Noon Sights

John Campbell
26th July 2007, 22:29
When on my first trip , in 1953, I was always fascinated by the daily ritual of the "Noon Sights" when the ship had lost sight of land. The Master, and at least two mates plus an apprentice, if it was a "good" company, would all engage in obtaining the Meridian Altitude of the Sun, Then all would rush inside the wheelhouse/chart room to work out the Noon Position, day's run,speed, ETA usually the old man.s calculations were taken over the others. There would be ringing of Engine Room Telegraphs,eight bells struck etc. How many of these rituals exist today? Does the Chief Eng. still take "cards" or does anyone take soundings of tanks and bilges? Maybe our young seagoing members can tell us.
JC

Duncan112
26th July 2007, 22:54
Certainly when I left the sea 4 years ago, noon sights had all but vanished, noon was still rung though. I still took cards though, albeit electronically on the newer ships. (Does anyone remember the first electronic card taking machines? BP's River boats (Sorry Pompeyfan!) had a device that took a Polaroid photograph of the trace on an ossciliscope. A far cry from the PC based units now that work on high speed diesels.

Bank Line also took cards for needle lift on the fuel valves and crosshead lub oil pressure - was this a Bank Line peculiarity?

I remember reading a skit on noon at sea - it incorporated the description of "apparent slip" as "ensuring the engineers arrived at the destination some time before the vessels body corporate"

Dobbie McInnes, who should have known better, supplied card paper with the rear preprinted with a proforma to enter the calculated horsepower in and a space for entering speed in Knots per Hour

Tanks and vbilges sounded daily despite remote indicators.

Happy days,

Duncan

dredgermate
26th July 2007, 23:33
Certainly on my ship, I insist much to the A.B's disgust on having all tanks and void spaces sounded every morning, then asking if they've actually done it because thier tank soundings are widely different from the ballast board,one of them flogs it for a fact, and is usually rewarded with another trip round the tanks to see what's actually in them, not what he thinks should be in them.

Pat McCardle
26th July 2007, 23:53
Certainly on my ship, I insist much to the A.B's disgust on having all tanks and void spaces sounded every morning, then asking if they've actually done it because thier tank soundings are widely different from the ballast board,one of them flogs it for a fact, and is usually rewarded with another trip round the tanks to see what's actually in them, not what he thinks should be in them.


If their soundings are widely different from the ballast board? Do you not think YOU should go out & take a 'dip'. I don't know if you have an automatic 'Tank Tender' system but YOU as Mate should be checking this & then YOU have only one person to blame if they are different. ATB, Pat

The AB's might learn something from you in the process(Thumb)

sparkie2182
27th July 2007, 00:52
i think they take a glance at the g.p.s...........

Naviguesser
27th July 2007, 01:26
They made us do it on the training ship but I've never seen it done on a commercial ship. On the training ship we'd usually get a fix every watch (running fix of the sun or a star fix depending on what watch you had) even though we had GPS and ECDIS, just as a check and to practice. The funny part is that I was the reason they started doing that. During one of my watches we were in the middle of the Pacific with no traffic so I did a running fix of the sun just to pass the time if nothing else. When I put it down on the chart the mate on watch thought it was so great, he said he was going to recommend that all cadet watches thereafter be required to do it. Let's just say I wasn't the most popular person for a while after that...

Geoff Garrett
27th July 2007, 02:27
Noon sights were for the kids. The Mate would sort out the men from the boys with his star sights.

Soundings: Get ten different men to take soundings/dips and you will get ten different answers.

Keith Adams
27th July 2007, 02:57
I was taught, and my experience proved to me that one observation cannot fix the position of a ship but can only provide a position line. Two observations would give me two position lines and hopefully the angle between those would be large enough to provide a decent intersection and thereby, the vessel's position. During the day, morning or afternoon, if bored to tears, I would look up a planet capable of being seen from my DR position, and in conjunction with my trusty Rude's Star Identifier (center pin removed to set a more accurate latitude) get myself an approximate bearing and sextant angle of the planet. With sextant angle set and a decent bearing using the azimuth ring on the bridge wing gyro, pick out the planet in a short sweep in broad daylight. Grab one of the sun aswell and we have a fix. Used to get my needful set of star sights before evening twilight by that same method. Three stars plus Polaris and maybe one Planet for good measure and hopefully end up with a small cocked-hat. Learned that with Bibby Line ... all Mates out for sights, morning noon and evening ... no excuses ! Cheers, Snowy

David Davies
27th July 2007, 08:13
As senior watch keeping officer on a passenger ship I was responsible for the day's run on which the passengers ran a sweep. It was very embarrassing when the lonley lady passenger whom you had befriended won it on two occasions.

