Sea-Duty (Living Space)
Posted by Joshua Kelly

This post is going to share the true life on board a ship, and what you can and will find while living on the ship.  Well, now that we got you through basic training and your assigned schools, it is time to pick up your orders and head to a sea going command.

There are a few items that will change right away from day one when you step on board.

Rack and Storage

First, you will now have very small living quarters, so much for that sofa and loveseat or waterbed, they are gone sailor. Your new rack will consist of about a three feet wide and seven feet long mattress on top of your locker. The mattress that you get will be rather used and worn down, so don’t expect it to be the most comfortable item you live and sleep on.

Storage space is going to be very limited.  In basic training, they teach you to roll and fold clothes.  Well here is why: when you lift up your rack, you are looking at all of your storage space.  There is not much room, so if you don’t fold and roll your clothes and uniforms, then you will not fit everything into the rack space. You will also notice that in your cubical space, there is a stand up locker that is about two feet tall and maybe two feet wide.  This is a great place to store any of your clothes that need to hang up, such as your collared civilian clothes or your dress uniforms.

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The berthing is where you will be staying, and this is where you along with about 70-90 others will call home while on board the ship.  Most of the time, you will get lucky and get a rack in the same department as the one you work in.  That way you get to know your neighbors and most likely work with most of your neighbors during the day.  Each berthing area usually has one television.  So if you are lucky and no one else is using it, you may be able to catch the great Armed Forces network channel, or the shipboard movie channels.  Be advised that if you are watching the Armed Forces channel, expect freeze frames, along with outings a lot of times due to reception at sea.

Hygiene is by far the most important element of your life.  You are going to find out really fast living in tight quarters that if someone does not keep themselves clean, the berthing and your sleeping quarters will stink.  I recommend bringing with you scented spray along with the sticky scent tabs that you can place inside your rack.  That way at night, when you are sleeping, you have a sense of some relaxation and not the smell of dirty laundry or the smell of someone else who forgot to clean up and is leaving a smell trail.


The great news is there are showers. The bad news is you may find times when you won’t have warm water, or the drains are backed up.  A huge rule of thumb is make sure you have a good set of shower shoes to prepare yourself for whatever dirt may lay ahead.  You will also notice when showering that when the ship is at sea, your shower time may include a little rocking back and forth.  Again it is important that you have shower shoes to prevent yourself from getting hit by backwash from the shower deck.

In addition to shower shoes, make sure you have a few rolls of your own toilet tissue.  You may find that when you need to use the Head (the Navy term for bathroom), there may not be any toilet tissue around.  So always be prepared.


You will be bringing your personal belongings on board the ship with you, such as a computer, DVD player, gaming system, and your wallet.  It is very important to make sure you bring padlocks with you.  I recommend having key locks rather than combination locks, because with a key lock you don’t have to worry about someone standing behind you and watching you put your code in.  The key lock just gives you a touch more security.  Also, when you are sitting in the berthing and if you walk away from your rack for a few minutes, make sure to lock all your stuff up.  If you don’t, you should be surprised to return and find that something is missing.

Living quarters have gotten better on board ships as the newer ships enter the fleet.  But some of us older sailors lived on ships like the USS Kitty Hawk.  The older, more outdated fleet (some of which is still active), has some tight living conditions.  So depending where you are stationed, your experience may be a touch better than us older sailors.

Joshua Kelly is a 13-year United States Navy Veteran. Joshua holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Science and Math. Along with several military decorations, Joshua was certified as a Community College of the Air Force Instructor. Joshua is currently self-employed with Dakota Weather Consultants.

“I am passionate about the military way of life and also the self-employed way of the future, and of course, the weather. You will find me, every day, running my weather consulting firm when I am not spending time with my family. I enjoy sharing information by writing to help others prepare themselves and learn from my experiences”. Joshua Kelly

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