Boy's Manual of Seamanship and Gunnery

First Instruction

Q. NAME the decks of a three-decked ship ?

A. Ships termed in the Navy three-deckers, are so named from having three batteries or gun decks under the upper deck, but they actually have five decks, viz., upper, main, middle, lower, and orlop deck, such as the " Impregnable" and "St. Vincent" training ships for boys ; the " Britannia," training ship for Naval Cadets; the " Excellent, " gunnery ship at Portsmouth; and the " Duke of Wellington," receiving ship at Portsmouth.

Q. Name the decks of a two-decked ship ?

A. So named from having two gun decks below the upper deck, but in reality, a ship termed a two-decker in the Navy has four decks, -viz., upper, main, lower, and orlop decks, such as the " Boscawen," " Implacable, " and " Ganges," training ships for boys.

Q. Name the decks of a frigate?

A. Upper, main, and lower decks ; a frigate has only one gun deck below the upper deck ; the main deck.

Q. Name the decks of a corvette or smaller vessel ?

A. Upper and lower decks; the upper deck is the gun deck.

The arrangements as to decks, holds, &c., of an iron-clad are quite different to a regular built frigate.

An iron ship, iron plated, is built in compartments (water tight).

For example: The " Resistance " and " Defence " class.

The main deck is divided into three compartments, named the after; battery, and fore compartments.

All below the main deck is divided into flats, entirely separated from each other by water-tight partitions.

A separate hatchway and ladder communicates with each flat from the main deck, therefore there is no possibility of getting from one flat to another, without again going on the main deck.

There are about thirteen flats in the " Defence " class, named according, to the use the flat is appropriated to.

Q. Name the yards, masts, and spars, in a full-rigged ship ?

A. All spars take their names from the mast to which they belong, viz., foremast, mainmast, mizenmast, fore topmast, main topmast, mizen topmast, fore topgallant and royal mast, main topgallant and royal mast, mizen topgallant and royal mast; the topgallant and royal mast are in one. Bowsprit, jib-boom, and flying jib-boom are the spars projecting from the bows. The lower yards are named fore and main yards, and the lower yard on the mizenmast is called the cross-jack-yard, on which no sail is set. The topsails, topgallant, and royal yards are named fore, main, or mizen, according to which mast they are attached, dolphin-striker, and spritsail-gaff on bowsprit. Topmast studding-sail booms on fore-yard ; topgallant studding - sail booms on fore and main topsail yards ; they are seldom carried on a mizen topsail-yard. Trysail masts are small masts placed abaft the lower masts to which they are attached, for the purpose of setting the spanker and fore and main trysail on. The spanker, or main boom, is the spar projecting over the taffrail, the inner part is fitted to the mizenmast in a ship, and to the mainmast in a brig, by two cleats or chocks of wood called jaws, forming a semicircle round the masts to keep them in place.

Q. Name the parts of a topsail?

A. Head, leeches, and foot ; the top is the head, the bottom is the foot, and the sides are the leeches ; the clews are the two lower corners, they are formed by the foot and leeches ; the head-earing cringles are in the upper corners, formed by the head and leech-ropes.

NOTE.-This applies to all square sails.

Q. How many bands has a topsail?

A. Six bands : four reef-bands, a belly-band, and a foot-hand.

Q. What is a reef-band ?

A. Double part of canvas across a topsail or course, for working eyelet.-holes for the reef-lines.

Q. What is a belly-band ?

A. An extra cloth of canvas across the belly of a topsail or course, below the fourth reef-band of a topsail, and the second reef-band of a course, to strengthen the sail midway between the lower reef and foot.

NOTE.-This applies to either sail.

Q. What is a foot-band

A. An extra part of canvas along the foot of the sail.

Q. What is a mast lining?

A. An extra part of canvas on the after part of the topsail, to take the chafe of the topmast and cap, extending from the third reef band to the belly-band, and about two cloths in width.

Q. What is a top lining ?

A. Double part of canvas on the after part of a topsail, to take the chafe of the top, extending from belly-band to foot in length, and in width according to the size of the ship.

