Ocean College

Being a Watchleader

Date: 20.11.2020
Author: Max-Eliot
Position: Somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean
Nautical Position: 24° 35,9 N ; 19°17,4W
Etmal: 133 nm (Total: 3326 nm)

Watchleader bei der Arbeit

Hello! My name is Max and I´m one of the four watchleaders. For the last five weeks, I´ve been the watchleader of the Mizzen Watch but since a week now I work as the deckhand. It was told to me, nobody has ever written something about the deckhand´s daily routine.

That´s why I was thinking: Why shall I not write a daily report about the day of a seagull in Vigo? Wait, no! I could write a daily report about the daily routine of the deckhand! So, you´re about to read my daily routine. I first want to notice that this was my idea and absolutly not Janeks idea. He just told me to write something about the daily routine of the deckhand.

What´s a deckhand?

The first thing to notice about the deckhand is, he doesn´t have to do night watches, nor does he do any watches at all. He works from 8´o clock in the morning until 5´o clock in the evening. Of course he has some breakes during the day, such as the morning smoko at 10 o´clock or in the sailors language, 1000 (ten hundred).

But overall this means basically that he could sleep 12 hours straight if he goes to bed at seven in the evening. But if there is some sail handling to do in the night, he has to be woken up to assist the Bosun or the Bosun´s mate during those operations. The deckhand always needs to be ready to work.

The job of the deckhand basically is to assist the Bosun or the Bosun´s mate. This includes things like sail handling operations, sewing ropes (whipping, seizing, splicing, etc.), sanding the railing, oiling the railing, sanding the railing again, oiling it, spilling half of the oil on your pants, reparing things on deck or aloft (on the masts)… did I forgot something? Oh yes! Sanding and oiling the railing! (I sanded and oiled the railing a LOT).

Kinder unter Deck beim Spieleabend
Pause muss auch mal sein!

Back and again, the day of a deckhand by Bilbo Baggins

Even though I´m deckhand, I didn´t start my day by doing some deckhand´s work. Every watchleader has a project for the voyage. My project is to assist Sven during the history lessons, because I want to become a teacher. Tomorow we have our first history lesson and I have to prepare it. I already prepared a lot but there was still some tweaks to do. So I took the morning to finish it, sometimes asking for Svens opinion and change it as necessary.

After lunch, I began with the deckhands work. Today we needed to repair some ratlines over the course platform. The course platform is the first platform in the rigg and the ratlines are basically the footropes which you use to climb up the masts.

Why are they called ratlines? I don´t know. But what I know is the sailors motto concerning vocabulary: Why make it easy if you can make it complicated? That´s why there is just one “rope” on a ship: The rope of the bell. Any other piece of rope isn´t called a rope but has a different name, depending on it´s purpose or what it is attached to. Same thing with the name of the hours in a day.

But back to the essentials.

Some of the ratlines up over the course platform either just needed to be reseized or to be whipped and then to be seized again. For the whipping, we sew around the end of the rope to prevent it from untwisting itself. The ratlines are fixed to the shrouds with a rolling hitch (one of the basic eight knots). To prevent the rolling hitch to untie itself, we „seize“ the remaining material left to the rope, which means we sew the end of the rope to the bit just before the rolling hitch.

Doing this on deck is easy. Doing it up there is more difficult: Because of the height, the rolling and pitching of the ship is more intense. You swing much more from one end to the other then on deck. But still I loved it. If you take a break, you can enjoy the nice view on the sails and on the peoples heads on the deck. The view of the ocean is nice too but you „sea“ the same thing as on deck, since there´s only water around you.

After dinner I went to the saloon to play some guitar. I learned to play it for the first time on the ship and I wanted to practice. In the saloon we have a book with the notes of many known songs which I use for practicing. So it happens that I played some songs (or to be more precise, tried to play them) and the crew began to sing with me whilst we were slowly heading towards the Caribbean…

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