17A1. Duties and responsibilities. Surface operation requires that a submarine be maintained in a constant state of readiness, prepared at all times for any emergency. The safety of the ship is the responsibility of the officer of the deck, subject to any orders he may receive from the commanding officer. The manner in which the officer of the deck should carry out his duties is fully described in United States Navy Regulations and the Watch Officer's Guide. However, the unusual features of a submarine, which directly affect the officer of the deck, make it imperative that emphasis be given those points that are peculiar to this type of vessel.

17A2. Desirable characteristics. Desirable qualities of a submarine's officer of the deck are forehandedness, vigilance, leadership, and common sense. Each of these qualities must be developed to a high degree of perfection to insure the successful execution of duties. The officer of the deck's ability to look ahead and foresee the development of unusual contingencies places him in a position of always being prepared. On submarines, more so than on other types of vessels, it is axiomatic that eternal vigilance is the price of safety. Alert to all that is going on about him, he must see everything and know all that is happening. Conducting himself in a manner befitting his position, as representing the commanding officer, requires a marked degree of leadership. To this extent he must be exemplary in his appearance and performance of duty so that a feeling of confidence and pride is developed in his subordinates.

The underlying attribute of all these characteristics of the proficient submarine officer of the deck is common sense-a sense of proportion, the ability to evaluate the components of a situation in the light of their real significance.

17A3. Preparing the ship. Preparation must be completed before leaving port to place the submarine in a rigged-for-dive condition. The officer of the deck supervises the stowing and

  securing of all loose gear both topside and below. Superstructure access openings must be locked or welded closed, in anticipation of the most extreme conditions, to prevent accidental release of gear and consequent indication of the submarine's position, and all external air and oil leaks must be eliminated. Bow and stern tubes must be loaded with torpedoes ready to fire and with one complete set prepared for reload without further adjustment. All guns and ammunition must be maintained in the most advanced state of readiness compatible with their preservation in event of quick dives.

17A4. Vulnerability of ship. The officer- of the deck must have a more intimate technical knowledge of all departments of a submarine than is required in surface ships, because a submarine on the surface is the most vulnerable type of craft afloat. The danger of collision exists on a submarine long before that condition is considered to exist on a surface vessel; therefore, the safety of the submarine must never be jeopardized by unnecessarily placing it in a position in which collision with another vessel is possible. Low reserve buoyancy magnifies the danger resulting from any collision, requiring the submarine to be kept well clear of all vessels. Things happen quickly in submarines, requiring quick thinking and decisive action to grasp the opportunity to prevent disaster. Taking halfway measures may lose the ship.

17A5. Watch officer's station. The forward bridge structure is the usual station of the officer of the deck when on the surface. Although he is expected to remain intensely alert and observant, he is not a lookout, and must not become engrossed in details to the exclusion of his comprehensive duties as supervisor of the watch. The poor habitability of the bridge and the exacting requirements of the duties impose strict demands upon the assigned personnel. The officer about to relieve the deck should be properly clothed and physically ft to assume the responsibilities


that will be his. For similar reasons, lookouts should be selected from the best men of the crew suitable for this duty, and only those chosen who have excellent vision and good health. Prior to their coming on the bridge, clothing should be issued to enable them to withstand the rigors of adverse climatic conditions, Cold, wet personnel cannot function as efficiently as those who are protected from the weather, in so far as conditions will permit. The night lookout should be properly dark-adapted, wearing red goggles, before relieving.

17A6. Conduct of the watch. The officer of the deck must take over his watch promptly, and be sure to obtain accurately all the information from the officer about to be relieved.

He should determine the ship's position with regard to other ships in sight, the proximity of land, rocks, shoals, and the identity of lights. He should always time navigational lights used in fixing the ship's position even though they have been previously sighted and identified. He must keep the ship's position plotted on the chart at all times. He must closely observe the weather, course, speed, and know the combinations of propulsion equipment available. He must know whether or not the storage batteries are being charged and how much float is being carried. He should insure that battery ventilation is adequate.

He should maintain an efficient watch by rotating the lookouts. He should stagger the reliefs, allowing only one man of the oncoming watch on the bridge at a time and he should require "permission to come on the bridge" in each case, and caution against all extraneous noise and unnecessary conversation. Orders should be worded in standard phraseology, and given in an authoritative manner only as loud as the occasion demands.

  He must insist that acknowledgement of directives be made in standard phraseology, permitting no deviations whatsoever.

The success of night attacks depends greatly upon the alertness and reliability of the lookouts. Each should be trained to know what to look for, carefully searching his assigned sector, and reporting his findings in the proper phraseology. When an unidentified or enemy vessel is sighted, the officer of the deck should be so familiar with the commanding officer's attack doctrine that he can take the proper action while calling the crew to battle stations. In submitting reports to the commanding officer, he must be certain that the data are correct, with any doubtful details so identified. He should develop a reputation for reliability and integrity. He must be sufficiently familiar with signals to be able to determine when another ship is calling without having to call for the quartermaster every time flashing lights are seen.

