This weeks class (and next weeks too) is Shiphandling at the Management Level. The majority of my class is spent in the ship simulator. The ship simulator is pretty high tech - I meant to take a photo of it today but forgot. The bummer is this: I don't perform very well in the simulator! I hate knowing that everyone is watching me and I second guess every decision I make. Sometimes everything will be going perfectly and I'll suddenly decide that the turn is going too quickly and I'll back the engine. As soon as I do it I think 'Megan...SERIOUSLY?! What were you thinking?!'
When I was a cadet my Academy had a simulator. One of the maneuvers we had to complete was a 'back and fill' - this basically means you need to turn the ship around in very confined waters (like a port) so you back your ship into a basin and when you turn out of the basin the idea is to be on a reciprocal course. My back and fill was so incredibly terrible (it involved me hitting every single pier in the port and doing a complete circle in the basin) that the simulator operator (one of my classmates) printed out my exercise and kept it on his fridge! Since his house was the best watering hole in town I had to listen to people get drunk and critique my back and fill for the rest of the year. My back and fill failure was the punch line of many jokes - and still is!
Considering I've been sailing for 5 years yesterdays back and fill didn't go too much better - the good news is that I didn't hit anything. My instructor called it a cork in a bottle. It was pretty tight! I decided that basins were for sissies and conducted my turn in the middle of the channel instead. It could have been worse....someone in my 'watch team' didn't slow down and ran right into the pier....whoopsies!
Today's simulation exercises involved the use of constant radius turns - focusing on fixing our rudders and using our engines to increase or decrease the rate of turn. This went a little better. We did this maneuver quite a few times...once with no wind no current, once with wind, and once with current.
I've uploaded some photos of our print outs. The print outs are one of the great things of being in a simulator - you can look and see exactly where things went wrong - great learning tool!
I've had several large 'eye openers' - and I'm only two days into the class!
The effects of shallow water versus deep water are amazing. As a junior officer it is very rare to conn the vessel while she is in shallow water. When sailing stateside you can guarantee that the Master will take the conn of the vessel at the sea buoy. Which means that the majority of your shiphandling experience is in deep water with very little restrictions for maneuvering. Operating in the Persian Gulf has given me a fair amount of experience with heavy traffic which restricts my maneuverability but I'm not dealing with confined waters - channels, rivers, etc.
What was amazing to see is how a vessel will 'skid' while making a turn in deep water. At Port Revel there is a manned model shiphandling class. The ships are scaled and handle as a vessel of its size would handle. It was the first shiphanlding program of its kind. They video'd a supertanker making a turn - and you can clearly see the vessel skidding. It makes you realize how important it is to time your turns properly! *I just learned how to add links so if you click on video'd it should take you to youtube where you can watch the skid*
All that being said - I'm learning A LOT - and I'm working on being less self concious in the simulator -and until I master it I'll be content to look like an idiot.