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Gosh, you want a whole treatise on the subject of naval architecture eh? Everything to do with the design of a vessel is a compromise and each part has a direct effect on the rest, it's far too complicated a subject to cover in one short email, prismatic coefficients, lateral plain centres, the curve of areas when drawn giving an indication of weather or lee helm at the drawing board stage but that in turn being as a direct correlation to the centre of effort of combined or reefed sails, I can hear you snoring already! It would be much more simple for me to answer one direct question at a time.
Pre Harrison Longitude was guessed, it was common practise from the days of Columbus to sail South to a known Latitude, 'Sail South until the butter melts then head West', then with regular astronomical calculation, both of stars (Pole star being incredibly simple) and sun, stay on that Lat and guesstimate Long from ships speed but huge margins for error. You are correct, with the advent of accurate timepieces a noon sighting anywhere around the globe could be accurately timed in relation to the time at Greenwich and by knowing from a book of tables what time noon was at Greenwich it became a simple thing to calculate Long. Having accurate time also meant sightings could be taken at any time of the day and then related to noon.
The greater part of what I've seen so far in TRT is correct so don't dismiss it as a source of information, I only wanted to point out the occasional error or cultural differences. Even US presidents have been rubbish at world geography and history so don't expect better from film makers! Having lived in the States and sailed with many 'Wild Geese' I have discovered a similar blinkered view of the rest of the world which is hardly surprising when you watch their TV news, centric? I'll say it is! On one memorable occasion in Pennsylvania a seemingly intelligent young man on hearing I was from England said "That's in Russia isn't it, so you're a Communist then?"……………!
Steering can be a wonderful experience, it's where man and ship communicate, you feel her, she responds to your hand, with all sails tuned and a steady wind she can even sometimes steer herself for long periods. The first time I took the helm on Sea Cloud I was very pleasantly surprised. All four masts fully clad with sails, a brisk Mediterranean breeze and as she picked up her skirts, heeling to the wind I felt a pull at the wheel, weather helm it's known as, ie the vessel wants to round up into the wind and you need to apply pressure on the wheel to stop her and all it took to hold her on course was one or at the most two spokes from midships, that's 316ft of four mast barque, incredible! But as Mr.Masefield points out, it can be a drudge and all you want is to get below and into your bunk.
As to what to do, well, hopefully someone with intelligence has calculated a safe course to steer, hopefully the wind is in the right direction and strength to allow the sails to use that wind to best advantage, the strength of the wind will dictate how much sail is to be set as the further a vessel heels the slower she will be and more difficult she is to handle. The man at the wheel is given a course to steer by the officer of the watch and he must do all he can to keep her on that course as accurately as he can. If there is a change of course to reach ones destination or the wind changes strength or direction then the sails will need adjustment accordingly. On my first Atlantic crossing on the Barquentine Osprey in 1976 the American owner with very little sailing experience was officer of the watch with three crew, the rest of us were in our bunks. During his watch the wind slowly increased in strength and due to his inexperience he let the ship
heel more and more until she was taking water over the rail, the motion threw the very experienced Dutch skipper out of his bunk! He came on deck to find the owner with a huge grin saying "Man look at the old girl go!!". I can't repeat what the skipper said in reply……. !
The first I knew of it was a very insistent shout from the skipper of "All hands on deck!" waking me from my dreams, we didn't even have time to dress, 8 lads in underwear and bare feet 100ft up in the dark with rain squalls trying to reduce sail! Several years later she went down with the loss of all but one hand in a typhoon the S.China Sea.
All vessels need to be tuned at all times for safety and efficiency so you see both helmsman and officer of the watch are responsible for the safety of the ship and those asleep below and no amount of book reading can give you that knowledge.
A finer detail of how a helmsman steers a square rigger is to note, if ever you get the chance, that the yards on each mast are sometimes set with a bit of a spiral when looking up from the deck, we called it 'stacking' on Sea Cloud, each yard being held in it's position by a Brace from each end. This means that the smallest sail, the one at the very top of the mast, will have it's windward edge closer to the direction from where the wind is coming than the one below and the one below that and so on, so should the wind change direction suddenly or a sloppy helmsman let the vessel round up into the wind too much he will get some warning by hopefully hearing the sound of the smallest sail flapping but more preferably by regularly keeping a weather eye on the 'Luff' of that small sail and be able to take action by 'Putting the Helm Down' to stop the larger lower sails 'Getting Caught Aback'. The helmsman's job is to keep the sails full. The officer of
the watch would then inform the captain and he might possibly order hands to braces to swing all of the yards around to allow the ship to be brought back on course with the new wind direction.
