Able seaman

An able seaman (AB) is a naval rating of the deck department of a merchant ship with more than two years' experience at sea and considered "well acquainted with his duty".[1] An AB may work as a watchstander, a day worker, or a combination of these roles. Once a sufficient amount of sea time is acquired, then the AB can apply to take a series of courses/examinations to become certified as an officer.[2]

Able seaman
Scross helmsman
Able seamen generally serve as a ship's helmsmen, relying on visual references, compasses, and a rudder angle indicator to steer a steady course as directed by the mate or other officer on the bridge.
General
Other namesAble-bodied seaman
Able Rate
DepartmentDeck department
Reports toboatswain, chief mate
LicensedNo
Dutiesto be able at a moment's notice
RequirementsAble seaman's certificate
Watchstanding
Watch (at sea)Helmsman, Lookout (varies)
Watch (in port)Varies (varies)

Watchstander

At sea an AB watchstander's duties include standing watch as helmsman and lookout. A helmsman is required to maintain a steady course, properly execute all rudder orders and communicate utilizing navigational terms relating to heading and steering. A watchstander may be called upon to stand security-related watches, such as a gangway watch or anchor watch while the ship is not underway.

Dayworker

Able seaman preservation
Dayworker AB preparing a mast for painting
Aloft
Knowing how to safely work aloft to maintain cargo rigging is a skill required of an AB.

An AB day worker performs general maintenance, repair, sanitation and upkeep of material, equipment, and areas in the deck department. This can include maintenance of the ship's metal structures such as chipping, scraping, cleaning, priming, and painting. Areas frequently in need of such maintenance include the hull, decks, superstructure, cargo gear, and smoke stack. Day workers also frequently perform maintenance on lifeboats, rescue boats and liferafts, and emergency and damage control gear. For many vessels, being a dayworker is a position granted to senior AB's, since it generally allows more time for rest and relaxation.

General duties

An AB may be called on to use emergency, lifesaving, damage control, and safety equipment. Able seamen perform all operations connected with the launching of lifesaving equipment. An AB is expected to be able to operate deck machinery, such as the windlass or winches while mooring or unmooring, and to operate cargo gear.

Able seamen require advanced training, including lifeboatman certification.

The ship's boatswain, if carried, is typically a senior AB. The boatswain is in charge of the able seamen and ordinary seaman that comprise the unlicensed deck crew, and reports directly to the chief mate.

Certification

United States

Training

Able-seaman-ww2-2
AB's were in high demand during World War II.

The Code of Federal Regulations establishes in 46 CFR 12.05[3] five categories of able seaman for the United States Merchant Marine:

  1. Able Seaman—Any Waters, Unlimited. Requires three years service on deck on vessels operating on the oceans or the Great Lakes.
  2. Able Seaman—Limited. Requires 18 months service on deck in vessels of 100 gross tons or more which operate in a service not exclusively confined to the rivers and smaller inland lakes of the United States.
  3. Able Seaman—Special. Requires 12 months service on deck on vessels operating on the oceans, or the navigable waters of the United States including the Great Lakes.
  4. Able Seaman—Special (OSV). Requires six months service on deck on vessels operating on the oceans, or the navigable waters of the United States including the Great Lakes.
  5. Able Seaman—Sail. Requires six months service on deck on sail or auxiliary sail vessels operating on the oceans or the navigable waters of the United States including the Great Lakes.

Time served in certain training programs and school ships may be substituted for the time of service listed above. Special certificates of service are available for able seaman, Great Lakes—18 months service; able seaman, any waters—12 months; able seaman, tugs and towboats—any waters; able seaman, bays and sounds—12 months, vessels 500 gross tons or less not carrying passengers; and able seaman, seagoing barges—12 months.

