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THE WATCH OFFICER
THE Officer of the Watch or the Watch Officer, as he is usually termed in the Merchant Service, is the deck officer who has charge of the vessel while under way at sea. On other occasions, if stopped through trouble, or because of communication with other vessels, or on occasions requiring special maneuvering, as in coming in and out of port, rescues at sea, etc., the Master assumes full charge.
The Watch Officers. The watch officers are usually the Chief, Second and Third Mates, on vessels of moderate tonnage. In larger craft different watches are arranged. Then the Chief Mate may stand no regular bridge watch, and the Second, Third, and Fourth Mates take this duty.
In some liners it is the custom to style the watch officers, all "second" officers; namely Senior, Junior, and Extra, Second Officers. These are usually all master mariners. Junior officers of the watch are also on the bridge, attend to the conning of the course, the working of navigation and bearings, and the keeping of the bridge log, which is signed by the senior watch officer at the end of the watch.
Importance of Watch Duty. For a long time a slipshod method of keeping watch prevailed in certain steamers, the outgrowth of second-rate sailing-ship practice, where thrifty, but ill-informed, masters, insisted on their watch officers keeping “busy" during the day.
It was thought advisable by these gentlemen to have the officer on the bridge“ with nothing to do " attend to a bit of sewing on canvas, or help out with the painting, and what not. Of course such masters were doomed to the scrap heap where they belong. A few miles added to the coal bill, through slovenly day-time steering, with kinks in the course as well as in the seams sewed by the misused officer, soon brought about reform. Added to this a certain danger, such as running down submerged hulls, and the like—with the thing happening once or twice, helped to wake up owners. Also, the bumping of two of these "economical ” (and lubberly) craft, may have helped too.
FROM NAVIGATION LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES
The board of local inspectors shall make an entry in the certificate of inspection of every ocean and coastwise sea-going merchant vessel of the United States propelled by machinery, and every ocean-going vessel carrying passengers, the minimum number of licensed deck officers required for her safe navigation according to the following scale:
That no such vessel shall be navigated unless she shall have on board and in her service one duly licensed master. (Mar. 3, 1913; sec. 2.)
That every such vessel of one thousand gross tons and over, propelled by machinery, shall have in her service and on board three licensed mates, who shall stand in three watches while such vessel is being navigated, unless such vessel is engaged in a run of less than four hundred miles from the port of departure to the port of final destination, then such vessel shall have two licensed mates; and every vessel of two hundred gross tons and less than one thousand gross tons, propelled by machinery, shall have two licensed mates.
That every such vessel of one hundred gross tons and under two hundred gross tons, propelled by machinery, shall have on board and in her service one licensed mate; but if such vessel is engaged in a trade in which the time required to make the passage from the port of departure to the port of destination exceeds twenty-four hours, then such vessel shall have two licensed mates.
That nothing in this section shall be so construed as to prevent local inspectors from increasing the number of licensed officers on any vessel subject to the inspection laws of the United States if, in their judgment, such vessel is not sufficiently manned for her safe navigation: Provided, That this section shall not apply to fishing or whaling vessels, yachts, or motor boats as defined in the Act of June ninth, nineteen hundred and ten.
Rest before going on watch.
It shall be unlawful for the master, owner, agent, or other person having authority, to permit an officer of any vessel to take charge of the deck watch of the vessel upon leaving or immediately after leaving port, unless such officer shall have had at least six hours off duty within the twelve hours immediately preceding the time of sailing, and no licensed officer on any ocean or coastwise vessel shall be required to do duty to exceed nine hours of any twenty-four while in port, including the date of arrival, or more than twelve hours of any twenty-four at sea, except in a case of emergency when life or property is endangered. Any violation of this section shall subject the person or persons guilty thereof to a penalty of one hundred dollars. (Sec. 3.)
Master Liable. The improper keeping of watch comes clearly under the head of negligence, or even misconduct, and the law governing this is of importance. The penalty, when death results from such negligence, misconduct, etc. is TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS FINE or IMPRISONMENT FOR TEN YEARS, OR BOTH.
The law is given below:
Death from negligence, misconduct, etc.
Every captain, engineer, pilot, or other person employed on any steamboat or vessel, by whose misconduct, negligence, or inattention to his duties on such vessel the life of any person is destroyed, and every owner, charterer, inspector, or other public officer, through whose fraud, neglect, connivance, misconduct, or violation of law the life of any person is destroyed, shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars, or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both: Provided, That when the owner or charterer of any steamboat or vessel shall be a corporation, any executive officer of such corporation, for the time being actually charged with the control and management of the operation, equipment, or navigation of such steamboat or vessel, who has knowingly and willfully caused or allowed such fraud, neglect, connivance, misconduct, or violation of law, by which the life of any person is destroyed, shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars, imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. (Sec. 282; Repeals R. S., 5344, and act Mar. 3, 1905, sec. 5.)
Watch officers should also heed another matter, a section of Rule V, of the Board of Supervising Inspectors, this rule is also given:
Only certain persons allowed in pilot house and on navigator's
17. Masters and pilots of steamers carrying passengers shall exclude from the pilot houses and navigator's bridge of such steamers, while under way, all persons not connected with the navigation of such steamers, except officers of the Steamboat-Inspection Service, Coast Guard, and engineer officers of the United States Army in charge of the improvement of that particular waterway, when upon business: Provided, That licensed officers of steamboats, persons regularly engaged in learning the profession of pilot, officers of the United States Navy, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, and Lighthouse Service, assistant engineers of the Engineer Department of the United States Army connected with the improvement of that particular waterway, and the engineer officers connected with the construction and operation of the Panama Canal may be allowed in the pilot house or upon the navigator's bridge upon the responsibility of the officer in charge.
The master of every such passenger and ferry steamer shall keep three printed copies of this section of Rule V posted in conspicuous places on such steamer, one of which shall be kept posted in the pilot house.
Such printed copies shall be furnished by the Department of Commerce to local inspectors for distribution. (Sec. 4405, R.
Relieving the Watch. On well-conducted vessels no part of the routine is so important, and so necessary of clear-cut understanding, as the matter of turning over the watch.
On a steamer in which the writer had the good fortune to serve-a liner in the Transatlantic service--this formality was practiced with the utmost precision.
The officer in charge of the watch would keep facing ahead, near the telegraph, if the weather was thick. He would turn over the data of the watch rapidly and clearly; the relieving officer having already read over and initialed the Captain's order book.
Special orders from the Captain.
THEN-being ready to turn over the watch:
“The course is N. 76 degrees east," says the Officer of the Watch.
“ N. 76 degrees, east,” is the reply, and the moment these words are spoken the relief is in charge, and steps next to the telegraph.
An Incident at Eight Bells. This simple ceremony of turning the watch over took place one morning at eight bells—it was a smoky channel morning, heavy weather had been met with on the run eastward, and the train for London was waiting at Southampton, for the first-class passengers who expected to dine at the metropolis that night. It was foggy, and the vessel was doing close to twenty knots; the telegraphs at “stand by.” Everything had been passed over to the relief. The quartermasters and juniors had