Chapter IV.

CARPENTER.-- Almost every merchant vessel of a large class, or bound upon a long voyage, carries a carpenter. His duty is to work at his trade under the direction of the master, and to assist in all-hands work according to his ability. He is stationed with the larboard or starboard watch, as he may be needed, though, if there is no third mate, usually with the larboard. In working ship, if he is an able seaman, (as well as carpenter,) he will be put in some more important place, as looking after the main tack and bowlines, or working the forecastle with the mate; and if capable of leading his watch aloft, he would naturally take the bunt or an earing. He is not expected to handle the light sails, nor to go above the topsail yards, except upon the work of his trade. If he ships for an able seaman as well as carpenter, he must be capable of doing seaman's work upon the rigging and taking his turn at the wheel, if called upon; though he would not be required to do it except in bad weather, or in case the vessel should be short-handed. If he does not expressly ship for seaman as well as carpenter, no nautical skill can be required of him; but he must still, when all hands are called, or if ordered by the master, pull and haul about decks, and go aloft in the work usual on such occasions, as reefing and furling. But the inferior duties of the crew, as sweeping decks, slushing, tarring, &c., would not be put upon him, nor would he be required to do any strictly seaman's work, except taking a helm in case of necessity, or such work as all hands join in.

The carpenter is not an officer, has no command, and cannot give an order even to the smallest boy; yet he is a privileged person. He live in the steerage, with the steward, has charge of the ship's chest of tools, and in all things connected with his trade, is under the sole direction of the master. The chief mate has no authority over him, in his trade, unless it be in case of the master's absence or disability. In all things pertaining to the working of the vessel, however, and as far he acts in the capacity of a seaman, he must obey the orders of the officers as implicitly as any of the crew would; though, perhaps, and order from the second mate would come somewhat in the form of a request. Yet there is no doubt that he must obey the second mate in his proper place, as much as he would the master in his. Although he lives in the steerage, he gets his food from the galley, from the same mess with the men in the forecastle, having no better or different fare in any respect; and he has no right on the quarterdeck, but must take his place on the forecastle with the common seaman.

In many vessels, during fine weather, upon long voyages, the carpenter stands no watch, but "sleeps in" at night, is called at daylight, and works all day at his trade. But in this case, whenever all hands are called, he must come up with the rest. In bad weather, when he cannot well work at his trade, or if the vessel becomes short-handed, he is put in a watch, and does duty on deck, turning in and out with the rest. In many vessels, especially those bound on short voyages, the carpenter stands his watch, and, while on deck, works at his trade in the day-time, if the weather will permit, and at night, or in bad weather, does watch duty according to his ability.

Dana: The Seaman's Friend (1845), pp 153-155.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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Copyright © 1998 Lars Bruzelius.