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Quarter Deck


The Quarter-deck is the main security check point aboard a vessel when it is in port or anchored. This is the area of the ship where the gangway is rigged and the watch is posted. A watch refers to the group of men actually on duty at any given time.

It is the duty of the watch to keep track of all people boarding or leaving the ship. In addition, the deck log is maintained at the quarterdeck and communications equipment and alarm switches are located nearby for passing information and use in emergencies.

Officers and dignitaries deserving "honors" are piped aboard at this location. Sailors boarding and departing the ship request permission from the Officer of the Deck to do so. They perform a double salute, one to the Officer of the Deck and the other to the ensign on the fantail staff.

Ship's bells and announcements are also made from this location, sometimes accompanied by a piping for all hands.


As early as the 15th Century, a bell was used to sound the time onboard a ship. (Time, in those days, was kept with an hourglass. ) The bell was rung every half hour of the 4 hour watch. A 24 hour day was divided into six 4 hour watches, except the dog watch (16:00 - 20:00 hours) which could be divided into two 2 hour watches to allow for the taking of the evening meal.

Middle Watch: Midnight to 4 AM (0000 - 0400)
Morning Watch: 4 AM to 8 AM (0400 - 0800)
Forenoon Watch: 8 AM to noon (0800 - 1200)
Afternoon Watch: Noon to 4 PM (1200 - 1620)
First Dog Watch: 4 PM to 6 PM (1620 - 1800)
Second Dog Watch: 6 PM to 8 PM (1800 - 2000)
First Watch: 8 PM to Midnight (2000 - 0000)

The bells were struck for every half-hour of each watch, with a maximum of eight bells. At eight bells your watch was over! All other 4 hour watches followed this same procedure except the Dog Watches. At the end of the First Dog Watch, only four bells were struck, and the Second Dog Watch bells were struck like this: 6:30 PM, one bell; 7 PM two bells; 7:30 PM, three bells; and at 8 PM, eight bells. Since 1915, all U.S. Merchant vessels over 100 gross tons have, by law, divided the crew into three watches, working four hours on and eight hours off, and turning the dog watches into one evening watch.


WATCHES 1 bell
1
2 bells
2
3 bells
3
4 bells
4
5 bells
5
6 bells
6
7 bells
7
8 bells
8
Middle 0030 0100 0130 0200 0230 0300 0330 0400
Morning 0430 0500 0530 0600 0630 0700 0730 0800
Forenoon 0830 0900 0930 1000 1030 1100 1130 1200
Afternoon 1230 1300 1330 1400 1430 1500 1530 1620
1st Dog 1630 1700 1730 1800
2nd Dog 1830 1900 1930 2000
First 2030 2100 2130 2200 2230 2300 2330 2400

Listen to each of these calls!
Small Boat Man the Sides Pipe Aboard
Side Boys 2 Side Boys 4 Side Boys 6 Side Boys 8
All Hands Pass the Word Secure from General Quarters Heave Around
Belay Sweepers Mess Call Pipe Down

General Quarters Sound
GENERAL
QUARTERS
Chemical Alarm CHEMICAL
ALARM