Advice for the crew of a ship

_Purification of Water by Charcoal._

Nothing has been found so effectual for preserving water sweet at sea, during long voyages, as charring the insides of the casks well before they are filled. Care ought at the same time to be taken that the casks should never be filled with sea-water, as sometimes happens, in order to save the trouble of shifting the ballast, because this tends to hasten the corruption of the fresh water afterwards put into them. When the water becomes impure and offensive at sea, from ignorance of the preservative effect produced on it by charring the casks previous to their being filled, it may be rendered perfectly sweet by putting a little fresh charcoal in powder into each cask before it is tapped, or by filtering it through fresh-burnt and coarsely powdered charcoal.


To preserve seamen in health and prevent the prevalence of scurvy and other diseases, it will be further necessary to keep the ship perfectly clean and to have the different parts of it daily purified by a free admission of air when the weather will admit of it, and likewise by frequent fumigations. This precaution will more particularly be necessary for the purification of such places as are remarkably close and confined.

_Prevention of Dampness and Cold._

The coldness and dampness of the atmosphere are to be corrected by sufficient fires.

Cleanliness on board of a ship is highly necessary for the preservation of the health of seamen, but the custom of frequent swabbings or washings between the decks, as is too frequently practised, is certainly injurious, and greatly favors the production of scurvy and other diseases by a constant dampness being kept up.

_Exercise and Amusements._

The men should be made to air their hammocks and bedding every fine day; they should wash their bodies and apparel often, for which purpose an adequate supply of soap ought to be allowed, and they should change their linen and other clothes frequently. In rainy weather, on being relieved from their duty on deck by the succeeding watch, they should take off their wet clothes instead of keeping them on and lying down in them, as they are too apt to do. Two sets of hammocks ought to be provided for them. In fine pleasant weather, and after their usual duty is over, they should be indulged in any innocent amusement that will keep their minds as well as bodies in a state of pleasant activity, and perhaps none is then more proper than dancing. This makes a fiddle or a pipe and tabor desirable acquisitions on board of every ship bound on a long voyage.

_Effects of Climate, etc._

In warm climates the crews of ships are healthier at sea when the air is dry and serene, and the heat moderated by gentle breezes, than when rainy or damp weather prevails; and they usually enjoy better health when the ship is moored at a considerable distance from the shore, and to windward of any marshy ground or stagnant waters, than when it is anchored to leeward of these and lies close in with the land. Masters of vessels stationed at or trading to any parts between the tropics, will therefore act prudently when they have arrived at their destined port, to anchor at a considerable distance from the shore, and as far to windward of all swamps, pools and lakes as can conveniently be done, as the noxious vapors which will be wafted to the crew when the ship is in a station of this nature will not fail to give rise to disease among them.

_Caution to be observed when on Shore._

When unavoidably obliged to submit to such an inconvenience, some means ought to be adopted to prevent disagreeable consequences from ensuing. For this purpose a large sail should be hoisted at the foremast, or most windward part of the ship, so as to prevent the noxious vapors from coming abaft; the cabin, steerage and between the decks should be fumigated now and then, and the seamen allowed to smoke tobacco moderately.

Unless absolutely necessary it will be improper to permit any of the crew to sleep from on board when stationed off an unhealthy shore, but when necessity obliges them to do so for the purpose of wooding or watering, a tent or marquee should be erected, if a proper house cannot be procured, and this should be pitched on the dryest and highest spot that can be found, being so situated as that the door shall open towards the sea. Under cover of this a sufficient number of hammocks are to be suspended for the accommodation of the men by night, as they should by no means be suffered to sleep on the open ground.

If the tent happens unfortunately to be in the neighborhood of a morass, or has unavoidably been pitched on flat, moist ground, it will be advisable to keep up a constant fire in it by day as well as by night, and as a further preventive against those malignant disorders which are apt to arise in such situations, the men should be directed to smoke moderately of tobacco, and to take a half or a quarter of a wineglassful of the compound tincture of Peruvian bark every morning on an empty stomach, and the same quantity again at night.

_Cautions when in Tropical Climates._

In tropical climates the healthiness of seamen will much depend upon avoiding undue exposure to the sun, rain, night air, long fasting, intemperance, unwholesome shore duties, especially during the sickly season, and upon the attention paid to the various regulations and preventive measures. The bad effects of remaining too long in port at any one time (independent of irregularities of harbor duties, particularly after sunset, as well as during his meridian power) cannot be too strongly adverted to by the commander of every ship, and therefore a measure of the highest importance in the navy is the employment of negroes and natives of the country, or at least men accustomed to the torrid zone, in wooding, watering, transporting stores, rigging, clearing, careening ships, etc., and in fine in all such occupations as might subject the seamen to excessive heat or noxious exhalations, which cannot fail to be highly dangerous to the health of the unacclimated seaman.

The practice of heaving down vessels of war in the West Indies, in the ordinary routine of service at least, cannot be too highly deprecated, as well from the excessive fatigue and exertion it demands as because it is a process which requires for its execution local security, or in other words a land that is locked, and therefore generally an unhealthy harbor. The instances of sickness and mortality from the effects of clearing a foul hold in an unhealthy harbor are too numerous to be specified.


