Forgive my presumption but I could do with your concerns a light skiff used for harpooning whales where the line is lead through two pins at the bow, across the crew (!) to a stout cathead at the stern and thence to a barrel where the line is faked down. When the harpoon is embedded the line screams out and is surged at the cathead, where the desripton includes having to throw water over the timbers to ease the heat. The detail that intrigues me is the line through the two (vertical) pins at the bow has a thin quill to stop it jumping out but acts as a weak link should it all go wrong. The question is, surely, if this quill allows the line to come free, the skiff will surely capsize as the load is now direct to the cathead? The description is quite thorough and the author served 4 years on a single whaling voyage, circa 1740's. I am sure such salty seadogs had a very good reason for rigging thus, his description of surfing at 30 knots behind a stuck great whale while a mile of line screms out made me shudder at the consequences of that quill failing.
What you've described is known as a "Nantucket Sleigh Ride" heres a dramatization of how it works, other dramatizations are available.
The "Quill" at min 2;20 is a metal cotter pin. The line line is cut if it goes pear shaped.
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Thanks for those Tstop, Aye, Moby Dick is the ref, a fine seafaring tale full of good detail. I understand axeing the line, but why the quill as a weak link? Seems to invite jumping out the pins, all that bouncy surging, if you thought it important to keep the lead in the bow, a bloody big bar would suit?
Another great reference is the book In The Heart Of The Sea, which is the story of the sinking of the whaling ship Essex that was sunk in the pacific and, I believe, part of the inspiration for Moby Dick (could be wrong on that one).

It is a great insight into the whaling industry and community, seamanship and an epic story of survival at sea. Interestingly I see they are making a film - I wonder how they will deal with the 'controversial' bit (that I wont spoil for you).
What an erudite lot..I thought that book had vanished and many thanks for the ref SEP86.
Any thoughts on the fragile quill? Perhaps there wasn't room for stout cathead for'wd, but that line jumps and the crew's heads fly off as the skiff swaps ends and capsizes?

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