Navy boat crew
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (March 2007)|
Most Navy boats have permanently assigned crews. Crew size varies depending on the type of boat, but typically consists of the coxswain, engineer, and bowhook and sometimes a sternhook and boat officer. All must be qualified swimmers. The boat crews represent their vessel and should for that reason take pride in their appearance and that of their boat. The efficiency and smartness of a ship's boats and boat crews reflect the standards of the ship. Clean white uniforms can be hard to maintain on some ships, but custom dictates that every day the ship's laundry wash and press a uniform for each member of the duty boat's crew. Ship regulations frequently require crew members to wear sneakers. This is a safety factor, but it also keeps the boats themselves looking good.
The coxswain is in charge of all personnel and equipment in the boat. Subject to the orders of the Officer of the Deck (OOD) and the senior line officer embarked, a coxswain otherwise has full authority and is responsible for the boat's appearance, safety, and efficient operation. The crew and passengers (including embarked troops) are required to cooperate fully with the coxswain. In fulfilling his or her responsibilities, the coxswain must be familiar with all details relating to the boat's care and handling. Equally important, the coxswain must be able to instruct the crew in all aspect of the general service and drills. The coxswain is also responsible for the appearance and behavior of the crew.
The engineer must see that the engine is in good condition and ready to run. Only the engineer should work on the engine. The engineer may also perform the duties of the sternhook.
The bowhook handles lines forward when the boat is coming alongside a pier or ship. The bowhook also tends fenders and forward weather cloths (canvases spread for protection against the wind). In an open boat, the bowhook usually sits on the forward thwart (cross seat) on the starboard side, outboard. In bad weather, she or he may move to the lee side. The bowhook faces the bow and serves as a lookout. If the boat is decked over, the bowhook stands on the starboard after deck facing forward.
When the boat approaches the landing, the bowhook should be ready to spring ashore with the painter (length of line secured to the bow of the boat for towing or making fast) and take a turn on the nearest cleat. When the boat approaches a ship"s side, the bowhook should be in the bow with the boathook, ready to snag the boat line and make it fast. The bowhook should always have a fender ready to drop over the side if a bump is unavoidable.
The sternhook, likewise, should be ready at once to jump ashore with the stern line. In an open boat, the sternhook normally sits on the starboard side, outboard on the after thwart, facing aft. On deck over craft, the sternhook usually stands on the port side of the after deck, facing forward
During heavy weather, and other times as deemed necessary, an officer (sometimes a chief petty officer) is assigned to each duty boat.
A boat officer naturally has authority over the coxswain. The boat officer does not assume the coxswain's responsibilities, or relieve the coxswain of his duties, but is there to oversee the boat operations to ensure that safety is maintained at all times. The situation is somewhat like the relationship between the OOD and the commanding officer on the bridge. The coxswain and boat officer are responsible for the boat and for the safety and welfare of the crew and passengers.