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    Re: Traverse boards
    From: Rick Emerson
    Date: 1998 Nov 01, 21:37 EST

    George Huxtable writes:
     >         I am glad that Rick Emerson has drawn attention to traverse boards,
     > which were used by watchkeepers for hundreds of years to record course and
     > distance travelled in each of the eight half-hour periods between bells in
     > a four-hour watch. Their main virtue was that they could be used by men who
     > were quite illiterate, as most seafarers were.
     >
     >         First, I feel the need to question a part of Rick's mailing, which
     > I do not understand. He describes well the compass-rose section of a
     > traverse board as follows-
     >
     > >The compass rose follows this concept albeit with a different layout.
     > >Here the arrows of a 16 or 32 point compass are carved into the
     > >board.  On each arrow, a row of 8 holes is drilled in a line (forget a
     > >drawing of that here!) so as to make 8 concentric rings of 16 or 32
     > >holes each.
     >
     >         This is fine. But then he goes on to state-
     >
     > >To make a record of the boat's heading, the
     > >whole board is turned so that the arrow for due north matches the
     > >north arrow on the boat's compass and a peg is set into a hole on the
     > >arrow closest to the boat's heading.  For example, if the boat is
     > >sailing due west, looking down on the compass, north is at the 3
     > >o'clock position and the row of holes for west lies at 12 o'clock.
     >
     >         This seems over-complicated, and indeed wrong. Surely, it's all a
     > lot simpler; you simply put a peg into one of the radial holes on the
     > board's compass rose that corresponds to your present compass course as
     > shown on the steering compass. No need to lay the traverse board down
     > horizontally and align it with the North. It can simply be left hanging,
     > near the compass, from a hook, for which a hole is provided at the top of
     > the board..
    First off, George, your note is a gold mine of information.  I've
    passed on commenting on the rest of it for now only because I need to
    study it in the detail it deserves.  As to the above, I understand
    your point and think it's well taken.  If I didn't specifically
    reference the source of the explanation, let me correct that.  The
    description of the use of the compass rose (match the rose's north
    with the compass' north, peg the point of the rose facing forward) was
    given by Cliff [last name lost] in the character of Richard Rowe,
    master of the Dove, at Historic St. Mary City (HSMC) in St. Mary City,
    MD.  (Cliff is, I believe, the head of the interpretation staff, the
    people who play the roles of contemporary residents of HSMC - also, he
    is *not* the actual sailing master, a positon handled by someone else)
    At the time, I, too, thought the two step process was overly complex
    but I am inclined to believe the explanation is correct.  As you
    observe, the board works well with people who are illiterate.
    Although the board I saw (and drew) had numbers for speed, anyone who
    could at least count could count off peg holes to record speed.  That
    same concept might be applied to marking the course (count the number
    of spokes or arrows from north on the compass and put a peg in the
    corresponding hole on the rose) but the instructions are somewhat
    dependent on skills that might be shaky in a lesser crewman.  OTOH,
    "match the rose to the compass" is simplier to describe and train,
    even though there's more action involved.
    I am, of course, quite willing to accept evidence to the contrary but
    for now, I'll stand by my account of how it was done on at least some
    17th century ships.
    Rick
    S/V One With The Wind, Baba 35
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