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nautical term for conning the helm

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Hi,

I have a question about commands concerning the helm during the 1700s and 1800s.

 

I've asked friends and have received answers that are directly opposite of each other.  since they are navy men, I'm guessing that the commands must have changed meaning at sometime.

 

Can someone please explain the change in direction of the ship when the following commands are given for this time period.  

 

Thanks,

Marc

 

hard to port.

 

2 points to port

 

put your rudder to port

 

turn the wheel to port

 

 

 

 

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I'm no wiz at nautical terms Marc, but basically, they all mean a turn to the left. Just a best guess, but--------

 

hard to port = turn wheel to left as far as it will go

2 points to port = 2 degrees?

put your rudder to port ----These last two is just a medium turn to left.

turn the wheel to port

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The second one gives a compass heading or a course to steer.  The other commands will begin a turn to port, assuming the ship is underway.  They will need to be followed by a command to stop the turn, such as "Steady as she goes" or "Rudder amid ship" 

 

There are times that the " Rudder hard to port" will bring the ships bow around to starboard.  This will happen if the ship is getting underway from anchor.  The wind will be directly on the bow.  If the main is back winded, it will begin to move the ship astern and putting the rudder over to port will bring the bow around to starboard and when the head sails fill and begin to pull, the rudder may be brought back amid ship or put over to starboard as the ship gains headway.

 

If anchored in a strong current such as a rising or falling tide, things may be done very differently.

 

Depending on the conditions and the ships handling, the main may not be set until the head sails have brought the bow around.  At least, that's how I did it.

 

Jerry

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Let's get it right. I am a working seaman. 1 point is 11.25 degrees. Or in old times the compass had 32 point and now have 360 degrees. For sailing ship a difference in the course to steer of +/- 6 degrees was not a bog trouble having in mind that they had no way to determine their set(due to currents)and drift(due to wind). And with speed of 4-5 knots max it was not a big problem in maneuvering to avoid collision. Of course there were a lot of groundings or just lost ships in the oceans (Flying Dutchmen) due to these errors. Now days the points are used only by the lookouts on the bridge to announce the approximate direction to the ship in sight. Most often the mate on watch already is tracking it on the radar(ARPA) and uses the info just to see what is the visibility. The lookouts have not bearing circles to see the exact bearing(azimuth) to the incoming vessel. So lets go back 200years. There were no degrees. So the now days command "steer 000 degrees" was "steer due North" . Now days command " Steer 011 degrees" was "steer NNE by North" and so on. The difference is now days nobody gives the command steer let's say 326 degrees except in the canals and rivers where the manual steering is compulsory but the mate on the watch just needs to set up the auto pilot(iron mike) on course 326 degrees.

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And other think is that the magnetic North pol is somewhere around Kamchatka or 700 miles away from the geographic North pole. And on top of that is constantly moving. And there is also unconsistance in the magnetic lines due to earth inertia and iron masses in the lava under the earths shell. Say in simple words they are not strait lines. They had no ways to know that exept in bright nights when they could check their compases against the north star. And even this is not correct because the north star have 4 minutes eclips around the true north pole depends of the day of the year. So you can imagine what a trouble was to find an island in the Pacific which is 8000 miles across and even thay had no way to determine their longitude till the approximately fear chronometer was not made bay the English carpenter!!!(Watch movie "Longitude") Have in mind that an error only one degrees in the course of the ship after 60 miles of sailed distance gives you an error of 1 nautical mile. And what about 600 or 1200 or 2400 nautical miles sailed distance. But for them +/- 6 degrees was acceptable.

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For the rudder Commands. Now days ships have a rudder indicator. This gauge indicates on how many degrees is the rudder declined from the line of the ships keel. The max is usually about 35 degrees. So " hard left means for the helmsman to turn the rudder all the 35 degrees to the left. If the Captain wants less than that just he says simply 15 0r 20 to left or right. Midships means the rudder on 0 degrees declination. But As I sat before they had no degrees. And the steering wheel was simply a winch and on every ship was different number of revolution on the wheel to be made to shift the rudder from one side to the other. Probably they had some mark where will be midship but the old manila line could slip around the drum of the wheel or stretch. So that was a mater of feeling where is the rudder midship or somebody down in the steerage screaming his guts out where is the rudder. Funny but true, Wooden ships Iron sailors.

