Weems and Plath
The Weems & Plath Story
Capt. Philip Van Horn
Capt. Philip Van Horn Weems
We visited the Weem's and Plath stand yesterday and were told of the companies "Yard Sale". Today we jumped up and went to 214 Eastern Avenue, Annapolis, Maryland 21403 for me to get my new cockpit Barometer and Clock. My originals were small, brass, very pretty - probably only meant for show - and had become so rusty I couldn't adjust them - binned they were some time ago. The ones I found here are weather proof, slick and black at a third list price and we also found a couple of mountable holders - just what I wanted. We had time to bimble so we found out about the company.
In May of 1919, eight years before Lindbergh’s famous solo flight, three small planes set out from Rockaway Naval Airstation, New York headed for Plymouth, Devon in an attempt to make the first trans-Atlantic flight. Only one of them made it. Twenty-five hundred feet below on board a station tracking ship, a young navigator, Lt. Cdr. Philip Van Horn Weems, US. Navy, gazed up and thought there must be a safer and simpler way than using a small armada of ships as beacons for the flight.
My new Barometer and Clock
For centuries, man had relied on the heavens, on the circling planets and the constant horizon to guide him in his travels. An accurate clock, a compass, a sextant and charts were the necessary tools for plotting a course, but these required time for computations and a place to spread out and study the charts. The timeworn system of celestial navigation was ill suited to the cockpit, but the airplane was here to stay. Lt. Cdr. Weems, a brilliant, inventive and determined young man knew as he tracked that first flight that navigation was his destiny, and he went on to revolutionise the field with his ideas, writings and inventions. The challenge he undertook was complex and involved the invention of new methods and new tools. It required a horizon system independent of the sea horizon that was often not visible from the cockpit of a plane. Weems worked for years to develop a new kind of sextant and to find someone to manufacture it. When an accurate timepiece was needed, Weems invented the Second Setting Watch with its inner rotating dial. He produced the famous Weems Plotter, the more precise and easier to use plotting tool, which is still the companies most popular plotter.
All his life, Weems continued to improve the instruments and broaden the applications of his methods until they came to include radio astronomy, polar exploration and even space navigation. He published numerous articles and taught navigation at the Naval Academy in the 1930’s. He went on to establish his own school in Annapolis to teach The Weems System of Navigation. Charles Lindbergh studied with Weems before attempting his trans-Atlantic flight. Admiral Byrd, a classmate of Weems at the Naval Academy, came to Weems for instruction before setting out for the North Pole, as did many others. A century earlier, Carl Plath’s company in Hamburg, Germany - C. Plath, had been manufacturing the finest commercial sextants and magnetic compasses available. C. Plath developed the first gyrocompass installed on a commercial vessel in 1913. Weems' school for navigation had become the purveyor of Weems’ instruments. It was a natural development for Weems’ company to become the North American source for C. Plath’s fine instruments; hence the alliance of two distinguished names – Weems and Plath. The exceptional workmanship that both Philip Van Horn Weems and Carl Plath required in developing the manufacturing of precision navigation tools remains at the heart of all the company products today. Today, Weems & Plath is still located in the Chesapeake Bay town of Annapolis where it began so many years ago. They are committed to supplying the world with the finest nautical products available, while maintaining the high standards of service that have distinguished Weem’s and Plath from its very inception. I was delighted to see our very own Tamaya sextant on the shelf as their sextant of choice.
Talking of instruments I have always been fascinated by Barographs (impractical on Beez) and Stormglasses - Bear bought me one for Christmas. I returned the compliment and bought him a baby Miners Lamp.
This plaque will sit in the drawer and be whipped out when visitors to Beez Neez get interested in our new stormglass - watch this space as to whether it works
Weems and Plath "Yard Sale". Then off to the boat show to meet Bill and Millie for lunch in the courtesy 'Bus'
ALL IN ALL A BRILLIANT AND INTERESTING START TO THE DAY