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bosun or boatswain or bos'n - A multipurpose petty officer, Usually one of the best seamen, whose responsibilities included inspecting the ship's sails and rigging; every morning and reporting their state to the officer of the Watch. If new ropes or other repairs were needed, he also informed the first lieutenant. The Boatswain was in charge of all deck activities, such as Weighing or dropping anchor or handling the sails and he issued orders using a silver boatswain's pipe "His vigilance should ever be on the alert, and his eyes should be everywhere," noted The Naval Apprentice's Kedge Anchor (1841.) "He should be active of limb, quick of sight, and ready in the exercise of his mental faculties."
From: "A Sea of Words" by Dean King, Henry Holt and Company, Inc. New York, NY, 1995
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