Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tell me what you think about bells...

Hello Folks,

As valued clients and/or friends of the Bellingham Bell Company I am turning to you all in a time of need. I have been asked to write an article regarding the bell, its history, its historical uses and most importantly; here is where you all come in, what importance and what role does the modern bell play in your experience?

The article, if worthy, will be published firstly in “Yachting Matters” a limited print Bi-Annual publication (roughly 2-3000 copies) distributed by hand to Yachts crews and owners in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Many of you own yachts, large or modest, some of you serve in our Armed Services and the one thing you have in common would be that for some significance you wished to possess a bell and use it in your own unique way.

So what I am asking you all to do? Please post your Comments ANONYMOUSLY Here with your thoughts on bells as they serve you today. Here are some bullet points to consider in your response:

What makes a bell important to me?
What will I use the bell for?
How does the bell make me feel?
How do others respond to the bell?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

In a politically correct world that is afraid to take sides, offend, or be too loud, the bell is an independent spirit that declares itself with confidence, clarity, and conviction. When I hear it, the bell's spirit reminds me of many souls that have used bells in their confident and often hard won quests. Each ring of a bell is like a human life in that it serves a lasting purpose and eventually fades back into the earth.

USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CG 57) said...

Bells on Ships:
Bells have a centuries-long tradition of varied use in the navies and merchant
fleets of the world. Signaling, keeping time, and sounding alarms are important in a
ship's routine and readiness. Their functional and ceremonial uses have made them a
symbol of considerable significance to the United States Navy.

Origins:
Bells cast from metal were first developed in the Bronze Age, achieving a
particularly high level of sophistication in China. During the European Middle Ages,
they were used by Christians to signal divine services and make special
announcements. Christian and Buddhist monasteries historically used them to regulate
daily activity, conceptually similar to later timekeeping in the U.S. Navy. The
Catholics consider bells a representation of the voice of God and of paradise.

One of the earliest recorded mentions of the shipboard bell was on the British ship
Grace Dieu about 1485. Some ten years later an inventory of the English ship Regent
reveals that this ship carried two "wache bells".

Timekeeping:
Before the advent of the chronometer time at sea was measured by the trickle of sand
through a half - hour glass. One of the ship's boys had the duty of watching the
glass and turning it when the sand had run out. When he turned the glass, he struck
the bell as a signal that he had performed this vital function. From this ringing of
the bell as the glass was turned evolved the tradition of striking the bell once at
the end of the first half hour of a four hour watch, twice after the first hour,
etc., until eight bells marked the end of the four hour watch. The process was
repeated for the succeeding watches. This age-old practice of sounding the bell on
the hour and half hour has its place in the nuclear and missile oriented United
States Navy at the dawn of the Twenty-First Century, regulating daily routine, just
as it did on our historic vessels under sail in the late Eighteenth Century.

Safety and Communication:
The sounding of a ship's bell found a natural application as a warning signal to
other vessels in poor visibility and fog. In 1676 one Henry Teonage serving as a
chaplain in the British Mediterranean Fleet recorded , "so great a fog that we were
fain to ring our bells, beat drums, and fire muskets often to keep us from falling
foul one upon another". Ringing a ship's bell in fog became customary. In 1858,
British Naval Regulations made it mandatory in that function. Today, maritime law
requires all ships to carry an efficient bell.

American ships of the Revolutionary War period and our early national years adopted
many of the practices and traditions of the British Royal Navy, including the use of
bells. In 1798, Paul Revere cast a bell weighing 242 pounds for the frigate
Constitution, also known today by its nickname "Old Ironsides".

It is of interest to note that the use of a ship's bell contributed to the richest
single prize captured by the American Navy during the War of Independence. While a
Continental Squadron under Commodore Whipple lay-to, wrapped in Newfoundland fog in
a July morning in 1779, the sound of ships' bells and an occasional signal gun could
be heard a short distance off. When the fog lifted the Americans discovered that
they had fallen in with the richly-laden enemy Jamaica Fleet. Ten ships were
captured as prizes, which - together with their cargo - were valued at more than a
million dollars.

Alarms:
The bell is an essential link in a ship's emergency alarm system. In the event of a
fire, the bell is rung rapidly for at least five seconds, followed by one, two or
three rings to indicate the location of a fire - Forward, amidships, or aft
respectively.

Navy Ceremonies and Events:
The bell is used to signal the presence of important persons. When the ship's
captain, a flag officer, or other important person arrives or departs, watch
standers make an announcement to the ship and ring the bell. This tradition extends
to major naval command transitions, often held aboard vessels associated with the
command.

