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A ship's yard is a spar of wood, generally tapered at the ends, from which a square-sail hangs. The lowest yard on a mast is typically named after that mast, e.g. the "foreyard" or "mainyard". An exception comes on the final mast of a ship. The lowest yard on the mizzenmast of a ship was the crossjack, pronounced "crow-jack", yard.[1] Most ship's rarely bent a mizzen course because it would be largely blocked by the spanker just as HMS Sophie would take in her square mainsail whenever she set her fore-and-aft mainsail, and vice versa. The main purpose of the crossjack yard was running the sheets of the mizzen topsail.[2] (Midshipmen were sometimes given the task of bending, setting, handing, and unbending a crossjack as a training exercise.

HMS Sophie's original much denigrated mainyard was "a piece of wood rather more than thirty feet long and tapering from some seven inches in the slings, the middle part, to three at the yard-arms, the extremities."[3] The replacement foretopgallant yard out of Généreux was "forty-three foot", though it was shaved down somewhat.[4] Aubrey's preference for a large mainyard would carry over into HMS Surprise.


  1. Biddlecomb, Capt. George, RN.Art of Rigging, The, containing an Explanation of Terms and Phrases and the Progressive Method of Rigging, Expressly Adapted for Sailing Ships. Dover edition of 1990, Dover Publications, Inc., 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501: p. 38
  2. Lever, Darcy. The Young Sea Officer's Sheet Anchor: or, A Key to the Leading of Rigging and to Practical Seamanship. (c)1998 by Dover Publications, Inc.: p.37
  3. O'Brian, Patrick. Master and Commander. (c) 1969 by Patrick O'Brian. J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and New York, First Edition: p. 74
  4. Ibid. pp. 76-7

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