A Visit to the Bridge

Welcome to our exclusive tour of Star Sapphire's Bridge.

Bridge tours used to be a regular event on cruises. Often you'd even be allowed to steer the ship - as long as we were in open water! But world events changed the need for strict security, and so Bridge tours are no longer offered on Sapphire.

But you can come along with me and I'll give you a special glimpse into what drives us.

Please do not adjust your screen - the photos are in black and white. Another nod to Security. (StarSea Corporate takes this very seriously!)

First of all, here's where we are... the Bridge is located on Deck 10 (Sun Deck). When you read Winona's novel Cold Play you'll see my friend Jason talking about visiting the Bridge... and also visiting me! My office is right behind the Bridge. And Jason's venue, the TopDeck Lounge, is directly underneath the Bridge, on Deck 9 (Sports).

As we move around the Bridge, you'll see thumbnails like the one on the right. You can click on each little picture and a bigger one will pop up. (Just click your browser's "Back" button to return to this screen afterwards.)

As we enter the Bridge, you'll be impressed by the number and variety of instruments and controls. The Sapphire's a vintage steamship, but her original Bridge fittings are long gone. These aren't quite state of the art - but they're fairly modern, and they get the job done!

The navigation equipment consists of a collection of sensors - Gyrocompass, Speed Log, Satellite Navigator, GPS, Loran, Radars, Weather Station, Depth Indicating System, Autopilot, Radio Direction Finder, Voyage Management Station, Bridge Engine's Control, Course Recorder, Voyage Plotter, etc.

The safety devices consist of control panels which enclose the stabilizer system, fire detectors, side doors, watertight doors, fire screen doors, sprinklers, emergency stops for ventilation, heeling tanks, etc.

There are always at least two qualified Officers (Senior and Junior Navigators) on duty on the Bridge at all times.


This Sperry (adaptive digital gyropilot) uses signals from the Gyro to steer Sapphire on a constant course.

This autopilot is also interfaced with the IBS network for computerized operation.


We have two types of compasses on board.

The Magnetic Compass uses the inherent magnetic forces within and circling the earth. The Gyrocompass (shown on the right) uses the properties of Gyroscopic inertia and procession as it seeks to align itself to True North.

Our Master Gyrocompass is a Sperry MK-37E. It provides information to the various instruments and equipment throughout the ship.

GPS (1)
The GPS also uses satellites for navigation. The biggest difference between a SATNAV and GPS is that the satellite navigator uses one satellite at a time, when available, and the GPS uses several satellites to pinpoint our position. The Sapphire is equipped with two Sperry Marine GPS receivers, and one made by Racal Decca.

LORAN (Long Range Navigation) utilizes low frequencies (100khz) to establish the ship's position, day and night, in all weather conditions. The two Loran receivers are made by Sperry Marine and Racal Decca.

The Weather Station contains a sensor mounted outside, on the roof of the Bridge, that provides information about the force and direction of the wind, external temperature, air pressure and humidity. This information is displayed in front of the navigation console and is also fed into the IBS network.

Our Krupp Atlas Elektronik navigation equipment includes a depth indicator which provides direct readings, and a depth recorder which provides echogram presentations. The depth indicator also incorporates an audiovisual alarm for desired depth. The maximum range of this instrument is 1,000 fathoms.
The Krupp Atlas Elektronik Speed Log provides an accurate measurement of the forward / aft and sideways movements of the ship. The one on Star Sapphire uses the doppler method, which sends out frequencies from the bottom of the ship and measures the difference of the frequency bouncing back from either the bottom of the sea, or from the water itself.

Our recorder is made by Sperry, and operates on a repeater circuit from the Master Gyro Compass. It records and prints out courses followed by the ship at all times during the voyage.

The Satellite Navigator provides the ship's position using satellites that are continuously circling the earth. The computer calculates and continuously displays the ship's position: latitude / longitude, speed and heading course, drift, and distance to cover.

