United States Maritime Service Training Manual, Deck Branch Training, 1943, was created during the peak of US emergency growth in the merchant marine. As the Liberty and later Victory ships flowed out of the shipyards, this was one of the simplified manuals used to help farmers to become seamen.

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Richard Pekelney



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United States Maritime Service
Training Manual

Deck Branch Training
Table of Contents


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Ship's wheel and compass binnacle


For some mysterious reason, the word "helm" still survives even though it has been prohibited by an act of Congress along with the words "port" and "starboard" in connection with steering. All orders used should be direct; "right rudder" meaning to turn the wheel right so that the head of the ship goes to the right and "left rudder" meaning to turn the wheel left so that the head of the ship goes to the left.

Much confusion has arisen due to some men being instructed at wheel commands conforming to Navy methods. Thus "left 100" under Navy commands would mean to turn the wheel until the rudder angle indicator showed left 10°. However on merchant ships the order "left 10°" would ordinarily mean steer a course 10° to the left of the one you are now steering. Orders to the wheel should be interpreted according to merchant marine practice unless otherwise notified. For example under Navy commands, 10° right is an abbreviation of 10° right rudder.

The maximum angle of turning efficiency is about 35°. Never attempt to force a wheel over any further than 35°.

When the ship is swinging you may receive the order "ease the wheel." This means to bring your wheel back slowly to amidships, making sure you do not check the swing of the ship. If; however, you receive the order, "Steady" or "Steady as she goes," immediately check the swing of the ship and steady her on the course she was heading when you received the order.

Ordinarily the man conning the ship relies a great deal on the good judgment of the man at the wheel. As a result, to a beginner, his commands may seem rather indefinite. Such

  commands might be, "left a little," "left some more," "don't let her come too fast" and "keep her in the middle." Every opportunity for observing experienced helmsmen in pilot waters should be taken by the beginner so that he may recognize what is meant by these terms. As long as you stay out of the way and are not using up ship's time no objection will be made to your remaining on the bridge for this purpose. It is always best, however, to first obtain permission from the mate on watch.

Many pilots and captains give their orders by waving their hands and arms in the direction they wish the wheel turned. For this reason it is important to keep your eyes on the person conning. A wave to the left indicates left wheel, one to the right, right wheel and an up-and-down motion indicates "steady."

With the wheel left, another wave to the left would mean "more left wheel," whereas one to the right would mean "ease the wheel."

Regardless of whether orders are given in this manner or by voice, the helmsman should repeat each order in a clear, distinct voice. Do not change the wording of any command but repeat exactly as given.

When relieving the wheel always attempt to relieve five minutes ahead of time. This will be appreciated by your shipmates. Find out if it is customary to bring the mate on watch any coffee when coming to the wheel, and if this is the practice find out from him how he likes his coffee. The man at the wheel gives the course (both magnetic and gyro, if a gyro is aboard) to his relief, steadies the ship on the course and then hands the watch over. He in turn


approaches the mate on watch, repeats the course (example: 125° per gyro, 129° per magnetic) and after the mate repeats, he goes below. A good man coming off the wheel will always pick up any cups or other items which should go below. He will also give his relief some idea of how the ship is steering, (example: half a right turn and no left wheel).


The man coming to the wheel should spend the first five minutes of his watch getting the feel of the ship and determining how much wheel is required to keep the ship on its course. Remember changes in course, wind, or sea will affect the steering so you must be attentive and concentrate on your job which is steering. If your ship has a gyro compass it will be part of your job to check it with the magnetic whenever course is changed, and at least every half hour when the course is not changed. Should you obtain a different comparison, notify the mate instantly as the gyro may have failed. If steering by magnetic and you find the compass acting strangely report it to the mate on watch.

Do not confuse the expression "what's your course" and "how do you head" or "what's your head?" The first is a question to find out what course you are supposed to be heading. By the

  second question the mate desires information as to the ship's head at that precise moment. In this case do not be vague with your answer. For example, your course is 130°, the mate asks, "How do you head?" You note the compass as reading 127°. Report in a clear voice, "127° sir, 3° to the left," (meaning, of course, you are 3° off the course you should be steering).

No hard fast rules for steering can be laid down, however these points are set down in the hope they will be of some help:

1. Under ordinary conditions (small wind and sea) a ship will require little right wheel and no left wheel. This is due to the fact that ships are fitted with right-hand propellers which throw the ship's head to the left.

