I remember arriving at summer rental houses and during the initial excitement of running around exploring, I would “save” a room in the house to look at later on in the vacation. True to my past behaviors, I decided to reserve venturing up to the Melville’s bridge until today.
The bridge is located on the 03 level of the ship (the 04 level, or observation deck on top of the bridge, is the highest level). When I entered the room, I was overwhelmed with a sense of tranquility, and it took me until a conversation with Whitney later on in the day to realize why that was—it’s the only place I’ve been in the ship where I can’t hear the engine’s humming…it’s quiet! The bridge houses the ship’s navigational system and the captain and three mates rotate standing watch in the bridge. Large, immaculately clean windows (I am told they’re cleaned daily) occupy three of the walls to allow for optimal visibility of the sea and the ship’s exterior.
Joseph, the chief mate from China, Maine, showed me around the bridge today after dinner. He explained how there are several options for steering the ship, which include one bow and two stern thrusters, a joystick, and an autopilot system. The autopilot system is generally employed while traveling between stations, and once we’re on station, the stern thrusters controlled by the joystick are used to help put us in the proper orientation relative to the wind.
Beneath the windows on one wall I noticed a shelf with small cubbies, each occupied by a unique flag. While some of these flags belong to different countries, and are flown while in that country’s port, other flags are associated with actions. The “hotel” nautical flag is flown when there’s a pilot aboard, like the South African pilot we will pick up at 0700 on Wednesday morning to accompany us into port. The “bravo” flag is flown while the ship is refueling. Joseph pulled out a dust-covered box housed beneath the flags, and showed me the old-fashioned sextant inside. With today’s technology, it seems hard to believe that such instruments are still used, but Joseph knows how to work it if needed.
Most people I’ve told aboard the ship were surprised that I haven’t been to the bridge before today, but I think it was a nice surprise to save for the trip’s conclusion. Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen the engine room either…