Brian Dobbie
27th July 2007, 10:01
The electronic charts show the ships position every few seconds, also updates eta and speed required every few seconds.
However the Liberian ER Logbook requires the noon position!!! Strange.

Tank soundings always carried out every morning, hold bilges on alarms!!!

All fuel tanks have alarms for level and temperature.
Brian

peter barc
27th July 2007, 15:08
Certainly on my ship, I insist much to the A.B's disgust on having all tanks and void spaces sounded every morning,
dredgermate,
I bet you are popular onboard, especially when you have a draught and load indicator as you probably have ?
Peter...

slick
28th July 2007, 10:38
All,
My first trip as Third Mate to Argentina, the Old Man insisted that Noon sights by myself and the Second mate were worked out totally separately and given to him for plotting.
On occasion he would take the Chart down to his cabin, and when completed the chart was returned to the Bridge for the two of us to discuss the Noon Position.
Not the most inspiring introduction to navigation in the raw.
The Old Man made it known that he did not care for Marc St. Helaire and Long. by Chron. was the method preferred by him.
Oh!, Happy Days.
Yours aye,
Slick

vasco
26th June 2008, 19:22
Slicks thread about Noon and Old Men reminded me of this titbit

If the old man is taking noon, stand on his left so you can get an idea of his reading. The 3/0 can stand on your left, watching yours. Then when the doddery old moaner finds you all agree he goes back to his G & T and you can work out the real latitude because you made a mental note of the real altitude.

Had to do that with a few.

John N MacDonald
27th June 2008, 21:14
Only saw noon sights being taken once on the 3 different ships I travelled on while sailing from the uk and back and that was on the LT Cortesia when the 2nd demonstrated it to a 1st trip apprentice.

lakercapt
27th June 2008, 23:15
Sailed with a master who got involved with the sights.
Took one in the morning and took the only set of tables and almanac down to his cabin to work them out much to the consternation of the second mate who had to wait until he was finished before working his out.
Same thing at the noon sight when the three of us would catch noon.
Again down to his cabin and came up and told us the noon position regardless what the second mate and I got.
This went on for a while and to say we were a bit pissed off would be an understatement.
One day we got the "old mans" sextant out of the box and misaligned the mirrors and for good measure stood on the frame. Heavens knows how many errors were in it then.
Guess what, his position although many many miles away from ours was still the "ships position." Seemed pointless going though the whole charade but he got very antsy when you told him you could not get a sight.

Cisco
27th June 2008, 23:41
Based on my time on Windsor Castle and SA Oranje in the mid 60s mer alts were a bit of an ´also ran´...

The ships stayed on GMT until they were 2 nights out of Capetown even though they went out to almost 20W and back to 20E. As a result noon was rarely anywhere near 1200.

The day´s run sweep was more important than knowing where we were so mid morning every man and his dog took a morning sight ( M St H.... Long by Chron was a Clan Line thing ..) and made a guess at our 1200 position... all our chits would be dispatched downstairs to the master who would pick the middle number ( the punters used to wager either side of this number on the days run comp ) . Lets say his middle number was 500 miles and the actual run was 505 then whoever had pick ´plus 5 ´ would be the winner.

Come 1200 we would all ( 2/0, J/2/0, 3/0, 4/0, J/4/0 ) take another M St H and cross the two... each work out a possy and days run, Óld Man would scroot the lot and make a descision... the run was more important than where we were.

Then the 4/0 s job was to take the bridge boy -whose job it was to carry the parallel rules, pencil etc- down to the 1st Class and Tourist Class charts which were on display behind glass and under lock and key , update the position and pin up a copy of the noon chit.

I think the Old man went through some sort of days run ritual with the punters.. I was never part of that.. seems that pre WW2 some very large sums were wagered.

surfaceblow
28th June 2008, 01:04
When I was a Engine Cadet the Chief Engineer bought a sail boat and was buying a bunch of electronics for it and was also getting instructions on taking sights. When the Captain saw the Chief Engineer with the ships sexton in his hands the Chief was not allowed near the sexton. So every day there after I was one deck below the bridge with the Chief Engineer who was holding up a bent wire hanger with a string and nut attached on the curve of the hanger there were pieces of tape. The Chief would then shout readings off of his hanger to me loud enough for the mate on watch who was taking his sights could hear. After looking over the numbers that the Chief told me he would come up with his Longitude and Latitude and would run up to the bridge to give his position. Which was always close to the Noon Report. With the Chief Engineer's normal shouting the Captain came out to watch the show on a overcast day to see if the Chief Engineer would come up with a position. The position was very close to the loran position on the chart. The Captain came down to talk to the Chief and found the Chief putting his electronic helper away. The Chief Engineer bought one of the first digital loran for his boat and was show boating to the Deck Department.

