“From the Bridge”

The Crow’s Nest

During the first century ravens or crows were often taken on board “Viking Knarr’s,” to be released thinking that they would fly in the direction of land. The lookout would observe the direction the birds flew in, so that the navigator could follow their course. Since the crow’s nest is high from the vessel’s center of gravity it is subject to violent motion in relatively calm or moderate seas. Any amount of movement of the ship is amplified, causing even seasoned sailors to become sea-sick. Therefore, being sent to the crow’s nest was certainly not for everyone.

More recently but still prior to the advent of radar, when the visibility from the bridge of the ship was inhibited by fog, heavy seas or limited night vision lookouts were posted on the bow or high on a mast, above the low lying sea fog. By tradition the protected structure fitted to the foremast high above the deck was named the crow’s nest in deference to the earlier Viking traditions. During the 19th century this vantage point was simply made out of a barrel lashed to the highest mast that allowed the lookout to look ahead for land, other ships, flotsam or other obstructions. In later years the crow’s nest was sometimes enclosed and even electrically heated.

As a young midshipman I was assigned to the bow as lookout. Peering into the dark of night I suddenly saw a bright light on the horizon. Sighting this light was a thrill and an experience that validated my usefulness! Excited with my find and without a moment’s hesitation I hurried back to where I was within shouting distance from the ships bridge and loudly announced the light as being 2 points on the starboard bow. Proud of my announced discovery, I returned to my station at the bow only to discover that what I had reported was now obviously the tip of a Sickle Moon rising in the east. At the time everyone had a good laugh but I was told that I did the right thing. It took a while but eventually I lived it down and now it makes for a good “Sea Story!”!

Photo Caption: A lookout in the crow’s nest. (Visit my Facebook Page for Pictures & Photos)

Captain Hank Bracker, Master Mariner and award winning author of “The Exciting Story of Cuba” and “Suppressed I Rise” has now written “Seawater One” a saga about life at sea and ashore, based on his experiences. Soon to be available from Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, BooksAMillion.com and many Independent Book Stores. “Seawater One” is adult in nature and contains sexually explicit slices of life.