Examination requirements

For the United States Merchant Marine, the Code of Federal Regulations establishes in 46 CFR 12.05[3] examination requirements for the certification of able seamen, which includes:

  • Competence as a lifeboatman, including showing
  1. training in all the operations connected with the launching of lifeboats and liferafts, and in the use of oars;
  2. acquaintance with the practical handling of boats; including the ability to command the boat's crew.
  • An examination, conducted only in English, consisting of questions regarding:
  1. lifeboats and liferafts, the names of their essential parts, and a description of the required equipment;
  2. the clearing away, swinging out, and lowering of lifeboats and liferafts, and handling of lifeboats under oars and sails, including questions relative to the proper handling of a boat in a heavy sea;
  3. the operation and functions of commonly used types of davits;
  4. knowledge of nautical terms; boxing the compass, either by degrees or points; running lights, passing signals, and fog signals for vessels on the high seas, in inland waters, or on the Great Lakes depending upon the waters on which the applicant has served; and distress signals; and,
  5. knowledge of proper response to commands for handling the wheel and knowledge of the use of engine room telegraph or bell-pull signals.
  • In the actual demonstration, the applicant shall show ability by taking command of a boat and directing the operation of clearing away, swinging out, lowering the boat into the water, and acting as coxswain in charge of the boat under oars. The AB shall demonstrate ability to row by pulling an oar in the boat. The applicant shall also demonstrate knowledge of the principal knots, bends, splices, and hitches in common use by tying them.
  • The applicant must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the officer in charge, marine inspection, knowledge of pollution laws and regulations, procedures for discharge containment and cleanup, and methods for disposal of sludge and waste material from cargo and fueling operations.

In 2004, studies indicate that a typical qualified Able Seaman (AB) sailing without an ITF contract might earn around $800 in total compensation; with an ITF contract total compensation is $1,300 per month.[4]

Notable able seamen

Some notable able seamen from the merchant service include:

Able seamen in fiction

Able-bodied seaman

Some modern references claim that AB stands for able-bodied seaman as well as, or instead of, able seaman. Able seaman was originally entered using the abbreviation AB instead of the more obvious AS in ships' muster books or articles. Such an entry was likely to avoid confusion with ordinary seaman (OS). Later the abbreviation began to be written as A.B., leading to the folk-etymological able-bodied seaman. The "correct" term, able seaman, remains in use in legal documents, in seaman's papers, and aboard ship.

See also

References

  1. ^ Naval Records Society: Five Naval Journals 1787-1817. Cited in Lavery 1989, p. 129
  2. ^ "Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies (MITAGS): Pages - AB To Mate Courses - Baltimore". mitags-pmi.org.
  3. ^ a b "United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 46, Part 12.05". ecfr.gpoaccess.gov. Archived from the original on October 4, 2006. Retrieved March 3, 2007.
  4. ^ N. Lillie, Global collective bargaining on flag of convenience shipping, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 2004, Wiley.

External links

Able seaman (rank)

Able seaman is a military rank used in naval forces.

Aft

For the acronym, see AFT (disambiguation).Aft, in naval terminology, is an adjective or adverb meaning, towards the stern (rear) of the ship, when the frame of reference is within the ship, headed at the fore. Example: "Able Seaman Smith; lay aft!". Or; "What's happening aft?"

The corresponding adjective, in distinguishing one feature of the vessel from another is after. See the caption to the right. Its antonym is forward.

The corresponding preposition is abaft. For example, the mizzenmast is abaft the mainmast. Its antonym is before or, in a more clumsy form, forward of.Aft also describes the direction of movement within an aircraft; that is, towards the tail. Example: "Let's go aft". Meaning to pull back on the yoke. It may also describe the back/tail location or region within an aircraft cabin. Example: "Aft lavatory".

The difference between aft and stern is that aft is the inside (onboard) rearmost part of the vessel, while stern refers to the outside (offboard) rearmost part of the vessel. The stern is opposite the bow, the "outside" (offboard) of the front of the boat.

Belgian Antarctic Expedition

The Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897 to 1899 was the first expedition to winter in the Antarctic region.

Bridge (nautical)

The bridge of a ship is the room or platform from which the ship can be commanded. When a ship is under way, the bridge is manned by an officer of the watch aided usually by an able seaman acting as lookout. During critical maneuvers the captain will be on the bridge, often supported by an officer of the watch, an able seaman on the wheel and sometimes a pilot, if required.

