Click on this link: Bell and Jingle: Questions, Answers and Remembrances on Facebook for a lively discussion by old salts of this system of communication between the captain and engineer aboard the MARY.
The MARY A WHALEN is a rare surviving example of a bell boat.
On a bell boat, the person steering (the captain or the mate) has no direct control over the speed of the engine, nor whether the ship goes forward or in reverse. The engineer, as the name suggests, controls the engine. On the MARY, as was typical on other bell boats, the engineer's station is two levels down from the pilot house, in a space with no view to the outside.
How did the engineer know what speed and direction the captain wanted? Bells and jingles. On both sides of the pilot house, both inside and out, are two sets of pulls. The large handled one rings a gong-shaped bell near the engineer; likewise a smaller handled one jingles a littler bell. An established code of bells and jingles told the engineer what to do. As a safeguard the captain and engineer could yell to each other through a speaking tube.
Note found posted in the MARY WHALEN:
Bells are Direction
Jingles are Speed
1 bell = ½ Ahead (200 rpm)
1 bell + 1 jingle = Full Ahead (300 rpm)
1 bell + 2 jingles = Slow Ahead (140 rpm)
2 bells = ½ Astern (200 rpm)
2 bells + 1 jingle = Full Astern (300 rpm)
2 bells + 2 jingles = Slow Astern (120-140 rpm)
1 bell from any position Astern = STOP
From Full Ahead
1 bell = ½ Ahead
2 jingle = Slow Ahead
From Slow Ahead
1 bell + 1 jingle = ½ Ahead
1 jingle = Full Ahead.
Looking for clarification on the bell and jingle code, as written on that cheat sheet, PortSide reached out on the MARY A WHALEN facebook page. We were wondering what the code for stop was as well as anything else we could learn about the system and its use. Past crew of the MARY WHALEN, and similar bell boats, responded with quips, memories and answers.
What follows are just select snippets of the conversation. The entire Facebook conversation as well as The Bells of New York, a two page description and history of the system written by Earl Maxfield Jr. of the Maxfield Marine Service on July 4, 1976 and revised July 4, 1990, contributed by Neil “Nobby” Peers, are attached as images below. Read the whole thing for more detail, recollections and the reuniting of old friends.
We now know who wrote the note.
George Doumar - The posted hand written directions were actually written out by me back in the day when I was training a new engineer. So funny seeing this.
I wrote them probably about 1990, 91 or 92. I was on the John Tabeling before the Mary Whalen. If you were already moving fwd or astern 1 bell would bring to all stop. Not sure of the history why 1 bell or two bell from stop to engage engine to half speed but I can only assume it was less confusion changing speeds once engaged.
We learned that engineers did not always pay attention:
Whit Petrie – I sailed aboard a bell boat tanker with a nearly deaf engineer who loved watching soap operas on TV. One day I rang down for slow ahead from full... no response. Had to ring the general alarm to get his attention. LOL!
He was in the galley with the door closed.
We learned something about how the engine of the MARY WHALEN worked:
Richard Conlin - Many of those direct reversing diesels will not start on “slow”. You must start it on ½ and then come back to slow.
George Doumar – true but the Whalen only start[ed] with full fuel and then you backed off quickly, it was all about touch so you could conserve air
George Doumar – 1/2 speed was utilized on the Whalen [...]To be honest 1/2 speed ahead was hardly ever utilized with the exception of the gowanus canal and newtown creek and I don't think that 1/2 astern was utilized at all, only to check down.
Robert Stevenson Thomas – She could barely get out of her own way, she really didn't need a plethora of choices.
George Doumar – isn't that the truth. She had dead slow and even deader slow.
Four bells meant Look Out!
Carl Hausheer – You could tell who was captain by the way they rang the bells.
If you were full ahead and rang four bells to go full astern everyone would stop
And look out the porthole
George Doumar – a little secret, we engineers always knew if we were slow to the four bells and ran aground it was Capt. License not ours so a look see out the porthole was called for so we knew what to brace for. lol