While I can’t speak of Navy BM’s, I can tell you what Coast Guard BM’s do. Firstly, BM’s deal with pretty much everything and anything having to do with deck maintenance, navigation, seamanship, small unit admin, small arms-and some larger deck mounted weapons, maritime law enforcement, some minor electronics and engineering (provided the manuals have pictures), AtoN (aids to navigation- buoys, towers, lighthouses, et al), painting (of course), small boat coxswains, SAR response & planning,… the list goes on. At almost every unit in the CG, there will be two ratings- BM’s, and MK’s (MM’s for any Navy types)
The majority of BM’s currently do one of 3 major job area’s: Cutters, Stations or AtoN. Cutter BM’s probably match Navy BM’s the closest- they stand or train folks to stand the BMOW watch, some will be underway QMOW’s, or OOD’s. They deal with deck maintenance, small boat coxswain, boarding team/boarding officer, unrep & highlining, deck supply, and manage a lot of junior enlisted.
BM’s doing AtoN are on buoy tenders, river tenders, shore side ANT teams. They work the buoy decks, hauling and setting buoys (Very hard work), fix the lights, power systems on buoys, build towers, fix lighthouses, clear brush, destroy old towers, etc. AtoN work is probably the hardest physically, but most people who do it, never want to do anything else. Ever.
Stations. This is where most BM’s end up at one time or another. These are the units that the public is most familiar with. Stations do most of the SAR, run the small boats, surf boats, do most of the law enforcement, and anything else that happens on the water. Stations usually only have BM’s and MK’s, along with a cook.
Senior BM’s (BM1, BMC, BMCS and BMCM) are usually the Executive Petty Officer or Officer In Charge of the smaller units, both Cutters and Stations.
Ive been in 11 years, and BM for 10, and I’ve done damn near everything I’ve mentioned at one time or another, so we pretty much get around. And yes, we occasionally use the bos’n pipe, although not much anymore. We would pipe chow on my last cutter, and I also rendered B-Pipe honors for former President Clinton, as well as the USCG Commandant, and some other higher ups.
I’d be glad to answer any other questions if you have any.