Advice For A Young Watch Officer

ship watch-officer-bridge-wing
“Skill at the helm of a ship, the skill of (watchstanding) technique, is something wider, embracing honesty and grace and rule… made up of accumulated tradition, kept alive by individual pride, rendered exact by professional opinion, and, like the higher arts, it spurred on and sustained by discriminating praise. This is why the attainment of proficiency, the pushing of your skill with attention to the most delicate shades of excellence, is a matter of vital concern.” Joseph Conrad, Mirror of the Sea.

By John Konrad (gCaptain) A new ship can be an intimidating place for a deck officer so here are a few tips to get you started and to remind you of what is important when you show up for watch.

– When underway do not hit anything, anytime, for any reason.
– Ears, Eyes and ECDIS in that order.
– Prudence takes practice.
– Make the coffee twice as strong and twice as often as necessary.
– In heavy traffic, if time slows down you are ahead, if time speeds up, you are falling behind.
– Always smile when the weather is good.
– The VHF is a tool, not a solution.
– Poor penmanship is not an excuse for poor penmanship.
– Your purpose is no less important when you are sick or tired or just plain bored.
– Your margin of error is always six inches… measured between the ears.
– Watchstanding is simple until you make it complicated.
– Never sit down when your eyelids get heavy.
– “By all available means” includes all six of your senses.
– Pay attention to what is most important.
– Never let your draft exceed your depth… even when you are ashore.
– Always be learning.
– When nothing is going right consider going left.
– Learning is defined as increasing your mental capacity to take effective action.
– Judgment is key. Without judgment, data means nothing.
– Yes, sometimes you can smell danger.
Observe, Orient, Decide, Act… rinse, lather and repeat.
– Don’t forget to admire the scenery.
– Arrive early and request late check out both on watch and at hotels.
– Find time to stand a watch in the Engine room.
– Speed and time are relative to the situation but your ability to stay calm and focused is not.
– Never hit a ship, the shore, a shipmate or the bottle.
-Call the captain more often than necessary. The good ones will appreciate it and the bad ones will be annoyed.
– Observe brief moments of silence so you may hear what your brain is trying to tell you.
– Spend time playing in heavy traffic on small boats.
– Respect your watchmates’ pet peeves. Especially the stupid ones.
– The COLREGS are your bible. Read a chapter every Sunday and a short passage before your evening prayer.
– Go read Part 1 of this article: Advice For A Young Ship’s Officer.