Steering port or starboard - Ships Nostalgia
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Steering port or starboard

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  #1  
Old 4th August 2019, 13:21
Michael Taylor Michael Taylor is offline  
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Steering port or starboard

In my volunteering at the New Bedford Whaling Museum I have questioned some of the worlds experts on the subject as to why the steering oar on an American built whale boat is on the port side.....all to no avail. Traditionally steering (as in steerboard) is on the right side in cultures using a steering oar.
So my question is....why would a whale boat over here be manovered on the port side? You may also note that over here the loggerhead is aft and over to starboard.IMG_0280 (1).jpg
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  #2  
Old 4th August 2019, 13:46
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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Unless I've missed something, does not the siting of the loggerhead on the starboard quarter answer your own question?

When whaling - and being towed at speed in the Nantucket sleigh-ride (!) - the steering oar would in any event be virtually useless, surely?

Your photograph also shows what appears to be a conventional rudder (albeit unshipped) complete with gudgeons and pintles. Why, then, a steering oar at all?
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  #3  
Old 4th August 2019, 14:12
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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Further, assuming that the harpoon-line runs out through a fairlead at the stem-head (is this right?); and the steering oar is then rendered useless by the strength of the whale (in towing the boat); it surely makes sense to place the loggerhead on the starboard side, where the coxswain (or whatever the hand in charge of boat might have been called) could then take charge of the playing/paying out of the harpoon line, without concern for the steering oar?

As to the steering oar and the rudder (ie. two methods of steering), my guess is that the steering oar on the port side would have been used when whaling until (and not after) the moment when the harpoon struck. And probably the use of the more conventional rudder was reserved for high days and holidays and the use of the whaleboat for runs ashore when in harbour (for grog, legover, stores etc?).

Last edited by Barrie Youde; 4th August 2019 at 14:15..
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  #4  
Old 4th August 2019, 14:44
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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Why place the loggerhead on the starboard quarter? Because the loggerhead, surely, is the jewel in the crown of the whole boat; and the starboard quarter is at the right hand of the man in charge?
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  #5  
Old 4th August 2019, 15:30
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Stephen J. Card Stephen J. Card is offline  
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Barrie,

I agree. The loggerheard… (and I'm sure the name was quite different from two centuries ago), For most people, right handed, it make perfect sense and even for steering as well. I guess the original 'steerboard' was better for then and it just stuck with with.

Stephen
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  #6  
Old 4th August 2019, 16:20
david freeman david freeman is offline  
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The American right hand down, steer to starboard, and the old sidewinders in the fishing industry with gallows on the portside { where the fishing gear was shot from], so the steering oar was free from interference/entanglement of the fishing gear. Did whalers the harpoon boat/catchers tow the caught whale on its port side, and hence the starboard oar was free from the towed carcass of the whale?
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  #7  
Old 4th August 2019, 16:26
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Stephen J. Card Stephen J. Card is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david freeman View Post
The American right hand down, steer to starboard, and the old sidewinders in the fishing industry with gallows on the portside { where the fishing gear was shot from], so the steering oar was free from interference/entanglement of the fishing gear. Did whalers the harpoon boat/catchers tow the caught whale on its port side, and hence the starboard oar was free from the towed carcass of the whale?

Likewise BACKBOARD... 'Port' became as the standard side for the side your ship berths alongside.

Went to had Viking ships and lots of models to be seen, with the steering board on the starboard side... mostly! Saw a few models with the steering board was on the port side of the vessel! Sometimes I hate Google!
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  #8  
Old 4th August 2019, 16:42
Barrie Youde Barrie Youde is offline  
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#6

Surely the prime purpose of the whaleboat was to catch the whale and kill it. Until that had been achieved the question of on which side the dead while might be towed was surely academic?


The benefit of having the logging-post aft and on the starboard quarter was not only for ease of handling by the coxswain (bloke in charge); but also the use of the full length of the boat would put up a stronger fight against the strength of the fighting whale.
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Old 4th August 2019, 18:47
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Stephen J. Card Stephen J. Card is offline  
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Here is an interesting engraving of a Hull whaler. Note the oar is on the starboard side. Very old. Probably the artist used the same as a lifeboat would have done.

Also two photos taken in Bermuda c. 1935. The last whale caught at Bermuda and being taken from Somerset, Watford Bridge. These fishermen were offshore and say the whale. The did not use a spear. The whale was on the surface and two mates jumped overboard and stuffed a sack down the whale's blowhole. Killed it and towed it to shore. Nasty bstards.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Hull whaler.jpg (11.3 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg Untitled-design-11-1 bermuda whale.jpg (23.8 KB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg last whale caught in bermuda.jpg (28.7 KB, 8 views)
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  #10  
Old 4th August 2019, 19:20
Michael Taylor Michael Taylor is offline  
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Thanks for your help, maybe I can answer some of the items.
Barrie...It is on the starboard quarter because it is away for the Boatheader who was steering. On European whale boats the loggerhead was in the bow which makes more sense. The rudder was used when under sail otherwise the steering oar which in the event of an attack allowed the boat to be "levered" away. The whale line runs from two tubs (300 fathoms total) around the loggerhead ,travels the length of the boat and over the bow onto the harpooned whale.
David....The dead whale was towed back to the whale ship by the whale line with others helping and placed alongside the ship on the starboard side (interestingly we Brits often tied the whale up on the port side the Americans never did.
Each boat was the responsibility of an officer who was called the Boatheader his job was to lance the whale and kill it. The Harpooneer or Boatsteerer rowed forward and did the harpoon part.Once the whale was tired out he changed places with the officer.
Stephen.....loggerhead is original term. (comes from the old way of preventing an animal from running away by attaching a log around the neck so it bangs on its knees.
Thanks for the pictures....a whale can only breath through its blow hole and unlike other animals cannot use its mouth.

Still not sure why port?

Last edited by Michael Taylor; 5th August 2019 at 12:28..
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