Guidelines Part 4…Sea, Cargo, Deck Watches!


Do not be late. Uniform during the day and clean casual clothes at night, unless it’s stations, then it’s uniform again. Always have a large notebook on the bridge with you to write copious notes, it makes things so much easier. Nobody believes a cadet when they say “I’ll write it up later” or “I’ll put it in the computer later”. If you do say it, believe the Mate when he says he’ll check tomorrow.
It may appear at first that sea watches are wandering around the bridge pushing a few buttons and drinking tea and munching biscuits. Wrong, that is only the best part of it. You will be expected to quickly gain a working knowledge of the Rules of the Road, recognise lights, buoys, plot positions, use radars and read charts correctly etc.
Compass errors, noon figures, working out ETA’s and speeds required, sunset and sunrise, moonrise and moonset, mer passage should be worked out every watch, this is to get you very adept at time and lat/long calculations. When in the exams, finish your work and watch everyone else struggle because they didn’t practice enough. Sights whenever possible, full works, run up to noon etc.
Practice with bridge gear, read manuals, contingency plans, chart symbols, buoyage, flags.
The deck officers will show you how they do it and why, you’ll find your own method soon enough. Practice, practice and more practice. As a cadet, try to write out navigational problems as if in an exam, its good practice in more ways than one. Accuracy, clarity and methodology is the aim.
During this trip I want to see a passage plan done from scratch, no cut and paste half effort. Composite GC, mer part sailings, the works. Don’t leave till next trip or college, also
Chart corrections, light corrections, radio corrections all need to be seen and done.
Charts are our primary navigation tool, they are not to be used as tablecloths, contrary to what you may see at times. Look after them, fold them carefully, avoid dropping them, do not gouge the point of the compass or dividers into them, and do not lean on them with dirty or sweaty forearms.  2B pencils used lightly on the chart, sparingly without drawing lines through compass roses or conspicuous objects is best. If you become a messy user of the charts, the Second Mate will gladly have you on the bridge to let you rub out all the mess and lay out course lines anew. Second Mates generally treat the charts as their own personal property, which they then appear to reluctantly lend out to those needing to use them, follow their example.
If someone leaves out their own binoculars, calculators, etc for others to use then use them carefully, it will be normal for you to replace them if you damage any items through misuse due to indifference or ignorance. It will come as a very nasty shock to find out how expensive good binoculars are. When using a torch at night on the bridge, please don’t wave it around like you’re pissing in the snow after a party, destroying everyone’s night vision. Point it down and /or cup your hand around it a bit, better still get a red quality street wrapper and stick it over the lens.
We do not sit down all watch here, sit down at times to use the radar or ecdis equipment. Standing up and walking around should keep you alert and help keep a proper lookout, besides, if you can’t stand up for four hours at a time you need to see a doctor.
Correct use of the radios is important, they’re not the same as phones and require a bit more thinking before speaking, it will all come with practice. With a bit of effort, by the time the ship gets to Europe you will be able to contribute something tangible to the safe running of the bridge.
Learn one thing, look out of the windows, and then look again. Reliance on technology has no place at sea, everything on the bridge is an aid, you are the one who makes decisions. Learn to make the right decision, learn to carry it through, and you’ll be on the on the way to being a half decent Officer. It is said there are two ways of making decisions, quickly and badly. Think about it.
When asked “what’s that ship doing?” your first instinct should be to pick up a pair of binoculars, look through them and figure it out with your brain. Then you can look into the radar and add to the mess of fingerprints all over the screens.
Please do not mindlessly finger poke the bridge equipment, but if you do, tell someone that you may have ‘inadvertently’ pressed the wrong button. Finally, if you complain about being on watches, you’re in the wrong job. This has also happened.



Do not be late. The officers keep the same watches as they do at sea unless particularly arranged otherwise. Clean boilersuit on at least once a day and safety boots, hard hat and gloves should be worn at all times on deck. Give a good impression to all on deck when you’re about. All will appear chaotic at first, which it may well be anyway. Cargo watch does not stop at the ships side.
Whatever watch you are on treat the cargo watch as serious as the sea watch. Remember our job is not just to look alluring on the bridge going from tropical location to tropical location; cargo care is imperative and is fundamentally why we are here.
Care of refrigerated cargo is especially important, this will be emphasised later. You’ll get your own cargo plans and crayons to make a mess of until you get the hang of things and can be trusted with the good copy. When in the tropics drink plenty of water and /or heat fatigue tablets, dehydration is not pleasant, nor is sunburn.
It is dangerous on deck in port, it’s busy, it’s strange and it can be tiring, and it can be boring as a cadet. You will wonder why you came to sea as you try to sort out reefer plugs in the trenches, rain pouring down your neck, freezing cold, howling winds and gagging for a cup of tea. At those times you’re doing it because it needs to be done, done correctly and done correctly now. You are the one to do it. Other times it can be a leisurely stroll up and down the deck in the tropical sun, all under control and going ashore in an hour. We all much prefer the second scenario.


Day will be split at times into a bridge watch and half day on deck.
You will not be given jobs like chipping and painting the deck, nearly all the jobs given will be in order to improve on or maintain the vessels safety or operational needs.
Lifeboats, lifebuoys, fire hydrants, hoses, flaps, fans, vents, doors, BA sets, bilges, eductors, ballast system will all be familiar soon. Lashing count will be done some time, as will tank diving.
The Third Mate will go through all the dangerous goods (DG) requirements on board, you will be expected to familiarise yourselves with IMDG, Storck Guide, Cargo Handling Book, Cargo Securing Manual and Ballast Plans.
The Chief Mate will show you Bayplans, load and discharge plans, how we find and change the stability, bunker requirements and planning.
COSWP, Risk Assesement, Permit to Work, AMOS maintenance will be given more than a quick glance.
It may not seem it at the time but day work is where you learn a plethora of skills and knowledge, tasks may seem dull or trivial but they play a major part in your underpinning knowledge and ability to quickly spot when something isn’t as it should be!

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013 at 2:29 pm by The Mariner. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Leave a Comment...

You email address won't be made public

Comments (3)
  1. jim beale says:

    Spencer, guidelines part 4 seems very similar to something I wrote a few years ago !!!!!
    I left maersk two years ago after one to many 18 hour days for my liking.
    Something your finding out for yourself I expect.
    Now working for PNTL, must be the easiest job ever.

    • The Mariner says:

      Hi Jim, you are absolutely correct you did indeed and if I remember correctly without reading back over it, I did mention and credit you 🙂 If you would rather I didn’t use what you wrote please let me know 🙂

      Good to hear you left Maersk Line and found something much better and I’m glad to hear you are still at sea, really enjoyed sailing with you and of course owe you a pint for all your help if our passage plans ever cross.


      • The Mariner says:

        PS…credited in part 1 I do believe! I was too good not sit on my external hard drive and not let the world see it 🙂

%d bloggers like this: