The Virtues of the Flying Bridge
Okay. I'm probably going to create a little controversy with this baby, but what the heck. Over the years, here and there, I've had the opportunity to operate any number of large watercraft, often at night, during bouts of rather snotty weather, and (with what seemed to me like) the highly inconvenient absence of a flying bridge.
Oh I know. First, the electronics mavens are gonna jump on me for my flying-bridge proclivities. You don't really need full-360-degree visibility, even at night, in bad weather, they'll say. Not with the wonders of modern, auto-tuninging radar, MARPA, and AIS so prevalent and useful on the high seas. And probably the common-sensers are gonna nail me, too. You don't need to be sitting up there in the rain either, they'll say, with the wind threatening to blow your hat off, cold water slithering down the back of your neck, and all those nifty snacks in the galley at a far-distant and dismal remove.
But guys! Listen! What if it's darker than the inside of a chain locker out there? What if visibility aft from the pilothouse is limited, perhaps even non-existent? What if it's hot-house humid and the condensation on the inside of the windows is seemingly thicker than the precipitation blasting the outside? What if MARPA isn't working particularly well for some dumb reason--my experience is that the technology seems much more groovy when written about in magazines and books than on dark nights in the real, unwritten-about world--or some of the vessels gathering on the pitch-black horizon are either having trouble with their AIS transmitters or couldn't talk the bean counters in the front office into buying one? What if the lights and vessel traffic, ahead, behind, and on either side, are so especially thick and crazifying that your breathing seems to be getting real shallow all of a sudden?
Personally, guys. Under such conditions, and maybe a few others, I'd rather have a good slug of plain ol' direct eye contact from a seat "up top" (including an ocassional glance right over one or both shoulders), even with cold water slithering and snacks withering, than all the climate-controlled, electronically-monitored comfort in the world.
An oh! That's your's truly on Betty Jane's flying bridge in the photo, by the way. Soaking up the weatherly ambiances. Couple of weeks ago. My wife BJ took the pic. Any idea where she might have been standing?