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Title: Ships at Work
Author: Folsom, Mary Elting
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ships at Work" ***

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                               _AT WORK_

                              MARY ELTING

                           _ILLUSTRATED BY_
                           MANNING DEV. LEE



        Copyright 1946, 1953 by Duenewald Printing Corporation.
             Lithographed in the United States of America.

                             SHIPS AT WORK



                                AT WORK

                           _By Mary Elting_


                            ILLUSTRATED BY
                           MANNING DE V. LEE

                           GARDEN CITY BOOKS

                           GARDEN CITY, N.Y.




A ship is a marvellous thing. It took ships--and the men who sail
them--to circle the world and tie it all together into one round ball.
Brave seamen from a thousand ports have faced storms and unknown
dangers, first to make the world a bigger place for people to live in,
then to bring all people close together.

No matter how dangerous the voyage nor what she carries, a ship is
always “she” to a seagoing man. He never calls a freighter or a tanker
or any large vessel a boat. Only shoreside people who have never been to
sea make the mistake of calling a ship a boat. And shoreside people
never know the excitement and fun--and the long, hard work--that the
skillful men of the sea know every day of their lives.


Jim is a sailor on a freighter carrying cargo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Every morning at half-past three, someone comes into the forecastle.
That’s the seamen’s name for their sleeping quarters. They pronounce it

Jim mumbles a little. Then the light goes on. The sailor who has waked
him wants to be sure he doesn’t go back to sleep. With half-open eyes,
Jim sees his clothes hanging from hooks. Back and forth they sway as the
ship pitches and rolls. Jim is so used to sleeping in rough weather that
he hadn’t even noticed when a storm blew up in the night.


Now he’s wide awake, and so are the other men in the forecastle. Jim
swings his legs over the side of his bunk, in a hurry to get dressed in
well-washed blue dungarees, a turtleneck sweater instead of a shirt,
thick socks and a heavy woolen pea coat. That’s a sailor’s winter jacket
with pockets that slant in sideways. He makes sure his sharp knife is
dangling from a snap on his belt. No telling when it might come in
handy. Then he sticks a knitted blue stocking cap on his head and
reaches for his fleece-lined mittens.


Jim wants to be warm. He knows the wind will be sharp, even though his
ship is headed for the warm Mediterranean Sea. It’s wintertime and still
cold out on the Atlantic Ocean.

Jim and the three men who share his bunkroom are ready for work--almost
ready. First they go down the passageway to the mess, which is their
word for dining room. There they have coffee from a big steaming urn
that is always kept full and hot. In another minute Jim steps out onto
the leeward side of the deck--the side away from the wind. Although he’s
in a hurry, he waits there sheltered from the wind for a few minutes
while his eyes get used to the dark. Jim is going to stand his watch.
That means he will work for four hours.

Jim is an AB--an Able Bodied Seaman. An AB works out on deck instead of
down inside the ship in the engine room or in the kitchen, which he
calls the galley. All the men who work on a ship are seamen. Only
deckhands are called sailors. And only those sailors who have passed
examinations and have been at sea for a certain length of time are AB’s.
The other sailors are called ordinary seamen or ordinaries for short.

As soon as his eyes can see in the dark, Jim walks toward the bow which
is the front of the ship. As the deck rises and falls and tilts under
his feet, he manages from long practice, to keep his balance, but he
also slides one hand along the rail on top of the bulwark, a kind of low
wall that runs all around the deck.

In good weather he would go to the bow and stand there, watching for
anything there might be in the ocean ahead. But tonight waves may splash
over the bow. An unexpected wave can knock a man down or even wash him
overboard. It will be safer high up in the crow’s nest above the deck.
Besides he can see farther from up there. So Jim climbs to the little
enclosed platform high on the foremast.


In a very bad storm Jim would not go outside. He would stand watch in
the wheelhouse. This is a room with a big window high above the deck in
the part of the ship called the house. The room gets its name because
the wheel that steers the ship is in it.

Jim knows it is good manners always to be a little early when you go to
take the place of another seaman whose watch is over. So he doesn’t
waste any time as he scrambles up the steel rungs in the ladder on the

He pokes his head through the hole in the floor of the crow’s nest.
There he finds Juan, who is cold and glad enough to climb down and get
into his warm bunk.

