Otto - Helmsman for the HMS Bounty


First off, I want to say a grand thank you to Milton, Rob, etc. for the work that went into the "Bounty" and to the "Bubble Sextant" guys (thank you Dave and Mark). As a quasi-invalid which has physical and mental limitations, my life has been greatly enhanced because of these works (and others) which allow me to experience being a mariner (at least virtually) which I will never know otherwise.

I will have more to say below about my voyage experiences below, but wanted to make a request. You will read my story below, but as great an adventure as it was I did not have "Otto" (automatic pilot) as a helmsman to keep us on course in the off watches. During my watch at the wheel I kept the vessel on course easy enough. After eight bells on what would have been Otto's watch, not having have a helmsman at the ship's wheel allowed the course to wander which required much course correcting when it was my turn.

Q: Is there a simple gauge available which will Otto-matically keep a heading or make appropriate corrections I can incorporate into the Bounty? Actually one that would be able to make corrections in the rudder axis to steer the ship back onto the desired heading would be great. I am aware the Sperry AP in the DC-3 actually made the corrections in rudder deflections in real life which I heard was not possible in FSX where the ailerons make the corrections. On the Bounty the use of deflections to the rudder via my twist-stick axis does change the heading of the ship, so I am wondering if this can be incorporated into a gauge? There would have been various helmsmen taking constant station at the ship's wheel to keep the ship heading in the right direction. Given this, it does not seem to me to be cheating to have an A.I. "helmsman" making steering corrections when the heading begins to wander. Thoughts?

Now to my story...

I have been sailing the HMS Bounty for months in the Caribbean and am making my way to the Panama Canal to head to Hawaii. It has been a wonderful adventure since I am not using any GPS, etc. for navigation having restricted myself to the sextant and plotting my fixes in Google Earth. I found the sextant to be quite useful. Read on.

I originally started in Corpus Christi Bay navigating to Galveston Bay and went as far as I could up the Houston Ship Channel and returned. After laying off a few days off Point Bolivar I headed southeast Dec. 31, 2017 @ 1630z intending to make the Dry Tortugas area in the the western Florida Keys. The first one is Loggerhead Key and it is only a half-mile long and quite low. After many days of sailing and taking shot after shot with the sextant and finally figuring out magnetic declination effects I finally saw the island and dropped anchor just west of Loggerhead Key island on Jan. 11, 2018 @ 1400z. After sailing for 693nm for eleven days with only the stars (simulated in the bubble sextant) I was able to find that tiny half-mile Island in the eastern Gulf of Mexico! I was elated. Personally, I think this is a real tribute to the ACES team and model and gauge developers and artists. I have to admit after thousands and thousands of hours since 1996 this achievement was not only the most challenging experience of my flight simulation career, it was the most fulfilling. Thank you. Once I can get Otto consigned to the ship I will be tracing many famous voyages, including circumnavigating the globe like Magellan, Cook, etc.
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Staff member
Resource contributor
Hi ct.

I'm not a gauge guy, but I am amazed by your story. A great use for the sim! I hope you get your answer.
Thanks Dick,

I have had a blast actually navigating amongst the simulated waters of the Gulf like the mariners of old. The fascinating thing to me is the angle to the extremes of the island is only a spread of 0.05 degrees which is only 0.0149% (0.000149) of the 360-degree compass! Actually hitting that narrow of a target almost seven hundred nautical miles away with simulated world, simulated ship and a simulated sextant is amazing and a tremendous tribute to the developers, modelers and artists and all of that as a free offering for the enjoyment of me and thousands of people they will never know or meet for generations.

If I can conscript (shanghai?) Otto I will be taking my journeys to a new level. :) My guess is you already know how to navigate the HMS Bounty with the bubble sextant. If I can be of any assistance just let me know.


Resource contributor
Hello "codetrucker",

I stumbled onto your post by accident (I don't read this particular forum usually), but since the subject refers to Milton Shupe's Bounty, it caught my eye.
I've read your posts several times, but I still don't have a clue what you are asking for.
Maybe it's your "proza" way of describing it, or my lack of the English language (or lack of sailing terms in general) .
Like I don't have a clue what you mean by "Bubble sextant" or "After eight bells on what would have been Otto's watch …." .

But it sounds like you're asking for a gauge that (in FSX terms) automates kind of "heading hold" over a long distance, to sail to a specified set of lon/lat coordinates in the FSX scenery world.
Right ?

If so, if you start a private conversation with me, maybe I can help .
Because it sounds pretty intreging to solve such a "navigation" problem with gauge automation for the Bounty .


Rob Barendregt
Hello Rob,

I am glad you "stumbled" :) I will PM you soon.

The short answer is a "heading hold."

