In shipping, a helmsman (plural: helmsmen ) is a senior member of the crew who is responsible for commanding the ship, but above all for navigating the ship. The helmsman must be distinguished from the helmsman who operates the rudder and steers the watercraft according to the course given to him.
For merchant ships in seafaring, helmsman is an older name for the nautical officer from the time of (large) sailing ships. The helmsman stands below the master in the hierarchy and oversees, among other things, the steering, the rigging and the anchoring equipment. He must be able to operate all instruments and the nautical charts correctly and to maneuver the ship in all weathers. In an emergency, he represents the captain.
On warships there are deck officers in many navies who, under the responsibility of the officer on watch, manage the ship, supervise the controls, write the logbook and provide technical support to the officer on watch. Until 1945 and afterwards, a helmsman as a skipper in the Navy was also possible from the boatman's career. The helmsman was only assigned to carry out the helm commands.
On board a sports boat or yacht , the helmsman is usually referred to as the helmsman - sometimes also helmsman for women - who controls the helm . On small sailing boats , especially dinghies and small catamarans , the helmsman also operates the mainsail and gives the commands for the sailing maneuvers to be carried out . The helmsman, helmsman, license holder and “boat driver” are often identical on such sports boats. In the case of larger sports boats, however, the helmsman is “only” the helmsman and thus the skipper's executive body . He does not use the mainsail on these boat classes either.
- Brockhaus Encyclopedia 1993, ISBN 3-7653-1100-6