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    Re: American navigation.
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Oct 31, 23:02 -0700

    George H, you wrote:
    "Frank Reed does a good line in denigration."
    
    George, George... Get yourself a thesaurus! It seems like once every three 
    months you're muttering about how I'm "denigrating" some topic or another. 
    Really -- get yourself a new word.
    -------------------------
    
    Now back to business. You quoted me as saying, "Yes, and while this story may 
    have happened exactly as described it also may be an anecdotal "sea story"."
    
    And then you replied:
    "Alternatively, he may have been telling this story simply because it actually 
    happened, to him, doing his official duty."
    
    Thank you so much, George! I said it 'may have happened exactly as described' 
    (and then went on to consider other possibilities) while you contend that it 
    may have 'actually happened, to him'. Er... yeah. That's what I said.
    
    And you wrote:
    "Either it did, or he was lying. What evidence does Frank call on to lead him 
    to discredit it? We have to keep an open mind, and avoid being 
    over-credulous; but this was not one of those tales of something that 
    happened to a friend of a friend."
    
    Come on, George, there's a vast sea of possibilities between perfect truth and 
    "lying" (and to be very clear, that is YOUR word --I certainly do not accuse 
    this author of lying, and I think you're just trying to put words in my 
    mouth). One possibility is that the author is repeating a story that he was 
    part of but did not directly experience. Another distinct possibility is that 
    he is remembering elements of a real story combined with a frequently told 
    parable.  The book, after all, was written c.1970 by an eighty-year-old man 
    describing events that occurred when he was twenty-five. Even those of us 
    with perfect memories (no such exist!) may find a certain haze over our 
    memories of events that happened in our youths and things that happened 
    directly to us may become confounded with things that we heard about. This is 
    normal.
    
    And you wrote:
    "Indeed, I have the advantage here, in having read the man's two books about 
    the sea (which I presume Frank has not), and every word in them rings true, 
    to me."
    
    Well, if a story "rings true" that tells us something. But what exactly?? How 
    much "ringing" does it take to make a fact?
    
    And you wrote:
    "Nobody was claiming that navigating from the maps in the back of the family 
    Bible was "normal or common" amongst American mariners (though it might have 
    been)."
    
    You titled your post 'American navigation'. I get the impression (please 
    correct me if I'm wrong) that you believe it supports your assertion that 
    American navigators sometimes sailed "without even knowing which ocean they 
    were in".
    
    And you wrote:
    "What's more remarkable, to me, is this. It's hard to imagine a crossing from 
    any harbour on the North American coast being made to Gibraltar in just 12 
    days in a Banks schooner. Direct from the Grand Banks, it's more feasible, 
    but cod taken direct from the Banks would have been salted: not dried, which 
    as I understand it calls for onshore drying-racks."
    
    Good point. But that's the sort of small detail that anyone might forget after 
    more than fifty years. It does no harm to the story, and it does not make it 
    "ring" less true. 
    
    And:
    "Anyway, it's not hard to imagine, in 1915, at a time of great upheavals in 
    Greece, a Banks fisherman with dried cod to dispose of, might choose to make 
    a wartime dollar by carrying it all the way to Piraeus."
    
    Or, if you want to have more fun with this, and you believe the story is 
    literally true, maybe there were munitions or other forbidden cargo under 
    that stinking cod and the whole yarn of 'I'm just a simple man navigating 
    using the maps in my Bible' was just a smokescreen for a smuggler.
    
    You wrote:
    "Frank appeared to take that to be refence to whaling ships, but actually, I 
    was thinking of a posting of mine (which I can't place, just now)"
    
    In that earlier thread, if I remember right, you mentioned that you had read 
    that some American whalers didn't even know what ocean they were in and then 
    you brought up, as another example, the vessel impounded during the 
    Napoleonic blockade.
    
    You finished:
    "Among examples of Atlantic voyages made by American vessels using these 
    traditional methods, he reported that an American vessel was seized at 
    Christiansand, Norway, because she had arrived in port without a chart or 
    sextant. The ship was freed only after other American shipmasters in the port 
    protested that they frequently sailed the width of the Atlantic without those 
    aids, claiming that any competent seaman could do so."
    
    Yes, and that's a well-known and quite believable story describing normal 
    navigation on American vessels c.1805. Of course this story is often 
    misunderstood. Lack of charts does not mean lack of positional information. 
    Most vessels sailed with long lists of latitudes and longitudes just as you 
    find in Moore, Bowditch, Norie, etc. back then. Also, the lack of a sextant 
    implies that they had no means of shooting lunars but those were a luxury in 
    trans-Atlantic voyages, not a necessity. The lack of a sextant does not imply 
    that they carried no octant (quadrant). As I've noted many times, the 
    evidence from the logbooks very roughly divides American navigation into two 
    eras: before about 1835, longitude was found principally by DR and checked 
    about every two weeks with lunars when possible on many vessels, after about 
    1835, longitude was determined primarily by chronometer and still checked 
    regularly, through about 1850, by shooting lunars. Longitude by DR was not at 
    all unusual and even in the latter half of the 19th century there are plenty 
    of examples of it in extant logbooks.
    
    -FER
    
    
    
    
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