Earl's Naval Glossary

An eclectic assortment of informative nautical stuff prepared by Earl Adams,
this site's originator and administrator from 2007 to 2014.

  A variation of backgammon widely played in the USN, probably beginning around 1900.  The game was played both at sea and ashore.  The game was wildly popular aboard the TAGS, with elaborate custom-made boards and dice towers.

Differing from regular backgammon, each player starts with fifteen checkers off the board. The players enter their checkers in the opponent's home board, then bring them around the board. The object of the game is to move all of your checkers around the board to your own home table and then bear them off. The first player to bear off all of his checkers wins the game.
  Chief Petty Officers playing "Acey-Deucy" aboard USS Baltimore, ca. 1904-1906

Foreign Currency Exchange Rates
  During the time when many of us served aboard the TAGS, currency exchange rates were very favorable toward the U.S. dollar.  That meant that a dollar went a long way in 1967 in ports such as Sasebo, Japan or Lisbon, Portugal.  An enlisted sailor, a PO3 or PO2 for example, would have five weeks pay to spend  (we spent four weeks at sea) during one week in port.  Needless to say, we had a GOOD TIME!

Click here for a
table of exchange rates.

Click the icons for examples of foreign currency notes from countries visited by the TAGS:

  An "Inport" was a seaport that a TAGS went into for R&R, reprovisioning and refueling.  Also the period, usually 5-7 days, that a TAGS was docked at a seaport for R&R, reprovisioning and refueling.

The next inport of a TAGS was classified SECRET, so we always had to ask the local bargirls where we were going next.

The night prior to an inport, TAGS sailors were stricken by a strange disease called "
Channel Fever".  Symptoms included sleeplessness, pacing the decks, sitting in the crew's mess drinking cup after cup of coffee and staring longingly at the horizon for the first site of land.

The Navy crew usually had open gangway during an inport, standing only security watches on a 4-section rotation.  The OGOs and Tech Reps usually had the whole inport off, although there was often some work to do, upgrading or repairing equipment or transferring scientific data.  Only the poor MSTS/MSC crew still had to work (but usually through eyes glazed by other activities).

According to
Wiktionary, there is no such English word as inport--but what do they know!

Ranks, Rates and Ratings of United States Navy crew on the TAGS
These are the most common Ranks and Rates of the Navymen and women who served aboard the TAGS. (Sorting out the different meanings of Rank, Pay Grade, Rate and Rating in the USN is sort of like remembering the difference between Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite.)
  Electronics Technician ET By far the most common Navy rating aboard the TAGS.  According to the TAGS Crew List, 46% of OcUnit Navy crew (officers and Chiefs included) were ETs.  Sometimes accused of being Prima Donnas, as an ET myself I can't understand why anyone would think such a thing!

Responsible for the
maintenance and operation of most of the Navigation, Sonar and peripheral equipment (minus the IC stuff, and Sonar shared with STs), as well as Survey, Sonar and Navigation watches, transponder launches, magnetometer stations, sea stations, magnetic sword detail, burn stations, space maintenance, documentation maintenance, equipment inventories, reports, correspondence courses, deck swabbing, field days, painting, oiling, greasing......aaaagggghhhhhh.

Favorite quotes: "RTFM";  "Try turning it on first!"
  Hospital Corpsman HM Perhaps the most important member of the Navy crew, responsible for health care of all aboard.  One assigned per TAGS.  Qualified for independent duty, most of our HMs in the 60's and early 70's had served with the Marines in Vietnam.

Favorite quotes:  "Bend over and pull down your pants."
  Interior Communications Electrician IC Along with STs the second most common Navy rating aboard the TAGS.  According to the TAGS Crew List, 6-8% of OcUnit Navy crew (officers and Chiefs included) were ICs.  The knuckledraggers of the OcUnits (IC was a shipe rating), they had their own class of equipment to maintain, the most important being the Movie Projectors.  The second most important was the Mk-19 Gyroscope. Usually also stands Survey, Sonar and Navigation watches.
  Personnelman PN An OcUnit had one PN or YN.  The CO's secretary, but don't call them that to their face!!

Favorite quote:  I don't know, they never left the OcUnit office.
  Photographer PH Second most important member of the Navy crew. The Photographer (one assigned) had a dark room, photographic equipment and supplies, and developing and enlarging equipment and supplies!  Our photographers were great at teaching the rest of us how to develop and print, providing film and photographic paper.  They also had great cameras (Leicas!!), lenses and other stuff.

The OcUnits made hydrographic maps, which the photographer printed on a giant (walk in) enlarger in the photo shop. He also made up ship's newspapers and other such documents, and might even be recruited to do goodwill photography. He was responsible for making the official Navy photographic record of the operation of the TAGS.

Favorite quotes:  "You want to borrow my CAMERA !?"
  Quartermaster QM For the first few years of operation Quartermasters were included in the OcUNIT crews.  I have no idea what their duties were, but they were certainly related to navigation.  After the major equipment upgrades during the 1963 yard period, which included the installation of SASS and BRN-3, the Quartermaster rating was removed from the TAGS.
  Radioman RM One radioman was included in the OcUNIT crew beginning in the late 60's or early 70's.  His duties were the encryption and decryption of radio messages and maintenance of the crypto equipment.  Prior to the attachment of a Radioman, I believe the XO was stuck with crypto duties.

