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Helm of SS Red Oak Victory

Helm of SS Red Oak Victory

Wheel, telemotor and binnacle of the SS Red Oak Victory. Also visible on the left is the ship's gyro-compass repeater, and on the extreme left, the Vietnam-era Sperry radar scope.

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Quite a lot done since I was last aboard her ... amazing what can be done with tender care ... no more birds' nests and droppings, terriffic varnish work ! Snowy
 

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This really takes me back. I spent a lot of time as mate on watch on the Bridge of the Victory ships USNS Bowditch and USNS Towle. There was no electric steering gear or gyro (automatic) pilot. Steering was strictly by hydraulic telemoter, hence the large, wooden wheel. Crews used to take pride in varnishing those wheels. There was usually a "turk's head" knot around the knob of the top-dead-center spoke, so the helmsman could feel when the wheel was amidships without having to look.

Those five small port holes made it seem like looking out of a bunker. You had to keep your face close to them in order to see much, and I was always half afraid that some day one of the deadlights, which were suspended above the portholes by a single little brass chain, would crash down and crack my skull. I also got into the habit of pacing from one porthole to another because there were so many blind spots created by all the rigging, a habit I never grew out of.

There was an awful lot of brass on the bridges of those old ships, which the crews really used to polish. The Chief Mates on those ships used to order Brasso by the case.

The compass binnacle was made out of wood and brass. The best story I ever heard about that concerned a new captain who came aboard. He took one look at the binnacle, which was painted gray, and immediately ordered the crew to strip it, varnish it and polish it. It took them months, but they finally had that old binnacle gleaming just in time for the Old Man to get relieved. The new captain who relieved him then took one look at that binnacle and immediately ordered the crew to paint it!
 

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Cargo vessels
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martinihenry
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