The instant an alarm is given that a man is overboard, the ship's helm should be put down, and she should be hove in stays; a hen-coop or other object that can float should also be thrown overboard as near the man as possible, with a rope tied to it, and carefully kept sight of, as it will prove a beacon towards which the boat may pull as soon as lowered down. A primary object is, having a boat ready to lower down at a moment's notice, which should be hoisted up at the stern if most convenient; the lashings, tackle etc., to be always kept clear, and a rudder, tiller and spare spar to be kept in her. When dark, she should not be without a lantern and a compass.
There should also be kept in her a rope with a running bowline, ready to fix in or to throw to the person in danger. Coils of small rope, with running bowlines, should also be kept in the chains, quarters and abaft, ready to throw over, as it most generally occurs that men pass close to the ship's side. and have often been miraculously saved by clinging to ropes.
_Upsetting of a Boat._
If a person should fall out of a boat, or the boat upset by going foul of a cable, etc., or should he fall off the quays, or indeed fall into any water, from which he cannot extricate himself, but must wait some little time for assistance--had he presence of mind enough to whip off his hat, and hold it by the brim, placing his fingers within side of the crown (top upwards), he would be able, by this method, to keep his mouth above water till assistance should reach him. It often happens that danger is apprehended long before we are involved in the peril, although there may be time enough to prepare this, or adopt any other method. Travellers, in fording rivers at unknown fords, or where shallows are deceitful, might make use of this method with advantage.
Provide a cork waistcoat, composed of four pieces, two for the breast, and two for the back, each pretty near in length and breadth to the quarters of a waistcoat without flaps; the whole is to be covered with coarse canvas, with two holes to put the arms through. There must be a space left between the two back pieces, and the same betwixt each back and breast piece, that they may fit the easier to the body. By this means the waistcoat is open only before, and may be fastened on the wearer by strings; or if it should be thought more secure, with buckles and leather straps. This waistcoat may be made up at a small expense.
If those who use the sea occasionally, and especially those who are obliged to be almost constantly there, were to use these waistcoats, it would be next to impossible that they should be drowned.
It will likewise be proper to prepare an oil-skin bag, on going to sea, for a temporary supply of provisions, in case of shipwreck. If suddenly plunged into the water, and unable to swim, it will be necessary to keep the hands and arms under the water--few animals being capable of drowning, owing to their inability to lift their fore legs over their heads.
The legs, therefore, being necessarily immersed in the water, the difference between the specific gravity of the animal and the water is sufficient to enable it to keep its nostrils and mouth above the water, and therefore it is not suffocated by the fluid, but breathes freely. But man, on the contrary, being able to lift his hands over his head, and generally doing so in case of this accident, his hands and arms make up the difference in specific gravity, and his head, impelled by the weight of his hands and arms below the water, his body fills, and he is consequently choked and suffocated. The remedy therefore is, in all such cases, to keep down the hands and arms, and as a further security, to act with them under and against the water, it will then be impossible to sink, unless the weight of clothes or other circumstances operate to the contrary.
_The Marine Spencer._
The marine spencer is made in the form of a girdle, of a proper diameter to fit the body, and six inches abroad, composed of about 500 old cavern corks, strung upon a strong twine, well lashed together with lay-cord, covered with canvas, and painted in oil so as to make it water-proof. Two tapes or cords, about two feet long, are fastened to the back of the girdle with loops at the ends. Another tape or cord of the same length, having a few corks strung to the middle of it, is covered with canvas painted. A pin of hard wood, three inches long, and half an inch in diameter, is fastened to the front of the girdle by a tape or cord, about three inches long. To use the spencer, it should be slipped from the feet close up to the arms, the tapes or cords are to be brought one over each shoulder, and fastened by the loops to the pin; those between the legs are to be fastened to the other pin. A person thus equipped, though unacquainted with swimming, may safely trust himself to the waves; for he will float, head and shoulders above water, in any storm, and by paddling with his hands, may easily gain the shore. Such a spencer may also be made of cork shavings put into a long canvas bag.
It has also been suggested, that every part of the usual dress of the sailor should be made with a view to preserving his life, in cases of accident; and for this purpose that a quantity of cork shavings or clippings should be quilted into his jacket about the collar and neck, between the outside and inside lining, or as a belt of considerable breadth across the back and shoulders, then principally omitted under the arms, and resumed over the chest and stomach, yet not so much as to create inconvenience. If in these, and other parts of his dress, so much cork could be conveniently worked, as would give the sailor an opportunity of recovering himself, and making use of his own powers in cases of contingency, many valuable lives might be saved.
