Standing Watch

It is only now with something for comparison that I realize just how realistic the simulator is or was.

When taking Sim 1 and Sim 2 I knew that the practical navigation was realistic, taking bearings off lights, getting ranges off the radar was all straight forward enough. Now that I have a little experience I can see just how realistic it really was.

Leaving Galveston I was on the bridge. I was fixing our position keeping up the Bell Book and the log book etc, I looked up and was stuck by just how much it reminded me of the simulator. Until now the simulator was all I knew so that was my perspective.

I could see the islands and points of land clearly by eye because they were very lying, the image I saw with my eye matched up perfectly with what I saw on the RADAR and on the chart.

We were going to be meeting a container ship. It appeared that we would have to sneak by one another at a tight bend in the fairway, but he continued straight and did not turn to meet us. Just like the simulator they make you think that you will need to react to something then they clear up the situation just to keep you on your feet.

In some instances what the simulator is supposed to teach you is when to call the captain. I have now had a lot of experience with that.

The Captain James C. Meyers Jr. is quite easy to call, and I don't hesitate to call ether.

I now is almost automatic. I see traffic that confuses me: a light in my brain says "call the captain". Today there was a vessel stopped in the TSS fishing or something, he had a 1.4nm CPA was acting funny none the less. I called the captain.

I had a difficult situation approaching Gibraltar: three vessels off to starboard all of whom I was overtaking, then three vessels coming down at me and a fishing vessel in the middle of it all. I couldn't overtake on the right because that would push me off course too far. I couldn't overtake on the left because that would put me too close to the on coming traffic. I couldn't just go straight because that would bring me too close to one of the vessels I was overtaking and too close to the fishing vessel. This all became apparent in less that the time it took me to write it down here. What was the correct decision? Bing! the light went on in my head and I called the captain.

When the captain comes on the bridge he always says "don't hesitate to call me" he says and shows me that he means it. the only time he said anything different was when a small fishing boat came too close for comfort.

We were off Algeria and I was watching a small fishing boat head straight for a ship that we were following about five miles away. When the fishing boat was only a few cables from the tanker ahead it turned and took its stern then resumed its course. I was watching it as it then turned and came straight across out path, perhaps a little too close but on that course the CPA was just under a mile so I wasn't too concerned. Then, as I was watching he turned again and he headed straight for our bow. A soon as he turned I called the captain. I told him over the phone that I wanted to sound the danger signal. He said don't, came up on the bridge went to the bridge wing and sounded the danger signal. I had maneuvered some but he put on more rudder then when we were clear after the fishing boat passed down our port side at about two cables he said I should have called him sooner.

I tried to explain that I called as soon as there was a problem that at five miles his CPA was about 3 miles. It was a safe situation and no red "Call the Captain" light came on, and when I called him it had just turned ugly. The captain didn't really respond he just said "Don't hesitate to call em" I think he understood but her is not really the type to say that I did the right thing. I am starting to be able to read into what he says weather he is pleased my actions or not. More and more I think he is pleased.

This is a good segue. When I stood my first watch I was green. Sure I had spent a few days on the Cape Breton but I never had to do anything. Mostly I came on watch and just observed as the ship did its thing. I had a few course changes, and I altered course for track once or twice but never anything difficult, never any traffic. So when I came on here I was just a little nervous on the bridge. The captain know I was green and stayed up on the bridge doing paperwork or typing at the GMDSS station all the while keeping an eye on me and the RADAR. I was a wreck. He would ask me a question and in answering it I would babble incoherently. I would stop and change the direction of my sentence five or so times before figuring out what I wanted to say. I had no confidence and little practical skill.

The little things like keeping on track were enough trouble but traffic was too much. It was only after leaving Louisiana that I began to have any real confidence, that was after that captain stopped spending the entire watch on the bridge.

It was not his leaving the bridge that gave me confidence, it way my confidence that allowed him to leave the bridge.

I can see now, with the help of Dooley, my AB that I had come far in the week it too for the captain to begin leaving me alone on the bridge. After almost three weeks of watches all the routine watch duties are no cause for concern so when a course change and a traffic situation comes up I can focus all my attention on them. I don't worry about course changes except that I am a little self conscious when the captain is watching but I can handle them none the less. I will say they are getting easier. Traffic is not too big a problem except when the captain is already up there and I am not sure what to do. I know he is watching, has already made a decision and is silently judging, perhaps he is not judging but none the less it makes me quite conscious of what I am doing and if or what he might say. Am I doing it in the safest possible time? Am I taking the correct action? Is it being made in sufficient time?

I know that as far as I might have come I have many time that to go, but I can say that I know I am making progress. A little encouragement from Dooley helps too. he recognized that I was a wreck and had been helpful in pointing out when I am being calm and level and when I am panicking and babbling, as well as giving suggestions about not talking when the captains comes up on the bridge especially when there is nothing on the radar that requires talking about.

The only advise that I will not take from Dooley is when he says that I should not call the captain. I know then that I should have already.