If you have read the “About Us” section on our website, then you know how we came up with our name, “Getting Nauti.” With a passion for all things nautical and a propensity to sometimes engage in a little bend-the-rules fun, the name came to us naturally. But what of our logo?
Quick, without looking can you state what our logo is?
Even without looking you were probably able to respond “ship’s wheel.” And if not “ship’s wheel,” we’d lay nine-to-one odds that you probably responded with “anchor.” Both answers make total sense as both serve as iconic images for the maritime life and all things nautical.
We’ll bet that you’d be hard pressed to find a seafood restaurant that doesn’t display some fashion of that iconic ship’s wheel somewhere on the premises, with many sporting an actual (or fake) ship’s wheel on the wall. While equally iconic as an image, you are probably less likely to find an actual anchor on the wall or otherwise displayed in a seafood restaurant. Of course, this makes sense as the heavy weight of an anchor makes it quite a bit more unwieldy than a ship’s wheel.
But we digress. Our logo is a ship’s wheel and not and anchor, but you probably already got bored of our blather and checked for yourself.
The ship’s wheel represents everything nautical and when we want to “get nauti” we can spin it, among other things. And now that we’ve dispensed with the story behind our logo, we can expand your nautical knowledge by providing you with the history of the ship’s wheel, with which to impress your friends the next time you are showcasing your nautical chops.
Long before the ship’s wheel came into play, man had to figure out how to steer whatever floating conveyance he first ventured out on the water with. This probably became especially important after an early explorer or two tentatively put out to sea with a strong offshore breeze and were last seen disappearing over the horizon. A scenario like this likely led to the discovery of the paddle, and some intrepid mariner from way back when figured out that not only could the flat piece of a board propel whatever served as a boat way back then, but could also change the boat’s direction.
Bingo, and with a little rope work and/or other attachment methods, the rudder was born and nautical engineering made a great leap forward. These early rudders, whether attached to the side of the boat or directly on the stern, were adopted by just about every ancient culture around the world and, in various configurations, served as a mainstay of steering technology up to at least the 1600s, and can still be found around the world today.
The addition of a “tiller” proved immensely helpful by providing more leverage to move the rudder and allowed the helmsman more options for line of sight steering. This innovation was thought to be of Viking origin circa 1000 AD, which was then improved upon by the English in the 1400s with a whipstaff, another extension that further improved leverage and helmsman sight lines.
That iconic ship’s wheel didn’t come into use until at least the 1600s, but nautical historians can only conclusively prove the first known usage of a wheel in 1703. This date is based upon underwater archeological evidence from a sunken British warship providing evidence of both a wheel and whipstaff (back-up perhaps), and several 1703-dated British Royal Navy ship models sporting wheels.
So, with such limited evidence regarding early ship wheels, no one knows exactly when or who invented the concept of connecting a rudder with a wheel via ropes and pulleys. However, given the 1703 evidence, most historians attribute the invention to the Royal Navy.
And with that knowledge you can now call yourself a maritime historian!