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Also known as bosun’s whistle or pipe, “boatswain’s call” is a non-diaphragm whistle utilized for naval vessels through a boatswain.


In the past, the boatswain’s call was handled to pass orders, instructions, or commands to the crew in the ship. This is usually done when a voice couldn’t be heard over the sounds of the ocean or sea. Due to its high tone sound, it could be noticed by the actions of the crew. And, even the unfavorable weather.

Currently, the Boatswain’s call is now utilized in traditional bugle calls like the Evening Colors/Sunset. As well, in any ceremony in most contemporary navies. Furthermore, it’s sometimes escorted by other audible features like flourishes and ruffles, announcements and voice commands, or a gun salute.

The boatswain’s call is basically one of the oldest and most peculiar nautical tools. In fact, such piece of nautical equipment was once the only measure used to pass commands to crew onboard other than human voices.



How to handle the boatswain’s call?

The pipe or whistle consists of a precise tube, which is the gun. It directs the air over the metal sphere, which is the buoy, with a top hole. The player or the one handling opens and closes the hand on the hole to change pitch. The rest of the pipe consisting the keel that is a flat metal piece below the gun, which holds the call together. And, the shackle, a key ring connecting a long silver or brass chain, which resides around the collar, when in formal uniform.



The commands released through a boatswain’s call

The “haul” is the most essential of calls. The crews in warships are not permitted to sing shanties or work songs, thus, the boatswain call regulates the sailors. The low note indicates the pause and preparatory while the high note is for pulling on the line.

The “away boats” is used to command vessel’s boats to leave the side of the ship.

The “side or away galley” indicates descending from the culture of lifting officers onboard the ship in a chair. This one is a sequence of haul and an instruction to lower. Such call type remains in use to honor officers at the time of embarking or disembarking.

The “all hands on deck” is when crews are separated into two or three rotating watches standing for 2-4 hours at a time. This type of call alarms the entire crew to gather on deck.

The “call the boatswain’s mates” is an order made for the boatswain’s gang to report.

The “word to be passed” is an order or command to follow fro silence.



Other commands:

The “pipe down” is employed for the dismissal of the crew, not on watch.

The “pipe to any meal” is when pipe all hands pursued by long Heave Around or Mess gear, and a long pipe down.

The “sweepers” is commanded when it is already an end of the day of work.

The “still” is simply used to call the attention of the crew.

The “general call” is to pipe before any announcement is made.

The “carry on” is done after the still. This means, to release the crew to get back to their functions or duties.

The “officer of the day” is calling the attention of the officer of the day to the gangway.