Return to Previous Page









Manager of Germanischer Lloyd


Complete with 172 figures, 1 frontispiece

and 2 plates


First Published 1903


Translated from the original German








© Mori P. Flapan




The aim of this book is to record the present state of the art in the masting and rigging of ships. With the steady decline in the number of sailing vessels, literature on this subject has been much neglected. As such, this work is intended to serve as a reference. Despite the few sailing vessels constructed over the past decade and the introduction of twin screws greatly reducing the need to rig larger steamers; there have been a number of significant developments in the masting and rigging of ships that are worthy of recording. In the modern four‑ and five-masters, we are seeing the evolution of new types of vessels. At the same time, a number of other vessel types are gradually disappearing.


Part One of this book deals with the theoretical principles necessary for a shipbuilder to independently develop the preliminary design of a vessel. In Part Two the rigs of a number of German sailing and steam vessels are illustrated and analysed together with the necessary calculations presented in as clear a manner as possible.


In times gone by, shipbuilders drew upon previous experience when determining a sail plan. The shipbuilder would determine spar sizes, proportions and, if required, sizes of the standing rigging. The manufacture of fittings was left to the blacksmith, the blocks to the blockmaker and the remainder to the sailmaker and rigger. These men were directed by the owner's representative; i.e. by the master who was responsible for the supervision of the vessel while under construction. The above-mentioned tradesmen needed little in the way of drawings or sketches of the rig. Nor were written texts used. Nowadays it is impossible to operate an efficient and profitable shipbuilding enterprise without first producing detailed drawings for each individual component. The production of these working drawings requires a great deal of practical knowledge and is now the responsibility of the shipyard. Where once the shipbuilder gained this knowledge through experience in the shipyard, at sea and from other seafaring men; today it is a formal education and texts that must be relied upon. This being the case, I consider it my duty to publish this knowledge‑ thus ensuring its availability for future generations. Accordingly, in Part Three of this book, I have attempted to illustrate by means of plans and sketches the various types of metal fittings, blocks, etc. Moreover, included In this part are a discussion of the stresses involved as well as tables and formulae for determining sizes and scantlings.


After some years spent in the preparation of this book, I must thank the various shipyards for their generosity providing the many illustrations. In particular, I am indebted to Herrn Claussen, manager of the shipyard Joh. C. Tecklenborg A‑G, who over many years willingly provided me with the benefit of his experience and observations.


1 also would like to thank Herr Carl Muller naval architect, and his staff for their assistance checking the calculations and proof‑reading the text.


Berlin. January 1903.


The Author

(Friedrich Ludwig Middendorf)



Over 90 years have passed since Friedrich Middendorf wrote his book Bemastung und Takelung der Schiffe. At that time, commercial sail was still common, though in decline, and the steam reciprocating engine reigned supreme. The intervening period has seen great changes in Marine technology. The last deep sea cargo carrying square rigger, the Padua, was built in 1926 and the carriage of cargoes under square rig ceased in the 1950's. Those few large sailing vessels which operate today do so only under the banner of sail training or novelty charter operation. Moreover, the steam reciprocating engine has all but disappeared, Its successor, the steam turbine is largely considered obsolete and nowadays most ships are propelled by diesel engines.


The major part of Middendorfs book deals with the rigging of sailing vessels. In the Author's Foreword, Middendorf foreshadows the day when much of the practical knowledge of building sailing vessels will be lost. Today, this forecast has become a reality. There are now very few people with experience of how to design the rig of a large sailing vessel. Fortunately, Middendorf foresaw what might happen and completed this important work recording a lifetime of experience on the subject. The book was finished just before his death in 1903.


Though both Britain and North America have had a long and proud tradition of building sailing vessels, little of the technology has been properly recorded. Prior to this century, shipbuilding was often undertaken using a bare minimum of plans, the detail design being provided by the wide experience of the various tradesmen involved. Few books on the design of sailing vessels were ever written in the English language. Instead, the knowledge was handed down on the job from tradesman to apprentice. Those few references which were published on the rigging of sailing vessels were mainly prior to 1860 or were trade oriented, dealing only with a narrow portion of the subject. Indeed, the most comprehensive English language publication on the rigging of latter day merchant sailing vessels was written for model makers many years after the sailing ship era. Harold Underhill's Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier has been the standard reference since its publication in 1946. Countless models have been constructed using the detail provided in Underhill's book.


