During my travels, principally in small vessels, I have, perhaps, met and exchanged views with more yachtsmen than the average man afloat. I have found that the majority, although fully capable of sailing a small boat on an inland lagoon or other landlocked waters, also like to know something about the peculiarities of the high seas and how to overcome the danger of breaking wind waves. As stated in my narrative, I have sailed in and managed sailing vessels of different sizes, from the tiny Tilikum up to a ship carrying nearly three thousand tons of cargo. This has offered me an excellent opportunity to study breaking seas under all weather conditions, of which I have tried to take the best advantage. The knowledge thus obtained in my long sea-faring career has condensed into certain rules which, I have reason to hope, may prove of practical value to a wider circle. And I trust that these explanations and instructions will not alone be interesting and useful to yachtsmen, but also may serve as hints to young officers and even masters of ships, when danger looms ahead.
I have provided twenty paragraphs in all which follow under their respective headings. The subsequent remarks and reflections on loading, ballasting, and the management of steamships in heavy gales are a further attempt on my part to contribute to the interests and the safety of practical navigation.
1. The Speed, Height, And Danger Of Breaking Wind Waves.
The speed of waves I have estimated in the open ocean during various gales when they had attained full growth, as follows: When hove to under a sea anchor with a hundred and fifty feet of anchor rope out and when just on the top of a large wave, the sea-anchor float which was fastened with fifteen feet of line would appear at a distance a little less than half-way to the top of the next wave. By allowing for the angle in which the anchor rope inclined I ascertained an approximate total distance from crest to crest of three hundred feet. Under the same conditions I have measured the speed of the waves by marking the difference of time between two succeeding seas when their crests passed the boat. The interval was seven seconds on the average. In basing the calculation on the above figures an average speed of twenty-five and one-third nautical miles per hour is obtained.
The height of waves I have ascertained on large vessels. I chose a position in the rigging just high enough so that the tops of the large waves would appear a little below a line between my eyes and the horizon. The exact distance from the water-line of the ship to the level of my eyes was known to me. While hove to in the ship Prussia during a heavy gale in the South Pacific I found in this way the height of the waves from trough to crest to amount to nearly forty feet. In this connection I may mention that in books and newspaper reports from time to time statements appear recording the height of waves encountered at sixty and even seventy feet!
Breaking wind waves in the open ocean where no obstacle is met are caused by strong winds the speeds of which are much faster than the velocity of a wave. As the wave culminates in a crest the wind behind forces it over, transforming that part of the wave into a forward-moving body of water, spray and foam. A wave in this condition is termed by seamen a ``breaking sea.''
Breaking seas have washed countless numbers of seamen off vessels' decks and provided them a watery grave. Their irresistible force has smashed in bulwarks of ships, buckling and bending iron stanchions, and tearing away steel plates; and many cases are on record where breaking seas have sent to the bottom new and strong ships with every man on board. There seems to be no limit to the destruction wrought by the overwhelming power of breaking seas. But are these breaking seas so formidable in themselves, or is there not many an instance where those responsible for the management must be blamed for the damage suffered by their vessels during heavy storms? I take the liberty of stating certain facts, and making certain inference.
When sailing in large sailing vessels I have noticed that they will lie perfectly comfortable and dry, provided they are properly loaded and hove to. Even when storm sails are carried away, there is no imminent danger: the vessel will roll about and in doing so ship seas, but the water in this case is harmless.
For five years I have been master of sealing vessels averaging in size seventy-five tons. In these I have sailed from Victoria, B.C., and from Yokohama in the depth of winter, when they were loaded down to the scuppers with sealing outfit. From six to nine sealing boats, each from eighteen to twenty feet in length, were lashed on deck. These latter were built of so light a material that their planking could have been knocked in with a stroke of the fist. In those vessels I have ridden out the worst of gales in which other ships were smashed to pieces. But through properly heaving to, on no occasion did I ever have a boat smashed in, nor have I sustained the slightest damage to vessel or outfit.
