View Full Version : Captains

03-11-2010, 02:42 PM
What do captains do on ships, both military and civil, present and past? (It's a big topic I know.)

Are there any good resources for/about captains?

Thanks in advance,

03-11-2010, 03:31 PM
Marry passengers

03-11-2010, 03:51 PM
In the past a captain at sea was completely in charge of his ship - his word was law

03-11-2010, 04:39 PM
Marry passengers

I thought they couldn't do that any more.

03-11-2010, 04:50 PM
I thought they couldn't do that any more.

I think it's a myth. I don't think they've ever had that mandate.

03-11-2010, 06:05 PM
A captain is responsible for the ship, it's as simple as that.

To really understand what this means, start with a small one man boat. The captain maintains the boat, makes sure the engine gets the work it needs, makes sure the boat is hauled and bottom painted when it needs to be, replaces wearable items like sacrficial anodes, maintains the electronic equipment (chart plotter, depth sounder), washes the bedsheets, takes the boat to the pump station to bump the holding tank (human waste), fills the fresh water tank, maintains the battery, maintains the boats running rigging if any (sails, lines, etc.), maintains the standing rigging and achor equipment, keeps the latest charts, plots the course, drives the boat, makes sure all passengers wear life preservers when necessary, don't fool around, don't do anything stupid, etc. He decides where the boat goes, how it gets there, whether it uses the sail or motor, he picks the spot to anchor or drift while fishing, etc.

Now on a ship, say a US Navy Destroyer, the captain is responsible for the exact same things, except that he has crew to actually do the physical work and officers to oversee the details. In addition to all this, he administers his crew, like any manager in a corporation, and he has missions to perform, like being part of an exercise or escorting a carrier if he is part of a carrier group, etc. These missions are much like a pleasure cruise on a private yacht...the captain takes the boat somehwere, the crew does something, and then he takes the boat back.

The essential fundamentals of operating a vessel at sea are the same for a tiny 16' speed boat and a 1000' cruise ship. The real difference is that the small boat captain can make a 100 mistakes a day and get away with, the ship captain rarely gets 1.

03-12-2010, 03:25 AM
The captain's word is still law on a ship. Of course, in the modern world, he will have to answer for his actions once he reaches shore (he is responsible to the cruise line, military branch, etc). So if he places someone in the brig or forces a passenger to disembark in a foreign port, he'd better have a really good reason. But matters of safety and security ultimately come down to his judgment while the ship is at sea.

On a cruise ship, the captain also has social obligations. The cruise director handles most of the social duties and acts as the face of the cruise line (sometimes assisted by a social host/hostess), but the captain must appear at the cocktail party in his honor and other specific functions.

03-12-2010, 05:31 AM
There is a huge difference between “captains” on a Merchant Marine or Coastguard and those in the military navy (including non-combatant vessels—tankers, troop transports, hospital ships, etc). In the military navies of the world, “captain” denotes the person in charge; though his actual rank may be lower.
I’ll us US Navy system:
There are three basic uniforms: khaki (the rank badge is on the collar)—this is called the “work uniform” and worn on board or on shore; blue (rank stripes on the sleeve); white (shoulder boards or epaulets).
The ranks are:
-Ensign ENS (one gold bar on collar – one gold stripe on sleeve or board)
-Lieutenant Junior Grade LTJG (silver bare on collar – one and a half gold stripes on sleeve or board)
-Lieutenant LT (two silver bars on collar – two gold stripes on sleeve or boards)
-Lieutenant Commander LCRD (gold leaf on collar – two and a half gold stripes on sleeve or boards)
-Commander CDR (silver leaf on collar – three gold stripes on sleeve or boards)
-Captain CAPT (silver eagle on collar – four gold stripes on sleeves or boards)
After that you’d have five kind of Admirals, who wear silver stars.
All of the above are also referred to as “line officers” – officers who can command a ship at sea (though no ENS has commanded anything larger than patrol or T-boats). LT are usually second in command on smaller size ships (frigates or destroyers). A Commander in the U.S. Navy may command a frigate, destroyer, submarine or aviation squadron.
When in command of a ship (regardless of rank) any of those wold be addressed as “captain” even if their rank is inferior. Those with the rank of captain command capital ships (aircraft cariers, cruisers, battleships).

There is so much info and I have no idea as to what you looking for. If you drop me aa explicite PM I’ll try to help.

03-15-2010, 02:47 AM
Thanks guys for all the information. It's a great start from which to build from. eurodan49 if I think of more questions I'll PM you.