Dog Watch Question

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In the log of 22nd April, 2005, Peter posed the question:

When is the dog watch, is it the one that finishes just before dawn? Why is it called the dog watch, is it something to do with the dog star visible in the northern latitudes?

Below are the responses that he received

(1) A shortened watch period. Generally, two two-hour watches, designated First and Second (or First and Last, RCN), arranged so that personnel on watch can eat the evening meal. Usually 16:00 to 18:00, and 18:00 to 20:00. Also serves to al ternate the daily watch routine so sailors with the midwatch one night will not have it the next time. Origin of term unclear.
(2) (RCN) An unpopular watch, usually the 2400-0400 or 0400-0800.

All of them say that the derivation is unclear, but if you believe Patrick O’Brian it was called the dog watch because it is ‘cur’-tailed!

From the Columbia Encylclopedia:

Having 6×4-hour watches in the day meant that the same men were standiing the same watch every day, so the 4 pm to 8 pm watch was divided into two, the first dog-watch and the second dog-watch (in the RN 1st and last dog-watches), giving 7 watches and meaning that people gradually rotated through the watches. “Dog” is a corruption of “dodge”, because they dodged the same routine.

The dog watch was the last watch before dawn, It was the shortest, according to Dr Maturin in the Patrick O’Brien books, it was because it was curtailed

Watch on Board Ship There are two sorts of watch- the long watch of four hours, and the dog watch of two, from 4 to 6; but strictly speaking a watch means four hours. The dog watches* are introduced to prevent one party always keeping watch at the same time.

12 to 4 p.m. Afternoon watch.

4 to 6 ” First dog-watch.

6 to 8 ” Second dog-watch.

8 to 12 ” First night watch.

12 to 4 a.m. Middle watch.

4 to 8 ” Morning watch.

8 to 12 ” Forenoon watch.

*Dog-watch A corruption of dodgewatch: two short watches, one from four to six, and the other from six to eight in the evening, introduced to dodge the routine, or prevent the same men always keeping watch at the same time.

A dogwatch at sea is the period between 4 and 6 p.m, the first dogwatch, or the period between 6 and 8 p.m., the second dog watch. The watches aboard ships are:

Noon to 4:00 p.m. Afternoon watch

4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. First dogwatch

6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Second dogwatch

8:00 p.m. to midnight 1st night watch

Midnight to 4:00 a.m. Middle watch or mid watch

4:00 to 8:00 a.m. Morning watch

8:00 a.m. to noon Forenoon watch

The dogwatches are only two hours each so the same Sailors aren’t always on duty at the same time each afternoon. Some experts say dogwatch is a corruption of dodge watch and others associate dogwatch with the fitful sleep of Sailors called dog sleep, because it is a stressful watch. But no one really knows the origin of this term, which was in use at least back to 1700.

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