What shapes a captain's "seamanship"?


#1

I recently heard a statement that a captain’s professional habits are most heavily influenced by their first captain. And that much of what they experience after that is either a re-affirmation or a rationalization of their first tour of duty.

Having come up through the hawsepipe, I think the STCW courses offer the opportunity to reshape one’s positions. Thus, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

What do you think?


#2

PMC - I would agree with you. Just finished taking some classes, and they will certainly help me be a better captain.

Wish I had taken them before I started working in the GOM.


#3

“I recently heard a statement that a captain’s professional habits are most heavily influenced by their first captain. And that much of what they experience after that is either a re-affirmation or a rationalization of their first tour of duty.”

the above statement would tend to put all captains in the same “box”…I always considered the abilities of being able to think “outside the box” in a “forehanded manner” a “few moves ahead in the game” to be attributes of a good captain or any mariner for that mattter…I don’t believe there is a “cookie cutter” for being captain.

“Having come up through the hawsepipe, I think the STCW courses offer the opportunity to reshape one’s positions. Thus, you can teach an old dog new tricks.”

I agree if you are referring to BRM, OICNW and RFPNW…after instructing these courses and working offshore I fear that many of my peers should have stayed awake in class!

“What do you think?”

as far a teaching old dogs new tricks…those are tricks that old dogs should already know


#4

[QUOTE=PMC;14159]I recently heard a statement that a captain’s professional habits are most heavily influenced by their first captain. And that much of what they experience after that is either a re-affirmation or a rationalization of their first tour of duty.

Having come up through the hawsepipe, I think the STCW courses offer the opportunity to reshape one’s positions. Thus, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

What do you think?[/QUOTE]

I think that is a good question. I don’t agree, it depends upon who the first captain is. In most cases when you go to sea for the first time as a mate the captain is going to make a big impression because of the experience/skill gap between the new mate and an experienced captain. For example to a new mate a captain who has been on the same ship on the same run for a long time can appear to be very wise. Later on durning your career you retain that impression even though in some ways you may have surpassed them in skill and experience.

If you are continually trying to learn and improve your skills it is possible you will surpass your early mentors. I think some of the guys who I admire on the small ships on the Alaskan run, who taught me some early lessons in seamanship would have a tough time in the envionment I find myself in today. They just would lack the skills needed. I still hold “Doug” in high regard but I know he couldn’t do what I do now.


#5

[QUOTE=PMC;14159]I recently heard a statement that a captain’s professional habits are most heavily influenced by their first captain. [/QUOTE]

(God, I hope not. My first captain was a moron and I’d love to believe that I’m at the very least, not a moron. Mt. Skier, C_A? Will you guys back me up on this?)

I think that professional habits come from a genuine desire to be professional: Conscious Leadership. Of course your idea of leadership and professionalism will be heavily influenced and shaped by what you’ve experienced throughout your career.

I happened to start my career sailing with some real losers. Iron fist, scream at you for no reason, etc. Well, I saw some of my shipmates adopt this attitude. I call it the hazing response. By god, that was how it was when I started out, so I’m gonna treat everyone below me like shit, too! Nice. And guess what. These yayhoos have zero loyalty amongst their crew.

Maybe because I’ve seen the good, the bad and the truly ugly, that I make deliberate decisions to be a fair and approachable captain. This doesn’t mean that my ship is a democracy. It just means that I don’t mind hearing from my crewmembers. (But, I’m very lucky in that my ego is huge, and it won’t take a dent just because someone else has a better idea than me. :slight_smile: )

I think that most modern and successful captains try to incorporate bridge resource management techniques into their everyday leadership style. Shared mental models, effective communication techniques, clear roles and responsibilities, etc. can all lead to confident and loyal crew.


#6

Maybe. Mine were certainly “influenced” by my first Captain, I tried as hard as I could to never be like him.


#7

[quote=Capt. Fran;14183](God, I hope not. My first captain was a moron and I’d love to believe that I’m at the very least, not a moron. Mt. Skier, C_A? Will you guys back me up on this?)

I think that professional habits come from a genuine desire to be professional: Conscious Leadership. Of course your idea of leadership and professionalism will be heavily influenced and shaped by what you’ve experienced throughout your career.

