Thursday, July 31, 2008

Basic Seamanship, Navigation Training for Class of 2012

Plebes don fire fighting equipment during seamanship, navigation and lookout training aboard a Yard Patrol (YP) craft. USNA photo by QMCS(SW) Paul Oxley.
Out in the Fleet, chances are you won’t see an officer on the deck of a ship tossing a mooring line down to the pier or standing a lookout watch, but as leaders, they must understand these basic seamanship and navigation skills.

During Plebe Summer, the Academy’s newest Midshipmen learn basic seamanship and navigation skills through classroom lectures and practical exercises on Yard Patrol (YP) craft.

‘‘[The Midshipmen] need to know basic seamanship because it is the basis of what they need to know for the rest of their time in the Navy,” said Senior Chief Quartermaster (SW) Paul Oxley, Leading Chief Petty Officer of the Seamanship and Navigation Depa-rtment. ‘‘The more they know now, the better they are going to be when they get out to the Fleet.”

Oxley said that knowing the process of tying up a ship will help the Midshipmen understand how to maneuver the ship when they are the Officer of the Deck, Navigation Officer or even the Commanding Officer.

‘‘The Mids will take all the basics they have learned here and will apply them to the actual watch station during their summer cruises on ships throughout the Navy,” said Oxley.

During Plebe Summer, Midshipmen are taught the basic components of the ship in a classroom, and then they conduct practical exercises on the seawall and aboard the YPs.

Oxley said the instructors take the Plebes out to the YPs and demonstrate how to do everything. We show them what bitts are and what bollards are, we even show them how and why to dip-the-eye.

Plebes also get an introduction to basic navigation. They learn the meaning of all the different symbols of a navigational chart and how to read it. This training during Plebe Summer is the foundation for ongoing seamanship and navigation training they will continue to receive throughout their four years at the Academy.

‘‘Most of the navigation training during the summer is in classrooms,” explained Oxley. ‘‘The Plebes are like sponges, you can just feed them information and they absorb it all.”

After classes and exercises are complete, Plebes put their newly-learned skills to practice during a day-long trip aboard a YP to Naval Reserve Center Baltimore for hands-on training in line handling, watch-standing and damage control.