The "engines" that drove Constitution forward were her sails: massive canvas sheets, some as big as a basketball court. Controlling them was the job of the topmen. Their work demanded strength, skill, and a head for heights. They climbed the rigging in all weathers, often in darkness, and as high as 175 feet above the deck. The sails they set (spread out) or reefed and furled (pulled in) could weigh half a ton even when dry, and twice that when soaked with rain.
Using the primary source illustration "Reefing topsails, 1832" as inspiration, ask students to write a descriptive scene that explores what the sailors may have been feeling. Clicking through the "Sailors Aloft" scene may also give them inspiration with sound effects and bits of conversation between the sailors. Prompt them to think of what the sailors might have seen on the decks below, smelled or tasted in the ocean air, heard around them, or felt as they strained against the wind and pulled up a thousand pounds of wet canvas.