WHEN ON WATCH YOU HAVE TO HAVE YOUR WITS ABOUT

First a little explanation for the civilian and non-navy friends:

A ship is normally controlled from the Bridge. In the accompanying picture you can see what a Bridge looks like. This is where all the navigational and engine controls are there besides some controls for weapons, sensors and countermeasures. The watch (usually extends to four hours) on the Bridge is under an Officer of the Watch (OOW). Everyone is on his feet except the Captain who sits on a swivel chair. It is called the Captain’s Chair. During the time when the Fleet staff is embarked, to the left side of the Bridge, another swivel chair is screwed on for the Fleet Commander. Else, most of the times, only the Captain sits on Captain’s chair.

The watches are named after the part of the day/night: 0800 to 1200 hours is the Forenoon Watch and so on. The night watches are: the First Watch from 8 PM (2000 hrs) to midnight, Middle Watch from midnight to 4 AM (0400 hrs) and Morning Watch from 4 AM to 8 AM (0400 hrs to 0800 hrs). In the night watches too (despite your day’s routine), you remain on your feet. It is the OOW’s duty to keep the ship safe (navigationally and otherwise) during his Watch. He also tests a whole lot of things during his Watch so as to keep the ship fighting-fit.

And now for the anecdote:

An OOW was on Morning Watch (0400 hrs to 0800 hrs) and since nothing much was happening, thought of doing something that is sacrilegious on a ship (during my 35 years I have never done it except when I was the Captain): that is, to rest his weary feet by sitting on the Captain’s Chair. He reckoned that the time was 0530 hrs (5:30 AM) and the Captain was not expected on the Bridge until 0630 hrs (that is, 30 minutes after Hands Call at 0600 hrs).

As he climbed up on the chair, he felt like the most popular music group of our times – Carpenters; that is, on Top of the World. Ah, he said to himself, now this is Life with a capital L. Initially, he was most awkward and afraid but as he immersed fully in the chair and swivelled it around, confidence came to him like Divya Shakti to Arjuna. The more he sat, the more he was convinced that Life’s biggest happiness is defined as: ‘Sitting on the Captain’s Chair in the wee hours of the morning’.

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Immersed in his fantasy, he had lost track of something that the Shastras tell us never to lose track of; that is, Time. So, when unknowing to him, the Captain emerged on the Bridge in the darkness, our ecstatic OOW was deep inside the Captain’s Chair. Now, it takes a person some time to get used to the darkness. Captain took perhaps ten seconds and asked in his booming voice: “All well, Officer of the Watch?”

OOW jumped out of the Captain’s Chair as if high voltage live-wire had touched him, regained his presence of mind, and shouted in clear and crisp voice: “Captain’s Chair tested and found correct”.

As OOW, you have to have your wits about to react to any situation and this OOW demonstrated these ably.

The Captain too let it go at that. I am sure he must have tested a few Captain’s chairs during his time of being the OOW.

© 2015, Sunbyanyname. All rights reserved.

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