The latter half of the twentieth century has seen renewed interest in square rigged sail. New sail training ships have been built, old windjammers restored and smaller vessels square rigged for charter service. The books written for model makers have proven of only limited usefulness when designing the rig for an actual vessel.


The translator first heard of Middendorfs Bemastung und Takelung der Schiffe in 1981 during a visit to Galveston Texas as part of a Churchill Fellowship. The 1977 German reprint was being used in the restoration of the 1877 iron barque Elissa. Although the text had not been translated, the tables proved invaluable, particularly in regard to detailed design of the fittings. Even at that first brief sighting, it was clear Middendorfs book contained a tremendous amount of practical information not available from books written in English.


Since 1980, the translator has been closely involved in the restoration of the 1874 Iron barque James Craig. The Sydney Maritime Museum salvaged this vessel as an abandoned hulk in 1972 and restoration has been ongoing since. The Museum is committed to undertake as authentic a restoration as possible, a difficult objective given that much of the rig and outfit was no longer in existence. As was typical for the time, little in the way of planwork was ever produced and even then, almost none of that has survived. It was clear that Middendorf's work could be a very important resource in the restoration of the ship. Hence, the original motivation for translating this book. Research done to date shows good correlation between the information contained within the book and that determined by other means pertaining directly to the James Craig.


The translation has followed the original work as faithfully as possible. Where errors were found in the original work, those that are not typographical have been identified in the translation. During the course of the translation, it was found that certain words would best be kept in German or had no English equivalent. Included are the names of some smaller types of vessels specific to certain regions. German words which have been retained have been identified by double quotation marks. The English terminology used in the translation has generally followed that used in Underhill's Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier. A notable exception has been the use of the terms 'lower mast trestle trees' and 'topmast trestle trees' where Underhill refers to 'top' and 'topmast cross‑trees' respectively. By adopting Underhill's terminology, the translation can be read in conjunction with Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship and Ocean Carrier, the latter serving as an excellent reference to explain the basic principles involved.


Many of the concepts contained within the section dealing with sailing vessel stability are still being used to assess the adequacy of a design. However, in recent years there has been a major review of the criteria for sailing vessel stability, largely as a result of the loss of the barque Marques in 1986, the topsail schooner Pride Of Baltimore in 1986 and a number of racing yachts in the 1989 Fastnet series. Research carried out by the Wolfson Unit of the University of Southampton has formed the basis of new sailing vessel stability criteria adopted by the British Department of Transport. As well as considering the information contained within this book, any person contemplating designing, building or operating a large sailing vessel today would be well advised to read the findings relating to the losses of the above‑named vessels and the papers produced by the Wolfson Unit as a result of their research. A list of references is given below. Also, any such vessels must comply with all relevant statutory requirements of the particular Flag State.


In preparing this translation, 1 would like to thank the many people who have assisted over the fast 11 years including The Winston Churchill Fellowship Trust for giving me the opportunity to research vessel restoration overseas, Waiter Rybka and Steve Hyman without whom l would never have known of Middendorf’s book, John Van Kreiken, Terry Winter, Paul Armstrong and Lisolette Hamecher. In addition 1 am indebted to my wife Kham for her continuing patience and support.





Sail Training Vessel Stability Wolfson Unit Report No.798 for the Department of Transport. February 1987.


The Auxiliary Barque "Marques" Report of the Court 8073. Department of Transport. HMSO. London 1987.


Marine Technology. Vol 26, No.2, April 1989, pp 87‑104. Sailing Vessel Stability with Particular Reference to the Pride of Baltimore Casualty. Howard A. Chatterton, Jr. and John C. Maxham.


The Development of Stability Standards For UK Sailing Vessels. by B. Deakin. Read in London at a meeting of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects April 23, 1990. Paper printed in The Naval Architect.


Marchaj. C.A. 1986 Seaworthiness ‑ The Forgotten Factor. Adlard Coles Ltd. London. ISBN 0‑229‑11673‑6.


Marine Directorate. 1990 Code of Practice for the Construction, Machinery, Equipment, Stability and Survey of Sail Training Ships between 7 metres and 24 metres in Length HMSO. London.


U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Title 46, Subchapter S, Parts 170‑174, Subdivision and Stability. 1986.


Uniform Shipping Laws Code. Section 8C Stability Clause 12 Sailing Vessels. Australian Transport Advisory Council Australian Government Publishing Service 1986.