Poop Deck Meaning: WTF Are They?!

If you’ve been on a cruise or boat, you’ve probably heard the term ‘poop deck’ a couple of times.

But, it’s one of those things you’re embarrassed to not know, as it seems like common knowledge.

Well, not shockingly, it isn’t very common to know what a poop deck is and what it means.

So if you want to be in the loop and know everything about a poop deck, what it is, where to find them, and what it means to swab it – we’ve got you covered…

Poop Deck Meaning

The term poop deck refers to a specific part of a ship, typically located in the aft or the back end of the vessel. It’s a raised platform that extends from the stern, slightly over the ship’s propeller or rudder.

In traditional sailing ships, the poop deck was an essential element of the vessel’s design and served crucial functions as it was a raised platform and served as a high vantage point for observations and navigation.

In modern ships, however, you might not find a poop deck. Advances in technology and navigation have rendered this feature somewhat obsolete.

But in historical sailing ships, poop decks played a vital role in the vessel’s design and operation.

Poop Deck on a sailing ship

Why Is A Poop Deck Called A Poop Deck?

The origin of the term “poop deck” can be traced back to the French word for stern, which is “la poupe”. This word was derived from the Latin word “puppis”.

In naval architecture, the poop deck is an elevated stern deck located at the aft (rear) of a ship. As a raised platform, it serves several purposes, such as helping with navigation and overseeing the crew working on the main deck.

You might be surprised to learn that the term “poop deck” has nothing to do with the word “poop” as we know it today.

Instead, the name comes from its position at the back of the ship, known as the stern.

Additionally, the elevated position of the poop deck plays a crucial role in ship design and navigation. It provides a vantage point for the captain, allowing them to monitor the ship’s motion and give commands to the crew below.

Another theory about the name is related to the idea of a ship being “pooped” by waves. This refers to the action of waves crashing onto the stern of the ship, which could lead to the poop deck being drenched or even damaged.

While it’s uncertain if this theory is entirely accurate, it’s interesting to consider the possibility of a connection between the name and this natural occurrence.

What Is The Purpose Of A Poop Deck?

A poop deck used to serve many important functions on a ship. For starters, it’s located at the aft (rear) of the ship and acts as a platform that’s slightly elevated from the main deck.

This elevated position allows officers and crew members to have a better view of both the ship and the surrounding water.

In this way, the poop deck would aid in navigation and helps to ensure the ship stayed on course.

Another purpose of the poop deck was to provide a space for officers and other essential personnel to monitor the crew’s work on the main deck.

From this vantage point, they can easily keep an eye on the general operations, ensuring that everything is running smoothly and efficiently.

Do You Poop On The Poop Deck?

Definitely not! Contrary to what you might think, the term “poop deck” has nothing to do with, well, poop!

You will find no toilets on a poop deck. Even in the past, sailors and pirates did not go number 2 on the poop deck, as that is not where the name originates from.

What Is Meant By “Swabbing The Poop Deck?”

Swabbing the poop deck is a nautical term for cleaning the raised platform on the stern of a boat.

Swabbing the deck involves using a mop or similar tool to clean the surface of the poop deck. But it’s not as simple as just mopping up dirt or grime.

The process begins with a thorough scrubbing of the deck, using sand and stone to maintain cleanliness and prevent any build-up of unwanted debris.

One reason for swabbing the poop deck regularly was to help the wooden planks expand and create a more watertight bond.

When the wood swelled from the moisture, it provided better protection for the inner decks, keeping them dry and free from water damage.

On a more practical note, swabbing the poop deck served as a task to keep sailors busy, particularly if there was no other work on hand.

Having a clean poop deck allowed for a safer and more functional work environment aboard the ship, contributing to overall ship maintenance.

Do Modern Cruise Ships Have Poop Decks?

Back of modern cruise ship

No, modern cruise ships don’t have poop decks.

