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On Veterans Day

As I come up on 26 years of active duty service in the Navy, I have been reliably informed by my wife that it is in fact time for me to complete my Navy service and transition to some other line of work.  When the 5-star Admiral at home speaks, you listen.  Next Veterans Day will likely be a good time for me to look back on my Navy career and reminisce.  For this year, I join others who offer their thoughts to those in uniform who have risked and lost much more than I.

Posted On Sunday, November 11, 2007 6:08 PM

Nautical Terminology: Turn A Blind Eye

In 1801, during the Battle of Copenhagen, Admiral Horatio Nelson deliberately held his telescope to his blind eye in order to not see the flag signal from the commander to stop the bombardment.  He eventually won the engagement.  To turn a blind eye means to ignore intentionally.  More here.

Posted On Sunday, December 24, 2006 6:09 PM

Nautical Terminology: Dungarees
Webster defines dungaree as "a coarse kind of fabric worn by the poorer class of people and also used for tents and sail." I find it hard to picture my favorite pair of dungarees flying from the mast of a sailing ship, but in those days Sailors often made both their working clothes and hammocks out of discarded sail cloth. The 1901 Navy regulations authorized the first use of denim jumpers and trousers, and the 1913 regulations originally permitted the dungaree outfit to be used by both officers ......

Posted On Saturday, October 7, 2006 12:21 PM

Nautical Terminology: Old Glory
Today is Flag Day in the United States. At Colors, my Commanding Officer read an appropriate story that I reproduce here for this day of honor. OLD GLORY This famous name was coined by Captain William Driver, a shipmaster of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1831. As he was leaving on one of his many voyages aboard the brig CHARLES DOGGETT -- and this one would climax with the rescue of the mutineers of the BOUNTY -- some friends presented him with a beautiful flag of twenty four stars. As the banner opened ......

Posted On Wednesday, June 14, 2006 5:43 AM

Nautical Terminology: Toe the Line
In the days of wooden warships, when men mustered at Quarters in the morning to check for presence and condition, it was customary to arrange them in neat ranks for counting, using the tar-filled seams in the deck as a reference for straightness. When the petty officer or Bos'n stood at one end and checked out the alignment, any man not properly located would be ordered to "toe the line." For midshipmen and boys, young fellows in training to be officers or sailors, standing for long periods toeing ......

Posted On Sunday, May 21, 2006 6:00 AM

Sinking Aircraft Carriers
Almost two years ago, I posted the answers to a private trivia challenge I was involved in. In the interim, the US Navy has intentionally sunk the ex-USS AMERICA (Hull #66). That ship was subject to a series of real-world tests you rarely get to do -- survivability of a modern aircraft carrier when hit with modern weapons. The details and results are classified, but in the end the ex-AMERICA slipped quietly beneath the surface having survived the weapons, but not the scuttling charges. Another carrier ......

Posted On Friday, February 17, 2006 5:06 PM

Nautical Trivia: U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay

U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay -- it is more than just detainees

Posted On Saturday, July 1, 2006 4:51 PM

Nautical Terminology: Dead Horse
When a Sailor pays off a debt to the command (advance pay, overpayments, etc.) they say they have paid off a Dead Horse. The saying comes from a tradition of British sailors. British seamen, apt to be ashore and unemployed for considerable periods of time between voyages, generally preferred to live in boarding houses near the piers while waiting for sailing ships to take on crews. During these periods of unrestricted liberty, many ran out of money, so innkeepers carried them on credit until they ......

Posted On Friday, November 18, 2005 3:58 AM

Nautical Terminology: Sideboys
Sideboys are a part of the Quarterdeck ceremonies when an important person or Officer arrives on board or departs a ship. Large ships have sideboys detailed to the quarterdeck from 0800 to sunset. When the side is piped by the Boatswain's Mate of the Watch (BMOW), from two to eight sideboys, depending on the rank of the Officer, will form a passageway at the gangway. They salute on the first note of the pipe and drop their salute together on the last note. In the days of sail, it was not uncommon ......