2. With moderate wind and sea ahead or astern, the ship will take a little right and a little left wheel.

3. With moderate wind and sea on the starboard bow, the ship will take a little left and no right wheel as she has a tendency to come up into the wind.

4. Remember the lubber's line is the line you must move. Do not attempt to move the compass around to the lubber's line. If the lubber's line is to right of course, turn wheel left; if lubber's line is to left of course, turn wheel right.

In heavy weather the yawing of the ship may confuse a new helmsman into putting his wheel over unnecessarily. Watch the compass and if the ship swings away from the course and then returns to it or past it, do not give her any wheel. If, however, the ship does not return to the course, she is falling off and you must give her some wheel.

Ordinarily steering is done by the compass, the course being given in degrees. As you become more proficient you will find you can steer a better course by watching the ship's head. At sea a stationary cloud or even the horizon may be watched for the swing. In pilot waters steering by ship's head becomes very important. When given a course to steer or given the order "Steady," pick out a prominent object ahead and steer for it. Many harbors and rivers are fitted with ranges for this purpose, but houses, trees, hills, smokestacks, tanks, or any other conspicuous object may be used.


When you relieve the wheel enter the wheelhouse from lee door. Go quietly and directly to the helmsman standing close and just back of him stating "Wheel relief," (indicating you are



Illustration A shows a ship steering NORTH. The reading opposite the lubber's line indicates the course.
In illustration B the ship is off the course and to the right of it.  This reading is 016 deg. Notice that the compass card remains the same and points to NORTH as the in the first illustration.  The ship, and consequently the lubber's line, has moved 16 deg to the right.  The lubber's line has moved, not the compass.  This situation requires left wheel to bring the ship back to the given course NORTH.
Illustration C shows a course of 006 deg which is the result of the application of left wheel.
When left wheel (or rudder) is applied, the ship moves left.  When right rudder is applied, it moves to the right.
Course are expressed in three figures, clockwise, from NORTH (000 deg) to 359 deg.  Thus a course of ten degrees would be read: 010 deg.

ready to take the wheel). The helmsman will then steady the ship on his last assigned course and put the wheel amidships. As he turns the wheel over to you he states the course being steered, the numbers of degrees helm she is carrying to keep steady on course and that the wheel is amidship in this manner. "Course, one eight zero (180°), wheel amidship." Or he may add the added information, and should, so you will steer a better course and become accustomed to the ship's actions or steering, "Carrying a half left wheel" or right, as the case may   be, to make her steady better. The relieving helmsman then repeats just what he has heard and in the same order.

The relieved helmsman then steps over to the mate on watch giving the course he has been steering and turns it over to his relief to steer. Example: "Wheel relieved, sir, course one eight zero (180°)." The officer will then reply, "Very well," and with the same course you have just given, if you have turned over the wheel correctly and with correct course. When he repeats the same course as you have given he indicates


you have been correct and if there is no further comment you immediately and quietly leave the bridge through the lee door.

Note that on the relief of the wheel the course has been given and repeated three times. There is an object to this which can readily be seen. If the course is not repeated as given the man in error must be corrected. In other words if you repeat correctly you signify you understand, for example:

Relieving man: Stands close behind helmsman stating, "Wheel relief."

Helmsman: After steadying on course and wheel amidship: "Course one zero five (105°). Wheel amidship."

Relief: "One zero five (105°). Wheel amid-ship."

Relieved helmsman, going to officer on watch: "Wheel relieved, sir, course or steering one zero five (105°)."

Mate on watch: "Very well, course one zero five (105°)."

Relieved helmsman then leaves the bridge through lee door if no further orders.


Right wheel-Turn wheel to the right.

Left wheel-Turn wheel to the left.

Right a bit-Turn wheel to right a bit or approximately one turn.

Left a bit-Same as above, only left.

Half right-Turn wheel half the number of turns to right it takes to put the wheel hard right or hard over. If it takes 6 turns to put the wheel "hard right" then "half right" means 3 turns.

Half left-Same as above, only to left.

Amidships or 'midships-Means put the wheel amidship so that the rudder indicator shows the rudder is amidship or in other words rudder is fore and aft or in line with keel.

Ease the wheel-If you had the wheel at hard right, to ease the wheel means to ease it back to the direction of amidships. In other words, take some of the wheel off her. The only way possible to go in "easing the wheel" is toward amidships. It is only possible to ease the wheel right or left to amidship because when you go beyond this point you are putting opposite helm on her as you can see when you pass the amid-ship mark.