Juan has a telephone strapped on his head. He uses it to talk with the
third mate, the officer in charge of the ship who works in the
wheelhouse. When Juan sees Jim, he says into the telephone, “Crow’s nest
to wheelhouse--being properly relieved, sir.” Now the mate, listening to
the loudspeaker in the wheelhouse, knows that Jim is the lookout in the
crow’s nest.

[Illustration: 4 BELLS]

[Illustration: 5 BELLS]

[Illustration: 6 BELLS]

[Illustration: 7 BELLS]

Jim puts the telephone on his head and leans against the rail around the
small platform that sways far to one side, then to the other. Soon he
hears the ship’s bell, a faint sound above the storm--“Ding-ding,
ding-ding, ding-ding, ding-ding.” Eight bells. It is exactly four
o’clock. At four-thirty the bell rings again, just once. Two bells will
be five o’clock, and so on until eight, when there will be eight bells

[Illustration: 8 BELLS]

[Illustration: 1 BELL]

[Illustration: 2 BELLS]

[Illustration: 3 BELLS]

For a long time there is nothing for Jim to see but great gray waves
rising and lifting the ship, and once in a while splashing over the
decks way down below. Then far ahead and to the right Jim sees a tiny
speck of light.

[Illustration: Starboard Side]

[Illustration: Port Side]

[Illustration: Harbor Tug With Tow]

[Illustration: Black Coming Straight Toward You]

“Crow’s nest to wheelhouse,” he calls into the phone. “White light two
points on the starboard bow.” The mate knows from this where to look for
the light. The diagram on page 16 shows the words Jim will use when he
tells the mate to look in other directions.

Jim thinks the white light probably comes from another ship. Soon he
knows it does. He can see two white lights very close together and a
green light a little below them. He and the mate know that a green light
is always shown on the right or starboard side of a vessel that’s
moving. There is no danger. Jim’s ship and the other one are a long way
apart and are not headed for each other. If Jim saw both a green light
and a red light with two white lights above them, he would be alarmed.
This would mean a ship coming straight at him.

[Illustration: Bearings on Port Side Go the Same Way]

Now and then spray from the waves blows all the way to the crow’s nest,
and Jim is glad of a protecting shield that comes up almost as high as
his face. But he can feel the wind anyway, and he can hear it roar
through the rigging. He almost has to shout into the phone so the mate
can hear him.

The safety of the ship depends on Jim. Even in the darkness he can see a
great deal from his high perch. He may notice the white foam of waves
ahead behaving in a strange way. This could be the wreck of a
half-sunken ship that would tear a hole in his own ship and send her to
the bottom. If he dozed off, he might fail to sight some danger. So he
must keep alert every minute. He’s responsible for the lives of all his
shipmates, and he takes his job seriously.


Jim watches the dark, heaving ocean for two hours. He’s glad when his
coffee time comes. That’s ten minutes of rest he gets after standing
watch for two hours. When another lookout comes to the crow’s nest to
take his place, he warms up in the mess and then goes to the wheelhouse.
There he works for two hours steering the ship. He stands his watch at
the wheel.

The wheelhouse is dark, so that the mate can see through the big windows
anything that the lookout reports. The only light comes from
instruments, such as the compass. Jim watches the compass to make sure
he is steering in the right direction. The mate tells him what direction
the captain has ordered the ship to go. But the compass can’t be their
only guide.

When you guide yourself by a compass on a hike across a wide meadow, you
can keep going in a straight line because nothing pushes you to one side
or the other. But at sea the wind is always pushing against a ship,
making it slip sideways. Currents in the water push, too. The current
may be going one way and the wind in another. There are no trees or
mountains on the ocean to help seamen know exactly where they are. So
they can use the sun and stars as their guides.

Of course, the sun, stars and moon keep moving. But they travel in an
orderly way. If a seaman knows the rules about their motion, he can look
at them through special instruments and figure out where he is. He can


More than two hundred and fifty years ago, an American boy named
Nathaniel Bowditch went to sea and discovered that sailors didn’t have
any good, accurate rules for steering by the stars. He decided to do
something about the problem. Before long he had worked out a set of
rules that were so good that every man in his crew could navigate--even
the cook!


The mate on Jim’s ship has instruments with which he looks at the sun
and stars. And he still uses the book that Nathaniel Bowditch wrote so
long ago.