Bells in religious ceremonies:
The bell's connection to religious origins continues. Originating in the British
Royal Navy, it is a custom to baptize a child under the ship's bell; sometimes the
bell is used as a christening bowl, filled with water for the ceremony. Once the
baptism is completed, the child's name may be inscribed inside the bell. The bell
remains with the ship while in service and with the Department of the Navy after
decommissioning. In this way, an invisible tie is created between the country, the
ship and its citizens.

Bells have been loaned or provided to churches as memorials to those vessels; this
practice has been discontinued in favor of displaying bells with namesake states or
municipalities, with museums, and with naval commands and newer namesake vessels.

Maintenance and upkeep:
Traditionally, the bell is maintained by the ship's cook, while the ship's whistle
is maintained by the ship's bugler.
In actual practice, the bell is maintained by a person of the ship's division
charged with the upkeep of that part of the ship where the bell is located. In such
a case a deck seaman or quartermaster striker or signalman striker may have the
bell-shining duty.

Disposition and continuing Navy use:
In addition to its shipboard roles, the bell serves a ceremonial and memorial
function after the ship has served its Navy career. U.S. Navy bells are part of the
many artifacts removed from decommissioned vessels preserved by the Naval Historical
Center. They may be provided on loan to new namesake ships; naval commands with an
historical mission or functional connection; and to museums and other institutions
that are interpreting specific historical themes and displays of naval history.
Bells remain the permanent property of the US Government and the Department of the
Navy. These serve to inspire and to remind our naval forces and personnel of their
honor, courage, and commitment to the defense of our nation.

Bells remain a powerful and tangible reminder of the history, heritage, and
accomplishments of the naval service.

Anonymous said...

I just received the "Josetke" Bell and it is absolutely beautiful, all I had hoped for. Many thanks to your artists.

I will send you a picture after the bell has been installed (the boat is in san Diego at the moment).

Meanwhile, I would like you to know the importance of the bell to me. "Josetke" was my wife's nickname. We were both born in Antwerp. We were married for forty years, sharing many adventures throughout the world. Tragically, my wife and companion passed away six years ago. So, the bell is in her memory...

WJHT

Anonymous said...

When it comes to the subject of the bell for the YP 655 (now St. Elias) I had Bellingham commissioned to make this !2" bell with the YP 655 embossed in military block lettering as it was the boats number while it was in service at Annapolis Naval Academy. There are so few character boats which when you see them one knows that they are looking at something that stands out in a crowd. So it is with the St. Elias as every attempt has been made to keep her as original military look on the outside while the interior has all the comforts of any home. The boat has a place on the fly bridge just forward of the main mast where the bell should go. As one might expect the bell went the way to unknown sources during a brief moth ball stage. I am quite sure that some pawn shop near San Diego CA naval base saw it pass through! I still maintain the eight signal halyards and one gaff halyard to a yardarm along with a fife rail complete with brass belaying pins which leaves it which that "Old Tin Can Navy" look, and it is only befitting that it should have a proper bell to complete that look.
The bell was delivered to the boat on the West Coast and the former owner was there to take delivery of the bell. I called Tony and asked him how the bell came out and his comment to me was "That's not a bell! That's a piece of art!" The bell weighs 52 pounds and gives it that throaty sound which can be heard two valleys over. I must say that the bell exceeds my best expectations.

Thank You Bellingham,

JH - St. Elias

Jolnir said...

No pictures of the Valhalla's bell yet, Randy! I'm still pondering proper placement, complicated by the recent arrival of a Fatty Knees 9 that will need chocks. I think we'll wind up with a fairing block placement on the mast. You'll be the second to know.

The bell is the voice of the boat. As the Valhalla comes into its home port, or arrives in an out-island harbor, it will be the sound of the magnificent bell that you all cast for me that heralds our imminence. Would I have that voice be a tinny, shoddy, disreputable clank? I hardly think so! Onlookers to the Valhalla will hear a dulcet tone as resonant as her image itself, floating across the waters. Ahh, the beauty of the moment, if I could only convey it properly.

Jolnir said...

No pictures of the Valhalla's bell yet, Randy! I'm still pondering proper placement, complicated by the recent arrival of a Fatty Knees 9 that will need chocks. I think we'll wind up with a fairing block placement on the mast. You'll be the second to know.

The bell is the voice of the boat. As the Valhalla comes into its home port, or arrives in an out-island harbor, it will be the sound of the magnificent bell that you all cast for me that heralds our imminence. Would I have that voice be a tinny, shoddy, disreputable clank? I hardly think so! Onlookers to the Valhalla will hear a dulcet tone as resonant as her image itself, floating across the waters. Ahh, the beauty of the moment, if I could only convey it properly.