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Definitions

Ship's Bell

FREE SOFTWARE PROGRAM TO SOUND SHIPS BELLS

Strikes of a ship's bell are used to indicate the hour aboard a ship and thereby to regulate the sailors' duty watches.

Unlike civil clock bells, the strikes of the bell do not accord to the number of the hour. Instead, there are eight bells, one for each half-hour of a four-hour watch. Bells would be struck every half-hour, and in a pattern of pairs for easier counting, with any odd bells at the end of the sequence.

The classical system was:

Number of bellsBell PatternMiddle
watch
Morning
watch
Forenoon
watch
Afternoon
watch
First
dog
watch
Last
dog
watch
First
watch
One bell.0:304:308:3012:3016:3018:3020:30
Two bells..1:005:009:0013:0017:0019:0021:00
Three bells.. .1:305:309:3013:3017:3019:3021:30
Four bells.. ..2:006:0010:0014:0018:0022:00
Five bells.. .. .2:306:3010:3014:3022:30
Six bells.. .. ..3:007:0011:0015:0023:00
Seven bells.. .. .. .3:307:3011:3015:3023:30
Eight bells.. .. .. ..4:008:0012:0016:0020:000:00

Most of the crew of a ship would be divided up into between two and four groups called watches. Each watch would take its turn with the essential activities of manning the helm, navigating, trimming sails, and keeping a lookout.

The hours between 16:00 and 20:00 are so arranged because that watch (the "dog watch", which is curtailed) was divided into two. The odd number of watches aimed to give each man a different watch each day. It also allows the entire crew of a vessel to eat an evening meal, the normal time being at 1700 with First Dog watchmen eating at 1800.

Some "ship's bell" clocks use a simpler system:

Number of bellsBell PatternHour (a.m. and p.m.)
One bell.12:304:308:30
Two bells..1:005:009:00
Three bells.. .1:305:309:30
Four bells.. ..2:006:0010:00
Five bells.. .. .2:306:3010:30
Six bells.. .. ..3:007:0011:00
Seven bells.. .. .. .3:307:3011:30
Eight bells.. .. .. ..4:008:0012:00

The term "Eight bells" can also be a way of saying that a sailor's watch is over, for instance, in his or her obituary. It's a nautical euphemism for "finished".
Sport Phillip Marine services the boating, yachting & fishing needs of the Mornington Peninsula from Frankston, Daveys Bay, Mt. Eliza, Mornington, Mt. Martha, Safety Beach, Martha Cove, Dromana, Rosebud, Rye, Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Portsea on Port Phillip Bay to Yaringa, Warneet, Somers, Hastings, and Flinders on Westernport Bay.

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