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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 to look (“watch“) for other vessels on the ocean.

Bells are struck to designate the hours of being on watch.  Each watch is four hours in length.  One bell is struck after the first half-hour has passed, two bells after one hour has passed, three bells after an hour and a half, four bells after two hours, and so forth up to eight bells are struck at the completion of the four hours.  Completing a watch with no incidents to report was "Eight bells and all is well."

The practice of using bells stems from the days of the sailing ships.  Sailors could not afford to have their own time pieces and relied on the ship's bells to tell time.  The ship's boy kept time by using a half-hour glass.  Each time the sand ran out, he would turn the glass over and ring the appropriate number of bells.

Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2005 1:03 PM Day Job | Back to top

Comments on this post: Nautical Terminology: Eight Bells and Standing the Watch

# re: Nautical Terminology: Eight Bells and Standing the Watch
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Honestly one of the things I miss is the BMOW piping me to chow. :-) I used to love listening to them do that.

On the subject it is amazing how you get used to hearing things like the bells and pipes during the day. Sometimes I wish I had never left.
Left by Eric Hammersley on Aug 07, 2005 6:31 PM

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