Deck Nomenclature

What @KemalPamouk and I are referring to is cable as a distance, not a length. 1 cable = 0.1 nautical mile. No need for any conversion.

. I’ve only heard it used in the context of a requirement for minimum clearance so when you hear “4 cables” , for example, on the VHF its meaning is clear.

Yes it is VERY clear; 4 cables = 0.4 n.mile, not xxx mtrs./yards/ feet, or fractions of a n.mile.

It has nothing to do with “criticizing America” (or Americans) but the use of non-standard terms, words or phrases in communication between ships.
That applies whether between ships of different or same nationality, and whether in international or in domestic trade.

To avoid confusion there is something called; IMO STANDARD MARINE COMMUNICATION PHRASES (SMCP) that is thought in Maritime Academies/Schools all over the world as per STCW educational standard.
SMCP should be used in ALL communication that involves safe navigation and warnings etc.

A very relevant example is the collision between Helge Ingstad and Sola TS where the communication between the Pilot on Sola TS, the VTS and the OOW on H.I. was conducted in Norwegian, while the Master on Sola TS, the OOW on at least one of the three ships in close proximity and an officer under training on the bridge of H.I. did not understand Norwegian.
(This is an issue in the ongoing court case at the moment)

That was kind of my point. I was simply saying that I found a term that could be readily understood by both me and the other guy. I was educated pre-STCW, so was only taught that rubbish American maritime language. I think I overheard a pilot use the term “cable”, and I started using it in order to sound like one of the cool kids.

Car ships might be that situation where both are true at the same time. I consider the boat deck as being the one just below the wheelhouse. On car carriers, the same deck might be the main deck. I think what you call a “freeboard deck”, I call the “bulkhead deck”. I can imagine a ship where the same deck has all 3 names. Tell me where the term “Texas deck” comes from, though. I have one on my tugboat.

I think there’s more to it than that. Shifting from nautical miles to cables provides some context. I’ve only heard it for distance under a mile and it implies nearest to some hazard or some possible increase in risk rather than routine operations.

“But of course it is not that simple for those who still use traditional Imperial or US units:”

“So the problem is not with the majority of “international sailors” but with the few “laggards” that is stuck in the old obsolete systems of measurements.”


And the boat is rather a handsome sight, too. She is long and sharp and trim and pretty; she has two tall, fancy-topped chimneys, with a gilded device of some kind swung between them; a fanciful pilot-house, a glass and ‘gingerbread’, perched on top of the ‘texas’ deck behind them; the paddle-boxes are gorgeous with a picture or with gilded rays above the boat’s name; the boiler deck, the hurricane deck, and the texas deck are fenced and ornamented with clean white railings; there is a flag gallantly flying from the jack-staff; the furnace doors are open and the fires glaring bravely;

Mark Twain Life on the Mississippi

All well and good but do you have a potato box?

You somehow managed to cut off this part:

It is a fact that majority of the world don’t use Imperial or US units of measurement.
IMO recommend the use of IS units in communication between vessels to reduce risk of misunderstandings.

PS> This in reply to Lee Shore.

Your propensity for stating the obvious is astounding! But of course you can’t expect dumb Murikans to know these things :rofl: :rofl::rofl:

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I liked your early version better; “Your depth of knowledge is astounding!”
Your ability to quote things out of context is equally astounding.

It’s not a U.S. thing, foreign flag (non-U.S.) ships use cables for distance amongst themselves, more common overseas than in the U.S.

When oversea (outside U.S.) It’s not uncommon for port control to use cables for distance as well.

Potato box? No, but we do have many many cardboard boxes of potato flakes. It’s a tugboat, as I said.

My reason for asking: I heard a pushboat captain in the Texas ICW telling another on the radio that somebody was following so close behind him, he was “fixin’ to hit my potato box”.

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Proper pronunciation is “tater box”. The last boats I worked on that had a tater box were Burton built mud boats from the early 60s. The push boats boxes were on the stern.


You nailed it. Now that you mention it, the comment was a bit more colloquial, along the lines of “That sumbitch fixin’ to climb into my tater box”.
So they actually kept “taters” in a box on the stern?

No potato box on my boat. Wish I worked on a boat that could have one. If my current boat did have one, the spuds would definitely be pre-salted, and likely frozen.

I really like the phrase, even though I don’t have a tater box. Is that IMO acceptable?

Yep, the boxes were ventilated. The bottom was about a ft above deck. 3 or 4 bins for taters and onions.

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