Steering the Ship, Continued
The helmsman must repeat distinctly, word for word, every order he or
she receives. This is done so the conning officer knows the helmsman
understands his or her command. To respond to an order such as
STEADY AS YOU GO, follow the repeating of the order with the
reply STEADY ON 110, or whatever the course was you marked when
you received the order. Do this once the ship steadies up.
As a master helmsman, you must know more about how your ship steers
than anyone else. Every ship handles differently. Many hours on the
helm will allow you to anticipate how the ship will react. Here are
some tips, which were gathered from senior Quartermasters concerning
steering the ship.
General Techniques: The first rule that you must follow is to pay
attention at all times! Many helmsmen have found themselves in a
world of trouble because they lost focus, and then chased the helm.
This is how ships become damaged (which the U.S. Navy frowns upon).
Never oversteer. Steering a ship is often a situation where less is more.
Always use the least amount of rudder necessary to maintain course. Be
patient, the ship will respond. A common mistake is to use more rudder
than needed to maintain course, which results in a snaking effect.
On the other hand, use the rudder when needed. Commands like
MEET HER and STEADY AS YOU GO warrant the use of rudder up
to 30°, if necessary. Other ships in formation judge another ship by the
way she makes her turns. Make sure your ship turns smartly. Quick
and precise maneuvers are the name of the game!
Find the weather helm: If you were to leave the rudder amidships (0°),
the wind, current, and even the ships list would put you off course.
Before relieving the helm, make a habit of observing the swell and wind
waves. Then, always ask what rudder combinations are currently being
used to maintain course. For example, if the wind and swell is hitting
the ship on the port bow at 45°, the stem will be pushed to the right.
This action could cause the ship to fall off course to the left. Knowing
this, you could imagine that some amount of right rudder will be
required to maintain course. When finding the weather helm, you are
actually looking for the amount of rudder that is a real time 0°.
The weather helm varies with the weather and currents. If it takes a
constant 2° of right rudder, then the weather helm equals 2° right, which
is the same as 0° with no wind or current.