Yard (sailing)
A yard is a spar
In sailing, a spar is a pole of wood, metal or lightweight materials such as carbon fiber used on a sailing vessel. Spars of all types In sailing, a spar is a pole of wood, metal or lightweight materials such as carbon fiber used on a sailing vessel. Spars of all types In sailing, a spar is a...

 on a mast
Mast (sailing)
The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall, vertical, or near vertical, spar, or arrangement of spars, which supports the sails. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship...

 from which sail
A sail is any type of surface intended to move a vessel, vehicle or rotor by being placed in a wind—in essence a propulsion wing. Sails are used in sailing.-History of sails:...

s are set. It may be constructed of timber, steel, or from more modern materials, like aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

 or carbon fibre. Although some types of fore and aft rigs have yards (see below), the term is usually used to describe the horizontal spars used with square sails. In addition, for some decades after square sails were generally dispensed with, some yards were retained for deploying wireless (radio) aerials and signal flags.

Parts of the yard

Bunt : The short section of the yard between the slings that attach it to the mast.
Quarters : The port and starboard quarters form the bulk of the yard, extending from the slings to the fittings for the lifts and braces
Braces (sailing)
The braces on a square-rigged ship are lines used to rotate the yards around the mast, to allow the ship to sail at different angles to the wind....

Yardarms : The outermost tips of the yard: outboard from the attachments for the lifts.

Note that these terms refer to stretches of the same spar, not to separate component parts.

Controlling the yard

To allow the direction of the vessel to be changed relative to the wind the yard can rotate around the mast. When running directly downwind the yards are 'squared', pointing perpendicular to the ship's centre line. As the ship is steered closer to the wind the yards are braced round using the braces
Braces (sailing)
The braces on a square-rigged ship are lines used to rotate the yards around the mast, to allow the ship to sail at different angles to the wind....

. When further rotation is obstructed by other bits of rigging
Rigging is the apparatus through which the force of the wind is used to propel sailboats and sailing ships forward. This includes masts, yards, sails, and cordage.-Terms and classifications:...

 (typically the shrouds
Shroud (sailing)
On a sailboat, the shrouds are pieces of standing rigging which hold the mast up from side to side. There is frequently more than one shroud on each side of the boat....

), the yard is said to be braced "hard round" or "sharp up", as in "sharp up to port". This angle (normally about 45 degrees) limits how close to the wind a square rigged ship can sail.

The yards represent a considerable weight high above the vessel's centre of gravity. To increase stability, especially in heavy weather, some means is normally provided to lower some of the yards when they are not being used to set sails. In nineteenth-century warships (where a large crew was available) this was generally by physically "sending down" the upper yards from the masts and storing them on deck - along with, in many cases, the upper sections of the mast itself. Merchant ships in the age of sail would also do this before sailing in the Southern Ocean
Southern Ocean
The Southern Ocean comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60°S latitude and encircling Antarctica. It is usually regarded as the fourth-largest of the five principal oceanic divisions...

. On modern tall ship
Tall ship
A tall ship is a large, traditionally-rigged sailing vessel. Popular modern tall ship rigs include topsail schooners, brigantines, brigs and barques. "Tall Ship" can also be defined more specifically by an organization, such as for a race or festival....

s the yards are not designed to be sent down on deck, but 'lifting yards' that can be raised and lowered along a short section of mast using a halyard
In sailing, a halyard or halliard is a line that is used to hoist a sail, a flag or a yard. The term halyard comes from the phrase, 'to haul yards'...

 are often used.

As well as rotating round the mast and moving up and down along it, the yards on many ships are designed to tilt relative to the mast. This allows the sails to be set more efficiently when the ship is heeled over by raising the leeward
Windward and leeward
Windward is the direction upwind from the point of reference. Leeward is the direction downwind from the point of reference. The side of a ship that is towards the leeward is its lee side. If the vessel is heeling under the pressure of the wind, this will be the "lower side"...

 yardarm to bring the yard closer to the horizontal. This is achieved using the lifts, which run from each yardarm to the mast some way above. On some ships only the course
Course (sail)
In sailing, a course is the lowermost sail on a mast.This term is used predominantly in the plural to describe the lowest sails on a square rigged vessel, i.e., a ship's courses would be the foresail, mainsail, and, on the rare occasions in which one is shipped, mizen...

 lifts can be adjusted (the others being fixed lifts intended only to support the yard when not hoisted), with the influence of the course yard being sufficient to tilt all the sails. Some ships have their yards mounted on mechanical swivels with no possibility of tilting them.

