The Sentry Duty – shortly explained for “Landratten” (landlubbers)


posted by: Carl

I guess all of you, or the biggest part of you, think that Sentry Duty (or “watch”) means to do many things with the sails for three hours or have at least a little bit of action. But that is very very wrong. Most of the time you sit there watching the horizon or hold one course. Today, I want to clear up the tasks of a sentry duty, at daytime, or at night.
The sentry duty times are:
Sentry duty 1: from 11 am to 2 pm and from 11 pm to 2 am
Sentry duty 2: from 2 pm to 5 pm o’clock and from 2 am to 5 am
Sentry duty 3: from 5 pm to 8 pm o’clock and from 5 am to 8 am
Sentry duty 4: from 8 pm to 11 pm o’clock and from 8 am to 11 am

First you got to differentiate between daytime and nighttime sentry duty. Basically, you got the same things to do. The only difference (but an extreme important difference) is that the time of the night sentry duties, that means sentry duty one and two, is right when you normally sleep, that everyone at the beginning of the sentry duty is only half present and just wants to go back to bed. But in my opinion the night sentry duty can be even better than the one at daytime, when you have had enough sleep. The atmosphere is totally different and compared to daytime it is (besides of the engine running and making loud noises) way more silent because at daytime, there’s always somebody around. Also you got an incomparable sky full of stars, at least if you normally live in a city.
Every sentry duty starts with the sentry duty takeover. To do that everyone goes to the “Mizzen Mast”, which stands on the poop deck, and the watch on duty says who of them is where (one person at the steering wheel, one who “does weather”, etc.) and which rarities happened. Finally, the sentry duty is completed with the ancient northern dialect sentence: „Gode Ruh“ from the new sentry duty and „Gode Wacht“ from the old sentry duty.
After that, the sentry duty leader asks, after the old sentry duty went to sleep, or got free time, who exchanges the one who is at the helm and on the lookout. To look out all the time is extremely important because the leader of the sentry duty is not able to hold an overview all the time about everything. Also, there can sometimes be a container or similar things in the ocean and a collision with them can be fatal and end deadly for the ship. You divide the area in eight lines (one line is round about 11° or a hand wide). One line starboard for example is almost right to the front and eight lines is at the right side of the direction of the ship.
It’s pretty obvious that it is important, while you steer, to hold the course. But it is also extremely important that you say the latest course loudly and that the one, who takes the steering wheel, repeats it also loudly. That ensures that there is no misunderstanding. Steering is very nice, but if you got to stand half an hour at the steering wheel and you are tired, there is not very much motivation.
Added to these two jobs, you got to write the weather in the weather book and the position in the bridge book and the sea map. In the weather book needs to go the wind direction, and -strength and the temperature of the water and air. Also, the atmospheric pressure and clouds belong in the book. It was an interesting experience to learn how to transmit the position from an electric sea map to the paper version.
Last but not least, there is the safety-, and the engine round. The engine round is very important, especially if you drive for multiple days with it. There is a checklist on which stands what you got to do, for example, to prove that the temperature of the cooling water is not over 55°C or to oil the cylinder at seven points and so on. In the safety round you walk through the whole ship and secure that everything is safe for the sea that means nothing flies around when the ship rolls. But the most important thing is that you look, that there is no fire on board because that is a danger on every ship.

All that are the tasks of three to four pupils, a teacher and someone from the crew. Often one of us, the pupils got the task to lead the sentry duty.
All in all, the night-, and day sentry duty can be very exhausting, but it is in the end a firm part of our everyday life, and extremely important for the safety of everyone. Also it can be quite nice if you got good weather.