The original poop decks were important as they were points of observation and navigation. They played an important role in ship design and were also known as afterdecks.

However, as technology advanced, the need for a poop deck became redundant.

These days, the bridge acts as the navigational heart of a cruise ship. Situated at the front, it utilizes cameras and other tech which make it simple to see in all directions.

This technology has eliminated the need for a high deck at the back of the vessel, as navigation can now be done with ease from the bridge.

What Is The Difference Between The Poop Deck and The Quarterdeck?

When you’re learning about ships, you might come across two terms: the poop deck and the quarterdeck. It’s easy to confuse these two areas.

The poop deck, as we have learned is found at the rear, or aft, of the ship. It is elevated, providing a high vantage point for observing the surrounding environment and assisting with navigation.

Back in the day, this deck was useful for commerce ships, naval vessels, and pirate ships alike. Nowadays, modern ships don’t usually have poop decks, as they’re not necessary with current technology.

On the other hand, the quarterdeck is a part of the ship’s main deck reserved for specific ceremonial and operational purposes. It is also found toward the rear of the ship but isn’t as elevated as the poop deck.

The name quarterdeck refers to the fact that it occupies about one-quarter of the ship’s length back from the bow (front).

This area is where officers typically spend their time, and it’s an essential spot for giving orders, receiving reports, and maintaining discipline.

A quick comparison between the two decks side by side:

  • The poop deck sits higher than the quarterdeck.
  • The poop deck was used mainly for observation and navigation, while the quarterdeck is used for command purposes and ceremonies.
  • The poop deck is typically found on older ships, whereas the quarterdeck is still present in many modern vessels.

Where Did Sailors Go To The Bathroom On Old Ships?

On a sailing ship, the poop deck was still not the designated bathroom. In fact, sailors poop in the front of the ship.

The toilets on a sailing ship were typically located in the bow (front) of the vessel, somewhat above the waterline.

Vents or slots were cut near the floor level, allowing normal wave action to wash out the facility. This helped to keep the area clean and minimize unpleasant odors onboard.

The captain, being the highest-ranking officer on the ship, had a bit more privacy when it came to bathroom matters.

The captain’s private toilet was usually located near his quarters, at the stern (back) of the ship in the quarter gallery. This provided a bit more seclusion and separation from the rest of the crew.

For the crew’s shared facilities, keeping them tidy was vital. Sometimes, there would be a rope with a cloth at the end trailing from the ship’s bow.

It would be cleaned by the forward movement of the vessel as it was towed through the ship’s wake.

When sailors needed to wipe clean, they could simply pull in the rope, use the cloth, and let it go back into the water to be cleaned again by the waves.

Do Dogs Poop On The Poop Deck?

Dogs aren’t allowed on modern cruise ships, except for service animals.

However, the Queen Mary 2, a vessel under Cunard’s banner, stands out as an exception. This ship offers a special section, “The Kennels,” for passengers to bring a limited number of dogs and cats.

Within this area, there’s a designated relief spot humorously named “the poop deck”, ensuring pets stay confined to this space and don’t wander into cabins or other areas of the ship.

What Is A Poop Cabin?

A poop cabin is a specific cabin situated directly beneath the poop deck on a ship. The poop deck itself is an elevated platform located at the ship’s stern (rear) and serves as a roofing structure for the stern cabin.

During the age of sailing ships, the person steering the ship, or the helmsman, would do so from the quarterdeck, an area positioned just ahead of the poop deck.

Did Titanic Have A Poop Deck?

The Titanic featured a poop deck situated on B deck, serving as an outdoor leisure area for its third-class passengers. Stretching 128 feet in length, this deck remained one of the final sections above water as the Titanic sank.

Access to the Steering Gear Room and a docking bridge was provided via a staircase on the Titanic’s poop deck.

Interestingly, the Titanic was among the last grand ocean liners to have a poop deck. Its successor, the Britannic, which was under construction during the Titanic’s time, was designed without one.

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