Ships Magnetic Compasses - Ships Nostalgia
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Ships Magnetic Compasses

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  #1  
Old 22nd March 2010, 16:58
Harvatt Harvatt is offline  
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Ships Magnetic Compasses

I am a new member to S.N. so forgive me if I lose my way a bit ! but I was
trained as a ship`s magnetic compass and nautical instrument maker,
completing my training with my M.O.T. cert. of competency as Compass
Adjuster. Leaving this specific trade many years ago and now totally retired
I am not a little conerned that almost nothing is published on these instruments and very little on the internet. This equipment was generally
hand made and thus highly skilled work. Do any members feel as I do that
it is a subject that should not be allowed to die out. I am of course referring
to the Real Equipment and not the mass produced ` equipment ` seen at times today .

Harvatt

Last edited by Harvatt : 22nd March 2010 at 17:00. Reason: line five has run on
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  #2  
Old 22nd March 2010, 18:31
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Harvatt welcome.
While employed by Sperry we shared a workshop with Lillie and Gillie in North Shields. Was very impressed with the skill displayed by the compass makers
Best wishes
Bert.
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  #3  
Old 22nd March 2010, 19:08
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Andrew Craig-Bennett Andrew Craig-Bennett is offline  
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I very good subject I think.

The workmanship on a decent British made magnetic compass, say by Sestrel, B. Cooke or Lilley and Gillie, be the compass standard or binnacle, has always impressed me.

Right now there seems to be a serious shortage of people able to repair them.
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  #4  
Old 22nd March 2010, 19:29
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James_C James_C is offline   SN Supporter
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Harvatt,
Any contributions you could make would be of interest to many of us here who've stood on the bridge, and many who don't.

Andrew,
There's also a serious shortage of those qualified to correct them!
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Jim
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  #5  
Old 22nd March 2010, 19:42
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Andrew Craig-Bennett Andrew Craig-Bennett is offline  
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Very true, Jim. I've sent you a PM on that subject!
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  #6  
Old 22nd March 2010, 20:55
Tony Breach Tony Breach is offline
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I beleive that the marine magnetic compass was one of the most beautiful instruments ever made. For how many years or centuries was man's direction dependent on the magnet? When I travel I always have a small compass with me & I also incorporate them into my pocket sundials. About 8 years ago I saw a Beale's deviascope in an antique/junk shop in Newport Pembs for about £120 & I still rue the day that I did not purchase it.

Really nice to have someone on board who can actually manufacture one.

Welcome on board Harvatt.
Tony
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  #7  
Old 22nd March 2010, 22:02
Harvatt Harvatt is offline  
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Thankyou Tony for your welcome - yes I agree you did miss a snip, or rather treasure with your Beale`s Deviascope, having made repaired and tested so many of these years ago. I remember the work that went into them. There was always one of these in each School of Navigation, and used for examination purposes as well as training. I would like to think that a lot of this type of Marine Equipment has been saved from the scrap metal merchant somewhere, but that is wishful thinking !
Harvatt
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  #8  
Old 22nd March 2010, 22:15
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I sailed on a British ship a number of years ago that was fitted with, if my memory is correct, a Plath steering compass, it was entirely unlike any British compass I had sailed with as they all, without exception, were of a standard wooden/brass design. The Plath was encased in a non ferrous metal binnacle and was of a glass bowl design. I cannot remember whether it was dry card or not but as never an air bubble was seen, I presume it was not liquid. It seemed to be very well damped down and the sperical top seemed to illuminate well. It had a patent magnetic adjustment system, comprising control knobs which altered the position of the magnets . I remember after spending a year's charter on the Australian "slave trade" getting two compass adjusters aboard in Port Adelaide prior to heading home. The Plath patent adjustment system defeated them and they ended using string and scotch tape to hold the repositioned magnets. The ex Empire ship had been seriously burned out towards the end of the war and the bridge had been completely rebuilt resulting in the German steering compass being fitted. Many nights I wished we had had a Plath standard compass on the monkey island, as with no radar on a dirty wet night, on a heavily rolling monkey island trying to get accurate cross bearings while the card swung around was a pain in the neck. I felt that the British design had not altered much since the days of Captain Cook.