Q. What are the buntline cloths ?

A. Double part of canvas on the fore part of a topsail, to take the chafe of the buntlines, extending in an angular direction, from foot to belly-band.

Q. What is a reef-tackle patch?

A. Extra part of canvas, to take the strain of the reef-tackle of a topsail.

Q. What is a goring cloth?

A. A side cloth of a topsail cut obliquely, or lining of a topsail, called by sailmakers the leech-lining.

Q. What is the tabling of a topsail, or any other square sail?

A. Double part of the sail to which the bolt rope is secured.

Q. What are eyelet-holes ?

A. Holes, with small grummets sewn in them, formed in the tabling and reef-bands, for the cringles, robands, reeflines, and buntline toggles.

Q. What are cringles?

A. A strand of rope worked through two eyelet holes in the leech of the sail round the bolt rope, for reef earrings, bowline bridles, and reef-tackle pendants.

NOTE.-Head earring cringles are spliced in the leech rope.

Q. Are all the cringles fitted alike?

A . No, the reef-earring and reef-tackle cringles have thimbles in them, to take the chafe of the reef-earrings and reef-tackle pendant, also to prevent the earrings jamming, and insure their rendering easily.

Q. What are robands ?

A. Pieces of sennit plaited round the head rope of a topsail, or any other square sail, for securing it to the jackstay.

Q. Are all robands alike?

A. No ; the midship roband is round rope, so that in shifting topsails, the captain of a top will readily distinguish it from the other robands, and as soon as he ascertains the topsail is clear of turns, and on the right slew, he at once secures the midship roband as near the centre of the yard as possible, so as to prevent the men at the yard-arm from hauling the sail more out to one yard-arm than to the other ; mid-ship robands are secured round the tye-block, or blocks ; if fitted with a double tye, your sail should be fitted with two midship robands.

Q. What is a bolt rope ?

A. The rope secured round the sides of a topsail to the tabling, or any other square sail.

Q. Is a foot rope secured to a topsail, or course in a similar way to the leech and head rope ?

A. No, the foot rope being wormed, parcelled, and served, it would be impossible to get a needle through it ; it is therefore marled to the topsail or course.

Q. What are head-earrings?

A. Pieces of rope spliced into the head-earring cringles, for the purpose of hauling the head of the topsail, or any other square sail, out to the head-earring strops, and taut along the yard. They are fitted with a long eye ; it forms a double part when rove through the head-earring cringle.

Q. What is a reef-earring?

A. Reef-earrings are pieces of rope, in size according to the size of the leech-rope, as when a topsail is reefed the reef-earring, when passed is supposed to bear the same amount of strain as the leech-rope.

The first and second reef-earrings are fitted with a running eye round the yard-arm, outside the lifts ; they are in length twice and a half the depths of the reefs, i.e., the first reef-earring is twice and a half the depth of the first reef, and the second reef-earring twice and a half the depth of both first and second reefs.

The third and fourth reef-earrings are spliced into the eyelet-hole in the lower part of the third and fourth reef cringles, forming a long eye sufficient to admit of both parts of the eye going round the yard and through the thimble of the reef-cringle again. The two parts of the earrings forming the long-eye are marled together, the bight being seized to the eyelet-hole. The other end of the earrings are hitched as follows : the end of the third reef-earring is rove through the second reef earring-cringle, and bowline knotted to its own part, and the end of the fourth reef-earring in a similar way through the third reef-cringle.

What is a gasket ?

A. All gaskets on lower and topsail yards are made of sword matting, cut to the required length, and fitted with an eye in each end. The upper eye is fitted with a lanyard, it is secured to the head rope of the sail. The proper length to cut a gasket is half the round of the part of the yard the gasket is to go on.

For topgallant and royal yards the harbour-gaskets are made, the upper part of French and the lower part of English sennit, an eye is formed in the upper part in making the gasket and seized to the jackstay of the yard.

Sea-gaskets, are made all through of English sennit : an eye is formed in the outer end, which is seized to the yard-arm, the gaskets being long enough to pass roundabout-turns round the sail and yard, from yard-arm to quarter, the inner end being secured to the jackstay.