Holy stoning with a block of soft sandstone the size of a large bible, hence the name, is primarily simply to keep the decks clean, a ship gets very dirty in port, shore side feet tramping all over her, dust and dirt off the quayside, dirty cargoes being un/loaded, in hot sun the pitch might melt from between the planking and make a right mess, if they'd had Karcher high pressure patio scrubbers I'm sure they would have used those! Like houses with wooden decking it's all about pride and keeping everything looking good. On board a ship you also needed to keep the crew on watch busy and some captains would 'haze' or invent jobs for that purpose, holy stoning was sometimes one of them.
As for splinters, not really, a tree can be cut up into sections at the sawmill in a variety of ways and certain cuts are specific to the job, planking is cut one way from a tree so that it will bend more easily, decking another way so that it wont bend and by coincidence the top face of that cut means the grain will be running in a certain direction which greatly lessens the chance of splinters. Teak was the best material for decks and is a short grained wood anyway, if you can look at the leg of a teak coffee/dining table and note the pattern on two different faces you might get some idea.
Douglas Fir or similar would be the 'economy' deck, the sort James would specify to the shipwright and in those days Douglas could be had in very long straight grained lengths, ideal for the job and when 'Quarter Sawn', an uneconomical cut due to excessive waste, could also produce good clear decking material with little chance of splinters. In many respects holy stoning would mean a less slippery deck as any grease or other slippery substances would get removed giving better traction.
So endeth today's sermon, amen!
— On Sat, 11/5/13, Lee Bonnifield <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Lee Bonnifield <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [shiponedingroup] Re: The Running Tide 10 minute filler after 1977 PBS broadcast of OL
Date: Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 20:34
On 5/11/2013 4:34 AM, R wrote:
> If you really want me to I shall watch them all again and take notes?
Really? I guess I'm the only one here who connects TRT with TOL so I
understand if detail about TRT is off topic. On the other hand, your
personal participation in TOL is an ON topic flag I bet. I guess I
won't impose as much as asking you to make that effort, but really, I
would appreciate seeing your notes on TRT! I'm interested in how
sails/wind/rudder/freeboard/mast location interact, and if I got the
wrong idea from TRT (or even TOL) I'd like to know better. This is a
great opportunity to get education from experts without having to search
It takes longer to upload these TRT episodes than I expected, I have 3
more ready but no schedule to get to the neighbor's uplink. #9 is
audible but video is so shaky I may try to extract it again. Every pass
of an old VHS cassette over the VCR heads threatens to clog the heads,
so I can't guarantee getting #10-15. When I add anything to the
collection (#1-5 so far) at
I'll announce it here.
> I did say 'implied' discovering Longitude, some mention of Harrison
> whould have removed that implication.
I agree. Probably US-centrism was the reason for mentioning Sumner
instead. The TRT claim that prior to Sumner longitude was measured by
"time zone difference" sounds stupid, there were no time "zones" at sea,
right? Knowing the time in Greenwich when the local time is measureable
by solar noon or some other celestial orientation is vital. Harrison
discovered the mechanical technique that made clocks accurate enough to
measure longitude by precise time difference.
> Masefield's long trick is a reference to steering (with the helm!).
> Contrary to common belief steering is often more disliked than any other
> duty onboard primarily because it can be incredibly boring,
> alone, constantly watching a compass or physically exhausting fighting a
> kicking wheel and the hour 'trick' one does at the wheel can feel an
> eternity, woebetide any man late to take his turn at the wheel
> especially on a cold wet night!
That is a surprise, I thought it would be easy duty. It's not clear to
me how helmsman or officer decides what he can do with the wheel is not
adequate and sails or course must be adjusted.
What is the purpose of holystoning the deck? Is holystone pumice? Seems
like wet polishing would eliminate splinters for barefoot sailors, but
also eliminate all traction when wet ?!
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