“So I was right yesterday, you are our first JWO (Junior Watch Officer).”
I was groggy and still half asleep, and it took me awhile to register what Scott, my mate, had said. “Cool beans.”
“As Junior Watch Officer you assume the responsibilities for organizing the watch and carry out my orders under the watchful eye of your mate. The planning and execution of watch activities are under your immediate supervision. Understand that you directly communicate with me for your instructions.” These were the instructions from our captain, and I was about to find out whether I was ready.
For our dedicated blog followers, today was the start of the Junior Watch Officer phase on the Robert C. Seamans. Prior to today, a member of the watch was appointed as the shadow to follow the watch or lab officer. The shadow phase was intended to prepare us for the responsibility of running the watch as the JWO or JLO (Junior Lab Officer).
‘A’ watch started our morning watch at 0700, relieving ‘C’ watch from duty. I was going to be the JWO for the first half of our watch, and I was brought up to speed on the vessel and its status. We were motor sailing under the four lower sails, with force 5 winds and six foot swells coming from the Northeast. There were no squalls in sight, and it looked like it was going to be a nice, breezy day. The main goal of our watch was a science station deployment at 1000. Before we got to that though, I had a number of things on my to do list that had to get done before we were going to heave to on a port tack for the science station. I reported our weather, plotted a GPS fix on the charts, organized a deck wash, used a sextant to shoot the sun to obtain a line of position, sent watch members to help out with dishwashing in the galley, and completed many other items that are all part of our daily routine on the RCS. All this time, I was also organizing my watch to complete hourly boat checks, hourly weather observations and half hourly engine checks. There was a lot to accomplish, and with good coordination between the deck and science watches, we managed to get everything done with time to spare.
At 0945, we prepared to heave to. We squared the braces, brought the stays’l travellers to their port stoppers and informed the crew that we were about to tack. I reduced the throttle on the main engine to 1000 RPM to slow us down, and told the helmsman to turn the helm 15˚ to the right to initiate a turn through the wind. When we reached a beam reach, the helmsman brought the rudder back to midships and I brought the engine to idle. We were now hove to on a port tack. It was time to drop some science on the Pacific! Kylie, the second JWO of the day was about to take over and run the deployments, so I went below to the doghouse to log the events of the morning before turning it over to her.
Having the responsibility of JWO was a little nerve-wracking. My mate was there to ensure that nothing disastrous occurred, but as the captain said, I was directly in charge of ensuring that watch activities were carried out. After we were relieved from watch though, I was thinking about the amount of responsibility that the JWO has. I realized that it actually was not anything special. On this little ship that has become our world, we are all responsible for each other. Being the JWO technically puts you in a position of extra responsibility, but everyone else has just as large a role to play. I know I could not have done my job without the help of my watch mates.
Throughout this amazing journey, we have had to rely on each other daily.
When others are keeping you safe while you are asleep at night, or cooking your food, or helping you collect data, or even catching you when you stumble during a bad roll, you really start to appreciate everyone. Before starting this quarter, I knew two of the people who I am on this ship with.
Now, I cannot remember a time when I did not call these people my friends, let alone remember a time when I did not even know them. The students, the professors, the scientists, the crew; we are all a part of this world, and we are all intricately intertwined on this sea-faring voyage. Out here, we have each other’s backs, and I’ve never felt more support or love from a group of people in my life. From countless watches together, to late night talking sessions, I have learned some weird and wonderful things about these folks. But all these experiences have brought us closer, and I am honored to call these people my friends and shipmates.