The Bosun’s Locker: introduction to boats and boating

Badger dressed overall

The Bosun’s Locker is the title of a short illustrated booklet introducing you to boats and boating. The Boatswain, or Bosun for short, is a ship’s officer in charge of equipment and crew. The word was originally Old English, dating from at least as far back as the 1400s. In modern day ships the main duties of the bosun are in the deck area, that is large spaces of the ship, some of which are enclosed and some exposed to the open sea. The bosun is a member of the deck department and his or her duties include supervising the deck crew of the vessel. The bosun is also involved with the captain and other officers in the planning of work on deck and explaining what needs to be done. Bosuns must be experienced, have a great deal of knowledge about the various tasks involved, and able to tell the crew what to do. (Although the bosun has responsibility for extensive areas of the ship, engines, complex mechanical equipment and electronic devices are usually looked after by engineers.) The booklet in this post has been written by Taymara’s bosun Pete Mungall. Pete has extensive experience of life at sea, working on the decks of big ships (see picture right), and he was a teacher following his service at sea. In Taymara he has a wide range of responsibilities, in particular for the ropes used to moor or anchor the boats. As such he has to be an expert in tying knots and splices, some of which you can see in the booklet. The booklet itself is meant to help you prepare for your trip on the Tay and to appreciate and to learn about some of the things you will see. The advice includes some information on wildlife and the geography of the river. You may want to download and print it to bring with you on the boat so that you can study and make notes in it. You can also follow where you are going on the chart. Click anywhere on this text to download the booklet.


Points to Ponder

1. The bosun’s locker is a storage space for the materials used by the deck crew. It is supervised the bosun and contains a wealth of stores ranging from rope to paint brushes.  Shackles  and blocks (see below) are also kept in the bosun’s store. Blocks make it easier to pull heavy weights by means of ropes or cables. How a block and tackle works. Pete is sitting in a ‘bosun’s chair’, supported by means of a block and tackle, as he paints the mast in the picture above right. Paint itself will be stowed (nautical term for placed securely) in the paint store. It is separated from the other items because it is highly flammable (can easily be set alight) and needs to be somewhere a fire can be safely put out without damaging anything else.

2. Connor is currently serving as a third officer on oil-product tankers in the Caribbean. His role is similar to that of a bosun. You can read his story on the Taymara website or find out more about careers in the Merchant Navy.

3. Knots are used at sea to join ropes together and to attach them to objects such as the cleats used for securing boats to the quayside.  They are also needed to make eyes (loops) in the ends of ropes. A thorough knowledge of knots is an essential skill for deck crews. The Animated Knots website shows you exactly how to tie a wide range of knots used for boating. See if you can tie the bowline and the clove hitch, two of the knots most commonly used at sea.

Block and Tackle

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The Bosun’s Locker: introduction to boats and boating