La Libellule

Historic Background


The Libellule stems from having perused books and pictures on 18th century ships for many years of armchair reading. The following is a sample of similar small brig-related ships from the second half of that century, unquestionably the golden age of sail. As always, there is much more information on large named ships than on little anonymous ones, so you need to "read between the lines" to reconstruct the missing data.

1. Chapman

Fredrik Henrik af Chapman (1721-1808) was a Swedish shipbuilder, scientist and officer in the Swedish navy. In 1768 he published the wonderful Architectura Navalis Mercatoria from which the following drawings illustrate common rigs, in a somewhat decreasing size order.

Chapman_LXII_1.jpg A classic 3-masted ship, with the same sail plan from single deck 12-gun corvettes to 74-gun and more three-deckers. The fore mast holds a foresail (furled), a fore topsail, and a fore topgallant. The main mast holds a main sail (furled), a main topsail, and a main topgallant. The mizzen mast holds a mizzen topsail and a gaff-rigged spanker (also called driver).
Chapman_LXII_2.jpg A snow is a ship whose mizzen mast is a couple of feet abaft and practially merged with the main lower mast. This allows setting simultaneously a main sail (furled) and a spanker, which otherwise would interfere too much aerodynamically with one another.
Chapman_LXII_4.jpg A brig sets a fore sail, but does not set any main sail. The space thus freed in front of the main mast is occupied by a significant staysail, with main topmast and topgallant mast staysails above it. Unlike the snow, the brig is a common design.
Chapman_LXII_4_CutDown.jpg Drawings and plans always show the full complement of spars and sails. In merchant practice, either because carried away in a gale, or because of reduced crew, the rig was cut-down. The same brig as above is shown here with topgallant masts and sails removed. This is getting close to the Libellule design.
Chapman_LXII_6.jpg For comparison purpose, the fore mast of a topsail schooner bears an important gaff-rigged foresail, and no square foresail. If a square foresail was set, it would still be a schooner (or schooner-brig), given the relative area given to the fore-and-aft foresail. This was a very common design, especially in the USA.
Chapman_LXII_10.jpg A 3-masted barque sets square sails on fore and main masts, but none the mizzen mast; just a spanker. This small barque has no topgallants, and no main stay, only a main topmast stay, two features retained in the Libellule.


2. Ozanne

Nicolas Ozanne (1728-1811), Jeanne-Francoise Ozanne (1735-1795), and Pierre Ozanne (1737-1813), all naval artist and naval architect children of a French Navy cook, published Recueil de Vaisseaux around 1780. It consists of a set of copper engravings organized in Cahiers, and it includes some quite small boats, none of them with topgallants. Because they are so lively and accurate, copies of those engravings regularly appear for sale on the internet (and sometimes an original at Christie's).

Note. In French the word barque corresponds to any small boat, not to be confused with barques of 19th century meaning, which is "no square sail on mizzen mast", implying at least 3 masts. They will all be referred to by rig name instead.

Ozanne_BrickMarchandALEchouage.jpg Small brig at low tide. The fore yard may be canted to avoid hitting yards from neighboring anchored ships when the tide rolls in.
Ozanne_PetiteBarqueAppareillant.jpg Very small brigantine (a brig with no square sail on main mast) setting sail. The rig only consists of a square fore sail, and a gaff main sail, both on pole masts.
Ozanne_BriqueAuPlusPres.jpg Brig closed-hauled on a port tack. This is the look the Libellule is planned to have; one jib, a fore topsail, an optional fore sail, one staysail, a main topsail, and a spanker. More sails would be too much to handle for two people.
Ozanne_BarqueVirrantVentDevant.jpg Brig in the midst of tacking. Starting from fore and main masts on the port tack, the brig was steered "helm's alee" right across the wind, and in the shadow of the fore mast taken aback and helping pushing the bow to starboard, the main mast was swung to starboard tack. All left to do now is swinging the fore mast (and jibs) to resume sailing, now on a starboard tack.
Ozanne_BarqueVentArriere.jpg Brig running before the wind. In any stronger wind the spanker would be furled, to let the square foresail lift the bow out of the waves.
Ozanne_PetiteBarqueEnPanne.jpg Brig heaving to. The foremast is swung to set aback all its sails, and the ship drifts slowly sideways, with no sails flapping in the wind. Brigs are notoriously maneuverable (even for sailing backwards), a big advantage in rivers and confined waters.
Ozanne_PetiteBarqueSeHallant.jpg Crew hauling a small brig inside a harbor. The foremast is a single pole. The sizable anchor is ready to be dropped immediately should the hauling cable part.


3. other sources

RoyalSavage_h92864.jpg Royal Savage as it sailed on Lake Champlain shortly before its demise. Although a schooner, given the relative size of the fore and main topsails, it could qualify as a brig, one of the first of the US Navy. The Royal Savage was run aground then burned by the British at the Battle of Valcour on October 11, 1776. (National Archives h92864)
Sultana_Rusk_Chapelle.jpg Sultana was a schooner built in Boston in 1768 with fore and main topsails. As illustrated by Henry Rusk in Howard Chapelle (1935) History of American Sailing Ships it could also set square fore sail and square main sail with the help of Bentick booms, but it is still essentially a schooner. A full-size replica of this beautiful ship sails from Chestertown, Maryland.
Ouragan_Model.jpg Ouragan was a slaver built illegally in France around 1830. Apart from being over-canvassed, this not-so-small brig is interesting because it had pole masts. Original model is in the Musée national de la Marine in Paris (WiziShop)


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