DENMARK-L ArchivesArchiver > DENMARK > 2003-12 > 1070310765
From: Rockne Johnson <>
Subject: Re: [DK] Dates and Time and bells
Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2003 10:32:45 -1000
On my last boat I had a Seth-Thomas clock that struck the bells. the clock
was mounted just inside the companionway where it could be heard by the
helmsman and those in the after and 'midship cabins. I never slept in the
forecastle but, as that was the noisiest part of the vessel (when under
sail) as it plowed into the waves, I suspect that the bells were not well
heard there. At night, the helmsman was usually the only one on deck and,
as eight-bells approached, he had to make a judgement regarding whether to
leave the wheel briefly to quietly arouse his relief or whether to awaken
the entire crew by shouting.
Sailors get into the habit of shouting.
At 08:01 AM 12/1/2003, Ian Westergaard wrote:
>There are eight bells in a watch of four hours
>The first watch starts at midnight and the bells are struck every half hour.
>0030 = 1 bell, 0100 = 2 bells, 0130 = 3 bells and so on up to 8 bells at
>0400 (struck in four sets of two). The sequence is repeated each four hour
>The bells are first struck on the bridge or at the conning position and then
>answered by the lookout. If the lookout does not answer someone goes to
>check whether he has fallen asleep or overboard.
>As the lookout was commonly on the forecastle (fo'c'sle) and the crew slept
>in the f'c'sle they were woken up every half hour if they were not kept
>awake by the lookout walking up and down trying to keep awake. You got very
>tired with "four on four off watches" especially if you were called out
>between your watches to trim sails. Of course the officers and petty
>officers slept down aft or midships where they were not disturbed so much.
>In Cloudy & Mild Central Otago
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Bart Hansen" <>
>Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 2:35 AM
>Subject: [DK] Dates and Time
> > The great beauty of the military system is that, as Leslie suggests, it is
> > unmistakable. You simply cannot err by using a date like 1 Dec 2003.
> > You can write 1-12-2003 or 12-1-2003, but most will not be able to
> > decipher your intent. Similarly, you can write 20030112 or 20031201
> > and be in the same boat of uncertainty.
> > Like Rock, I learned this better system in the military many years ago.
> > I still use that system and am happy that genealogists find it better,
> > I also use the military time when writing notes to myself; "yogurt ready
> > at 1300 Tuesday" but that's another matter.
> > Bart, who admits having forgotten how to tell time with bells. I vaguely
> > recall a four-hour cycle.
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