Besides the wheel and the compass, there are other instruments in the
wheelhouse. One is the engine room telegraph. The mate uses this when he
wants the ship to go faster or slower, forward or backward. He moves the
handle of the telegraph, and a bell jangles in the engine room. Another
telegraph there, exactly like the one in the wheelhouse, shows the
engineer at what speed the ship should go. To let the mate know he has
received the order, the engineer sends the same signal back on the
telegraph, and a bell in the wheelhouse jangles, too.

By eight o’clock, when it is daylight, Jim’s watch is over. He goes
below, as seamen say, and sits down with his messmates--all the others
in the crew who aren’t on watch--for a big breakfast of orange juice,
bacon, eggs and flapjacks. Then he goes to sleep.

A little before noon he is up again. The storm was not a bad one. The
sun is shining, and it is warm out on deck. Jim has all afternoon until
four o’clock to himself. This is how he spends it: First he gets a
bucket of cold water and puts it under a little faucet that brings up
steam from the engine room. He runs steam into the water, and it’s hot
in a few seconds. Out on the afterdeck, sailors have rigged up a

Jim spreads his dirty clothes on the board and scrubs them with a brush
and soap and his steam-heated water. Seamen do a lot of washing. They
like to keep their clothes clean. Often they do their own mending, too.


While Jim’s clothes dry on a regular clothesline on the afterdeck, he
gets out his ditty bag which holds all kinds of odds and ends, including
needles and thread and a sailor’s palm. The palm is what a sailor uses
instead of a thimble for pushing a big needle through heavy canvas. In
the old days when ships had sails to be mended, these palms were very
necessary, but nowadays most sailors only use them the way Jim does. He
is making a sea bag to take the place of his old one that has worn out.
The sea bag is his trunk. He carries it on his shoulder whenever he
changes ships.


While Jim sews, he sings, and other seamen who are off watch sing too.
One of them plays a banjo, and another has a harmonica. Some of the
songs are the ones you hear any day on the radio, and others are songs
that seamen themselves have made up.

These sailor songs are called chanteys--pronounced shantys. On old
sailing vessels men sang them as they worked together, and the rhythm of
their work set the rhythm of the music. Here is a chantey that helped
them pull together on the rope that lifted a sail:

    Way! Haul away! We’ll haul away the bowline.
    Way! Haul away! We’ll haul away, Joe.

In those days, before there were engines to do work, men used a
hand-turned machine called a capstan to raise the anchor or tighten
heavy lines. They turned it round and round by pushing against long bars
called capstan bars. As they pushed, they sang:

    Yo, heave ho! Round the capstan go.
    Heave, men, with a will. Tramp, and stamp it still!
    The anchor must be weighed, the anchor must be weighed.
    Yo-ho! Heave ho! Yo-ho! Heave ho!

Now, while the singing goes on, Jim takes his turn at having a haircut.
For a barber’s chair he uses a bitt. That’s a round piece of steel that
sticks up out of the deck at just the right height. It’s used at times
for holding big ropes that seamen call hawsers.

The barber is a man from the black gang. That means he works in the
engine room. When he is off watch, he likes to make a little extra money
cutting hair. So he puts a sheet around Jim and starts to work.
Chiquita, the ship’s cat, takes a playful swipe at a dangling corner of
the sheet, and then goes off in search of a rat that may have come
aboard in port.


The barber has pictures tattooed on his forearms, and Jim laughs as he
watches them. On one arm is a picture of an old sailing ship. As the
barber’s muscles move, they make the ship look as if wind is blowing on
the sails. On the other arm is a beautiful lady chasing butterflies.
When the barber opens and closes the scissors, the lady looks as if she
is dancing after the butterflies.

Just before four o’clock, Jim goes to mess again. Then he’s on watch for
four more hours to put in the rest of his eight hours of work in a
twenty-four hour day. He stands lookout again for two hours and takes
the wheel for two more. Now his day is done.


When Jim first went to sea, he found that seamen speak a language of
their own. A floor is always a deck. A partition between rooms is a
bulkhead. A ceiling is the overhead. Stairs are always a ladder. The
opening onto a deck at the head of the steps is a companionway. Almost
all ropes are called lines.