"Steady as you go" or "Steady"-Means that as the command is given you note the course and work the wheel to keep the ship on the course noted at the order of "Steady" until you

  are given some new helm command or course. If in a harbor, steady on some fixed and easily seen object ahead to help keep the vessels head steady but don't fail to note the compass course also. It is easier to steady the vessel on an object ahead; such as a range, stack or some prominent object ashore when in harbors or inland waters than to steer by compass course alone. Of course at sea you must steer by compass course.

Hard right or left-This means putting the wheel over to the direction given as far as it will go.

In closing, the need for expert steering in wartime must be emphasized. Poor steering may result in collision and on dark nights it may mean getting out of the convoy. Running at 9 knots, a ship steering a course 3° different than the rest of the convoy in six minutes will move the ship 300' out of its station. Imagine this course steered for the entire night and you can easily see why some ships lose the convoy.

When you are directly exposed to very bright or tropical sunshine, excessive light may enter your eyes either directly from the sun or by direct reflection from snow, ice, sand, or water. The immediate result is apt to be excessive production of tears, spasm of the lids, and marked irritation. For protection against the direct rays of the sun you should wear a broad-brimmed hat or helmet. For protection against excessive light reflected from water, ice, sand or snow, sunglasses are essential. The lenses of these glasses should not only be suited for their purpose of absorbing unwanted radiation but they should also be free of irregularities and optical defects which may be the cause of eyestrain if the sunglasses are worn for long periods.

In view of the fact that in doing all close eye work the muscles of the eye must be in almost continuous activity, it is evident that excessive fatigue of these muscles is very common. To reduce the "wear and tear" on these muscles and increase their reserves, the following suggestions will be found helpful:

(a) obtain as far as possible an adequate amount of sleep;

(b) do not expect your eyes to have their normal visual reserve when you are physically overtired or have been forced to reduce markedly your hours of sleep;

(c) in doing close eye work arrange for proper illumination (adequate in intensity and directed from behind) and rest your eyes by looking up from the close work and looking


away at a distance, if possible, at frequent intervals;

(d) be moderate in the reading of newspaper print or other difficult print at night when you are already tired.


The compass is the most important navigation instrument used by mariners. It is the instrument by which the mariner finds his direction.

There are two types of compasses. The magnetic compass and the gyro compass.

The magnetic compass depends upon the natural magnetism of the earth for its directive force.

Basically it consists of a magnetic needle or needles free to turn on a pivot. Obeying the laws of magnetism, the needle is attracted toward the poles and remains in that direction. The north pole of the needle being attracted to the north magnetic pole of the earth.

The magnetic compass as now used at sea, consists of a bowl swinging level in gimbals and a group of highly magnetized steel needles attached to a graduated card all mounted on a pivot in the center of the bowl. A vertical line called a lubber's line is marked on the inner surface of the bowl and the compass is so mounted in the ship that a line through the lubber's line and the pivot is parallel with the ship's keel. Thus, the lubber's line indicates the ship's head, and the reading on the graduated card opposite the lubber's line indicates the compass course of the ship.

The more modern magnetic compasses have the bowl filled with liquid. This tends to reduce the weight on the pivot and also dampens the effect of the vibration, pitching, and rolling of the ship.

Some dry compasses are still in use and they do have certain advantages, the main one probably being the ease with which the card of the compass is changed. Because the full weight of the card and needles rests on the pivot it is of very light construction, the card usually being of light paper.

The magnetic compass is subject to two errors, variation, and deviation. Variation is the error due primarily to the difference between the magnetic and geographic poles. Deviation is an error due to the magnetic qualities of the steel within a ship.

The gyro compass is a mechanical compass that derives its directive force from the fact

  that a gyro tends to line its axis parallel to that of the earth. Its direction except for slight mechanical errors is, therefore, true.

Since a gyro compass is mechanical and therefore subject to mechanical failure it is important that it is checked frequently with the magnetic compasses kept aboard ship.

The biggest advantage of the gyro compass is the fact that its directive force is so powerful that it can be used to operate any number of repeater compasses situated throughout the ship. These repeaters will read exactly as the master compass.


There are various ways of dividing the compass card and the well-informed seaman should understand each.

The modern and probably the most common method of dividing the card is into 360°, from 0° at the north point around clockwise or to the right and all the way around to 360° which is again at 0°.

An older method and one still used occasionally is by points. In this method the compass is divided into 32 points of 11 1/4%° each and these are further divided into quarter points of 2° 48' 45" each.