Ian6
17th October 2008, 22:07
My first ship after getting my brand new 2nd Mate's had what then seemed a very old 'Old Man' (actually getting on for 20 years younger than I am now). He insisted, as the company decreed, that all the Deck Officers took separate noon sights from which we also had to calculate, amongst other things, speed since last noon and speed required to arrive on our ETA.
Results to be presented in descending order of seniority. I rapidly discovered as the most junior that if my results were similar to the 2nd or 3rd Mates I was accused of copying. But by ensuring that my result was reassuring just a little bit different I had to either have achieved a higher speed for the last 24 hours or else required a higher speed to arrive on time.
Every day I was greeted by "Just like all other 4th Officers, going too fast, in a rush are you?"
There was no satisfactory answer.
Ian

Hugh Ferguson
18th October 2008, 16:19
As it was! Blue Funnel people may like to know that the participants are:-
LtoR; Messrs. Wood c/o; Julian Holt 3/O; Noel Joyce 4/O; Arnold 2/O. Captain Sturrock always absented himself from the proceedings.
The photograph was taken by me, a time expired middy, in January 1947 homeward bound from Singapore where I had left the Samcree to return to U.K. for second mates. The ship, m.v Stentor (maiden voyage). They had terminated outward in Kure.

Ron Stringer
19th October 2008, 12:00
A couple of those officers were in black shoes. What sort of shipping company was that?[=P]

Hugh Ferguson
19th October 2008, 13:42
A couple of those officers were in black shoes. What sort of shipping company was that?[=P]

And the capless one was the owner's son!!!!

Enri
28th October 2008, 17:09
In the late 70's or early 80's I was on a ship which was in the Gulf of Kutch, where the C/E having just bought himself a small yacht, was explaining to his cronies the art of taking a sight with the aid of a small plastic sextant.
As he took it in his hand the coloured film shades drooped, then melted.
As mentioned above, when bored, I would pre work Venus on the meridian and get a morning fix, as well as the usual morning noon and afternoon sights, and that was with a Sat nav. (Tho it was an early one which used running fixes, a "Transit"?).
How times have changed, some of the cadets I had sailed with (prior to my retirement), had never seen a real sextant, used only a plastic imitation, and only sailed between Dover and Calais, before gaining a world wide qualification. I suppose its the modern way, but I'm glad I learnt the trade of being a navigator without the little boxes in the corner of the chartroom, or an ECDIS.

Hugh Ferguson
28th October 2008, 20:19
That's brilliant, ENRI! I never even thought of doing something like that.
Regards, Hugh.

Nova Scotian
28th October 2008, 20:33
In the late 70's or early 80's I was on a ship which was in the Gulf of Kutch, where the C/E having just bought himself a small yacht, was explaining to his cronies the art of taking a sight with the aid of a small plastic sextant.
As he took it in his hand the coloured film shades drooped, then melted.
As mentioned above, when bored, I would pre work Venus on the meridian and get a morning fix, as well as the usual morning noon and afternoon sights, and that was with a Sat nav. (Tho it was an early one which used running fixes, a "Transit"?).
How times have changed, some of the cadets I had sailed with (prior to my retirement), had never seen a real sextant, used only a plastic imitation, and only sailed between Dover and Calais, before gaining a world wide qualification. I suppose its the modern way, but I'm glad I learnt the trade of being a navigator without the little boxes in the corner of the chartroom, or an ECDIS.


When running between Karachi and Bombay, with Ellermans, it was customary to cross a sun position line with the 100 fathom sounding contour off the Gulf of Kutch. The position was always reliable and it would always take me back to Peter Sellers who often mentioned the Rann of Kutch in some of his skits.

Cheers

sidsal
10th December 2008, 19:35
Just after WW2 I was 2nd Mate in Anglo American Oil Co and one master whose name I forget was the son of a former tanker captain. He told me that his father told him of a voyage from Venezueala to Thameshaven. The weather was bad and they had not been able to take any sights for days. They ended up steaming up the Bristol Channel instead of the English Channel.
He also told me that his father related how on one voyage, again from S. America the ship was near the Mona Passage and the weather was beautiful. They decided to make for a bay in Puerto Rico where they dropped anchor, lowered a boat and went fishing for the afternoon with beer and sandwiches... They returned at dusk, weighed anchor and went on their way.
Those must have been great times to be at sea !
When I went to sea in WW2 there were old salts who had been at sea before WW1 - and I heard tales of of tramps where the crew had to provide their own bedding and there were traders on the docks who sold "donkeys' breakfasts" - straw filled bedding. I also heard a tale of a master who kept hens on the monkey island so that he could have a fresh egg for breakfast. The hens seemed to stop laying and he suspected the C/E of stealing the eggs. He kept watch and sure enough he caught the Chief on his hands and knees getting into the pen and swiped him across the buttocks with a stick.

