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A question for sailors/naval personnel

Old 08-06-20, 09:58 AM
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Juan Foote
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A question for sailors/naval personnel

I was looking at some cool pics of one of the Coast Guards sailing ships, I think "Eagle". It got me curious.

Does the Navy maintain a sizable group of individuals familiar with how to utilize sailing ships, or even newer like coal, and such? As a 'just in case' type scenario?
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Old 08-06-20, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
I was looking at some cool pics of one of the Coast Guards sailing ships, I think "Eagle". It got me curious.

Does the Navy maintain a sizable group of individuals familiar with how to utilize sailing ships, or even newer like coal, and such? As a 'just in case' type scenario?
Not that I know of. There is the USS Constitution museum which is famously an active duty ship and the crew knows how to rig sails and such, but it's just entertainment.
Coal? Most old boiler plants could probably be converted from oil to coal if there were some kind of emergency, wouldn't be fast or cheap but it could be done. Newer ships are gas turbines... like jet engines... it would be faster and cheaper to build entirely new ships than convert one of these.
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Old 08-06-20, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
I was looking at some cool pics of one of the Coast Guards sailing ships, I think "Eagle". It got me curious.

Does the Navy maintain a sizable group of individuals familiar with how to utilize sailing ships, or even newer like coal, and such? As a 'just in case' type scenario?
Other than diesel submarine fleets, most of those other older propulsion type boats are "midshipman" "intern-type" situations. Not really "practicing to maintain an alternate fleet." They are all about teaching seamanship skills... basic boat handling... which is key component of Chapman's "Piloting, Seamanship & Boat Handling."

But bear in mind that a vast number of skills in the CG and Navy are not about handling boats... but other tasks, from running boilers and nuke plants, to guns and missiles, to computers and communications system... all technical skills that don't require actual boat handling skills.

I actually learned boat handling long after my time in the service, when I later took up sailing.
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Old 08-06-20, 10:48 AM
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Keep in mind that Navy and CG Sailors, like Pilots in the various services, do not go into those services as fully skilled people, but acquire those skills through training... Thus boat handling skills and seamanship is a training thing... especially when someone may come from a midwest land-locked farm area well away from any large bodies of water.
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Old 08-06-20, 11:11 AM
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Just in case? Just in case we go back to the days of ironsides? Bringing a coal-fired ship into military service would be a knife in a gunfight. Even for utility purposes (e.g. transporting cargo) it'd be a why-bother. I've been out for thirty years as of Dec. The ship I served on (JFK, conventional power aircraft carrier) was vintage by the time I got to it in the mid-80's.
Diesel powered vessels will be the norm for quite some time yet. It'd be far too costly to go nuke or gas-turbine for the whole fleet. Nuclear is cost-effective for a subset. The diesel-powered gas turbines are the dragsters of the seas, but inefficient.
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Old 08-06-20, 11:23 AM
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I believe every maritime nation has sail training vessels so that there are many experienced mariners who know how to operate a square rigger, the actual machanics of sailing and how the rigging works. We have all heard the expression, "knowing the ropes". Square riggers have a lot of rope and what they all do. The link is to the launching of a French replica of a frigate of old.
The second link is to an American replica, a type known as a topsail schooner. This type was developed in the Chesapeake and also known as a Baltimore Clipper, very fast and precursors of American clipper ships.

One of the things about living here in Rhode Island is it's a world sailing center with sailing vessels from anywhere in the world. One year a training ship from the Peruvian navy came into the harbor at Newport, with scores of naval cadets arrayed along the yards. Last year there were replicas of Columbus's ships in the harbor. I've made my living mostly in the sailing world so I enjoy the environment.
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Old 08-06-20, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by skijor View Post
Just in case? Just in case we go back to the days of ironsides? Bringing a coal-fired ship into military service would be a knife in a gunfight. Even for utility purposes (e.g. transporting cargo) it'd be a why-bother. I've been out for thirty years as of Dec. The ship I served on (JFK, conventional power aircraft carrier) was vintage by the time I got to it in the mid-80's.
Diesel powered vessels will be the norm for quite some time yet. It'd be far too costly to go nuke or gas-turbine for the whole fleet. Nuclear is cost-effective for a subset. The diesel-powered gas turbines are the dragsters of the seas, but inefficient.

I know we don't maintain some huge fleet of sailing ships....however...

