Page images
PDF
EPUB

sels whose helms are so graduated as to enable them to describe precisely similar arcs, in calm weather and when not affected by currents, will vary with every changing breeze and tide, and no absolute rule, in this regard, can be established practically ; nor is it desirable that it should be. To lay it down theoretically is, in reality, to restrict the turning power of a fleet to that of its longest and clumsiest vessel.

In the Potomac flotilla, whose vessels ranged from eighty to three hundred feet in length, my custom was, in manoeuvring, to direct that each vessel should turn as quickly as possible, experience soon demonstrating that the long vessel, when steadied on her course, quickly recovered, through superior swiftness, the distance she had lost in turning. It is to be hoped, however, that by the aid of twin screws or the application of hydraulic pressure, the time is not far distant when vessels shall be made to turn almost about their centres.

When a vessel has been signalled to act as a guide for the fleet, it is the duty of her commanding officer to give his whole attention to her steerage, since great confusion must inevitably result from any negligence in this regard. So long as the guide vessel is on her course, her guide flag should be kept well rounded up to the masthead; but should she from any cause deviate from it, the guide flag must be lowered a few . feet, care being taken to rehoist it so soon as the vessel has resumed her course.

The evolutions of a sailing fleet must necessarily be performed by successive movements on the part of its vessels ; but to prescribe successive movements for a fleet of steamers is absurd. For example, the vessels of a steam fleet in line heading N., and ordered to form column of vessels from the right, heading N.E., would, upon the hauling down of the flags of maneuvre, put their helms simultaneously to port, the leader of the column righting her helm when nearing her course N.E., and the others swinging to starboard together until heading E. This is the only mode of insuring precision in the performance of evolutions, and in a series of manæuvres conducted on this principle and extending over two years (often in blowy weather), with from six to sixteen vessels, no collision occurred.

As it is of the utmost importance to each vessel to know the speed of the vessels nearest to her, all the fleet should keep “bent on” a red ball,* to be used as a speed signal, thus :

* At night, in time of peace, a lantern may be substituted.

66

Ten knots and over,
From eight to ten knots.

six to eight knots.

four to six knots. Engine just turning over

stopped......

.Ball out of sight on deek.

resting on the rail.
a few feet above the rail.
at half mast.
a few feet below the truck.
mast-headed.

66

6

Any injury to the motive or steering power of a vessel should be at once signalled to the divisional commander, and by him communicated to the commander-in-chief.

At night, a large, red lantern should be suspended over the stern, having over it a tarpaulin cover. To this cover a lanyard should be attached leading on deck, and a man stationed by it. The instant the engine stops the cover is to be removed, and, at the same time, two short, sharp blasts with the steam whistle sounded to call attention to the signal, which must be answered by the vessel astern with one blast. Should the lantern, when uncovered, be lowered to the water's edge, it will signify that the vessel has stopped because a man is overboard, when it will be the duty of the vessel astern to lower her boats and assist in the search for him. When the lantern is hoisted up again, it will be a signal that the man has been picked up, or search for him abandoned ; and, when re-covered and one long blast sounded, that the vessel has resumed her headway.

Each vessel should maintain her proper distance and bearing with reference to the "guide vessel," rather than her next ahead, in "column;" and, in “line,” with the “guide vessel,” rather than her next to starboard (if the guide be right) or her next to port (if the guide be left). Consequently, when a vessel “falls out” of line or column, her place is to be left vacant until the squadron or divisional commander shall signal to the contrary; and the vessel losing her place is to regain it as speedily as possible, unless another station be assigned to her.

During action, however, in the absence of signals to the contrary, every gap is to be filled as speedily as possible.

When a guide vessel is disabled, her next astern, or to port or starboard (according as the guide is right or left), shall immediately hoist the “guide flag,” unless signal be made to the contrary.

From sunset to sunrise, under all circumstances, and during the day in heavy or thick weather, to avoid the danger of collisions, the fleet should steam in open order; and an echelon. formation is recommended. The greatest speed signalled by the admïral to the fleet should be a half-knot less than that which its slowest vessel is capable of maintaining, in order that this vessel may be enabled to “close up,” should she, from any cause, lose distance.

Vessels engaged in carrying despatches or orders should hoist, below their despatch flag, the distinguishing pennants of the vessels to which they are bound, in the order in which they intend to communicate with them, counting from the despatch flag downward. In this way the transmission of intelligence may be greatly facilitated (for the vessels to be last boarded, knowing whither the despatch vessel is bound, can readily send their boats to intercept her); ard so soon as a despatch has been delivered for a vessel, her distinguishing pennant must be hauled down.

If a vessel be disabled, it becomes the duty of her next astern to tow her, provided the fleet be in column of vessels; but if the fleet be steaming in any other order, this duty belongs to her next to port, unless the disabled vessel be on the left flank, when it devolves upon her next to starboard.

A vessel coming suddenly upon danger should signal it, and the course necessary for the fleet to steer, in order to avoid it. Thus, supposing a reef to be discovered, and it be necessary for the fleet to steer N.W. to clear it, the vessel discover

« PreviousContinue »