Comparative navy enlisted ranks of Asia

Rank comparison chart of navies of Asian states.

Comparative navy enlisted ranks of Oceania

Rank comparison chart of armies/ land forces of Oceania states.

Comparative navy enlisted ranks of the Americas

Rank comparison chart of navies of North and South American states.

Comparative navy enlisted ranks of the Commonwealth

Rank comparison chart of naval forces of Commonwealth of Nations states.

Franklin's lost expedition

Franklin's lost expedition was a British voyage of Arctic exploration led by Captain Sir John Franklin that departed England in 1845 aboard two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. A Royal Navy officer and experienced explorer, Franklin had served on three previous Arctic expeditions, the latter two as commanding officer. His fourth and last, undertaken when he was 59, was meant to traverse the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage. After a few early fatalities, the two ships became icebound in Victoria Strait near King William Island in the Canadian Arctic, in what is today the territory of Nunavut. The entire expedition, comprising 129 men, including Franklin, was lost.Pressed by Franklin's wife, Jane, Lady Franklin, and others, the Admiralty launched a search for the missing expedition in 1848. Prompted in part by Franklin's fame and the Admiralty's offer of a finder's reward, many subsequent expeditions joined the hunt, which at one point in 1850 involved eleven British and two American ships. Several of these ships converged off the east coast of Beechey Island, where the first relics of the expedition were found, including the graves of three crewmen. In 1854, explorer John Rae, while surveying near the Canadian Arctic coast southeast of King William Island, acquired relics of and stories about the Franklin party from local Inuit. A search led by Francis McClintock in 1859 discovered a note left on King William Island with details about the expedition's fate. Searches continued through much of the 19th century. In 2014, a Canadian search team led by Parks Canada located the wreck of Erebus west of O'Reilly Island, in the eastern portion of Queen Maud Gulf, in the waters of the Arctic archipelago. Two years later, the Arctic Research Foundation found the wreck of Terror south of King William Island. Research and dive expeditions at the wreck sites are currently ongoing.

In 1981, a team of scientists led by Owen Beattie, a professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, began a series of scientific studies of the graves, bodies, and other physical evidence left by Franklin's men on Beechey Island and King William Island. They concluded that the men buried on Beechey Island most likely died of pneumonia and perhaps tuberculosis, and that lead poisoning may have worsened their health, owing to badly soldered cans held in the ships' food stores. It was later suggested that the source of this lead may not have been tinned food, but the distilled water systems fitted to the ships. However, studies in 2013 and 2016 suggested that lead poisoning was likely not a factor, and that the crew's ill health may, in fact, have been due to malnutrition – specifically zinc deficiency – possibly due to a lack of meat in their diet.Cut marks on human bones found on King William Island were seen as signs of cannibalism. The combined evidence of all the studies suggested that the crewmen did not all die quickly. Hypothermia, starvation, lead poisoning or zinc deficiency, and diseases including scurvy, along with general exposure to a hostile environment whilst lacking adequate clothing and nutrition, killed everyone on the expedition in the years following its last sighting by Europeans in 1845.

The Victorian media portrayed Franklin as a hero despite the expedition's failure and the reports of cannibalism. Songs were written about him, and statues of him in his home town of Spilsby, in London, and in Tasmania credit him with discovery of the Northwest Passage, although in reality it was not traversed until Roald Amundsen's 1903–1906 expedition. Franklin's lost expedition has been the subject of many artistic works, including songs, verse, short stories, and novels, as well as television documentaries.

HMS Bounty

HMS Bounty, also known as HM Armed Vessel Bounty, was a small merchant vessel that the Royal Navy purchased for a botanical mission. The ship was sent to the Pacific Ocean under the command of William Bligh to acquire breadfruit plants and transport them to British possessions in the West Indies. That mission was never completed due to a mutiny led by acting lieutenant Fletcher Christian. This incident is now popularly known as the mutiny on the Bounty. The mutineers later burned Bounty while she was moored at Pitcairn Island. An American adventurer rediscovered the remains of the Bounty in 1957; various parts of it have been salvaged since then.

