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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 19, 2020

Ding Ding, We Have a Winner – Eight Bells: A Celebration of Sea Service

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer

A sequence of eight bells signals the relief of watch for Coast Guardsmen at the end of a four-hour shift. While time is no longer kept by the sand of an hourglass and the ringing of a bell, since 2017 this tradition has been transformed into a time of sea service celebration at the Coast Guard.

This year, we celebrate Coast Guard Cutter Mellon as the Eight Bells multimedia contest winner. Mellon’s submission embodies the rich 230-year history of sea-going traditions that the Eight Bells celebration honors. Cutters Eagle and Munro, respectively placed second and third in the contest.

“We already had events dedicated to remembering the sacrifices of individuals when ships sank, or when we lost members at sea,” explained Lt. Cmdr. Keith Blevins, Assistant Navigator of the Coast Guard, in the Commandant’s Office of Cutter Forces. “But we didn’t have an event that simply celebrated the hard work and every day sacrifices of our sea-going members, and those who support them.”

Co-sponsored by the Douglas Munro chapter of the Surface Navy Association (SNA), this annual celebration builds comradery by bringing people together to share and grow the sea-going traditions of the Coast Guard. Honoring career cuttermen, soon-to-be-cuttermen, and shore-side support personnel, the contest and local events recognize the hard work of those who serve on cutters and those shore-side who enable cutters to patrol 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in support of missions around the world. 

The Eight Bells competition was originally an Office of Cutter Forces initiative. Cmdr. Charlotte Mundy spearheaded the concept as a way to celebrate the Coast Guard’s nautical traditions. The date of October for the event aligns with when the Coast Guard cutterman insignia was created in 1974.

Just as the role of sea service has grown and evolved since 1974, Eight Bells has since grown over the past four years. The event is now an official Commandant initiative, highlighting the importance of sea service to the Coast Guard overall.

Eight Bells organizers also timed the event to coincide with the Surface Navy Associations’ annual competitions. Coast Guard Cutter Bailey Barco won the video contest in 2018 and Capt. Mark Gordon of Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton won the imagery grand prize in 2019.

View all 10 entrants for 2020 here.