I happened to start my career sailing with some real losers. Iron fist, scream at you for no reason, etc. Well, I saw some of my shipmates adopt this attitude. I call it the hazing response. By god, that was how it was when I started out, so I’m gonna treat everyone below me like shit, too! Nice. And guess what. These yayhoos have zero loyalty amongst their crew.

Maybe because I’ve seen the good, the bad and the truly ugly, that I make deliberate decisions to be a fair and approachable captain. This doesn’t mean that my ship is a democracy. It just means that I don’t mind hearing from my crewmembers. (But, I’m very lucky in that my ego is huge, and it won’t take a dent just because someone else has a better idea than me. :slight_smile: )

I think that most modern and successful captains try to incorporate bridge resource management techniques into their everyday leadership style. Shared mental models, effective communication techniques, clear roles and responsibilities, etc. can all lead to confident and loyal crew.[/quote]

My first captain was an asshole, who spent most of the time yelling at his crew and telling us what a great captain he was. I thought that was the way it was supposed to be, and when I first sailed as Master I was a total dick. About a month into my first command, the word got out and a mentor of mine, someone I respected and knew well but had never sailed with, came down to my boat and called me out on it. The best decision I ever made was to admit I was wrong and then change my ways. I now treat my crew with respect, set a very high bar for my expectations from them, and encourage them to speak up if they are uncomfortable with anything going on. For them, it is good because they know I’m willing to change if they come up with a better way. For me, it makes my job so much easier because I allow my crew to succeed. I learned this lesson long before BRM came along so adapting to the new BRM principles was a no-brainer.


#8

Best advice I got from one of my mentors was to try to work for several different captains when I was first starting out… and remember what traits made them good captains, and what traits were maybe not so good.
The challenge is to take the best of each one’s leadership styles and meld all of that into one of your own.
And, being a dick doesn’t get you very far, but at the same time you can’t let your crew run around like a bunch of wild indians.


#9

It always comes down to demeanor. Can’t be taught or preached, or even learned. Having knowledge of the trade is one thing, but leadership is not a text book skill…very rarely do you come across an old man who’s presents transcends a crew in a way that make all work to their god given capacity.


#10

It’s funny i remember the exact day that I got word we were getting a new captain that, rumor said, was a real jerk. I remember because I said “My first captain was great and, I’m not worried, I’ve worked for 7 Captains now and each has been better than the last”.

Famous last words! A week later some guy I never met before walked into my office, removed his gloves one finger at a time, put them inches from my face and said (In a proper British accent); “If [I][B]my[/B][/I] Chief Mate kept [I][B]my[/B][/I] decks clean I would not have gotten my lily white hands dirty.”

Luckily it wasn’t long before he said “paint main deck, the entire main deck, and get it done by the end of the week”. When I asked how we were going to prep it he replied “Mr. Mate, it’s amazing what a little bit of elbow grease can do.”

7 days later we had applied $210,000 worth of paint to the deck and it looked great! 21 days later, when the Marine Supt visited the ship to ask me why I put in a $210,000 paint order, it looked terrible. The captain was relieve the next day, literally, in tears.

The next half dozen captains weren’t much better.

What I still haven’t quite figured out is why the first bunch were so good and the next bunch so bad… but I have a few theories.

What are your thoughts on bad captains? Have you ever met a Captain and known you were in trouble from day 1?

Are good captains getting harder to find or is it simply easier to see their faults as you gain experience?


#11

<meta http-equiv=“CONTENT-TYPE” content=“text/html; charset=utf-8”><title></title><meta name=“GENERATOR” content=“OpenOffice.org 3.1 (Win32)”><style type=“text/css”> <!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } --> </style> So you have a ship with Capt, Mate, 2nd Mate and 3rd Mate…how does it generally work for mooring operations these days?

It used to be Capt and 3rd Mate on the bridge, Mate up front and the 2nd Mate aft.

But I will always remember just one Capt. who broke the rule and told the newly promoted Mate that he would be on the bridge for stations (his duty as second in command) and that he in fact could con the ship to anchor. Imagine the look of surprise and worry on his face at the prospect of this, and even though I was but a young cadet, I will always remember what a great leadership and mentoring role that Captain was taking. (One good influence that I actually learnt from.)

