As Stephen looks over his shoulder and sees the disembodied threemaster glide past him, he notices that her sails are "brailed up on the crosstrees." He is hardly employing nautical terminology. The conjunction of the words cross and tree, and the fact that there are three of them, infers an allusion to the Crucifixion. Jesus was crucified between two thieves, and Christians have frequently referred to the cross on which he hung as a "tree," opposing its salvific power to the tree in Eden that brought death to mankind. The crucifixion symbolism has significance for Stephen much as it did for Gabriel Conroy at the end of "The Dead."

JH 2015

Peter Paul Rubens, The Three Crosses, oil on canvas painting ca. 1620, owned by the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

An American three-masted schooner named HMS Bounty, which sank off the coast of North Carolina in October 2012, during Hurricane Sandy. Most schooners are fore-and-aft rigged, but it seems that Stephen is seeing a square-rigged one such as this. Source: