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An elevated platform built above the upper deck of a powered vessel, from which a ship is normally navigated and from where all activities on deck can be seen and controlled by the captain or officer of the watch. Except in the case of some fishing and similar vessels, where it may be in the form of a wheelhouse, it usually runs athwartships. The bridge of a modern ship is normally totally enclosed by glass screens or windows to give protection from the weather, but in earlier vessels the bridge was usually open and protected from the weather only by a canvas dodger and, in very hot weather, from the sun by a canvas awning. The main magnetic compass and a repeater from the gyroscopic compass are normally situated on the bridge together with the steering wheel, a chart table for chart work, GPS displays, and radar scanners. In very large ships, such as ocean liners etc., the bridge structure may contain two or even more bridges extending the full width of the ship.

A flying bridge in motor yachts is a steering platform located a level above the deck. In the USA a bridge deck is the deck between the cockpit and the cabin in a monohull and between the hulls in a catamaran.

In the days of sail, ships were controlled from the quarterdeck, with the steering wheel in the after part of the waist, but as steam propulsion was developed, first in the paddle steamer, it was discovered that the platform between the two paddle boxes, known at the time as a bridge, gave a much better all-round view of operations on deck. When the propeller replaced the paddle wheel the elevated structure amidships was retained as the navigational control position, and as further development took place, particularly in the number of boilers required to produce steam in sufficient quantity, this central bridge was moved forward and raised to keep it clear of the funnel smoke.

The modern tendency in larger ships, particularly tankers and bulk carriers, and some cruise ships, is to construct the bridge well aft in the ship, mainly in order to keep the upper deck as clear as possible in order to give an uninterrupted view of it, and to provide easier and more economical working conditions at sea and in harbour. This is made possible because the propulsion machinery is placed as far aft as possible, with funnels or diesel exhausts, which affect the position of the bridge in the ship, close to the stern.

See also dodger.

See also dodger.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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