Helmsman - Helm Commands

Helm Commands

Helm orders or commands fall into two categories: rudder commands and heading commands. A rudder command dictates changing the angle of the rudder, which is a single-event action. Whereas steering a heading is a comparatively long event and will require ongoing or continuous rudder adjustments.

The following are helm orders used in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard:


  • Midships (Bring rudder angle to 0 degrees)
  • Check your swing (Counter steer to stop the movement or swing of the ship's bow)
  • Hard rudder (Used infrequently, such as emergencies, when maximum rudder is required)
  • Right or left standard rudder (~20 degrees. Varies per ship)
  • Shift your rudder (Steer the same number of degrees but opposite rudder angle)


  • Steady as she goes (Steer as needed to continue current heading)
  • Steady on a course (Steer as needed to bring ship on desired course)

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