Splice Mainbrace and Navy Food

by Admiral Ravindra C Wijegunaratne

Marines are renowned for their excellent cooks and delicious dishes. The best food is served during naval fleet exercises in overseas ports and on special days when the navy usually serves “splice main reinforcement” followed by “Bada Khana (Hindi words).

Lighthouse Kitchen

Braces are lines in sailboats that control the angle of the yards. In square-rigged sailboats, the main brace was the longest line of all running rigging. It was common to aim cannon fire once at rigging during naval battles. If the main reinforcement has been hit, it must be repaired immediately. “Splice the mainbrace” was performed by an experienced knot and splicer specialist under the supervision of the boatswain on the sailboat’s main crosspiece.

It was a very tedious emergency repair, until the sailboat could not change tack (direction of navigation). It’s more difficult when it has to be done in combat conditions. In gratitude for this hard work, an extra ration of rum is given to this sailor.

Today’s navies, no sails and no main reinforcements; but we did “splice the main ceremony” drinking a rum tot.

So, in a celebration like Navy Day, “splicing the main brace”, is performed by giving our sailors extra alcohol (in the Sri Lankan Navy – not rum but old arrack) before that the commanding officer with other officers sits with the sailors in the general mess (junior sailors’ dining room) to taste a delicious “Bada Khana” prepared by excellent cooks of the Navy. Bada Khana is a Hindi word for “big meal”; the word hijacked by the Indian Navy’s SLN.

The menu of “Bada Khana” always consists of delicious vegetable fried rice, fried chicken curry, dry curry dhal, temperate potatoes, brinjol Moju, boiled egg and breaded fish/ crisp. The dessert is always Wattalppam.

Our sailors love this food. They are still working hard and looking forward to “Splice Main Splint” and “Bada Khanna”. These were the traditions of the Navy.

Gastronomic festival on board the SLNS Sayururala

Other times, the culinary skills of our navy, such as when our ships go on foreign visits and international maritime exercises. We carry our traditional food products on board and participate in international food festivals.

With Navy music and our traditional dances performing Kandyan, Sabaragamuwa, Low Country and Jaffna dances, we were seen as cultural ambassadors of Sri Lanka.

Our navy has ships capable of long distance voyages and carrying cultural tropes and music.

Our navy has a state-of-the-art kitchen and bakery at the Trincomalee Supply and Secretarial School to train cooks and stewards. For further training, they were sent to Indian and Pakistani Navy catering schools. The Navy has for a very long time provided cooks and stewards to the President’s House and the Prime Minister’s House who can handle daily meals at banquets honoring heads of state.

Army officers trained in “Fine Dining”

Cooking at sea is a difficult task. Galley is a nightmare in rough sea conditions, when the ship or craft rolls and pitches in rough seas and high winds. But our cooks never kept us hungry.

Be that as it may, few people eat in such sea conditions that others become “seasick”.

If you are in a small craft or CAF, there are no dedicated cooks. The crew gathers to prepare their meal during a patrol. Some marine engineering sailors and mechanics were excellent cooks. I had such a Leading Engineering Mechanic Premaratne sailor, when I was OIC P 467 (Dovra), who became Master Chief Petty Officer. He used to bring fresh vegetables from his village when he returned from leave and cook delicious meals on board.

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

Measuring Tots for “Splice Main Reinforcement”

Where to eat this unique “Navy Food”? Visit “Light House Galley” at Chitiya Road, Colombo 1. This restaurant offers the best quality food at a fair price. It is becoming increasingly popular among young offices in the Fort area, especially on Friday nights. Large secure car park next to the port town with marine protection.

Order ahead and enjoy a “splice in the mainbrace” or “Sdownowner” cocktail at sunset and a real “Bada Khana” meal.

And this Friday evening after work?

The writer retired from the Sri Lankan Navy and former Chief of Defense Staff

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