Humor at Sea : “Fresh Water Tanky” Yarns

Vikram Karve
19 min readJan 19, 2024







Is Hamam Mein Sab Nange Hain

All Are Naked (Nude) in this Bathroom


Hilarious Memories of My Unforgettable Navy Days

Story By Vikram Karve


This story happened on a frontline warship — around 37 years ago — in the mid 1980’s


YARN No. 1





Is Hamam Mein Sab Nange Hain

All Are Naked (Nude) in this Bathroom




Dear Reader — tell me — who do you think is the most important person on a warship…?

“The Captain…” you would say, in all probability.

If you were a “technical fanatic” — you may say that the Chief Engineer is the key man on a ship — because it is the engines that move the ship.

Some die-hard branch loyalists would plum for specialist officers of their own branches — the gunnery officer, torpedo officer, navigating officer — or even the most redundant of them all — the communications officer.

“The Ship’s Medical Officer — the Doctor is the most important man on the ship…” the hypochondriacs would probably say.

Some would root for the Quartermaster (or helmsman) who steers the ship.

A Foodie may say that the ship’s cook is the most important individual on the ship — since good food is the sine qua non of high morale.

Aviators think they are prima donnas — especially on aircraft carriers.

Everyone has their own views — and you can debate till the cows come home.

But on this frontline warship — on which I was serving — indisputably — without a doubt — the most important man was the “Fresh Water Tanky”.

Of course — if you are fond of American spellings — you may spell “Tanky” as “Tankey” — like they spell “Whisky” as “Whiskey” — but that is a matter of minor detail.

And since the Indian Navy mostly follows Royal Navy traditions — I will use the British spelling — “Tanky”.




The “fresh-water tanky” is a junior sailor from the engine-room branch responsible for the fresh-water supply in a ship.

In my earlier ships — all steamships — there was an abundance of fresh water — and the “fresh water tanky” was an insignificant cog in the wheel — and most of us did not even know who the “fresh water tanky” was.

But on this ship — which invariably suffered a terrible scarcity of fresh water when we were at sea — the “Fresh Water Tanky” was a VIP — the most sought after individual on the ship — so much so that even the Fleet Commander — a Rear Admiral — personally called the “Fresh Water Tanky” to his cabin at 0010 Hours — yes — at 0010 Hours — which — in civilian parlance means 10 Minutes past Midnight (12:10 AM)




The “fresh-water-tanky” was fast asleep on his bunk in the engine-room junior sailors’ mess — when he was rudely woken up by the Duty Petty Officer — and he was told to report to the Admiral immediately in person.

The “fresh-water-tanky” wore his overalls — put on his cap — and rushed up to the Captain’s Cabin — which had been commandeered by the Fleet Commander — as this ship was not designed to be a “Flag Ship” — and did not have separate quarters for the Admiral and his staff.

Also — in this ship — as is the case with most warships — only the Captain’s Cabin had an attached bathroom and toilet.

For all other officers — there was a common bathroom.

Similarly — sailors too had huge common bathrooms — one for senior sailors — and another for junior sailors.

Since the Admiral had moved into the Captain’s Cabin — the Captain had evicted the XO — who had moved into the spare bunk in Cdr (E)’s cabin — and the fleet staff had moved into various spare bunks — and a few junior officers slept in the wardroom.

It was terribly crowded on board — and the water shortage made it worse.

This ship was not designed for the prevailing hot, sultry, humid, sweaty tropical climate — where you needed to bathe at least once or twice a day to keep yourself clean.

The ship was designed for much colder arctic climates where you hardly sweated — and you could go without a bath for many days.

There were cultural aspects — as well — as far as personal hygiene is concerned.

Those people needed much less fresh water than us for daily use — they were not in the habit of bathing every day.

Even for their “ablutions” — they used toilet paper.

On the other hand — for us — “Cleanliness was next to Godliness” — and we needed plenty of water for our daily baths and ablutions.

Also — our style of cooking required lots of fresh water.

Thus — this ship catered for far less fresh water than the amount required for our needs — with the result that there was a perpetual water scarcity — though ironically — there was plenty of sea water around us — but we could not use seawater for our daily needs.

Metaphorically — it was a case of :

“water water everywhere — but not a drop to drink”

This shortage of fresh water necessitated strict rationing of water — which in turn entailed observance of a strict water routine — and water was opened for bathing only for a few minutes in a day.