Master seaman

Master seaman (MS), or matelot-chef (matc) in French, is a non-commissioned member rank of the Royal Canadian Navy, which is between leading seaman (LS) and petty officer 2nd class (PO2). Technically, the rank is actually an appointment, with appointees holding the rank of leading seaman. If demoted, a master seaman will become an able seaman or leading seaman depending on seniority. However, the process to be appointed is very similar to that of a promotion, and holding the appointment of master seaman is a prerequisite to promotion to PO2.

A contributing factor to the confusion of 'appointment' vs 'promotion' is that when promoted/appointed to master seaman, the sailor enters a new pay scale, unlike appointment to able seaman, wherein the sailor has simply entered a new incentive level within the pay scale for ordinary seaman.

A master seaman is equal to a master corporal of the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The rank of master seaman is sometimes referred to as "master killick", from "killick", the slang for leading seaman. Those personnel junior to the master seaman, however, are advised to refrain from addressing the holder by that term.

Michael Byrne (sailor)

Michael Byrne was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1761. He went to sea as an able seaman at the age of 19. He had served on five naval ships by 1787, when he was signed as an able seaman by Captain Bligh on the Bounty, primarily to play the fiddle. Bligh wrote, "I had great difficulty before I left England to get a man to play the violin and I preferred at last to take one two-thirds blind than come without one," and described him as being "5 feet 6 inches high. Fair complexion and is almost blind. Plays the fiddle. Has the mark of an issue in the back of his neck."During the mutiny on 28 April 1789, Byrne was a loyalist, but he remained on the ship with the mutineers, apparently because his near-blindness added to his confusion. He was put ashore on Tahiti by Fletcher Christian. He gave himself up voluntarily when the Pandora arrived in 1791, and subsequently survived the wreck of the Pandora. He was acquitted of mutiny at court-martial in 1792.

He later served with Bligh's nephew, Francis Bond, on the Prompte, but his subsequent fate is unknown.

Navy ranks and insignia of Myanmar

Officers serving in the Myanmar Navy are assigned to ranks. There are ten ranks of Commissioned officers, from admiral down to ensign. As for non-commissioned officers, there are six ranks from warrant officer down to able seaman. The ranks are distinguished on uniforms by insignia worn on dark blue shoulder boards.

Ordinary seaman

An ordinary seaman (OS) is a naval rating of the deck department of a ship. The position is an apprenticeship to become an able seaman, and has been for centuries. In modern times, an OS is required to work on a ship for a specific amount of time, gaining what is referred to as "sea time". For centuries, the term ordinary seaman was used to refer to a seaman with between one and two years' experience at sea, who showed enough seamanship to be so rated by their captain.An OS is generally not required to stand watch, but must pass examinations on watchstanding skills such as performing lookout duty and being a helmsman. Thus an OS will often be found on a ship's bridge after working hours taking a turn at the ship's wheel or being familiarized with bridge equipment.

During the apprenticeship, an OS performs a variety of duties concerned with the operation and upkeep of deck department areas and equipment. These duties vary with the type of ship, the type of voyage, the number of crewmembers, the weather, the supervisor, and any number of other variables. However, in most cases, one can expect an ordinary seaman to clean, to perform maintenance, to work with deck equipment, and to undergo on-the-job-training under the supervision of senior deck department members.

Point Martin

Point Martin is a point on the east side of Mossman Peninsula, 1.5 km (0.93 mi) north-west of Cape Murdoch, on the south coast of Laurie Island in the South Orkney Islands of Antarctica. It was charted in 1903 by the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition under Bruce, who named it for J. Martin, an able seaman on the expedition ship Scotia.

