Life at Sea

Double Block

Double-sheave block with a rope becket and hook, used aboard ship. The becket is the part that goes around the block and allows it to be attached to the object on which force is being exerted. When a becket has a hook spliced into it, the block and tackle can be moved or shifted. If it needs to be semi-permanently fastened, the hook is hooked into the sail or other object and a mousing or lashing is made from the point of the hook back to the body.

Crew Hauling a Line

To be able to handle heavy weights, or tighten lines without winches, crew members had to pull together. Raising and reefing or shortening sails, trimming or hauling in control lines (sheets) to reef a sail, or hauling in some other of the hundreds of lines aboard a large sailing ship were all done by hand. A shanty sometimes helped coordinate the pulling.

Hyde Windlasses

The Hyde Windlass Company built ship's machinery, including windlasses, capstans, and steering gear, some steam powered, and some human powered. Hyde Windlass was the ancestral company of today's Bath Iron Works. They sent their machinery all over the world.

The images are from the Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Statistics for the State of Maine, 1898, published in Augusta, Maine in 1899, facing p. 129. They would have been produced for a catalog.

Charles at the Wheel

One of the crew members, Charles, steers the bark Carrie Winslow of Portland. The vessel typically carried lumber to Argentina and returned with a cargo of hides for making leather. The photograph was taken by the captain's daughter, Ruth Montgomery in 1898.

Baby on Shipboard with a Seaman who is Repairing a Sail

Some documents suggest that the baby might be Joanna Colcord, from Searsport, who was born at sea in the South Pacific in 1882.

Bos'n or Boatswain aboard Ship

The bos'n or boatswain was in charge of maintenance of the rigging on shipboard. Sun and tar stain his hands. Clothing is nothing special; the look of loose wrinkled wool or cotton seems strange today. Sometimes the bos'n was also a third mate.

Articles of Agreement, August 4, 1874, Ship Frank N. Thayer

The Articles of Agreement is a contract between the ship and the crew, outlining appropriate behavior, wages, length of voyage, and food provided to the crew. This contract is for a voyage from Hong Kong to San Francisco or Portland on the Kennebunkport owned ship Frank N. Thayer. Below the header are listed some of the strict U.S. rules about use of bad language, sheath knives, and liquor (grog), for the safety of the ship and its cargo.

The original is about 21" wide and 24" long. with space for signatures of crew members.

Steward aboard Ship

The steward was in charge of the captain's cabin and managing provisions. On a large ship, he oversaw the cook's work. If the captain's family was aboard, sometimes there was a stewardess, occasionally the wife of the steward. In the late nineteenth century, the steward was often from China or India.

Carpenter and Cook aboard Ship

A carpenter and a cook aboard ship. The carpenter holds his plane, while the cook has on an apron and holds a pan. The carpenter on a larger ship did not stand watch but helped handle the ship when needed. The cook was paid more than most crew members, but had a very long day of work, from about 5 or 6 in the morning till around 8 in the evening, preparing food and hot coffee for the two watches of the crew in addition to the captain and any family and mates. The cook also helped out when needed in ship operations, though he did not stand a watch.

Crew Taking up New Topsail on the Bark Carrie Winslow

The crew climbs the rigging, going up the ratlines, as they bring up a new topsail to be "bent on" or attached to the yard. The photograph was taken by the captain's daughter, Ruth Montgomery, aboard the bark Carrie Winslow in 1898.


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