Posted On Thursday, October 13, 2005 5:45 PM

Nautical Terminology: Passing Honors
Passing honors are rendered by ships and boats when vessels, embarked officials, or embarked officers pass (or are passed) close aboard, usually 600 yards for ships and 400 yards for boats. The junior ship renders honors to the senior ship. Seniority is based on the rank (actually the lineal number) of the Commanding Officer or any embarked commander. The U.S. Navy will always return honors, but will not render them to foreign naval vessels unless there is an associated command relationship (NATO ......

Posted On Sunday, August 7, 2005 5:31 PM

Nautical Terminology: Three Mile Limit
The original three-mile limit was the recognized distance from a nation's shore over which that nation had sovereign jurisdiction. This border with international waters, or the "high seas," was established because, at the time, three miles was the longest range of any nation's most powerful guns. Therefore, it was the limit at which shore batteries could enforce the nation's laws. The 1988 Territorial Sea Proclamation established the "high seas" border at the current 12-mile limit. Note: There are ......

Posted On Thursday, July 14, 2005 1:09 AM

Nautical Terminology: Port Holes
The term "port hole" originated during the reign of Henry VI of England (1485). King Henry insisted on mounting guns too large for his ship, and the traditional methods of securing these weapons on the forecastle and aftcastle could not be used. A French shipbuilder named James Baker was commissioned to solve the problem. He put small doors in the side of the ship and mounted the cannon inside the ship. These doors protected the cannon from weather and were opened when the cannon were to be used. ......

Posted On Saturday, June 18, 2005 12:12 PM

The Snake Model
I came across an old email that forwarded The Differential Theory of the US Armed Forces, commonly referred to as The Snake Model. I have personal experience with the first 12 or so examples, and find they tend to support the personalities described with the exception of the Marines. Overall, I thought that this was quite appropriate once you get to know them, although some content could be viewed as rude. So for those who may, from time to time, have difficulty sorting out service operational differences, ......

Posted On Tuesday, June 14, 2005 3:21 PM

Nautical Terminology: Manning the Rails
This custom evolved from the centuries-old practice of "manning the yards." Long ago, men aboard sailing ships stood evenly spaced on all the yards and gave three cheers to honor a distinguished person. Now, men and women are stationed along the rails of a ship (or along the edge of the flight deck for big deck aviation ships) when honors are rendered to the President, the heads of a foreign state, or a member of a reigning royal family. Men and women so stationed do not salute. Navy ships will often ......

Posted On Sunday, June 5, 2005 5:49 PM

Nautical Terminology: Scuttlebutt
The origin of the word "scuttlebutt," which is nautical parlance for a rumor, comes from a combination of "scuttle" (to make a hole in the ship's hull and thereby causing her to sink) and "butt" (a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water). The cask from which the ship's crew took their drinking water (like a water fountain) was the "scuttlebutt". Even in today's Navy, this is what a drinking fountain is referred to. Since the crew used to congregate around the "scuttlebutt", ......

Posted On Sunday, May 29, 2005 8:58 AM

Nautical Terminology: Eight Bells and Standing the Watch
Traditionally aboard Navy ships, a 24-hour day is divided into seven watches. These are: Midnight to 4 a.m. [0000-0400] - the mid-watch 4 to 8 a.m. [0400-0800] - morning watch 8 a.m. to noon [0800-1200] - forenoon watch Noon to 4 p.m. [1200-1600] - afternoon watch 4 to 6 p.m. [1600-1800] - first dog watch 6 to 8 p.m. [1800-2000] - second dog watch 8 p.m. to midnight [2000-2400] - evening watch During your watch, you are responsible to check or operate specific equipment, or to drive the ship, or ......

Posted On Sunday, May 22, 2005 1:03 PM

Nautical Terminology: Chewing the Fat
"God made the vittles but the devil made the cook," was a popular saying used by seafaring men in the 19th century when salted beef was the staple diet aboard ship.  This tough cured beef, suitable for long voyages when nothing else was cheap or would keep as well (remember, there was no refrigeration), required prolonged chewing to make it edible.  Men often chewed one chunk for hours, just as if it were chewing gum and referred to this practice as "chewing the fat."

