|The boatswain aboard a modern merchant ship stands cargo watch as freight is lowered into an open hatch.|
|Other names :||bosun|
|Department :||Deck department|
|Requirements :||typically Able seaman certificate|
|Watch (at sea) :||On smaller vessels (varies)|
|Watch (in port) :||On smaller vessels (varies)|
A boatswain (//, formerly and dialectally also //), bo's'n, bos'n, or bosun, is the senior crewman of the deck department and is responsible for the components of a ship's hull. The boatswain supervises the other members of the ship's deck department, and typically is not a watchstander, except on vessels with small crews. Other duties vary depending on the type of ship, her crewing, and other factors.
The word boatswain has been in the English language since approximately 1450. It is derived from late Old English batswegen, from bat (boat) concatenated with Old Norse sveinn (swain), meaning a young man, a follower, retainer or servant. The phonetic spelling bosun has been observed since 1868. Interestingly, this spelling was used in Shakespeare's The Tempest written in 1611, and as Bos'n in later editions.
The rank of boatswain was until recently the oldest rank in the Royal Navy, and its origins can be traced back to the year 1040. In that year, when five English ports began furnishing warships to King Edward the Confessor in exchange for certain privileges, they also furnished crews whose officers were the master, boatswain, carpenter and cook. Later these officers were "warranted" by the British Admiralty. They maintained and sailed the ships and were the standing officers of the navy.
The boatswain works in a ship's deck department as the foreman of the unlicensed deck crew. Sometimes, the boatswain is also a third or fourth mate. A bosun must be highly skilled in all matters of marlinespike seamanship required for working on deck of a seagoing vessel. The bosun is distinguished from other able seamen by the supervisory roles: planning, scheduling, and assigning work.
As deck crew foreman, the boatswain plans the day's work and assigns tasks to the deck crew. As work is completed, the boatswain checks on completed work for compliance with approved operating procedures.
Outside the supervisory role, the boatswain regularly inspects the vessel and performs a variety of routine, skilled, and semi-skilled duties to maintain all areas of the ship not maintained by the engineering department. These duties can include cleaning, painting, and maintaining the vessel's hull, superstructure and deck equipment as well as executing a formal preventive maintenance program.
A boatswain's skills may include cargo rigging, winch operations, deck maintenance, working aloft, and other duties required during deck operations. The boatswain is well versed in the care and handling of lines, and has knowledge of knots, hitches, bends, whipping, and splices as needed to perform tasks such as mooring a vessel. The boatswain typically operates the ship's windlasses when letting go and heaving up anchors. Moreover, a boatswain may be called upon to lead firefighting efforts or other emergency procedures encountered on board. Effective boatswains are able to integrate their seafarer skills into supervising and communicating with members of deck crew with often diverse backgrounds.
Originally, on board sailing ships the boatswain was in charge of a ship's anchors, cordage, colours, deck crew and the ship's boats. The boatswain would also be in charge of the rigging while the ship was in dock. The boatswain's technical tasks have been modernised with the advent of steam engines and subsequent mechanisation.
A Boatswain also is responsible for doing routine pipes using what is called a Boatswain's Call. A common slang name for this tool is a pippity dippity. There are specific sounds which can be made with the pipe to indicate various events, such as emergency situations or notifications of meal time.
Merchant mariners spend extended periods at sea. Most deep-sea mariners are hired for one or more voyages that last for several months; there is no job security after that. The length of time between voyages varies depending on job availability and personal preference.
At sea, a watchstanding boatswain will usually stand watch for 4 hours and is off for 8 hours, 7 days a week.
People at sea work in all weather conditions. Although merchant mariners try to avoid severe storms while at sea, working in damp and cold conditions often is inevitable. While it is uncommon nowadays for vessels to suffer disasters such as fire, explosion, or a sinking, workers face the possibility that they may have to abandon their craft on short notice if it collides with other vessels or runs aground. They also risk injury or death from falling overboard and hazards associated with working with machinery, heavy loads, and dangerous cargo. However, modern safety management procedures, advanced emergency communications, and effective international rescue systems place modern mariners in a much safer position.
Most newer vessels are air conditioned, soundproofed from noisy machinery, and equipped with comfortable living quarters. For some mariners, these amenities have helped ease the sometimes difficult circumstances of long periods away from home. Also, modern communications, especially email, link modern mariners to their families. Nevertheless, some mariners dislike the long periods away from home and the confinement aboard ship and consequently leave the occupation.
