The joy of driving….
People very often ask me if a ship driver (like I was for my U.S. Navy career) is the same as the pilot of an aircraft.
Well….yes and no!
Yes, both an aircraft pilot and a ship driver maintain absolute and final positive control over the operation of their sophisticated machine – an air or ocean surface platform.
No, because, as opposed to the pilot of an aircraft, the ship driver isn’t the person actually steering the ship or controlling the speed. (You’re not too concerned with altitude on a surface vessel!)
The Officer of the Deck and bridge team aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)
A ship driver, whether aboard a naval warship or a commercial vessel, is the person in charge of a team of folk who perform precisely as ordered….steering the ship in the direction ordered…..proceeding at the speed ordered….navigating along the track ordered….maintaining constant open communications with the engine room as ordered….communicating with other ships as ordered….ensuring the safety of the ship’s operations as ordered….keeping the Captain and crew informed as ordered….performing safety and operational checks as ordered…..
The Deck Officers aboard the cruise ship Caribbean Princess
So, you get the drift. The cockpit of an aircraft is rarely populated by more than two or three people….but the bridge of a ship can contain up to a dozen or more crew members, responding to the commands of the ship driver (professionally known in the U.S. Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer) – normally called the Officer of the Deck aboard both military and commercial vessels.
* * * *
In the photo at the top of this post, the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) makes her final approach towards the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO 193), left, and Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), far left, during a replenishment-at-sea evolution recently in the South China Sea.
This refueling/replenishment operation is conducted dozens of times daily all over the world by United States naval vessels.
I had this view from the bridge of my ships at least 100 times as an Officer of the Deck during my years as a ship driver. And it never ceased to be the most thrilling and challenging of professional achievements!
But it took a team effort to make it all happen safely and successfully!
>>Top photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Raymond D. Diaz III, USN