A Captain’s viewpoint on boat specifications
By Captain Rothery
As we read Ether in the Book of Mormon, we are told in chapter 1 that Jared and his family and some others came forth and were highly favored of the Lord in that their language was not confounded at the time of the great tower of Babel. (Ether 1:33-35)
They had great faith and called upon the Lord to guide them. This He promised them he would do.
Ether chapter 2 tells us how they followed the directions of the Lord to the valley of Nimrod and there he gave them further directions where to go.
If I were escaping from some place, I would head off in one direction and then, to throw any possible pursuers off the scent I would double back and head in a direction least expected, ‘into that quarter where there never had man been.’ To my mind the Lord’s strategy was spot on.
Verse 6 says they would build barges to cross many waters.
Verse 7 indicates they did not stop for longer than necessary anywhere along the way but continued on unto the land of promise where they would be free from bondage so long as they served the Lord their God.
Verse 13 says they came to the great sea where they would build their barges and called the place Moriancumer.
Verse 16 - They built ‘barges’ small and light upon the water.
Verse 17 - exceedingly tight like unto a dish.
And the length of a tree (70–100 ft??). (Ether 3: 1 & 4)
Ether 6:3 - Small molten stones like glass to give light within the barges.
Verses 4-8 - After preparing stores of food and water and same for the flocks of animals they would carry. They loaded up and went aboard and set forth - commending themselves unto the Lord their God. The Lord caused a wind to blow upon the waters to take them towards the promised land ( i.e. wind and resulting currents).
Verse 9 - They never ceased to sing praises unto the Lord.. day and night.
Verse 11 - And thus they were driven forth three hundred and forty and four days upon the water (not counting stopovers).
Now, in accordance with proper shipbuilding practice, the ‘barges’ (no sails) would be built with utmost integrity with regards to strength, water tightness, stability, and comfort, with provision for ventilation (holes in top), waste disposal (holes in bottom), dry stores (bottom), water (each side and perhaps ends to reduce rolling and pitching. i.e. more comfort and safety).
Most people I question about the ‘hole in the bottom’ suggest it’s in case of capsize. Well, if the barges are expected to capsize, I wouldn’t want to be aboard. Imagine what a mess not to mention injuries and loss of life.
No, the hole in bottom would have sides like a well extending up to above the waterline and down which waste could be shoveled to dissipate into the sea through the bottom. If they have lines, net or spears they can also catch plenty of fish at the bottom of the well.
Fish are always attracted to group under almost stationary ships. They like to feed on the minute life living on the hull. Such wells are common in some marine research vessels today albeit for different purposes.
In this case it’s a very clever method of waste disposal given that access onto the open deck would sometimes be very hazardous as in stormy weather.
Of course the trunk would be strengthened and a watertight hatch provided at the top. Remember these barges were purpose built to the Lord’s specifications which would be absolute optimum for the materials available.
Fresh air is scooped via a strong wooden sail like superstructure above deck forward into one or more deck ‘holes’ while foul air is exhausted through other deck ‘holes’ aft.
Rain water can, in smoother sea conditions, be collected into built in wing tanks by runoff down the deck camber. Scupper tank plugs can open from inside or outside after initial wash off then closed before sea or spray slops onto the deck thus ensuring replenishment with fresh water.
Two glasslike stones to provide light inside would help sustain in many ways including retention of sanity. Such stones (lights) would be invaluable on dark nights to keep the other barges in sight.
Now, a barge, while being blown along with the wind must be maintained stern on to the seas otherwise she could be overwhelmed or capsized in stormy weather. This can be achieved by dragging a drogue or sea anchor astern and by having the superstructure forward acting like a sail (as well as to scoop fresh air down the holes). A moderate trim by the stern, say about two or even three feet would be great in this regard. (Speed over the ground would be maintained by the current and wind.)
The barges could also be steered from inside. Why not by more modern style rudders hinged on pintles and gudgeons with a rudder post up through the hull to a helm as in the old sailing ships of Europe, but operated from below deck thus avoiding the need for a helmsman topside.
However, the rudder would only be necessary if the drogue is lost, (the towline may chafe through,) and the barge starts making rapid way through the water. In this case it becomes necessary to steer until they make up another drogue. The helmsman can feel when the stern is to the seas and steer to keep it there. The drogue keeps stern to sea with or without the rudder which could be lashed amidships.
Nobody there knew navigation except the Lord and no charts to set courses by. Simply let the Spirit guide. The Lord would keep pushing them in the right direction. Of course the scientific fraternity would look askance at that idea!!!
As they are quite small the barges could be rowed into intermediate ports for R & R and replenishment of stores. Oars and sails could be stowed in racks on deck, securely lashed, or stowed below.