Last edited by Binnacle : 23rd March 2010 at 09:32. Reason: typo
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  #9  
Old 23rd March 2010, 07:38
slick slick is offline  
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Welcome Harvatt,
We all I am sure glad to see the arrival of a specialist in what to many is truly a "Black Art".
Like many I dream of finding Nautical nuggets in a "Junk" shop, the closest I came was when I saw an old Lifeboat torch, the type with a key on the back for sending Morse Code, is Morse still a requirement at sea these days?
Yours aye,

slick
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  #10  
Old 23rd March 2010, 08:37
greektoon greektoon is offline  
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Question

I was on a small tanker recently that had been fitted with an inner skin requiring the addition of a large quantity of new steel. The superintendent could not understand why I insisted that the magnetic compass would require adjustment, instead waving the old deviation card at me which "had not expired".

Even casual comparison between the standard and gyro compasses (allowing for the local variation) can reveal that the deviation card is way out, and I am often left to wonder at the circumstances in which these cards are produced and appear on ship's bridges.

There is a consensus that the validity of a deviation card is 1 year only and this is something that can often appear of PSC deficiency lists. Correct me if I'm wrong but I do not recall when at sea or taking my tickets the concept of a deviation card expiring unless in circumstances such as structural alteration and provided that regular checks of the compass deviation are made by the OOW's.
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  #11  
Old 23rd March 2010, 11:41
Billieboy Billieboy is offline  
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greektoon, seen that a few times, I just say the lifeboats are on the same date but there are NO falls! I Just used to ignore the office rants and ask the master if he was happy, if not, he got whatever he needed. I've even had to, "persuade", some Masters, to tell me what was wrong here and there; generally after I've found the faults or an engineer has tipped me off.
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  #12  
Old 23rd March 2010, 12:38
Harvatt Harvatt is offline  
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Magnetic Compass. Thank you all so much to those who have so quickly contributed with some interesting comments on this general area.

Sperry , John Lillie & Gillie , Sestrel , B.Cooke , Plath Spherical Compass without a bubble , " Black Art " !! , Beautiful Instrument .

My biggest regret is that I did not keep a diary and do not have a single photograph taken by myself. Suddenly in later retirement I am realising almost to late that this Skill / Trade is rapidly disappearing and there is so much valuable interest in it that cannot by a long chalk be obtained readily in book form . I hope that I can make sfficient time to offer a small contribution . _ To "Binnacle " - your Plath Spherical Compass would not I think be a Dry Card, Probably Liquid Filled, either Oil or mixture of alcohol and distilled water. They generally had to withstand a temperature of -40 to +60 degrees C. They were an excellent piece of instrument engineering. To "Greektoon" - the issuing of a Deviation Card and it`s "Life Span " is a rather long and very technical subject - I will try and pass comment when I can.
Harvatt