But during this long sailing — even this bathing water routine could not be followed — due to some breakdowns — and water was opened only for a few minutes early at dawn for brushing and shaving.

All of us were without a bath for days — which made us feel miserable.

We were all “dry cleaning” ourselves.

And — so was the Admiral.

But now — the Admiral had decided to have the luxury of a bath.

That is why he had summoned the “Fresh Water Tanky” at this unearthly hour — well past midnight.




The “fresh-water-tanky” reached the Captain’s cabin flat on the double.

The “fresh-water-tanky” knocked.

A loud voice said from inside the cabin — “come in”.

The “fresh-water-tanky” entered the cabin — and he saw that the Admiral was standing naked — the Admiral only had a small towel around his waist.

“I want to have a bath — open the fresh water…” the Admiral bellowed.

“Sir — You want to have a bath now…? It is the middle of the night…” the perplexed fresh-water-tanky stammered.

“Yes — I want to have a bath now…” the Admiral said.

“Sir — water routine is from 6 AM in the morning…” the fresh-water-tanky mumbled.

“I know that. During your water routine timings the water is pressure is so bloody low — that hardly any water climbs up to this deck — as everyone opens up all taps and showers on the lower decks…” the Admiral shouted.

“Sir, there is a problem…” the fresh-water-tanky pleaded.

“Don’t tell me your problems — you just do as you are told — and open the fresh water for 10 minutes — come on — get moving — chop chop…!!!” the Admiral barked at the nonplussed sailor.

The “fresh water tanky” decided to play safe.

He tiptoed down to the Senior Engineer’s cabin.

The Senior Engineer Officer had hit the sack an hour ago — after a hard day’s work slogging away in the bowels of the ship — and he was fast asleep — after imbibing his customary “nightcap” — a generous swig of Rum from the hip flask he always carried in the pocket in his overalls.

The Senior Engineer was in deep sleep — snoring away — on the top bunk — above me.

There was a knock on the cabin door.

I cursed at being woken up from my sleep — and opened the cabin door.

The moment I saw the fresh-water-tanky — I got angry — and I told him to get lost.

But — when the fresh-water-tanky told me the reason why he had come — I quickly got up from my bunk — stripped off my lungi and vest.

I put a towel around my waist — picked up my soap case — and I rushed down to the officers’ bathroom.

Meanwhile — the fresh-water-tanky gave the Senior Engineer a “hard shakeup” to wake him up from his deep sleep.

The fresh-water-tanky asked the Senior Engineer for his permission to open the fresh water.




Jolted out of his deep sleep — for a few moments — the Senior Engineer Officer appeared to be in a daze.

Then — as he recovered his senses — the Senior Engineer squinted his eyes — and he looked at the clock — it was 12:15 (0015 Hrs in Naval Parlance) — 15 minutes past midnight.

“The Admiral wants to have a bath now…?” the puzzled Senior Engineer asked the fresh-water-tanky.

“Yes, Sir. He called me personally to his cabin and ordered me to open the fresh water.”

“What’s the fresh water level…?” Senior Engineer asked the fresh-water-tanky.

“Very Low, Sir…” the fresh-water-tanky answered.

“Okay. We will conserve water tomorrow. Now — you just open the water for only 5 minutes — strictly 5 minutes — and you make sure you don’t tell anyone — keep it totally secret — let everyone sleep peacefully…” Senior Engineer said to the fresh-water-tanky

Even as he was talking to the fresh-water-tanky — the Senior Engineer immediately stripped off his overalls — grabbed his towel — and made a beeline for the bathroom.

“Aye, Aye, Sir…” the fresh-water-tanky said — following the Senior Engineer.

But — before he went to open the fresh water valve — the fresh-water-tanky surreptitiously went down to his mess-deck — he quietly stripped off his overalls — he picked up his soap — and put on a towel round his waist.

This furtive activity by the fresh-water-tanky was observed by a few engine-room sailors — who had come off watch — and were lying in their bunks trying to sleep.

Seeing the fresh-water-tanky stripping off his clothes, picking up his soap and wearing a towel round his waist — these sailors were roused into a flurry of action — and soon — all of them were seen rushing towards the sailors’ bathroom — clad in their towels.

