The preservation of our historic ships is a huge part of what we do. HMS Gannet was built on the River Medway at Sheerness in 1878. Designed to patrol the world’s oceans, she ‘flew the flag’ protecting British interests around the world. She saw service in the South Pacific, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
Powered by both sail and steam, with a hull constructed from stout teak planking on a strong iron frame, this highly significant vessel forms part of the United Kingdom’s core national collection of historic ships.
Our historic ships team has been working with TS Rigging on the top mast of HMS Gannet, so let’s go behind the scenes and find out what work is taking place. We spoke to Chris Wood from TS Rigging …
Q: What work is currently taking place on HMS Gannet?
A: So the current project is built on top of an inspection we did just before Christmas which found some rot in the top mast on the main mast of HMS Gannet. We have been uninstalling the spars, bringing them down so they can be serviced so repairs can be done to them. So we have taken down in order: the royal yard, the topgallant yard, the topgallant mast and then the topsail yard, the course yard and the top mast, and the main mast gaff. We had teams of 3 or 4 and it’s taken us 7 days in all.
Did you know? A yard is a spar on a mast, which is where sails are set from. Traditionally, they are constructed from steel or timber. Although some fore and aft rigs have yards, the term is most notably used to describe horizontal spars used on square rigged sails.
Q: What are you working on today?
A: Today we’ve been taking down the last spar which was the gaff, off of the main mast and again we lowered that in her track as would have been done back in the day, we installed a throat halyard for it and a peak halyard for the job. Just as they would have had in when she was sailing in Victorian times.
Did you know? A throat halyard is a line which raises the end of a gaff nearer to the mast, in contrast to the peak halyard which raises the end further from the mast.
Q: What is the importance of using traditional methods?
A: We are all sailors and we like to try and keep the traditional methods alive which is why we particularly like Chatham. So we try to keep to the seamanship methods and it helps to keep the cost down rather than bringing in Cranes for jobs that don’t necessarily need them.
Q: What work is next for HMS Gannet?
A: Hopefully in a few months time when all the yards are serviced we’ll put them all back in and she’ll have a new shiny main mast. Then in the future we are looking to strip down the mizzenmast and then the fore mast in a couple years time to give her the same service as the main mast.
Q: To you Chris… what makes HMS Gannet so special?
A: She’s the only ship of this design still afloat, the composite ship. A metal frame with wooden hard planks. And she’s very unusual in the fact that she’s still rigged with wooden spars, so a lot of other ships would have been replaced with metal spars because they are easier to maintain.
Did you know? Every time you buy a ticket or spend money in our restaurants, your money goes towards helping us care for our warships, historic buildings and important collections for future generations.