merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

deck department

captain or in charge of it all!  He or she is a licensed mariner and is responsible for the ship, its operations, the safety of the crew aboard it, and complying with all sorts of regulations and rules.  The Captain is also a liason between the ship and the company they all work for and with. 

chief mate...a licensed mariner, second in command of the shipSometimes referred to as simply "The Mate", he or she heads the Deck department and is responsible for cargo aboard, the maintenance of the deck side of the ship, as well as the safety and security of the ship.  The Chief Mate is often the security officer on board.

2nd mate...part of the Deck department, the 2nd Mate is a licensed mariner whose primary responsibility is that of the Navigation Officer.  He or she is in charge of planning and mapping out the various routes of the ship.  The 2nd Mate may also be the medical officer on board and, in some cases, he or she is also referred to as "The Paper Mate" being tasked with the acquisition and maintenance of office supplies! 

3rd mate...Part of the Deck department, the 3rd Mate is a licensed mariner and is usually the Safety Officer on board.  He or she is in charge of all aspects pertaining to safety on the ship, to include all fire fighting and safety equipment as well as training the rest of the crew in these measures.

 bosun or boatswain...the head unlicensed member of the Deck department.  He or she is in charge of all other non-licensed members of the Deck department crew and reports, generally, to the Chief Mate.  One of the Bosun's more important responsibilities is ensuring the maintenance of all areas on the ship not covered by the engineering crew.  
able bodied seaman (ab) unlicensed member of the Deck department.  His or her duties include standing watch, helmsman ("steering" the ship), and various other duties.  An AB generally works and reports directly to the Bosun on the ship.

 ordinary unlicensed member of the crew.  The position is essentially an apprenticeship to becoming an AB, so the OS can perform any number of various tasks under supervision.  

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner


  1. Thank you so much for this post. It has helped me so much. I just started my journey to become a MM and I was trying to familiarize myself with the titles and what order they may somewhat should be in. I'm former Navy so I understand the Navy's ranking/rate system but didn't really know the difference between an "ordinary seaman", "able bodied seaman", etc.

    1. You are so welcome! My husband I'd deck and his friend is engineering, so between the two of them I got an earful! Good luck and let me know how things go for you!