Thus it becomes evident that the action of heaving to in time and in the right way is of the utmost importance in order to avoid damage or, eventually, total loss. I may say that I believe in oil to calm breaking seas. I have always used it freely when in sealing vessels during heavy storms for the protection of the boats. For if our boats had been broken we would have been robbed of the means of carrying out our enterprise. It is advisable, however, not to attribute too much efficacy to oil, as the following incident goes to show. On March 19th, 1911, while three hundred miles to the south-south-west of Cape Lopatka in the seventy-five-ton schooner Chichijima Maru, from Yokohama, we were hove to in a heavy gale. When oil was administered it froze as soon as it came in touch with the water. Notwithstanding this, and despite the vessel being loaded down to the scuppers, we did not sustain the slightest damage to ship, boats or outfit. But we were readily hove to and thus safe from shipping seas, which proved to be a sufficient safeguard.
I will go a little further, claiming-and I have absolute confidence in doing so-that on no occasion while in charge of a vessel which was hove to under storm sail in a violent gale, have I shipped a sea that caused any damage to ship or outfit, even though the storm sails had been carried away by the force of the wind. And the same applies to the small boats I have sailed on long cruises when they were hove to under sea anchor and riding sail.
These results I have obtained by observing the following : The storm sails were trimmed in such a way that the vessel's head lay near the wind, her headway was stopped and she made a nearly square drift. The wake then, instead of being under the stern, as is the case in sailing, will appear along the vessel's weather side, which has a most wonderful effect in smoothing down breaking seas on their approach.
To sum up, I have found that breaking wind waves in the open ocean become dangerous only when the vessel is driven through the water, and the faster she is travelling the more damage a sea is likely to inflict. Pooping seas, i.e., seas breaking over the stern when running, are the worst of all.
2. In What Size Of Vessel Is It Safe To Heave To Under Sail In Bad Weather?
The smallest vessel in which I hove to under storm sail only, i.e., without using a sea anchor, was the Ella G. from Victoria, B.C., an eighteen-ton schooner, forty-nine feet over all, fourteen feet beam, and eight feet draught. In her I weathered four heavy gales in the North Pacific while under a storm try-sail hoisted on the main-mast. With this she swung about, sideways to the sea and wind, as much as eight points. However, a square drift with the wind was maintained throughout and never a sea was shipped. I used oil in addition. From this experience I conclude that a vessel of at least fifty feet in length is quite safe to heave to, with the exclusive use of storm sails.
3. The Proper Time To Heave To When Running Before A Strong Wind And Sea.
With regard to this, I may say that even a large ship, when deeply loaded, is liable to be smashed up by a single bad pooping sea. Consequently, to be on the safe side she should heave to right at the beginning of a gale. But the greatest care and precaution are necessary when small vessels are concerned. Therefore, my recommendation is, at the approach of a gale, when waves commence breaking and the vessel becomes heavy on the rudder, heave to.
Always remember that things are quite different in running from when you are sailing with a beam or by the wind. In the latter case a vessel will ship spray, which serves as a warning to you. This happens more often and gets worse as the wind and sea increase, until you are obliged to shorten sails and heave to. But in running before it your vessel may go along quite comfortably and dry for a time, and then, with dreadful suddenness, a sea may come over the stern and put you and your ship out of business. So, once more, I repeat my advice: be most careful in running, and heave to rather a little earlier than might be deemed necessary by others.
4. How To Heave To When Running Under Sail.
If a vessel is about to heave to before the seas have started breaking heavily, all that is required is to put the helm down and let her come to the wind with the sails she is running under. But if it be blowing hard and bad seas are appearing already, care must be taken in bringing the vessel's head to sea. For if a bad sea is met with in coming round while the vessel is still retaining headway, disastrous results may ensue. To avoid this the man in charge should be on the lookout for a chance when the seas are running fairly smooth, which will occur from time to time even in the height of a gale. Then put your helm down and let the vessel come up with a stay-sail sheet to windward. The latter will help to stop the ship's forward motion when she swings head to wind, which is the principal factor in the maneuver.
While sailing in sealing vessels I have on various occasions when running before a bad sea lowered all sail and let her come up to the wind under bare poles, setting storm sails afterwards. And I have found it to be an excellent plan.
