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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #21  
Old 05-17-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeB View Post
Hartley, I think we are both trying hard to agree with each other on the skills and daring these mariners must have possessed in order to cross oceans in their day. It is interesting comment about the lunar method. Was it relatively more accurate because the chronometers of the time were such poor keepers of time as to make them impractical to use in a marine environment? And why was the Royal Navy offering such a big prize for the invention of a practical chronometer if they already had a better way of determining longitude?
Skills and daring indeed!!

From what I've read, it was because the chronometers of the time were such poor keepers of time in a marine environment. These were mechanical devices, remember, and very subject to vibration (ie. thumping off the back of a wave) or temperature fluctuations (ticking faster or slower). Some even had to be wound up at exactly the same time each day to compensate for the main-spring unwinding at different rates. IIRC, Cook took three with him - just in case - and found some were better than others. In this part of the world, being out by a minute in a week or so is more than sufficient to put you on the rocks...

The huge prize you mention was to come up with something that didn't require pages of calculations.. because, even back then, not everyone who went to sea was good at mathematics. If you look into it, taking a Noon Sight isn't rocket science, but the longitude calculations to go with it make rocket science look easy!
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Last edited by Classic30; 05-17-2011 at 10:01 PM.
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  #22  
Old 05-17-2011
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Originally Posted by CapnBilll View Post
Getting an accurate fix from the rise time of the sun or a star has got to beat calculating the moons relative position to other steller bodies. A good watch reduces finding longitude from hours of work to a few minutes sighting.
Such a pity, then, that they didn't have good watches.. although they look fantastic on the shelf.

..and to think that the 10-buck wrist-watch on your arm is more accurate than any method the old seafarers ever had of keeping time at sea - right up to the middle of the 20th century! A frightening thought...


..with apologies to the OP for the unintended thread hijack.
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Last edited by Classic30; 05-17-2011 at 10:25 PM.
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  #23  
Old 05-18-2011
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Put him on a VOC 70 or large Tri for an 800 nm day under sail.
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Old 05-18-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartley18 View Post

..with apologies to the OP for the unintended thread hijack.

Not at all! Perhaps a $20 Casio would be exactly what would be most amazing to him. After all, with the skill set he would bring with him, that would be the closest thing (and most useful) to his experience. He may look at a GPS and say, "eh, give me a good watch anyday..."

Or, he might just read the headlines about Strauss-Kahn, and say, "I see some things NEVER change...."
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Old 05-18-2011
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As for lunar distance, I suspect the math is not really all that hard. Just like modern celestial navigation there are zillions of tables where all you have to do is reference several numbers in several tables, add them up in various ways, and use the results to references several more numbers in several more tables. Before mechanical calculators (probably even up to the age of electronics) all practical math was done by looking up numbers in tables, and addition.

The reason chronometers are preferable is that the tables procedures are still time-consuming and error-prone (look up the wrong number, copy the number wrong, add the number wrong), so any means you can contrive to remove table lookups is a good idea.

As for what to show your captain, I'd agree with folks who said dacron but I'd go further and say plastics in general, especially fiberglass. Imagine not having to reapply oakum anymore. As for electronics-type stuff, while maps and Google Earth would be impressive, they did already have maps and did know the Earth was round, so the witchcraft involved in animating it is just that -- animation. Might as well show him "the talkies". I would turn on the radio and give him a few minutes to find the man hiding the bilges and failing to accurately predict the weather.
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Old 05-31-2011
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Show him my inboard diesel.

I find it amazing how these capains sailed ships up the Chesapeake or through the Straits of Magellan without aux power. Especially if they were the first ship sailing through these unknown waters. They would have no idea if they were going to hit shallow water or poor winds. They were on their own with no aux power and no help if they needed it.
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Old 05-31-2011
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Originally Posted by casey1999 View Post
Show him my inboard diesel.

I find it amazing how these capains sailed ships up the Chesapeake or through the Straits of Magellan without aux power. Especially if they were the first ship sailing through these unknown waters. They would have no idea if they were going to hit shallow water or poor winds. They were on their own with no aux power and no help if they needed it.
Whilst I'm sure he'd be amazed at the small, compact engine size... the rest of your post is not quite true:

They had large rowing-boats (more than one) and plenty of crew to provide sufficient auxilliary power (10 man-power?) to get them out shallow water or poor winds - and the seamanship with wind/tide to know how best to do it - but going there in the first place with either no charts or poor charts, is IMO far more gutsy.

It was quite common for the first explorers (Cook et al) to re-draw someone else's charts as they sailed along. Scary stuff!
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Old 05-31-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartley18 View Post
Whilst I'm sure he'd be amazed at the small, compact engine size... the rest of your post is not quite true:

They had large rowing-boats (more than one) and plenty of crew to provide sufficient auxilliary power (10 man-power?) to get them out shallow water or poor winds - and the seamanship with wind/tide to know how best to do it - but going there in the first place with either no charts or poor charts, is IMO far more gutsy.

It was quite common for the first explorers (Cook et al) to re-draw someone else's charts as they sailed along. Scary stuff!
That is what is even more amazing. Ok, you have a large crew to provide rowing power if need be, but do you have enough food and water to feed this crew on the extend voyages they did? I understand most of Cook's crew and I think two of the three ships were lost on his voyage so basically these voyages were somewhat suicidal. Just think early explores sailing into the night knowing they might hit some submerged reef half way around the world from their home, with no one to help them. Not even a radio to speak their last words to their next of kin. Seems that these were real men (and women- if any were on board). These guys had some guts.
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The crew on many of the early exploration ships were indentured. Many of them were debtors, prisoners, etc. They were more often than not poorly treated.
Before they discovered that things like cabbage, prevented scurvy...many were lost to that horribly painful death.
Punishment was swift and cruel..living conditions were horrible. forget personal hygiene...the ship had to stink to high heavens.

I think 5 ? members of Magellens Voyage returned alive?

Drake would be one of the characters, that I'd like to meet. He raided the spanish stole their gold, their ships, and more importantly their pilots while he looked for the North passage.....

They would probably marvel at ..just being able to take a hot shower..
and have fresh food keep under refrigeration..
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