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    Re: Quartermasters in the Merchant service.
    From: Trevor Kenchington
    Date: 2004 Feb 3, 12:42 +0000

    I _think_ (but have no authoritative sources to cite) that the
    Quartermaster on the ships you are talking about was the senior helmsman
    but that there was only one Quartermaster aboard and so he could not
    have been the only helmsman. He would likely have been at the wheel
    during particularly important manoevures, such as going alongside or
    heading through a narrow channel. I _think_ that the same was true on RN
    ships in the first half of the 20th Century (with smart merchant ships
    aping naval practice, of course).
    In both settings, "Quartermaster" was at least a position, to which an
    individual was appointed. Whether it was formally a "rank" is harder to
    say (not least because it depends on how one defines "rank", with the
    definition likely being quite different in naval and mercantile situations).
    All that was quite different to practices around 1800, when warships
    carried multiple Quartermasters and they usually supervised the men at
    the wheel, with responsibilities that the Mates would carry on merchant
    ships (though, in battle, the helmsmen would typically be selected from
    among the Quartermasters). If was also different from merchant sailing
    ships in the era you are interested in. Those had no designated
    "Quartermaster" and all fo'c'sle hands would take turns at the wheel
    under the supervision of Master or Mate -- though experienced men were
    selected during critical periods and the greenhorns given experience at
    times when the ship was steering easily with lessened immediate risks.
    Whether the practices aboard tramp steamers in the early 20th century
    followed those of tramp sailors or of crack liners, I cannot say.
    Trevor Kenchington
    Trevor J. Kenchington PhD                         Gadus@iStar.ca
    Gadus Associates,                                 Office(902) 889-9250
    R.R.#1, Musquodoboit Harbour,                     Fax   (902) 889-9251
    Nova Scotia  B0J 2L0, CANADA                      Home  (902) 889-3555
                         Science Serving the Fisheries

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