A very productive source of disease in warm climates among seamen is an immoderate use of spirituous and fermented liquors, as they are too apt, whilst in a state of intoxication, to throw themselves on the bare ground where, perhaps, they lie exposed for many hours to the influence of the meridian sun, the heavy dews of the evening or the damp, chilling air of the night. The commander of a ship who pays attention to the health of his crew, will therefore take every possible precaution to prevent his men from being guilty of an excess of this nature, and likewise from lying out in the open air when overcome by fatigue and hard labor.

The different voyages of that celebrated navigator, Captain Cook, as well as that of the unfortunate La Perouse, incontestibly prove that by due care and a proper regimen seamen may be preserved from the scurvy and other diseases which have formerly been inseparable from long sea voyages, and that they can thus support the fatigues of the longest navigations in all climates and under a burning sun. It has been thoroughly proved also, that grog is not at all necessary, or, in the long run, beneficial to seamen. In times of the greatest exposure and fatigue, as during severe storms, hot coffee has been found a more effective stimulant than spirits, without the dangers connected with the use of the latter.

_Noxious Vapors._

Smoking or fumigating ships with charcoal or sulphur, is the most effectual means of killing all kinds of vermin, and is therefore always resorted to; but it is recommended that no sailor or boy be allowed to go under the decks until the hatches, and all the other openings, have been for three hours uncovered; in that time all noxious vapors will be effectually dissipated.

_Captain Cook's Rules for Preserving the Health of Seamen._

1. The crew to be at three watches. The men will by this means have time to shift and dry themselves, and get pretty well refreshed by sleep before called again to duty. When there is no pressing occasion, seamen ought to be refreshed with as much uninterrupted sleep as a common day laborer.

2. To have dry clothes to shift themselves after getting wet. One of the officers to see that every man, on going wet from his watch, be immediately shifted with dry clothes, and the same on going to bed.

3. To keep their persons, hammocks, bedding, and clothes clean and dry. This commander made his men pass in review before him one day in every week, and saw that they had changed their linen, and were as neat and clean as circumstances would admit. He had also every day the hammocks carried on the booms, or some other airy part of the ship, unlashed, and the bedding thoroughly shaken and aired. When the weather prevented the hammocks being carried on deck, they were constantly taken down, to make room for the fires, the sweeping, and other operations. When possible, fresh water was always allowed to the men to wash their clothes, as soap will not mix with sea-water, and linen washed in brine never thoroughly dries.

4. To keep the ship clean between decks.

5. To have frequent fires between decks, and at the bottom of the well. Captain Cook's method was to have iron pots with dry wood, which he burned between decks, in the well, and other parts of the ship: during which time some of the crew were employed in rubbing, with canvas or oakum, every part that had the least damp. Where the heat from the stoves did not readily absorb the moisture, loggerheads, heated red hot, and laid on sheets of iron, speedily effected the purpose.

6. Proper attention to be paid to the ship's coppers, to keep them clean and free from verdigris.

7. The fat that is boiled out of the salt beef or pork, never to be given to the men.

8. The men to be allowed plenty of fresh water, at the ship's return to port; the water remaining on board to be started, and fresh water from the shore to be taken in its room.

By means of the above regulations (in addition to rules relative to temperance, and supplying the crews as much as possible with fresh meat and vegetables), this celebrated navigator performed a voyage of upwards of three years, in every climate of the globe, with the loss of only one man.

_To obtain Fresh Water from the Sea._

The method of obtaining fresh water from the sea by distillation, was introduced into the English navy in the year 1770, by dr. Irving, for which he obtained a parliamentary reward of 5000.

In order to give a clear notion of dr. Irving's method, let us suppose a teakettle to be made without a spout, and with a hole in the lid in the place of the knob; the kettle being filled with sea-water, the fresh vapor, which arises from the water as it boils, will issue through the hole in the lid; into that hole fit the mouth of a tobacco pipe, letting the stem have a little inclination downwards, then will the vapor of fresh water take its course through the stem of the tube, and may be collected by fitting a proper vessel to its end.

This would be an apt representation of dr. Irving's contrivance, in which he has luted or adapted a tin, iron, or tinned copper tube, of suitable dimensions, to the lid of the common kettle used for boiling the provisions on board a ship; the fresh vapor which arises from boiling seawater in the kettle passes, as by common distillation, through this tube into a hogshead, which serves as a receiver; and in order that the vapor may be readily condensed, the tube is kept cool by being constantly wetted with a mop dipped in cold sea-water. The waste water running from the mop may be carried off by means of two boards nailed together, like a spout. Dr. Irving particularly remarks, that only threefourths of the sea-water should be distilled; the brine is then to be let off and the copper replenished, as the water distilled from the remaining concentrated brine is found to have a disagreeable taste, and as the farther continuation of the distillation is apt to be injurious to the vessels. When the water begins to boil, likewise, the vapor should be allowed to pass freely for a minute; this will effectually cleanse the tube and upper part of the boiler.

_To render Sea-water capable of Washing Linen._

It is well known that sea-water cannot be employed for washing clothes. It refuses to dissolve soap, and possesses all the properties of hard water.

This is a great inconvenience to seamen whose allowance of fresh water is necessarily limited, and it prevents them from enjoying many of those comforts of cleanliness which contribute not a little to health. The method of removing this defect is exceedingly simple, and by no means expensive. It was pointed out by dr. Mitchell, of New York:--Drop into sea-water a solution of soda or potash. It will become milky, in consequence of the decomposition of the earthy salts and the precipitation of the earths. This addition renders it soft, and capable of washing. Its milkiness will have no injurious effect.

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