I grew up around a lot of Army, particularly command folks, associated with Ft MacPherson and Gillem. At Gillem I know there was, for a long time, a mothballed bunch of WW2/Korean era military equipment that was kept there as a fallback to a worst case scenario. They actively kept some personnel trained or at least familiar with aspects of that stuff in case it ever had to have been pulled out. My understanding of it, very condensed, was that it's all non-computerized, analog equipment that was not susceptible to EMP/nuke damage in the way that more modern computerized equipment is/was.
In some part, the storage of that old stuff and it's associated chemicals is a part of what helps make Gillem a superfund site.
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Old 08-06-20, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Keep in mind that Navy and CG Sailors, like Pilots in the various services, do not go into those services as fully skilled people, but acquire those skills through training... Thus boat handling skills and seamanship is a training thing... especially when someone may come from a midwest land-locked farm area well away from any large bodies of water.
Funny. Reminds me of my days living in Alameda when the Navy base was still operating. It had 2 carriers and surrounding fleets while I was there. When I arrived, 1979, it was Coral Seas and Enterprise. Coral Seas had been home ported n Alamdea a long time and were the home town favorites. Enterprise, the far bigger modern nuke, was the newcomer, They had a serious chip on their shoulder and fights between the crews of the two carriers were common when both were in port.

Well, Coral Seas went east to be retired, The brand new Carl Vinson came to take its place. Another big nuke. Crew of 5,000 like the Enterprise. The Vinson crew were mid-westerners. Young, clean cut men from places like Nebraska. Easy going and just happy to be there. Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew grew up. Suddenly, they were the home town favorites and had to act the part. Pretty funny dynamics.

I never got to meet any of the officers with ship skills captain, navigator, 1st and 2nd mates, etc. but did meet a Marine captain on the Enterprise while he was scouting a hike for his company on Mt Tamalpais. I'd crashed. Was sitting on the roadside a couple of miles from the top, badly shaken up, bent fork and many miles from my Alameda home when the officer pulled over and asked me if I needed help. Well, I kinda did. Explained what happened, He asked me where I lived and from there I was set. Rode with hm to the top. He spent 10, 15 minutes gathering maps, etc, while I sat in his car, then he drove me home a mile from the base. He didn't talk much about what he did. (Everyone on the island knew those Marines guarded the nuclear weapons, machinery and secrets. That they were the toughest guys on board; that you simply didn't mess with them.) He impressed me as a very good soldier/officer, tough as nails and perfect gentleman. A Marine through and through. An officer I'd be proud to serve under. (He was of the Enterprise, NOT a midwest cowboy! I suspect the same officer on the Carl Vinson would come across quite different! At least then while the Vinson was still a new ship.)

Ben
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Old 08-06-20, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Other than diesel submarine fleets, most of those other older propulsion type boats are "midshipman" "intern-type" situations. Not really "practicing to maintain an alternate fleet." They are all about teaching seamanship skills... basic boat handling... which is key component of Chapman's "Piloting, Seamanship & Boat Handling."

But bear in mind that a vast number of skills in the CG and Navy are not about handling boats... but other tasks, from running boilers and nuke plants, to guns and missiles, to computers and communications system... all technical skills that don't require actual boat handling skills.

I actually learned boat handling long after my time in the service, when I later took up sailing.

I see. So, in this instance and along the line of other statements made....these ships have a rotating crew (possibly) as any other ship may have and are just trained to the aspect pertinent to their station while there?
I guess to put another way. Say there is someone who is going to have to direct the crew to take that sailing ship out to a point and back. The crew itself, the ones raising the sails and handling the ropes and all that are just as likely to be training as the "captain", or are a set crew who know this specific boat already?
..and in relation to that, there are small number of people as backups like perhaps stationed to the ship before or know the specific skill?
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Old 08-06-20, 12:54 PM
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In today's world, mothballed fleets just are not feasible any longer. Here's an article from last year that addresses this issue. So, that means sail ships and coal burners are out of the question. No training in those areas.

FWIW, I spent 23-years in the USN and retired in 2006.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/mil...hballed-ships/

The U.S. Navy won’t bring back decommissioned ships as a way to grow the fleet. The ships, decommissioned from the Navy after decades of service, are rusting away at a number of “mothball fleet” locations across the United States. Navy officials have concluded that it would be too expensive to bring them back, and they would offer too few capabilities to make them worthwhile.
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Old 08-06-20, 01:04 PM
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.
...when I was still in the Reserve Navy, post active duty, I did a two week gig as the on duty Hospital Corpsman at the tiny cadet emergency room at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I'm not even sure if they were in session, it might have been summertime. They do have a pretty active small boat sailing fleet there, which gets used a lot. And the plebe year has a requirement in Fundamentals of Seamanship. Other than that, I don't know. I was always suspicious of the basic seamanship skills of the officers I served under, who were either land based or on a Sub tender that was more or less welded to the State pier with chains in New London. But we did cruise that thing to Bermuda once in February, through a huge 3/4 gale, and nobody died.
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Old 08-06-20, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
I was looking at some cool pics of one of the Coast Guards sailing ships, I think "Eagle". It got me curious.

