Boats from the 1700 and 1800s

April Michelle Davis, a freelance editor, indexer, proofreader, and author, is a wife and mother of four. She loves to write and uses many avenues to express herself such as her websites, newsletters, blogs, and other social media outlets. April also homeschools her boys and sometimes find herself creating and writing their lessons. In addition, she has written three books (two technical and one fiction), and because of her fascination with princesses and castles, her fiction book includes a lot of history from the 1700s and 1800s. With this in mind, April has written the following post about boats.

April Michelle Davis.

Boats from the 1700s and 1800s traveled much slower than today’s boats because they were powered by the wind and sails and they usually followed trade patterns. In the early eighteenth century, the hulls were made from wood, which limited the size of the boat. The length of the hull was important because it added stability to keep the boat upright and provide space for the cargo of teas and spices, and even mail.

In addition, the life span of the wooden hulls was shortened by bug infestations, which weakened the wood and led to instability and leaks, and also by the effects of the saltwater. In the late eighteenth century, the wooden hulls were replaced with copper, which proved to be more sustainable. Cooper was expensive, but the benefits (farther travel and fewer repairs) quickly out weighted the costs, and thus many royal and war ship bottoms were covered with cooper. Early nineteenth century merchant boats followed suit and coopered their bottoms.

The wheel to steer these boats can be seen as the sexy centerpiece that is on the deck with strong men manhandling it to keep the boat on course. But into the early eighteenth century, the wheel had not been invented and in its place was a whipstaff, a board that connected to the tiller, which in turn connected to the rudder and changed the direction of the boat. Then the wheel replaced the whipstaff, and it connected to the tiller with ropes. In reality, the wheel is the last part of this multi-functioning system. Huntley, a character in “A Princess in Disguise,” and his crew man their boat’s wheel to keep the boat moving in the correct direction. The crew took turns staying awake while sailing the boat and being on the lookout for weather and tide changes, other boats and sea life, and pirates. Bigger boats and ships, such as the ones the king in “A Princes in Disguise” owned, had double wheels to steer them. In rough waters, individual crew members on the king’s ships could man each wheel and together the two men’s strength would control the wheels and keep the ship on course.

Whipstaff. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Preserving food for the men onboard these boats was no easy task. There weren’t refrigerators like there are on today’s boats. However, the crew needed nourishment to be healthy and strong and work together to handle the boat masts and sails, to host and pull in the anchor, and to load and unload the cargo. Food onboard was preserved by salt or canning. The meals were life sustaining, but lacked full nutritional value and the menu varied little. At times such as after replenishing supplies at a port, there may have been some blocks of ice onboard to keep food cold. But for most of the trip, the food was kept in the state of dried, canned, or alive. Dried fruits and vegetables were a common staple. Flour and meal for breads was plentiful. They were inexpensive to buy or barter for; therefore, they were usually in good supply. Because the supply was in large quantities, it often became bug infested. Live chickens may have been kept on or below deck. The chickens were kept in cages or in closed off areas of the boat where they ate and pooped and pooped and ate. This made for unsanitary conditions. The chickens may have had worms, but they were still killed and eaten. A crewman could easily become ill from what he consumed and die before reaching the next port with a medical facility.

Portrait of a sailor taken on board the French aviso Ardent, 1857. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The life of a crewman in the 1700s and 1800s was hard. He was often at sea for long periods of time, separated from his family, doing physical labor on little sleep, seldom bathing, eating contaminated foods, and living in unsanitary conditions. Some crewmen could not read or write similar to Huntley, the captain of a boat “A Princess in Disguise.” Fortunately, he could draw well to chart voyages.

If you are interested in learning more about April, you can visit her website by clicking here. If you want to connect with her on Twitter, click here. If you want to connect with April on Facebook, click here, and if you’re interested in pinning, April can be found by at pinterest by clicking here.

If you are interested in learning more about April’s book, “A Princess in Disguise” here is a synopsis:

On the night of her sixteenth birthday and before her father has the chance to force her to marry a complete stranger, Princess Margaret sneaks away from the riches and safety of the palace. Torn between her fate and freedom, Princess Margaret desperately searches for her mother as the answer. In a quest of soul searching and physical hardships, the twist of events may take the readers by surprise, instilling a piece of the story in their hearts.

To learn more about this book or to purchase it, please click on the appropriate link below.

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