Rigging Sizes for the Flying Cloud


I first created these rigging lists in late 2019 and revised them in mid 2021 because I found additional sources of information.


I have not found any definitive lists of the rigging required for a clipper ship the size (1,700 tons) and launch date (1851) of the Flying Cloud. So I have extrapolated from the following documents:


David Steel: The Elements and Practice of Rigging and Seamanship – 1794

David Steel: Art of Rigging – second edition - 1806

Peter Force: Tables Showing the Masts and Spars, Rigging and Stores, etc of Every Description Allowed to the Different Classes of Vessels Belonging to the Navy of the United States. - 1826

George Biddlecombe: The Art of Rigging, - 1848  (Biddlecombe took over Steel’s material.)

Harold Underhill: Masting and Rigging the Clipper Ship & Ocean Carrier – 1946

Ben Lankford: Plans for the Clipper Ship Flying Fish – Model Shipways - 1994



I extracted the list of ropes from the Biddlecombe tables and then created a excel workbook with spreadsheets per mast and for the fore/aft sails with rows for each line and columns for the two sizes of ships closest to the size of the Flying Cloud listed in each of the sources.  I used the patterns in the listed sizes to project a line size for a ship the size of the Flying Cloud.


In the cases where the references tables did not include a particular rope (e.g. ropes relating to skysails) I guessed at a good value.  Note, I left the smaller ropes (e.g., seizings) off the lists since they are all about the same size (1.25 to 1.75”) and the difference is not discernable on a model.


Most of the running rigging on the Flying Cloud was 3-strand hauser-laid rope with a right twist – I left the type column blank in this case to make it easier to spot the exceptions.  A few lines, for example some of the lower yard braces, were likely 3-strand hawser-laid rope with a left twist - marked as HL-H.  (The “–H” meaning hemp colored)  (See Obsessing About Rope for more information on rope used on ships like the Flying Cloud.)


The earlier Steel and the Force tables show that standing rigging, including shrouds, stays and backstays as 4-line cable-laid rope - marked in my tables as C4.  C4 rope is made by twisting 4 HR ropes together and has a left twist.  Some of the C4 lines were quite small and thus difficult to produce for a model, I use HL rope instead, since it gives the same appearance. A few lines of running rigging, including the course tacks, were also cable-laid.


Lanyards were special.  Lanyards were 4-strand hawser-laid rope.  They are marked as H4 in the tables.


The remaining standing rigging was HR or chain.


Standing rigging, including lanyards and foot ropes, was tarred and, thus, was deep a brown color (generally shown as black on models). All running rigging was natural hemp in color.


The Flying Cloud also used a lot of chain in her rigging, but the sources do not provide good information about chain sizes.  I determined the chain sizes by applying the rope sizes listed as calculated above to the chain to cable table on page 64 of the original 1848 Biddlecombe publication.


                                                                                                                                                                                                © Scott Bradner, July 2021