Sail Away Part II
More about ships
by Laurie Alice Eakes
Until the early nineteenth century, docks and wharves as we know them did not exist. Much of this was simply due to the fact that nosing a sailing ship up to a dock was pretty difficult. Another problem was space. Sailing a ship between two other vessels would have been nigh on impossible. So ships dropped anchor in the harbor or river, such as the Thames, and the crew rowed ashore. Some of the vessels that took people ashore were pretty fancy, especially with naval vessels. They were called gigs and had several oarsmen.
|USS Constitution launched 1797 would need a gig.|
Before docks became prevalent, the left side of the ship was not considered the portside. It was larboard. Starboard for the right and larboard for the left. Imagine hearing that in a high wind and mistaking one for the other. Such disaster could have stricken the craft that it’s rather amazing those two words were used for so long.
Because ships didn’t have docks to draw up to, boarding was a little difficult. Men and women had two choices. They could climb a ladder of rope called chains, or they could be raised via a boson’s chair and be hauled aboard. This latter technique caused a great deal of seasickness even before boarding because the passenger twisted and swung while rising. Early amusement ride? And imagine being a lady trying to maintain her modesty. No wonder so many heroines put on pants to go to sea.
Once aboard, they stood on the maindeck. The floor is always a deck. No sailor would call those boards on which they stand a floor. At the rear of the vessel, the first raised deck is the quarterdeck because the captain’s quarters were off of it beneath the poopdeck. When poopdecks were eliminated, the captain’s quarters moved to below the quarter deck.
The main cabin was lighted by big stern windows or sternlights, not windows. No windows aboard a ship. Portholes and lights.
The raised step that helped keep water out of the cabin is a coaming. Those things we think of as walls? Those are bulkheads. The ceiling is a deckhead. Steps are ladders and hallways--companionways. Fortunately, however, a door is a door.
Again, I have just skimmed the surface of ship terminology, but I am hopeful that I have whetted your appetite to learn more.
Let me leave you with a few resources:
How long did it take to travel by ship?