Time as marked by the bells

The use of the bells to mark the time stems from the period when seamen (1) could not afford a personal time piece (i.e. - a watch) and (2) even if they could, they had no idea on how to tell time with such an instrument. The bells mark the hours of the watch in half-hour increments. The seamen would know if it were morning, noon, or night. Each watch* is four hours long and the bells are struck thus:

Mid Morning Forenoon Afternoon Dogs* First
0030 - 1 bell 0430 - 1 bell 0830 - 1 bell 1230 - 1 bell 1630 - 1 bell 2030 - 1 bell
0100 - 2 bells 0500 - 2 bells 0900 - 2 bells 1300 - 2 bells 1700 - 2 bells 2100 - 2 bells
0130 - 3 bells 0530 - 3 bells 0930 - 3 bells 1330 - 3 bells 1730 - 3 bells 2130 - 3 bells
0200 - 4 bells 0600 - 4 bells 1000 - 4 bells 1400 - 4 bells 1800 - 4 bells 2200 - 4 bells
0230 - 5 bells 0630 - 5 bells 1030 - 5 bells 1430 - 5 bells 1830 - 5 bells 2230 - 5 bells
0300 - 6 bells 0700 - 6 bells 1100 - 6 bells 1500 - 6 bells 1900 - 6 bells 2300 - 6 bells
0330 - 7 bells 0730 - 7 bells 1130 - 7 bells 1530 - 7 bells 1930 - 7 bells 2330 - 7 bells
0400 - 8 bells** 0800 - 8 bells 1200 - 8 bells 1600 - 8 bells 2000 - 8 bells 2400 - 8 bells

Notes: * - The period from 1600 to 2000 is split into two dog watches. These watches run from 1600 to 1800 and from 1800 to 2000. This alternates the daily watch routine so Sailors on the mid-watch would not have it the second night, and, the split also gives each watchstander the opportunity to eat the evening meal.
** - The end of the watch is considered at 8 bells, hence the saying "Eight Bells and All Is Well."

Reviewed: 15 September 2009