and see if they were tied correctly.† I must have passed the riggerís test because the next time I showed up to help, I got my ear chewed on because I was late, then† spent the whole day tying knots while others got to carry yardarms, sails, and other rigging from the storage shed out to the ship.

On the Santa Maria we try to keep all of our rope work to the 1492 time period.† We have several people who do historical research, but the biggest problem is the dearth of information about the rigging used at that time.† There is always a question whether what we are doing is accurate to the time period. Quite often a visitor tells us some rigging wasnít used until 1700 or 1800 only to find another source saying is was available in 1300.† Weíll find a picture of the Santa Maria carved into an altar in a church in Spain and think we have good historical information, only to find the church was built in the 1600ís.† Even archaeologists disagree!† So we are trying to be as accurate as possible.

Mostly we keep the knotting work very simple and do not knowingly introduce anything that would have been used after 1492.† Knot work, where it can be seen by the public, is kept to simple bowlines, clove hitches, half hitches, cleat knots, rolling hitches, and reef knots.† Iíve slipped in some buntline ties out of the public view.† Other rope work is palm and needle whipping, flat seizing, round turn seizing, and three-stranded splicing.† Any decorative knotwork that would have been found in the 1800ís is deliberately excluded

Capstan on the Santa Maria

We down rig in the fall due to concerns about the weather, weathering, safety, and to get the maximum wear out of the rigging.† We remove as much of the standing and running rigging as we can and take most of the ship back to bare wood.† Only the main mast shrouds, main stay and other major standing rigging are left up during the winter months.† The sprit, fore, and mizzen yardarms are taken down and stowed either on the ship or in a storage shed.† While in storage the yardarms are laid on Ocean Plait mats. (Ashley, # 3490)† In the spring, just before the tourist season, we will up-rig the ship Ė putting all of the rigging back on, bending the sails, and having it as close to sailing order as possible.†

While doing the up-rigging / down-rigging, we use modern synthetic rope for strength and safety reasons to move the yardarms and other equipment.† Types of rope used in up-rigging and down-rigging include three-stranded nylon and braided rope.† While rigging we use the Monkey Fist (Ashley, # 2200) as it was intended Ė to move heavier lines from deck to deck.† Moving the smaller yardarms is done with several sets of three-purchase block and tackle.† The main sail yardarm is lifted with a six-purchase block and tackle.† We also use selvagees (Ashley, # 3147) tied in Larkís head hitches or Pruisic knots to move the yardarms.†

The running rigging on the ship is either hemp colored Polypropylene, synthetic Hemp-x, or natural Manila, three-stranded right laid rope, ĺ inch diameter.† The standing rigging is synthetic rope, but it is either tarred or covered with a preservative that looks like tar.† Reefing lines are either 3/8 inch Polypropylene or hemp.† Seizing is done with a tarred marline.† So we feel most of our rigging looks similar to what you would have seen in 1492.


In keeping with the time period for the Santa Maria, we attach everything with ropes and knots.† No wire cables and very little metal fittings are used.† The sprit yardarm, foresail yardarm, and mizzen yardarm are bent to the halyard ropes using a Studding Sail Halyard Hitch. (Ashley, # 1678)

Cleat knot.

Mainsíl backstay block

The mainsail yardarm is bent to the halyard lines using a Topsail Halyard Hitch (Ashley, # 513).† After the halyards are bent to the yardarms, the loose ends are flat seized (Ashley, # 3385) to the standing parts using marline to make sure the hitches donít spill during the tourist season.† On the main top, we use half hitches to secure the port and starboard lift blocks and use locked bowlines to tie the main yardarm lifts.† On other lines such as the yardarm braces, we use simple bowlines (Ashley, # 1010) or simple bowlines with the ends seized.† On the other yardarms (sprit, fore, and mizzen) we use a Stunsíl Halyard Hitch (Studding Sail Halyard Hitch).† Once again after the yardarm is bent to the halyard, we use a flat seizing (Ashley, # 3385)† on the ends to make sure the hitches donít spill.

Seized Stunsíl Halyard Hitch on the Fore yardarm

After the yardarms are bent to the halyards, lift lines are attached to the foresail, mainsail, and mizzen yardarms.† The lifts for the Sprit sail are tied off to the forward pin rail (which is also known as the monkey rail) using a pin knot (Ashley, # 1615).† Lifts for the Fore and Mizzen sails are tied off to cleats on the masts.† The lines leading from the lower corners of the sails are called sheets and are tied off on the sail with seized bowlines Ė then pin knots on the pin rail.† Parrals are lashed to the yardarms to stop the yardarms from swinging away from the mast.† The loose ends of the Parral lines are seized to the standing parts.† We also have some sword mats (Ashley, # 2964) that are put on the yardarms to reduce wear on the masts. ††Next, the brace and tack lines are attached to the yardarms.

The forward pin rail.† Known as the monkey rail.

The sails are bent to the yardarms with robands (Ashley, calls them Robins; we use # 1263) then tied off with reef knots. ††Boy Scouts would call reef knots square knots.† The sail earrings are bent to the yardarm with a special half hitch knot.† Finally tack and sheet lines are bent to the lower clues of the sails.†

The Santa Maria does use some metal rings to tie off various rigging.† The foremast and mizzen mast backstays are attached to rings fixed on the deck.† Metal rings are used to tie the foresail and mainsail yardarm braces and tack lines to the hull.† Any hooks attached to rings are moused using marline.† The knot used for the mousing is the wedding knot (Ashley, # 1513).†


As we finish with each sail, the tie halyards and lift lines are tied to cleats using cleat knots (Ashley, # 1611).† Lines are then coiled and stowed using Halyard Coils (Ashley, # 3088).† Finally, everything is shipshape and the ship appears ready to sail.† While up-rigging in the spring, I can safely say you do a LOT of practical knot work.†

Moused hook on the foresíl halyard block

Throughout the summer tourist season, we are kept busy working on any worn or damaged rigging.† The ship is frequently rented out for parties so we have a large awning for sun and (mostly) rain.† The awning gets a lot of use and the lines for it often require repair.† Our person running the scouting overnights has them raise and lower the sprit sail yardarm and then drop and reef the sail.† Needless to say the lines for the sprit sail need constant repair and the reefing line for the sail always needs to be whipped.† I donít know how they manage to remove the whipping, but they do!† And whenever I stop by the ship, I always give it a look over to make certain everything looks shipshape.†

Mainsíl parralls

The Santa Maria has had some recent staff changes.† We were fortunate enough to gain a volunteer who had worked on the USS Constitution.† His specialty is canvas work.† With his help during the tourist season this year(2005), we replaced the robands on the sprit, fore, and mizzen sails.† Port and starboard main sail brace lines were replaced.† New reefing lines were made for the sprit, fore, and mizzen sails.† And we were able to bend the sprit, fore, and mizzen sails.† After the sails were up we would raise the sails for an added tourist attraction on weekends.† It was quite a site to see the sails bellied out with a brisk stern wind.†

During the winter months this year we will have to examine the standing rigging to see if any repairs are necessary.† We have done some serving of lines (Ashley, # 3339) while doing repair but we havenít had to do any worming or parceling.† We need baggy wrinkles (Ashley, # 3485) to prevent wear on some of the docking lines.† After doing more research we found it would be easier to put reefing lines on the yardarms rather than use longer lines and marling the sails.† So thatís something to be worked upon during the winter too.† The repair and maintenance list goes on and on.† The old adage ďa boat is a hole in the water into which you pour moneyĒ remains true, having just submitted an order for over $2,000 worth of rope.



The Santa Maria, Columbus, Ohio,USA