An important member of the crew, with a long tradition
Nowadays, the boatswain or bosun is a term referring to the senior unlicensed member of the deck department of a ship. It is derived from the Old English word “batswegen”, meaning servant of the ship. The term was first documented in the Royal Navy in 1040 to refer to one of the top officers of a naval vessel, ranked just below the master. Senior crewmembers who served under the Boatswain were titled Boatswain’s Mates, a term that survives in the naval services. The Bosun is highly skilled in all matters of marlinspike seamanship, but also performs supervisory duties with regard to other members of the deck department by planning, scheduling, and assigning work. The bosun regularly inspects the vessel and ensures that his or her workers comply with approved operating procedures. Required skills include but are not limited to mooring, anchoring, cargo handling, deck maintenance, and working aloft. The bosun must be able to work with natural lines, synthetic lines, and wire rope. He or she must be well versed in the use of knots, hitches, bends, whipping, and splices. As a manager, the bosun must be able with work with and supervise persons from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, with a broad range of skills, experiences, and learning. The job is often mind-numbing, but can be punctuated by fires at sea, collisions, or groundings, when the bosun is expected to immediately react by leading the firefighting team or launching the lifeboat as necessary. A combination of formal training and on-the-job experience permit the bosun to react with skill and valor when duty calls.