Swabbing the decks?

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by thudpucker, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. thudpucker
    Joined: Jul 2007
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    thudpucker Senior Member

    I've always wondered why the Decks must be swabbed.
    I have a librovox audio-book called "Dog Watches at sea"

    I don't know what the Dog watch is. Nor do I know what 8 Bells mean.
    But this is a pretty good story.

    However, swabbing the decks has always been a question in my mind. Is there something wrong with Salty Brine on the Deck?

    On the Troop ship, we had guys on mops all day and night. If not the Puke would have been an inch deep overnight. The mops served to keep those poor guys from falling onto that snotty deck.

    But other guys were mopping the other decks.
    What for?
    What's the reason they don't put a Salt Water pump to work and rinse the decks. (and our bunk holds as well)

    Let's hear from some Sailors.
  2. waikikin
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    waikikin Senior Member

    some stuff is done just to keep the hands busy & not ***** & fight amongst themselves......... then they can direct that energy towards the officers. Jeff.
  3. Frosty

    Frosty Previous Member

    A bucket of salt water over the decks keeps them in a better condition than if they did not. Rain water or sweat water will rot them.

    That along with the reason above.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2012
  4. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    The "dog watch" is the last watch of the night from early morning to day break, the hardest to stay awake. Usually ruins the day since you will not get much sleep the rest of the day either. Similar to "graveyard" shift in factory, worst watch you can pull, usually for the newbies.

    Decks get slippery if not constantly washed off, also, as noted, keeps the crew busy. I remember reading that on all wood work boats they would apply mixture of pine tar, boiled linseed oil, turpine and bees wax about once a week on working ships to preserve the wood. that too would would keep the crew busy.
  5. Frosty

    Frosty Previous Member

    Try doing ALL the shifts as a solo. After 3 days the hallucinations are fun.

    I fell asleep standing up once in Klang immigration office West Malaysia while standing up.
  6. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    Six days shalt thou labor,
    And do all thou art able--
    And on the seventh, holystone
    The decks and scrape the cable.
  7. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member


    Clock bells go back many years. Instead of watching the clock, you could listen during your four hour watch. The 24 hour day is broke down into six, four hour segments. Each segment is made up of eight, 30 minute intervals. Each interval accumulates an added bell.

    Google it and you'll understand.
  8. michael pierzga
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    michael pierzga Senior Member

    As far as I know its done for discipline. Soap stoning the decks ?

    On modern yachts no swabbing, now deckhands get a chamois.

    Its also a form of watch keeping. Swabbing the deck and..... whats this huge metal clevis pin doing here ?

    Fell out of the rigging
  9. Crag Cay
    Joined: May 2006
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    Crag Cay Senior Member

    I don't think so! The Dog Watches are 2 hour stints in the evening. First Dog is 4pm to 6 and the second is 6pm to 8. The idea of introducing these 'half watches' is to make sure the watches 'rotate' each day and sailors were not stuck on the same routine day after day, irrespective whether your manpower was split into two or three watches. They also helped with feeding the watches the main evening meal.

    The bells in 'The Dogs' went 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,8.
  10. Tad
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Tad Boat Designer

    "Swabbing" or washing the deck is very important on a wooden planked deck. The frequent scrubbing with salt water preserves the wood, keeps moss or mold from growing, and keeps the planks swelled so the deck does not leak (much..).

  11. jehardiman
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    Yep, and the reason they are called "dog watches" is because they are "cur tailed"...That pun BTW is ~ 200 years old, Captain Frederick Marryat used it in one of his novelas.

    Yep, and you holystone a wood deck to keep it smooth from splinters but not slick with mold/alge in the grain. When ships switched to coal with steel decks, the call became "sweepers man your brooms, sweep down fore'n'aft, up trash'n'ash". This was needed because of the ash that dropped/blew on the decks due to the stacks and ash scuttles.
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