Bill Davies
10th December 2008, 20:55
Sidsal,
Your story is reminiscent of coastal stories you here in Eire. Arklow has always been a haven of coastal shipowners and many when passing Arklow would anchor off and have the weekend ashore.

Pat Kennedy
10th December 2008, 21:59
Sidsal,
Your story is reminiscent of coastal stories you here in Eire. Arklow has always been a haven of coastal shipowners and many when passing Arklow would anchor off and have the weekend ashore.


And that reminds me of one coaster I was in, carrying coal from Garston to Belfast/Warren Point/Dublin. the skipper had a 'special friend' in Warren Point, and from time to time he would allow the ship to get stranded by the outgoing tide a couple of hundred yards offshore, then we would lower the boat and head for the beach for a few hours R and R.
He had another 'special friend' in Dublin, she was a wild looking woman who apparently lived rough on the dock estate, and she would come aboard for a shower and a meal and a bit of slap and tickle with 'his lordship'
I think he behaved himself in Belfast, that was where his wife lived.
Pat

Alistair Spence
10th December 2008, 23:36
As a cadet, it was mandatory that we took part in the daily ritual of noon sights, and it was real chore, I could never get my position line anywhere near the 2nd's. Morning and evening star sights though seemed much more worthwhile if only because they actually gave you fix and the mate or chief off were always happy to take time from the crono for me. I'd plea bargain for the 4 to 8 just to try and avoid the noon sight.

Chris Field
12th December 2008, 22:40
As skipper in the early 90's I tried to get the mates and apprenti to keep going with astro-sights just to check whether the sat-nav systems were giving us correct info- I never trusted those ruddy yankee things!

Not long after radar became common there were occasional "radar-assisted collisions". Have there been any "sat-nav assisted groundings" in more recent times?

Further to that, we had several charts of the New Guinea coasts, and other S.Pacific areas that bore little resemblance to details of the actual coastline or the sat-nav positions. My answer to that challenge was always to concentrate on where we were relative to the rocks etc rather than worrying about lat and long - easily achieved by good old-fashioned compass bearings etc.

Alistair Spence
13th December 2008, 21:54
Chris, I don't know about commercially, but in yachting/leisure the occurance of satnav, or GPS, assisted groundings is very frequent.

surfaceblow
14th December 2008, 00:10
"The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the grounding of the Royal Majesty was the watch officers’ over reliance on the automated features of the integrated bridge system, Majesty Cruise
Line’s failure to ensure that its officers were adequately trained in the automated features of the integrated bridge system and in the implications of this automation for bridge resource management, the deficiencies in the design and implementation of the integrated bridge system
and in the procedures for its operation, and the second officer’s failure to take corrective action after several cues indicated the vessel was off course." The GPS Antenna wire was loose.
http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/1997/MAR9701.pdf

I was told a story about USNS Chauvenet (T-AGS-29) (Survey Ship) built by Upper Clyde Shipbuilders of Glasgow, Scotland in 1970. The Chauvenet torn part of the bottom out on a rock that Captain Cook had charted. The course line on the chart bisected the rock. It was confirmed that the rock was in the same place that Captain Cook said it was.

While I was on the Harkness we had tee shirts made up with "Chauvenet on the Rocks".

sidsal
14th December 2008, 12:47
Tuberduff
Did you know the Tyrrell family in Arklow ?. I sailed with Capt Tyrrell in the F J WOLFE - Anglo American Oil tanker in 1947/8.. He had abrothert who had a schooner based iN Arklow. He had sailed on the Iriquois 0 the tanker that towed a 7 masted barge across the atlantic. She was fitted with proper towing gear. If the tow broke adrift the barge sailed on.
He was a great chap and I have hapy memories of him.

sidsal
14th December 2008, 12:51
Electronic charts.
Some years ago we did a cruise on the Royal Princess ( now th Artemis) around S America. We went up the Chilean fjords and whilst on the bridges i noticed that on the electronic charts the ship was shown to be sailing half a mile inland. On asking why the Capt said the charts were of Charles Darwin vintage in the Beagle (1830's) and were inaccurate.
I would have imagined that in this age of sattelites the charts would have been updated.