Does the Navy maintain a sizable group of individuals familiar with how to utilize sailing ships, or even newer like coal, and such? As a 'just in case' type scenario?
There doesn't seem to be enough sailing vessels to be of any use. I only know of the USCG Eagle (originally owned by the Nazis).

I doubt any but really old ships could be converted to coal and it seems there wouldn't be any logistical infrastructure to deliver the coal.

One of the advantages of not using coal was not having to provide it all over the world.
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Old 08-06-20, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
.
...when I was still in the Reserve Navy, post active duty, I did a two week gig as the on duty Hospital Corpsman at the tiny cadet emergency room at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I'm not even sure if they were in session, it might have been summertime. They do have a pretty active small boat sailing fleet there, which gets used a lot. And the plebe year has a requirement in Fundamentals of Seamanship. Other than that, I don't know. I was always suspicious of the basic seamanship skills of the officers I served under, who were either land based or on a Sub tender that was more or less welded to the State pier with chains in New London. But we did cruise that thing to Bermuda once in February, through a huge 3/4 gale, and nobody died.
I always wondered why they trained the midshipman in those things, because it does no good if you're not also training the men that will Man those ships. I do remember hearing (but I'm not sure if it's true) that the Naval Academy stopped training on how to navigate using the stars and various associated equipment, like the sextant, but that seems like good training, even in today's world of mindless GPS units.
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Old 08-06-20, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by work4bike View Post
I always wondered why they trained the midshipman in those things, because it does no good if you're not also training the men that will Man those ships. I do remember hearing (but I'm not sure if it's true) that the Naval Academy stopped training on how to navigate using the stars and various associated equipment, like the sextant, but that seems like good training, even in today's world of mindless GPS units.
I actually found an article about navigating by the stars. The navy stopped, but seems to have brought it back. I think that's a good thing. Sextants still have a place in today's highly advanced world/navy.

https://www.npr.org/2016/02/22/46721...f%20computers.

This is the challenge facing the U.S. Navy as it tries to bring back celestial navigation. The Navy stopped training its service members to navigate by the stars about a decade ago, focusing instead on electronic navigational systems. But fears about the security of the Global Positioning System and a desire to return to the basics of naval training are pushing the fleet back toward this ancient method of finding a course across open water.
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Old 08-06-20, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
I see. So, in this instance and along the line of other statements made....these ships have a rotating crew (possibly) as any other ship may have and are just trained to the aspect pertinent to their station while there?
I guess to put another way. Say there is someone who is going to have to direct the crew to take that sailing ship out to a point and back. The crew itself, the ones raising the sails and handling the ropes and all that are just as likely to be training as the "captain", or are a set crew who know this specific boat already?
..and in relation to that, there are small number of people as backups like perhaps stationed to the ship before or know the specific skill?
In almost every situation in the service there are senior folks mentoring others, much as the medical community does for doctors with interns, residents and attendings. The midshipmen might be brought on as crew, and rotate through positions, and then off the boat, while a few may remain, and there may be senior officers assigned to the boat. Oddly, the most senior crew might be an old enlisted man, and the Captain could be younger, but less seasoned.

Now I do not know just how many of those sailing ships crew rotate on an off and how often. And that may depend on just what their ultimate goal in the service is.
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Old 08-06-20, 04:46 PM
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I have a long time friend whose father was a naval architect and who has been around sailing vessels since she was old enough to diaper. I've known her for 35 years, sailed from the Caribbean to New York and worked with her building an aluminum 62 ft. racing sailboat. She not only knows a lot about sailing but is a fine shipmate besides. The naval academy operates several sailing yawls that go out on summer cruses with cadets. I suppose the purpose is to pass on some of the lore of the sea. A sailing vessel puts you in contact with the environment faster than any other means. She was the captain on one of them.
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Old 08-06-20, 05:15 PM
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No they're Officer training ships for the Academy .. In Europe many nations have them ,,They have friendly tall ships competitions ..

I happened to be in Scotland in 1997 and went to Aberdeen to check them out.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_Ships%27_Races

Me: USN 66~69..







...

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Old 08-06-20, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
I was looking at some cool pics of one of the Coast Guards sailing ships, I think "Eagle". It got me curious.