5. What Storm Sails Should Be Carried In A Gale, And How To Set Them.
It depends entirely upon the build, lines and rig of a vessel, as to which sails she will lay under to the best advantage. To find out this early, one must study her weak points, and it is the duty of every shipmaster to make trials with regard to this matter at the beginning of the first gale he encounters. I shall cite an instance here.
The schooner Jessy from Victoria, B.C., length over all seventy-five feet, beam twenty-two feet, draught aft eleven feet, forward nine feet, was built on the lines of a yacht and was a very fast sailor. With this vessel, deeply loaded to the scuppers, I sailed from Victoria on December 1st, 1907, and a few days later met with an exceedingly heavy gale off the Columbia River. At the beginning of the storm I went through a variety of storm-sail drills, and by doing so found that she lay to splendidly under three-reefed fore-sail with the sheet well hauled in, double-reefed fore- stay-sail with the sheet nearly at midships, and the wheel a little down. Under these sails the vessel reached ahead a little and lay to very comfortably. Gradually, as the wind and seas increased, I put the wheel down more and more and hauled the stay-sail sheet more to windward. When the gale was at its worst she lay comfortable and dry with a double-reefed fore-stay-sail sheet to windward, three-reefed fore-sail sheet well in and the wheel half-way down, and made seven points leeway.
Another example is the previously mentioned schooner Chichijima Maru, length over all seventy-five feet, beam twenty feet, draught aft eight feet, forward six feet six inches, full built but fairly fast. This vessel lay to excellently under a three-reefed fore-sail sheet well in and a close-reefed try-sail, the sheet flat at midships, and also made seven points leeway.
Other vessels will lay to under close-reefed fore-stay-sail, fore-sail and try-sail, and so on, according to their peculiarities.
6. What Signs Assure The Master That His Ship Is Properly Hove To In A Gale, And Thus Safe From Shipping Seas.
If your vessel lies four to five points from the wind and makes nearly a square drift she is safe.
For example: if a vessel lays to on the port tack in a north-westerly gale she should be heading about north to north by east and make an approximately easterly drift. However, she may falloff at times a point or two, but as long as the vessel does not range ahead there will be no seas coming over to do any harm.
7. The Drift Of A Vessel When Hove To Under Storm Sails.
This depends upon the draught. A vessel with a deep keel or great draught respectively will drift from a mile to a mile and a quarter per hour in a heavy gale, while shallow, round-bottom craft will be borne away at the rate of nearly two miles per hour under like conditions.
8. How To Heave To Small Vessels Of About Twenty-Five To Fifty Feet In Length, Under Storm Sails In A Moderate Gale.
The sloop Xora behaved surprisingly well under a small storm-stay-sail-tack set up over the stem with the sheet to windward and closely-reefed main-sail with the sheet well in, the helm being half down.
The yawl Sea Queelt went through a moderate gale under a storm-jib with the sheet to windward, single-reefed mizzen, and the helm a little down. On another occasion she lay to even better than in the former case under the storm- stay-sail with the sheet to windward and a close-reefed main-sail, the helm half-way down.
When trimmed in this manner vessels will range ahead a little and make about four points leeway. But it is surprising to see how nicely they will ride over large combers, at the same time remaining comfortable and dry.
9. Why Small Vessels Should Heave To Under Sea Anchor And Riding Sail In A Heavy Gale.
A small vessel hove to under a sea anchor and riding sail is comfortable and dry, She is out of danger from shipping seas and needs little watching. This will give the captain the chance of a night's rest.
10. The Best Kinds And Dimensions Of Sea Anchor Suited To Different Sizes Of Vessels.
In the Tilikum, owing to her light draught, I used a sea anchor made of an iron ring twenty-two inches in diameter and a bag four feet in length. Riding to this the little vessel weathered sixteen heavy gales without shipping as much as a bucket of water at one time. The same sea anchor I employed for crossing the dangerous bar near Melbourne and also in the demonstration at the Sumno Bar, New Zealand.
