Ship to ship and boat to sub

A disturbing trend has emerged in today’s high-tech Navy as evidenced by sailors on episodes of PBS’s 10-part Carrier series. Some swabbies are actually confused as to what is a ship and what is a boat.

It was understood back in the old days (the 1970s)when I was a young squid that in Navy terminology, a “boat” was a submarine and every other large floating vessel was a “ship.” There were exceptions of course. Small craft such as patrol boats and Swift boats (before it became a Republican-originated pejorative term)were boats as were motor whale boats and I suppose a Captain’s gig might be called a boat even though it was still a Captain’s gig.

Now some types of ships were further distinguished in Navy lingo. Carriers were called “bird” farms and destroyers were “tin cans.”

Terminology differed and I am sure it still does among the various “sectors” of the Navy such as the “black shoe” or surface warfare Navy, “brown shoe” aviation Navy and submariners. This is even though it is all one Navy (of which the Marines are a part.) However, I have heard “boat” for “ship” being something peculiar to the “black shoe” Navy and sailors who serve on carriers might technically be considered brown shoes even though some may transfer to a surface warfare ship or even (God forbid) shore duty.

But it seems the Navy still prefers “boats for subs etc. My reasoning is that this distinction is made in the Navy’s Style Guide for all of that branch’s writers. The guide goes on to point out such interesting nuggets as “SECNAV,” meaning the Secretary of the Navy is acceptable on first reference and, quite correctly right that “close proximity” is a redundancy redundancy.

What does all of this matter in terms of our national defense posture and command of the seas? Nada, zip, less-than-zero, not a damn thing. I just found it odd and had a few minutes to kill. Sorry. Geez, people are so sensitive these days.

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