This raises another question. They could have picked up one or two people from the intermediate ports whom they befriended and who were excited about the idea of going to a new land of promise. It is said the asian races go back at least 6000bc. If converted they might want to join the Jaredites. I have heard somewhere that the languages of some American Indians have Chinese influence(??).
Ether 6: 11 states they traveled on the sea for 344 days. This fits perfectly with my theory that they traveled from Arabia around India, across the Bay of Bengal to the Malacca strait, down past Singapore island, up the China sea past Japan with the Kuroshio current across the North Pacific down the west coast on the California current to California or Mexico which measures out to 12000 mls at 1.45 knots which would be the average speed under the stated conditions. It is technically feasible and, if I was younger with sufficient funds, I would like to prove it.
This route has the required prevailing winds and currents at a certain time of the year to make it possible. Amazing that a person of Joseph Smith’s education could specify a time span so accurately conforming to such a voyage unless by revelation.
Most of the time the sea conditions would be slight to moderate. Only occasionally would they be likely to experience stormy conditions. With my 40 plus years of seagoing experiences it actually sounds quite inviting and exciting. Recent raft voyages across the Atlantic and Pacific have proven the practicality of this.
Ether 2: 6 says “they did cross many waters being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.” In other words they went wherever he drove them. Jaredite vessels were ‘barges’ so didn’t normally have sails, but could have superstructure which would give windage and adequately propel them along with the wind and current - a type of sailing.
I don’t like the idea of cloth sails as they could be torn to shreds in a violent squall or even cause capsize or structural damage. Those tending them could be lost overboard as well as the helmsman if he is topside and there’s no turning back for them. These were decked in barges tight like unto a dish.
As water would be the heaviest part of the stores carried this could be contained in built in tanks. To reduce rolling and pitching these tanks would be along the sides and possibly at the ends (peaks). Raising the center of gravity and winging out weights lengthens the rolling period for more comfort. This also reduces transverse racking stresses on the structure of the vessel.
The inner decking would be about one foot above the bottom or bilge. Any higher would reduce the headroom for these people of ‘tall stature’. Livestock could be penned right aft with ventilation holes (or hatches) above them ensuring little chance of fouling the air for the humans. Headroom would be about seven or eight feet. Such distribution of weights (one of my favorite subjects) ensures comfort would be optimized.
The moderate trim by the stern would assist in maintaining the vessels stern to wind and sea, creates more windage forward, and especially helpful when surfing before a wave. It also ensures dirty bilge water would drain aft through limber holes in the ‘floors’ (i.e. transverse strength beams in the bottom structure) to be scooped out and disposed of down the convenient well with all other smelly waste. Cleanliness and discipline are top priorities.
Each barge could measure approximately 70-100 ft in length, 15-20 ft breadth and 8-10 ft depth, peaked at both ends to provide sufficient buoyancy there to ride the waves and swells safely. Superstructure to provide windage forward would extend about 10-15 ft up from the deck close forward of the holes (hatches) provided for ventilation.
This superstructure would have to lead back on both sides for strength and to better scoop the air to the hatches. All holes (hatches) and wells would be provided with watertight hinged lids secured from inside.
Fastenings in the construction could be by wooden pegs as used in the roof construction of the Salt Lake Tabernacle and leather or rope bindings.
The wing water tanks could be about 3 ft wide by seven feet depth with wooden spigots (taps) at the bottom for drawing water. Such tanks could hold up to around 18000 gallons and also ensure the side planking remains tight. Mid length bulkheads in each tank with small limber holes at bottom would ensure no stability problem with water surge (free surface effect) when pitching on waves. Either gate or ball valves could be built in at the base of each separating bulkhead between tanks to control the amount of water in each tank.
For example, the forward No.1 tank each side could be emptied sufficiently to control the trim by the stern as each of these tanks would hold about 10 tons of fresh water. Such valves could be fashioned out of metal. Such a task would not be beyond these people as they were clearly instructed by the Master. Too sophisticated? Not for the Master.
The decks would have camber, the sides vertical, the bottoms almost flat, the bilges rounded. Interior box shaped, partitioned for privacy, strength and livestock segregation. All up a pretty comfortable layout. The longest stretch between food replenishment would be across the north Pacific, Japan to Oregon, say 12 weeks or about 3500 mls. Seafood dinner almost every night.
As their navigation is completely in the hands of the Lord they have no worries about stranding. Of course they would occasionally experience some boisterous seas but this would be of limited duration and provide a little excitement. After a few days at sea even the most delicate stomachs would become attuned to the motion.
These people would have no idea of which direction to head nor the distance, no charts - they were completely in the hands of the Lord and therefore would survive according to their individual and collective faith and good works. Discipline and daily assignments would be critical.
As we believe in spiritual guidance we have no trouble believing all this is practical and possible. On the other hand atheists who believe spirituality is foreign to their scientific analysis would never believe it possible or practical, poor souls.
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