A Navy ship’s deck log is generally a dry and rote record, full of the essential minutia of daily ship life.
But on New Year’s Eve, that deck log becomes a creative outlet for one lucky sailor on the bridge when the clock chimes midnight.
A longstanding Navy tradition holds that the first entry into a deck log for the new year should be written in verse, a poem to mark the moment.
Now, the Naval History and Heritage Command is looking for the best deck log poems from when midnight hit on Jan. 1 for their annual New Year’s Day deck log poem contest.
Submissions need to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb. 24, and the top three deck log poems will be announced in April, in time for National Poetry Month.
In addition to general accolades, the first-place winner will receive a piece of “historic copper sheathing” from Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution.
Go here for the full rundown and contest rules.
A deck log is the official record maintained by a Navy ship, and while its contents are “generally fiercely regulated,” a longstanding tradition has allowed for a midnight New Year’s Day poem to be entered, according to the History and Heritage Command.
“The first entry of the New Year, written in verse, gives a brief glimpse into the minds of the sailors and shipboard life, and provides a human voice to the otherwise impersonal deck log,” the command notes on its contest page.
But the tradition is waning in the fleet.
“Contests held by Navy Times in the 1960s drew hundreds of entries, but the number of official deck log submissions with special New Year’s Day content has dwindled each year,” the command page states. “By reviving the contest, the Naval History and Heritage Command hopes to preserve the tradition and boost participation throughout the Fleet.”
Deck log poems can only be submitted by the commands of commissioned Navy vessels and should not include any classified information.
They can also identify the author or keep them anonymous.
The winning entry for 2022 was written by Ensign Sarah Weinstein of the guided-missile cruiser Lake Champlain. Check out her poem below to see how a winner does it:
Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at email@example.com.