A guide to the deck department on JR302: part 1, who’s who and joining the ship

By Colin Leggett, Bosun’s Mate.

Before I give an insight into an average day for myself during a science cruise for those of you reading this who don’t know much about the way ships operate, I thought I’d start with a quick guide to the deck department which is always the hardest working department on the ship!!

The deck department is made up of the Captain who has overall charge of the ship, the chief officer, a second and a third mate. The rest of the deck department are the very important A.B’s ( able seaman) lead by our Bosun John O’, then myself as bosun’s mate, Martyn, Ken, Shaun, Les and Graham. We do have an additional member of the deck department, Cliff otherwise known as Mackum ( he’s from Sunderland) who is our Bosun Science Operations, and runs the science side of things on the ship and deals with the scientists and all their equipment.

The ship works shift patterns both when on science and when on passage to and from science deployments. The normal sea watches are 8-12 (3rd mate and Graham), 12-4 (2nd mate and Les), 4-8 (chief mate and Shaun). These watches continue when we are at sea, and when we encounter ice then the Captain spends a majority of his time on the bridge navigating us skillfully and safely through ice to where we need to be for the scientists to get their work done. When we are in the ice for long periods, or it is very thick and dangerous, the officers often change their shift patterns slightly so that they are doubled up on watches, with the Captain and Simon (Chief Officer) splitting the driving between them while the navigation is taken care of by the second and third mates.

While on science the rest of us are split into 12 hour shifts, so from 6 in the morning until 6 at night, Cliff the Science Bosun is in charge of driving the winches and equipment used to launch and recover the CTD machine, with myself and Ken on deck. Then at 6 p.m. John O’ takes over the winches and Martyn takes over on deck. Throughout the day we are assisted by the duty watch-keeping A.B. who comes down on deck for deploying and recovery of the equipment.

The ship is staffed by two teams who alternate their time on and off the ship. Our team joined the ship at the end of May after a period of leave. We flew out from the UK to join the ship in St Johns on three separate flights which was a bit unusual for us. Normally we all fly together so the usual hello’s, stories and chatter of things done on leave had to wait until we met up in the hotel the day before we joined the ship. This time was very different to a normal crew change as the ship was due to be in St Johns for 10 days which gave us a very unusually long period of time to get ready for the science cruise and re-familiarise ourselves with the ship. All the usual jobs were done, fresh food, water and fuel were all loaded. The longer stay in port enabled everyone to have a good look around the part of St Johns; a normal port call only lasts a few days and everyone is tearing around the place at break neck speed attempting to get everything loaded, set up and secured before the ship proceeds to sea.

On departure from St Johns we had a short steam to the first science site, so all the new guys on deck (unusually we had four new A.B’s this trip) were walked through the deployment of the CTD machine and all the jobs that they were expected to carry out whilst we were out at sea. The usual board of trade sports (fire drill and lifeboat drills) were carried out with everyone getting used to their roles and the equipment.

That’s a rough guide to us and the roles we fill on the ship. Tomorrow there will be a rough guide to an average day for me during this science deployment and a bit about what we do and have done since we joined the ship in St John’s.

Images: views of the ice and the CTD, by Colin Leggett.

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