Early in the life of the TAGS, the OcDETs/UcUNITs had no radio equipment of their own and depended on the MSTS radioman to record coded radio messages and type up and deliver the code groups to the OcUNIT office.  Later, the OcUNITs had their own radio equipment installed, I think in the place in NIC once occupied by the old Sperry NAVDAC.
  Sonar Technician ST Shares maintenance of Sonars with ETs. Usually stands Survey, Sonar and Navigation watches. Along with ICs the second most common Navy rating aboard the TAGS.  According to the TAGS Crew List, 6-8% of OcUnit Navy crew (officers and Chiefs included) were STs.  (The Navy SOG Sonarman (Sonar) occupational rating designation was in use from 1943-1964. In 1964 the designation was changed to ST Sonar Technician. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonar_Technician )

Favorite quote: "In order to fix it you gotta be smarter than it is, and I can't look at the ocean and tell how deep it is!"
  Storekeeper SK One per OcUnit, the Navy Storekeeper ruled the stockroom wherein were kept the repair parts for all the electronics aboard.  His job was to ration the parts needed by the ETs, STs and ICs to repair their equipment.  About every quarter, he supervised an inventory of the stockroom, during which time the technicians got their revenge by discovering all the unissued parts he had been hoarding.  All in all, they were great shipmates!

Favorite quote:  "You can't have that, it's my last one!!".
  Yeoman YN An OcUnit had one PN or YN.  The CO's secretary, but don't call them that to their face!!

Sea Story
A Sea Story is a story told by Navymen and civilian mariners about an event that happened to the storyteller, his shipmates or other Navymen or mariners during their service.

The story is usually true, or at least partly true, but so outrageous as to be incredible to the average listener, so it is told as a "Story".  The sophisticated listener will be able to parse the real events from any fictional elaboration which has been innocently added to increase the emotional or romantic impact of the tale.

Navyman and mariners tell these stories to each other for their own amusement or edification.  They are also sometimes told to civilians for their shock effect, although some civilians, such as drunken fraternity rats, are difficult to shock.  Veterans are, of course, never civilians.

Sometimes mistakes are made and a sea story is told to a Police Officer in the performance of his duty.  If the storyteller is fortunate, the Officer is a Veteran who recognizes the benign and humorous intent of the story. If, however, the Officer is a college boy, the storyteller may have to attempt a different strategy, such as telling the truth.

Sea Stories are usually never told to children, ladies or somebody's mother.  In these modern times however it has become difficult to follow this general rule.  Calling a woman a lady may get you punched in the nose, and somebody's mother may be a Marine Gunnery Sergeant with two sons on the Seawolf.

Sea Stories are not to be confused with Fairy Tales or Fables.  Fairy tales generally begin with "Once Upon A Time", while the Sea Story begins with "This is no shit!".  Fables generally have a moral message or some moral content, while the Sea Story, although not necessarily immoral, is probably at a minimum amoral.

The silly entry for "Sea Story" in Wikipedia, generally an excellent reference, completely misses the point and was probably written by some college English Lit. Professor.

  "Spinning Yarns on Shipboard" 
  Source unknown 

"Sea Story Time"

Mixed Media Drawing
© Joe Ski

Artist comments: I am a Navy retired Chief Petty Officer, age 52, and started an art course 2 years ago. I like working with different mediums and subject. I have plenty of other work I have done and would like to share and perhaps get some feed back. When I retire in 10 years art will be my main hobby.

  Sea Stories:
    Bear Island, Carl Friberg
    sEaStories, Carl Friberg

  The Navy's first PDA.  If it were first issued now, it would be designated the AN/PDA-1.

It was a green notebook, about 5 3/4" x 3 5/8". You wrote stuff down in it and carried it around in your back pocket.

With all the talk of $300.00 toilet seats, a wheelbook cost 7¢ in 1967 and they last at least 40 years! Here is one of my wheelbooks from Bowditch, 1967-1968.  The Federal Government can really get good value for your taxpayer dollars!  Now if these were bought by a private corporation, such as a pharmaceutical company.....nope, better not go there.

  The FSN is on the back cover in case you want to order one for yourself.
  I do not know why we called them wheelbooks, but here is one hint. I've run across two paintings over the years of a group of PO1s titled "The Wheels".  Here is one from the Korean War era.  The other, which I have yet to track down, is I think from WWI.


"The Wheels"
Herbert C. Hahn #86
Colored pencil, 1950s

Seamen use this good natured jibe at the importance of petty officers.

  But officers were allowed to have them too, so maybe there's another reason for the name.
  Jeff Bacon's US Navy cartoon series "Broadside" addresses the quandry caused by efforts to replace Wheelbooks with electronic gizmos:
  ©2004  Jeff Bacon
Used by permission: courtesy of Jeff Bacon, 9/24/2008
©2007  Jeff Bacon 
Used by permission: courtesy of Jeff Bacon, 9/25/2008