Atlantic

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Bob Godfrey

Member
In Nelson's time an apprentice sailor's rank was simply 'boy'. These lads, who might be as young as 12, were also referred to by many other terms, including 'ship's boy' and 'grommet' (from the Spanish), and a lad whose duties included looking after the Captain's or officers' quarters might I suppose have been addressed as 'cabin boy'. William Hutchinson, author of 'Treatise on Practical Seamanship' (1747) wrote of his own early experience as 'cabin boy' and then cook on a collier, but this was probably again a descriptive term rather than any official designation.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
I'm wondering if the use of "ship's boy" was more prevalent on merchant vessels as opposed to passenger vessels. "Cabins" may have referred to the very few private quarters aboard merchant vessels, while there would have been many more numerous private cabins aboard passenger vessels, possible giving the term "cabin" boy a different meaning. Pardon the very bad syntax.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Inquiring minds want to know: Was there a difference in apprenticeship qualifications, prices, and expectations between clippered (sailing) and steam vessels? Since both operated under very different power sources, the training must have been very different. Thanks, all!
 
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Bob Godfrey

Member
Mary, you couldn't do better than read about Lightoller's apprenticeship in sail and transition to steam. You have a choice of buying his biography 'Titanic Voyager' by Patrick Stenson (if you're rich like Inger) or (if you're cheap like me) you can get his own work 'Titanic and Other Ships' free - see this thread:

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5671/71854.html?1059090821

You have to be Australian or Canadian to get the download legally, but it's a good read so emigration is a small price to pay.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Well, geez, Bob! Do you have ANY idea how much it would cost a dirt-poor Yank (heh heh) to emigrate to Canada? Good Gawd - all kinds of financial information, background information, fingerprints, hefty bank account, and guaranteed job! And real estate prices in Ontario/Alberta/British Columbia/Sasketchawan/Yukon/NW Territories/Maritime Provinces...checked them out lately? Vanacouver's cost of living is on an equal with San Fransisco! (A million US a month for a three-bedroom condo. It's easier for YOU to emigrate than me! (Even though US 1.00 equals CAD .75) I say, let's have our very rich friend, Inger, download this and e-mail it to me! Think we can entice her?

Aside: There are many Americans (including me) who are considering moving to Canada for particular reasons.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
Would that I did have the money to fly you all out to Oz!

I do second Bob's nomination of TAOS as a great primary source for what it was like in those transitional days from sail to steam. To answer your question; yes, there were two forms of BoT certification available in 1912. One could either aim for a Master's ticket in sail or in steam. However, if you were ambitious and expected to get anywhere with companies such as Cunard or the WSL, it had to be in sail. Sail trained officers were regarded as having undergone more rigorous training and experiences, and were regarded as better all-rounders. The WSL's own training ship, the Mersey, was a sailing vessel, even though the company itself ran steamers. It was only with the war and the shortage of officers in the merchant service with these larger companies (many of their pre-war officers were RNR, and went into the Navy for the duration) that these strictures began to relax and these companies began taking in more steam trained officers. Men like Bestic, for example, were able to get a berth on the Lusitania. I should add that though certification in sail was preferred (and, indeed, a requirement pre-war for larger companies), they also had to have had experience in steam.

Skills hard won in sail, among both officers and ABs, began to atrophy after a while in Steam. I was reading about one of the last great William Thomas vessels the other day, the Metropolis, and a voyage on which she made what was for her a comparatively slow crossing. The crew put it down to her master being a man who had been in sail, gone to steam, and had come back to command a vessel in sail again, the result being that he had lost confidence. Men of the era snorted about 'knocking of the sea and going into steam' or spoke of 'ships of wood, men of iron. Ships of iron, men of wood.'

