Saluting when boarding naval vessels

I do have to tell you of an error in the article about saluting the ensign. When comming aboard, you salute the national ensign then the Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW) NOT the OOD (officer of the deck) or JOOD (junior officer of the deck). Then when you leave the ship it is just the opposite, you salute the POOW first, then the ensign.

The Mailbag article being referred to is found by clicking here:

Please be sure to read the Mailbag article before posting your reply or comments!

I posted this question back when this mailbag topic first appeared, but I din’t get any takers. I’ll try again:

Now someone explain Boatswain (Bosun) whistles! Where did someone get the idea that officers might like to be greeted by a shrill, piercing noise when they board a ship? Everybody from Nelson to Kirk have had to tolerate this annoyong ritual. Is it really a salute or is it just code to the crew meaning; “Everybody look busy!”?

Ok, Boatswain pipes are meant to be a sign of respect for the XO (executive officer) and CO (Commanding Officer) and even sometimes for the CMC of the ship (Command Master Chief). And for the look busy part…LOL…only in the morning if your in port and he is comming aboard during working hours :slight_smile:

I turned to two authorities to get the skinny on this question – Useful Information for Newly Commissioned Officers and my husband, who will have 23 years of commissioned and non-commissioned service at the end of the month. Incidentally, he has also stood duty as both POW and OOD – many times. Anyway, both of my sources confirm that the OOD gets the second salute. I think the confusion may be over something that wasn’t specifically mentioned – that ID is shown when coming aboard a ship. Kevin tells me that no OOD is going to stand at the top of the ladder checking ID so the POW does it. Also, the whole rigamarole is usually extremely quick and dirty – Seaman Smith stumbles to the top of the ladder, throws a salute in the general direction of the ensign, then turns and shows her ID to whoever is standing there waiting for it (usually the POW) and, more or less at the same time, throws a second salute in the general direction of the quarterdeck and mumbles, “Request permission to come aboard, Sir.” The request and salute are made to and of the OOD, even though the POW is doing most of the work. BTW, I also asked Kevin if the Captain of a ship has to request permission to come aboard. I’ve been given to understand that this was a stupid question. Of course not – it’s his/her ship, after all. He or she DOES salute the ensign though. That is all.


Full of 'satiable curtiosity

Gee, Loren; instead of just repeating what “a friend of a friend” told you, you could’ve actually checked the Navy link provided earlier: or even Both sites have a link to the Navy Regulations in which the duties of the CO, CDO, OOD, JOOD, and POW are delineated. If you really want to delve into Ship’s Organizations, from the same sites you can check the SORM (Standard Organization and Regulations Manual).

Yeah, I know. It’s dry as all get out. But at least it provides the correct answer. Not the fallacy you posted above.


p.s. Perhaps I shouldn’t call it “fallacy,” how about “Urban Nautical Legend” just like the stuff someone posted on the now defunct message board on AOL that Sailors are goverment property?

Belay my last! Wrong manual. Should read “SORN (Standard Organization and Regulations of the Navy).”

From my Coast Guard experience, when you board a ship, you salute the Ensign and then the Senior Personage who has the Quarterdeck watch. If they’re all there at the same time(which is about as likely as an anvil floating) nobody is expected to render a individual salute to the Officer of the Watch, Junior Officer of the Watch, Chief Petty Officer of the Watch, and Petty Officer of the Watch in order of Rank.

Personally, I usually got a POoW. Twice I got a CPO. Tho I do recall a shipmate who was welcomed by the Commanding Officer, the Officer of the Watch, the Chief Master At Arms, 2 Masters at Arms. This is the CG/USN equivalent to finding Mike Wallace and a 60 minutes news team waiting for you when you get to work. Well, worse, actually.

Ranger Jeff
The Idol of American Youth

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Just a bit of humor, but once while in Hawaii I came back from liberty in a quite staggering condition you could call it. Anyway, I turned to salute the flag on the stern of the ship , which was not there because it was well after dark. Then I turned, stood at attention, and with my very best salute, I said “Permission to cross your patio, Daddy-o!”

Luckily it was the Disbursing officer that had duty on the afterbrow that night and he was my “boss”. Payday was the nest day, and boy did I ever have a long, hard, day of it.

There were some fun times mixed in with the bad!