River Hooghly Pilot Service. - Page 2 - Ships Nostalgia
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River Hooghly Pilot Service.

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  #26  
Old 17th September 2018, 21:50
seaman38 seaman38 is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben47 View Post
Thanks, Tony. A further question for everyone. Did the leadsman have duties other than depth sounding using the lead and line? And at what point was the lead replaced by technology for echo (sonar) sounding? At this point was the leadsman no longer needed? Thanks.
Although the echo sounder was in use it usually only gave the depth under keel amidships, where-as the lead swinger was placed as far for'd in the 'leads' and most masters placed more reliance on 'by the mark' (followed by the number) than they did on electronic devices.

In another post why someone would hit the front of the bridge whilst swinging the lead defeats me, as they were surely too far aft of where they should be standing, but it makes a good story! The lead should never have been swung above the sheer strake or you're missing the whole point of the exercise, as many soundings in as short as time as possible
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  #27  
Old 17th September 2018, 22:07
Michael Taylor Michael Taylor is offline  
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Originally Posted by Ben47 View Post
Great story, Michael. Thanks. Do you remember when sonar took over? Must have been in the 60s maybe?
Ben, My first trip up the Hoogly was in'59. They had semaphore stations at shoaling points to give tidal conditions however my mind is not clear on this but think at least some were used during those early years. Am sure others may confirm.
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  #28  
Old 17th September 2018, 22:14
Michael Taylor Michael Taylor is offline  
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Originally Posted by seaman38 View Post
Although the echo sounder was in use it usually only gave the depth under keel amidships, where-as the lead swinger was placed as far for'd in the 'leads' and most masters placed more reliance on 'by the mark' (followed by the number) than they did on electronic devices.

In another post why someone would hit the front of the bridge whilst swinging the lead defeats me, as they were surely too far aft of where they should be standing, but it makes a good story! The lead should never have been swung above the sheer strake or you're missing the whole point of the exercise, as many soundings in as short as time as possible
Not true, the chains on that particular vessel were just forward of the bridge structure on the starboard side. We apprentices lowered a small platform with corner posts and a top rail of chain....I suppose hence the name and yes swinging the lead in a rotary motion to get ahead of the vessel under way certainly allowed anybody with no experience the chance to hit the structure.
Any Warsash Cadet will tell you that during our training on the Hamble Pier was taking your life in hand!
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  #29  
Old 18th September 2018, 14:00
Ben47 Ben47 is offline
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Thanks Seaman38 and Michael. This is really a very interesting and delightful exchange in this thread. I appreciate all your memories and views. I had no understanding of how a lead line was handled and swung prior to this. These small details help. I have swung lead lines into trees for the purpose of securing a rope around a limb but this nautical use was simply a historical novelty I first learned about when Mark Twain was discussed in school.
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  #30  
Old 18th September 2018, 18:47
Michael Taylor Michael Taylor is offline  
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Here is a little more info re lead lines for you. The lead weight is in units of 7. Seven pounds or fourteen pounds (one stone or a half stone) and heavier and has an impression in the base to be filled with tallow in order to pick up bottom samples. Generally the heavy leads were for deeper waters and would be carried forward on sailing ships on lee side with an officer aft holding the line to read the mark (easy to find these "marks" on the web) when the lead was released and bottom reached. In this case it was nor swung.
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  #31  
Old 18th September 2018, 19:07
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Alan Rawlinson Alan Rawlinson is offline
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Originally Posted by NoR View Post
Link here to .pdf of On The Hooghly by Malcolm Hamilton Beattie Hooghly Pilot 1878 - 1914.
Well worth reading.
Many thanks for the pdf reference above. A fascinating book from earlier days, and despite the time difference, it will still chime with mariners from all era's. I am thoroughly enjoying the read.

In the Bank Line in the 1950's we were regularly up and down the Hooghly and it was quite a palaver... Spending the night at anchor on the way up, and pandering to the pilots - quite distinct from pilotage worldwide. I always wondered why they bothered with all the kit they brought onboard, but it seems they were sometimes days in transit and needed change of clothes etc.. Still not sure about the golf clubs though!

