Old 10-02-2001, 01:03 PM
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Gardena, CA 90248-3235
Posts: 10,569
In The Caine Mutiny, during the scene in which the Caine is escorting attack boats of Marines to a beach, Capt. Queeg tells Lt. Maryk, "Steve, you take the Conn and get us there!"
A little later on--just after throwing the dye marker--Queeg says to Maryk, "I take the Conn--I relieve you!"
What is the "Conn" Capt. Queeg is talking about? And did I spell it right? Or is it just something created by Wouk (or Columbia's screenwriters)?
Old 10-02-2001, 01:26 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 104
Hey dougie-monty,

You’re correct, it is conn, or con. It refers to the conning tower, which most sources define as the armored pilothouse of a vessel. Navy guys, I assume the command “Take the Conn” means that the XO has combat control of the ship when at general quarters, otherwise, he would just have the bridge—is that right?

As to the etymology of “conn” or “con,” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000 give the following:


TRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: conned, con·ning, cons or conns
Nautical To direct the steering or course of (a vessel).
NOUN: 1. The station or post of the person who steers a vessel. 2. The act or process of steering a vessel.
ETYMOLOGY: From cond, from Middle English conduen, from Old French conduire, from Latin cond cere, to lead together. See conduce

Hope that helps some,
Old 10-02-2001, 01:45 PM
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Gardena, CA 90248-3235
Posts: 10,569
Aye aye, Sir.
Old 10-02-2001, 02:17 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Atlanta, Georgia - Female
Posts: 5,308
Not quite correct, 45ACP. It has nothing to do with combat; a ship always has a conn when it's underway. While ships are physically steered by the helmsman and the speed is (indirectly) physically controlled by the leehelmsman, the man issuing orders to those two (and therefore essentially driving the ship) is the conning officer.

It is very important to know who the conning officer is, as the helmsman and leehelmsman need to know whose orders to follow. When one conning officer relieves another, he says loudly enough for the whole bridge crew to hear, "I relieve you, sir!" and the man he's replacing says "I stand relieved." Then an entry is made in the log.

This is a very important matter. If the juniormost ensign on the ship has the conn and tells the helmsman "left full rudder," but the XO, a lieutenant commander, happens to be on the bridge and then says "right full rudder," the helmsman should still do what the ensign says, because that's who has the conn. The bridge crew must understand whose orders they are to follow at all times, and presumably the conning officer has the most up-to-date and big-picture information about the ship's status, so his orders will probably be better than the XO's even though the XO is a senior officer.

This also establishes legal accountability. If the ship hits a reef or another ship, the log will show who had the conn at the time.

Sometimes for delicate operations the captain may want his most senior, most experienced pilot to have the conn, and that's what was going on with Queeg telling Maryk to hold the conn for escorting the attack boats.

Also, in an emergency, if the conning officer's perceived to be making a dangerous mistake, a more experienced officer may yell "I have the conn!" and dispense with the formal relief procedure, and that's what was going on with the dye marker thing.

(And incidentally this happened to me once when I was a very junior ensign. LT Garbesi took the conn from me and saved us from smacking into a Singaporean corvette, I'm ashamed to say. You all would have heard of Fiver a good ten years early if he hadn't done that. Whew!)
This space for hire.
Old 10-02-2001, 02:29 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 104
I stand relieved! Thank you, Mr. Fiver.
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