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Reef (Nautical Term)

The larger sails on a vessel were made of a number of reefs, or sheets joined together in parallel by rope threaded through a row of eyelet holes. Tops-sails were usually made of three reefs, while main sails were of three or four.

To reef a sail meant to reduce its surface area by bundling one or more reefs against the mast spar and tying it to the spar with short ropes called reef-points. This was done to protect the sail, spar and mast from damage in strong winds. Depending on how many reefs were hauled in, a sail was said to be reefed, double-reefed or close reefed.

An illustration of reefs is to be found in William Falconer’s Dictionary of the Marine.

Prepared by: Turnbull, P.
Created: 15 October 2001
Modified: 1 December 2001

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000076

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