Well, i know it isnt really the same thing, but I have taken watches on the bridge of ferries before, on the English Channel. I'm training to be deck officer, and i have spent a year at sea with P&O Portsmouth. I was on Pride of Le Havre, running form Portsmouth to Le Havre. Its a six hour crossing (kind of like LHR -JKF) and like in an airliner we have quite a good (but not infallible) autopliot system. The Master takes us out of Pilotage waters at about twelve miles from Portsmouth (less at Le Havre), and he sticks around for a bit to do some bits and pieces, then he goes downstairs. They leave the duty watchkeeper (me) and one other crew member if its fine and clear, but another watchkeeper if its lumpy. Anyway, the watches last about four hours give or take, and you sit on the bridge , and it is a lot like being sat on the flightdeck, only not as much fun. The autopilot system keeps out heading, and also a speed (which the capt. or first officer works out before we leave to get us there on time), which is determined by blade angle, and shaft RPM. We have a course already plotted in the INS, which just does it all for you, but we have it written too, and sometimes, i like to take her off the A/P (need supervision by another cadet usually) and do the turn manually. Then, the consideration of crossing the busiest shipping lanes in the world take effect towards the middle of the crossing, where we plot a course through the traffic (from about ten miles away- ships move agreeably slowly) and we go right through. Have to watch for course changes and speed changes though, so all the ships nearby crossing our bows, I use the Decca set to track and notify, which means you bring them up so that the set warns you in the event of a course change, or speed change. Normally they are ok, but it can happen that they decide to move towards you or increase speed and change course slightly, to go around a slower moving vessel ahead, and we have to adjust our course accordingly. Thers always something to do, adjust the stabilisers, or get a GPS positioning to log, or run a test check of the emergency lighting in the hallways, or fill in the paperwork form the IMO inspection yesterday for the Captain to sign, or a whole host of other things to do. We have a CD player on the bridge, and I personally like to listen to Music when i'm sat up there. Tracy Chapman, Dire Straits, The Smiths, etc.
On the whole, its pretty boring, though you do get the chance to pick up the bins, and have a look closely at some of the other traffic in the lanes, and also in our tracks north or south. Seen some pretty monstrous ships up there... Saw Kapetan Giannis, a greek registered ULCC bound for Rotterdam, pass within three miles (close). She is well over half a million tonnes fully laden, and getting on for half a kilometre long... That was fun. In terms of boredom, well its a lovely view (its about 35 metres high up there, ) and you can always phone down to the reception to have someone bring you a bacon and egg sandwich. We have a kettle up there, and there always the cadet to talk to. Lively football debates and so on...
Then, if its the day crossings, we soemtimes get a few passengers get shown to the bridge. Reception phone up and ask if its ok, which i always say yes, unless it really bad weather, and they come up. The first thing they always say is "Arnt you a bit young to be the captain?" Im not the Captain, of course, but they never seem quite convinced by a 22 year old at the controls : )
If its really bad weather, then its a different story. The english channel can get truly horrible in the winter, and even in the summer we get some gales which are not that nice. In bad weather, you have to stay on your mettle for the whole shift, for the radar is not as effective, as the waves give you returns on the screen which make it diffcult to see individual tracks. If you re-allign it, so that it scans above the wave height tne you cant see anything below that, like fishing boats, pleasure craft etc. In that case, then you have to have two people with binoculars at all times, and normally an officer on the bridge as well, in which case i have do the paperwork of duty watchkeeper, but dont get to actually take the watch : (
Seriously, though, if its nice, then there all the time in the world to read Harry Potter, but if its bad weather then its a bit stressful. A thirty three thousand tonne cruiseferry would run over a fishing boat and you'd know nothing about it.
Well i guess its kind of similar to airliners, only i get paid a whole lot less than you guys do, though we dress similarly, and have a lot of people depending on us to get them there safely and comfortably.
Still wish i'd applied to BA and not P&O though...
What do you mean you dont have any bourbon? Do you know how far it is to Houston? What kind of airline is this???