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Ok folks, your missing a key point. The question was regarding ships of the 18th and 19th century.  Because of the way the steering gear was rigged, putting the helm to port resulted in turning the ship to starboard.  Helm orders varied according to the wind conditions.  Therefore you could get a helm order of "port" or "port your helm" "hard-a-port" which would bring the head of the ship to starboard.  Orders were not given in terms of the rudder.  You could also hear steering orders such as "luff her", "thus", "no nearer", and "full and by".  This would tell the helmsman to keep the sails properly filled.  You might also hear helm orders in terms of the wind such as "helm-a-lee" or "put down your helm".  Or the opposite "helm-a-weather" or "come up your helm"  The terms lee, down, weather, and up were not used when steering straight before a wind.  Port and Starboard were used instead.  Something like "starboard 2 points" was a compass order and told the helmsman to steer a particular course.  The captain might give the command "make your course Nor by nor'west" This was not a helm command, the sails would be braced round and trimmed for the new course and the helmsman would keep the ship pointing into the wind properly.

 

Rudder orders came later in around the turn of the century; 1900 or so.  That is when you start to get commands like "left full rudder"  and "10 degrees right rudder"  The US Navy made the switch from "port helm" to "right rudder" in 1914.  American merchants made the switch in 1935.

 

Regards,

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You are right popeye Sailing ships keep their course according to the wind in order to use its max force and the general direction is their movement to the destination.

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Popeye has it right, as far as the 1700s and 1800s go, which was the original question.  When steam was replacing sail and rudder orders were coming in, it could cause great confusion since 'hard a port' could result in two different directions being taken by the ship.

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Was not "Port" called "Larboard" in the 18th century? But since it sounded too much like "Starboard", left became "port".

It was changed around 1846 in the US Navy, as I recall. On Google Books there's a record of the official command from SECNAV to change it. The reason given was the noise of the new steamships meant larboard and starboard could get mixed up.

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Ships (and boats) still use wheels and tillers and indeed, some steering commands are sometimes given according to the apparent wind but I doubt that any sailor would be given the responsibility of steering if he did not know how to respond to such commands as "Fall Off!" or "Hard Alee!" or "Head Up 10" whether he was at the wheel or on the tiller.  Oh yeah, there was that "Jackstaff" thing that nobody really understands and is probably why many ship were lost at sea. When things got rough, the helmsman just gave up in frustration and jumped overboard.

 

Oops, I meant to say "Whipstaff" , not "Jackstaff."  That's a totally different thing.  I did say confusing, right!

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Starboard originally referred to the side that the steer board was on.  The side-rudder was always carried on the right side.  The other side was originally call the backboard, because the helmsman's back faced that direction.  The word survives in the French babord. and Dutch bakboard.  Larboard arises from the side unencumbered by the side-rudder, and thus the side that went alongside the quay and upon which the ship was loaded; load board.

 

The Admiralty Order that decreed that 'port' was to be substituted for 'larboard' was issued in 1849.  However 'port' was used for helm orders much earlier. The words starboard and larboard being so similar in sound that one might be mistaken for the other. Examples of this are recorded in the 1600's

 

Regards,

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Thanks everyone! !

 

Henry, thanks for "steering" the answer back to the time period. Also the clarification between helm, compass, and sail commands 

 

It looks like modern vs historic meanings explain why I was getting different answers to which direction the ship would turn.

 

Now I can better understand all of the period novels that I read.

marc

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Found the US one.

 

GENERAL ORDER

UNITED STATES NAVY DEPARTMENT,

Washington, February 18, 1846

It having been repeatedly represented to the Department, that confusion arises from the use of the words "Larboard" and "Starboard," in consequence of the similiarity of sound, the word "Port" is hereafter to be substituted for "Larboard."

GEORGE BANCROFT.

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Now I can better understand all of the period novels that I read.

marc

Don't count on it.  I have encountered many times things like heading east into the setting sun, even in the most revered authors.

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I seem to remember reading somewhere that "Two points to port!" would tell the helmsman to turn the wheel to port (fairly obviously) and the two points would be two spokes of the wheel as the measurement. A ships wheel might have 8, 10 or 12 spokes so depending on the wheel and the number of 'points' the ship would turn a fairly specific number of degrees.  Ish. 

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I seem to remember reading somewhere that "Two points to port!" would tell the helmsman to turn the wheel to port (fairly obviously) and the two points would be two spokes of the wheel as the measurement. A ships wheel might have 8, 10 or 12 spokes so depending on the wheel and the number of 'points' the ship would turn a fairly specific number of degrees.  Ish. 

 

Giving an order of "two points port" would not necessarily result in a certain rudder angle to achieve the turn.  You could put the rudder over two degrees for several minutes and the ship might describe a full circle.  Or possibly just for a few seconds to swing through 10 degrees of a turn.  

