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History and Heritage

Rope Yarn Wednesday

USS Boxer Enjoys an Old Tradition

It's an early Wednesday morning, and a Sailor wipes a drip of sweat from his forehead as he finishes up maintenance on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4).

His standard issued hard hat helps protect him from anything that might fall on his head, but it's not helping with the heat of the San Diego summer. He works diligently, ensuring that he still has time to go clean the spaces he is responsible for before he hears every Sailor's favorite words: liberty call.

The words sound even better when called 4.5 hours earlier than normal.

Capt. Wayne Brown, Boxer's commanding officer, has made a deal with his crew. If the crew is caught up on all work, all maintenance, and can keep the ship's cleanliness up to standards, then on Wednesday he will allow the crew to enjoy a half day to take care of personal business.

Brown brings an old Navy tradition, originally known as Rope Yarn Sunday, to Boxer.

"Rope Yarn is a tradition that the Navy has where the commanding officer can give time off," said Senior Chief Navy Counselor Mark Rush, from Louisville, Kentucky. "It started during the times when Navy ships used sails. The Sailors would break out rope yarn to mend their clothes and hammocks."

Sailors would get the yarn they had to make ropes while underway. Short on resources, they used it as thread to mend clothes and hammocks, added Rush.

The tradition was a break from usual chores at sea, and was nicknamed "Rope Yarn Sunday." After sailing ships were no longer used by the Navy, Rope Yarn Wednesday became free afternoons Sailors would use to attend to personal errands.

"I didn't even know what Rope Yarn was until the captain announced it," said Operations Specialist Seaman Dino Rodriguez, from Fresno, California. "I was glad to find out we were getting off work early because it meant more time to get everything done so I'll have more free time on the weekends to play with my son and help out my wife."

Boxer Sailors must continue to work hard and keep up expectations in order to continue to enjoy this privilege.

"I would advise the crew to make sure their work is done and spaces are clean," said Rush. "The ship's cleanliness is a big thing. If the commanding officer knows that our ship is clean and squared away, it will be more likely that we can continue to enjoy Rope Yarn."