Life at Sea

Routes to China during NE Monsoons

Map in book showing best sailing routes taken to go to the Asian Pacific, during the NE Monsoon season, from October to April.

From The Seaman's Guide to the Navigation of the Indian Ocean and China Sea by W.H. Rosser and J.F. Imray, 1867.

Bill of Lading, bark John Carver

Merchant ships carry bills of lading which document their cargo and destination.This bill of lading is for a voyage of the bark John Carver from New York to Cuba in March, 1866. The cargo, made up of barrels, shooks (broken-down barrels), headings, and staves were used in Cuba to ship molasses and sugar back to the United States and to other destinations.

The John Carver was a bark built in Searsport by John Carver in 1842. She was sold to New Bedford for a second career as a whaler in 1866.

Speaking Trumpet

Speaking trumpet, 22 inches long, inscribed "From pilot boat Effort, New Bedford, Mass. to Pilot Boat Clarence Barclay of Salem." The 325 ton Clarence Barclay was built in Salem in 1856; this speaking trumpet was likely a gift in recognition for some help given to the New Bedford boat, but that story, along with how it got to the museum, is lost.

Chart Showing the International Signal Flags

International signal flags have been used to communicate between merchant ships for almost two centuries, though the system of communication has changed. The first widely used code was created by Captain Fredrick Marryat, Royal Navy, in 1817, using numbers only. Numbers were assigned to ships and then later letters after the introduction of a new code in 1857. These were published in ship registers, with each ship having a unique set of letters, just as automobiles have unique license plates. In 1857, when the system was revised, some 40,000 were needed.

Hoisting Signal Flags on the Carrie Winslow

Signal flags identified a vessel to other vessels like a license plate on an automobile. By the time of this photograph vessels were assigned letters which were published in shipping registers. Carrie Winslow's signal was JTQL. Here signal flags are hoisted to send a message to another vessel. The photograph was taken by the captain's daughter , Ruth Montgomery in 1898, aboard the bark Carrie Winslow.

Receipt for the Purchase of Musical Instruments

While in Hull, England in October of 1883, Captain Henry A. Starrett of the Thomaston-built and owned ship Levi G. Burgess bought a number of musical instruments to be sold to the crew through the slop chest. He must have had some musicians among his sailors. The receipt is for the purchase of three melodeons, a "miniature," three concertinas, a flute, and two tambourines.

The Burgess was launched in 1877, and Starrett was her captain until 1886; two years later she was sold to San Francisco owners.

Crossing the Line Ceremony

When a ship crossed the Equator, sailors who were crossing for the first time (Pollywogs) were iniitiated into King Neptune's realm, becoming Shellbacks. Crew members who were Shellbacks staged a ceremony with King Neptune coming out of the deep and initiating the new sailors. It was not pleasant. For this Crossing the Line ceremony one Shellback is playing a button accordion.

Articles of Agreement, August 4, 1874, Ship Frank N. Thayer: Required Minimum Food Provisions

The Articles of Agreement is a contract between the ship and the crew, outlining appropriate behavior, wages, length of voyage, and food provided to the crew. This is from the Articles of Agreement, August 4, 1874, Ship Frank N.Thayer.

Weighing Anchor on Ship Abbie Palmer

The crew is heaving away at the capstan bars, turning the capstan to bring in or weigh anchor, at least this is what the photographer set up with the crew. The photograph is posed. Many of the crew are looking at the photographer, as is the gentleman on the right, likely the mate. There is no line wrapped around the capstan. The sailor nearest the camera needs some repair work on his trousers.

Pa and Wheatley Sewing Sails on the Bark Carrie Winslow

Sailmaking and sail repair were regular work aboard a sailing vessel. Here, Capt. Montgomery is working with a crew member repairing a sail. The big round wheels near the mast belong to the ship's pump. The photograph was taken by the captain's daughter, Ruth Montgomery, aboard the bark Carrie Winslow in 1898.


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