We are very close to releasing our first video dev diary focusing on the crew management on the ship, so I have decided to follow it up with a piece describing the sailor ‘career ladder’ during the Age of Sail. Very often in our world, we are divided into different groups and classes by various systems. Sometimes, when you apply for a job, you may not get it, if you are not from an appropriate class, which nowadays is defined by the level of education, manners, social environment or even nationality and accent. Does this sound familiar to you?
In the 17th century, it was nearly impossible to overcome this problem. In the Royal Navy, from the start, existed a division on the gentlemen and non-gentlemen. If you were a lowborn, you couldn’t enter the officer class with the exception of petty officers. Let’s have a closer look to the career path of a young, brawny and talented sailor from bottom to top.
When you join Royal Navy as a recruit, you first and foremost task is not to die. The senior crew members would call you “landsman” with a grin, as for them you are a landlubber - person, who is unfamiliar with the sea or seamanship. As you lacked any education and often any profession (useful on a ship), your main duty was to swab (wash) the deck.
After two or three years of such a fascinating life, if you have managed to survive all of the illnesses and harm, you became an “ordinary seaman”. Now you could choose one of two main specializations: rigger or one of the low deck jobs (assistant of a gunner, cook, etc.). From this moment you will be educated by other sailors and officers, and receive a normal salary.
After another two or three years, you became an “able seaman”. Able seamen are the core of any ship, they are its bones and muscles. At this point, you are well aware of where is your place on the ship and how to do your work well. Riggers, gunners, carpenters - all of these occupations are usually filled with able seaman. However, for most non-gentlemen sailors it will be the peak of the career. But let’s not forget now that you are talented.
For a few talented sailors who stand out from others, it was possible to become a “leading seaman”. You are now one of the petty officers and your duties expand. You will be educating parts of the crew, watch after your section of the ship, communicate with the officers and pass the orders. At this point, you are respected among the crew and you represent their interests to the officers.
Now you know more about the lowborn sailor career path. Was it interesting? If you enjoyed it, please like the post and share feedback with us.