Sea-Duty (On the Job)
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.

In our last blog post we talked about living on board the ship.  This post we will examine what it is like to work on the ship. First of all, you are going to have to work in multiple areas.  It is true that you did go to school for a particular job, however, get ready for a full day’s work doing many other jobs.

0700 hrs comes early, so make sure to prepare yourself as you will be usually required to muster on station at 0700 hrs when your ship is in port.  If you are at sea, your hours will be rather different. For this post, we will look at in-port work and for the next post we will examine the at-sea hours.

Morning Muster

So 0700 hrs has come and you will be mustering on station with your division.  Here the leading petty officer and chief petty officer along with your division officer will put out quarters, which is a fancy word for notes and news of the day. Once the quarters are finished, you will then be assigned your work orders for the day.  Most ships start the work day at 0800 hrs with cleaning stations. During this time, you will become good friends with mops, brooms and other various cleaning agents.  This work is an hour in time, so expect to be doing a lot of bright-work cleaning, shining knee knockers and also shining any other bright spaces you may have in your assigned area. Then you will need to sweep up the deck, followed by swabbing the deck.  So by 0900 hrs, you have your janitorial duties done for the day.

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Work Order

0900 hrs and now you will start the next item on your work order.  Of course this will depend on where you are working.  For this article, we will use the flight deck crew and their routine.  Each rating and division on the ship will have slightly different work routines. So after 0900 hours, you may be assigned with maintenance for the week.  This could include everything from inspecting fire extinguishers to working on flight deck jackets and making sure that they are up to par with specified standards.  Your maintenance time will usually take 30-45 minutes to complete.

At 1000 hrs, your next job for the day could include painting. When you are working on the flight deck, you will have a lot of time spent painting and chipping and non-skidding. These three items are the backbone of your in-port life.  So today you got assigned to the painting team, you will now pick up your paint from the supply issue and head out to your assigned space and paint.  This could include spaces inside the ship to the actual flight deck painting markings, or even getting a chance to paint on the side of the ship.

Your painting workload will take you to 1200 hrs.  Then you will re-muster with your petty officer in charge and they will dismiss you for lunch break, which is usually one hour.


At 1300 hrs, you return from chow to re-muster again for accountability.  Then you are sent back to your painting task and usually this will take you to 1500 hrs.  Then you will be responsible for turning your paint back into supply issue and returning to the flight deck for afternoon quarters. Here the leading petty officer of the division will meet with everyone and send them to their afternoon cleaning stations.  This can be anything from sweeping and swabbing again to actually having to go and clean the head.

Duty Sections

Now you return at 1600 hrs to find out that the day is complete, that is unless you have shipboard duty.  If you have shipboard duty, you will be sent to the hangar bay to muster with your assigned department’s duty section.  During duty section muster, the leading petty officer of the duty section will assign you your tasks for the evening, which can include having to stand watch to more cleaning again.

Suppose at your duty section muster, you get assigned the 0000-0400 watch.  This means that from 1600 to 0000 hrs you are free to move about the ship, such as going down to your berthing and sleeping, watching television or talking on the phone, sending emails, and whatever else you would like to do.  The key is that you will be staying on the ship, except sometimes the duty section will allow you to go to the pier for smoking and even to get some food.

Standing Watch

Now it’s time to get ready for your watch.  First of all, you will most likely be in the dress uniform of the day, which for shipboard watch is usually dress whites (summer) and dress blues (winter). You have the mid watch, so you will be responsible for arriving at your watch station by 2340 to do turn over with the past watch.  Then you will stand the watch, most likely checking identification cards of sailors coming on board the ship through the night. Once 0345 arrives, you will get relieved and then you are free to sleep until 0700 hrs when you will again have duty section muster followed by division muster. Then your day re-starts.   The one benefit to this day is that you will not have duty again, so you will be free to leave the ship at 1600 hrs.

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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