Chapter 16 Notes

Le Protée‘s length on the gun deck was 164 feet and her beam was 44 feet, yielding a burden of a little more than 1,423 tons. She carried a crew of 500 men.

The photograph shows a French 74 gun ship, similar to the two ships used in the story. The photograph (obviously of a model) was found on Wikipedia and is used here with permission under the terms of the CeCILL Agreement: (from “CEA CNRS INRIA Logiciel Libre”)


These illustrations will help you to identify the parts of a ship’s canon.

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18-pounder cannon.  In Chapter 16, Josh examined the 18-pounder cannon:

I study the 18 pounder in front of me. The barrel a fat black cast-iron tube, sitting on its wooden truck, clamped to the ship’s side by a creaking breach-tackle. No sights on its barrel yet, the traversing plate hanging loose on a line threaded through the thimble at the back of the barrel.

The quoins of a gun are the wooden sides of the carriage; the truck is the rod or axle which allows the gun to traverse an arc, up 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.