Going aloft

In order to set and stow the square sails, the crew must climb aloft and spread out along the yards. To do this, they stand in footrope
Each yard on a square rigged sailing ship is equipped with a footrope for sailors to stand on while setting or stowing the sails.Formerly, the footrope was the rope sewn along the lower edge of a square sail, and the rope below the yards was called the horse or Flemish horse...

s suspended beneath the yard and balance themselves between that and the yard itself. The person working on the end of the yardarm has a separate footrope known as the flemish horse
Flemish horse
A flemish horse is a footrope on a square rigged sailing ship that is found at the extreme outer end of the yard. The main footrope runs along the whole length of the yard, but because of its length the angle upwards to where it is attached is quite shallow, and thus it is too high to stand on for...

. Jackstays run along the top of the yard - the sail will be bent on to one of them, but a second one is often provided (particularly on larger yards) for the crew to hold onto. These are usually steel rods, but stiff cordage stretched between the yardarms was used in the past.

Almost all ships used in modern times are fitted with steel safety wires (sometimes erroneously called jackstays) along the yards to which sailors attach themselves using a harness
Safety harness
A safety harness is a form of protective equipment designed to protect a person, animal, or object from injury or damage. The harness is an attachment between a stationary and non-stationary object and is usually fabricated from rope, cable or webbing and locking hardware...

. This is a relatively recent innovation - cargo-carrying
A windjammer is the ultimate type of large sailing ship with an iron or for the most part steel hull, built to carry cargo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century...

 and naval
Ship of the line
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

 sailing ships were not so equipped and falling from the yard represented a real (though less than commonly imagined) risk.

Setting square sails

The yard exists to allow square sails to be set to drive the ship. The top edge of the sail is 'bent on' (attached) to the yard semi-permanently. Clewlines and buntlines
Clewlines and buntlines
For the revolver, see Colt BuntlineClewlines and buntlines are lines used to handle the sails of a square rigged ship.Although the common perception of a traditionally rigged ship is that the sails are handled from "up in the rigging", the majority of the work is actually carried out from the deck...

 are led along the yard and from there to the mast and down to the deck. These allow the bottom of the sail to be hoisted up to the yard, so the sail is effectively folded in two. In this state the sail is said to be "in its gear", that is ready for setting or stowing. To set the sail the clewlines and buntlines are let go, and the sheet
Sheet (sailing)
In sailing, a sheet is a line used to control the movable corner of a sail.- Fore-and-aft rigs:Fore-and-aft rigs comprise the vast majority of sailing vessels in use today, including effectively all dinghies and yachts. The sheet on a fore-and-aft sail controls the angle of the sail to the wind,...

s (attached to the bottom corners - clews - of the sail) are adjusted to shape the sail to best catch the wind. For lifting yards the yard must be hoisted to the top of its travel to set the sail.

To stop using - "hand" - the sail, the sheets are released and the clewlines and buntlines are pulled tight. The sail folds in half - back in its gear - and no longer catches the wind. Unless the sail is to be used again very soon, the next step is to "stow" it. To do this, the crew must go out along the yard in order to bundle the sail up tightly and tie it down with gasket
Gasket (sailing)
In sailing, gaskets are lengths of rope or fabric used to hold a stowed sail in place. In modern use, the term is usually restricted to square-rigged ships, the equivalent items on yachts being referred to by the more prosaic "sail ties"....


Manning the yards

When coming into port, especially during the Tall Ships' Races many modern square riggers will 'man the yards'. All the crew not required on deck to handle the ship will go aloft and spread out along the yards. This maneuver was originally used to display the whole crew to the harbour authorities and the other ships present, to show that the ship's guns were not manned and hence her intentions were peaceful.

