Notes

The Bosin’s cry: All Hands. Out or down…

“Up all Hammocks. All Hands. Out or down. Show a leg. Rise or fall. Here comes me knife, cutting with a clear conscience!”

Translating the cry: Up all Hammocks meant to take all the hammocks up on deck. Out or down simply means get out of your hammock or it will be cut down. The “Show a leg” was a little more racy: when the ship was in port, females would be allowed on board and given that the sailors all bunked in the same communal space, their women would climb into their hammocks with them. Legitimate wives and sweethearts, and of course, whores from the dockyard. Below deck would be heavily scented with the men’s unwashed bodies, women’s perfumes and the sweat of intense copulation. Then they would all fall asleep and when the turn of the glass resulted in a change of watch, the easiest way for the Bosun to decide whether to cut a hammock down or not, was for its occupant to throw a leg over the side. Female and he walked on, male and he cut the rope.

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