One day another seaman said to Jim: “The bosun wants you to break out
the handy billy in the forepeak and take it aft to Chips. He’s abaft the
mizzenmast.” This is what all those words mean:

The bosun is a man who acts as foreman, giving orders to deckhands.
“Break out” means “take from its regular storage place.” The handy billy
is a combination of small wheels called blocks with a line running
around them. It is handy for moving heavy weights. The forepeak is a
storeroom under the main deck at the bow where the bosun keeps tools and
equipment. Chips is the ship’s carpenter. Aft means toward the stern of
the ship, and abaft means “behind, in the direction of the stern.” The
mizzenmast is the third mast, counting from bow to stern.


Jim also had to learn that anything toward the bow of the ship is
forward. Anything toward the middle is amidships, and anything crosswise
is athwart or thwartships. Anything on the windy side of a ship is to
windward. (A good sailor never spits to windward.) Anything on the side
away from the wind is to leeward--pronounced “loo-urd.” When Jim goes up
on deck he goes topside; when he climbs a mast, he goes aloft.


[Illustration: Accommodation Ladder]

Jim had to learn the commands that the mate gives him when he is at the
wheel steering the ship. Helm is another word for the wheel, and
helmsman is the man who steers. (On some ships, Jim would not steer at
all. Steering is often the special job of AB’s called quartermasters who
don’t do much of anything else.)

[Illustration: Jacob’s Ladder]

Suppose the mate says to Jim, “Mind your rudder.” That means Jim must
steer carefully or get ready for a new order. “Steady as you go” means
keep on going just as you are.


The wheelhouse is sometimes called the pilot house. The pilot is a man
who specializes in guiding ships in and out of harbors. A small boat
brings him out from shore. Usually he climbs aboard on an accommodation
ladder, a whole flight of stairs which is lowered from a deck. But
sometimes he has to climb a Jacob’s ladder, which is simply wooden steps
fastened to ropes that hang down the ship’s side.


The pictures explain some more words Jim had to learn. A pier or a wharf
is a platform sticking out into the water. Ships tie up alongside it.
Seamen sometimes call a pier a dock, but a dock is really the water
between piers.

A hatch or hatchway is an opening in the deck of a vessel. People can go
down a hatch, and so can cargo. Big strong poles called booms raise and
lower cargo through hatches. Booms are attached to single masts on some
ships; on others, to pairs of posts called king posts or Samson posts or
goal posts. When seamen fasten heavy layers of canvas over the hatches,
they say they “batten down the hatches.”


Backstay, stay and shroud are all wire ropes that brace the masts. The
poop deck is a deck at the stern. Taffrail is the rail around the stern.
The taffrail log is a kind of speedometer that tells how far the ship
has travelled. It is made up of a line attached to a little propeller
which measures miles as it is dragged through the water.


The beam is the widest part of a ship. The keel is the lowest part. The
bilge is the low, rounded bottom of the ship. Any water that seeps into
a ship collects there and has to be pumped out. Ballast is a weight of
some sort, low in a ship to balance her or keep her down in the water so
her propellers can work when she has no cargo. Draft is the depth of
water needed to float a vessel. When Jim says his ship “draws twelve
feet,” he means the keel is twelve feet under water when she is loaded.

[Illustration: Cheepshank knot]

[Illustration: Marlinspike Bowline Double Sheet Bend Carrick Bend]


A sailor knows how to do many things besides stand lookout and steer. If
a line breaks, he can mend it by splicing the ends together with a tool
called a marlinspike. If lines wear thin, he puts in new ones--and lines
are needed in a great many places on even the most modern ships.

Sailors know how to tie many different kinds of knots. Each one is good
for special kinds of work. For instance, a sheepshank is made in a line
to shorten it. Jim calls a bad knot a gilligan hitch.

Painting is something else that sailors do all the time. On one trip Jim
painted the mizzenmast. For this job he sat in a bosun’s chair. You’ll
see a picture of it on page 31. When he works high above the deck he
always has his paint brush tied to his wrist. Then, if it slips out of
his hand, it can’t fall and hit anyone below.

All the sailors get their orders from the bosun, whom they call “Boats.”
That’s because the real spelling of bosun is boatswain. The bosun gets
his orders from the mate on watch who gets his orders from the captain.
The captain is in charge of everything. Seamen call him the skipper or
the master or the Old Man.


The “Chief” (chief engineer) and his three assistant engineers get
orders from the skipper, too. The firemen in the engine room help the
engineer carry out the orders. When they are on watch, they look through
little peep holes into the oil burning furnaces to make sure the fires
are burning just right. They keep an eye on the steam pressure gauges.

