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Page Title: Naval Terms and Customs -Continued: Rope Yarn Sunday - Sundowner
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ROPE  YARN  SUNDAY On the day the tailor boarded a sailing ship in  port,  the  crew  knocked  off  early,  broke  out rope  yarn,  and  mended  clothes  and  hammocks. One  afternoon  per  week  at  sea,  usually  a Wednesday,  was  reserved  for  mending.  Since  it was an afternoon for rest from the usual chores, much  like  Sunday,  it  was  dubbed   rope   yarn Sunday. The  Navy  adhered  to  the  custom  up  to  the years immediately after World War II; men used Wednesday  afternoon  for  personal  errands  like picking  up  their  laundry  and  getting  haircuts. They  paid  back  the  time  by  working  half  a  day on  Saturdays. Today,  uniforms  require  less  attention,  so  rope yarn  Sunday  has  been  turned  to  other  purposes— mainly early liberty or a time for catching up on sleep. Some, however, still adhere to tradition by breaking  out  the  ditty  bag  for  an  afternoon  of uniform   PMS. SALLY  SHIP Sally  ship  was  not  a  ship  but  a  method  of loosing  a  vessel  run  aground  from  the  mud holding  it  fast.  In  the  days  before  sophisticated navigation  equipment,  ships  ran  aground  much more  often  than  today.  A  grounded  ship  could be freed with little or no hull damage if it could be  rocked  out  of  its  muddy  predicament. To free the ship, the order was given to “sally ship.” The crew gathered in a line along one side and  then  ran  back  and  forth  athwartships  from port  to  starboard  until  the  vessel  began  to  roll. Often  the  rolling  broke  the  suction  of  the  mud so that the ship could be pulled free and gotten under  way. SHIP’S  HUSBAND Sometimes  when  a  ship  is  heading  for  the yards,  an  old  salt  says  that  she  is  going  to  her husband  now,  which  causes  novices  to  wonder what  he’s  talking  about.  A  ship’s  husband  was once  a  widely  used  term  describing  the  man  in charge of the shipyard responsible for the repair of a particular ship. It was not uncommon to hear the  sailors  of  creaking  ships  lament,  “Ah,  she’s been  a  good  ship,  lads,  but  she’s  needing  her husband   now.” In  the  course  of  a  ship’s  life,  she  may  have had  more  than  one  husband;  but  this  had  little bearing  upon  her  true  affections.  Tradition  has it,  her  love  was  saved  solely  for  her  sailors. SICK  BAY Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was responsible for  many  British  naval  customs,  forerunners  of our  own,  originated  the  term  sick  berth  in  his order to the Mediterranean fleet in 1798. In a line- of-battle  ship,  the  sick  berth  was  placed  in  the bow. When round bows were introduced in 1811, the  sick  berth,  keeping  its  same  position,  found itself  in  a  bay  (semicircular  indentation).  Thus, in 1813 the British began the use of the term sick bay. It is customary today for officers to remove their caps when entering sick bay. It maybe that this custom stems from the early sailing days when men were not admitted to sick bay until they were about  ready  for  “slipping   the   cable”   (dying). SKYLARK To skylark  is  to  be  inattentive  or  engage  in horseplay,  usually  when  one  is  supposed  to  be working.  The  term  came  about  when  young sailors would climb to the skysail yardarms and slide  down  the  stays. STARBOARD  AND  PORT In the old Viking ships, ships were steered by means of a heavy board secured to the right side of the ship. Therefore, the right side of the vessel (looking   forward)   was   called   the   “steerboard” side. Loading was avoided from that side because of the possibility of damaging the steering gear. Gradually the term  steerboard  was  corrupted  to starboard. The  left  side  of  these  old  ships  (the  place  of loading)  was  called  the  “load  board”  side.  This finally  became  “larboard.”  Because  “starboard” and “larboard” sounded so much alike, the term port was substituted in the United States Navy for larboard.  A  General  Order  (18  February  1846) reads: “It having been repeatedly represented to the  Department  that  confusion  arises  from  the  use of  the  words  ‘Larboard’  and  ‘Starboard’  in consequence   of   their   similarity   of   sound,   the word   ‘Port’   is   hereafter   to   be   substituted   for Larboard.”  (Perhaps  the  term  port  was   used because, as ships became larger and rose higher in the water, loading took place through openings in  the  sides  called  “ports.”) SUNDOWNER A sundowner   is term  is  derived  from a  harsh  disciplinarian.  The the  practice  of  strict  captains AII-7

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