I don’t know how it happened — but the “secret” news — of fresh water being opened at the midnight hour — spread like wildfire throughout the mess-decks.

Soon — everyone was seen rushing in various states of undress to the bathrooms — standing naked under the showers — waiting for water to sprinkle on their bodies.

Yes — on this ship — combined “nude bathing” under the open showers was the norm — yes — everyone bathed in his “birthday suit” — even the officers.

On my earlier ships — where there was the luxury of abundant fresh water — it was possible for “OLQ oriented officers” to bathe in an “officer-like manner” — bathrobe, privacy of shower-curtain, et al

But on this ship — water was a great leveler — and things like modesty, etiquette and protocol had no place in the bathroom — you quickly took off your clothes and bathed nude.


The scene epitomized the famous Hindi proverb — “hamam mein sab nange hain” — हामान में सब नंगे हैं — meaning — “everyone is naked in this bathroom”“all are nude in this bathroom”


(The term Hamam means a public bathing place — a bath — aka — a bathroom…)


So — whatever your rank — if you happened to be posted on this ship — you were “nanga” (naked or nude) in the “hamam” (bathroom).




By the time water gushed out of the showers — there were 20 officers standing stark naked under the 4 showers in the officers’ bathroom.

It was a tight squeeze — bodies rubbing against each other — hands with soap moving wildly.

It was a free-for-all — and in this crazy frenzy — you could not even make out who was soaping your body — or whose body you were lathering.

The TASO — an aficionado of sandalwood soap — would emerge from the melee — smelling of the strong heady scent of the aromatic herbal soap — used by the “Mallu” Senior Engineer — who would be exuding the antiseptic aroma of germicidal soap — rubbed on him unwittingly by the ship’s doctor — who was very hygiene-conscious.

The Gunnery Officer — on middle watch — had handed over the deck to the cute watch-keeping Sub Lieutenant — and rushed down from the bridge without towel or soap.

He would “bum” both towel and soap from someone — as was his habit of “bumming” everything from his shipmates.

The “cute” watch-keeping Sub Lieutenant would go for his bath later — if he was allowed to leave the bridge — and if there was enough time after the return of the Gunnery Officer — and the water routine was long enough.

Or — the “cute” watch-keeping Sub Lieutenant would rather skip the collective nude bathing session — he suspected the proclivities of some of the rather bawdy officers — who seemed to have a “glad-eye” on him — and he did not want to risk a repeat hanky-panky of what had happened in the previous free-for-all bathing fracas.

While the officers were enjoying their midnight bath — so were almost all the sailors — with all showers open full blast — and all the ship’s bathrooms filled with bodies chock-a-block.

The result of all of this frenzied full-scale bathing on the lower decks was that — not a drop of water climbed up to the Captain’s Cabin — where the Admiral was standing patiently in his “birthday suit” under the shower.

Now — the Admiral was an old sea-dog — who had commanded this very ship — and he realized what was going on.

So — the Admiral wrapped his towel around his waist — and he marched bare-chested down to the officers’ bathroom.

“Bloody ‘Guns’ — you sneaky bugger…!!! You should be doing middle-watch on the bloody bridge — what the hell are you doing here bathing yourself…?” the Admiral shouted at the nude Gunnery Officer — who should have been on the bridge during middle-watch.

Before the shamefaced Gunnery Officer could reply — the Admiral commanded him:

“You go and sound ‘Action Stations’ — do you understand…? Come on ‘Guns’ — don’t bloody stand there showing me your filthy **** — you get moving…”

Then — the Admiral looked at the Senior Engineer and commanded him:

“You make sure the fresh water is pumped in full force till I finish my bath — I want the “fresh-water-tanky” standing by outside.”

As “Action Stations” were sounded — and all Officers and Sailors began rushing to their action posts — the Admiral stripped off his towel — and he stood under the shower — to enjoy a leisurely bath.

As the Admiral was enjoying his bath — his newly appointed “cute and coy” Flag Lieutenant peeped into the bathroom.

Like most Flag Lieutenants — he was a “pretty boy” — a “Sea Doll”

The “charming” Flag Lieutenant was lucky to have served on comfortable ships.

The coy “Sea Doll” Flag Lieutenant seemed a bit shy and timorous to walk around semi-nude in front of sailors — who were rushing up and down in the ship’s alleyways to their “Action Stations” — in various states of undress.