SS Gothenburg

The SS Gothenburg was a steamship that operated along the British and then later the Australian and New Zealand coastlines. In February 1875, she left Darwin, Australia en route to Adelaide when she encountered a cyclone-strength storm off the north Queensland coast. The ship was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef north-west of Holbourne Island on 24 February 1875. Survivors in one of the lifeboats were rescued two days later by Leichhardt, while the occupants of two other lifeboats that managed to reach Holbourne Island were rescued several days later. Twenty-two men survived, while between 98 and 112 others died, including a number of high-profile civil servants and dignitaries.

SS Sauternes

SS Sauternes was a steamship built in 1922. It was known as the Jólaskipið (the Christmas Ship) in the Faroe Islands. It sank in a storm in the firth Fugloyarfjørður within the Faroe Islands on 7 December 1941; all 25 passengers and crew were lost. Among the casualties was Captain George Albert Perris of the Royal Army Service Corps. He is buried in Klaksvík old cemetery, along with four other service personnel from the same disaster.

In addition to general cargo for the British garrison in the Faroes, Sauternes was also carrying 22,500 Danish kroner minted in the United Kingdom for use by the Faroese, since Denmark had been occupied by the Germans and was not sending any currency.

Teddy Sheean

Edward "Teddy" Sheean (28 December 1923 – 1 December 1942) was a sailor in the Royal Australian Navy during the Second World War. Born in Tasmania, Sheean was employed as a farm labourer when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve in April 1941. Following training at HMAS Derwent and the Flinders Naval Depot, he was posted to Sydney, where he joined the newly commissioned corvette HMAS Armidale in June 1942. Sheean served aboard Armidale as she initially took part in escort duties along the eastern Australian coast and in New Guinea waters, before he transferred with the ship to Darwin in October, where Armidale was given the task of assisting Australian operations in Timor.

On 29 November 1942, Armidale set out for an operation to Betano, Timor, along with HMAS Castlemaine. The two ships were attacked by Japanese aircraft along the way, and were subsequently late in arriving at their destination, missing a planned rendezvous with HMAS Kuru. While returning to Darwin, the pair encountered Kuru south of Betano and it was decided by Castlemaine's commanding officer—as the senior officer—that Armidale and Kuru should make for Betano. The two ships took different routes to Betano, during which both vessels came under aerial assault.

During a subsequent confrontation with thirteen Japanese aircraft on 1 December, Armidale was struck by two torpedoes and a bomb, and began to sink; the order to abandon ship was given. After helping to free a life-raft, Sheean was wounded by two bullets. He made his way to the aft Oerlikon 20 mm cannon and began to fire on the Japanese aircraft to protect those in the water. Sheean managed to shoot down one of the Japanese bombers, but was killed when Armidale sank. Many of the survivors credited their lives to Sheean and he was posthumously mentioned in despatches. In 1999, the submarine HMAS Sheean was named in his honour, and efforts have been made to have Sheean awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia.

The Navy Lark

The Navy Lark is a radio sitcom about life aboard a British Royal Navy frigate named HMS Troutbridge (a play on HMS Troubridge, a Royal Navy destroyer) based in HMNB Portsmouth. In series 1 and 2, the ship and crew were stationed offshore at an unnamed location known simply as "The Island". In series 2 this island was revealed to be owned by Lt. Cdr. Stanton.

The programme was transmitted on the BBC Light Programme and subsequently BBC Radio 2. It was produced by Alastair Scott Johnston. Jon Pertwee is frequently quoted as having suggested the idea of a forces comedy based on the Royal Navy, but writer Laurie Wyman and Alastair Scott Johnston both contemplated an Air Force and an Army themed sit-com before going to the BBC with The Navy Lark. Laurie Wyman included ideas based on excuses for late return from leave and other misdemeanours from HMS Troubridge bulletins. He worked with George Evans (Pertwee's personal scriptwriter) from quite early on, but Alastair Scott Johnston did not want him named until the 12th series onwards. For most of its run, it starred Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee and Stephen Murray, whose names rotated in order of precedence every episode over the entire 15 season run.

Episodes of The Navy Lark series are still replayed in rotation on BBC Radio 4 Extra, and made available for delayed listening through their iPlayer service.

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