BOXING THE COMPASS

 

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In addition to some very basic ship-board terminology, we also take a look at the compass.

Everyone knows that a compass points to "north"- magnetic north in the case of a standard (ie magnetic ie not a gyroscopic) compass. It was during the early part of the 20th century that mariners began to use degrees instead of points. There is even a Gaelic language equivalent provided.

 

Anyone reading (English) documents may run into difficulty over the difference between "helm" and "rudder" orders: yes, it was 100% correct for the Officer of the Watch to order Hard a starboard!!, and the boat would turn to port.

 

Basic Terminology

 

 

The Basics

  • Bow: the forward end of the ship.

  • Stern: the after end of the ship.

  • Amidships: the middle portion of the ship.

  • Starboard: the right-hand side of the ship (while looking forward).

  • Port: the left-hand side of the ship (while looking foward).

     

    The Compass

     

    Compass dial marked in 360 degrees

     

    The Bluejacket's manual 1917

     

     

    "The Points of the Compass"

     

    "Boxing the Compass" was a basic skill of any sailor, being the ability to repeat all 32 points of the compass (in 1/4 points). A "point" is in fact 11 1/4 degrees, the modern compass being divided into 360 degrees, 0 (or 360) being North, 90 East, etc.

     

 

NORTH

N. 1/4 E.

N. 1/2 E.

N. 3/4 E.

N. by E.

N. by E. 1/4 E.

N. by E. 1/2 E.

N. by E. 3/4 E.

NORTH NORTHEAST.

NNE. 1/4 E.

NNE. 1/2 E.

NNE 3/4 E.

NE. by N.

NE. 3/4 N.

NE. 1/2 N.

NE. 1/4 N.

 

 

NORTH EAST

NE. 1/4 E.

NE. 1/2 E.

NE 3/4 E.

NE. by E.

NE. by E. 1/4 E.

NE. by E. 1/2 E.

NE. by E. 3/4 E.

EAST NORTHEAST.

ENE. 1/4 E.

ENE. 1/2 E.

ENE. 3/4 E.

East by North.

East 3/4 N.

East 1/2 N.

East 1/4 N.

 

 

Bearings

 

Using points of the ship as reference:

 

"Helm" and "Rudder" The following description is from Seamanship in the Age of Sail, by John Harland (Naval Institute Press, 1984):

 

Orders to the helmsman were traditionally given in terms of "helm", that is to say, the position of the tiller rather than the rudder. 'Hard a-starboard!' meant "Put the tiller (helm) to starboard, so that the ship may go to port!'. It will be realised that not only the bow turned to port, but also the rudder, top of the wheel, and prior to the advent of the steering-wheeo, the upper end of the whipstaff. Cogent reasons existed, therefore, for giving the order in what one might call the 'common sense' fashion. The transition to 'rudder' orders was made in many European countries about a century ago, being decreed for example, in the Royal Swedish Navy by General Order 609 of 1872. The change did not proceed smoothly everywhere, since old traditions died extremely hard in the merchant service, even in lands where the new convention was readily imposed in naval vessels...In the United Kingdom, the changeover did not occur until 1933, at which time the new regulations were applied to naval and merchant vessels alike...Although the United States Navy made the switch from 'Port helm!' to 'Right rudder' in 1914, practice in American merchant vessels did not change until 1935.

 

This means that during World War One, the ships of the British Empire and Commonwealth, as well as US merchant shipping, would indeed turn "opposite" to the order given. This may cause confusion when looking at ships' logs, for example.

 

 

Lodestones
Magnet Basics
Magnetic Fields: History
Electromagnets
Electromagnetic Basics
Magnetism
Early Magnetism
Sketches of a History of Classical Electromagnetism

 

    

The Holy Compass, a biblical epic John Storm adventure by Jameson Hunter

 

The Holy Compass is a John Storm adventure

featuring the SolarNavigator and all the crew

from previous adventures 

 

 

 

New energy drinks for navigators

 

Solar Spice natural berry flavour and guarana energy drink

 

Solar Spice

 

 

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