All Hands on Deck!

By Teressa Williams 

Slackjaw Sally here unraveling the mysteries of ship organization.  Everybody knows that the Captain (Master) runs the ship, but what’s it like to be Captain?  Check out our interview with Captain Al.  He oversees both the Engineering and the Deck departments assisted by the Chief Engineer and the Chief Mate and he is the interface between ship and shore.  You already know about engineering, so today I’ll talk about the deck.

If I was a flying fish frantically flapping on the deck, the first person I’d likely see is a seaman. There are two levels of seamen, able and ordinary.  They work together handling deck work and maintenance.  Able seamen stand navigational watch as lookout and helmsman.  The ordinary seamen also stand lookout and cover general cleaning duties.  The work of the seamen is directed by the Boatswain (pronounced Bosun) who holds the highest ranking unlicensed position on deck and is supervised by the Chief Mate.  If I’m lucky, one of these folks will toss me back in the sea.  I dread the alternatives – becoming tuna bait or even a seaman’s dinner.

Landing on the bridge is a totally different story.  The seas would have to be very rough to get me up to deck four of the ship.  Up there I’d most likely see one of the Mates.  They are the Chief Mate, Jen, the Second Mate, Logan and the Third Mate, Amy.  They take turns driving the ship and directing the bridge team.  Just like everywhere on the ship, they split up the duties and responsibilities.  In addition to overseeing the deck crew, the Chief Mate handles medical emergencies, and training for safety, firefighting and search and rescue (watch our interview with Jen).  The Second Mate’s primary duty is navigational, updating charts and publications, making passage plans and all aspects of navigation.  The Third Mate’s primary duty is safety, inspecting gear lockers, lifeboats and all onboard safety equipment.  

Division of labor on deck and clearly defined roles keep the ship running smoothly, like a well-tuned school of fish.  So, there you have it.  You can tune a ship’s crew and you CAN tuna fish!