Wooden Fronts to Ships' Bridges

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Wooden Fronts to Ships' Bridges

Post by Taxonomist » Sun Oct 21, 2018 12:47 am

Many cargo vessels and tankers built as late as the 1940s had wooden fronts to their bridges, even though the rest of their superstructures were steel. (See the link below to a painting of a Glen Line ship.) Why was this so? Was the wooden front at these late dates merely a design feature, an echo of past practice, perhaps, or were there practical reasons? All comments are welcome.

http://www.shippaintings.co.uk/JAlbum%2 ... 20Line.JPG

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Re: Wooden Fronts to Ships' Bridges

Post by davidwat » Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:18 pm

The only reason I ever heard was that it was a somewhat misguided effort to minimize the input of errors in the magnetic compass, particularly in the days before the Gyro compass, when it was situated in the wheelhouse and was used by the helmsman to steer by. Eventually, after the fitting of Gyro compasses became the normal, the magnetic compass was situated on the monkey island above the wheelhouse. But even then, it was usually surrounded by a wooden compass platform, so the outmoded thinking was still around.

After I became Master I managed to persuade my owners to fit a second, battery operated, Gyro compass, so that in the case of a complete electrical shutdown you still had something to give you a correct heading. This was a good idea and proved valuable when I was steaming through the Phillipine islands one day and we suffered a total electrical breakdown, which caused the main Gyro to stop. I told the 3rd Mate to check the heading by the magnetic compass first of all, but he said I can't see it. The vibration on that ship was so heavy that the brass gymballs on which the compass bowl was suspended had worn away and the compass bowl was upside down . Fortunately, the 2nd, battery operated Gyro compass was unaffected, and we were able to continue heading in the right direction until the Engineers got the problem fixed.

The fact that there were errors in the magnetic compass wasn't too important. What was important was that the Compass Deviation Book was maintained at all times so that you had a continuous record of the errors wherever you had been sailing, so that if your Gyro packed up then you could apply the correct allowance for previously calculated errors in that position. That worked.
david watson

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