According to almost a century of Navy tradition, the year’s first deck log entry on a U.S. warship must be written in rhyme. The tradition is a tricky one since the entry must still include all the required information about a ship’s location, propulsion and operations.
On Jan. 1, Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG-85) happened to be operating closest to the International Date Line and was the first U.S. ship to enter 2019. Ens. Lauren Larar was the officer of the deck at the time, and her log entry has garnered attention, not just for being first, but for the amount of detail she included about operating on New Year’s Day.
“Steaming alone over waters no trouble, McCampbell is ready to fight on the double. /With lights burning brightly above on the mast, All engines standard, 16 knots going fast,” Larar’s entry starts.
Larar includes information about the ship’s propulsion, course and what the commanding officer was doing.
“CO’s in her chair, she’s up on the Bridge, We’re still left of track, we’ll come right just a smidge,” wrote Larar.
Given the tradition allows some latitude about permitting embellishments to the entry, Larar was able to work McCampbell’s motto into the final stanza, writing, “We’re mighty, we’re strong, we cannot be rattled/In the year that’s to come we’ll stay RELENTLESS IN BATTLE!”
Larar’s entry captured the attention of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, who linked to the entry in his Facebook page New Year’s greeting to the fleet.
“Team, it is my pleasure to share the first deck log entry of 2019 from USS McCampbell (DDG-85), one of the first Navy ships to enter 2019,” Richardson wrote. “I ask that everyone keep our shipmates standing the watch around the world in their thoughts. Happy New Year team!”
It’s not clear how the tradition of writing the first deck log entry in verse started, according to a post in the Navy History and Heritage Command blog, The Sextant.
The New Year’s tradition of composing deck log entries in verse does appear to be unique to the U.S. Navy, according to the blog post. The U.K. Royal Navy, which is the source for many of the U.S. Navy’s traditions, does not celebrate rhyming log deck entries.
The New Year’s tradition possibly started as a way to offer a way for the junior officer to celebrate the new year while stuck on the bridge as the crew celebrated, Capt. Robert McNitt wrote in a 1959 Proceedings article.
“Bad enough, when the ship is in port to forego a big time ashore; worse still to stand chilled to the bone on a deserted quarterdeck and glumly greet the still celebrating shipmates who manage to make it back before dawn,” McNitt wrote. “And so grew up the custom of logging the first watch of the New Year in verse, providing some diversion for the wretched watch officer, and amusement for his shipmates the next day.”
Among the earliest known New Year’s deck log rhyming entries is one composed by Ens. E. V. Dockweiler, the officer of the deck aboard USS Idaho (BB-42). On New Year’s day 1926, Idaho was in San Pedro, Calif., a harbor known for swells that rolled ships as they were berthed, McNitt wrote.
“We are anchored in Pedro Harbor Tho there isn’t much of a lee, And why they call it a harbor Is something I never could see!” Dockweiler wrote in 1926.
However, McNitt noted a message from Dockweiler’s commanding officer, Capt. A. St. Clair Smith, that suggests the tradition dates even further in the past. St. Clair Smith’s message states, “The Captain is glad to see that the old Navy custom of writing up the first watch of the year in rhyme is known to the younger members of the Service. The watch stands as written.”
The following is the entire USS McCampbell (DDG-85) middle watch deck log composed by Ens. Lauren Larar, for Jan. 1, 2019.
Steaming alone over waters no trouble,
McCAMPBELL is ready to fight on the double.
With lights burning brightly above on the mast,
All engines standard, 16 knots going fast.
We cut through the waters below deep and blue,
Our course is 200, degrees true.
Our position is in the sea to the east.
Our stomachs are full from the grand midrats feast.
1 alpha, 2 bravo are turning each shaft,
Alpha power units move rudders back aft.
Numbers 2 and 3 are the paralleled GTGs
Material Condition is Modified Z.
Computer assisted manual is the steering mode,
So we can maneuver per Rules of the Road.
CO’s in her chair, she’s up on the Bridge,
We’re still left of track, we’ll come right just a smidge.
TAO down in Combat, monitoring aircraft and chats,
And EOOW in Central, stay vigilant Hellcats!
The year that’s behind us was challenging, yes, indeed,
But Ready 85 will always succeed.
We’re mighty, we’re strong, we cannot be rattled
In the year that’s to come we’ll stay RELENTLESS IN BATTLE!