In the Sea Queen, which had greater draught, I increased the dimension of the ring to twenty-six inches, while the length of the bag was not altered. To this sea anchor she lay splendidly in heavy gales, and even rode the tremendous waves of the typhoon in style until the bridles broke. I am quite sure that, had the gear been stronger, the tiny craft would have weathered the typhoon without a hitch I I should, therefore, recommend for boats and yachts up to thirty feet in length sea anchors made of a conical bag with a round mouth, and for vessels from thirty to fifty feet in length a square mouth. It makes, of course; no difference in principle whether the mouth be round or square as long as the bag is fairly deep and the diameter of the mouth large enough to suit the size of the respective vessels. My only reason for choosing a sea anchor with a round opening in the case of a small vessel is the consideration that there is less room to work. The iron-ring style is ever ready, besides involving less trouble when put out.
There is still another style of sea anchor, which is especially useful when surf breakers' are crossed in a small boat. This type I claim to be my own invention, having constructed the same and experimented with it for the first time when on the Tilikum voyage. Instead of the iron ring, one made of strong, flat wood is employed, weighted at one side with a piece of lead just heavy enough to cause the ring to tilt up when put into the water. The canvas bag will then quickly fill with water and the whole sink to the required depth.
This style avoids the necessity of using a float and line, and facilitates readier handling; besides which, the wooden-weighted ring will skim over the water when hauled in by the tripping line without the danger of the latter becoming entangled with the anchor rope. The iron ring, on the other hand, is liable to sink too deep and get foul of rocks or other obstacles hidden in the shallow surf.
However, for long voyages and in deep water I recommend the iron ring and float type, as it is stronger and stands more wear and tear.
The dimensions of sea anchor for a deep keel boat of about twenty feet water-line should be as follows: Diameter of mouth, twenty inches; length of bag, thirty inches ; opening at point, two inches. For larger boats, add for every foot more of water-line one inch to the diameter of mouth and an inch and a half to the length of bag. Increase the width of opening at point in proportion. A sea anchor with a thirty-inch ring should have a point opening of four inches.
A square-mouthed sea anchor of say thirty inches in width is constructed as follows: Two flat, wooden or iron bars, each forty-eight inches in length, are fastened to each other in the middle with a pin swivel. The mouth of the canvas bag in this case is shaped square and rope is sewn all round, leaving a small loop at the four corners in order to haul the bag out taut and secure it to the ends of the bars. If wooden bars are used, put a weight on the sea anchor to sink it to the required depth. When not in use the bag may be taken off, and after being dried, wrapped round the bars, which are brought together on the swivel pin, and the whole stored away in a dry place.
The dimensions of sea anchor for a deep keel boat of thirty feet water-line are: Mouth, twenty-eight inches square; length of bag, forty-two inches; opening at point, four inches. For larger boats add proportionately, as before.
A small strop, by which it is hauled on board, should be placed over the point opening in both styles of sea anchor. Two bridle ropes, to which the anchor mouth is fastened, must be of the same length as the bag, and should continue along and be sewn to the latter down to its point. With the square type they run over the corners and edges. A cork float of sufficient size to keep the anchor suspended at a depth of fifteen feet complete the outfit. All iron parts should be galvanized, and everything must be made of the best material.
11. The Best Kind Of Cable For The Sea Anchor, With Regard: To Material And Length, And How To Fasten The Same.
Manila rope of a good white quality serves the purpose well. The size varies according to the length of the boat. Thus, with vessels of twenty feet water-line, two and a half inches circumference; thirty feet, three inches; forty feet, four inches; fifty feet, five inches, should be employed. Length of the rope from vessel to sea anchor, one hundred and fifty feet.
In long, lasting gales the rope is liable to get chafed on bow or headgear; therefore a chain should be spliced to its upper end, and should be sufficiently long to fasten it to the fore-mast and to lead clear of the headgear. In an ordinary gale the sea-anchor rope is sometimes fastened to the end of the jibboom, but I strongly deprecate this practice when a real, heavy storm is raging.
12. How To Bring A Small Vessel's Head To Sea Without Shipping Heavy Water.
This is done on the same principles as No.4. When the boat is head to sea put the sea anchor out and set storm-riding-sail.