Another system not used much any more but still one a seaman should understand is the 90° or quadrant card. In this system the course never exceeds 90° and directions so given require letters to indicate the quadrant, thus; Northeast, by points-45° by the 360° compass card-N 45° E by the quadrant card or Northwest, by points-315° by the 360° card-N 45° W by the quadrant card, etc.

Although most ships are now equipped with the 360° card it is important that a seaman knows and fully understands the other various cards and be able to translate from one to the other very quickly. It is not uncommon to find pilots in certain ports and even some officers that find it convenient to use one of the older systems when giving courses and it is up to the man at the wheel to prove his knowledge of the compass.

North East South West
N by E E by S S by W W by N
NE by N SE by E SW by S NW by W
NE by E SE by S SW by W NW by N
E by N S by E W by S N by W




Too much emphasis can never be placed upon the importance of the lookout on shipboard. This is particularly true in time of war. Many accidents at sea could have been avoided if the lookout had been alert and attentive.

If you are on lookout you must report anything that comes into sight. This includes other ships, lights, land, shoals, discolored water, buoys, floating objects, periscopes, and wreckage. In short, report anything that might be of interest to the bridge, even garbage or refuse.

Lookouts are stationed on the forecastle head in the crow's nest and in time of war frequently on the stern and other parts of the vessel.

The report when on the forecastle head is usually made by the striking of the ship's bell (on some vessels it is made by speaking tube or telephone). One bell signifies an object is sighted to the starboard. Two bells implies that an object is sighted to the port. Three bells

  indicates an object dead ahead of your ship. This report will be acknowledged by the officer on the bridge. If no acknowledgement is made, repeat the signal until understood and acknowledged.

Frequently additional description of objects sighted may be required. This may include the position of the object with relation to the ship (relative bearing). The accompanying illustration gives you a clear picture of the manner in which this is accomplished. Report in points or degrees. A report in degrees is preferable because of its greater accuracy.

When you sight something, supplement the proper signal on the ship's bell by singing out in a loud, clear voice. For example-You have just struck one bell. Immediately following this you sing out, "Wreckage and oil slick, three points on the starboard bow, sir."

The common failing among inexperienced lookouts is their method of scanning the horizon or sky. Generally an inexperienced man


concentrates his attention in one particular direction, usually dead ahead, with now and then a quick glance around the ship. Such a method will almost always result in the lookout not seeing a small object or distant plane. Lookouts should practice slow scanning in sectors with a quick return to the starting place (see illustration). Each new sector scanned should overlap the last sector examined.

Lookouts should be extremely careful in scanning the water between the ship and the horizon. A submarine's periscope may be picked up by an alert lookout at a distance of two miles,


and a torpedo wake may be seen at a distance of one mile. During periods of low visibility it may be generally assumed that a submarine will not attack at a greater range than 1,000 yards or 1/2 mile. It can therefore be easily seen the great necessity for carefully scanning those waters about the ship as well as the horizon.

Due to the strain on a man's eyes, lookouts should be relieved as often as possible. In order to relax the eyes, lookouts should close their eyes for 10 or 15 seconds about every 20 or 30 minutes. These short periods of rest will prove of great benefit.

When being relieved always point out all objects that have been reported to the bridge. Otherwise, after you have left your relief will pick up the object and report it again. This results in a temporary confusion on the bridge, the mate on watch thinking that a new object is being reported. At night do not be in a hurry to leave your post. Give your relief a chance to adjust his eyes to the darkness. The man going on duty should make it a point that the watch is being properly handed over to him. If the ship is showing lights, check to make sure

  they are operating. If you go on lookout and do not find the man you are to relieve on his station, do not assume he got tired and turned in. Report the fact to the bridge, as the man may have fallen overboard. Make a search of the forecastle head, but do not leave your post. For example, you might see an object on the starboard side, halfway between your fore-and-aft line and your beam. You would report such an object by ringing one bell, and in a loud clear voice reporting, "Ship sighted four points on the starboard bow."

These reports are made by relative bearings from the ship. A relative bearing is a bearing of an object in relation to the ship.

There are thirty-two points in the compass and bearings are reported in terms of the compass. For example, dead ahead, one point on the starboard bow, two points on the starboard bow, three points on the starboard bow, etc.

While on lookout be particularly alert and attentive. Pay no attention to anything but your specific job. Never under any circumstances leave your post until you are properly relieved. Report anything you see, even if you are a bit doubtful about it. If something you think you see turns out to be non-existent, you will not be subject to embarrassment or ridicule. It will merely indicate to the officer of the watch that you are an efficient lookout doing your job properly.

