Monday, September 5, 2011
Tools of the Trade: Work at Heights
This is no more and in fact no less than a plank of wood suspended from a series of ropes or cables usually passed over and through a block and tackle to facilitate raising and lowering. The plank is usually fitted out with hooks or other appendages for hanging materials needed for any task such as buckets, brushes, rigging, etc. The sailor simply clambors onto the chair and is then raised up to the appropriate height and tied off.
Historically a man’s mess mates would be responsible for raising and lowering him safely in the device. Modern bosun’s chairs differ from their ancient counterparts very little other than to sometimes be fitted with controlling apparatus that can be used by the person in the chair themselves. This alleviates the need for others to hoist a person up and down. This modern form of bosun’s chair is quite popular with window washers, particularly on mammoth sky scrapers.
The bosun’s chair was also used to move people unfamiliar with seamanship on and off ships. In this instance it was sometimes referred to derogatorily as a “lady’s chair”. Much like using the lubber’s hole when climbing up onto a top, being hauled over the side on a bosun’s chair was only tolerable for a true sailor if he were sick or injured. O’Brian repeatedly has his doctor insensed to the point of fuming for being forced into a bosun’s chair in his Aubrey/Maturin novels. “Am I not a sailor,” he barks red-faced as he is being safely ferried off the ship. “Am I not an old salt?” The response is of course, “Old salt you may be Stephen, but you are clumsier than a drunk monkey on a ladder.” If anyone knew how to shut the beloved doctor up, it was Captain Aubrey.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I offer this video from the Tar Rigger episode of Dirty Jobs. Mike’s struggles with the bosun’s chair are amusing but not at all uncommon. Those things are squirrely, let me tell you.
Happy Labor Day to all the U.S. Brethren! Take a load off and have a pint of grog on orders (just don’t do it in a bosun’s chair, mate).
Header: Using a bonsun’s chair aboard training ship Prince William via Wikipedia