At the same time, men called oilers keep every part of the ship’s huge
engines and other machinery well oiled. On some ships there is a big
piston, like the driving rod on railroad engine wheels. One end of it
moves in a circle. The oiler has to squirt oil in a little cup at the
end of the piston. Every time the cup swings up where he can reach it,
he aims his oil can. He is very careful to aim straight. If he misses
the cup, oil splashes all over.

No matter how careful he is, some oil does get spilled and spattered
around. It is the job of the oiler to wipe it up and to polish all the
brass fixtures, which he calls the brightwork. On deck, ordinary seamen
polish the brightwork.


One man is in charge of all the food on a ship. He is the steward, and
the cooks work under him, and so do the messmen who are the waiters and
dish washers.

The radio man sends and receives all radio messages. He is called

All the seamen who work on cargo vessels, and on passenger vessels, too,
are divided up the same way into the deck department, the engine
department and the steward’s department.

As the great engine deep down in Jim’s ship pushes her through the calm
blue water of the Mediterranean Sea, he stands watch in the bow. Now he
begins to catch sight of small sailing vessels. When his ship enters the
port of Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile River in Egypt, he is close
to the place where much of the story of ships began.

[Illustration: Egyptian Papyrus Reed Canoe]

PAPYRUS REED CANOE. The people of Egypt discovered long ago that bundles
of papyrus reed would hold up a man’s weight in the water. Later, they
tied the bundles into a canoe shape which was easy to handle.

[Illustration: Egyptian Dugout]

EGYPTIAN DUGOUT. A log hollowed out in the shape of a reed canoe was
stronger, and it lasted longer. By adding boards to a dugout along the
top of each side, Egyptians had a vessel that could carry bigger loads.
Paddles and their own muscles were all they had for power.

[Illustration: Egyptian Oars and Sail]

EGYPTIAN SAILING VESSEL. Here the power of wind was added to the power
of oarsmen. Luckily the winds of Egypt blew from north to south and
helped push sailing vessels up the Nile.

GALLEYS. Greeks and Romans used sail-and-oar vessels called galleys.
Slaves, chained to their seats, rowed in rhythm. There were many slaves,
so their masters could get extra muscle-power by seating two, three or
more banks of oarsmen on each side. A ship with two banks was a bireme;
with three, a trireme.

[Illustration: Greek Trireme]

[Illustration: Rowers in a Trireme]

DHOW. Other people around the Mediterranean Sea discovered they could do
away with oarsmen by making better use of windpower. They invented
triangular sails called lateen sails to take the place of square ones.
Lateen-rigged dhows are still used. Columbus had both square and lateen
sails on the Santa Maria. All three of his ships together were not as
long as Jim’s freighter.

[Illustration: Arab Dhow]



New things begin to happen as Jim’s ship nears port. He goes down into
the forepeak under the deck in the bow. There, all around, are neat
coils of hawser which is as thick as his arm. He and other sailors shove
one end of a hawser up the ladder. Men on deck grab it and wrap it
around a sort of spool called a winch head. Now the winch turns the
spool and does the work of lifting out the heavy line. The deckhands lay
it neatly on the decks ready to use when the ship ties up at a pier.

Next Jim goes up to the bow and helps Chips, the carpenter, break cement
out of the hawse pipes. A hawse pipe is a hole in the ship’s side. An
anchor chain runs through it. Whenever a ship raises, or weighs, its
anchors and starts on a long trip, Chips plugs up the hawse pipes with
cement. This keeps water from splashing up through the pipes in a storm.

On modern ships, a machine called a windlass raises and lowers the
anchors. In the old days, when sailors had to raise anchors by turning
the capstan by hand, they had a phrase for officers who worked their way
up from being deckhands. They said these officers came up “through the
hawse pipe.” Officers who got their knowledge from going to school and
studying books were said to “come in through the cabin window.”

After the cement is out of the hawse pipe, Jim takes the devil’s claws
off the anchor chains and releases the riding pawls. These are two
brakes on the anchor chain which you can see in the picture. Now only
the brake on the windlass holds the anchor chain in position over the
wildcat, which is the wheel on the windlass.


The captain signals from the bridge to let go. Chips releases the
windlass brake. The big chain rushes up out of the locker, over the
wildcat and down the hawse pipe with a terrific roar. Soon the ship is
safely anchored. The skipper can wait now until there is a vacant pier
where he can tie up.