The bamboo habit is an invention of the Chinese, by the use of which a person, unskilled in the art of swimming, may easily keep himself above water. The Chinese merchants, when going on a voyage, are said always to provide themselves with this simple apparatus, to save their lives in cases of danger from shipwreck. It is constructed by placing four bamboos horizontally, two before, and two behind the body of each person, so that they project about twenty-eight inches; these are crossed on each side by two others, and the whole properly secured, leaving an intermediate space for the body. When thus formed, the person in danger slips it over his head, and ties it securely to the waist, by which simple means he cannot possibly sink.
_To extricate Persons from broken Ice._
Let two or more persons hold a rope or ropes, at both ends, stretched over the broken ice; so that the drowning person may catch hold of it.
The life-boat is generally thirty feet long, and in form much resembles a common Greenland boat, except the bottom, which is much flatter. She is lined with cork, inside and outside of the gunwale, about two feet in breadth, and the seats underneath are filled with cork also.
She is rowed by ten men, double banked, and steered by two men with oars, one at each end, both ends being alike. Long poles are provided for the men, to keep the boat from being driven broadside to the shore, either in going off or landing. About six inches from the lower poles, it increases in diameter, so as to form a flat surface against the sand. The weight of the cork used in the boat seven hundredweight.
She draws very little water, and when full is able to carry twenty people. The boat is able to contend against the most tremendous sea and broken water, and never, in any one instance, has she failed in bringing the crew in distress into a place of safety. The men have no dread in going off with her in the highest sea and broken water; cork jackets were provided for them; but their confidence in the boat is so great, that they do not use them.
The success attending this expedient for diminishing the number of unhappy individuals almost daily lost in a watery grave appears to have been more than equal to the most sanguine expectations formed of its utility; and the great object in view, viz., the safety of those persons who hazard their own security to preserve others, has been fully accomplished.
_Safe and readily constructed Life-boat._
In London Eng. a model of a life-boat was exhibited before the Royal Humane Society, which may be put together in the space of half an hour in any case of shipwreck, and which cannot sink or overset, let the sea run ever so high. All that is necessary to be provided is a keel or plank of any convenient length, and a few pigs of iron, such as vessels usually carry out for ballast. The officers of the ship are to take care to keep two or three empty water-casks, perfectly tight, the bungholes corked up, and a piece of tin or leather nailed over them. These casks are to be lashed with ropes to the keel, along with the pigs of iron for ballast, and any spare poles or spars may be also lashed to the sides, so as to give the raft the form of a vessel, and at each end make a lodgement for the men. Any of the square sails of the ship will form a lug-sail, and may speedily be adapted to the new life-boat, and a strong and broad spar may be lashed on as a rudder.
Another.--Let a quantity of ballast, even more than what is commonly used for sailing, be laid in the bottom of the boat; over this lay bags filled with cork, prepared for the purpose, and numbered according to their places, and if considerably higher than the gunwales, so much the better. A sail or part of one, folded, may be thrown over from stem to stern, to combine and unite the several parts; and, lastly, the whole is to be secured together by passing ropes by so many turns as may be deemed sufficient round and round over the gunwales and under the keel, and these, if necessary, may be hitched by a turn or two taken lengthwise.
Every person either on board or holding by the boat, so prepared, may be absolutely certain of being carried safe through any beach whatever.
When no such preparation of cork has been made, the following is proposed as a substitute:
Let a quantity of ballast, as coals in canvas, be secured in its place, as well as circumstances will admit; then take an empty water-cask (beer-cask, or any others that are tight) and fill the boat with them, and if the bilge of the cask rises considerably higher than the gunwales, it will be so much the better; let a sail then be thrown in to jam the cask and ballast in their places, as well as to combine and unite the several parts by covering all fore and aft; and, lastly, let the whole be lashed and secured together, in the manner above stated. It is believed the boat in this trim would always continue upright on her keel, be lively and buoyant on the water, and have sufficient efficacy to support the crew of any ordinary vessel, till drifted within their own depth.
It frequently happens that after men have gained the shore, they perish of cold for want of dry clothes. As a remedy for this, every man should try to secure one or two flannel or woollen shirts, by wrapping them up tightly in a piece of oiled cloth or silk; and, to guard against tearing, the last might be covered with canvas, or inclosed in a tin box.
_Further Method of Preservation in Cases of Ship-Wrecks._
It being the great object, in cases of shipwreck, to establish a communication betwixt the vessel and the shore with the least possible delay, various methods have been invented and pointed out for this purpose.
A common paper kite launched from the vessel, and driven by the wind to the shore, has been supposed capable of conveying a piece of packthread, to which a larger rope might be attached and drawn on board.
A small balloon, raised by rarefied air, might be made to answer the same purpose.
A sky-rocket, of a large diameter, has also been considered as capable of an equal service, and, indeed, this method seems the best; for, besides the velocity of the discharge, could it be brought to act during the night, it must both point out the situation of the ship, and the direction that the line took in flying ashore.
