1. Relative bearings use the ships bow as a
2. True bearings use true north (the geographic
north pole) as the reference point.
3. Magnetic bearings use the magnetic north pole
as the reference point.
Sometimes, all three types of bearings coincide, but
such situations are rare and of a temporary nature.
Lookouts report objects (contacts) in degrees of relative
Figure 3-2 shows the relative bearings around a
ship. An object dead ahead bears 000°, while an object
abeam to starboard bears 090°, and so on. Study this
figure, practice pointing to various objects. Compare
your estimates of their bearings to what the objects
actually bear. With practice, you should be able to report
a contact within 5° to 10° of its actual bearing.
To prevent confusion, the Navy uses a standard
system for pronouncing numerals. The following list
shows how numerals (numbers) are spoken:
Bearings are always reported in three digits and
spoken digit by digit, except that objects dead ahead or
astern (000° or 180°), on either beam (090° or 270°), or
on either bow (045°or 315°) or quarter (135° or 225°)
may be reported as such. For example, a ship bearing
090° may be reported as being abeam to starboard.
Do not become excited when you report contacts or
other sightings. Failing to use the proper terminology
can result in the OOD wasting time trying to find the
object. Take a few seconds to think about how you are
going to report the sighting. Taking that few seconds
could mean the difference between the entire bridge
looking on the wrong side of the ship for a sighting that
is actually on the other side. Note that the word relative
was not included. It is understood that lookouts report
only in relative bearing.
REPORTING TARGET ANGLE
Target angle is the relative bearing of your ship from
another ship. You may wonder why you would care
what your ship bears from another ship. The OOD uses
target angles as an aid in determining the course of
actions when another ship is sighted. (Target angles are
useful during gunnery and antisubmarine operations.)
Look at figure 3-3. You are the starboard lookout
and you detect a ship on your starboard bow heading at a
right angle across your course. You report to the OOD,
Bridge, starboard lookout, ship broad on the starboard
bow (or zero, fo-wer, fife), target angle tree wun fife.
Assuming that your course is 000°, the OOD knows the
Figure 3-2.Relative bearings.