ran through, almost bringing our jib-boom over one of the forts.

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enkidu68

Senior Member
turkish
Hi folks, this is cited from Wellingborough Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)
Question: Does this bold one describe their fast passing from the Narrows?

That night it again fell calm; but next morning, though the wind was somewhat against us, we set sail for the Narrows; and making short tacks, at last ran through, almost bringing our jib-boom over one of the forts.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes. "Ran through" says that they passed through the Narrows. The jib-boom is the outer part of the bowsprit, at the very front of the boat. I cannot work out what is meant by "over" (it surely cannot be "above"), but it does sound as if they came very close to one of the forts (which were presumably there to guard the Narrows against enemy attack).
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is a very odd description. "To run" in sailing terms means "to run before the wind" but if that were the case they would not be making short tacks because the wind would be behind them.

    I don't quite agree with Uncle Jack about the jib-boom not being able to pass over a fort. On a large sailing vessel the tip of the jib-boom can be very high, just look at the scale of the people standing on the bowsprit in the following photograph. If it were extended by a jib-boom the tip would be even higher.

    men-standing-of-the-bowsprit-of-the-dar-mlodziezy-working-on-the-rigging-C572AD[1].jpg
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    If it were extended by a jib-boom the tip would be even higher.
    If it were a wooden bowsprit (as Redburn's ship would have had), than that would be the jib-boom they were standing on - no wooden bowsprit would be that long. Still, Redburn's ship could have had a steeper-raked bowsprit, making the jib-boom higher, but if it passed above a fort, then the fort must have been very low down to the water.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    He says "almost" so what I understood from this that it is an figurative "over" or "above"
    'Almost' does not mean 'figurative'. He says that the jib-boom came very near to the fort and, if it had been any nearer, it would actually have passed over it.

    If it were a wooden bowsprit (as Redburn's ship would have had), than that would be the jib-boom they were standing on - no wooden bowsprit would be that long. Still, Redburn's ship could have had a steeper-raked bowsprit, making the jib-boom higher, but if it passed above a fort, then the fort must have been very low down to the water.
    I still disagree. The vessel in the photo is low in comparison to the dock. The dock in that picture alone is high enough to encompass a two or three storey fort. On top of that, if you estimate the crew members to be 6ft tall, there is an extra clearance of perhaps 40 feet - enough for another 4 storeys.

    I think you are massively underestimating the size of wooden sailing ships. I'll see if I can find some statistics.

    @enkidu68. Does Melville ever mention the size or type of the sailing vessel in question? How many masts does it have? How long is it?
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I have never seen a jib boom much more than the height of a single storey house above water-level. I suspect "over" is used in the approximate sense of across - "He cast his eye over the horizon."
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have never seen a jib boom much more than the height of a single storey house above water-level. I suspect "over" is used in the approximate sense of across - "He cast his eye over the horizon."
    If I'm pushed I'll find example photos. Have you ever stood next to a tea-clipper?

    However why don't we wait for more information from the OP? We need to know:

    1. The size, type and/or measurements of the ship in question

    2. The country where the action took place. A fort isn't necessarily a tall stone building. Forts can be low-lying and made of other materials. c.f. wooden forts

    This picture is of a low-walled confederate fort during the American Civil War.
    COSeZ[1].jpg


    As so often happens on this forum, people start squabbling before they know the facts! ;)
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    "The Narrows" is in New York: The Narrows - Wikipedia. The ship is arriving from Liverpool.

    I don't recall enkidu68's questions saying much about the ship itself, but Egmont makes an interesting point about Melville in another thread, in relation to Moby Dick, written two years after Redburn:
    Melville's sailing experience was in small wooden whaling ships. Those were already outdated by 1849, when larger ones had pretty much replaced them (and were one of the reasons that the center of the whaling industry had moved from Nantucket, with its shallow harbor, to New Bedford by then). T.he ships he knew weren't large enough to have two topsails on the same mast.

    (Historical footnote: In Moby Dick, the narrator goes to Nantucket to sail instead of finding a whaling ship in New Bedford - where they were plentiful in 1851, and where he would have had no trouble finding a berth. Melville sent him there so he could sail on the type of ship Melville knew and could describe accurately, instead of on one of the newer ones with which Melville had no personal experience.)
    Redburn is generally regarded as being semi-autobiographical. Melville made the same journey as Redburn in 1839.
     
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    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    almost bringing our jib-boom over one of the forts.
    I think we must take this as an instance of hyperbole, indicating how close to the shore they came on one of their tacking manoeuvres.
    "To run" in sailing terms means "to run before the wind" but if that were the case they would not be making short tacks because the wind would be behind them.
    This is of course true, but I suspect he is using "ran" in the non-technical sense. They may well have been whisked through by the tide, but still needed to sail in order to maintain steerage.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    The last we heard, the ship was off Cape Cod, so I'm assuming it's Boston, not NYC. The fort in question would be Ft Warren, on Georges Island.

    32184


    They would have been passing the island to the left of the picture; the distance to Lovells Island appears to be about the width (left to right in the picture) of Georges Island. Then they would pass through a slightly narrower gap between Lovells Island and Gallops Island.

    Google Maps
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I think we must take this as an instance of hyperbole, indicating how close to the shore they came on one of their tacking manoeuvres.

    This is of course true, but I suspect he is using "ran" in the non-technical sense. They may well have been whisked through by the tide, but still needed to sail in order to maintain steerage.
    Agree on both points.
     
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