Dogged attention to watchkeeping.

Enjoyed Steve D’Antonio’s recent piece on derivation of the term “dog watch” (Dogging the watch Issue 132 Sept./Oct. 2003). Just wanted to make a couple of observations. According to my Bluejacket’s Manual (16th edition — 1960), the 1600 to 1800 is the first dog watch, and the 1800 to 2000 is the second dog watch. Also, I’m not altogether certain that the correct term for the entire U.S. Navy is “landlubber.” Still quoting my venerable BJM, “The 1600 to 2000 watch is ‘dogged’ — that is, it is shortened — to allow the men to be relieved to eat their evening meal and to divide the recreation period.”

Furthermore, after 23 years of Naval service, I can attest that upsetting the monotony of any duty never entered the Navy’s collective mind. That having been said, loved the article. Always enjoy the nautical etymology; keep them coming. The day is wasted that you don’t learn something new.

Pete and Dianne Lister sail Ashley, a Lancer 25, out of Bay View Park, Wis.

Steve C. D’Antonio responds:

Thank you for your comments concerning the Dog Watch column and the etymology of “dog watch.” In no way was I suggesting that the U.S. Navy is, as an institution, landlubberly just because they use the term “second dog watch” incorrectly, technically speaking. However, a couple of years ago, I flew out to an aircraft carrier at sea. Shortly after arriving, I found myself quite parched thanks to a long, uncomfortable flight aboard the carrier onboard delivery aircraft. I stopped an LDO (as you probably know, a limited duty officer is a man or woman who has risen to the rank of at least E6 and has served for at least eight years in the Navy) and asked him where the nearest scuttlebutt was, and he looked at me as if I had two heads. So I fear that “sailor speak” has taken a back seat in today’s Navy to political correctness, expediency and a general lack of appreciation for ceremony and tradition.

One of my references for the definition of first and last dog watches is The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, first edition. It states, “These two watches are known as the First Dog and Last Dog, and never, except by landlubbers, as the First Dog and Second Dog.” Additionally, you may be heartened to know that my copy of the venerable Bluejacket’s Manual, 20th edition, 1978, defines the dog watches as, “serving to alternate the daily watch routine so sailors with the mid-watch one night will not have it again the next time.” Sounds suspiciously like the Navy of 1978 may actually care more about repetition causing monotony than the Navy of 1960.

Contributing Editor Steve C. D’Antonio is a freelance writer and the boatyard manager at Zimmerman Marine in Cardinal, Va.

By Ocean Navigator