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1965 built, US flagged steamship Pacific Tracker lays at the ready in Portland Oregon, picture by Martin Leduc

The Officer's Lounge
...practical jokers

Marine Engineers have a reputation of being direct, methodical, dry - even boorish. After all, spending four hours clearing the 265 pounds of mussels from the strums boxes does, sometimes, give that appearance. The Officer's Lounge on is a little place online for ship's crew to relax and laugh, as we explore marine and engineering lore.
"A rather dull yet productive species, these engineers."
-Capt. Silverton, MV Springtide

I would like to submit to the rest of the world that, yes being methodical, careful, even maybe - anal, isn't the best of reputation for a profession. But it's the attention to details that makes great engineers. Really, it is !

This area is here to

...and we do that by...


ClamsicleLet's begin with practical jokes . . .

The key to a good practical joke is execution - well of course, you say.

Generally, most practical jokes involve getting some newbie/greenie to do something, which, on shore, would seem absurd, but since it's a ship -it's a custom !

"go get the keys to the chain locker"

The joke is...
the chain locker is a compartment where the anchor chain is stored. It has no keys, doors, or other real need for a "lock" therefore the person will scurry about the ship aimlessly looking for the key.


"go get a gallon of prop wash"

The joke is . . .
There are many chemicals on ships, and every job practically requires a special product. Prop wash is water turbulence aft of the ship created by the propeller therefore a waste of time since its just seawater.


donald duck fishing"get me the left handed crescent wrench"

The joke is . . .
There is no such things as a left, or right, handed crescent wrench. Some tools like the crescent and the pipe wrench are designed in a way where someone, i.e.: "deck ape", may find them to be for a left or right hand application. This is not the case. Also works with "brass magnet"


"get me ten feet of shore line"

The joke is . . .
well... seems pretty obvious until your are new to the marine world where every piece of rope has a name, heaving line, spring lines, tie up line, rat line, etc. So it may be easy for the prey to be hesitant, especially if it sounds like an order from a superior.


"go water the captain's rose"

the joke is . . .
Once again the skepticism of the sailor may be quashed by the all mighty authority of your accomplice, the captain. Generally, maps have an insignia designating the position of "north". On a nautical chart, this reference contains a bit more information and is called the "rose" -"chart rose". If the captain plays along, the victim should be running up to the captain's cabin countless times, as the captain is "too busy right now", to water his "garden".


"go grease the relative bearing"

The joke is . . .
Relative bearing is a nautical term - the position of a vessel, navigational aid or such in relation to your vessel. So the victim should get an ear full from the chief engineer when they try to find out where on the ship they should applied the grease they are carrying.

Relative bearing

"go blow out the sound powered telephone"

The joke is . . .
This is where naval heritage and modern communication clash. Most ships have modern communication between the compartments, but they also have a simple back up system which is there but seldom used. It's called the sound powered telephone. This device which is very much like a telephone but with a built power supply is a far cry from the sounds tubes used to belch orders from the bridge in old war movies. Some older navy ships may still have them, and unless you're on them, the victim will look silly looking for something to blow out.


my way, the highway"get the HT punches"

The joke is . . .
HT's is the naval designation for "hull tech's" (welders, metallurgists, handymen, gen purpose engineers) These guy would gladly beat the crap out of some poor newbie who came by asking for an HT punch.
Submitted by Mike C.

"get the skyhook"

The joke is . . .
Once again, there is no such thing. A sky hook is an utopian dream of where a block, tackle or anything else could be secured to. Can't secure anything to thin air, so unfortunately, it's just a wish. But it doesn't hurt to send the new guy looking for it.
Submitted by Roger, at


"you get the spark watch"

The joke is . . .
You assign the most eager beaver deck cadet to keep an eye on the ships funnel. This will keep the deck cadet busy up on top of the house. Be sure to give him a bucket of water and mop to put the sparks out as they leave the stack. It works best when it is raining. just never know when hot air is going to set a steel ship ablaze!
Submitted by mydk


"go fill the port and starboard nav lights"

The joke is . . .
Obviously this one is gonna get your prey to ask, "huh ?" And at this time you state very officially that they need to take the green oil, and the red oil up on the bridge, then go fill the lenses of the nav lights on top of the bridge. Yeah I know, it's a stretch, but the delivery is crucial for this joke to work.


"Sunday services in #1"

The joke is . . .
It's sort of tradition to have fire and boat drills on Sunday. So when the new cadet, with his / her fancy uniforms, #1s, shows up on Sundays expecting to offer grace to the big guy up in the sky, they will end up greasing up their uniform during the boat drill.