As in all other cases involving seamanship, it is wrong to assume that somebody else will do your job for you. Do not assume that the bridge has sighted something, and that therefore there is no point in your reporting it.

In these days of war it is necessary to be on the lookout for anything in the sky, on or under the water, and on the horizon. A good lookout will cover all points of the compass, unless he is directed to perform his lookout duties over a specified arc of horizon.

When you are on lookout duty, remain on your feet and avoid conversation, except that which applies directly to your job. Be absolutely certain that you thoroughly understand your assignment. If you are in doubt, do not hesitate to consult the officer of the watch.

You must repeat the bells from the bridge immediately following their ringing at every half-hour interval. When navigating in water where lights are required to be carried by your ship, you must check to see that they are properly functioning. If they are in order, hail the bridge by saying, "All lights are burning bright,


sir." If they are not in order report the deficiency. However, lights are seldom used at sea during these days of war.

A dim light can be seen quicker at night by first looking at the sky above the horizon and by then dropping the eyes to the horizon.

When standing lookout at night be careful that no light shines in your eyes. The lighting of a match or a flashlight before or during your lookout duty causes temporary blindness. This decreases your efficiency. (Read section entitled, How to Use Your Eyes At Night.)

When you are on lookout duty think constantly of your responsibility. You are the ears, as well as the eyes of your ship. In fog or thick weather listen attentively. Report any indication of a vessel or an object afloat. Be especially alert in fog.

There are certain conditions of visibility, weather and sea when experience indicates that attack is less likely than at other times. This does not mean that your vigilance as a lookout should be relaxed in the slightest at such times. While it is true that there is less chance of attack in a rain squall or in fog, it is also true that you have excellent chances of catching the enemy on the surface at close range under these conditions. Many submarines have been destroyed by merchant ships under such conditions.

In the first World War it was found that a plain piece of cardboard tube about 2 feet long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter dipped inside and out in flat black paint and allowed to dry made an excellent "telescope" for lookout work, especially in daytime. While it had no magnifying power it served to shade the eyes, concentrate the field of vision and greatly reduce eyestrain. The present shortage of binoculars and the good results obtained with this simple device in the last war suggests that it be tried again.

Your job as lookout is of the utmost importance in the safety of your ship, its cargo, and its crew.

Remember, when you go on lookout always wear your life preserver. If for any reason, you do not wear your lifesaving suit, keep it with you constantly. Have it immediately available for use. Your life may very well depend on it. Become proficient in donning the suit rapidly under all types of conditions. With constant practice you should be able to put the rubberized suit on properly, in the dark, in about 30 seconds.

By dressing properly in cold or severe

  weather, you will be a more efficient lookout. Then you can concentrate on the task at hand without having to suffer the distractions of your discomfort.


For sounding purposes vessels are fitted with a machine consisting of a drum or spool upon which is wound a quantity of fine steel wire.


This wire is made fast to the link which is attached to the lead by a log line. It may be allowed to run out freely or may be reeled in by the proper use of handles attached to the machine.

About a half-turn of the crank in one direction slacks the brake, while the turning of the




handle in the opposite direction sets the brake and checks the wire from running out. The depth of water may be determined by means of a depth recorder which has a gage and indicator, or by means of glass tubes, the insides of which are either treated with a chemical preparation or roughened by grinding. The glass tube, protected by a brass case, open at the bottom and attached above the lead. As the lead descends, water is forced into the tube according to pressure of the depth. The water wets the chemical coating or ground interior showing how far the water entered the tube. The discolored or wet portion of the tube measured by a scale, gives the depth.

The machine has a clocklike dial which records the length of wire reeled out. This dial does not indicate accurately the depth of water.

Also after the machine is placed and handles attached, the locking arm is made fast by turning the catch around and the brake is set to prevent the wire running out. The depth recorder or the chemical tube is then adjusted and made fast to a line between the link and the sinker, and the wire made fast to the link.

The attachments are then carefully lowered overboard by hand, and the wire placed in the fair-lead with the link hanging just clear. The wire is then taut and the register on the machine should indicate zero.

When ready to make a cast, a light turn of the handle will release the brake, and the wire is kept taut by pressing upon it by the finger-pin (feeler) which indicates when bottom is reached by a quick slackening of the wire under pressure of the pin. Do not touch the wire when paying out.