Memories include seeing the occasional corpse floating down the river, and of course the famous ' bore' tide, when we chained up on the buoys in Calcutta to resist the expected surge.

Someone on this thread was asking about the river banks and the general make up. I can remember brickworks at regular intervals, and plenty of loaded boats with hay and produce. These were ( and probably still are) handled with amazing skill and judgement in the often fiercely flowing and muddy river, crabbing sideways ... Otherwise it was mostly very low banks with reeds and muddy inlets.
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  #32  
Old 19th September 2018, 14:05
Ben47 Ben47 is offline
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Michael, I continue to be fascinated by all this. I did not realize the lead weight carried tallow in order to pick up sediment. I just thought the sediment stuck to the weight. I dont suppose you have a picture of these weights. Were they all similarly shaped? Still not clear as to when sounding using these weights was no longer needed. Or perhaps they are still used to this day. Were they used in the late '60s early '70s?
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  #33  
Old 19th September 2018, 14:12
Ben47 Ben47 is offline
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Alan, thanks for your reply. I am making my way thru Beattie's "On the Hooghly". To all- did you encounter wrecks in the river that needed to be maneuvered around? If so, I suppose these obstacles moved in various manners based on currents and tides so you had to be doubly cautious even if they were marked on a chart. And another leadsman question: what type of line was used for the lead? How was it marked? And how were soundings conducted in the dark at night?
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  #34  
Old 19th September 2018, 15:45
Michael Taylor Michael Taylor is offline  
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Originally Posted by Ben47 View Post
Alan, thanks for your reply. I am making my way thru Beattie's "On the Hooghly". To all- did you encounter wrecks in the river that needed to be maneuvered around? If so, I suppose these obstacles moved in various manners based on currents and tides so you had to be doubly cautious even if they were marked on a chart. And another leadsman question: what type of line was used for the lead? How was it marked? And how were soundings conducted in the dark at night?
Ben....the line is hemp, one strand was oiled to preserve the rope. Look up on the web for the markings, shape, colour and spaces, to long to put here. The markings were made from leather, rough bunting and linen.And yes, the shape and feel of the pieces allowed the officer to read the line at night.
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  #35  
Old 20th September 2018, 08:36
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Alan Rawlinson Alan Rawlinson is offline
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Originally Posted by Ben47 View Post
Alan, thanks for your reply. I am making my way thru Beattie's "On the Hooghly". To all- did you encounter wrecks in the river that needed to be maneuvered around? If so, I suppose these obstacles moved in various manners based on currents and tides so you had to be doubly cautious even if they were marked on a chart. And another leadsman question: what type of line was used for the lead? How was it marked? And how were soundings conducted in the dark at night?
There are many interesting references to the art of soundings in " On the Hooghly" particularly in Chapter 4 . Like all procedures at sea, there were ' wrinkles' which helped the experienced men. Seems a lighter line and lead were preferred by some pilots and their leadsman and they carried them in their kit. At night an experienced leadsman could feel the marks which were arranged in a distinctive way and was a tradition. Of all the useless things we were taught at sea school in the 1940's was the different marks of a lead line! Sailing ship lore was also taught, and I can recall the little ditty intended to help when making standing rigging. It goes, " Worm and parcel with the lay, and serve the rope the other way". At least I went to sea. For the lads that chose a shore career, it must have been doubly useless.

Back to the Hooghly. - Re wrecks. Haven't seen any mention of wrecks or problems with them, but no doubt there was the odd wreck. For the pilots, it is clear that the Hooghly itself presented a huge challenge to complete a successful passage. The difficulty was with an extra fast flowing river, stronger in the centre by far. ( used to advantage when turning) Also, the constant change in depth due to shifting currents and mudbanks, (hence the need for constant soundings). No two passages woud be the same. The weather plays a huge part. In the days of sail covered in the Hooghly text, it was so much more difficult to progress given the need to tack into the wind and use a wider stretch with all the risks of grounding. Touching the banks was a frequent occurrence, usually without serious consequences.

I love all the anecdotes in the book. Especially about the Master of a sailing ship arriving at the pilot station wearing red and green shoes on either foot - corresponding to the Port and Starboard lights!
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