Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Logo; Click to return to our Home Page.

Weather Gage

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: War of 1812

Grade Level: 5-12

Common Core Standards
RI.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
RS.4. Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific or technical context relevant to grade level texts and topics

Content Areas: Reading, Social Studies, Math

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minute period for introduction, one or more periods of game play

Learning Goals: Students will learn the importance of wind direction on the motion of sailing ships. They will also understand the definition of “Weather Gage” and how this affected warships in combat.

Description/Sequence:

  1. Discuss the importance of the wind for ships in the age of sail. Point out that both the strength and direction of the wind are important facts for sailboats.
  2. Read together or have students read independently the article about “Weather Gage.” Students with little or no on-water experience may need additional explanation and clarification of terms and the dynamics of sailing.
  3. In small groups or individually, have students answer the questions based on their reading.
  4. When students have finished, have them share their responses. Clarify any errors or disagreements.
  5. Invite students to try the Weather Gage game. Be sure to point out that the game is intended to point out the advantages of having the Weather Gage, not to be fair.

Assessments: Informal evaluation of effort and accuracy of reading responses.

Materials/Resources: Weather Gage worksheets and Game

Special Considerations: Weather Gage is a complicated concept even for experienced sailors. Encourage students to embrace the complexity and skill necessary to be a successful sea captain rather than the frustration and time spent in acquiring those skills.
The teacher will need to prepare one or more game boards and spinners in advance.
The game is not fair. The player with the weather gage should always win or chase their opponent off the board.

Extensions: Students may want to extend the Weather Gage game by enlarging the game board.
Students may want to learn more about sailing. The same principles of wind strength and direction apply to modern sailboats.
Students might be interested in the chase scene from the film “Master and Commander.” In it the HMS Surprise must run from the French ship because it does not have the Weather Gage. However, through skillful maneuvering through the night they regain the advantage and pursue their opponent.