13. How A Small Vessel Should Lie, Under A Sea Anchor And Riding Sail, In A Heavy Gale, So As To Keep Dry And Comfortable.
Your boat should lie straight head to sea, or nearly so. The sea anchor is out about a hundred and fifty feet ahead and fifteen feet below the surface, kept there by its cork buoy. The riding sail is set over the stern with the sheet hauled in flat. If the vessel be provided with a bobstay, put a tackle on the mizzen-boom and haul the sail a little to that side which is opposite the anchor rope hawse. To explain it thoroughly: if the anchor rope plies out over the starboard bow, haul the mizzen-boom to the port side. In that way your boat will lay a trifle off the wind which, far from being a disadvantage, will prevent chafing of the bobstay and headgear. The mizzen- or riding-sail should be made of strong canvas, and in order to keep it set flat put a preventer-stay from the mizzen masthead forward.
All blocks, ropes and strops as well as the sail, and everything else should be of the very best. For when a small boat is hove to under a sea anchor the riding sail will shake heavily at times, as if electric shocks were passing through it. This is very hard on the gear and the sail itself.
A ketch, schooner-ketch, yawl, or schooner-yawl are the best small vessels in which to make an ocean cruise. For all these carry a mizzen-sail, which is ever ready and avoids the necessity of having an extra riding sail when hove to.
14. How To Secure The Rudder When Hove To Under Sea Anchor And Riding Sail.
When a small vessel is hove to under sea anchor and riding sail 'she will have stern way, and the swinging about of the stern as caused by breaking seas at times will be hard on the rudder. Through neglecting precautions, I have on two different occasions lost the rudder post while hove to in the above way. To avoid breaking the rudder post, fasten two heel ropes to the upper back of the rudder blade, one to each side, and haul them up over the quarter: then place the rudder at midships, haul the heel ropes tight and fasten on deck. The tiller, on the other hand, should remain entirely unlashed.
15. The Drift Of A Small Vessel When Hove To Under Sea Anchor And Riding Sail.
Not counting prevailing ocean currents the drift will always occur in a direction opposite to the wind, i.e., if the wind is north the vessel will experience a southerly drift. A small vessel hove to in a gale under sea anchor and riding sail will in this way drift at a rate of about one and a quarter miles per hour when out at sea. In a bay or a similar place where no ocean swell is perceivable the drift will be faster.
In speaking about the drift of a vessel in a heavy gale I have been asked on many occasions: What are you going to do when you have no sea room?
To this I answer: he who is in charge of any vessel on an ocean voyage should thoroughly understand to interpret the indications of an approaching storm. He must take care to bring his vessel timely into such a position as to weather the storm in safety.
16. How To Cross Surf Breakers In A Boat Or Launch.
Whether a boat be propelled by an engine, sail, or oars, drag a sea anchor behind the stern and let her go in slowly and straight before the breakers. You will be surprised to see how nicely she will raise her stern to the combers.
In case of a launch or tug towing another small vessel across surf breakers towards the shore, have a sea anchor over the towed boat's stern and proceed as above. But it is most essential to have a strict understanding with the man in charge of the towboat beforehand, as to go II slow," and there will be no trouble similar to that I witnessed on the Wanganui Bar, New Zealand.
17. What Gear Should Be Carried In Lifeboats Aboard Ships, For The Safety Of Shipwrecked People.
Apart from what the Board of Trade and other regulations prescribe, the following should be provided for each lifeboat :
A complete sea-anchor outfit as described in Nos. 10 and II.
A small mast to set a riding sail, including the latter . Two tins of oil and two oil bags.
Two trained men who understand how to handle boat and gear .
Owing to the many shipping disasters of recent years and the loss of life involved, the question how to obtain a sufficient number of competent men to take charge of the lifeboats in case of a shipwreck has become acute. As I may, perhaps, claim to possess more experience than the average boat sailor, and trusting that it will serve a good purpose, I take the opportunity of giving here my opinion on the subject.
