Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Weather Gauge

In the days of wooden ships and iron men, the Weather Gauge was the preferred position at the start of a naval battle between two ships. There are several advantages to being to "weather" - or windward - of one's opponent in battle.

First, the ship to leeward would be heeled over away from it's opponent. This exposed more of the hull of the vessel. Any shots that hit the leeward ship had a greater likelihood of doing damage below the waterline in consequence. Additionally, this heel elevated the angle of the guns - sometimes to a point that could not be compensated for by the gun crews.  
The line of battleships on the right hold the Weather Gauge

Another advantage of having the Weather Gauge was maneuverability. The ship to weather could run down upon his opponent, if necessary, easier than the leeward ship could run up.  This, of course, is due to the fact that a sailing ship cannot sail directly into the wind, but can run with the wind at her back easily. This gave the windward ship the flexibility of bringing either the starboard or port guns into action or alternating as they came down.

The leeward position had some advantages too. Because of the heel of a ship, the leeward ship may be able to keep multiple rows of gun ports open longer - the windward vessel may need to close lower tiers of gun ports to keep water from flowing in. Also, if the windward vessel is crippled, the wind will blow her down under the guns of her leeward opponent. Last, if the leeward vessel is faster and needs to retreat, her faster speed with the wind at her back conveyed immunity to her for as long as she wanted it - or for as long as she had sea room.

At any rate, and for our purposes, The Weather Gauge was generally accepted as the preferred place to be. We hope you agree. In the coming weeks, I will be adding content - mostly nautical - including posts on the complete restoration of the Friendship Sloop, Desiree.

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