[Illustration: Freighter]

[Illustration: Tanker]

After the ship ties up, the captain orders watches broken. The men no
longer work four hours and rest eight. Now most of them work eight hours
during the day and have the remaining time off, just the way shoreside
people do. There is no need for the routine of the sea. Egyptian
longshoremen will unload the cargo.

Jim puts on a suit he has kept hanging pressed in his locker. Then he
and Juan go down the gangplank. They are off to see the sights in the
fascinating Egyptian city--and to buy souvenirs.

But before they have gone very far from the waterfront where a tangle of
masts and booms and stacks marks the skyline, they meet Lars, an old
shipmate of theirs. That’s not so strange as you might think. A sailor
often changes ships, and he gets to have many friends who travel just as
much as he does. While they eat an Egyptian meal in an Egyptian
restaurant, Lars says he’s on a tanker now. She’s in Alexandria getting
her rudder repaired. It broke in a storm, but the men fixed up something
to take its place. They called it a jury rudder.


Lars’s tanker looks very different from a freighter. She is long and low
and has two houses. One is midships, and the officers’ quarters and
wheelhouse are there. The crew lives in the other house at the stern.

Between the two houses the deck is so low that waves often wash over
it, and so there has to be a high bridge called a walkaway or a catwalk.

Lars says his particular tanker carries “clean” oil. By that he means
oil that has been refined into different grades of gasoline. “Dirty” oil
is crude oil just the way it comes out of the wells. Lars is a tankerman
and a seaman. He has taken a special examination for his job. He knows
all the ways to pump different kinds of oil in and out of the tanks on a
ship. He knows how to keep gasoline from exploding. He has learned to
use special equipment. For instance, he never goes down to clean a tank
on his ship without an oxygen mask and a lifeline. The lifeline is tied
around him so that a seaman on deck can haul him up if fumes in the tank
knock him out.

Like most seamen, Lars has travelled all over the world. In China he has
seen junks and sampans. He has seen fishing boats in Portugal with big
eyes painted on the bows because sailors thought that helped the boats
to see their way. Eyes of the same kind have been painted on ships for
hundreds of years in many other places, even in Chesapeake Bay.

[Illustration: Portuguese Fishing Boats]

[Illustration: Viking Ship]

OUTRIGGER. Long ago South Sea Islanders sailed great distances, guiding
themselves by the stars. The outrigger at the side gives their small
vessel balance in rough water.

[Illustration: Outrigger of the Sulu Sea]

JUNK. The sails of this Chinese ship are made of bamboo slats braced by
bamboo rods. The rudder is so big that often a dozen men have to work on
it. Many junks have colored sails.

[Illustration: Junk]

NORWEGIAN SHIPS. Old Viking ships that sailed from Norway had both oars
and brightly decorated sails. Vikings were such good seamen they crossed
the Atlantic in their open ships. Norwegians are still seafarers. Boys
who want to be sailors get training on a sailing ship.

[Illustration: Chinese Tub-boat]

[Illustration: Sampan]

Lars used to work on a tanker that brought oil from the Persian Gulf.
When he went ashore there, he saw boats just like the earliest ones that
men invented thousands of years ago. He saw boats that were really big,
round clay pots, built by people in places where there was plenty of
clay but very little wood. He saw huge basket boats woven from a kind of
grass and waterproofed with a covering of tar. Some of the basket boats
were big enough to carry twenty passengers--or several men and three

[Illustration: A Quffa on the Tigris]

[Illustration: Raft of Timber and Inflated Skins Discharging Grain at
Bagdad. Small quffas Serve as Lighters.]

Smaller basket boats were used as lighters. (A lighter is any craft that
helps to unload freight from another.) Here on the Tigris River, the
freight was carried on a large raft supported by animal skins blown up
like balloons. A little raft floating downstream sometimes carried its
owner, his donkey and the grain he had to sell. After selling the grain,
the boatman took the skins from under the raft, let the air out, piled
them on the donkey’s back and walked back home upriver.

Out at sea, whenever Lars sees a life raft on the top deck, he realizes
it is just like the skin-float rafts he saw on the Tigris River. Instead
of blown-up skins, water-tight metal containers filled with air hold the
life raft up. When Lars puts on his life jacket for lifeboat drill, he
is getting ready to use a float, just the way people long ago used
bundles of reeds. Even though men have learned so much about ships in
all the years since they first started to travel on water, they still
use some of the first knowledge they ever acquired.