 

I believe what you are describing applies again to modern rudder orders.  I used to do this when I was helmsman on a destroyer.  You could correlate the number of spokes past upright to the degrees of rudder angle, that way you could steer almost by feel instead of looking at the rudder angle indicator.  Especially at night.

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Points are angles.

Each point is 11.25 deg.

32points is a full (360 deg) compass circle.

So 4 points to port means change your heading by 45 degrees to the left say from North to North West

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You also have to remember that for any sailing vessel your talking about the ship as a whole being like one big system.  Changing course was not accomplished by just shifting your rudder.  Depending on the relative wind conditions, sails would have to be braced around or trimmed, set or reefed. There needed to be a balance between the fore sails and the after sails in order to achieve the desired course.  The rudder may or may not be necessary at all to come to the new heading.  Even after the course was set and being made good.  The ship may have to carry a small amount of rudder to keep her on, or off, the wind.

 

So, giving an order like "two points to port"  would probably be an order to change course and result in a flurry of line handling.  You wouldn't turn a ships wheel two points to port.  It's meaningless.  If you could ascribe a meaning to it it would be the equivalent of moving the top spoke of the helm 22.5 degrees to the left.  What would that accomplish?  Who knows!  It depends on how many turns of rope are around the drum of the wheel, how many parts does the rudder tackle have, is the drum on the helm straight or concave, how much rudder do you need to keep the vessel on the wind while the sails are being trimmed.  The exact amount of rudder necessary during each turning evolution was unique to the situation and not fixed.

 

Steering a sailing ship was not at all like steering a modern vessel where all you have to do is turn the wheel to starboard and the ship goes to the right. Before we had modern steering gear it was said "the ship doth ever go contrary to the helm". Meaning putting the helm to port results in the ship going to starboard

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For those of you have not had the joy of working a vessel under sail. 

It isnt as easy at it looks at first.

 

If you have a tiller then pulling it to the left makes the vessel go right. 

And that actually is the case going backwards or forwards ! ( Yes you can sail backwards and may  do so when casting off from a mooring for instance.)

 

Most (but actually not all) wheels are like cars turn clockwise facing  forrard to go right etc.

 

A real test in learning to sail- which regrettably is diminishing as electronics come in  - is steering a vessel on a compass course. Its so hard to remember you are steering the vessel not the compass card which appears  to go the other way

post-905-0-56457000-1434965253_thumb.jpg

Note look of concentration - a pic taken long long long ago when I was thin and had hair !

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The number of points gradually increased from 4  - North ,East, South, West  to lots and lots more but in the era we are I think talking about

We have 32 

N   , N  by E,  NNE,   NE by N,  NE,  Ne by E,  ENE,  E by N,  E ,   ....etc

If you could recite these names in order right round the compass card you had the ability to "Box the Compass"

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Ever wonder where the terms upwind and downwind come from?  When a ship is on a wind it will heel over somewhat to leeward (away from the wind). Therefore the deck slopes up towards the windward side and down on the side away from the wind.

 

By the same token you get helm orders like "put up your helm" and "put down your helm" or "helms-a-lee".  Putting down the helm or putting the helm a lee will swing the ship to windward and start the tacking maneuver.

 

Regards,

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(Found this on the inter-webby)


 


This is the actual transcript of a radio conversation between a British Navy ship and the Irish Coastguard, off the coast of Kerry:


Irish. Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south, to avoid collision


British. Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north, to avoid collision


Irish. Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south ' to avoid collision.


British. This is the Captain of a British Navy Ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.


Irish. Negative. I say again, you will have to divert YOUR course


British. THIS IS THE LARGEST SHIP IN THE BRITISH FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY 3 DESTROYERS, 3 CRUISERS, AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT SHIPS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES TO THE NORTH, OR COUNTERMEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS FLOTILLA.


Irish. THIS IS A LIGHTHOUSE ....... YOUR CALL!


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The old Gurly I have set up in my living room has the East and West symbols reversed. That is not uncommon for ships compass roses also to also reversed. The Gurly uses compas Bearings from N-S cardnal starting at  zero degrees and increasing Left and right  with the E-W CARDNAL direction AT 90° so the direction is read from N or S then Left or Right using the Degrees instead of Compass Points. Some fancy compass roses show both. Anyway this is to point out that compasses sometimes are marked in the reverse of what you might expect, when the needle is pointed magnnetic North and the ship or in the case of my Gurly Transit rotate around the needle, ships using a lubbers line as a mark and the Transit the direction of the scope as the mark to read directly the heading or bearing. Turning angles with the Transit, the needle is locked and the upper and lower plates are used to measure angles using a 360° circle with venners

 

jud

My machine is at the cleaners so using Admirals computer, been keeping up as a guest but was missing to many photos.

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