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Sloops are one-masted sailing vessels which, in American examples, set fore-and-aft sails but usually no square sails. Thus, staysails, or jibs, are set from the fore stay(s) and a quadrilateral mainsail is set from the mast and spread by a gaff and a boom. The larger sloops would often set a triangular topsail over the main sail. (1)
The sloops depicted by Lane were used in various coastal trades, each with its own requirements, which dictated the sizes and details of their hulls and rigs. Most elegant were the packet sloops, which transported passengers, mail, and higher value goods between specific ports on regular schedules. They usually measured between sixty and seventy-five feet on deck, as dictated by anticipated shipping volume. Finely finished, they usually had stern galleries—a row of windows across the transom with ornamental moldings—and varied color schemes. Examples of packet sloops are in (center, middle ground) and (foreground), both of which probably made trips between Gloucester and Boston, or Gloucester and Newburyport. (2)
Another specialized sloop of similar size was the stone sloop, used to ship granite blocks from stone-loading piers around Cape Ann to other ports. They were similar in rig to packet sloops, but of heavier construction with greater hold capacity and absence of decoration. Their stout appearance was augmented by simple color schemes, or even tarred topsides, reflecting the wear and strain imposed by their heavy cargos. Lane depicted these vessels in his painting of , with a sloop (at left) preparing to load at wharf-side, and another (at right) sailing out with a cargo. (3)
Sloops of the more work-a-day sort are the most commonly seen examples in Lane’s paintings, most of them appearing in his views of Boston Harbor. Usually deep-loaded and looking weather-worn, they contrast sharply with the packet- and clipper ships which dominate the scene. Sloops of this type are rarely seen in Lane’s paintings of Gloucester Harbor and the Maine coast, although they were certainly needed for short-distance transportation (see , , ). For coastal Maine, lack of railroads for heavier freight and greater distances between ports made the use of schooners with larger carrying capacity a greater necessity. (4)
In Lane’s views of New York Harbor, a regional sloop variant, the Hudson River Sloop, appears in (bow view, left) and (stern view, right). This type had become prominent in the Hudson River packet trade between New York City, Albany, and beyond to points north and west as far as the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal. Large vessels for their rigs, they were well-finished and well-kept, reflecting pride of ownership and rivalry among their owners and crews. (5)
– Erik Ronnberg
1. A Naval Encyclopaedia (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1884. Reprint: Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1971), 59. See first definition of "sloop" and definition of "sloop-rigged."
2. Robert Greenhalgh Albion, William A. Baker, and Benjamin Woods Labaree, New England and the Sea (Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1972; reprinted in 1994), 127–28.
3. Howard I. Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1935), 300–02.
4. Ibid., 300.
5. Ibid., 298–300.
A Naval Encyclopaedia:
Dictionary of nautical words and phrases
Special Articles on Naval Art and Science
Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co.
'Mudian, "Mugian, or Bermudian. A boat special to the Bermuda islands, usually decked, with the exception of a hatch; from 2 to 20 tons burden; it is short, of good beam, and great draft of water abaft, the stem and keel forming a curved line. It carries an immense quantity of ballast. Besides a long main- and short jib-boom, it has a long, taperking, raking mast, stepped just over the forefoot, generally unsupported by shrouds or stays; on it a jib-headed mainsail is hoisted to a height of twice, and sometimes three times, the length of the keel. This sail is triangular, stretched at its foot by a long boom. The only other sail is a small foresail or jib. They claim to be the fastest craft in the world for working to windward in smooth water, it being recorded of one that she made five miles dead to windward in the hour during a race; and though they may be laid over until they fill with water, they will not capsize.
Wood, metal, cordage, cloth, paint.
Scale: ¼ in. = 1ft. (1:48)
Cape Ann Museum. Gift of Roland and Martta Blanchet (1997.17.3)
Although built in 1890 and larger than the stone sloops of Lane’s time, the "Albert Baldwin’s" hull form, rig, and loading boom are very similar to those of the 1840s and 1850s.