Q. What is the difference between a bunt and yard-arm gasket ?

A. All bunt-gaskets are of sword matting, and the lanyards are spliced in the lower instead of the upper eyes. The upper eyes, for a course or topsail, are seized to the head ropes of the sail. For topgallant or royal yards they are seized to the jackstays. Bunt-gaskets always cross in the middle, and are secured to opposite quarters.

Q. What is a bowline bridle ?

A. Pieces of rope spliced into the bowline cringle, as follows:

For a fore and mizen-topsail, the upper bridle is spliced, the upper end to the upper bowline cringle, and the lower end in the middle bowline cringle. The lower bridle the upper end, is spliced round the upper bridle, and the lower end in the lower bowline cringle.

The bridles are in length (when fitted) once and one-third the drift of the cringles.

The upper one is served two-thirds up, and the lower one two-thirds down.

For a main topsail, the upper end of the upper bowline bridle is spliced in the upper bowline cringle, the lower end to the second cringle. The lower bridle the upper end is spliced into the third, and the lower end into the fourth cringles. The middle bridle the upper end is spliced found the lower part of the upper bridle, and the lower end round the upper part of the lower bridle.

The upper and middle bridles are served two-thirds up ; and the lower two-thirds down.

The length to cut a bowline bridle is one and two-thirds the drift from cringle to cringle.

Q. What is a clew-hanger ?

A. A piece of 1 or 2 in. rope, according to the size of the topsail, about two fathoms in length ; they are generally spliced round the upper part of the parrel ; when the sail is furled, they are passed round the clew, and hauled taut back to the parrel again, where they are secured.

The clew-hangers on a lower yard are fitted in a similar way, only spliced into the truss strop instead of the parrel ; sometimes they are spliced in the jackstay in the bunt of the lower yard.

Q. How do you know a main from a fore or mizen topsail?

A. The main has four bowline bridle cringles, and a fore or mizen has only three.

Q. How do you know the fore from the after part of a topsail?

A. The roping is sewed on the after part of all square sails.

Q. What would be the consequence if a topsail or any other square sail was bent, with the roping part forward ?

A. The stitches would chafe through, and the sail would blow out of the bolt ropes.

Q. How is the bead-earring secured ?

A. The end is rove through the thimble of the head-earring strop, from up down, and through the head-earring cringle from down up ; these are called the two outer turns, it is then passed four times round the yard and through the head-earring cringle each time ; these are called the four inner turns ; the end is then clove hitched round all parts of the outer turns, and expended round them or the jackstay ; thus, the number of turns taken with the head-earring are two outer and four inner.

Q. How do you secure a roband ?

A. A roband is passed round the jackstay, over, and under, and through the eyelet-hole in the head of the topsail, or any other square sail, and secured with a clove-hitch.

Q. What are reef-lines?

A. Lines running across each reef-band on fore part of a topsail, from leech to leech, secured to the upper eyelet-hole of the reef-cringle.

Q. What are naval lines ?

A. Lines running across the after part of a topsail, from leech to leech, for the purpose of securing the reef-lines, the ends of the naval lines are also secured to the upper eyelet, holes of the reef-cringles.

Q. What is a spilling line ?

A. A line up and down the fore part of a topsail, for spilling the sail when reefing.

Q. How is a reef-line secured by a naval line ?

A. Trice the sail up by the first reef-cringles, and haul it well taut, pass your naval line the aft side of the sail, making, it fast to the cringles, and heaving well taut.

Well stretch your reef-line, measure the length of your reef-bands and allow a foot extra for every three holes, the length to cut your reef-line.

Commence reeving your reef-line in the centre, and work both ways ; the man that works to the right will pass the line through the hole under the naval line, and receive back over, the man that works to the left will pass it over and under, and so on to the end, securing it to the upper hole in the cringle, and splicing it to its own part ; the other reefs in the same manner.

Q. What is the use of a reef-tackle ?

A. To light the sail out to the yard-arms in reefing arm shifting topsails.

Q. What are slab-points?

A. Slab-points are reef-points, rove through the eyelet-hole, and the reef line and naval line rove through them on their respective side.