Eltel
22nd December 2008, 21:41
Does anyone know where you can get an Errol Flynn sextant? When he used it he took one sight to get the latitude then another (not sure what of!) to get the longitude. Very handy! Also, when on the 12-4 you frequently got ships of various nationalities asking you for a position from your satnav, this would be the late 70's, early 80's. On the Benboats only the box boats had transit satnavs so everything was done using the sextant. You never let on, however - just gave them a position feeling slightly smug!

slick
23rd December 2008, 13:29
All,
The Sun always shines at Noon!!?
Yours aye,
Slick

Hamish Mackintosh
28th December 2008, 01:43
Telegram to a second mate on his wedding day "Take soundings approx 2Am, report depth and position"

OzBoz
1st January 2009, 00:44
How times have changed, some of the cadets I had sailed with (prior to my retirement), had never seen a real sextant, used only a plastic imitation, and only sailed between Dover and Calais, before gaining a world wide qualification. I suppose its the modern way, but I'm glad I learnt the trade of being a navigator without the little boxes in the corner of the chartroom, or an ECDIS.
Enri,
When I served my time, in the early 60s, we had none of the modern electronic aids available today, so celestial nav was a very big part of our duties. Yes, it was difficult to learn at first, and accuracy only came with practice, but we had signed up to be Navigators, and we took pride in the fact that we had the skills that few others had. The satisfaction of plotting a position on the chart, based on one's mathematical skills is something I always remember. Somehow, it connected me to my heroes, like Cook and Flinders, who beat the path that we could all follow.

With modern aids like GPS and ECDIS, Masters and Mates have become little more than glorfied lookouts on the bridge. In fact, I venture to say that an AB lookout could plot a position from a GPS readout. I accept that GPS is a great time and effort saver, but what time and effort needs to be saved. I accept also, that GPS nav is the norm, but not to have been taught celestial nav, and not to practice it regularly, is a tragedy. I don't believe that anyone who is not competent in celestial nav, should be allowed to call themselves a navigator.

I know I sound like a Luddite, but I mourn the passing of a system where a ship could determine it's position, with reasonable accuracy, independently, without any outside assistance.

Cheers
Brian

Mike S
1st January 2009, 01:01
I agree Brian with all you say. I also think that there will be many shipowners that will mourn the passing of these skills if ever there is a serious failure of the GPS system or the USA turns them off in time of conflict.

Not likely I know.......but then it will be "Break glass and extract navigator" (POP)

sparkie2182
1st January 2009, 01:40
in the same way that the radio department had to accept their demise, the deck department will have to accept the fact that G.P.S is here to outstrip all the mathematics.......all the astronomy.......all the "aura" of the traditional navigator.

all gone.

in 10 years time at the most..... the subject will barely be mentioned, let alone taught.


i write this without rancour, i myself have a lifelong love of the art.... i was taught from the age of 12, but the future is clear.

OzBoz
1st January 2009, 03:35
Not likely I know.......but then it will be "Break glass and extract navigator" (POP)
I'm not so sure. I have picked up a whisper that, at the flick of a switch the whole system can be encoded, similar to pay TV, and that all US warships etc are already fitted with the decoding units. Maybe one of our US members could comment. It would seem a logical step to me.

Cheers
Brian

slick
1st January 2009, 11:47
All,
Nothing quite like a BOT Oral Examination driven by a legendary Examiner in a room above Burton's the tailors to bring out the best in the candidate when presented with a Vernier sextant with a reading "Off the Arc" and the questions "What is that reading and what are the principles of a Sextant?, and replying -
"That the angle of Incidence is equal to the angle of Reflection, and that if a ray of light suffers two successive changes between two plane mirrors then the angle between the first and last ray is twice the angle between the mirrors", Admiralty Manuals of Navigation, Jones's Principles of Navigation et al refer.
I am sure there must be some searching questions about GPS.
Yours aye,
Slick
PS Or something like that

pete
1st January 2009, 12:01
From what little knowledge I have of these Electronic Systems, I understand that in a crisis certain elements of the coding can be changed so as to disable the on-board receivers. Heaven knows what will happen to the "Electronic Navigator" then. I do appreciate that with the introduction of Gyro Compasses and Radar such things as VSA and HSA as positioning methods went by the board, the Lead Line was also ignored. Basic celestial navigation should never be completely ignored, or if it is Insurance Companies beware. BTW I still have my Sextant and my Fathers................pete

John D. Rogers
1st January 2009, 13:49
As an ex (1960) AH middy, yes - keep the sextants well dusted. However, on the subject of relying on things needing electricity, I remember that in 1990, when I was an AB on a very small tramp ship, the Mate told me that in the southern Bay of Biscay, he noticed (fortunately) that something had turned the gyro compass wrong by 180 degrees for a maybe 20 minutes! (He WAS sober). There was all sorts of speculation, inc. the possibility of a US warship (sub?) not far off.... I`d forgotten about this until I read this chat page. Any ideas, anyone?
John D. Rogers

sparkie2182
1st January 2009, 21:56
there is a coding system which can degrade the positioning for non "Friendly" users.....quite true.
but when one considers this system is used by the U.K. military and indeed armed forces in the "free world"......it's as well we are chums with the usa.

this is one of the cases for the implementation of........

