Roll Lash-Up and Stow

Roll Lash-Up and Stow

Copies available from Appledore Maritime Museum at special price of £3.25.   In Nelson’s time a sailor’s day started with “up hammocks” piped at 7am and shouts of “roll, lash-up and stow”. Having dressed, prior to rolling, lashing and stowing his hammock, he holystoned and washed the deck until breakfast. Piped at eight o’clock it was burgoo, whole wheat porridge, and Spanish coffee made from burnt bread, sugar and boiling water. After breakfast he was engaged on was done to avoid its interruption. Supper was piped at four and “down hammocks” was at seven.

Rations included hard rice flour biscuits supposedly “good for a year” after baking but, stored in linen bags, soon became infested with weevils. A fussy man tapped his biscuit against a hard surface to dislodge them. Weevils were fat, light yellow and had a sharp bitter taste. Each man was allotted four pounds of salt beef (suppliers sometimes substituted horse) two pounds of salt pork, one and a half pounds of oatmeal, two pounds of peas, six ounces of sugar and twelve ounces of cheese per week. Other supplies include flour and raisins for making duff. No one received full rations because the Purser, who was not expected to run out, deducted two ounces from every pound as a reserve, and to profit himself.

A “scuttle butt” of drinking water was supplied. However, after months at sea, the water was foul and men much preferred their daily gallon of beer. Rum was mixed two parts water to one part rum. After 1798 tobacco was free at the rate of two pounds per month, although more could be bought from the Purser. Most smoked clay pipes (not below deck) but tobacco, often chewed to allay the pain of rotting teeth, occasionally caused cancer of the throat and mouth.

Battles between ships often took place at point blank range with riggings enmeshed or with bow sprits tied together. So close that ram rods were occasionally snatched from opposing crews temporarily rendering a cannon useless. Double shotted thirty-six pound canons smashed a hole through one side of a ship and out of the other.

Combined with harsh conditions, iron discipline, poor diet, disease, inaccurate charts and bad navigation, fire, unsound ships and storms, action was not the sailor’s worst enemy. During twenty years of hostilities and ten major battles, including Trafalgar, 1 512 men were killed by enemy action, 13,600 by accidental loss or bad weather and 72,000 died of disease or by accident. Oh for the life of a sailor and a sailor’s life at sea!

Roger Sugar

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