Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Tools of the Trade: Safe at Sea
Curiously, at least to most of us, this was not how the people who lived the life at sea perceived it. The average seaman was, by and large, much happier at sea than by land. The general consensus was that, aside from women and all the grog you could drink, nothing good came of spending too much time by land. Gull sharpers and sea lawyers liked nothing better than to take advantage of a seaman, and divest him of what little wealth he might actually have. Even in the women department things could get ugly. There were always wives and sweethearts and even the most gentlemanly naval officer knew they, too, had their hands out for his coin. And prayed they’d never meet. No, it was better to be at sea in a good ship where a man knew his duty and his mates and could rest easy of a night.
But don’t take my word for it. Here is a quote that sums the attitude up nicely from able seaman (and sometimes privateer) William Wood, written to a friend considering the sea life in 1634:
Whoever shall put to sea in a stout and well conditioned ship, having an honest master and loving seamen, shall not need to fear, but he shall find as good content at sea as on land. It is too common with many to fear the sea more than they need, and all such as put to sea confesses it to be less tedious than they ever feared or expected. A ship at sea may well be compared to a cradle rocked by a careful mother’s hand, which though it be moved up and down it is not in danger of falling.
High praise from an experienced voice; such insight is what makes historical research so fascinating and so much fun. Especially for a sea-geek like me.
Header: Sailing Ships via Screen Decoration (click over to find lots of lovely screen decorations featuring sailing ships at sea)