Last edited by Harvatt : 23rd March 2010 at 12:40. Reason: left p out .
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  #13  
Old 23rd March 2010, 17:01
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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All that I can say regarding compass adjustment is, 'BALLS', great big iron ones.
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  #14  
Old 23rd March 2010, 17:46
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Nick Balls Nick Balls is offline  
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Sadly the quality of compasses is today poor .......... many made under license .
I had never come across the phenomenon of 'replacing a compass' until the mid 90's.
As has been said all the old stuff was brilliant ! To a worrying degree a magnetic compass is now seen by the ship owner as simply a 'legal requirement' However this is simply not true.. far from it , the Poor old mariner has to put up these days with very poor yet vitally important equipment ............. The influence driven from the perception that 'Well they have all that GPS Stuff' from people who don't sail on the vessel.
Again another worrying trend is lack of records kept by the officer of the watch ie the Compass record book !!!!!!!! Alarming to say the least !!!!
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  #15  
Old 23rd March 2010, 18:52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Tremelling View Post
All that I can say regarding compass adjustment is, 'BALLS', great big iron ones.
You mean, of course LORD KELVIN'S BALLS
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  #16  
Old 23rd March 2010, 19:40
Billieboy Billieboy is offline  
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They're called, "Lord Kelvin's Balls", because, they sort of fell off, when he discovered absolute zero!
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  #17  
Old 23rd March 2010, 20:52
Harvatt Harvatt is offline  
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Magnetic Compass. So, we seem to have a lot of balls around ,Lord Kelvins or otherwise.
I believe 10" Diameter will be the largest I have come across - yes they are made of
soft iron but how many of us are aware of their function ?
Harvatt
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  #18  
Old 23rd March 2010, 23:01
Harvatt Harvatt is offline  
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Magnetic Compass. To Greektoon - Your "Deviation Card" - just a few thoughts whilst I have a few minutes. Some reasons for Compass Errors being different to those showing on the Deviation Card - Movement or Changes In The Position Of Localized Iron Work , Unsuitable Wiring Around The Compass , Loading vessel With Magnetic Grabs , Electric Welding , Lightning , Vessel Lying In One Direction For A Length Of Time , Type Of Cargo , Placing Of Compass , Ideally, Ironwork should Not Be Less Than 2 Metres Away , The Period In Between Compass Adjustments Is Also Dependent Upon Type Of Vessel. The Deviation Card Informs Any Authority ThatThe Compass Has Been Inspected And Checked For Errors. It must Also Be Born In Mind That As With A Car M.O.T. It Is Only Really Valid For The Time And Place It Was Carried Out On Account Of Factors Such As Those Above. N.B. Add To These - Change Of Latitude And Here Are A Few Factors Causing Compass Error On Board Ship. I had better go now, I do not want to spoil an interesting forum by boring it !
Harvatt
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  #19  
Old 23rd March 2010, 23:07
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No chance of boring any of us.
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  #20  
Old 23rd March 2010, 23:18
randcmackenzie randcmackenzie is offline  
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Welcome Harvatt, one of a number specialists in truly practical skills, I always thought.

Re Deviation cards - I believe that if they are backed up by frequent compass errors, they have no expiry, provided no major structural alterations are made.

A ship can also quite easily draw up her own over a period, though with some of the PSC inspectors not knowing quite what they are looking at all the time, they might take some persuading.

Looking at many work boats and pleasure craft, I am somewhat astonished to see the compass mounted in front of the wheel, rather than on the centre line.

Best regards.
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  #21  
Old 24th March 2010, 07:18
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All,
I heard once that if your Cargo was Scrap Iron and was being loaded and or being discharged using an Electro Magnet, then the Magnetic Compass was removed ashore, can anyone confirm this and were there other similar precautions in the case of the use of Electro Magnets.

Yours aye,

slick
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  #22  
Old 24th March 2010, 11:33
Ian Brown Ian Brown is online now  
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My recent experience is that PSC and Vetting inspectors look for an annually renewed Deviation card. They will generally accept a few months overdue if the error book is filled in every watch including anchor time {which can be considerable these recession days} and shows reasonable errors.
That all seems setting a high standard but I have had 'Compass Technicians' come onboard to renew the card annually who were quite happy to just make out a new card using the old one!
Not in the UK I should point out.
I take comfort that if all my wonderful state of the art bridge gear was knocked out I would still have a simple reliable means of steering a course.
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  #23  
Old 24th March 2010, 11:53
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It won't be too long before a magnetic compass is no longer required as part of the ship's fit out.
It is being discussed in IMO already!
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  #24  
Old 24th March 2010, 14:23
greektoon greektoon is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian Brown View Post
My recent experience is that PSC and Vetting inspectors look for an annually renewed Deviation card. They will generally accept a few months overdue if the error book is filled in every watch including anchor time {which can be considerable these recession days} and shows reasonable errors.
That all seems setting a high standard but I have had 'Compass Technicians' come onboard to renew the card annually who were quite happy to just make out a new card using the old one!
Not in the UK I should point out.
I take comfort that if all my wonderful state of the art bridge gear was knocked out I would still have a simple reliable means of steering a course.
That is my experience Ian. Where did this business of the deviation card requiring to be renewed annually come from?
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  #25  
Old 24th March 2010, 15:08
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Most likely a misguided/over zealous SIRE inspector/PSC man etc..
I wouldn't be at all surprised to find it had originated from an Oil Company.
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