In contrast — the “demure” Flag Lieutenant was dressed up for a bath in an “officer-like” manner — in a full bathrobe covering almost his entire body.

The Flag Lieutenant saw the totally naked brawny “Sea Dog” Admiral standing in his “birthday suit” — fully nude — bathing stark naked under the shower.

Horrified by the outrageous sight before him — the “coy” Flag Lieutenant hesitated — and he began to retreat.

On seeing his “cute” Flag Lieutenant’s coyness — the Admiral shouted at him:

“Come on “Pretty Boy” — you hurry up and take off your clothes quickly — take off everything — and come here under the shower — Is Hamam Mein Sab Nange Hain इस हामान में सब नंगे हैं …”

(all are nude in this bathroom)




I will never forget my wonderful time on this glorious frontline warship.

During my long Naval Career — I have served on many warships and shore establishments (stone frigates).

But — it was on this ship — where we had the best camaraderie among officers — and even our relationships with sailors were most happy.

Despite the tough time we had — and the hardships we faced — this was a “Happy Ship”.

Maybe — it has got something to do with being Nanga in the Hamam … !!!

Can there be any better bonding than being Nanga together in the Hamam…?

As I told you in the beginning — this incident happened long back — around 37 years ago — in the mid-1980’s.

Those were the days of the “All Male Navy” — much before the Navy started inducting women as officers.

But even now — women do not serve at sea — the Navy does not post women on ships.

Dear Reader — after reading this story — just imagine the scene in the “Hamam” — if there had been women officers and sailors on this ship…!!!




Someone told me that Navy had started posting a few women officers on ships as an experimental measure.

Maybe — women will be given gender concessions and posted on comfortable ships — like tankers, fleet auxiliaries etc. — where there will be plenty of privacy for women — and — women may not be posted on frontline warships like the one described above — with “Hamam” style “Nanga” (nude) bathing together — which fosters a unique camaraderie among shipmates.


YARN No. 2





Is Hamam Mein Sab Nange Nahin Hain

(All Are Not Nude in this Bathroom)




The best thing about our ship was the Executive Officer (XO) — a Naval Aviator with a cheerful temperament and friendly nature — who never pulled rank and took everyone along.

He also happened to be the PMC — and the result was that — despite the hardships — we had a very happy wardroom — and this cordial atmosphere percolated to the lower decks as well.

The XO did not demand any special privileges — in fact — he had quite a laissez faire approach to work — and he would happily join us in the “Is Haman Mein Sab Nange Hain” ( इस हामान में सब नंगे हैं ) combined nude bathing sessions.

You may say that I am generalizing — and you may not agree with me — but in my opinion — Naval Aviators make the best XO’s on ships.

On my earlier ship too — it was like a breath of fresh air when a Naval Aviator replaced a most painful nit-picking XO.

Naval Aviators came on board ships for their “mandatory sea tenure” — and then they went back to flying duties.

So — they wanted a happy sea-time — and they did not harass the crew.

Accordingly — after spending one year on board our ship — our Naval Aviator XO went back to his first love — aviation duties — and the Captain changed too.




The new XO — a Communicator — was a namby-pamby wimp — an effeminate sissy — and — like most communicators — he was a smooth-talking pernickety pain in the arse (ass).

“He is a bloody prick…” said an officer who had served with the XO on an earlier ship.

“You mean “prig”…?” we asked.

“I mean “prick” — P R I C K…” he spelt it out loud and clear.

“Okay — let’s say he is a priggish prick…” we said.

Soon — it was unanimously agreed that the new XO was a “priggish prick”.

But — since the XO was more of a “Prick” than a “Prig” — everyone called him “Prick”.

The new XO found fault with everything — and worse — he blamed his predecessor — the well-liked Naval Aviator XO — for being too lenient — and thereby spoiling the crew.

A constipated, frustrated “killjoy” — the new XO tried his best to make life as painful as possible.

Though small in stature, light in weight and effeminate in appearance — the new XO feigned a rather amusing spectacle — as he tried to pull rank and throw his weight around — trying to demonstrate that he was the “second-in-command” of the ship.

This snobbish posturing may have worked elsewhere — but such amateurish antics — they cut no ice on this frontline warship — which had a hardened crew.

Ever since he had arrived — the XO had started a running battle with the Flight Commander over OOW and OOD duties.

