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If the ship moved too fast, they risked a broken spar, a lost rudder, or losing the entire vessel.
Sailors were concerned with food, the state of their clothing, and the state of their health.
His practical guidebook opened with the observation that, previously, a compendium of knowledge such as his “has not been attempted by any person that I know of.” Although his text included observations on what sort of people, speaking what languages, seamen might expect to encounter, as well as on where and how fresh provisions might be procured, Coats concentrated primarily on matters of navigation, his discussions accompanied by descriptions of physical features that marked passages of the voyage.
However, when it came to describing the passage out from London, “from whence we sail on the entrance of this voyage,” he averred that because “all ships are bound to take pilots from hence,” the first part, to as far as Oxfordness/Oxford Ness, “is sufficiently taken care of.” Since the passage was already well known by sailors whose business it was to navigate it, he did not discuss it further.
In the past, sailors were producers of knowledge gained through experience.
By Hasted’s time, the river had become fairly congested and it was no easy task to take a ship up or down “by reason of the mass of vessels of all sorts and sizes at moorings intended for the accommodation of less than half the number.” .Most of the houses, she opined, were “generally full of seamen, and here are several good inns, taverns, and other such houses for their accommodation.” Tallis’s Illustrated London: In Commemoration of the Great Exhibition of All Nations in 1851, Forming a Complete Guide to the British Metropolis and Its Environs, Illustrated by Upwards of Two Hundred Steel Engravings from Original Drawings and Daguerreotypes with Historical and Descriptive Letterpress by William Gaspey, Esq.Seen from the river, from before Hargrave’s time to well after, the buildings of the town appeared to have “tumbled down haphazard from the top of the hill at the back” towards the three and a half mile long Reach. described the town as: usually more populous with shipping than any other point between the Nore Light Ship and the Pool [immediately below London Bridge].Above all, sailors were concerned with knowing where they were.Determining location was the “great difficulty in all navigation at sea.” A voyage to Hudson Bay was an ongoing exercise in ascertaining whereabouts: once a present point of reference was determined, everything hinged on knowing the position of a next point along the path to the final destination.
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Tilt boats and passenger ferries were still plying the river in the nineteenth century.