Watch the indicator and gradually apply the brake before all the wire has passed off the drum or bottom has been reached. Then reverse the motion of the drum and rewind the wire,

  guiding it on the drum by hand with a piece of waste canvas. Watch until the link is close to the fair-lead and then bring the depth-recorder inboard by hand, carefully keeping it upright until read.

The speed at which the ship is moving determines the length of wire in excess of depth of water required to reach bottom, and great care must be exercised to avoid looping or slacking of the wire and to prevent kinks forming. A kinked wire should be discarded as a slight pull will break it.


The hand lead is used for finding the depth of water on entering or leaving a port and in navigating where the depth of water is not over twenty fathoms. It consists of a lead weight of 7 to 14 pounds and a line marked.

In taking soundings with the hand lead the leadsman stands on a platform projecting from the side of the ship, called the chains. The line is held about two fathoms from the end, usually a toggle is provided for this, and the lead is swung to and fro in a fore-and-aft line. When sufficient momentum is obtained the lead is thrown as far forward as possible. An expert leadsman will swing the lead in a complete circle over his head twice before releasing it. As the lead enters the water the slack in the line is taken in until the leadsman feels the lead on the bottom. When the line is stretched out in a straight line up and down, with the lead on the bottom, the sounding is read and called out to the bridge. With practice it is possible to feel the type of bottom and distinguish between a hard, soft or sticky bottom. This information should also be reported to the bridge.

In reporting the soundings to the bridge the following terminology should be used:

When the depth corresponds to any mark on




  the lead line it is reported as: "By the mark 7," "By the mark 10," etc.

When the depth corresponds to any fathom between the marks on the lead line, it is reported as: "By the deep 6," "By the deep 8."

When the depth is judged to be a fraction greater or less than that indicated by the marks, it is reported as: "And a half 7," "And a quarter 5," "Half less 7," "Quarter less 10."

Lead lines should be marked when wet and frequently checked for accuracy. When taking soundings at night and it is difficult to see the marks, accurate soundings may be taken by reading the line at the rail and subtracting the height of the rail above the water's edge.

ship in the fog


Marlinespike seamanship is a general term covering all phases of ropework. It includes the care, handling, knotting, and splicing of both fibre and wire rope of all sizes. A thorough knowledge of marlinespike seamanship is of the utmost importance to every seaman. It is in constant use on shipboard.

Frequently, the safety of vessel and crew is dependent on knots and splices. For this reason, as a seaman, you must master the methods of quickly tying efficient knots and making splices. Any and every seaman should be able to tie a square knot, half hitches, half hitches with round turn, bowline, clove hitch, bowline on a bight, and timber hitch. You should also be able to make an eye splice and a short splice.

It is desirable to be able to make a long splice as well, although such a splice is not in common usage on modern ships. These days, instead of using a long splice, the line requiring it is renewed. You should be able to make proper mousings and whippings. Also, you should be very familiar with the use of the sailmaker's palm, fid, and marlinespike.


When tying knots, it is customary to speak of different parts of the rope as follows: The end is as the name implies, the very end of the rope. The bight is a loop or half-loop formed by turning the rope back on itself. The standing part is the long unused portion of the rope.


Square Knot-The square not is the most useful of knots because it is strong, easily tied and untied, and will not slip.

Bowline-The bowline is the best known and the most useful of the eye knots. It is easily

  made by forming a bight in the rope and by passing the end up through the bight under the standing part and down through the bight again. A bowline on a bight is a method of


making a loop in a rope, both ends of which are fast. Double up the center of a rope and form a double bight. Pass the end of the loop up through this bight. Draw this loop down over the large loop.


Clove Hitch-The clove hitch is used to make a line fast to a spar or post. In this knot the end is passed around twice to form a hitch as illustrated.


Timber Hitch-The timber hitch is used where quick fastening is desired as in removing hatch board or dunnage from a hatch. Frequently it is used in combination with a half hitch.


Rolling Hitch-The rolling hitch is used to bend a rope to a spar or to the standing part of another rope. It is principally used as a stopper hitch in stopping off boat falls. This knot is made by passing the end twice around the spar




or rope and each time cross the standing part on the top. A hitch around the spar or rope on the opposite side of turns finishes it.

Two Half Hitches-This is a widely used knot for making a line fast to a spar or ring bolt.

Round Turn with Two Half Hitches-This knot is another method of making a line fast to a spar or ring. It is much more secure than the two half hitches alone. It is used in connection with the Breeches Buoy. (See Breeches Buoy illustration.)

