Able seamen -- the next rating above ordinary seaman -- sometimes describe the ordinary seaman as "a seagoing janitor who ties up the ship." Many of the ordinary seaman's duties involved cleaning the interior of the vessel by sweeping, mopping, dusting, emptying trash and cleaning the "head," or bathroom. He also prepares the exterior surfaces of the ship for painting with a variety of chemicals and mechanical devices, a process called "chipping and painting."
While not a qualified member of the watch -- the crew that oversees the ship''s passage -- the ordinary seaman will serve as lookout on the bow of the ship, looking for objects blocking the ship's path. The ordinary also learns basic firefighting, man-overboard rescue and abandoning ship drills. In between, he's expected to lubricate deck equipment and do everything else that the able seaman, deck supervisor and ship's officers who are working the same hours can find for him to do.