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_gps

Nick Balls
1st January 2009, 23:34
Like a lot of you I learnt the old fashioned way. Last july I had the pleasure of instructing a Deck Cadet in traditional celestial navigation on a trip down from Scotland to Brazil. His enthusiasm matched mine and despite the last few years of my own (Traditional) navigational neglect, I discovered I could still get good results.
We were always taught that "Navigation is an art ,NOT a science" Modern equipment is great and I for one would not go back, but its the "Art " bit that is more important.(Now missing)
Far to many people would indeed be "Lost" if the modern equipment failed ,however if you cast your mind back you will remember that quite often we too were "lost" It was just that we understood the limitations of our methods and carried on confident in our ability(Art). For instance I for one have done several trips across the North Atlantic in winter when we failed to see sun or stars the whole way across.
It was only when I left deep sea and worked on small ships that I really learnt the difficult part of navigation. Coastal Navigation with limited (Old /broken) equipment teaches you a lot! The Old Deep sea sights (Marcq. St Hilaire) before the calculator, using the havasine,were done repeatedly time after time. Today It simply amazes me that these simple procedures are held in such high regard.
Looking back at my own sight books from the 1970's I can see that by todays standards we did a very good job but it also shows up the limitations.
Using modern technology is great , ECDIS is wonderful and lets face it, just as we now rely on engines (complete with electronics) I don't suppose many of you would go back to the days of sail.
The biggest problem today is putting an idiot in front of a GPS and after 5 years sea-time calling him Captain!

gas_chief
23rd March 2009, 16:23
Talk about sights man! Heck, i asked the 2/o today where the plotting sheets were. And he looked blank. So I took out a cancelled chart and made one on the back side. He initially looked at me as if I was performing magic and then walked away after about 2 minutes totally disinterested.

When I did my 2nd Mates ticket, I had to study the Marcq. St Hilaire, long by chron, noon, ex meridian, polaris... When I went back to do my mates I was told by the navigation lecturer at South Tyneside College, that all I needed to know was how to take a long by chron, intercept and noon.

The 2/o and 3/o cannot work out sights without a computer program.

Klaatu83
31st March 2009, 00:42
As far as I know ships are still required to test the engine order telegraph, general alarm and whistle every day, and it is generally done at noon so everybody can set their watches. However, nowadays most ships have unmanned engine rooms. That means that the "telegraph" has been replaced by a direct throttle control linkage, which cannot be "swung" without serious consequences. There is still a backup telegraph, however, and, I believe, that is still tested at noon.

In 1994 I was on a Farrell Lines container ship that had only a single GPS receiver. That became disabled when it's antenna was struck by lightning in an Italian port, but our captain chose not to delay sailing in order to get it fixed. Consequently, we navigated by sextant all the way to New York. By that time the mates had ceased bringing their own sextants along, so there were only two sextants available on board; the ship's and the cadet's. I was Second Mate, so I took morning and evening stars with the ship's sextant. Since our Third Mate proved to be hopeless and the chief Mate had long since forgotten how, the Old Man and I shot LAN simultaneously every day, just the way they used to in the old days. When we worked out our sights and compared them, we were gratified to find that our noon latitudes were no more than half a mile apart. After that experience the Old Man declared that, from then on, he was going to insist that each of his mates take a few celestial sights during the course of every voyage, just to keep their hands' in.

methc
3rd April 2009, 19:03
Believe it or not this is true! On passage from Aden to Colombo,in the Karmala,during the 0800-1200 watch the gyro compass stopped working. The helmsman didn't realise that anything was wrong and just stood at the wheel whilst the vessel turned a full 180 degrees after which the short circuit in a bridge wing repeater corrected itself. Nobody,but nobody, noticed that the sun was on now on the port side until the second mate came to take his morning sight. He was utterly flabbergasted not to be able to see the sun in his sextant mirrors having made a good guess at the altitude.He wandered silently in to the wheelhouse and then with great glee pointed out to the 3rd Mate the difference between the magnetic heading and the gyro. The loss of distance at noon sights was 17 miles. it was decided to share this in that day's run and the next.When presented with the figures dear old Captain Spurling, only commented that he had never known of a counter current at that time of year in the Indian Ocean. The 3rd Mate got away with it.

