National Geographic : 1957 Nov
674 A Look Aloft Reassures the Artist A distinguished career as a marine artist prepared Hervey Garrett Smith for the task of portraying Mayflower II for members of the National Geographic Society. He is the author of three books-Boat Car pentry, The Arts of the Sailor, and Marlinspike Sailor. Here, in New York Harbor, he checks Mayflower's details before the final printing deadline. But what is it, specifically, that gives a ship her beauty and individuality? In a broad sense, it is a combination of many things-her silhouette, her proportions, the rake of her masts, and the shape of her bow and stern. But to the naval architect and to the artist-it is the shape and nature of her sheer, the line of her main deck at the sides from bow to stern. In Mayflower II it is the thin, red rail below the open bulwarks. Beauty Begins with Sheer Line The sheer line is one of the first to be established in designing a ship, and in it the architect reveals how much of an artist he is. A straight line has no beauty, nor has an arc of a circle; the sheer sweeps the length of the ship in a constantly changing curve. The graceful sweep of Mayflower II's wales, her rails at the quarter-deck, and lastly the poop are all related beautifully to the main sheer. Your eye is carried up and up to the extreme top of the poop, which is the final focal point. All lines meet the perfectly designed rake of the stern in a manner that cuts down the apparent height, and there is no feeling of awkwardness. As in all ships of the period, her sides have considerable tumble home, or slant in ward from the perpendicular. Tumble home has a definite relationship to the sheer, al though it may not be apparent, and its effect is to lend gracefulness to the whole. Near the End of a Long Voyage Her color scheme is distinctive and gayer by far than in ships of later centuries. Were I to change her, I would eliminate the red and green diagonal segments on her rails, for they break the sweep of her sheer lines. But they have been properly authenticated, and who am I to tamper with tradition? It was in consideration of all these factors that I chose my special view of Mayflower II. For her setting I chose the sort of day all sailors like to remember. The ship nears the end of a long passage, with storms and baffling calms astern. With a fair wind over the quarter and a moderate sea, she rolls along at a 7-knot clip with a bone in her teeth. Land is now not far away, as the shadowing sea gulls show. On her decks I have shown the watch getting a well-earned rest, their hearts and minds far outracing the ship. Utterly obliv ious, they are part of a scene that lifts one's spirits and sets one dreaming of a dim, ro mantic past-a scene we may never see again.