On various occasions I have witnessed lifeboats being lowered from passenger vessels in a harbour and in dead calm weather. And in spite of there being from twelve to twenty-four men at the oars and an officer at the helm they were absolutely unable to control the boat. We can easily imagine what would happen to such a lifeboat at sea, in bad weather and when loaded with passengers. I think it quite safe to say that when it comes down to a case of dead earnest nine out of ten lifeboats on passenger vessels are manned on the same lines. My suggestion, therefore, is that all steamers should have on board two trained lifeboatmen for each boat.
However, here the question crops up: How are such men to be secured ? My own idea is that this may be arranged for in the following way:
There are many lifeboat stations in all quarters of the globe where provision could be made to train able-bodied men, have them pass an examination, and then provide them with a certificate to the effect that they are capable of taking charge of a ship's lifeboat at sea. Men in possession of such certificates, whether they be deckhands, firemen, stewards or whatever else, should be and naturally would be given preference in shipping; the required number should receive a little extra payment. And in a few years there would be ample trained men, which would prove of great advantage to themselves as well as to shipowners and the travelling public. In addition, there could be appointed in each passenger ship an officer or other competent seaman also holding a certificate to be in charge of all lifeboat gear . One of his chief duties would be to arrange for a drill from time to time to keep his men up to the standard.
Ships' lifeboats, according to existing regulations, are provided with some sort of a sea anchor, but even if it were of the best kind, a boat without a riding sail will not lay head to sea in a seaway. Therefore, the fate of such a boat loaded with women, children and inexperienced men, when swinging sideways up against a breaking sea may be considered sealed. The occupants will go with the roll of the frail craft, which is sure to ensue, and the boat will capsize in spite of the sea anchor being out. But this will not happen when all the rules of properly heaving to are observed.
18. Various Indications Of The Typhoon Which Appeared On August 31st, 1912, Its Violence, The Seas Encountered, Etc.
AUGUST 27TH. -An unusually large swell was setting through from the south-east, accompanied by squally and rainy weather .
AUGUST 28TH.-The weather cleared up during the day, a moderate breeze blowing from the east. But as the south-easterly swell was getting larger and the barometer falling very slowly, I gradually came to the conclusion that a typhoon was approaching.
AUGUST 29TH.- The moderate easterly breeze and clear weather continued until nine o'clock. Then an extensive and heavy ring of varied fiery colours formed round the sun. The atmosphere became exceedingly sultry and a dense bank of clouds of a threatening appearance arose on the horizon. These conditions lasted until four o'clock when the sun disappeared behind the cloudbank on the horizon. Between sunset and dark the clouds covering the sky assumed a fierce yellow tone, which gradually became grey as darkness set in. At eight o'clock the barometer stood at twenty-nine eighty, and went down slowly. The temperature during the night was warm and pleasant; the ocean swell, however, increased, while some of the seas almost came to a break.
AUGUST 30TH.- This day opened with a light baffling wind alternating between east and south and accompanied by a dark cloudy sky. At six o'clock the wind settled into the south-east with increasing force and occasional heavy rain squalls. Barometer twenty-nine forty-five. The wind and squalls increased during the day and the following night, until on
AUGUST 3IST, at about nine in the morning, the typhoon had attained its full strength. The tremendous force of the wind lashed the sea up to such a height and confusion that oil became utterly useless, leaving not the slightest trace on the troubled waters.
The barometer meanwhile continued falling until it stood at twenty-eight twenty-five. A short time after we entered the centre of the typhoon where dead calm prevailed. The glass then kept steady till the wind started to blow again, when it commenced to rise. The second half of the typhoon blew hard for about four hours and then gradually moderated to a fresh breeze.
19. How To Manage A Small Vessel In A Typhoon.
If you feel sure that a typhoon is approaching prepare to meet it, because it is a tough customer to deal with.
First of all, as in an ordinary gale, have your sea anchor and riding sail in readiness. As the force of the wind is much greater than in even the heaviest gale, unbend all sails except the riding sail and strip the vessel as much as possible. All running gear should be unroved, the fore- gaff and boom lashed on deck, also the top masts, if there are any. If you should be unlucky enough to have your sea-anchor gear carried away, don't hesitate to cut away the fore-mast to lessen head pressure. This latter measure, if taken in time, may prevent your vessel from being blown on beam ends or, which is worse, capsizing, as happened to the Sea Queen. However, be careful not to lose the mast.