Yesterday, in conversation with an Edinburgh school ex-mathematics teacher, I asked if his pupils knew the connection between Napier University and Logarithms. And did anybody nowadays know of Napiers Rules for Circular Parts. He was astonished when I showed him my 1953 copy of Principles for Second Mates.

slick
4th April 2009, 09:21
All,
An advert appeared in a well known magazine showing a yachting type in a suitable nautical pose with the legend (I paraphrase a bit) "It's all plain sailing", I thought it was Plane Sailing? - your erudite views welcomed
Yours aye,
Slick

Esse Quam Videri

Binnacle
4th April 2009, 10:42
As an ex (1960) AH middy, yes - keep the sextants well dusted. However, on the subject of relying on things needing electricity, I remember that in 1990, when I was an AB on a very small tramp ship, the Mate told me that in the southern Bay of Biscay, he noticed (fortunately) that something had turned the gyro compass wrong by 180 degrees for a maybe 20 minutes! (He WAS sober). There was all sorts of speculation, inc. the possibility of a US warship (sub?) not far off.... I`d forgotten about this until I read this chat page. Any ideas, anyone?
John D. Rogers

Spent many an hour, when second mate, in gyro rooms to avoid getting called out when the gyro wandered so your question intrigued me. Wandering through 180° in twenty minutes seems very strange indeed, but you have ruled out strong drink. The old style compass S.G. Brown's etc needed TLC and needed a few hours to settle if disturbed. Later Arma-Brown type compasses settled much quicker and needed little care. Zero knowledge of electronic warfare skills so unable me say if an external influence could precess the gyro. What type of compass was it ?

Bill Davies
4th April 2009, 10:56
He was astonished when I showed him my 1953 copy of Principles for Second Mates.

Seem to recall the author was T.G(J). Jones and incorporated reference to Bodes Law. A handy little book!

Binnacle
4th April 2009, 11:17
Believe it or not this is true! On passage from Aden to Colombo,in the Karmala,during the 0800-1200 watch the gyro compass stopped working. The helmsman didn't realise that anything was wrong and just stood at the wheel whilst the vessel turned a full 180 degrees after which the short circuit in a bridge wing repeater corrected itself. Nobody,but nobody, noticed that the sun was on now on the port side until the second mate came to take his morning sight. He was utterly flabbergasted not to be able to see the sun in his sextant mirrors having made a good guess at the altitude.He wandered silently in to the wheelhouse and then with great glee pointed out to the 3rd Mate the difference between the magnetic heading and the gyro. The loss of distance at noon sights was 17 miles. it was decided to share this in that day's run and the next.When presented with the figures dear old Captain Spurling, only commented that he had never known of a counter current at that time of year in the Indian Ocean. The 3rd Mate got away with it.


Called to the bridge one morning by the third mate when the repeaters wandered, it turned out he had twice got the sailors to turn the masthouse cargo vents as he thought the wind had shifted. Being embarassed when I laughed at his stupidity he quickly reminded me that if I, as second mate, looked after the gyro properly this would never happen. Happy Days

joebuckham
4th April 2009, 11:39
Seem to recall the author was T.G(J). Jones and incorporated reference to Bodes Law. A handy little book!

bill if you were using bodes law regularly you were on some mighty long trips (Jester)

gas_chief
4th April 2009, 16:32
Believe it or not this is true! On passage from Aden to Colombo,in the Karmala,during the 0800-1200 watch the gyro compass stopped working. The helmsman didn't realise that anything was wrong and just stood at the wheel whilst the vessel turned a full 180 degrees after which the short circuit in a bridge wing repeater corrected itself. Nobody,but nobody, noticed that the sun was on now on the port side until the second mate came to take his morning sight. He was utterly flabbergasted not to be able to see the sun in his sextant mirrors having made a good guess at the altitude.He wandered silently in to the wheelhouse and then with great glee pointed out to the 3rd Mate the difference between the magnetic heading and the gyro. The loss of distance at noon sights was 17 miles. it was decided to share this in that day's run and the next.When presented with the figures dear old Captain Spurling, only commented that he had never known of a counter current at that time of year in the Indian Ocean. The 3rd Mate got away with it.

Yesterday, in conversation with an Edinburgh school ex-mathematics teacher, I asked if his pupils knew the connection between Napier University and Logarithms. And did anybody nowadays know of Napiers Rules for Circular Parts. He was astonished when I showed him my 1953 copy of Principles for Second Mates.

Well when I did my 2nd Mates, not so long ago in '97 we were taught using Haversines and each had our own Nories. But when we went to write the exams we were the first batch to be allowed to use scientific calculators. Having studied the entire course using Haversine's etc etc, I used my Nories. But when I came to my mates, I started using the scientific. I still knew how to work out the formulas though. But my 2nd and 3rd have a small book, written by a lecturer in the UK, some sort of a handy guide to formulas. (Sells like hotcakes I am told). So all they know are the formulas. Draw a diagram and they look at you like zombies. The admiralty program "NAVPAC" is even better, all you have to do is put the values in and it prints out the results. Take it off the Bridge computer and there will be mayhem!

