Steering a steam-powered vessel such as the 1908 wooden ferry boat Sabino is a cinch; the captain simply turns her wheel to change course. But increasing engine speed or changing Sabino’s direction forward or backward is an entirely different matter.
Since steam engines ostensibly have no real throttle or transmission, the captain must signal an engineer in the engine room to go faster or to change Sabino’s direction. The skipper accomplishes this by using a series of bell signals.
In this video, Captain David Childs demonstrates how the system works:
Sound like a lot of work? Don’t worry; those days are far behind us. Take a look at these new outboards, sterndrives, pods and more from an article that appeared in the July 2017 issue of Soundings.