Another calm and beautiful day here off the coast of Cuba. We're still due to arrive in Miami on Saturday, but since that's so much time to go so little distance, we dropped our speed so we aren't too early. I spent another day up on the Bridge doing the 8-12 watch, and the 1/C cadets have been teaching me some pretty cool things!
Faster Speed = Faster Steering
When at the helm, you are given a course to follow, and if you deviate from that course at all, you need to turn the wheel to compensate. What I've learned however, is that when the ship is moving faster through the water, it's much easier to steer. At full sea speed, it's relatively easy to get back on your course if you get off a little- when you slow down, it's much more difficult.
When we slowed our speed from 16 knots to 8 knots, I immediately noticed how much more I had to turn the wheel. Normally, you only need to turn the wheel around 1-2 degrees to get the ship to start moving. When we further decreased speed to 4 knots this morning, I would have to turn the wheel at least 8 degrees before I started noticing a change. Pretty interesting!
Extremely Advanced Google Maps
The ECDIS, a computer system that's on the bridge, is one of the primary tools for modern day navigation. We used to use paper charts for everything, but sadly, those are getting faded out and replaced with electronic means. The ECDIS has a large screen that shows our GPS location, surrounding land masses, water depths, nearby ships, and loads and loads more- so much that if every layer was labeled, it would overcrowd the screen. As mariners, we use our judgement to filter out what we do need and do not need (Ex. we don't need to see every single Cuban mountain when we aren't coming close enough to see the island in person.).
All of the systems on the ship are connected to each other. For example, the GPS is a standalone unit, a basic box that tells us where we are, but it is hooked up to the ECDIS to turn it from a simple electronic chart to a chart that shows where we are.
Another is the AIS. Every ship has a unique ID, and the AIS sends out our ID and receives the ID's of every ship around us. Once we have the ship ID, we can get all sorts of useful information from it, such as it's name, location, speed, course, and more. The AIS feeds into the ECDIS and plots every single one of those ships on our electronic chart, which is extremely helpful in making sure that two ships aren't on courses that would collide. There are so many other systems on a
ship to help us out, and this is only scratching the surface.
I'm having a ton of fun on Bridge watch. I'm learning so much from the upperclassmen who are really running the show, and they are so nice in answering all of my questions. I still have a couple more days of it, so I'm going to soak up as much as possible!