20. The Effect Of Oil On Breaking Seas In Heavy Gales, And What Kind May Be Expected To Give The Best Result.
If a vessel is hove to in the proper way under a sea anchor and riding sail she will only ship spray even in the worst of gales. I was never particular about a few drops of water taken over, and therefore in small vessels, with a few exceptions for experimenting purposes, and while on the Sea Queen in the first stage of the typhoon, I hardly ever used oil during my cruises. However, throughout my five years of sealing in the North I employed oil on many different occasions, and have found that that obtained from the fat of hair seals, fur seals, and sea lions gave the best results. Next to this comes fish oil, which is nearly as satisfactory. The former is difficult to procure, while fish oil may be bought in almost any port.
To utilise a small quantity of oil to best advantage proceed as follows: A canvas bag a little smaller than a fifty-pound flour bag is loaded with loose oakum, woollen rags or waste until about three parts full. A few small holes are then punched through the bag and the whole is saturated with oil and tied up. After securing a lanyard and adding a weight to prevent the bag from being blown back again, put it over the rail and lower to the water level; then make fast.
If your vessel is lying to a sea anchor and head on to the sea, put the bag over the bow. If she is hove to under storm sails and makes a square drift, or nearly so, put it over the weather bow. If the vessel be a long one, place one bag near the fore- and another one near the after- rigging.
A ship's lifeboat loaded with passengers and hove to under sea anchor and riding sail with the additional help of such an oil bag will lay dry and comfortable. On the other hand, when a vessel is lying to under storm sails or steam, and reaches ahead, oil will be useless. It is only good, and certainly works wonders) when a vessel is allowed to drift along with the wind and sea.
Oil will also render good service in case of large vessels running straight before a bad sea. One bag is placed on each side of the forward end while a long bight of a large rope is payed out over the stern and dragged along. By allowing the vessel to go slow under small sail, or, still better, under bare poles, she is in this way quite safe and may keep running before almost any gale as long as she steers well. The same course, when followed in the case of small vessels, will likewise prove a great help. However, if you want to be on the safe side, ``heave to.''
Some Remarks On Loading And Ballasting.
If iron or any heavy cargo is put into the lower hold of a vessel till she is down to the loading mark serious consequences may follow. From the quick, jerking roll ensuing and through shipping heavy seas she will most likely get dismasted or break up in the first gale encountered. If too much cargo is put in the between-deck or on deck she is liable to turn turtle. But if the cargo is properly distributed in the lower hold, between-deck and on deck, whatever the case may be, and if then the vessel is handled in the right way, it will be surprising how easy her movements are in heavy gales and large seas.
When I made my first voyage in the Prussia as first mate, the ship being deeply loaded with coal, she behaved as badly as any vessel possibly could. No matter whether we were running, hove to or in a dead calm, she would roll about in an awful way. Old Captain Reynolds told me that I had put too much cargo into the lower hold.
The next time when we took a cargo of coal I filled up the between-decks and left a space in the lower hold empty, and with the same draught as on the previous voyage the vessel steered and sailed well and behaved much better in every way.
The same principle pertains to small vessels. The Tilik:um, for example, I had to ballast well down in order to facilitate sailing with a beam wind or when close hauled. The result was that in running, especially with the wind and sea a little on the quarter, she would roll, roll - well, she would roll the teeth out of one's mouth. But as soon as I had placed my four hundred pounds of shifting ballast on the cabin deck, or still better, tied half of it in two bags to the main-mast about three or four feet above the deck, she would go along as steadily as a lumber-loaded ship. The latter, with their large deck loads, I have found to be the steadiest vessels as far as rolling is concerned.
Reflections On Steamship Disasters.
As regards steamships I must say that my experience with them is limited, having sailed in engine-driven vessels as a passenger merely. However, I have crossed in steamers the North Sea and the Atlantic each four times, the Pacific once, not to mention voyages on smaller seas. Therefore, although I do not wish to attempt a full criticism, I may be allowed to say a few words on the management of some steamships in heavy storms as laid down in records.