Here is my reasoning...
  • Changing the heading of the ship is by deflection of the rudder (via using the twist of my flightstick just like in an airplane).
  • Over time, the ship's heading wanders off (deviates) and it is necessary to manually steer the ship back to course using the rudder.
  • The goal is to automate the flightstick "twist" so I don't have to correct the heading manually.
  • I am hoping to find or make a gauge which would recognize the heading, note any deviation and adjust the rudder to return the ship back to the desired heading. I have begun the work on the general logic for the automation since the recognition and adjusting has an upper (359 degrees) and lower limit (000 degrees) which must be taken into account, i.e., if the desired heading is 355 degrees and the ship has wandered to 005 degrees. Returning it back to 355 will require handling crossing the 000 degree limit.
I will post back here very soon with some explanation of the jargon used in my post. I figure if it was confusing to you it will probably be confusing to others as well. By the way, what do you mean by "proza?"

Be back soon,
Time for some clarification of terms...

Otto - "Otto" equals "auto" in autopilot. It is a nickname used in the USA and other places to personify the autopilot.

Bubble Sextant - First, a sextant was/is a tool in navigation which measures the angle of a celestial body (Sun, Moon, stars) from the horizon. The view port has a split view with a configuration of mirrors in the same view. One view is of the celestial body and the other is of the horizon. It takes some skill to ensure the sextant is held steady. Sliding the arm along the scale (at bottom of the sextant) until the view of the celestial object "sits" on the view of the horizon. The scale shows the angle measurement. When taking a "shot" (a sighting) is done correctly at the exact time and height the angle identified on the sextant equals the latitude of the observer. This was not only for use on the seas. As long as one can see the horizon on a large lake it will work. It can be used on land in combination with a small pool of liquid as a reflective surface like Mercury or "Quicksilver." This works because the liquid seeks its own level like water in a glass, but the reading must be cut in half. Due to the impractical nature of using a reflecting pool device and a nautical sextant in an aircraft, the bubble sextant was invented by necessity. It worked by watching the position of a bubble as a "horizon." Have you seen a bubble or "spirit" level used in construction? It is the same principle. When the bubble was centered in the view port of the bubble sextant, the device was level and an accurate measurement of the angle to the celestial body could be taken. FYI - the geometry is based on a circle. The device is called a "sextant" because it measures one-sixth of the circle. There are also "quadrants" which measure one-fourth (90 degrees) and "octants" and they measure one-eighth (45 degrees) of the celestial arc. Thanks to the talents of Dave Bitzer and Mark Beaumont we have a working model (with some caveats for simulated reality). Take a look here...
FS9 -
Try to fly from KLAX to PHNL in a transatlantic propliner or jet (without a GPS). It is quite rewarding to see Hawaii come into view after 10 hours of flight. Take a look at this Youtube video in two parts...

Ship's Bells - It was the job of a pre-GPS ship's captain to get a ship from one place to the other. In the age of sail, the crew manipulated the sails at the direction of the Second Mate or "the Mate" depending on the heading and the winds. The ship's heading was kept on course via a Helmsman who would constantly adjust the ship's rudder via the ship's wheel or tiller. There were effects of current drift and wind drift, but the helmsman was not responsible for those concerns. That was the responsibility of the ship's Navigator who was probably an officer too. The Navigator would take a shot with a sextant and plot the fix on a map. He would then take into account the drifts, etc. and plot a new heading. This in turn, would be passed onto the helmsman to maintain. The crew was divided into "watches" of four hour increments on a twenty four hour clock (0000 hrs to 2359 hrs) with one watch being split into two "Dog" watches which meant there were six watches. A ship is a 24-hour-a-day responsibility (which I try to mimic) and the captain had to sleep sometime, as well as the subordinate officers, mates and crew. The subordinate officers as acting-captains would oversee the various responsibilities. One thing to keep in mind is Noon (1200 hrs) can be identified at any place on the globe through a simple process as long as the Sun is visible. Besides the helmsman manning the ship's wheel or tiller, he was also responsible to keep time via an hourglass which timed out a half-hour (30 mins.) interval and would then be flipped to restart the cycle. When the hourglass was flipped, one of the eight bells would be chimed by the helmsman. Given the imprecise nature of this kind of human task, the bell schedule would be "reset" at noon of each day as long as the Sun was visible. Life on the sea did not require a lot of precision, so this worked very well. Here is the list of the watches...
  • First Watch = 8 PM to Midnight (2000 - 0000)
  • Middle Watch = Midnight to 4 AM (0000 - 0400)
  • Morning Watch = 4 AM to 8 AM (0400 - 0800)
  • Forenoon Watch = 8 AM to Noon (0800 - 1200)
  • Afternoon Watch = Noon to 4 PM (1200 - 1600)
  • First Dog Watch = 4 PM to 6 PM (1600 - 1800)
  • Second Dog Watch = 6 PM to 8 PM (1800 - 2000)
... and here is the schedule of bell chimes...
  • 00:30 1 bell
  • 01:00 2 bells
  • 01:30 2 bells, pause, 1 bell
  • 02:00 2 bells, pause, 2 bells
  • 02:30 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 1 bell
  • 03:00 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 2 bells
  • 03:30 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 1 bell
  • 04:00 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 2 bells, pause, 2 bells
Take a look here for more information...
If anyone is interested you can download a ship's bells app (search "Marine Bells") for iPhone. Android users will have to check to see if a comparable app is available. Personally, I have enjoyed this app chiming all the bells; in fact, I am trying to make the paradigm shift in my mind to not mentally "translate" the bells into an o'clock, but recognize them as "bells" (time of day). Does this make sense?

