David K. Engen of Salem, Oregon, a supremely knowledgeable reader who, we suspect, would be perfectly at home discussing fine points of rigging with John Paul Jones himself, has come upon some errors in Don Troiani’s drawing of the fight between the Serapis and the Bonhomme Richard that appeared in our October, 1974, issue: The very spirited painting of the battle deserves praise for the skill with which the fury of a close-range naval action is illustrated and critical comment for the technical deficiencies. A few of the more obvious errors in the maintop and rigging are:
The deadeyes in the topmast shrouds are upside down.
The head of the lower mast should be square in plan.
There are no main-yard slings or jeers in evidence.
The mizzen topmast stay should pass through a block just abaft the mast.
The starboard main-yard lift is improperly led.
The topmast shrouds should be secured to the deadeyes with throat seizings and round seizings above.
To securely set up and stay the masts, hold and control the yards, and handle the sail of an eighteenth-century ship required a mass of rigging that, however like a cobweb it appeared to the uninitiated, was very logical in its position and use. Since much of this rigging passed through or near or was belayed in the top, it can readily be understood that the fighting top contained many more blocks, lines, cleats, battens, eyebolts, etc., than shown.