The sailor enjoys life

Frigate, life on board

40 cannon frigate of the Royal Navy from 1768, as a model on deck 2 of the International Maritime Museum Hamburg.

Life on board:
using the example of a 40 cannon frigate of the Royal Navy, 1768

  1. The ship's bell
  2. The drummer
  3. Lenzen
  4. The capstan
  5. Name of the sails
  6. Pack the sails
  7. The sail area
  8. An extra poke
  9. Relieving the urge
  10. Marine infantry
  11. Officers
  12. In Mars
  13. Gun operation
  14. "Powder monkeys"
  15. Cannonball
  16. An additional protection
  17. Privileges of the captain

The ship's bell

The daily routine on board was regulated by ringing the ship's bell. For this purpose, the day was divided into four-hour blocks starting at 12 noon. At 12:30 p.m. there was a single struck; then every half hour another blow until at 4:00 p.m. with 8 glasses (glassed in 4 double blows) the routine started all over again. Another way of dividing time was the division into watch and free watch, whereby the free watch could be interrupted at any time by all-man maneuvers.

The drummer

Acoustic signals were often easier to hear on board than commands called. In the picture a drummer gives signals to the marines. The sailors, on the other hand, listened to the whistles of the boatswain and the boatswain's mate.


Since wooden hulls made water permanently, pumping - also known as pumping - was part of everyday life for seafarers. After accidents or skirmishes with hits, all pumps had to be operated until they were completely exhausted in order to keep the ship afloat.

The capstan

Raising the anchor was hard work and therefore an all-man maneuver. For this purpose, the capstan (large winch) was rotated by means of a capstan, each of which was manned by up to 5 seamen. Often a sailor sat with a musical instrument (usually a fiddle) on the capstan head and the sailors at the spak sang a song (shanty) to work together. This singing had less of an entertainment character, but rather offered the opportunity to work in unison.

Name of the sails

  • 1: Outside blind
  • 2: blind people
  • 3: Klüver
  • 4: Forestaysail
  • 5: Vorbram
  • 6: Fore Mars
  • 7: Broad jib
  • 8: Greatbram
  • 9: mainsail sail
  • 10: mainsail
  • 11: Cross topsail
  • 12: Mizzen sail

Pack the sails

Before a battle, the lower sails were unwound and fastened to the yard by the sailors in order to minimize the risk of fire caused by flying sparks. While doing so, they stood on ropes called foothorses, which were stretched under the yards. They worked from the outside in. In this way the danger for the sailors of being thrown from the yard by the flapping sails was reduced. Rigging work was always dangerous; even if the seafarers behave correctly.

The sail area

The reefed sail areas could be attached to the yard with the reefing straps. In this way, depending on the wind strength, the sail area could be reduced without having to salvage the entire sail
have to. If, on the other hand, you wanted to increase the speed further under full sail, leeward sails were additionally set on the leeward sails extended at the yard.

An extra poke

Spars (yards, masts, etc.) quickly broke in storms or in combat and could not be procured again at sea. Therefore, a replacement was carried on board. For reasons of space, a reserve spar is lashed to the outside of a scaffold. The water depth was also plumbed from such equipments.

Relieving the urge

Such holes served as a toilet for the simple sailors of the crew. The captain and officers were provided with personal toilets on the quarterdeck. In bad weather - especially in storms and rough seas - the urine was released into the bilge.

Marine infantry

During the Napoleonic Wars, English warships of a certain size also served marine infantry. The number of marines was generally determined with one soldier per gun; For example, a 1st rank ship of the line had 104 Marines and a 28 cannon frigate 29. They were recognizable by their red uniforms and white cartridge belts. They served to maintain discipline on board and supported the crew in combat as snipers and in boarding combat. However, they were not involved in the seamanship. Nor did they operate the guns, for which only specially trained and trained crew members were responsible.


The officers in the Royal Navy wore blue and white uniforms for the first time in 1748. Before that, they sat across from the teams
only through costume and wigs.

In Mars

This platform is called Mars. It was mainly used to spread the Martian robes. The shrouds transfer the train
the upper shrouds on the mast below. In addition, the Mars served as a raised place for the lookout when he was not actually sitting on the Bramsaling. In addition, the Mars offered the marine infantry snipers an ideal elevated position in battle. While the seamen reached Mars or higher via the weaving lines of the Pütting shrouds, inexperienced seamen (landlubbers) and marines used an opening on the side of the mast, which was contemptuously called landlubber's hole or soldier's hole.

Gun operation

Six men worked on each gun of this size. Numbers were given to them to simplify the transmission of orders. Number One, the gun leader, readied the cannon, took aim, and fired. Number Two straightened the gun barrel with so-called straightening pegs; Three reloaded; Four put out sparks by wiping the pipe; Five handed the ammunition and Six, the powder boy, brought in new cartridges, powder bags. Well-coordinated gun crews decided many a fight; they often only passed two minutes between shots. There were two batteries on one gun deck; each was led by a lieutenant.

"Powder monkeys"

Powder boys - also called powder monkeys - dragged cartridges from the filling chamber to the guns. They were mostly the youngest members of the crew. Because of their small size, they were faster in the narrow space below deck. If women were on board, they too helped with this work.


Bullets were carried to the guns in battle. The heavy projectiles were stowed close to the keel, where they gave the ship additional stability. Since they rusted in the moisture there, they had to be cleaned and greased before use.

An additional protection

The crew's hammocks, stowed in the fin nets, raised the bulwark during battle and offered protection against musket balls.

Captain's privileges

The captain had special privileges. Among other things, he had his own bedroom and a dining room, which were arranged in the stern of the ship across the entire width of the ship. The officers had their own officers' mess. The stern gallery was reserved for the captain. Here the captain enjoys a little privacy in the gallery.