Our Marconi Marine Loadstar 4 is a radio navigation instrument which operates on radio-waves and enables the navigator to take bearings of shore radio stations. Crossing two or more radio-bearings is possible to determine the ship's position..

RADARS (9-10)
Radar is probably the most important development in navigational aids. It displays a chart of all solid objects about the sea surrounding the ship.

At the Navigator's discretion, this "charted" range may be from half a mile up to 96 nautical miles radius. Its greatest value may be as an aid in avoiding collisions with other ships in the vicinity, although it is also of proven value to fix the ship's position, using navigational marks or charted coastlines within range.

Sapphire is equipped with three anti-collision radars which are independent from one another. The three units are Rascar (Rasterscan Collision Avoidance Radar) TM 3400M X Band, and Rascar TM 3400M S Band (manufactured by Sperry Marine), and Atlas 8600 Arpa (Automatic Radar Plotting Aids) manufactured by Krupp Atlas Elektronik.

Except for control of the system's main power, the Sperry Rascar control and display selections are touch-screen displays. These radars track other vessels and tell the operator how fast they're travelling, which course they're on, how close they'll come to our ship, and whether or not they're a threat.

The Navigator can also program the radar on a trial manoeuvering mode, entering a different heading and speed, to see the nest way to avoid any possible contact with other vessels that do post a threat.


This instrument, made by Speich Genova, ensures the Officer on duty has a clear view forward in case of rain or seaspray. It is electrically driven and causes the screen to rotatte so rapidly it throws off water drops. The Bridge has two screens, one on each side of the wheelhouse.

VMS (12)
The Voyage Management Station is a real-time status, advisory and control system, designed to monitor the integrated bridge and navigation sensors to execute the voyage plan. THE VMS's primary function is the display of the navigation situation, featuring an electronic chart showing our ship's position, present, past and future. It also incorporates an advanced route control system and navigation, weather and machinery sensor displays such as speed, heading, depth, wind speed and direction, engine rpm, etc.
From VMS, the operator can initiate a Voyage Plan, which is the "roadmap" of the voyage that will communicate with the ADG autopilot and keep the ship on the planned course.

The VMS also monitors all the navigation equipment, and if for some reason one fails, an alarm sounds and warns the operator of the fault, so that he can check the device in question.


On Star Sapphire's Bridge there are three sets of controls which allow direct operation of the propulsion motors, and the bow and stern thrusters.

One set of controls is located on each bridge wing, and the other is on the central control unit.

On the port side of the Bridge, we see the following panels:

The ship is divided into 6 fire zones, each separated by fire-proof bulkheads and fire screen doors to isolate fire development in a limited area.

The Sapphire has 44 sprinkler stations. Should a sprinkler vial break in any part of the vessel due to the presence of a fire, a buzzer will sound and a visual alarm will light up on this panel. The Officer on duty is thus alerted and can see which part of the vessel should be checked for fire.

The Sapphire has 32 WTD's located on Decks A, B and C. This panel allows us to close all Watertight Doors simultaneously. In addition, the panel shows whether each WTD is Open or Closed.

In case of a fire on board, we can activate these switches to stop all intakes of air (e.g., air conditioning, fans and ventilation), to avoid a further supply of oxygen.

The Sapphire is equipped with a fire control system which allows the Navigator on duty to identify any fire development. The fire alarm system is composed of a central unit which sounds a buzzer if any zone indicates a fire. At the same time, a computer provides an accurate description of the area affected, while a printer records the time and location of the detection.

This consists of 4 ballast tanks, located forward and aft, port and starboard. These tanks allow ballast pumps to transfer ballast from port to starboard, and vice versa, according to the ship's list.

The ship has 2 Denny Brown stabilizers which can work independently, or together, depending on requirements. The stabilizers create a straight force, which reduces the ship's roll in rough seas.

I hope you've enjoyed your visit to the Bridge. On your way out, you'll pass my office -
which our friend Jason believes began life as a large storage closet. I have to say, I think I agree!


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