The officer of the deck must have full information of the status of every department of the ship at all times. He must have knowledge of the condition of all hull openings, ballast tanks, flood valves, vents, variable tanks, pumps, and so forth. Particular attention must be given to the ship's readiness to dive, permitting nothing to jeopardize this condition without the commanding officer's permission. As soon as charts, sextants, and other loose gear are no longer in use, or the necessity of additional personnel on the bridge has ceased to exist, he should see that the ship is returned to a condition in which she is able to dive without delay. Appropriate consideration should be given the fact that submarines have a small freeboard, resulting in danger of personnel being washed overboard or water entering the ship through ventilation and deck openings.

17B1. Experience. The mere reading of a book will not establish perfection in the art of ship handling, an accomplishment attained only by practice, and more practice, in performing the actual operations. Nevertheless. the printed page provides a means of   perpetuating the findings and advice of those who have learned by experience.

Above all, ship handling demands good judgment. Existing and anticipated situations must be carefully considered before action is taken. The officer of the deck should


handle the ship smartly, and he should always remember that in coming alongside a dock or another ship, a submarine holds her way longer than a surface ship of similar tonnage.

17B2. Control. Steering and engine control are, at all times, from the conning tower or control room, in which are located the power, emergency, and hand steering controls. The officer of the deck should practice the use of the two latter systems, except when maneuvering in restricted water's, thereby training. the steersmen and testing the equipment for emergency operation. In a submarine, more so than in other types of vessels, good judgment demands that all machinery be tested prior to its prospective use. Hand steering trains steersmen to use small amounts of rudder, and permits more nearly silent operation.

Control is temporarily poor when shifting from conning tower to control room, and when shifting from engines to motors. If a doubtful situation exists at these times, prudence dictates maintaining the status quo until circumstances permit a change, When operating on the surface, enough way should be kept on the ship to permit maneuvering or quick diving.

17B3. Landings. When maneuvering around docks and other close quarters, especially at night, the officer of the deck must assure himself of unobstructed visibility in all directions. He should carefully plan the approach to the landing, with special reference to current, wind, amount of way on, turning points, sea room available in the slip, and the preparation of lines. The use of excessive speed is both dangerous and inexcusable; a submarine is not equipped with four-wheel brakes.

He should never bump any part of the submarine-the underwater bow and stern parts are especially vulnerable, Landings should be made gently. Landing should be a precisely executed maneuver, so planned and performed that the simple operation of backing one or both propellers for a few seconds, when near the desired position, will take all, or nearly all, way off the ship and leave her practically in her berth, ready to double up all lines. The choice of screws and

  their direction of rotation should be thought out carefully. Quite often the backing of both propellers would spoil an otherwise good landing, where the situation demanded that one, or the other, should be backed.

17B4. Current effect. Accurate estimation of the strength and direction of current is essential to the success of the maneuver. This is easily estimated by noticing a spar buoy, or watching the water flow past the end of a dock. The current must not only be considered when selecting the turning point while in the channel but it must be remembered after the turn, realizing that the slower the vessel approaches the dock, the greater will be the effect of the current. Similarly, it is important to remember that after the bow enters the slip, it is in relatively still water, while the current continues to produce its full effect on the stern.

17B5. Wind effect. A submarine making sternboard will back into the wind, because of the greater freeboard of the bow, making it difficult to turn in a narrow channel or maneuver alongside a dock. Like all propeller-driven surface ships, a submarine rides more easily with her quarter to the wind and Sea .

Possible hull distortion, and damage to bow tube shutters, diving planes, superstructure, and bridge strongly indicate that the submarine should not be pounded into heavy seas unless absolutely necessary.

17B6. Turning. In making a turn in a narrow channel, the ship may be turned on her heel by going ahead slowly on one propeller while backing full on the other, with rudder over in the direction of turn to assist the ahead screw. This forward and reverse combination of the screws may also be helpful in getting the stern in to the dock, Before backing on one or both propellers, the rudder should be used to steady, or start, a desired swing, as conditions may warrant. If the vessel is swinging, the backing of the inboard screw will normally accelerate the swing.

17B7. Backing.Special signals and exact procedure for backing must be established for emergency use in the event of failure of


usual engine signals. Before backing, the officer of the deck should see that all is clear, and guard the stern planes and propeller while proceeding out of the berth. The stern should be placed well clear of the dock by holding a forward spring, while going ahead for a few seconds on the outboard screw. A strong dock will permit winding around the end, after the stern is clear.

