Friday, March 14, 2014

Piping and Sideboys

The following post has absolutely nothing to do with ceramics or clay or art.  It is the result of my cousin sending me an email about Navy traditions and our shared experience of spending years associated with same. And this reminded me of a bunch of experiences. So please indulge me. 

Piping and Sideboys on Navy ships

The custom of 'piping' a distinguished visitor 'over the side' dates to the time of wooden ships when senior officers would come alongside in their small launches. As the launch approached, the ship Boatswain, who was a warrant or petty officer in charge of the ship's deck crew, rigging, cables and anchors, would use his bos'n call to muster a party of men to assist the senior officer coming aboard.

 Hence, the term "piping."  

He arrived at the quarterdeck, the ship's 'front door' and assembled a working party of sailors to take their stations on either side of the senior officer who would be lifted from the launch via a 'sling'. The sling would be lowered to the launch; the officer would be strapped in and hoisted to the quarterdeck of the ship.  

As the seniority of the officer was often an indicator of his bulk, the more senior the officer, the larger the number of men would be assigned to hoist him up  and lift him "over the side"

 The more senior the officer, the more likely the bulk. Hence more sideboys were needed to assist him onboard. The same operation in reverse was performed whenever the officer returned to his launch.

Today, distinguished visitors are not hoisted aboard ship, but the sideboys and the piping functions still remain.

The above reminded me of the odd experience of being "piped" aboard a ship.  And my resultant wonderment about whether my experience was a singular one or not. I still don't know. 

The other memory this little article spurred was the fact that before leaving Japan, I bought a nice Boatswain's pipe just as a souvenir. 

It lay in a drawer for some years until we moved to a beach community. Our children had lots of room to run, but were difficult to call home in a place where the sea roared and the wind blew nearly all the time. 

The perfect solution was for me to stand on the front deck of our house and blow the Boatswain's pipe. The sound carried perfectly.

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