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The commanding officer, or CO, of a ship is the officer in charge of the ship. While an official designator for the commanding officer does not exist, in order for a ship to sail there must be an officer aboard to give the appropriate order. Perforce this officer would be the commanding officer. Other names for the commanding officer are Officer in Charge (OIC) or informally, the "captain" or "skipper" of the ship. This ship's captain can be distinct to the captain of a crew.
The commanding officer will always have absolute authority on the ship within the guidelines and rules of the crew. Who is determined to be the CO on board is generally governed by the rules of the crew. Absent such rules, the consensus appears to be that the officer who prepares and sails the ship, regardless of whether more senior officers are aboard, is the commanding officer for that voyage.
It should be noted that there is a clear difference between the "officer in command" and an officer giving commands. An officer issuing commands may or may not be, and should never be assumed to be, the commanding officer. The commanding officer should also never be confused with the executive officer.
Role of the Commanding Officer
The commanding officer has absolute authority on a ship. Regardless of what happens on the ship, the commanding officer has the final say. There is no democracy on board a ship, and the only thing everyone may vote on is the booty division. That being said, while authoritarian, the commanding officer should in no way be tyrannical, and any officer who acts in a tyrannical fashion should be punished appropriately by the senior officers of a crew.
Prior to sailing, the commanding officer should designate the voyage appropriately using the "configure voyage" option on the Navigation station. This will determine how the voyage is advertised when posting a job offer.
The commanding officer should also determine if the ship is adequately stocked and stock appropriately if needed. It is a general rule of thumb to always stock thinking you will have a full compliment of sailors. It is never a problem to be overstocked on rum, but always a problem if you run out.
The commanding officer is responsible for setting the course and seeing the ship gets to its destination, with or without intermediate docking at islands (or landings in the case of uninhabited island). If the course must be changed, regardless of the reason, it is the commanding officer's job to make such a change.
Note: The commanding officer is not necessarily the person who navigates the ship during a battle, and may not ever use the navigation puzzle or any puzzle on board a ship. Any person who boards a ship should inquire the name of the CO to avoid confusion.
Ambassador to the Ocean
The commanding officer has a secondary role of being the ambassador to the rest of the ocean. The commanding officer may be the first person from the crew that the jobber meets. For new players (greenies) this could have significant influence on whether they join that crew or "shop around" for another one.
In the case of pirates unhappy with their current crew and are wishing to join a different one, the commanding officer could play a significant role in that decision, and how soon such a decision is made.
Thus the demeanor of the commanding officer is of critical importance when bringing aboard jobbing pirates.
It can be generally agreed that the officer in command is responsible for the conduct of those under his command. That being said, adequate discipline is necessary to maintain order on board a ship, and failure to maintain such discipline could reflect badly on the officer in command and the crew as a whole.
Though the range of disciplinary actions involved can vary, depending on the officer, generally the only time discipline becomes an issue is where sailors are disruptive, or possibly destructive, to the operation of the vessel and her crew. It is consensually agreed that the only way to deal with disruptive or destructive pirates is with the plank. The possibility of destructive pirates increases when flags are at war or preparing for a blockade.
While overall discipline on board is the task of the Commanding Officer, disciplinary actions may and should be taken as deemed necessary by other officers on board.
Dividing the Spoils
Booty division is part of the role of the commanding officer, unless they grant permission to another officer in the case of an unlocked ship. Regardless, it is important that the booty be divided fairly.
Kraken's blood or any other high value commodities, such as Gold ore, should be sold prior to dividing the booty. This can be done by using the "Sell Commodities" option on the booty chest. You can even go so far as to sell all commodities if so desired, though you should not sell any rum or cannonballs but instead allow those to be moved to the hold. The PoE received from selling the commodities in the booty chest becomes part of the total PoE divided amongst the crew.
Fairly dividing the booty is part of a commanding officer's role as an ambassador to the ocean. Officers who are fair in dividing the booty will generally gain a better reputation within their crew and around the ocean.
With high value commodities, a commanding officer should not be selfish and sell the commodity after the booty has been divided, thus keeping the gold for him or herself. After all, the crew is the reason the high value commodity was received anyway, so it is only right to fairly divide the spoils.
The Executive Officer
- Main article: Executive officer
Generally on a sloop or cutter, the only officer issuing commands is the commanding officer. On larger ships, however, the need to designate an executive officer becomes apparent and necessary to maintaining order.
The executive officer, or XO, also called the first officer or first mate, is the designated second in command for a ship. This person advises the commanding officer based on the status of the ship, including stock and crew, but the commanding officer has the final say.
Crew rules may designate who will be the executive officer on a ship. Absent such rules, the executive officer is the highest ranking officer aboard who is not the commanding officer. Absent any other officers, there would not be an executive officer aboard.
By having an executive officer aboard the ship to ensure stations are filled and disciplinary issues are resolved, the commanding officer can focus on navigating the ship and determining which targets to attack. Thus the commanding officer should only need to be bothered when more important issues arise on board, such as if the stock of rum begins running low.
The executive officer does not have absolute authority on the ship and always answers to the commanding officer.
There may come a time during the voyage where the commanding officer will need to relinquish command to another officer. If no other Officer is on board, it is best that the CO call out on the officer channel for another officer's assistance. If the ship is close to an inhabited island, it is best the ship be docked.
If there is another officer aboard the ship, the commanding officer should state explicitly on the vessel channel to whom they will be relinquishing command. Typically this person will be the executive officer of the voyage.
- Master and Commander: a chapter of Amberyl's Piratey Seamanship - A great guide on the role of the commanding officer and pillaging in general