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Question of Lucas (03.01.2023): How did the crew repair a cannonball hole in the hull of their boat? Did they do it during the fight? Thanks
Ship in hull and in refit R: There is a specific term for the repair operation in maritime language, "refit" (see definition below).

In the 18th century, sailors had several methods of refitting their ships if they had been damaged by a cannonball. The repair process depended on the extent of the damage. The best method was to hull the ship (put the ship on its side/lay it down to expose the submerged part of the hull), but this was not always possible in the middle of a naval battle.

Here are the different steps to repair the ship:
  • Assessing the damage: Sailors had to first assess the extent of the damage to determine the type and amount of material needed for the repair.
  • Plugging Holes: If the cannonball had created a hole in the hull, sailors had to plug the hole to prevent water from rushing into the ship.
    To do this, they often used wooden beams (bastaing), sails, tarpaulin, or sacks filled with straw to plug the holes.
    • With wooden beams, the sailors had to cut them to the appropriate size to cover the gap. They had to make sure they were wide enough to cover the damaged area and that they were securely fastened in place.
    • With sails: Sailors had to cut pieces of sails to the size needed to cover the breach. They had to make sure the sail pieces were large enough to cover the damaged area.
  • Equipping the ship to fight leaks: The sailors then had to set up pumps and buckets to remove the water that entered the ship through the holes.
  • Make final repairs: Once the damage was under control, the sailors would make more permanent repairs by replacing damaged parts with new ones. They might also reinforce the hull with iron plates, ropes or tar-impregnated cloth to prevent further damage.

Vessel in hull

Of course, repair methods could vary depending on the nature of the damage and the experience and creativity of the sailors involved.
However, if the breach was below the waterline, which was rare because the sea dampened the impact of the cannonballs, it was very difficult to repair and the outcome could be fatal.

Definition of Refit: Repair more or less considerable that one makes, or with the hull of a vessel, or with its mast, or with its sails, etc. The refit of a vessel consists in the operation of putting new pieces of wood in the place of those which are rotten, or which can no longer fulfill their original purpose. - A ship in refit is one that is repaired, ship repairing; and to make this repair, is to give a refit.

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