The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #172462   Message #4174827
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
18-Jun-23 - 05:11 AM
Thread Name: New Chanties Documentary
Subject: RE: New Chanties Documentary
I think I agree, meself.

Hauling a topsail halyard, however, presents an interesting case. What we understand to be the customary hauling method of the past (the time when chanteys were sung ordinarily) is intimately intwined with chantey singing. It's more or less impossible to do *without* singing a chantey.

So... nobody hauls that way nowadays. I see there being two issues with this that legitimately deserve consideration by today's sailors of traditional ships.

1) The traditional hauling method, I firmly believe (based on experience) is better. Now, it doesn't even occur to today's crews to do (why would it?), so how could they begin to discover for themselves the benefit of it? The world isn't going to end if they use a less-good method, but it's frustrating to think that the better method doesn't see a chance simply because they don't have this information (rather than it was tried and rejected).

2) I presume that much of the activity of being involved in traditional sailing ships, at least for some, has connects with, well, the traditions of sailing. It's not as if anyone is being forced to accept traditional ships as a means of conveyance and then making up new ways to sail what they're stuck with. Rather, there is interest in doing stuff as it was done. Sailors, moreover, are conservative and have all kind of things they do purely out of custom. I can't imagine why they would want to willfully reject the traditional custom, so I assume they don't do it because they don't know about it. The subject of chanteys introduces people to it.

These issues are more acute with the topsail halyard example, which is why I used it. But they are also relevant to the method of working the brake windlass. I have seen people absolutely fumbling with the windlass, whereas if they applied the chanteys or at least were introduced, through the discussion of chanteys, to the traditional method, things would go better.

I think this line of reasoning, which argues for why sailors did what they did, moves us toward a place where knowing about chanteys--like so many other things seasoned sailors are expected to know about--saves us from pretense.