NoMoss
4th April 2009, 17:45
Thought you might like to see this picture. It appeared in the Numast Telegraph, I think, I wrote to the gentleman concerned and he sent me an A4 sheet with a copy of the picture which I am sure he wouldn't mind being shared again.

It says "At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them"

Very evocative I thought. As a mere R/O I used to watch the 'ceremony' of sights with interest and often took the time on the chonometer for the 2nd mate.

Klaatu83
6th April 2009, 20:50
In answer to Binnacle (4/4/09):

I don't know if the U.S. Navy have anything that could knock out another ship's gyro compass, but I do believe that they can block satellite reception. I was in the Persian Gulf during the Gulf War of 1990-91. My ship didn't have GPS yet, but we did have the old-style transit satnav. It worked fine until we passed the Straits of Homuz, but after that it would no longer get a fix. I thought there might be something wrong with our receiver so I asked Sparks to check it out, but he couldn't find a thing. Then it dawned on me that it might be caused by our own military, deliberately blocking the satellite signals in an effort to interfere with the Iraqis' missile guidance systems. I therefore called up several nearby ships and asked them if their satnavs were working properly. It turned out that none of theirs were working, either. Sure enough, as soon as we cleared the Straits of Hormuz on the way out, our satnav began working again.

Naytikos
11th April 2009, 07:30
The last post is very interesting. The Transit system used two frequencies, 150 and 400MHz. The very early ones, ITT, Magnavox, would allow the operator to select which frequency he wished it to use, depending upon the quality of the data download; the later, push-button, models didn't have this facility and one just had to hope it made the correct choice. Often it didn't, and as there could be a couple of hours between satellite passes, it might take quite a while for an error to work out of the system.
Given the abnormal VHF propagation which occurs in the PG, it would only take a low wattage transmitter to interfere with the satellite signals sufficiently to prevent any solutions being derived; what is puzzling, though, is that the Transit system could never be used for missile guidance so what exactly would have been the point, I wonder?

RayJordandpo
12th April 2009, 13:45
I was on a ship in the Adriatic steaming towards Venice, there was a lot of naval activity off the Yugoslavia coast. An American warship called us up and asked our intentions, destination etc. At that moment we lost all our GPS signals, they came back on about two hours later. When we sailed the same thing happened, we lost the signals in exactly the same position and they came back on again in exactly the same spot as previously.

B.Nicholson
13th April 2009, 01:35
Just after WW2 I was 2nd Mate in Anglo American Oil Co and one master whose name I forget was the son of a former tanker captain. He told me that his father told him of a voyage from Venezueala to Thameshaven. The weather was bad and they had not been able to take any sights for days. They ended up steaming up the Bristol Channel instead of the English Channel.
He also told me that his father related how on one voyage, again from S. America the ship was near the Mona Passage and the weather was beautiful. They decided to make for a bay in Puerto Rico where they dropped anchor, lowered a boat and went fishing for the afternoon with beer and sandwiches... They returned at dusk, weighed anchor and went on their way.
Those must have been great times to be at sea !
When I went to sea in WW2 there were old salts who had been at sea before WW1 - and I heard tales of of tramps where the crew had to provide their own bedding and there were traders on the docks who sold "donkeys' breakfasts" - straw filled bedding. I also heard a tale of a master who kept hens on the monkey island so that he could have a fresh egg for breakfast. The hens seemed to stop laying and he suspected the C/E of stealing the eggs. He kept watch and sure enough he caught the Chief on his hands and knees getting into the pen and swiped him across the buttocks with a stick.

Love your story. I bet it was true, I caught a man stealing food from a private pot (coastal vessel) and on the same ship, Crabs from a crewmembers private stock. On the same ship this person sneaked around through the night and stole tea and coffee from the crews messroom to take home. Also the remains of bars of soap which he melted down into bars and took home for his family. He also stole the the parrafin out of the lamps. He was just one of a few Ive sailed with. It was not uncommon,sadly
Bob

B.Nicholson
13th April 2009, 01:43
Thought you might like to see this picture. It appeared in the Numast Telegraph, I think, I wrote to the gentleman concerned and he sent me an A4 sheet with a copy of the picture which I am sure he wouldn't mind being shared again.

It says "At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them"

Very evocative I thought. As a mere R/O I used to watch the 'ceremony' of sights with interest and often took the time on the chonometer for the 2nd mate.

Nomoss
R/O)s especially Brits were a much valued assest,s to any ship especially mine.they never ever Mere
Bob