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relieved each other, two watches were on the bridge at once, in the cold wet mist. One crowd, still a trifle sleepy, but filled with a sea breakfast, the other tired and wet.
Just as the course was being given, and half completed, something leapt out of the gray fog:
* Three toots the horn in the crow's nest, sounded and a four-masted sailer shot up, as if a picture thrown on the screen of fog ahead.
Hard Starb'd!” the order snapped out on the tail of the words of the course. The wet and draggled officer of the watch had not yet received his reply-he was still in charge.
His order came with the harsh jangle of the telegraphhe was stopping the port engine-and we swept past an iron four-masted ship, her crew clambering to the bulwarks, her sails slatting in the breeze, as we got the first sound of her horn.
The above is an instance where something happened at a critical moment. But both officers were trained men, and the man in charge knew he was still responsible, and acted without a second of delay.
Responsibility. Few men, aside from those who serve as officers at sea, have the responsibility of life and property so directly under them as the officers of the watch.
The young man who takes his first watch as officer in charge-with the great vessel-her lives—and cargo, all obedient to his order and dependent upon his skill and quickness in the sudden emergency that may spring up at any moment; that youngster is to be congratulated. Few men are given the direct handling and responsibility for such mighty forces.
He, in most cases, realizes this. Accidents are usually the outgrowth of carelessness, resulting from long watches at sea where nothing ever happens.
* Three toots vessel (or light) ahead.
It is necessary that the officer of the watch constantly keep his edge. The old-fashioned system of “watch and watch,” that man- and soul-killing drill of an age of shortsighted “economy,” has come to be frowned upon by those who have had to pay the bills resulting from accident and loss.
The Officer of the watch should come to the bridge fresh and in full vigor. His senses of sight and hearing should be acute; he should be completely awake during the whole four hours of his duty.
He should constantly keep in mind what he must do under certain emergencies.
He should constantly be rehearsing disaster-with foresight as his mentor.
He must have ingrained in his being the instinctive knowledge of PORT and STARBOARD, and what they mean. Not as words, but as effects.
He should be a part of the ship. The direction of her head, or the action of her engines, should be as natural to him as any movement of his own body.
This habit of mind enables an officer to act as quick as he can think-to do the right thing without an instant of hesitation.
Rules of the Road. The rules of the road should also be a part of his unconscious knowledge-particularly those rules relating to the prevention of collision at sea.
Many watch officers-familiar with the rules of the Road on the high seas, are lamentably lax when conning their vessel through narrow waters; here is where a great percentage of the accidents to vessels occur. Know the inland rules, the whistle signals; the proper side of the fairways to take; the buoys and marks.
What to Look Out for. The officer of the watch should keep his eyes pretty close to the water ahead; even in the sleepy times of peace. Look for patches of weed; and avoid them. Look for submerged wreckage; floating mines—for many years after the war-well whitened with bird droppings, and almost invisible in the wake of the sun.
And at the present time no merchantman needs to be warned to look out for periscopes, or what to do when he sees one-and remember they are camouflaged too. Do not be too quick to ram a periscope that is lying still. It may be a mine.
Vessels without Lights. Vessels in dangerous waters now run without the usual lights-in fact with no lights at all. This brings us to the question of redoubled vigilance of the keenest and most wide-awake type of watch officer. As vessels become more valuable, and more necessary—the necessity for the best kind of conning is self evident. Yet, due to our unfortunate lack of sea interest it is now necessary, to let down the bars and send back to the sea men who lack in the keenness and training that the situation demands, men who are simply so because of our faulty lack of foresight in
The running without lights is sanctioned by the governments at war, as a necessary war measure and fog signals are omitted in war zones.
The Unwritten Rule. Watch officers have long considered an unwritten rule that has no doubt been acted upon. Namely, if you see collision coming, “ hit the other fellow." This of course is to be taken for what it is worth and should find no response in the mind of the young officer who tramps the bridge on the night watch and works out the problems of the sea.
The law is very concise about the “ Risk of collision " and collision comes without much warning. The one thing that is positive, is the duty to stand by, and this is incumbent on both vessels.
Risk of Collision Rule. Risk of collision can, when circumstances permit, be ascertained by carefully watching the compass bearing of an approaching vessel. If the bearing does not appreciably change, such risk should be deemed to exist.
Duty to Stay by. In every case of collision between two vessels it shall be the duty of the master or person in charge of each vessel, if and so far as he can do so without serious danger to his own vessel, crew, and passengers (if any), to stay by the other vessel until he has ascertained that she has no need of further assistance, and to render to the other vessel, her master, crew, and passengers (if any), such assistance as may be practicable and as may be necessary in order to save them from any danger caused by the collision, and also to give to the master or person in charge of the other vessel the name of his own vessel and her port of registry, or the port or place to which she belongs, and also the name of the ports and places from which and to which she is bound.
If he fails so to do, and no reasonable cause for such failure is shown, the collision shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be deemed to have been caused by his wrongful act, neglect, or default.
Every master or person in charge of a United States vessel who fails, without reasonable cause, to render such assistance or give such information as aforesaid shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be liable to a penalty of one thousand dollars, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; and for the above sum the vessel shall be liable and may be seized and proceeded against by process in any district court of the United States by any
person; one-half such sum to be payable to the informer and the other half to the United States.
Dangerous Conditions. Fog, mist, bright moonlight, coal black night, with phosphorescent sea; all are dangerous conditions so far as visibility is concerned. From three to five in the morning; at the tail of the mid watch, and for the first hour of the morning watch, when vitality is low, and the senses of man lag with the coming of the dawn; then is the time that the officer of the watch should key himself to a sense of complete responsibility_helped out by black coffee if it can be had-and every steamer should provide this at the change of watch, and oftener if need be.
Look Out. Be alive to the changes of the weather. Steamship officers are liable to lack in this respect. Watch the stars, if out. Note the sudden snuffing out of stars near the horizon-watch out for fog banks lying low ahead.
Look out for white water, squalls, get awnings in before they are blown away-never leaving the bridge, of course, unless the Master relieves.
Ice. If in the dangerous latitudes look out for ice. Note sudden changes in the temperature of air and sea. The sea water should be taken every hour at least. Ice gives no warning-sense it, and slow down before it is too late. Remember the Titanic.
Watch the barometer changes--the clouds--the wind, and its changes, whether veering, or hauling.
Important. Know the sailing ship routes-study the pilot charts--and always remember the possible speed and condition of sail, whether on the wind, or free, of sailing vessels that are liable to be met with in your vicinity.
Night Orders. The night order book contains two sets of orders: