A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Position-Finding
From: Don Seltzer
Date: 2019 Jan 11, 09:34 -0500
Suggesting there was a definite break in knowing how to navigate between the upper and lower deck doesn’t allow for the downward as well upward mobility which took place at sea as situations changed from war to peace and from commercial boom to depression. It was perfectly possible within weeks of the declaration of peace for a midshipman to be paid off, and if he was short of a patron or family wealth, there being no welfare state, finding himself signing on as a master’s mate or AB. Bligh found himself in this position, as did Fletcher Christian some years later. Also, not all watch leaders were ‘commissioned officers’. There were warrant officers like the Gunner, the Carpenter, and the Boatswain, many of whom proved themselves capable of navigating very well. John Bulkeley Gunner of HMS Wager talks of taking latitude sightings during his epic 2500 mile journey in Wager’s lengthened longboat and went on to become a Captain in the Merchant Service. The Petty Officers such as the Master’s Mates were probably only too keen to learn to navigate if they were to advance to Master. Did not one of Pandora’s Master’s Mates, William Oliver age 19/20, and Midshipman David Renouard (age 16) navigate the Bounty mutineers cutter aka HMS Pandora’s tender to from Samoa to Java after she became separated from Pandora. True, we're not talking about the most junior members of the crew, but I hope you get the point.
My father went to sea at age 15 in 1929, and by the time he finished his apprenticeship in the 1933 aged 19 the economic circumstances of the time plus is young age meant he was required to sail as AB until he was 21. DaveP