Ad for WD-40"The long weight"

The joke is . . .
When a new "Tiff" joined our ship, one of the first things he was required to do was assist the Chief in calibrating some piece of equipment or other. It didn't really matter what. At some stage, he'd be told to "nip down to the stores for a long weight." The store man, of course, would nod sagely, and go and see if there was one to be had. Our "wet behind the ears" tiffy, you've guest it, was hanging around for ages. -He had gone down to the stores and got "a long wait".
Submitted by Chris Hartwell


"Cooling Water/Steam for the Hand Rails"

Many senior cadets had many other junior cadets searching high and low for the valve to turn on the cooling water/steam for the Pipe hand rails. It was with great enjoyment we would watch some poor seasick fellow or gal wander all over that little vessel looking for the valve I believe that some are still searching for that valve.
Submitted by David Winsor


"Go bilge fishing"

The joke is...
When cleaning the strainers, little critters and fish get into the bilge. When these critters get bigger, they can get into trouble and wreak machinery. So the cadet should hunt them down - well at least be a couple hours under the deck plates.


Crazy Bearings

One for an annoying deck officer (or just someone you dislike)...
Lift up one of the tile panels on the deck head of the persons cabin, begin to throw copious amounts of ball bearings on top of the remaining panels. Lower panel and exit cabin. Pray for bad weather and extreme rolling of the vessel....... Sweet Dreams!!!!
Submitted by Matt Forster


Calibration of the Radar

..get a newbee to dress out in tinfoil jacket and gloves and hat, send them to stand out on the bow lifting his arms every so often. Make sure to get pictures!
The picture below, was submitted in early 2018, showing the deck cadet dutifully performing the "Radar Calibration".
Submitted by Chad Friend

Cadets at sea

Get the Port List

There is always some list to check off when doing our day to day business. Arrival list, departure list, garbage list, fire list and now the Port List. But of course the engineering cadet will be shooed away as the Mate is too busy to draw it up right this minute, keep em coming back again and again. Of course a few up and downs to the bridge, will tune them in to the fact that the ship may be listing slightly to port or starboard - mmmm, port list.

Sign off day

Pranked the Second Mate: printed out an email with instructions for him to join a different ship. Changed watch, fell asleep...forgot about him. Felt bad that he'd actually gone to the airport! He did not see the funny side...
Propeller Club on Twitter

New IMO requirements

I once told my brother that my boyfriend had to undertake Bear Grylls-style jungle training as a Merchant Navy cadet at Fleetwood Nautical College "in case his ship runs aground in the Parana or Amazon". Brother very much fell for it.
Holly Birkett on Twitter

Beer is the reason


Practical jokes for the seasoned crew

Ok, so the green guys are getting wiser and things are once again boring ! It's time to start playing the nasty practical jokes. Now, the usual slew of practical jokes you learn in college can be very well applied at sea, on a ship. The saran wrap around the toilet, the grease on the door handles, short-sheeting bunks and the likes all do very well. Additionally these other tricks might do. . .

spock radar

Wake ! wake !

Little things matter on board, and a relief who can't drag his butt out of bed to relieve you on time is high on the aggravation list. This is effective for a repeat offender. Break up a large ball bearing, something along the lines of one from the slip ring end of a generator. The bigger, the better as it will hold the cold much longer. Put the balls in the freezer a couple of hours ahead of watch change. When your recalcitrant relief won't get up, roll those very cold steel balls into the bed with him, and watch the fun! There's no getting away from them except to get out of bed. If you don't have ready access to bearing balls, "C" cell flashlight batteries will do nicely in a pinch.
Submitted by Tom Winkle (aka BilgeRat), April 2010

Wake ! wake ! Part Deux

One deckie regularly slept in, way past the calling of the watch. His relief, being more than fed up with the situation, followed John Paul Jones's adage of "Drastic situations call for drastic remedies". He set up a 2" gas engine powered portable pump, just outside the offender's window, and then stripped back a length of electrical cord. One end was wrapped around the (sound) sleeper's big toe. The other end went into the connector for the spark plug on the small pump's gas engine. Our perpetrator, not being completely cruel, had removed the sparkplug from the engine so it wouldn't actually run, but would spin a while with a healthy yank on the starter cord. The cord got the pull and the sleeper was standing in the middle of the floor in his shorts screaming, "What the hell are you doing to me!!??!!" or words to that general effect. The treatment was only required once. All they had to do after that was flip the lights on and he was out of bed, not just awake.
Submitted by Tom Winkle (aka BilgeRat), April 2010

ship jokes

Other Areas of the Officer's Lounge Other areas of
- Play practical jokes on unsuspecting mates - Top of page
- Telling jokes - Officer's Lounge
- Learning about seafaring lore and culture - The Common Rail - our forum
- Telling funny stories about seafaring - The Monitor - our blog

- Learn about "nerdy" stuff

- @dieselduckster on Twitter
Can you help ? Do you have any jokes, superstitions or things like those found here ? If so, shared them with the world.

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