Crew hierarchy overview

Updated: Mar 11, 2019

Hello, guys!

This year we will be wrapping up with crew management mechanic in Maritime Law, which we’ll present you in a video dev diary in January. As for now, I’d like to go through the crew management from the historical point of view, including its organizational structure. We’ll be reviewing the common folk path, avoiding the gentlemen for now.


What is important for us? That a sailor was a prestige profession in the 17th century (especially in England and Netherlands), primarily due to the high wages. Common folk, like farmers or craftsmen, were barely making a living, while the sailors earned 2-3 times more than them. The second important reason was that anyone could join the royal fleet. However, the first two or three years were awful for most of them. They were called Landsmen. The main task for them was not to die in the dangerous sea and to mop the deck.


After these two or three years passed, the sailor became an ordinary seaman. These crew members could work with masts or sometimes they can help with the guns, but still, their role was mainly an assistant. Now their job was to learn the craft and become more experienced in one of the professional areas on the ship.


In two years, the sailor finally became an able seaman. These guys were the core and foundation of the ship. Most of the work was done by their hands. Experienced and mature, they were looking after the masts, guns, supplies and everything else on the ship. For the most non-gentlemen sailors, it was the top of their career, as it was really hard to learn more. After this stage, the sailor had two paths of progression. First is to prove your magnificent abilities to an officer which was nearly impossible. The second way was to be an irreplaceable assistant to a sub-officer and it was quite realistic because sometimes sub-officers knew less than their assistants.


Finally, the last stage for non-gentlemen sailors was a petty officer rank. Only a few exceptional sailors could become for example a boatswain, but these people were crucial assistants for the captain himself. If the able seamen are the core of a ship, the petty officers are the nerves. The only way to make the ship moving is to give the order to these people. They were the most respected crew members and they were organizing the life and discipline on the ship. Yet sometimes they were also the first one who rebelled against the captain when something goes wrong.


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