2008 Fall Voyage of Discovery banner

Shipcraft: Anchor Watch

The anchor light hangs from the silhouetted fore mast at dusk.

On any night when the Half Moon is at anchor, the student crew must maintain a watch till dawn to monitor the safety of the ship and its crew. From 2200 hours to our assigned wake-up time (typically 0700 hours), pairs of students (along with however many senior crew are needed to fill out the roster) each rise for one-hour shifts to watch over three crucial aspects of our anchorage:

Anchor Dragging: In the event of high winds or currents, it is possible for the ship's anchor to lose its purchase on the bottom and drag along as the ship drifts out of control. An alert crew can notice this hazard and react reset the anchor; without a perceptive Anchor Watch, however, the ship could drift into shallow waters or out into a busy channel of water traffic.

Photo by Woody Woodworth

The Anchor Light: When the ship is at anchor, we raise a marker from the fore mast. Its light shines at night (seen above), and during the day the marker is visible as a black ball. This anchor light is standard maritime practice. At night, it alerts passing vessels to our location, and regardless of the time of day it informs other vessels that we are at anchor and are thus stationary. During the night, the Anchor Watch teams must keep an eye on the anchor light to ensure it does not go out.

Fire & Bilge: During voyages, the crew must continue regular fire & bilge inspections around the clock.

On this voyage, the students have also enaged in several research projects:

Celestial Navigation: Anchor watch tracked the Moon's course through the sky each night of the voyage. We also monitored air temperatures throughout our time on board.

Current Patterns: During our layover at East Haddam, the crew also measured height of tide and the speed and direction of the river's current.

If anything unusual does occur in the night, the Anchor Watch immediately informs the senior crew (usually Mr. Mangrum, who is typically up and working in the great cabin), who can then react accordingly. At the end of each team's hour-long shift, they must wake their replacements -- and ensure that said replacements really are awake and alert -- before they are free to return to sleep. Thus, Anchor Watch both safeguards the Half Moon and ingrains its crew with a standard of discipline and responsibility.

Voyage Homepage Daily Log Our Crew Learning Half Moon homepage