  Mousing a Hook-Mousing a hook is a means of preventing a sling or a knot from accidentally coming off a hook.

Whipping-A whipping is used to prevent the ends of a rope from fraying or becoming unlaid.




Clips shown in the above illustration are used on wire rope to form an eye. The U bolt of all clips should enclose the dead end of the rope.

One variation is the palm and needle whipping which serves the same purpose making for a neater and more permanent job.


It is frequently desirable to fasten two ropes together in a neater manner than can be accomplished by knots. For this purpose various methods of splicing are used. A second advantage of this type of joining is the fact that a well-made splice approaches the strength of the line itself, whereas even the better knots do not.


Small ropes can be spliced by opening the strands with the fingers. For the larger ropes it is useful to have a marlinespike or fid.

Short Splice-In making a short splice, unlay the strands of the two rope ends to be spliced. Then intertwine the strands as shown in the


first illustration. Each strand is tucked over and under its companions in the opposing rope ends. After this has been done with all six strands, one round of tucks has been made. Three such rounds of tucks are required for an efficient splice. Remember that in splicing, strands go over and under, over and under.


Eye Splice-Unlay the rope and from an eye of desired size by bending the crotch of the strand up and the other two strands on either side. Tuck center strand under the strand directly below it; left-hand strand passes over the strand under which the first strand was tucked and then under the next strand. Turn the splice over and twist the last strand with the lay to tighten the yarn and tuck it under the remaining strand. Remember that all strands are tucked from right to left. After you have taken full tucks with the three strands tuck each of them over and under twice more. Although they may appear difficult knots and splices are basically simple. You will find them so if you read this chapter thoroughly and consult the illustrations. That, however, is not enough. To become proficient you must practice

  constantly. Practice it in your free hours perhaps before you turn in for the night. Bend all the hitches on the guardrail of your bunk, then on the vertical stanchion, then on the overhead pipe. Make knots in the dark too. Be versatile with the use of these basic knots. A few minutes a day, even at sea, will pay by dividends. When you know these knots and splices, how and when to use them, you have accomplished the first phase of your development as a sailor.


To open a coil of rope may seem very simple, although you may find yourself in "trouble" with a new line because you did not stop to think before you grabbed an end and blindly started to measure off the amount wanted. To prevent kinks, you must first inspect the coil and locate the inside end. This is within the eye. (By eye is meant the opening in the center of the coil.) Now turn the coil over so that the inside end is down, and reach down to the bottom of the eye and get the inside end and pull it up through the eye. As it comes out it should uncoil in the direction opposite to the movement of the hands of a clock.

The lashings around the coil should be cut from inside the eye and the burlap covering left on the coil. You will find that this keeps coils of rope in shape and consequently a more orderly storeroom.

Remember that rope shrinks in length when wet. If held quite taut when dry, it will be subjected to a great strain in wet weather, sometimes so great that it will break. Slack taut lines when they become wet. Even a heavy dew at night will penetrate an old line and may create a dangerous situation. Slack running rigging at night.

Both heat and moisture will cause rope to deteriorate and lose its strength.

Rope should never be stowed away unless it is perfectly dry, nor should it be covered in a manner that will hold the moisture in.

Rope should be covered whenever possible to protect it from the weather.

Rope should be parcelled with canvas to protect it from chafing at any point where it rubs against a sharp object.


To make a straight coil, lay a circular bight of secured end on deck and lay additional bights on top of it using up the entire amount of line: keep out kinks and turns. Capsize entire coil and it will be clear for running.


To flemish down a line, make small circle of free end and continue to lay down circles around it until the total amount of line is down and resembles a coiled clock spring. This is the neatest method.

To flake down, lay out in a straight line, make small circle of free end, then turn back a loop to form a close flat coil and continue to lay flat coils with the ends on top of ends of preceding coil. Always coil a line with the lay.

Right-handed rope should always be coiled in a clockwise direction.

Left-handed rope should always be in a counterclockwise direction.


Becket-A rope eye for the hook of a block. A rope grommet used as a rowlock; any small rope or strap serving as a handle.

Belay-To make fast to a cleat or belaying pin.

Bend-The twisting or turning of a rope so as to fasten it to some object, as a spar or ring.

Bight-Formed by bringing the end of a rope around, near to, or across its own part.

Bitter-end-The last part of a rope; the last link of an anchor chain.

Cable-laid-The same as hawser-laid.

Chafe-To wear the surface of a rope by rubbing against a solid object.

Coil-To lay down rope in circular turns.