Figures to denote the Force of the Wind 




denotes Calm 


Light Air


just sufficient to give steerage way 


Light Breeze

with which a well-conditioned man-of-war, under all sail and clean full, would go in smooth water from

1 to 2 knot,.


Gentle Breeze

with which a well-conditioned man-of-war, under all sail and clean full, would go in smooth water from 

3 to 4 knots 


Moderate Breeze

with which a well-conditioned man-of-war, under all sail and clean full, would go in smooth water from

5 to 6 knots .


Fresh Breeze

in which the same ship could just carry close hauled

Royals, &c.

Strong Breeze

in which the same ship could just carry close hauled

Single reefs and topgallant sails. 


Moderate Gale

 in which the same ship could just carry close hauled

Double reefs, jib, &c.


Fresh Gale

in which the same ship could just carry close hauled

Triple-reefs, courses, &c


Strong Gale

in which the same ship could just carry close hauled

Close - reefs and courses. 


Whole Gale

with which she could only bear

Close-reefed main topsail and reefed foresail. 



with which she would be reduced to

Storm staysails. 



to which she could show no canvas


Letters to denote the State of the Weather


denotes Blue Sky-whether with clear or hazy atmosphere


Cloudy-i.e. Detached opening clouds


Drizzling Rain




Thick Fog


Gloomy Dark Weather






Misty or Hazy-so as to interrupt the View. 


Overcast-i.e. the whole sky covered with one impervious cloud. 


Passing Showers.




Rain i.e. Continuous Rain,






Ugly threatening appearance in the weather.


Visibility of Distant Objects-whether the sky be cloudy  or not.


Wet Dew.


Under any letter denotes an Extraordinary Degree.

By the combination of these letters all the ordinary phenomena of the weather may be recorded with certainty and brevity.


b c m

Blue sky, with detached opening clouds, but hazy round the horizon.

g v

Gloomy, dark weather, but distant objects remarkably visible.

q p d l t

Very hard squalls, and showers of drizzle accompanied by lightning, with very heavy thunder


Division of the Crew

Q. How is a crew divided for performing the different duties of the ship ?

A. Into two parts, or watches, called the starboard a port watch - odd numbers, starboard watch; even numbers, port watch. They stand on the watch bill as follows:-

  • Chief Petty Officers and Instructors
  • Boatswain's Mates, Quartermasters, Signal Men
  • Forecastle Men.
  • Fore-top Men, Main-top Men, Mizen-top Men.
  • Quarter Deck Men
  • Carpenters
  • Working Idlers
  • Excused Idlers
  • Stokers
  • Marines
  • N.B.-The terms after guard and gunners are abolished. and those bodies incorporated under the designation of quarter deck men, captains of the after guard becoming captains of the quarter deck men, gunners' mates retaining the name. The first part of quarter deck men will, where requisite, perform the duties that have hitherto been allotted to gunners' crews, the second part, those allotted to after guard. The gunners' mates will be at the head of the first part, and the captains of quarter deck men the second.


    Q. How are the two watches distinguished from each other?

    A. By m piece of bright red tape, sewn on the sleeve of the blue serge and a piece of blue dungaree on the sleeve of the white frock worn on the right arm by the starboard watch, and on the left arm by the port watch.

    Q. Are there any other marks of distinction?

    A. Yes; all above the rating of A.B. wear a badge of distinction on their left arm-viz.

    A chief petty officer anchor and crown and wreath of oak leaf.
    First-class petty officer cross anchors and crown.
    Second-class petty officer anchor and crown
    Leading seamen anchor

    Mark of Distinction worn by Seamen Gunners.

  • Gunnery instructors: a crown over cross-gun, rifle, and sword.
  • First-class seamen gunners : a crown over a gun.
  • Second-class seamen gunners: a gun.
  • These distinctive badges are now worn on the right arm.

    All seamen of good character are now entitled to good conduct badges, of the following colours

  • On cloth . . . . . . . . .in gold.
  • On blue serge . . . . . . . .in red (bright).
  • On white duck or drill. . . .in blue.
  • The distance between badges is to be three eighths of an inch.

    Each watch is divided into two parts, and in large ships' companies, where there are a great number of men, it is found necessary to again divide the parts into sub-divisions.

