Difference between good and bad Helmsmen.

A Good helmsman, when a ship is difficult to be steered, at taking the helm, he first observes how it lies, then looks with a sharp eye which way the ship is inclined to go from her course, and moves the helm with a brisk motion far enough to stop her that way, and feels by the stress upon the rudder ceasing, (which feel ought always to be noticed, as well as any alteration to the eye) when it is a proper time to ease the helm to prevent her from going on the other side of her course, for a ship is no sooner stopt by the helm from going to one hand, than she will be inclinable to go to the other hand, if the helm is let lie in that place, therefore he keeps moving the helm with a brisk motion, as far as is found necessary, to confine her to the course, and by feeling the marked spokes of the wheel, as they come into his hands, soon perceives how much helm, and how far she requires it each way, to command and steer her steadily along, with the least helm, and trouble to himself.

A bad helmsman instead of endeavouring to confine the ship to her course, by moving the helm each way as above-mentioned, commonly lets the helm lie until he sees the ship is got on one side of her course, then moves it so far as to bring her to her course again before he offers to stop or meet her with it, and then she gets on the other side of her course, so as to require a great deal of helm both ways, by that the ship is steered but little right forward, but kept yawing about from one side of her course to the other, which shortens the distance gone, and makes both course and distance very uncertain, and works the bad helmsman as he works the ship from side to side, wich makes both very uneasy, and if the waves run high, when carrying a pressing sail large, by bad steering there is great danger of broaching the ship to, therefore none but the best helmsmen should be permitted to steer at such times.

William Hutchinson: A Treatise on Practical Seamanship; with Hints and Remarks Relating Thereto: Designed to Contribute Something towards Fixing Rules upon Philosophical and Rational Principles; to Make Ships, and the Management of Them; and also Navigation, in General, more Perfect, and Consequently less Dangerous and Destructive to Health, Lives, and Property.
Printed for the Author, Liverpool, 1777. p 106.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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