Sailor Speak of the Week – Quartermaster

The rating insignia for a U.S. Navy quartermaster is a ship’s wheel.

Definition

Noun

  • A rating in the sea services for a petty officer that attends to navigational duties such as steering the vessel, signaling, and attending to the binnacle.

Origin

Probably earlier than the 17th century.

Comments

This is not to be confused with Quartermasters in the land forces which are in charge of supplies and logistics. Quartermasters in the sea service are the people that actually “drive” the ship. They operate the ship’s helm, lee helm, and work with charts and signaling devices. They’re responsible for various other duties related to navigation and work under the supervision of a navigation officer.

The Quartermaster rating still exists in the U.S. Navy and has the duties of the Signalman rating folded into it. The U.S. Coast Guard got rid of the Quartermaster rating in 2003 and folded those duties into the Boatswains Mate rating.

References

King, D., Hattendorf, J.B, & Estes, J.W. (1997). A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O’Brian’s Seafaring Tales (2nd Ed.). Owl Books.

Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic Seaport.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s