Though the Flight Commander was a qualified sea watchkeeper — by convention — Naval Aviators did not do watchkeeping duties on this ship — and the other Executive Officers did not seem to mind.

However — the new XO embarked on a holy crusade to “teach him a lesson” — and get the Naval Aviators to do watchkeeping duties.

And indeed — the new XO wanted to teach everyone a lesson — especially all of us from the earlier crew.

Someone said that the XO was an “Air Force Grounded Cadet” — sidestepped into the Navy — and because of this — he hated all Aviator Pilots — since he had failed to qualify as one.

One evening — during a longish sailing — feeling grimy without a bath thanks to the strict water routine due to the perpetual shortage of water — I was sitting in my cabin finishing some paperwork.

“Do you want to have a hot water bath…?” the Flight Commander said, peeping into my cabin.

“Hot water bath…?” I said, surprised, looking at the Flight Commander, who looked freshly bathed and smelt of soap.

“Go quickly to the bathroom. The “fresh-water-tanky” will be waiting for you with a bucket of hot water. After you finish your bath, ask him to get another bucket of hot water for Guns — I’ll tell Guns…” the Flight Commander said.

“You got water with you on the bloody helo or what…?” I asked.

The Flight Commander, who was a good friend of mine, laughed loudly — and he said to me:

“Come on — don’t be crazy. The hot water bucket was meant for “Prick” — I hijacked the hot water bucket.”

“What the bloody hell is going on…? That bloody “Prick” is bathing in hot water — when others don’t even get a drop of water to drink…?” I commented.

“After Guns finishes — we’ll tell Senior — I wonder if he knows what’s happening…?” the Flight Commander said.

As usual — there had been a strict water routine during this sailing too — so who could refuse the offer of a bath — and that too — the luxury of a hot water bath.

So — I rushed to the bathroom.

The fresh-water-tanky was standing by with a bucket of hot water in his hand.

The moment the fresh-water-tanky saw me in a towel — his face dropped

The fresh-water-tanky pleaded with me.

“Sir — the water routine is only in the morning. Sir — this hot water is meant for the XO. Flight Commander took one bucket — and now — you also will have a hot water bath…?” the fresh-water-tanky said in a worried voice.

“Have you taken permission from Senior Engineer…?” I shouted at him.

“No, Sir — the XO has asked me not to tell anyone…” the fresh-water-tanky said.

“From where have you got the hot water…?” I asked.

“I got it from the ship’s galley, Sir…” the fresh-water-tanky said.

“After I finish my bath — you go down to the galley and get one more bucket of hot water for the Gunnery Officer…” I said to the fresh-water-tanky.

“Aye Aye, Sir…” the fresh-water-tanky said.

“And then — you go and get one more bucket of hot water for the Senior Engineer…” I ordered the fresh-water-tanky.

“Sir — what about the XO — there will be no water left for him…” the hapless fresh-water-tanky pleaded.

“The XO can do “dry cleaning” for all I care — you don’t worry about him — come on — you get moving — you go and get hot water for “Guns” and Senior Engineer…” I ordered the anxious fresh-water-tanky.

Meanwhile — the XO was patiently waiting in his cabin for the fresh-water-tanky to report “readiness” to him.

After some time — the XO got impatient.

So — the XO walked down to the officers’ bathroom.

As usual — the XO was properly turned out (in an officer-like manner) — wearing a bath-robe.

The XO opened the door of the officers’ bathroom.

The sight that he saw totally startled him.

Two totally naked hairy scary hulks — “Guns” and “Senior” — were bathing away to glory totally nude in their “Birthday Suits.”

It was a terrible sight — and the “namby-pamby” effeminate XO felt a shiver of fear — as he saw the two redoubtable officers looking hungrily at him.

Magnanimously — the stark naked officers invited the XO to join them for a nude bath.

The terrified XO beat a hasty retreat.



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  1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
  2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
  3. E&OE

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Link to my source blog post in my blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:

This Story was written by me around 9 years ago in the year 2013 and first posted online by me Vikram Karve in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog at 1/28/2014 04:29:00 PM at url: and later at urls and and and and etc.



Link to my source blog post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:

This Story was earlier posted by me Vikram Karve in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog around 8 years ago at 2/01/2014 05:55:00 PM at url: re-posted many times including at url: and and and and and and etc.

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.




Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger