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Treason's Harbour: The Cover

My observations of the cover of Treason's Harbour:

The scene is of Grand Harbour, Valleta, Malta, probably in early evening. A ship's boat, perhaps the captain's gig, is being rowed across the foreground towards the anchored frigate Surprise. The coxswain stands at the tiller. Two officers sit in the sternsheets. Facing us, illuminated by a lantern, is a lieutenant, his hat worn fore and aft. With his back toward us is a post captain, likely Jack with his hat athwartships. Oddly, there seem to be only five oarsmen. Did one of the boat's crew run while ashore, or did he contrive to get himself drunk? The final figure facing forward might be a midshipman or other warrant officer.

Beyond the Surprise on the right is a two deck ship of the line, the stern cabins alit. On the left is a Genoese barque being towed by one of its boats. Geoff Hunt borrowed this detail from one of the illustrations of French artist JJ Baugean. The rig is that of a poleacre or pollaca. The three masts are each single poles, not the three piece lower, top, and topgallant masts of a true fully rigged ship. With a one-piece pole and no intervening platform tops, the upper yards can easily be collapsed down on each other. You can see this on the foremast, where the topgallant and topsail yards have been lowered down onto the fore yard.

The fore and main masts are carrying yards for square courses, topsails, and topgallants. The forward rake of the foremast suggests that it might have originally been rigged with a triangular lateen sail, common in the Mediterranean. The mizen mast carries a lateen mizen sail and a small topsail. This type of vessel might have been privateer, as well as a merchant vessel.

The rigging of the Surprise is starkly outlined by the background sky. A marine sentry stands on the forecastle, a lantern illuminating the base of the foremast. I wonder if the ship is undergoing port repairs; there do not seem to be any sails bent to the yards.

The overlapping view makes it difficult to sort out the various spars, but it appears that the foremast has only lower and topmasts, while topgallants are carried on the main and mizen. Stunsail booms are seen on the main yard, in the retracted position. On the main topyard, the booms are stowed tilted, for easier access to working on the rigging. There do not seem to be any stunsail booms on the fore yards, though the iron rings for supporting them are clearly visible at the yardarms.

The Surprise is anchored by her starboard best bower. The anchor that is shown stowed on the starboard side is the sheet anchor with a second anchor cable leading to one of the hawse holes. Possibly a smaller stream anchor leads aft from the stern to keep the ship swinging.

© Don Seltzer