The Mate also used to be in charge of the cadets. Most were OK but there were a few sad bastards who liked to treat you badly, for no other reason than that they were treated badly when they were cadets. I vowed (and like to think I kept that vow), that when I had cadets under me I would always treat them how I would like to have been treated and not how I was treated.

As for being influenced by the early Captains, if they were not party animals who could handle their liquor and ship with equal competence, or quiet calm ones who you rarely saw, for a young kid, there was just so much information and alcohol download going on from all directions such that any or most influences good or bad were probably missed.


#12

I have always said/thought: Throughout the years of working on the water, I have learned what to do and what not to do; how to act and not to act. I have worked with some captains that have absolutely no people skills (recently) and some that are utmost professionals. This is my second career so I guess I am a little more rounded professionally then someone that this is the only career they have had in life. Yes, I am a hawsepiper.


#13

I had similar experience, minus the white gloves and British accent. In response, ther crew “forgot” to mix the hardener into the epoxy paint. As far as I know, that paint still hansn’t dried…


#14

You didn’t happen to be on Schuyler’s 1996 summer cruise? Sounds like the exact same thing that happened that year… well, except for the fact I know the paint isn’t still trying to dry seeing that I had the pleasure of participating in the paint removal “plan” (100 cadets, scrapers & wire brush). Not fun.


#15

[quote=Old Bakelite;15367]<style type=“text/css”> <!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } --> </style> So you have a ship with Capt, Mate, 2nd Mate and 3rd Mate…how does it generally work for mooring operations these days?
It used to be Capt and 3rd Mate on the bridge, Mate up front and the 2nd Mate aft.
[/quote]

That’s still how it’s done on most ships. Many of the tankers started carrying an extra 3rd mate to remain STCW work hour compliant. In this case the C/M starts working on the load plan, 2/M goes to the bow and one of the 3rd’s heads to the stern.


#16

Which is why I was very influenced when the Capt gave the Mate the experience while he was still Mate. Similar case in the above for letting the 2/M work on the load plan and the 3/m for doing the passage planning etc etc?

For all you Captains out there, did you only get to drive once you became Captain? If so, would you liked to have had some degree of practical experience under your belt prior to taking your first command or did it just come naturally? Do you encourage your Mates to get this experience on your vessels?


#17

“Started carrying…” an extra third? Resumed is more like it. The extra third was common until the early 80s. But after OPA 90 a Chief Mate couldn’t legitimately work the needed hours on deck and stand a watch (on the coastwise black oil ships I worked, 300+ hours OT per month was normal for the Chief Mate. When we had two thirds, one was on the bridge, one on the bow and the Chief Mate spotted the headers with the loading arms on the dock.


#18

I have always thought we are a product of the people we sailed for. I had the good fortune to sail for very good captains from AB to Chief mate. They took the time to train people that wanted to learn. Of course, there is the things that cannot be taught… such as a knack for one thing or another. ( ship handling, good with people, adm duties etc). I don’t think STCW 95 did much to change seamanship where my peers are concerned, just my take


#19

[quote=Old Bakelite;15408]Which is why I was very influenced when the Capt gave the Mate the experience while he was still Mate. Similar case in the above for letting the 2/M work on the load plan and the 3/m for doing the passage planning etc etc?

For all you Captains out there, did you only get to drive once you became Captain? If so, would you liked to have had some degree of practical experience under your belt prior to taking your first command or did it just come naturally? Do you encourage your Mates to get this experience on your vessels?[/quote]

I had some ready good captains that allowed me to conn along the way, and I tried to pass that along too.


#20

So you have a ship with Capt, Mate, 2nd Mate and 3rd Mate…how does it generally work for mooring operations these days?
On a car ship we often have the second mate forward, the third mate aft and the chief mate on the bridge, once we start the approach to the pier the chief mate goes aft on the accommodation deck (not the mooring station) to spot the ramp while the cadet takes over the throttle. This works good as the mate, from the accommodation deck, can watch the lines aft (car ship has wheel house forward) and help the least experienced officer, the third if needed, spot the ramp and keep an eye on clearances. If we have no cadet the third mate stays in the wheel house and the mate goes aft for tying up. For letting go, because no need for spotting the ship, so chief mate in the wheel house, third mate on the stern.

I like having the chief mate in the whieelhouse, he takes care of making sure the right people are in the right place at the right time, pilot ladder, anchors,meals etc.