I hope this clears up the ambiguity and undefined nature of my posts. Please let me know if anyone needs any further help.

Bon voyage!
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Also, while we are a bit off topic from the OP, I would like to add the following for the mariners-in-heart around here.
  1. How to sail a Full-Rigged-Ship - The Sørlandet Part 1
  2. How to sail a Full-Rigged-Ship - The Sørlandet Part 2
  3. How to sail a Full-Rigged-Ship - The Sørlandet Part 3
The above is significant because the maneuvers explained in the Youtube videos can be performed with the HMS Bounty, albeit in a simplified manner. "Wearing ship" and "tacking" are the only ways to sail the Bounty "into the wind" given its inability to sail close to the wind just like its real life counterparts.

FYI - Learning and knowing the nautical techniques of marine navigation will complement anyone's aviation navigation skills and visa versa.

Okay, I think I am done hijacking my own thread (at least for awhile). Back to the "Otto the Helmsman" gauge discussion.

Take care,
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Hi Paul,

Thanks for the compliment and the gauge. I installed the JELAIR gauge in FS9 and FSX and t seems to have done what was needed.

I will have to experiment to see if the gauge hides a temporary computed lat/lon ahead of the ship which it heads to or if it deflects the rudder to keep the ship on the desired heading. This is important because the programming method used will dictate the drift and magnetic declination factors I will have to include in the navigation calculations.

It also seems I am garnering a small following. I wonder if anyone would be interested in following my voyages by posting something like a log?

Thanks again,
Hi Dick,

Well, if anyone you and others(?) are interested in keeping tabs on these voyages a blog is our only option, eh? I haven't been ignoring your comment; on the contrary, I am weighing the options. I am intending on keeping this adventure perpetual as long as health allows, so I want to make the right decision from the start. :)

I'll report back once I get things going.

Take care.
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Thank you Dick, I hope so too. :)

[off topic, sort of]

I have been experimenting with numerous possible scenarios on how to proceed with blog for the voyages with the HMS Bounty. Should I...
  • ...set the time frame in the present or should I sail from the year 1789?
  • ...make the setting to be fiction or historical fiction?
  • ...choose my own itinerary for my voyages or take requests from the followers?
That's all I can think of for now. Feel free to offer any comment or suggestions. Like I said previously, I intend to keep the Bounty busy for the foreseeable future and I would like to do it right from the get-go.

Thanks for your attention.

[/off topic, sort of]

Take care.
[still off topic]

Thanks Dick, that is my plan and I have decided to create a blog to log my voyages on Wordpress.

(Post edited to remove unnecessary text. Contacting M. Shupe directly per Rob B.'s suggestion below.)

[/still off topic]
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Resource contributor
Why don't you start a Private Conversation with Milton (so he gets Alerted via EMail) ?
I don't think he's reading this particular forum regularly without a trigger … (me neither)

As explained in Email, I have no objection whatsoever to you making/publishing a blog on sailing the Bounty in Flightsim.



Resource contributor
Received, honored, and replied. :) Sounds like great fun, and so happy that you are enjoying our creation. Love to have the "otto" as well so will install the aforementioned. Thanks

EDIT: Just looked at the description of the "Autopilot for ships" linked above. Rob, in his management of the ship's responses to wind speeds, direction, and sails deployed, controls the ships speed. Otto cannot do that. Hopefully, it will help follow a "flight plan".
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@Milton - I received your PM with great enthusiasm! I will weigh anchor and go forth! :)
As far as Otto handing sails, no need since the Sail Management handles that. I can say in my testing on FS9 (all I had running at the time) Rob's addition of "Otto the Helmsman" (heading-hold) worked great. The fact that Rob's handiwork introduces drift and wander(?) is even better because it demands the Navigator keeps on his toes. The last thing we really want for realism is the Bounty to sail a "flight plan."

@Everyone - As a bit of a teaser and a private preview of what is coming before the world sees it... will open its doors later this week with a voyage of "Twenty Thousand Leagues *Above* The Sea" (my apologies to Monsieur Verne). The plan will be to follow the Nautilus' aquatic trail, albeit on the top of the seas and oceans and a mite slower to boot. I had always wanted to do this ever since I read the "under the sea" version some two decades ago. I guess I was just waiting on Milton, Rob, etc. ;)
Since I am creating a fictional, but credible backstory to bring us from 1789 to the present time and I have some additional housekeeping on the blog, the site is presently unavailable. I will post back here when it goes live.
FYI - In the future I will be tracing other literary tales of tall ships like "Two Years Before the Mast" and the like. Further, the spartan sailing tutorial above will find an expanded home on the website too (thanks for the idea, Dick). While I do intend to keep it more as a "ship's log," I hope I will provide a fair amount of enjoyment as my mind will "see" and "hear" things while manning the helm on those lonely night, Middle Watches.... Wait a minute... was that the siren singing of a mermaid?

Take care.