Splice the Mainbrace and Navy Food

 by Admiral Ravindra C Wijegunaratne

Navies are famous for excellent cooks and serving delicious food. The best food is served during Naval Fleet exercises in overseas ports and special days where Navy usually serve “splice the mainbrace “followed by “Bada Khana (Hindi words).

Light House Galley

Braces are lines in sailing ships that control angle of the yards. In square rigged sailing vessels, mainbrace was the longest line in all running rigging. It was common to aim once’s cannon fire at riggings during sea battles. If mainbrace was hit, it has to be repaired immediately. “Splice the mainbrace” was performed by experienced able seaman specialist on knots and splices under supervision of Boatswain on sailing ship’s mainbrace.

This was a very tedious emergency repair, until which sailing ship cannot change her tack (direction sailing). It is more difficult when this has to be done under battle conditions. As an appreciation to this hard work, extra ration of rum is given to this sailor.

Today’s Navies, no sails and no mainbrace; but we have “splice the mainbrace ceremony “drinking a Rum tot.

So, in celebration like Navy Day “splice the mainbrace “, is performed by giving our sailors extra tot of liquor (in Sri Lanka Navy - not rum but old arrack) prior to Commanding Officer with other officers sits with sailors at General Mess (junior sailors dining room) to have delicious “Bada Khana” prepared by excellent Navy cooks. Bada Khana is a Hindi word to say “big meal”; the word hijacked by SLN from Indian Navy.

The menu for “Bada Khana” is always, mouth- watering and delicious vegetable fried rice, fried chicken curry, dhal dry curry, potatoes tempered, brinjol Moju, boiled egg and batted/crispy crumped sheer fish. Dessert is always Wattalppam.

Our sailors love this food. They always work hard and looking forward to “splice the mainbrace “and “Bada Khanna”. Those were the traditions of the Navy.

Food festival onboard SLNS Sayururala

The other time our Navy’s culinary skills as when our ships goes to foreign visits and International Maritime Exercises. We carry our traditional food stuff on board and take part in international food festivals.

With Navy band playing and our traditional dances performing Kandyan, Sabaragamuwa, low country and Jaffna dances, we were consider as cultural ambassadors of Sri Lanka.

Our Navy has ships capable of performing long distance voyages and to carry Cultural trope and Band. 

Our Navy has a state -of the -art kitchen and bakery at Supply and Secretariat school in Trincomalee to train cooks and stewards. For their further training, they were sent to Indian and Pakistan Navy catering schools. Navy has provided cooks and stewards both to President House and Prime Minister house for very long time who are capable of handling day to day dining to banquets in honour of Heads of States.  

Army officers trained on “Fine Dining”

Cooking out at sea is a difficult task. In rough sea conditions cooking is nightmare, when ship or craft rolling and pitching in rough seas and Gale-force winds. But our cooks never kept us hungry.

Anyway, few people eat in such sea conditions as others fall “sea sick”. 

If you are in a small craft or FAC, there are no assigned cooks. The crew get together to prepare their meal whilst on a patrol. Some seamen and marine engineering mechanics were excellent cooks. I had one such sailor Leading Engineering Mechanic Premaratne, when I was OIC P 467 (Dovra), who rose up to Master Chief Petty Officer. He use to bring fresh vegetables from his village when he returns after leave and prepared delicious meals onboard.

It’s an asset to have excellent cook like Premaratne onboard.

Measuring tots for “splice the mainbrace”

Where you can eat this unique “Navy Food” ? Visit “Light House Galley” at Chitiya Road, Colombo 1. This restaurant give best quality food at fair price. It’s becoming more and more popular among young office-crowds of Fort area, specially on Friday evenings. Ample safe parking area next to Port city with Navy protection.

Order in advance and enjoy “splice in the mainbrace “or “Sundowner “cocktail at Sunset and truly “Bada Khana”meal. 

What about this Friday evening after work ? 

The writer retired from Sri Lanka Navy and Former Chief of Defence Staff