17B8. Handling lines. In approaching the dock, the mooring lines should be handled

  intelligently. The men at the lines should not be expected to do the thinking for the officer of the deck. These mooring operations should be directed just as actively and positively as signaling the engines. One satisfactory method of getting the ship alongside the dock against the tide is by securing a breast line from the bow to the dock. Then, with the rudder outboard, the outboard propeller should be backed while going ahead on the inboard screw.
17C1. Getting underway.
     a. "Station the maneuvering watch." Personnel man their stations in accordance with the Watch, Quarter, and Station bill. Start and test machinery. Special details such as line handlers, anchor detail, color detail, and leadsman take their stations.
     b. "Stand by to answer bells." A preparatory command to the watch, indicating that orders to the engines will follow directly.
     c. "Station the regular sea detail." An order given when clear of restricted waters and the special details of the maneuvering watch are no longer required.

17C2. Line handling.
     a. "Stand by the lines." Man the lines, ready to cast off or get the lines over to the dock.
     b. "Cast off number one." Release number one line from the dock.
     c. "Ease four." Pay out enough of the designated line to remove most of the strain.
     d. "Hold three." Take enough turns so that the designated line will not give.
     e. "Check two." Hold, but let it run when necessary so that it will not part.
     f, "Take a strain on four." Put the line under tension.
     g. "Get over number one." Heave number one line to the dock.
     h. "Take three up the dock." Man ashore receiving the line takes it up the dock to a new position.
     i. "Take in the slack on four." Heave on line and hold it taut, but do not take a strain.
     j. "Take in two." or "Take in the after

  lines." Pull the lines, released from the dock, aboard.
     k. "Single up." Bring up double lines so that only single parts remain secured.
     l. "Double up and secure." Run additional lines and double them as necessary to secure the mooring.
     m. "Slack one (two)." Pay out the line, allowing it to form an easy bight.

17C3. Orders to the wheel.
     a. "Right (Left) rudder." A command to give her right (or left) rudder instantly, an indeterminate amount. In all such cases, the officer conning the ship should accompany the order with a statement of his motive, or the object to be attained, so that the steersman may execute the order with intelligence and judgment,
     b. "Right (Left) full rudder." A maximum rudder angle of about 35 degrees is used in the Navy.
     c. "Right (Left) standard rudder." Not used on submarines.
     d. "Right (Left) standard half rudder." Not used on submarines.
     e. "Right (Left), 5 (10, etc.) degrees rudder." These orders are used in making changes of course. All courses given to the steersman must be compass courses.
     f. "Right (Left), handsomely." This order is given when a very slight change of course is desired.
     g. "Give her more rudder." Increase the rudder angle already on to make her turn more rapidly.
     h. "Ease the rudder." Decrease the rudder angle already on when she is turning


too rapidly, or is coming to the heading desired. The order can be given, "Ease to 15 (10, 5, etc.)."
     i. "Rudder amidships." Rudder is centered and kept there until the next order.
     j, "Meet her." Use rudder as may be necessary to check, but not entirely stop her swing.
     k. "Steady," or "Steady so," or "Steady as you go." Steer the course on which the ship is heading when the command is received.
     l. "Shift the rudder." Change from right to left rudder, or vice versa.
     m. "Mind your rudder." A warning to the quartermaster (or steersman) 1) to exact more careful steering, or 2) to put him on the alert for the next command to the wheel.
     n. "Mind your right (left) rudder." A warning that the ship shows a frequent tendency to get off her course, and that if right (or left) rudder is not applied from time to time to counteract this tendency, the ship will not make good the course set.
     o. "Nothing to the right (left)." Given when the course to be made good is a shade off the compass card mark, and therefore meaning that all small variations from the course in steering must be kept, for example to the southward of the course set.
       p. "Keep her so." A command to the steersman when he reports her heading, and it is desired to steady her.
     q. "Very well." Given to the steersman, after a report by him, to let him know that the situation is understood. The expression "All right" should not be used, it might be taken as an order to the wheel.

17C4. Orders for the engines. Standard orders to the engines are given in three parts: 1) the first part designates the engine starboard, port, or all; 2) the second part indicates the direction: ahead or back; and 3) the third part indicates the speed: 1/3, 2/3, standard, full, flank, or stop.

    Typical orders are:
    1. "Port, ahead, 2/3."
    2. "Starboard, back, full."
    3. "All, ahead, standard."
    4. "Port, back, 1/3; Starboard, ahead, 2/3."
    5. "All, stop."

In the submarine service, the word engine is omitted in orders to the engines or motors, to eliminate confusion resulting from the fact that under various conditions, and with various types of main drive, engines sometimes deliver the power, and motors sometimes do.


Previous chapter
Previous Chapter
Fleetsub Home
Fleetsub Home Page
Next chapter
Next chapter

Copyright © 2013, Maritime Park Association
All Rights Reserved
Legal Notices and Privacy Policy
Version 1.10, 22 Oct 04