In the United States, the rate of unionisation for these workers is about 36 percent, much higher than the average for all occupations. Consequently, merchant marine officers and seamen, both veterans and beginners, are hired for voyages through union hiring halls or directly by shipping companies. Hiring halls rank the candidates by the length of time the person has been out of work and fill open slots accordingly. Hiring halls typically are found in major seaports.
Boatswains employed on Great Lakes ships work 60 days and have 30 days off, but do not work in the winter when the lakes are frozen. Workers on rivers, on canals, and in harbours are more likely to have year-round work. Some work 8-hour or 12-hour shifts and go home every day. Others work steadily for a week or a month and then have an extended period off. When working, they usually are on duty for 6 or 12 hours and off for 6 or 12 hours. Those on smaller vessels are normally assigned to one vessel and have steady employment.
A number of boatswains and naval boatswains mates have achieved fame. Reuben James and William Wiley are famous for their heroism in the Barbary Wars and are namesakes of the ships USS Reuben James and USS Wiley. Medal of Honor recipients Francis P. Hammerberg and George Robert Cholister were U.S. Navy boatswain's mates, as was Navy Cross recipient Stephen Bass. Victoria Cross recipients John Sheppard (VC), John Sullivan (VC), Henry Curtis, and John Harrison (VC 1857) were Royal Navy boatswain's mates.
There are also a handful of boatswains and boatswain's mates in literature. The boatswain in William Shakespeare's The Tempest is a central character in the opening scene, which takes place aboard a ship at sea, and appears again briefly in the final scene. Also, the character Bill Bobstay in Gilbert and Sullivan's musical comedy H.M.S. Pinafore is alternatively referred to as a "bos'un" and a "boatswain's mate." Another boatswain from literature is Smee from Peter Pan. Lord Byron had a Newfoundland dog named Boatswain. Byron wrote the famous poem "Epitaph to a Dog" and had a monument made for him at Newstead Abbey.
Quartermaster is the highest Rank in the Sea Scouts, BSA, an older youth (13-21) co-ed programme. The youth can also elect a youth leader, giving that youth the title "boatswain" A Boatswain (Bootsman) is in the Netherlands the patrol leader of a Sea Scout patrol (Bak), in Flanders it is the assistant patrol leader of a Sea Scout patrol (Kwartier).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Able Seaman (occupation).|
- Merchant Navy
- Ship transport
- United States Merchant Marine
- Boatswain's Mate (US Navy)
- Boatswain's Mate (US Coast Guard)
- Deck department
- Seafarer's professions and ranks
- Serang (disambiguation)
- Buffer (navy)
- "Boatswain". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- "HMS Victory". royalnavy.mod.uk. Archived from the original on 2007-01-13. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
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- Chisholm, 1911, Boatswain.
- Oregon University System, 2004
- Bureau of Labor Statistics 2007, p.1.
- "Ship's Namesake". USS Reuben James Official Website. Archived from the original on 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- Naval Historical Center (1981). "Wiley". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. United States Navy. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- Naval Historical Center (1981). "Hammerberg". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. United States Navy. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- Naval Historical Center (1997). "Navy Medal of Honor: Interim Period 1920-1940". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. United States Navy. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- "CPO Stephen Bass, U.S.N.". LegionOfValor.com. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- See quote from "The Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan" at .
- See quote from S.W. Gilbert in "The story of the H.M.S. Pinafore" at .
- J M Barrie (December 27, 1904). "Act II: The Never Land". Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
- Clinton, George (1828). Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Lord Byron. London: James Robbins and Company. p. 8. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S.A.) (2007). "Water Transportation Occupations" (PDF). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
- Encyclopædia Britannica (1911). "Boatswain". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica 4 (11th edition ed.). p. 100. Retrieved 2007-04-17.
- Hayler, William B. (2003). American Merchant Seaman's Manual. Cornell Maritime Press. ISBN 0-87033-549-9.
- McLeod, William Reynolds (2000). The Boatswain's Manual. Glasgow: Brown, Son and Ferguson, ltd. ISBN 0-85174-679-9.
- Oregon University System (2004). "Classification Number: 4512 Boatswain". Position Descriptions. Oregon University System. Archived from the original on 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
- United States Naval Institute (1996) . The Bluejackets' Manual (21st ed. ed.). Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 1-55750-050-9.
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2003). "Boatswain". Position Descriptions. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Archived from the original on 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
|Look up boatswain in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boatswain.|
- CorPun website on corporal punishments
- Boatswain at OccupationalInfo.org
- International Labour Organization (2000-12-05). "Seaman, Merchant Marine". International Hazard Datasheets on Occupation. Retrieved 2007-05-26.