Monday, August 22, 2011
Tools of the Trade: Pipe To
The pipe or whistle, either term is correct, is akin to a piccolo and is carried by a ship’s bosun (boatswain) as a symbol of authority. Generally the pipe dangles from a chain worn around the neck, but it can be carried in various different ways as well. The pipe is descendant from the now archaic Admiral’s whistle. This was a small instrument made of gold and worn around that officer’s neck as a symbol of rank. By the 18th century, bosun’s pipes were made of silver, nickel or brass and so they are to this day.
The four parts of the pipe are the gun (reed), the buoy (bowl), the keel (flange) and the shackle (ring) which attaches the pipe to its chain.
The bosun uses his whistle in his capacity as the transmitter of orders from the officer in charge to the foc’sle men. Various different trills and tweets are used to get the men’s attention and/or to signal the order proper. A by no means all-inclusive list of a few routine orders would be:
Call to attention; Call to meals; Heave or pull on rope, oars, etc; Colors up or down; Belay action; Pipe a guest over the side; Pipe down.
Recognizing the bosun’s call via his pipe was one of the many things that differentiated a true seaman from a lubber. Doubtless it was something newbies learned quickly to avoid the ramifications of not responding in the appropriate manner. No one likes a dressing down or – worse still – a flogging, after all.
Header: Modern bosun’s pipe via The Brass Compass