Living Quarters

There could be weeks and sometimes months between whale sightings. During the four hour shifts when common seamen were off-duty, they typically spent their time in the cramped forecastle. This crowded living space reeked of unwashed bodies, mildew, and tallow candles. It featured bunk beds and a single sea chest for each sailor. There was no privy or toilet for the men. Instead seamen used a urine barrel and the bowsprit. In the fo’c’sle, sailors slept, ate, smoked, sang, played cards and roughhoused. They also cleaned and mended clothing, read, wrote letters home, tied elaborate knots and carved scrimshaw.

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Martha's Vineyard Museum