All of these things interest Lars. He grew up by the sea in Norway, and
his people have been seamen since the days of the Vikings. But best of
all he likes the clean, modern, comfortable tankers. He is not only
going somewhere himself when he is on a tanker. He is also helping to
carry a cargo that helps other people to go places.

[Illustration: Life raft]

[Illustration: Life ring]



Lars’s tanker was built to do a very special kind of job. So were many
other kinds of ships. Look at the Seatrain, which carries fully loaded
freight cars--a hundred of them at a time.

To load a Seatrain, the railroad locomotive pushes a string of cars out
onto a long pier. A derrick lifts the cars up one by one, swings them
over an open hatch, and lowers them neatly onto tracks in the ship’s
hold. After the holds are filled, there’s still room for more cars on
the main deck outside.

It seems queer for trains to travel by ship, but sometimes that’s the
best way to send cargo. Freight cars can be filled with sugar on the
island of Cuba and brought across the water to the United States,
without any extra loading and unloading. It’s often cheaper for freight
cars to go by ship than by rail from New York to Savannah or New Orleans
or Texas City.



Banana boats do their own particular kind of work, too. Actually, they
aren’t boats, although they do carry bananas. They are refrigerator
ships. Seamen call them reefers--just as railroad men call a
refrigerator car a reefer. Everything about a banana boat is arranged to
keep her cargo cool. She is even painted white, because white things
reflect some of the sun’s rays into the air instead of absorbing their
heat. Inside the ship, blowers send cool air circulating around the
bananas all the time. It isn’t enough just to chill them once and leave
them there. Bananas actually make heat themselves. So a constant cool
breeze is needed to carry their heat away. The ships that bring bananas
from Central America do keep them in the refrigerator.

A banana boat is fast, for she must rush the green fruit from the farm
to market as quickly as possible. There are even very quick ways of
loading and unloading. Machines called gantries stand on the pier where
the ship ties up. The gantries carry the big bunches of bananas in soft
canvas pockets arranged in an endless chain. Men on the dock lay the
bunches, one after another into the pockets. Men inside the ship take
them out and stow them away.

A banana boat sailor does just about the same things that sailors on
other cargo vessels do. He steers and stands lookout and works on deck.
And like all sailors he has lifeboat drills. Every ship that sails the
seas must have lifeboats. Look for them on some high deck, where they
are easy to get at in emergencies. Canvas covers on the boats keep out
rain and snow and protect the things stowed inside.

A lifeboat is equipped with everything that you may need if you have to
float around on the open sea after your ship has gone down. There are
water-tight containers full of food, drinking water and matches. There
are oars and sails and life jackets, first-aid equipment and ropes.
There are flares to light, so that rescuers can locate the boat, and
pistols that shoot signal flares like Roman candles high into the air.
There are scoops called bailers for dipping water out of the boat. And
each lifeboat carries a supply of storm oil. When this oil is spread out
on the water, it keeps stormy waves from breaking near the boat. If a
wave breaks too close, it may fill the boat with water and sink it.


The can of storm oil fits inside a cone-shaped canvas bag called a sea
anchor. The sea anchor floats ahead of the boat and keeps it pointed
toward the wind, while the oil drips slowly out and calms the waves.
It’s important to be pointed into the wind, because a boat that bobs
around sidewise can easily be tipped over by a wave. Long ago sailors
discovered what a wonderful help oil can be in stormy weather, and
that’s where the expression “oil on troubled waters” came from. It means
to calm things down.

A blast from the ship’s whistle tells seamen when it’s time for lifeboat
drill. Every man knows which boat he’s supposed to use. He runs first
for his life jacket, then up the ladders by the shortest route to his
boat. All the knots and fastenings on the boat are made so that they can
be loosened with one jerk. Quickly the men work machines called davits
that are always in perfect order, ready to swing the lifeboat out over
the water. In a real emergency, the boats would be lowered into the sea,
and the men would scramble down rope ladders which are kept ready on
deck. But in a drill, seamen just test the davits and lines.

Most lifeboats are double-enders. This means that the bow and stern are
rounded and look just alike. The rounded shape helps keep waves from
tumbling in at either end. Lifeboats are modeled after the old-time
boats in which sailors rowed away from sailing vessels when they went
out to harpoon whales.