_Useful Hints when a Leak is Sprung._
When a vessel springs a leak near her bottom, the water enters with all the force given by the weight of the column of water without, which force is in proportion to the difference of the level between the water without and that within. It enters at first therefore with more force, and in greater quantity than it can afterwards, when the water within is higher. The bottom of the vessel, too is narrower, so that the same quantity of water, coming into that narrow part, rises faster than when the space for it is larger. This helps to terrify: but, as the quantity entering is less and less as the surfaces without and within become more nearly equal in height, the pumps that could not keep the water from rising at first, might afterwards be able to prevent its rising higher, and the people might remain on hoard in safety, without hazarding themselves in an open boat on the wide ocean.
Besides the equality in the height of the two surfaces, there may sometimes be other causes that retard the farther sinking of a leaky vessel. The rising water within may arrive at quantities of light wooden works, empty chests, and particularly empty water-casks, which, fixed so as not to float themselves, may help to sustain her. Many bodies which compose a ship's cargo may be specifically lighter than water. All these, when out of water, are an additional weight to that of the ship, and she is in proportion pressed deeper in the water, but as soon as these bodies are immersed, they weigh no longer on the ship; but, on the contrary, if fixed, they help to support her, in proportion as they are specifically lighter than the water.
_Temporary Nautical Pump._
Captain Leslie, in a voyage from North America to Stockholm, adopted an excellent mode of emptying water from his ship's hold, when the crew were insufficient to perform that duty. About ten or twelve feet above the pump he rigged out a spar one end of which projected overboard, while the other was fastened, as a lever, to the machinery of the pump. To the end which projected overboard was suspended a waterbutt, half full, but corked down; so that when the coming wave raised the butt-end, the other end depressed the piston of the pump; but at the retiring of the wave this was reversed, for, by the weight of the butt, the piston came up again, and with it the water. Thus, without the aid of the crew, the ship's hold was cleared of the water in a few hours.
Another.--When a vessel springs a leak at sea, which cannot be discovered, instead of exhausting the crew by continual working at the pumps, they may form, with very little trouble, a machine to discharge the water, which will work itself, without any assistance from the hands on board.
Let a spar, or spare top-mast, be cut to the length of eight or ten feet, or more, according to the size of the vessel; mortise four holes through the thickest end, through which run four oars, fixing them tight, exactly in the middle. To the four handles nail on four blades (made of staves), the size of the other ends, which will form a very good water-wheel; if the oars be strong, then fix into the opposite end what is commonly called a crank: the iron handle of a grindstone would suit extremely well; if this is not to be had, any strong bar of iron may be bent into that form, wedging it tight to prevent its twisting round. Then nail up a new pair of chaps on the fore part of the pump, for a new handle to be fixed in, which will point with its outer end to the bow of the vessel. This handle will be short on the outside, but as long on the inside as the diameter of the bore of the pump will admit, in order that the spear may be plunged the deeper, and of course the longer stroke. The handle must be large enough to have a slit sawed up it, sufficient to admit a stave edgeways, which must be fastened with a strong iron pin, on which it may work. The lower end of the stave must be bored to admit the round end of the crank; then fix the shaft, with the oars (or arms) over the gunwale, on two crotchets, one spiked to the gunwale, and the other near the pump, cutting in the shaft a circular notch, as well to make it run easier, by lessening the friction, as to keep the whole steady. A bolt is now to be fixed in each crotchet close over the shaft, to keep it from rising. As soon as the wheel torches the water it will turn round, and the crank, by means of the stave fixed on its end, will work the handle of the pump.
_To render the Sinking of a Ship Impossible._
According to the present plan of ship-building, in ease of a leak at sea, which cannot be kept under by pumping, the ship and crew must inevitably be lost, to the great affliction and loss of thousands of families. In order to prevent such accidents in future, which hitherto have been too common, a gentleman of the name of Williams suggests an easy arrangement which, if universally adopted, even under the worst circumstances, will enable the crew to save not only themselves, but the ship and cargo likewise:
It is that every ship should be divided into four equal compartments, with partitions of sufficient strength, the probability in case of a leak is that it would take place in one of them, and, allowing it to fill, the safety of the ship would not be endangered, for three-fourths of the cargo would remain undamaged. To prove this we will suppose a vessel of 100 tons so divided (though the plan is as applicable to a ship of 1000 tons as to a canal boat), and that one of the compartments filled with water; this would not increase her weight more than from six to eight tons from the cargo previously occupying the space and reducing her buoyancy about one-third. The same effect would take place was she sent out of port with only one fourth of her hull above water, though vessels are commonly sent out with onethird, and even more. Packets, as they carry little or no cargo, may with safety be divided into three compartments. In cases of fire the advantage is equally obvious, as any of the quarters might be inundated with safety.
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