CORAL SEA (NNS) – On the final day of the U.S.-Australian bilateral exercise, Talisman Saber 2017, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, USS Shiloh (CG 67), closed the spacing near HMAS Canberra (L02), an Australian Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ship, while steaming in formation with more than 20 other ships during a group photo event.
From Shiloh’s bridge, Commanding Officer Capt. Adam Aycock gave the order to clear the way in front of the helmsman, twenty year-old Seaman Paiten Brothers, from Mooresville, Indiana, so she could see the path ahead of her. The conning officer on watch then gave the order, “Steer by the ‘seaman’s eye’!”
Steering by the seaman’s eye is when a helmsman marks course changes according to the naked eye, not relying on electronics.
In standard navigation the conning officer directs the ship’s course or speed by giving commands to the helmsman. In the case of steering by seaman’s eye, the conning officer remains silent and entrusts the ship’s heading to the helmsman, to test the helmsman’s skills.
“This was my first time giving the order to a helmsman to steer by seaman’s eye, said Ens. Tyler Gehr, of Orlando, Florida, Shiloh’s 1st Lieutenant. “It was a reminder that despite all of the high-tech tools we have on the bridge, we should not overlook the stellar skills of our Sailors.”
With 9 months aboard Shiloh and an excess of more than 150 hours of experience behind the helm, Brothers’ skills were put to the ultimate test in the large formation sail.
“It was a good feeling to have the trust and the opportunity to steer the ship without the help of the conning officer,” said Brothers. “I felt it [steering by the seaman’s eye] was a great accomplishment.”
Gehr trusted Brothers’ natural skills to maintain the correct station astern of Canberra, however, he used the ship’s radar as a backup to ensure Shiloh did not come too close to the adjacent ship, maintaining only 500 yards between the ships.
“We rely on the latest technology in our 21st Century Navy,” said Aycock. “But that tech may not always work, so I encourage Shiloh’s conning officers and helmsmen to develop their seaman’s eye so they can learn to trust each other and their own skills. In turn, they become a stronger team and more confident in their own abilities to navigate Shiloh in any environment.”
On the bridge, the officers received word the formation sail was complete. The command was given for all ships to break away. As directed Shiloh turned left and departed the formation, moving towards the next event for the day. The watchstanders returned to their normal stations and the conning officer continued relaying commands to the helmsman. The seaman’s eye was secured for another day.
Shiloh is on patrol in the Coral Sea in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.