End seizing-A round seizing at the end of a rope.

Fid-A tapered wooden pin used to separate the strands when splicing heavy rope.

Hawser-laid-Left-handed rope of nine strands, in the form of three three-stranded, right-handed ropes.

Heart-The inside center strand of a rope.

Heave-To haul or pull on a line; to throw a heaving line.

Heave taut-To haul in a line until it has a strain upon it.

Irish pennant-The frayed loose end of a line. Jam-To wedge tight.

Kink-A twist in a rope.

Knot-A twisting, turning, tying, knitting, or entangling of ropes or parts of a rope so as to join two ropes together or make a finished end on a rope, for certain purpose.

Lanyard-A line attached to an article to make it fast.

Lashing-A passing and repassing of a rope so as to confine or fasten together two or more objects; usually in the form of a bunch.

Line-A general term for light rope.

  Marlinespike-An iron or steel pin that tapers to a sharp point, used to splice wire rope.

Marry-Temporarily holding two lines together side-by-side or end-to-end.

Part-To break.

Pay out-To slack off on a line, to allow it to run out.

Rigging-A term applied to ship's ropes generally.

Secure-To make fast.

Seize-To bind two ropes together.

Slack-The part of a rope hanging loose; the opposite of taut.

Splice-The joining of two ends of a rope or ropes by so intertwining the strands, as but slightly to increase the diameter of the rope.

Standing part-That part of a line which is secured.

Stopper-A short line, one end of which is secured to a fixed object and used to check or stop a running line.

Strap-A rope ring or sling, made by splicing the two ends of a short piece of rope. Used to handle heavy objects. Small straps used to attach a handybilly to the hauling part of a line.

Take a turn-To pass a line around a cleat or belaying pin to hold on.

Taut-Tight; snug; tightly-drawn; opposite of slack.

Thimble-An iron ring with a groove on the outside for a rope grommet or splice.

Toggle-A small piece of wood or bar of iron inserted in a knot to render it more secure, or to make it more readily unfastened or slipped.

Veer-To allow rope or chain to run out; to slack off.

Blocks are mechanical devices made up of the following parts: a frame (shell) of wood or steel, fitted with one or more sheaves (pulleys); a pin through the frame on which the sheaves rotate, and a strap of manila, wire, rope or steel, fitted around the shell.

Cheek block and Tail Block

Blocks commonly take their names from the number of sheaves, hence, single, double, triple, etc.; or from some special shape or construction. They also may be known according to their use or place they occupy on shipboard.

Cheek blocks are usually placed in fixed positions to perform a specific duty. For example:


The hauling part of lifeboat falls, on the new equipment, runs through cheek blocks which act as fair-leads to the winch.

The size of a block is generally governed by the size of the rope to be used with it. The length of the block should be in inches about three times the circumference of the manila


rope to be used, and the sheave diameter should be about two times the circumference of the manila rope. Sizes of small wood shelled blocks such as tail blocks, snatch blocks and blocks used by men in aloft work are often determined by the length of the wood shell. This also applies to small, all-steel shelled blocks as used on handy billies.



A tackle or purchase is an assembly of ropes (falls) and blocks used to multiply power or gain a better lead as in the use of a single whip which facilitates handling light loads but gains no power. If we reverse the single whip and attach the block to the weight to be moved the applied power is doubled. These two principles can generally be applied to all tackle-

  stationary blocks give no gain, but serve as a lead to the rope, and all increase of power is derived from movable blocks.

The block having the greatest number of parts of the fall should be attached to the weight to be moved, in order to gain the greatest mechanical advantage. The power gained is equal to the number of parts at the movable block less friction.

Tackles get their name from the number of sheaves in the blocks of which they are composed, thus tackles are designated as twofold, threefold, etc. Tackles are also named from the use to which they are applied, as gangway tackle, guy tackle, etc.


There are many combinations for reeving tackle which are generally based on the type of blocks, number of sheaves and the particular kind of work the tackle is to be used for.

When speaking of tackle; the following terms are used:

Falls-That part of tackle made up of rope.

Reeve-To pass the rope around the sheaves of the block.

Rove-Past tense of reeve.


Standing part-That part of, the falls made fast to one of the blocks.

Hauling part-The end of the falls to which power is applied.

Overhaul-To separate the two blocks.

Round in-To bring the two blocks together.

  Two-blocked-When the two blocks are close together.

Choc-a-block-Same as above.

Handy billy-Small light tackle generally with steel blocks and used for miscellaneous work.

ship underway

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