Friday, December 2, 2011

Booty: A Table Fit for a Commodore

As is tradition here at Triple P, Fridays this December will feature gift suggestions for the seafaring man or woman in your life. This year we’ll be all across the board with stocking stuffers, modern wearables and today, historical tableware.

Setting a table at sea was always tricky at best. The movement of the ocean made keeping china and silver in its place more troublesome than one might imagine. Fine dining sometimes went completely by the board due to weather or war but, whenever possible, most captains did and still do like to set a nice table. This included those of the piratical variety, where only the basest of louts wouldn’t take the opportunity to show off their plunder in the form of gilt chargers and silver flatware.

Established navies were almost duty bound to provide a decent table not only in the captain’s cabin but also in the wardroom, where the officers messed. This included linen, china, crystal and sterling – particularly when company called. Wooden trenchers were considered barbaric by the dawn of the Age of Exploration, no matter how much better they functioned in choppy conditions. Anxious stewards polished silver, kept china from cracking and bleached linen white in all conditions out of pure pride. The best literary example of this is probably O’Brian’s character Preserved Killick, steward to Jack Aubrey throughout the Aubrey/Maturin series.

If you or someone you love might have an interest in dressing their table in pure nautical style, you need look no further than The Pirate’s Lair. This enchanting website offers historical china, silver and linen from some of the world’s foremost navies, past and present. Not only are the navies of the U.S., Canada, France, Britain and Spain well represented, but pieces from many other navies are available too. To point out just a few you’ll find china from the Brazilian Navy, the Greek Navy and the Nigerian Navy.

The prices are not bargain basement by any means, but just one china or silver serving piece would make a nice addition to any table and certainly start a conversation or two. I’ve got my eye on the U.S. wardroom officer blue fouled anchor insignia large, deep pre-WWI serving bowl. Nothing says Christmas like a navy serving bowl.  Anchors aweigh!

Header: Formal table setting featuring U.S. Navy china, silver and linen via The Pirate’s Lair


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! That's some nice stuff there... Okay, the navy serving bowl, got it.

Aye-aye, Captain!

Pauline said...

It is; they had the French Navy serving bowl available at one time, which I like even better, but I don't see it listed anymore. A well; c'est la vie!

Blue Lou Logan said...

Fascinating... Killick and the formality of the Captain's cabin or the ward room is what makes that naval era so, well, odd. Aubrey, for example, in some ways is a conundrum: untouchable because he is a career warrior and part of that arcane culture of the mariner, yet also a "gentleman." It was a culture in which being an officer was at once valorized and segregated, but without--maybe--the doubt with which we now view any military endeavor. Let us eat off china and drink from crystal...for tomorrow our decks may run with blood.

Pauline said...

Absolutely; I agree, Lou. The one thing Jack has that sets him apart from men of his rank is a friend to talk to, in Stephen of course. The loneliness of command is better portrayed in Forester's "Hornblower" series. Horatio Hornblower, even as a mid, is the ultimate "man alone". I think someone with Jack's temperment would run mad if he didn't have Stephen to talk to.

And then, as to formality and manners, they are British after all. One wonders if David Porter and Stephen Decatur had stewards who troubled themselves so much over clean linen and shiny silver.

Charles L. Wallace said...

What a wonderful website! Thank you for sharing, Pauline. I have saved it to my faves.... now all I need is a house to put all of that loot into (and loot to spend in acquiring it! hahaha)

Dining at sea....
As one might expect, old hands get used to dining at sea, rocking and rolling and all of that. I remember coming back from cruise, still in dress blues, and drinking a glass of water as soon as I got home (good water, didn't smell of fuel or jellyfish)... I finished and set the glass down, but suddenly snatched it back up - my wife looked at me as though I had gone mad, so I explained "I was afraid we'd take a roll and the glass would fall and break."

Anyway, I was well-used to holding the table with my left hand and eating using my right. Keeping myself close enough to the table to actually eat. Our wardroom had athwartships tables, and behind the guy sitting on the starboard end ran a passageway out into Officer's Country. We were having chow one time, and the seas were running pretty high. Naturally, the deck was somewhat recently waxed. The guy sitting on the end (might have been Brian, my roommate, but might have been someone else) was not holding onto the table. We took a pretty nice roll to starboard, and he and his chair slid all the way out of the wardroom! Needless to say, the rest of us were pretty well rolling after that :-D

Pauline said...

Great stories as always, Wally! Thank you for adding so much to Triple P.

As to The Pirate's Lair, Pirate Mike is the senior officer around there and will happily help out with shipping and merchandise questions. Timmy! was most impressed with the service at the Lair (and now I know what I'll be serving stuffing in come Yuletide :)

Charles L. Wallace said...

Most welcome, ma'am, and thank you for the kind comments :-) I probably won't purchase before Christmas, but I have something to shoot for!

Anonymous said...

To Whom It May Concern, We called the Pirates Lair this morning to discuss a possible purchase and talked to a very pompous guy who didn't have the time of day for us. As I started to ask a basic customer question I was briskly shuffled off the phone without being able to get another word in. We would now not purchase anything from this rude guy and would recommend that anyone active or retired from the military follow suit. Thank You, Military Family

Pauline said...

I am sorry, indeed, to hear of your issue, Anon.

Triple P features sites with which I personally or a close friend or family member have done business with and been happy in the experience. In this case, I will continue to stand by previously comments as far as our dealings with TPL.