The Mexican Navy's training ship Cuauhtémoc
Cuauhtémoc (ship)
ARM Cuauhtémoc is a sail training vessel of the Mexican Navy, named for the last Aztec Emperor Cuauhtémoc who was captured and executed in 1525....

 is famous for manning its yards with its crew standing on the yards themselves, rather than in footropes.

Fore and Aft Yards

As well as the square-rig yard described above, the traditional lateen
A lateen or latin-rig is a triangular sail set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction....

 rig is a triangular sail rigged fore and aft from a long yard mounted at an angle (downward sloping forward) from the mast. As well, some smaller fore and aft rigs use a yard. The spar at the head of a lugsail
A lugger is a class of boats, widely used as traditional fishing boats, particularly off the coasts of France, Scotland and England. It is a small sailing vessel with lugsails set on two or more masts and perhaps lug topsails.-Defining the rig:...

 - a roughly-square sail which is set fore-and-aft but requires more handling than a more modern gaff or Bermuda rig - is known as a yard, and probably developed from the original square-rig yard. The spar at the head of a gunter
In sailing, a gunter is used for two main configurations of rig:#The gunter is defined as a wire that leads from one point near the end of a gaff to a point near the other end. A block travels along this wire, and a halyard is attached to this block...

-rigged sail serves the function of a running topmast, but is not given that name. Some would call it a 'gaff', while others would use the name 'yard'.

"Sun over the yardarm"

This phrase is widely used, both afloat and ashore, to indicate that the time of day has been reached at which it is acceptable, variously, to have lunch or (more commonly) to have an alcoholic beverage. In modern parlance, the latter usage typically refers to early evening, but the phrase is thought originally to have referred to late morning and to the sun's ascent past a particular yard.

The actual time that the sun would pass a particular yard would depend greatly on the ship's latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

 and heading
Course (navigation)
In navigation, a vehicle's course is the angle that the intended path of the vehicle makes with a fixed reference object . Typically course is measured in degrees from 0° clockwise to 360° in compass convention . Course is customarily expressed in three digits, using preliminary zeros if needed,...

, as well as the height of her masts, but the phrase seems to have originated in the north Atlantic, where, in summer, this would have typically been at about 11 a.m.. This was the time at which, by custom and rule, the first rum "tot" of the day was issued to officers and men (the officers had their tots neat, while the men had theirs diluted with water), hence its connection with taking one's first alcoholic drink of the day.

The earliest mention of this phrase collected by the OED is in Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

's From Sea to Sea in 1899, where it is used as a metaphor referring to drinking habits. However, the phrase was in use earlier, in the same context. One example is from the first volume of Life
Life (magazine)
Life generally refers to three American magazines:*A humor and general interest magazine published from 1883 to 1936. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936 solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name....

, from the issue of May 31, 1883 http://books.google.com/books?id=oQPOAAAAMAAJ&dq=sun%20over%20the%20yardarm&pg=PA253#v=onepage&q=&f=false.

See also

  • Full rigged ship
    Full rigged ship
    A full rigged ship or fully rigged ship is a sailing vessel with three or more masts, all of them square rigged. A full rigged ship is said to have a ship rig....

  • Glossary of nautical terms
    Glossary of nautical terms
    This is a glossary of nautical terms; some remain current, many date from the 17th-19th century. See also Wiktionary's nautical terms, :Category:Nautical terms, and Nautical metaphors in English.- A :...

  • Lateen
    A lateen or latin-rig is a triangular sail set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction....

  • Square rig
    Square rig
    Square rig is a generic type of sail and rigging arrangement in which the primary driving sails are carried on horizontal spars which are perpendicular, or square, to the keel of the vessel and to the masts. These spars are called yards and their tips, beyond the last stay, are called the yardarms...

  • Squaring a yard
    Square (sailing)
    The term to square a yard is used when sailing a square-rigged ship.To "square a yard" is to lay the yards at right angles to the line of the keel by trimming with the braces.-Explanation:...

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