Many times I have read in daily papers of steamships that have been smashed to pieces and foundered from the effect of large seas breaking on them. Then there were reports of other steamers which, deeply loaded, had lost their propeller or rudder and were absolutely beyond control. And while in that condition they had weathered most severe gales and by some means managed to make port with little or no damage to hull or cargo. This set me thinking. After carefully comparing my own notes with statements obtained from various shipmasters I deem it permissible, in spite of my inexperience with steamships, to pass an opinion on the subject.
Only lately I read an account of the terrible experiences of the SS. Narrung's in which I noticed that the most important points which led the captain to despatch a wireless S.O.S. distress signal were the following:
``On December 26th, 1912, while the vessel was in the Bay of Biscay her head was kept towards a heavy gale, the waves broke over her with a relentless force which threatened to overwhelm her. Then a sea broke over the vessel, which literally wrecked the fore end of the ship. Plates were torn and twisted, rails carried clear away, two steam winches weighing several tons had been lifted bodily and tossed along the deck where they lay, a confused mass of bent and twisted ironwork. Water got into the hold and gave the ship a list to starboard. The vessel was then put round before the sea and, as she appeared out of danger, the captain replied to the news of coming assistance with the tidings that his ship was under control and that he could manage to return without assistance."
Here is another report. The SS. Volmer was lost on the same day with fifteen members of the crew twenty-five miles south of the Scilly Islands. The captain and one of the crew were saved.
``Although the waves,'' so the captain's statement goes, ``mounted higher and higher we had to keep going full steam ahead in the teeth of the storm in order to be able to steer at all. All night we struggled, but at half-past ten on Boxing Day morning, when about twenty-five miles south of the Scillies, a tremendous sea broke aboard, sweeping away everything on deck, ripping off the bulwarks, and smashing in the hatchway. Water rushed in torrents into the hold and engine-room, putting out the fires and leaving the ship practically in a sinking condition. With hatches open, the vessel deeply loaded with coal, lots of water in the hold, and the fires out, the doomed vessel swung round and, absolutely out of control, kept afloat for five more hours in a heavy gale!''
How much longer would the vessel have kept afloat after she had received the deadly blow if the engines had been preserved in good condition and the ship continued heading into the gale? In my opinion, not five minutes! If the engines had been stopped when the Volmer was threatened with being overwhelmed the vessel may have drifted a little out of her course; but I am quite sure that she would have received, if any at all, only slight damage. And the same applies to the Narrung's.
There is no better proof of the correctness of my assumption than the incident that befell the SS. Snowden Range, which lost her rudder last winter in the North Atlantic. Deeply loaded and absolutely beyond control she weathered gale after gale, and eventually, after experiencing forty days of the worst weather, drifted into port with the cargo in first-class condition. Apart from having lost her rudder and a few small breakages the vessel appeared none the worse for all the wear and tear!
Only by comparing the above three cases, I think, any experienced seaman should become convinced that an engine-driven vessel in a heavy gale at sea acts precisely on the same principle as a sailing vessel, large or small, as explained in my narrative and record of experiences. And therefore I deem it advisable that a steamship, whenever she encounters a real heavy gale, should not be driven into a dangerous head sea just for the sake of keeping steerage-way on her, with the possible result that she gets badly damaged or even broken up. It is a far better plan to stop the vessel's headway dead, tell the engineers to take a rest, and, with the wheel down, let her drift where she likes. In that condition the vessel may swing about, probably as much as eight points, as she may lay with the wind on the quarter. But however she lies, she is bound to make a drift with the wind at the rate, I would judge, of about a mile or perhaps a little more an hour. Leave her wake to windward and she will be out of all danger. Besides this a few oil bags over the weather side will do no harm.
The above points on the management of steamships in heavy gales I have discussed with old experienced shipmasters, and in most cases they agreed with my views. Some, however, claimed that a steamship laying to in the trough of heavy waves would roll too much. The latter may be so if she be badly loaded. But if properly loaded, as every vessel should be when going on a voyage where there is a likelihood of bad weather, this will not happen. The force of the gale blowing up against her side and topwork, I am quite sure, will prevent her rolling excessively.