Does the Navy maintain a sizable group of individuals familiar with how to utilize sailing ships, or even newer like coal, and such? As a 'just in case' type scenario?
You mean like how Battlestar Galactica survived the initial electronic Ceylon attack because they were old tech (phone handsets with cables, etc)
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Old 08-06-20, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
You mean like how Battlestar Galactica survived the initial electronic Ceylon attack because they were old tech (phone handsets with cables, etc)

Sort of, really.

See post #7
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Old 08-06-20, 07:29 PM
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The skill I like seeing they are not throwing away - celestial navigation. Suppose a war starts. And say China has an interest counter to ours. Is it hard to believe that China might just sit back, except to shoot missiles to knock out our GPS satellites. Seems like a pretty straightforward thing to do. Do we take this conflict to WW3 because China isn't behaving?

So now our military is severely handicapped, but our navy especially so. But celestial works very well. Yes, minor electronics are still required. An accurate timepiece. Quartz watches serve very well. In the '80s, Hewlett Packard sold packs that did the solar calcs in a 40 series hand held. I have that pack and used it to do our last sun set the day before landing in Ireland. (Dad was navigator and he worked the sight I took for the official plot but we got the same numbers.) That plot was used for our last course change. I have a photo of Fastnet Rock, our planned landfall, dead ahead that next morning. Like the Navy, we had modern electronics, but unlike them, we had a budget. GPS was new, expensive and on the boat's usual sailing grounds, considerably inferior to Loran so we passed on it. As we approached Ireland we started getting into no-man's land for the Loran (when for the first time in two weeks, our exact location might be life and death). We were blessed with sun (finally!) and did it the old way (but with calculaters and quarts watches. No electronics on the sextant. (An aircraft carrier would make lining up that horizon radically easier!)

We did get confirmation twice that night we were on course. Midnight, the big RDF (radio direction finder - simply a powerful radio signal) was located right where it should be if we were on course. 3am we saw the flash of one of the world's big lighthouses high overhead, coming exactly from where it ought to. Fun to see that confirmation and know we made that last course change with the old stuff!

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Old 08-07-20, 02:22 AM
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Like 3alarmer I was a Navy Corpsman, 1970s-early '80s. Even then there was minimal, mostly cosmetic training in old school seamanship, mostly for tourists.

If the US Navy ever had any reason or need to revive really old tech they'd almost certain recruit some self-taught maritime experts from Asia, especially Indonesia, and African coastal nations, to retrain our people. We and the British navies have done that a few times over the past couple of centuries, after letting our readiness lapse between wars when we needed small or specialty vessels for special duties. Some great books and movies came from those little adventures.
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Old 08-07-20, 04:11 AM
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There's a story that Apollo 13 -- which, you will possibly remember, endured an explosion and catastrophic cascade of systems losses-- had to shut down its computer systems to have enough power to make it home. One of the systems they had to shut down was their nav system. As they approached Earth, a course adjustment was necessary, but the nav system was down. They used celestial/lunar navigation to guide them.

That's a story that makes my heart happy.
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Old 08-07-20, 08:05 AM
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FWIW: I work with a guy who was in the Navy for 22 years as a SeaBee. He's mentioned he'd only been on ships at sea for a total of about two weeks during that entire period, and that was only because the area they were going to could only be accessed via a ship/boat and not via aircraft. Go figure . . .
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Old 08-07-20, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
Not that I know of. There is the USS Constitution museum which is famously an active duty ship and the crew knows how to rig sails and such, but it's just entertainment.
I went on board the Constitution, Old Ironsides, in Boston some time back. As a boat builder it was all especially interesting to me. In addition to the ship, there is a museum at the site with some swords, uniforms and other items on view. To me, the most interesting was a mocked up full size section of the hull. Under water, 12" x 12" oak frames are packed next to each other. Inside the frames is a layer of oak about 11" thick and called a ceiling. The planking was 12" thick so that total thickness of the hull underwater is 24" of solid oak, hence ironsides, as cannon balls would bounce right off.
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Old 08-07-20, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by skidder View Post
FWIW: I work with a guy who was in the Navy for 22 years as a SeaBee. He's mentioned he'd only been on ships at sea for a total of about two weeks during that entire period, and that was only because the area they were going to could only be accessed via a ship/boat and not via aircraft. Go figure . . .
Well, Seabees are generally shore based as they are the Construction Battalion. They are not ship based, they build and maintain Navy shore installations, so I would not expect your friend to have deployed much on a ship. Interestingly enough and for assorted reasons, the CB’s operate and maintain Camp David, the US presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains.

Last edited by Steve B.; 08-07-20 at 07:24 PM.
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