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Ever wonder what a Bluenose is?

If you’ve spent time on a warship, you’ve seen Plankowners, Shellbacks, members of the Order of the Ditch and the Safari to Suez, maybe even a couple members of the Order of Magellan. Some people go through their entire careers, however, never even meeting a Bluenose.

So what is a Bluenose? What does it take to be a Bluenose?

As always, Navy Crow has your back.

A Bluenose, sometimes incorrectly referred to as a Rednose, is simply a sailor who’s crossed the Arctic Circle, above 66°34′N. Just like crossing the equator, there’s a Line-crossing ceremony, and once you’re done, congratulations, you’re a certified Bluenose. Makes sense, right? If you stuck your head into -40F weather, your nose would be pretty blue too.

So that’s it? It’s just a sailor who’s been to the Arctic Circle?

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Not quite.

There’s a lot stacked against the average US Navy sailor looking to get their Bluenose certification. Saying you have to be in the right place at the right time is underselling it. You can be in the right place at the right time with the right people and still never even see hide nor hair of the Circle.

So what can you do to increase your odds of getting that coveted Bluenose certificate?

For one, you can get submarine duty. A lot of sailors are going to scoff at taking the arduous undersea service duty just to get their Bluenose. That’s probably why it’s so rare. US submarines, particularly our Ohio-class subs on nuclear deterrent patrol, routinely patrol the Arctic Circle, always ready to launch continent-killers from beneath the polar ice caps.

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If you’re in a non-submersible rate, your odds are better by going to an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer or a Ticonderoga-class cruiser. The Nimitz-class carriers have been to the Circle before, but they’re unicorns these days.

Second, you can get stationed on the east coast. Norfolk and Groton sailors are much more likely to set course north than their west coast counterparts in San Diego and Everett. It’s not unheard of for a west coast ship to go far enough past the Bering Strait to qualify for Bluenose, but it’s not terribly likely. If you’ve got your heart set on that certificate, best choose a ship in Virginia or Connecticut.

And, unfortunately, that’s it. To say that you can control the above criteria is a stretch, so let’s talk about the stuff you have literally no control over.

You need a Captain that’s willing to deviate course a little to hit the Circle. CO’s frequently find clever ways to justify going far enough to get the certificate, and often the morale boost for the crew is worth the extra fuel. If the CO is already a Bluenose, or just doesn’t care enough to do it, you’re SOL.

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You also need a good reason for going that far. For a submarine, the answer is as easy as “it’s a really short trip to Russia.” For a surface ship, claiming that you’d “really like to see polar bears” might not cut it. However, if your ship has a planned visit to Norway coming up, you might be able to say you’re increasing the likelihood of tracking Russian submarines or air traffic.

Might be worth bringing up at an Ops Intel brief at the very least, right?

Sailors who get their Bluenose certificate are a proud brotherhood. After a discussion on our Facebook Page, we developed the original design for the Bluenose t-shirt. This shirt was hugely popular for sailors in the fleet wanting to tell the world they’re one of the few. Then one day, we got an email from a fan asking for a Bluenose coin that he intended to give to his son, who had just gotten his Bluenose certificate on his most recent sub deployment.

It was a no-brainer. We’re proud to offer the Bluenose coin to all frosty-nosed sailors past, present and future. Check it out here.

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