The original Columbia's history was detailed in
part one of this series, and the
construction of Disneyland's version is covered
in part two. We caught up the rest of the ship's history
to current day in part three. We then began
answering the question: Exactly how accurate is the Columbia,
compared with real ships from the 1780s? in part
Co-author: Preston Nirattisai
We began the last installment in this series answering the question: Exactly how accurate is the Columbia,
compared with real ships from the 1780s? To
finish answering that in today's last part of this series, I again would like to turn over the literary "helm" of this
article to Preston Nirattisai. Many of you know that Preston executed the
wonderful line drawings of the Disney trains in my two books on the Disneyland
Here's the engine of the tall ship. "Rigging" is a collective and
general term for all the lines, masts and sails you see up aloft. The lines are
divided into two categories, running and standing. Standing rigging is use to
support and secure the masts in two directions (front-to-back and
side-to-side), and is tarred, giving it a darker look, while the running rigging
is used to control sails and yards, and is untarred.
This is the Columbia's basic rigging layout, as drawn by Jeff Maillian.
As a whole, the rigging may look like a mess of ropes, and it would be hard to
believe that there's any system of organization at all.
Columbia's rigging is
sufficiently complex to the untrained eye. The lines and ropes that look like ladders are called "ratlines" and sailors do
use them, rat-like, to scramble up to the sails. Photo courtesy Preston Nirattisai.
Once again, Disney's Columbia comes across as "anatomically
correct," while certain scaling-down and simplification might have been
used. The Columbia has all the major rigging, such as "stays,"
"lifts" and "braces" which are used to control the yards,
but still look simplified when compared to working tall ships because it lacks
the "gear," which is used to control the sails--indeed, the Columbia
has no working sails!
The Lady Washington shows off her rigging in this photo by Preston
that neither of these ships has a crow's nest. Instead, they have
"tops," which are platforms--while the crow's nests are round and have
wall or railing entirely around the platform.
Regardless, Disney's eye for detail comes through again, as the Columbia's
detail in the rigging is both correct and impressive.
While the ship was designed to have self-tacking
sails, and for many years did sail the Rivers with several of her sails
unfurled, currently the Columbia doesn't have sails stretched out as if
she was out sailing. Instead, she displays her sails in harbor-furled
configuration--that is, the sails are rolled and tied up against the yards.
Here in the pre-Fantasmic! days, the Columbia
shows off several of her large sails
It's actually quite easy to understand why Disney would do this. While it may
be impressive to show the full-sail display, it is also very impractical. Driving
sails stress the rigging, generally "stretching" the stays in the
rigging. The vessel will not only require more maintenance, but also workers
that are knowledgeable in tall ship rigging.
Columbia's furled jib sails on the bowsprit. Photo
courtesy Matt Walker.
sails out means that the sails will wear out against the sun and water
eventually, and will have to be repaired. The sails should be furled (rolled
up) when not in use to protect them (for the Columbia, this might be
after Park hours), and this requires knowledgeable workers, or special training
for the Cast Members. Additionally, going aloft in the rigging is an inherently
dangerous environment to work. And finally, having the sails stretched out will
hide most of the masts and rigging! So, while the Columbia may have had
unfurled sails early in her life, it's easy to see why they were all eventually
furled or removed.
Three Lady Washington sailors working aloft, rolling the sail back in. Having 18-year-old cast
members perform this task, standing on ropes five stories above the water, was
probably not considered a good idea. Photo courtesy Preston Nirattisai.
Under (almost full) sails. Photo courtesy Preston Nirattisai
A ship typical of the Columbia would have about 30 sails. In comparison,
the Lady Washington has 13.