Shift Keeping Prior to Voyage


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Melissa E. Kalson

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Hello everyone..
I have a question that I've been wondering about for some time. I've read that during the days leading up to Titanic's maiden voyage the officers had to keep their watch on board except for Captain Smith. Why is it that he was not required to be on board but was at home (if I remember correctly?) I was just wondering as to why he was not on board either prior to the voyage. It seems to me that the captain should be on board as well. If this sounds silly or under the wrong thread then I am sorry. Sincerely, Melissa K.
 

Pat Winship

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There's a tale in Leslie Reade's The Ship that Stood Still about Lightoller coming to his home for breakfast the morning after Titanic docked in Southamptom. He was said to have grumbling vigorously about some idiot being out on Southampton Water in a sailboat at midnight, when the Big T came in.

Pat W.
 

Noel F. Jones

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A merchant vessel emerging from shipyard (or other bailee) hands and into trading mode must 'open articles'. This must be done either by the deep sea master designate or a 'coasting' master.

Whichever, while alongside within port limits it is not necessary for the current master to be on board. This allows, among other things, the deep sea master to remain on leave until sailing is imminent.

In the absence of the current master the chief officer will act as shipkeeper to the extent that he can 'shift ship' within port limits; with pilotage if considered necessary.

If the vessel is to be in port for any length of time, officers (and engineers) will 'break watches' and go on daywork. Out of hours there will be one or more duty officers rostered for shipkeeping. In a 'home' port in the event of emergency the superintendentcy should be available to be consulted round the clock and beyond that there will be a duty manager available at head office.

If the vessel is to proceed beyond port limits, the master on articles must be on board and in command and the vessel must be seaworthy for the intended excursion in terms of outfitting, manning and stores. This obtains also if canal or river passage is to be taken, i.e. the vessel must be presented to the relevant inland navigational authority under proper legal command and fit for the passage contemplated.

Noel
 

Lee Gilliland

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Noel, does this apply to military captains as well? I've always been curious about the relatively high number of captains not on their ships during Pearl Harbor.
 

Noel F. Jones

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I'll be 'off-station' on this one because I am not able to speak for military practise:

Regarding Pear Harbor I can only surmise that it being a major naval base most senior officers would have their homes and families thereabouts and would take every opportunity to be ashore rather than on their vessels (hardly a unique aspiration with seafarers!).

Doubtless the USN would have had some form of standing orders stipulating degrees of battle readiness and it seems reasonable that at the material time most vessels alongside in a base port - ostensibly defended by such as shore batteries and fighter aircraft - would have been some hours away from that status. There should however have been a 'guardship' on full alert.

As I say, I cannot speak for military practise but this is no more than common sense. As I recall, the Pearl Harbor 'inquests' seem to attribute the cause to incoming intelligence not being properly evaluated. Inexplicable given the political situation at the time; but then it was Sunday morning!

Noel
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I can't speak to military practice circa 1941 or 1912, but during my career, outside of normal working hours, a duty section is maintained aboard which mans the deck watches and the fire party in case something went wrong. (And oh brother can things go wrong! Been there done that!)

Unlike civilian practice, the crew doesn't simply quit the ship at the end of a particular voyage, to sign onto another if they feel like it but remain a permanent part of the crew until their enlistment term expires (The commission is resigned in the case of an officer)or until tranfered to another duty station. In her homeport, a warship's crew...at least the more senior members will have homes off ship and even off station. If they're not in the duty section, they simply go home wherever that is until morning muster and the commencement of ships work.

Junior and unmarried members of the crew would often be berthed on the ship.
 
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mark garfien

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How long would a ship remain in a port such as New York before returning to England? and also how long would the officers have to keep in-port watches in New York?
-Mark
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Jul 9, 2000
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>>How long would a ship remain in a port such as New York before returning to England?<<

As I understand it, the turnaround time in New York in 1912 was about three to five days. (Titanic was due to sail from New York on the 20th.) This would give the crew time to get the passengers on their way, land the cargo and mails, get any soiled linen replaced, do any needed housekeeping, coal the ship and bring aboard any needed victuals, cargo, mails, and the like. It would also give some of the crew a bit of time for some shore leave. Maybe not much as ships of this era were very labour intensive and there was a lot of work that had to be done, but even a little bit is better then nothing.
 
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mark garfien

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Thank you for your response Mr. Standart. Thats very interesting.
 
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