What is a Boatswain?

by The Boatswain | November 12th, 2005

While we’re sailing on our first trip to Hawaii, I have time to answer someone’s question about a “Boatswain”! He is the “top dog” of the deck crew, and has been for many years. Here is an “official” statement on him:

“A boatswain, pronounced and often spelt bosun, is a warrant officer or petty officer in charge of a ship’s anchors, cordage, colors, deck crew and the ship’s boats.

The word is derived from boat and swain meaning a young man, a follower, retainer or caretaker.

Onboard a sailing ship the boatswain would also be in charge of the rigging while the ship was in dock and underway. It was his duty to summon the crew to work by a whistle, which was usually called the Bosun’s Pipe or CALL.”


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About This Site

The United States Navy rating of Boatswain's Mate is a designation given to enlisted members who are rated as a deck seaman. The colloquial form of address for a boatswain's mate is 'Boats'.



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