Bill York | Gwinnett Citizen

My wife Dot and I enjoy watching Jeopardy on TV. We know a few of the answers but we suffer mind-lag at our age and recall is often slow. 

I said, “Since I was in the Navy during WW II, I wish Alex Trebek would ask some questions about ships. It is a category in which I might excel.”



 I was discharged out of the navy in 1946. I lie awake occasionally thinking about ships and the nautical terms mariners use in conversation.

Heavy ropes called hawsers are used to tie the ship to a wharf. A lead-line is thrown to receivers on the pier who pull the hawser in to secure the ship to a dock. Ships have bow lines and stern lines plus capstans, on which hawsers are secured.

From amidships up to the bow is the foredeck and from amidships to the stern is the aft deck. Above deck is topside. The toilet is the head. The medical office is sickbay. Propellers are screws. Sleeping quarters have bunks or hammocks. 

The call to a ceremony on board is all hands report to the quarterdeck. The order announcing an attack is all hands man your battle stations. Before radar and sonar a watch was posted in the crow’s nest on the crossbeam to scan for danger. Maintaining silence communications from ship to ship was by semaphore and signal lamps.

The exterior of the ship is the hull. The interior is below decks. Stairs are ladders. You eat in the mess hall. Halls are companionways. Rooms are compartments. The mainmast is the tallest part of a ship. A flag is the pennant. The craft is controlled from the conning tower or the bridge. Information is scuttlebutt. Food is chow. Drain holes along the deck are scuppers. Walls are bulkheads. Doorways are hatches.

Permission to smoke is the smoking lamp is lit. Lights out is announced over the loudspeaker when it’s time to button up the ship for the night.

Water is pumped into ballast tanks to cant the vessel. Speed is knots: dead slow, slow, all ahead, all ahead full, all ahead flank speed.

Attacking aircraft are announced over the loudspeaker; enemy aircraft approaching at 11,000 feet off our port bow.The ship is positioned bow toward the approaching airplanes to present the narrowest target

The lowest place inside the ship is the sump.

Before depth finders a plumb-line was used in shallow water to determine the depth in order to avoid shoals. 

At 91 years of age my memory is okay. My wife asked how I could remember this much and not know where I left my wallet. Anchors Aweigh.

Bill is a WW II Navy veteran and retired President of York Furs in Buckhead. You can contact him by email at