By:  Garland Davis

The Army calls them Duffles, the Air Force probably calls them luggage, to the Navy and Marine Corps they are known as seabags. Seabag is a multi-use term to describe a sailor’s accumulation of uniforms and related clothing items, as well as the unwieldy canvas bag designed to transport them.  Since females are now an integral part of the fleet, I would assume the term is sometimes used to describe some of the less attractive women who now call themselves sailors.

The seabag is designed to adequately hold a sailor’s uniform gear when rolled and tied properly. Most sailors I know accumulated more than the minimum number of uniforms and peripherals required by Uniform Regulations.  And I never met a sailor who remembered the proper way to roll his clothing or the proper way to pack a seabag any longer than it took to pass through the gates of the Recruit Training Center after graduation.  Most of my shipmates and I are practitioners of the “Cram” method of packing a seabag.

Even using this method, packing a seabag was an art.  For instance, you are getting transferred to another ship at 0800 so naturally you stagger back aboard at 0630, eat breakfast, and start packing at 0715.  The only thing you remember from boot camp is that shoes go first.  You drop all your shoes in and start cramming shit in.     It takes some effort, but you finally get everything in except your dress blues.  It now being 0740, you hurry into your blues, slip your socks on and realize that your shoes are in the seabag.  Dump everything out on the deck, find your shoes and cram all that shit back into the bag.  You make it to the quarterdeck, dragging that heavy mother fucker and an AWOL bag up two ladders, just as the Petty Officer of the Watch strikes eight bells.  Five years in the Navy and still never been late.

Of course your new ship is at the pier furthest from the ship you are leaving, there is no on base transportation and your only choice is to lug the heavy mother fucker and your AWOL bag off one pier, all the way across the base, and on to another pier.  Well, you have until midnight to get there.

SIDEBAR: A blivet is known as a five-pound bag with ten pounds of shit in it.  A sailor’s blivet is a fifty-pound canvas bag with one hundred fifty pounds of shit crammed into it. END SIDEBAR

The damned thing is too heavy to carry with one hand and you need the other hand for the AWOL bag.  So you end up leaving the AWOL bag, carrying the seabag fifty yards, leave it to go back and get the AWOL bag, carry it fifty yards past the seabag, leave it and go back to get the seabag.  You repeat this until you finally reach the Petty Officers Club, where you are sure you can catch a ride to the ship.  It is Friday and if you report after working hours, they will probably cut you loose until Monday. If you cannot catch a ride, it will really be a long walk since you are now twice as far from your ship. (Yeah, a new ship becomes your ship that fast.)

So you spend the day drinking with shipmates and friends from other ships who managed to either get special liberty or who come up with urgent business at SRF, or medical appointments, and etc. for a few hours of stolen liberty.  You are introduced to a Skivvy Waver from your ship who offers you a ride to the ship after knock off ships work.  He carries the AWOL bag while you hump your seabag to his truck and then down the pier to the ship.  You are feeling lucky to catch a ride with a shipmate.  He tells you to get checked aboard and change into civvies and he will meet you on the Quarterdeck in forty-five minutes and you guys will hit the Honch and he will introduce more of your new shipmates.

The Duty Master at Arms is called to the Quarterdeck and told to escort you to the duty YN and get you a bunk.  The YN takes your orders and tells you to report to Ship’s Office at Commence Ship’s Work Monday Morning.  The MAA then takes you to the duty Machinist Mate to get you berthing.

Your luck suddenly goes shitty.  The ship doesn’t have an empty rack in engineering, so you will have to berth with the ET’s and Radiomen for four or five days until a bunk becomes available.  This means you will have to pack that fucking seabag again in a week to move or make a hundred trips carrying you gear from Fruit-Cup, berthing to Snipe berthing.  Probably the latter, anything is better than packing and lugging that son-of-a-bitch around again.