We are asking everyone to type in the wind direction just as written, because the more complex writings are not from our familiar 16 point compass rose. Any wind directions that are one, two or three capital letters with no punctuation are from the familiar 16 point compass rose.
A picture with better resolution is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Compass_rose.png
Any wind directions that are punctuated represent the other directions from the 32 point compass rose. These may be written as NxE, NbyE, NbE, N'E, or N/E.
A picture with better resolution is at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Compass_Card.png
NE is 45 degrees clockwise from due North. NbE (or NxE or N'E or whatever) is only 11.25 degrees from due North. This makes a big difference.
Other things also appear in this column, such as 'Calm', 'Nil', 'Light Airs' and 'Variable' that must be typed out. Things like 'N'ly' or 'N'y' are short for 'Northerly' which is not from any compass rose, but something a little more vague. Type it as written rather than guess what precise direction was actually happening at the time.
I hope this helps us understand what our original lieutenants were observing and recording.
ADD-ON: Life and the HMS Torch log-keeper have just taught me that there is also a 128 Point Compass Rose. Not that I personally, landlubber that I am, ever will use this much detail.
But if you ever see a wind direction with fractions in it (N1
E), transcribe it as is (N 1/2 E).
Note from Philip: "One final wrinkle to beware of - the half and quarter points can each be referred to by two different names - 'W 1/2 S' is also 'W by S 1/2 W' for example." So Type What You See.
(Above: 128 Point Compass Rose from Naval-History.net Ships List