Posted On Tuesday, April 26, 2005 11:02 PM

Nautical Terminology: Gundecking
In the modern Navy, falsifying reports, records and the like is often referred to as "gundecking." The origin of the term is somewhat obscure, but at the risk of gundecking, here are two plausible explanations for its modern usage. The first relates to ship construction. The deck below the upper deck on British sailing ships-of-war was called the gundeck although it carried no guns. This false deck may have been constructed to deceive enemies as to the amount of armament carried, thus the gundeck ......

Posted On Sunday, March 27, 2005 11:17 PM

Nautical Terminology: Fathom
Fathom was originally a land measuring term derived from the Anglo-Saxon word "faetm" meaning to embrace. In those days, most measurements were based on average size of parts of the body, such as the hand (horses are still measured this way) or the foot (that's why 12 inches are so named). A fathom is the average distance from fingertip to fingertip of the outstretched arms of a man -- about six feet. Since a man stretches out his arms to embrace his sweetheart, Britain's Parliament declared that ......

Posted On Monday, March 14, 2005 12:17 AM

Nautical Terminology: Boatswain and Coxswain
As required by 17th Century law, British ships-of-war carried three smaller boats: the boat, the cock-boat, and the skiff. The boat, also called the gig, was usually used by the Captain to go ashore and was the larger of the three. The cock-boat was a very small rowboat used as the ship's tender. The skiff was a lightweight all-purpose vessel, generally with a flat bottom. The suffix "swain" means keeper, thus the keepers of the boat, cock, and skiff were called boatswain and cockswain (or coxswain). ......

Posted On Saturday, March 5, 2005 11:58 PM

Nautical Terminology: Crow's Nest
The raven, or crow, was an essential part of the Vikings' navigation equipment. These land-lubbing birds were carried onboard to help the ship's navigator determine where the closest land lay when weather prevented sighting the shore. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird's flight path because the crow invariably headed towards land. The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast. Later on, as ships grew ......

Posted On Tuesday, January 11, 2005 8:15 PM

Nautical Terminology: Log Book
In the very early days of sailing ships, the ship's records were written on thin shingles cut from logs. These shingles were hinged and opened like a book. The entire record was called the "log book." Later on, when paper was readily available and bound into books, the record maintained the name. Today, almost any record can be called a log. The ship maintains several legal records in logs. The ship's Deck Log is the primary record of daily events. It is maintained on the Bridge while underway and ......

Posted On Sunday, January 2, 2005 6:15 PM

New Year Happiness and Mourning
We are starting another new year. We have plenty to be both thankful and sorrowful for. We have our health and our family. We mourn the hundreds of thousands killed by the tsunami knowing that many more will die of disease and starvation. Many will never be counted. We are happy for a relatively calm election cycle here in the US. It could have been much worse, but the problems seem minor and are not in Florida. We are happy that Jeff provides us this wonderful place to hang our hat in the blogosphere. ......

Posted On Sunday, January 2, 2005 10:02 AM

Nautical Terminology: Feeling Blue
If you are sad and describe yourself as "feeling blue," you are using a phrase coined from a custom among many old deepwater sailing ships. If the ship lost the captain or any of the officers during its voyage, she would fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along her entire hull when returning to home port. Update: The closest you will get to seeing appreciable amounts of blue on a modern US Navy ship is if one has recently sailed above the Arctic Circle. This rare “Bluenose” cruise ......

Posted On Tuesday, November 9, 2004 9:29 PM

Nautical Terminology: Wardroom
The Wardroom originally was known as the Wardrobe Room, a place where officers kept their spare wearing apparel.  It was also the space where any loot, secured from enemy ships, was stored.  In an effort to have some privacy on a crowded ship, officers would sometimes take their meals in the Wardrobe Room.  Today, the Wardroom aboard ship is where officers take their meals, relax and socialize.

Posted On Saturday, October 2, 2004 12:43 PM

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