Sitting down on watch. When is it okay and why is it not acceptable?

Mainly for ocean going vessels non-dp as officers tend to sit due to the nature of the work while navigating. Do you sit on the bridge during watch? I’ve seen officers do it, But only occasionally and not for the duration of watch. Are the new bridge layouts that have chairs in front of consoles conducive to standing the duration of the watch or hinder it? It’s beat into us at the academy to stand and only the captain sits on the bridge.

Opinions and experiences are greatly appreciated.

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I have operated seagoing vessels for 33 years. They operate in as deep as water as you like, hundreds of miles from land. They also operate in as dangerous waters as you like, in narrow channels lined with granite and basalt, day and night, day after day. We sit on watch, and it has never been a problem.

I went to to an academy like yourself, where sitting on watch was verboten. The concept is as antiquated as calling left and right port and starboard. And it exists for the same reason: tradition, not reason.


I personally do not have an issue with it as long as the mates don’t fall asleep, but I’m a newer generation captain. As far as I’m concerned, they are going to do it anyway (we all did it after midnight when we were second mate). I know a lot of older generation guys have an issue with it, but not me.


In the Gulf of Mexico on a OSV I have never stood while standing watch, As an AB on Navigation watch or as a officer. Only while hand steering thru port, once at sea sit back in the chair.

One of my pet peeves. There’s no reason to stand as if guarding the gates of Buckingham Palace, especially out in the middle of the ocean with no traffic.


These days new ships come with pretty damn fancy chairs mounted in front of the bridge consoles specifically for sitting. The only thing at irks me is feet on the console near buttons that make important things happen.

As for down in the dungeon, anyone who’s worked for MSC will know a certain old C/E who dictated absolutely no sitting on watch, any time, anywhere, ever. Punishable likely by death, or at least no overtime. I would never make such a ridiculous rule. That being said, if you get caught sitting in the engine room playing on your phone while doing rounds, you’ll never have to worry about doing rounds again.

The academy hammers many strict things into your head, but mostly so that when you graduate you aren’t a lazy slob when you get to your first ship. There’s no problem with good posture and good standards that you can decide later in life how relaxed you want to be.


When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went. All of the shipmates above summed it up pretty well. If it’s ever questioned you can always smile and relay “My coffee and I are watching the bearing drift.” From experience that line will also work pretty well leaning on the forward panel of the radar console.

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Been on plenty of ships where only the Pilot or Master sat, no one else. Plenty of ships still have only two chairs, one clearly for the Master and the other clearly for the Pilot. These being the pedestal type chairs, one usually being around mid ships behind the console the other somewhere along the windows forward of the console.

That has changed somewhat with the new bridge consoles that feature plush seats for two, one on either side of the central T-shaped console. These seem to be more utilized by the mates without harassment from the old man.

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There was a reason I think for seats in the wheelhouse. To sit in. I did have to step up to get into said seats, as they were elevated a bit off the deck If the visibility was there (In the seats), as most of the seats I traversed upon, whats the problem?.

One factor is the design of the bridge. Older bridge designs assume the watch will be standing. Newer bridges designed for a seated watchstander have a more wrap-around design and other features for better visibility.

Another factor is the size of the vessel. Typically a smaller vessel will have better visibility.

My experience has been that on smaller vessels with 6 hour watches the practice is to allow sitting but on larger vessels with a bridge designed for a standing watch and a 4 hour watch the practice is to require the watch to remain standing.


I work on an older ship that only has 1 chair in the bridge which isn’t located near the navigation equipment so the mates proudly stand their 4 hour watches. They complain about it some times but I suspect they secretly or subconsciously get off on it. It’s probably better for them because our mates don’t really do any physical work except walking the stairs to the bridge or to the galley to eat. Most of them visit the gym to stay in shape enough to do their jobs.

In front of the bridge console, the chart table, the dish washing sinks & food preparation areas we have OSHA mats that are designed to stand on for long periods of time that are supposed to be easier on the knees & back. When I worked on new US & foreign built modern vessels their bridge consoles usually had raised rail systems for electronically controlled chairs in front of them. I suspect those narrow, uneven surfaces would be a safety hazard if it was required to have the mates stand on them for 4-12 hours at a time. Someone would eventually get hurt or a “Stop Work Authority” would be called to officially end the standing watch practice if it were enforced on modern vessels.

Sadly, I’ve worked with lots of bridge officers on other vessels who were too fat, too old or too out of shape to stand up for 15 minutes straight. A whole watch would be a death sentence for them. Might as well push them down a flight of stairs, fill out the accident report & get some younger mates who could stand up for an hour if watch standing became an industry requirement again.


Well, they do call it watchstanding by watchstanders who stand watch.


We had that discussion here: Two nations separated by a common language

For a lot longer than I should admit, I couldn’t figure out why on earth the dish washing and food prep was being done on the bridge…


Somewhere some upper management types are sitting behind their desks, rubbing their hands together, smiling, thinking there’s a way to eliminate some steward department positions to get the mates to prepare meals in the the bridge while they’re on watch.


A long time ago, while working as a 3/M on a ship, I was sitting in a chair. Not “THE” chair, but it’s carbon-copy chair on the other side of the wheel house. It had been a long day in port with cargo, a long transit in restricted waters, and now it was the mid-watch. I was beat. Now, after clearing the sea buoy, there was no traffic & good visibility. At some time in the watch I heard the bridge door open, and instead of bolting out of the chair, I looked attentively at the radar set right next to the chair.

The captain asked me to come out to the bridge wing, where he professionally and without rancor told me that we “stood the watch”. I had a good working relationship with this guy, so I asked him if he trusted me with the watch, to which he replied "yes, he was very comfortable with my “sea-sense”. Then I said something to the effect of, " Well Cap’n if you trust me so explicitly to perform a safe watch, and keep the vessel safe, and keep him informed, couldn’t he trust me to ‘take a load off my feet’ after an arduous 16 hour day?

He smiled, and said something along the lines of ‘well, don’t make a habit out of it’. He never said anything about it to me for the rest of the voyage.

Sometimes, it just takes a little nudge. When sailing as Master, I never forced the “no sitting” issue, but it was followed up with the admonishment that the mate had to get up and walk around to keep aware.

As previously posted, “standing a watch” is clearly an oxymoron when the bridge console is a “wrap-around” design.


My God man. Where does one draw the line? I suppose they are whistling while sitting in THE chair now.


While eating a banana!


14 posts were split to a new topic: Ship Nomenclature

On an ocean going ATB, common for mates to sit in the chair for most of the watch OR sit at the computer and work during the daytime. I knew it was okay to sit, but would usually stand up if I heard the old man coming up the stairs to the wheelhouse.