A Different look at Disney...

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More
Disney Tickets
Universal Studios Tickets
Sea World Tickets


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 four.

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 Railroad.


The Rigging

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.

a'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 Nirattisai.

Note 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.

's furled jib sails on the bowsprit. Photo courtesy Matt Walker.

Having 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.

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More


2008 Steve DeGaetano

A Different look at Disney...
    Web www.MiceAge.com