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Helm Commands

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Because Ships Don't Have Turn Signals

Common Commands:
 
-"Port X Degrees" or "Left X Degrees" - Turn the wheel to port until the rudder angle indicator reads X degrees port.
 
-"Starboard X Degrees" or "Right X Degrees" - Turn the wheel to starboard until the rudder angle indicator reads X degrees starboard.
 
-"Amidships" - put the rudder amidships, or to 0 degrees.
 
-"Ease to X" - From the current rudder angle, slack off on the turn until X degrees is reached.
 
-"Shift your rudder" - Switch rudder from current to position to opposite position, ex. from 10 port to 10 starboard
 
-"Left Full Rudder" or "Right Full Rudder" - put the rudder at 30 degrees in the proper direction
 
-"Hard to Port" or "Hard to Starboard" - put the rudder over as far as it will go in the proper direction (on most ships, between 35 and 40 degrees)
 
-"Steady up on course X" - Hold the desired course, applying rudder as needed to maintain the course.
 
-"Left to course X" or "Right to course X" - apply rudder enough to come to the desired course in a timely fashion, hopefully without passing your course.

Back to Deck Skills

Tips For Steering:
 
-Waves and Sea Action will affect the course you steer. If the seas are from the stern, they will pick up the stern and set it down some place else. To compensate for this, you will have to apply rudder in both directions. When you feel the wave approaching, apply it one direction, when you feel it pass, apply in the other.
 
-Persistent winds or current may affect your overall course. They may deflect the ship in one direction or another over an extended period of time. To compensate, you may have to hold your rudder at a few degrees in the opposite direction. Ex. If the winds are blowing from 090 and you are steering 000, you may find your actual course to be something like 355. In order to make your true course actually 000, you may have to steer 005.
 
-When turning, keep an eye on the Rate of Turn Indicator. As you near your intended course, slack off on the rudder angle so as to slow the turn. You wan't to be able to come to and not pass the desired course.
 
-When turning, the way the compass is set up is often confusing to the driver as it reads almost backward of what you would think it ought to. For example, when steering 000, the lubber's line on the compass would read 000, 350 would be to the right of the compass, and 010 would be to the left. Which way do you turn to go from 000 to 350? Left. Just keep this idea in mind when steering and account for it. And remember, people have been sailing for thousands of years, we've driven in circles before, you won't be the first to screw it up.