    Q. In working ship, with the hands on deck, how are the watches divided

    A. The starboard watch work the starboard side of the deck, and the port watch the port side of the deck.

    Q. Working ship with the watch only, how is the watch divided

    A. The first part, the starboard side of the deck, and the second part, the port side of the deck.

    Q. How is the day and night divided into watches?

    A. The twenty-four hours is divided into seven watches - viz., afternoon watch, from noon to 4 o'clock ; first dog watch, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; second dog watch, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. ; first watch, from 8 p.m. to midnight; middle watch, from midnight to 4 a.m. ; morning watch, from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.; forenoon watch, from 8 a.m. noon.

    The dog watches, being of only two hours each, and all the other watches four hours each, is the cause of the watches changing every twenty-four hours : thus the watch that had the first watch last night, would have the middle watch to-night ; by this plan, each watch has in turns eight hours on deck every other night at sea, and eight hours in their hammocks likewise, every other night.

    Q. How is the time denoted on board ship

    A. By striking a bell in the following way :-

    Noon or midnight, eight o'clock and four o'clock 8 strokes of the bell
    Half-past twelve, four, or eight o'clock . . . 1 bell
    Half-past six in the last dog watch . . . . . 1 bell
    One, five, and nine o'clock . . . . . . . . . . 2 bells
    Half-past one, five, and nine o'clock . . . . . 3 bells
    Half-past seven in the last dog watch . . . . . 3 bells
    Two, six, and ten o'clock . . . . . . . . . . . 4 bells
    Half-past two, six, and ten o'clock . . . . . . 5 bells
    Three, seven, and eleven o'clock . . . . . . . 6 bells
    Half-past three, seven, and eleven o'clock . . 7 bells.

    Thus it will be found, that the number of bells denoting the time from six to eight o'clock in the last dog watch differs from the number of bells denoting the same hour in the morning watch, on account of commencing them again with the last dog watch.


    Q. How is the crew divided into messes ?

    A. Master at arms, seaman-schoolmaster, and ship's steward have a mess place amidships.

    The chief petty officers mess alone; 1st class petty officers mess alone.

    The remainder of the crew are divided into messes, with , an equal number of each watch forming the mess, so as to insure half of each mess below at a time for cleaning the mess deck &c. - two petty officers generally in a mess.

    Q. Where do the crew mess?

    A. In a line-of-battle ship, on the lower deck, one mess in each space, between the guns,

    In an iron-clad, in the battery compartment, two messes in each space, between the guns.

    In a frigate, or smaller vessel, on the lower deck, an equal number of messes each side of the deck.

    The marines always occupy the after messes on each side of the deck in all ships.

    The boys are equally distributed among the messes.

    Sleeping Arrangements for the Crew.

    Q. How are the hammocks berthed?

    A. The numbers are arranged in rotation, commencing forward, and working aft, the numbers running athwart ships ; by which plan, with a watch on deck, every other hammock is empty.

    The boatswain's mates sleep close to the hatchways, ready for a call at the shortest notice.

    Boys are berthed in the fore part, or one side of the main deck, under the charge of a sentry and a ship's corporal.


    Every one of the ship's company (and officers not provided with cabins) have two hammocks supplied to them; they are numbered for the crew with the number corresponding to their number on the watch bill; in the case of an officer, they are distinguished by a letter and number also.

    One set is marked with a white figure on a black patch, and the other with a black figure on a white patch.

    Marines with red figures, one on a white, and the other on a black patch.

    Q. Where are the hammocks stowed?

    A. In the hammock nettings, which are fitted all round the upper deck; on top of the bulwarks.


    A bag is also supplied to each man and boy, for keeping their kit in, bearing their number on the watch bill; thus it is easily ascertained (by referring to the watch bill), when a hammock or bag is found knocking about the decks, to whom it belongs.

    Q. Where are the bags stowed ?

    A. In the bag-racks, which are erected in a line-of-battle ship in the fore cockpit.

    In a frigate, forward on the lower deck, or round the deck, under the mess tables.

    In an iron-clad, in the bag rack flat.

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