Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ship Life - Standing Watch

Standing watch is what defines ship life for me. Standing watch means you are part of the group working to keep the ship running and safe. 

The day is broken into four hour watches. Each watch is covered by the same group of people known as a "watch group". These people end up being the ones you spend most of your time with as you work together and are on the same schedule so have the same downtime as well. As well as the group of deckhands each watch will have an officer and an AB on duty. My watch is 4-8 and before you ask am or pm I will say both!

So, what do we do during watch? There are four physical positions that need to be filled at all times:

Helm - as you may have guessed this is the person helming, or steering, the ship. If we are in a narrow channel or river an experienced helmsperson will be on (the narrower our course the more experienced the person) but in open water everyone is given a chance to helm. There is no auto pilot on board so when we are underway there is always someone at the helm. 

Stand-by - kind of like co-pilot. This person is available to help handle the helm in stormy weather or to take over should the helmsperson suddenly faint away or something. 

Look out - standing on the bow, watching for other ships, fishing buoys or other things that might interfere with our safe passage. 

Safety - twice an hour we walk through the ship to make sure all is safe. Mainly we check for fires and floods. 

We rotate through these positions generally every hour or half hour and generally in a specific order although the pro crew may change things depending on other work needing to be done and who is available and able. 

In addition to the physicals the people on watch are available to work on sail trimming, maintenance and cleaning. There will definitely be cleaning every day. My watch group cleans the heads (toilets) which isn't as bad as it sounds and is actually my favourite cleaning job on board. 

At the end of a watch we will come together to hand over the care of the ship to the next group as well as debrief them on any pertinent information. As part of the Norwegian tradition on board we will wish the next group a good watch in Norwegian. "God vacht!" 

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