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Polanica Fire

Navigating at Sea

Navigating at Sea 1960 - 1990

Navigating 1960's

1960’s – Merchant ships sailing in the 1960’s were generally built in the 40’s and 50’s. These ships operated before modern electronic navigation systems. Navigational devices were limited to gyro compass, two chronometers, three magnetic compass, sextant, charts for the areas ship would sail in, fathometer, radio direction finder, daylight signal light. All had limitation in accuracy and effectiveness in determining ships position. In times of inclement weather, navigating by sextant was impossible. Then a process of dead reckoning was used. Dead reckoning is the process of calculating current position of the ship by using a previously determined position and then incorporating estimations of speed, heading direction, and course over elapsed time.  Along the coast, ships position was recorded on the chart and labelled with indication of accuracy. The most accurate was labelled “FIX”.


C2 Cargo ship, typical of break bulk cargo ship built in 1940's and operated in the 1960's and later.

Ships Crew 

The ship had a crew of 44, which included:

            Captain – on call 24/7,

            A radio operator who communicated in morse code over long distance wireless system,

            A bridge watch constantly manned consisted of three sailors and one officer. The watch schedule for any one group was four hours on, eight hours off. Steering was done manually with the helmsperson changed every two hours,

            A machinery space watch constantly manned consisting of a group of 3 (4 on/8 off),

            Additional maintenance personnel who worked mostly days.

Navigating after about 1980’s - As the years progressed, advanced electronic added such things as radar, loran, satellite navigation systems, global positioning systems, autopilot, collision avoidance, advanced voice communications. Many of these systems were computer based. There was a dramatic increase in determining accurate ships position and ease of communication. This changed what the crew did and reduced the crew size to nineteen total. The size of ships increased dramatically (about 5 times the size of a 1960’s ship) and propulsion changing from steam to diesel.  Modern electronic equipment made it easier to perform some functions but the crew still needed to back up the electronic system if it failed. Safety of the ship and crew is the crew’s responsibility even if the electronics failed.

In my thirty years at sea, I have experienced several hurricanes and one tsunami which wiped out an Alaskan town. I have never sustained serious damage to vessel or personnel during this period. I have never been questioned by company personnel when messages were accompanied by “delayed due to weather”.  My last command was a large crude oil tanker operating between Kuwait and Rotterdam. The ship was named Kazimah and later renamed Townsend (317250 DWT). It was owned by Kuwait Oil but reregistered as an American ship to get protection during the Gulf War. Maybe I will write a book about my experience and add details of my experience.Captain Anthony


Captain Anthony J Belmonte

Master of Steam and Motor Vessel Any Gross Tonnage and Ocean Unlimited

Graduate of Massachusetts Maritime Academy - 1960


Logo for Kuwait Shipping.

Motor ship Townsend (AKA Kazimah)

1093 feet in length, 197 feet beam, 67 foot draft.

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