Life at sea – It’s a mess (where you sleep)

Lt Jeff Klassen, outside his mess room door.

Lt Jeff Klassen, outside his mess room door.

By Lt Jeff Klassen
Public Affairs Officer

This is the third in a series of blog posts about my experiences while sailing with HMCS Regina, a Canadian Halifax-class warship.

Blog Post THREE: It’s a mess (where you sleep).

In a ship you don’t sleep in a bedroom; you sleep either in a ‘cabin’ or a ‘mess’ (or sometimes at your workstation, but you shouldn’t).

The difference between the two is that cabins typically have less beds in them than messes and contain desks and a sink, while messes are more just bunk beds and lockers (bunks are actually called “racks” on ship, just so you know).

Typically. officers have cabins so they can double as computer workspaces, while non-commissioned members usually make up the messes. The only people that sleep alone are the ship’s Commanding Officer, the Coxswain (the ship’s Chief in charge of the well-being and order of the crew), the Executive Officer (the right hand of the Captain), and, in Regina, the Physician Assistant (this is not the case on all Halifax-class ships at all times).

I’m in a mess with five other people and it’s been interesting trying to figure out what makes good mess etiquette, and my mess mates have been pretty cool about my whole “learning process”. The particular challenge is due to some crew members being “night workers”; at almost all times of the day there is someone sleeping in your mess so you don’t want to disturb them. For this blog post, I’m going to give you the do’s and don’ts of living in mess.


  • turn the light on, as there is almost always someone sleeping.
  • leave your curtains closed when you’re not sleeping. Curtains cover your bed when you are sleeping so you have some privacy. If you leave them closed people think you are sleeping in there and it forces them to be unnecessarily careful and slow when walking around the room.
  • have a long conversation in front of your locker.
  • be the person that never showers or does the laundry.
  • leave stuff lying where people can trip or step on it.
  • go through your locker loudly.
  • leave something unsecure in your locker, such as a cylindrical metal thermos when the ship is swaying back and forth. Don’t ask why I am being so specific here.
  • forget to go to your mess during a verification muster. I’m not going to explain this one.
  • step on your roommate when getting out of your bed. I’m not going to explain this one either really, but, it wasn’t my fault. His body was covering the place where you are supposed to step! How am I supposed to get out of bed?
  • leave your locker open so it bangs around all day. Okay, I suppose that was straight up my fault.


  • talk quietly.
  • keep your area clean.
  • be respectful to those that are sleeping.
  • share candy or snacks with your mess mates.


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  1. lewis Cheeseman says:

    I served on 3 classes of ships started out on Steamers (St. Laurent Class) approx 40 racks and lockers in a mess deck ( stokers mess deck)then to 280’s approx 50 racks in mess deck and lockers and CPF Hmcs Halifax 12 bnks (racks )
    Don’t know what it was but liked the steamer rack the best for sleeping Found Halifax class mess were quieter
    One thing you missed in Dont’s and that is don’t shine flashlight in the person eyes that your shaking for next watch especially if its wrong person

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