Of the Titanic's offices, Joseph Boxhall spent the shortest amount of time in sail. There was some anxiety for them when they made the transition - James Moody left a wonderful record of moving into steam. It was clear to these men that this was the future of their profession, as the runs on which sail could still compete with steam were becoming fewer and fewer. So Moody, with the help of his last sailing ship master, simply signed on a steamer after he had earned his second mate's certification. The period whilst she prepared for sea was somewhat nerveracking for him, because, as he put it, there was so much he didn't know about being in a 'hot water bottle', and 'I never open my mouth without I shall have my foot in it.' In the end, though, there were no mishaps and he spent the remainder of his short career, and life, in steam.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Thanks, Inger (even though we won't be flying down on your dollar!). I didn't realize the strict emphasis on sail-training during those days, especially during the transition to steam, but it makes sense. Interesting about the WSL training ship being a sailing vessel, too. I mentioned this because I saw a film several years ago ("Rounding the Horn" I think?). I believe it was filmed in the 1920's and the footage was filmed by a very young seaman (18 or so) from the Crow's Nest vantage point, and showed this huge clipper sailing around Cape Horn, going from doldrums to full-force gale seas and winds. (How the guy managed to film and not fall is a miracle). He narrated it as an older man, mentioning his particular sail-training and lamenting the fact that the steamers would soon be "taking over" for good. I believe he was an American, as was the ship (?), whose name I cannot remember. I think he must have been a "ships of wood, men of iron" kind of fellow!
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
There's some amazing footage and photos from those last days of sail (and literature too - Lubbock's Last of the Windjammers springs to mind), Mary. One of the most remarkable documents I've read is a letter written by a young apprentice on his first crossing in sail to NY. As the weeks unfolded, he added entries to the letter as one would in a diary. Once they hit dirty weather the voyage took on the aspect of a nightmare...going aloft when the ship was rolling to such an extreme it seemed that her mast tops would touch the waves, losing one man to a fall from the rigging and another to suicide, their quarters being so badly flooded that the apprentices couldn't sleep in them some nights, but had to curl up in the cockpit, and so on and so forth. A comprehensive study as late as the 1920s revealed that rates of accidental death and disease were considerably higher for seamen than they were for men of a comparable age and social strata ashore.
 
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Noel F. Jones

Member
"A comprehensive study as late as the 1920s revealed that rates of accidental death and disease were considerably higher for seamen than they were for men of a comparable age and social strata ashore."

With the exception of the related occupation of deep sea fisherman:

The occupation of the merchant seaman has - statistically and consistently - been the most dangerous of all occupations.

Noel
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Well, Inger, I guess that lets those of us who dive with whales and sharks off the hook for most dangerous (leisure) occupation! I'm not surprised about the dangers that merchant seaman have faced over the hundreds of years, though.
A question for Noel: "With the exception of the related occupation of deep sea fisherman" - is this because deep-sea fishing is done closer to shore, utilizes smaller boats and crew, uses several craft at a time rather than just one, or anything else? I'm curious about this, because this is a BIG DEAL on the Gulf shores near here...mainly for pleasure, though - I think. I'm not from this area originally, have no desire to haul in a marlin, and definitely no expert! Thanks, Noel.
 
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Noel F. Jones

Member
The data relates to the deep sea fishing industry. 'Sport fishing' is out of the equation.

The risks to personnel primarily arise from the constant operation of deck machinery while on station, more often than not in heavy weather relative to the size of vessel.

Noel
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Thank you, Noel. Why is the deep sea fishing industry an exception to the mortality rate of the merchant seaman? I apologize if I have not worded this question correctly. I've read Jung's "Perfect Storm" (who hasn't?) and know that this type of disaster is not a common occurance these days. Thanks.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
I had heard that the most dangerous occupation was that of Alaskan crab fisherman. It's been a while since I read The Perfect Storm, but I do seem to recall that Jung did discuss how hazardous the job was? He didn't have to look far to find people whose experiences were comparable to what the men on the Andrea Gail went through - with the difference that they survived.

Here's the International Labour Organisation's 1999 report on Health and Safety in the commerical fishing industry that gives commerical fishing fatalites for several countries, allowing easy comparision. In the UK, for example, in 1995-96 there were 77 fatal injuries per 100,000 fishermen. This made it the most dangerous occupation by a significant margin - the next highest rate of fatalies was mining and quarrying at 23.2 per 100,000.

http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/sector/techmeet/tmfi99/tmfir8.htm
 
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Noel F. Jones

Member
"Thank you, Noel. Why is the deep sea fishing industry an exception to the mortality rate of the merchant seaman?"

If I understand your question correctly:

The data I referred to is specific to the UK but may safely be extrapolated worldwide. As to why the UK statisticians differentiate between deep sea fishing and merchant seafaring the reason for this is historical. The economics of, and working conditions in, the two industries are quite apart from each other.

It is interesting to see that Mining and Quarrying has supplanted merchant seagoing in the latest statistics. This is probably a reflection of the decline into relative insignificance of the UK flag merchant fleet such that any short-term statistic arising therefrom is no longer a representative sample.

Much of the fleet now comprises cross-channel and short-sea vessels which accrue lesser risk to personnel than vessels engaged in transoceanic worldwide trading, which in the past was the greater part of the industry. Even so, I wouldn't have thought there was much mining in the UK now - that's a much debilitated industry also.

Perhaps an average over a decade will restore the historical status quo.

I hope that helps but, as you might discern, I'm a little out of my territory here.

Noel
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Great information on both industries, and I thank you for answering my question, Noel and Inger. I'm more familiar with with mining - which is to say not much at all!
 
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