Nowadays, a group of very modern vessels go out together on whaling
expeditions. A big ship called the factory ship waits in one place while
a half-dozen or more killer boats cruise around hunting whales. The
killer boats are power driven, and they are almost as big as an old-time
sailing ship.

In June or July, one of these little fleets sets out for the South
Pacific. At the whaling grounds, each killer boat begins its search.
Suddenly--“Thar she blows!” A whale rises to the surface and spouts. The
killer boat dashes after it. The harpooner in the bow aims a gun that’s
fastened to the deck. The harpoon in the gun is as tall as a man and
heavy, with an explosive charge in its pointed head, and a line attached
to the shaft. When the head strikes the whale, the charge goes off
inside, killing the great animal. The harpoon barbs spread out. Now the
whale is held tight at the end of the line. The killer boat tows it back
to the factory ship.

The stern of the factory ship is open. A ramp leads up from the water to
the ship’s after deck. Machinery pulls the whale up the ramp and onto
the deck. There men with knives that look like big hockey sticks cut up
the blubber and throw it into vats where the whale oil is boiled out.

Hour after hour the killer boats bring in whales, sometimes forty or
fifty a day--or even more! Everybody works day and night, with very
little time to eat and sleep. The oil tanks in the factory ship begin to
fill up. Now an ordinary tanker comes alongside. The whale oil is pumped
from the factory ship to the tanker which delivers it at some big port
thousands of miles away.

When at last the factory ship again has all the oil she can hold, she
steams off toward home. For seven or eight months her crew has not been


Now, as well as in the old days, men on whaling vessels proudly bring
home scrimshaw. That is carving they have done on the teeth or jawbones
of whales. It is often very delicate and beautiful.

On the return trip the factory ship’s speed is much less than when she
started out--and not just because her tanks are full. In June her hull
was smooth and freshly painted, and it slipped easily through the water.
Now in February she has barnacles all over the hull under water--such a
rough coat of barnacles that she’s held back a great deal.

Barnacles are tiny sea creatures that grow by the millions. They attach
themselves to anything under water and form hard little shells. They
hold so tightly to the ship that they must be chipped off. That’s a job
to be done in a place called drydock.


All ships go to drydock for regular cleaning and repairing and painting.
This is what happens: The ship noses into a place surrounded by three
concrete walls. Huge water-tight gates swing shut behind her, penning
her in. Mooring lines hold her steady in the exact center of the dock,
and pumps go to work taking out all the water in which she floats.
Slowly the ship settles into a sort of cradle that has been prepared on
the floor of the dock to fit her hull just right. When the water is all
out, there she stands, balanced and braced. Now men can work under her
and all over her--and inside. They scrape off the barnacles, paint the
hull, and repair any parts that have begun to wear out. To reach some
parts of the hull painters use long-handled brushes--really long.
They’re often three times as tall as a man!


Experts go over the ship as carefully as doctors examine people. But
many men work at top speed in shifts around the clock, and a ship often
spends only twenty-four hours in drydock. Then the gates open. Water
flows back into the dock. The ship floats again, ready to go to sea.

Sometimes a ship can’t get to drydock. Then a floating drydock comes to
the ship. It works the same way as a regular one. Floating drydocks have
traveled to distant parts of the world, pulled by seagoing tugs.


A tug is a vessel that looks small but has an enormously powerful
engine--an engine almost as big as one that moves a cargo ship. In fact,
the tugboat’s job is to push and pull cargo and passenger ships around.

Big ships need help getting in and out of the narrow spaces between
piers in a harbor. If they used only their own power, they might either
smash themselves up or crush the piers. Tugs, working together, can push
a little here, pull a little there, and ease a huge vessel gently into

A tugboat captain must have a great deal of knowledge about the harbor
in which he works. In order to pass his captain’s examination, he has to
draw a map of the harbor from memory, showing every pier and marker and
even the rocks, hills and valleys underwater. Most important, he must
have a feel for what a ship is going to do when he nudges her at a
certain point or when he reverses his propeller and pulls.

For all his skill and responsibility, the captain wouldn’t think of
wearing a uniform at work. He prefers old work clothes, and he sits down
with the crew when the cook serves up jumbo-sized meals.

The cook goes on duty in the galley at any time from one o’clock in the
morning on, depending on what time the tug must start work. Breakfast
may be at three or four, but the usual time is six. And often the cook’s
job isn’t over at four in the afternoon when he serves supper. If the
tug is working overtime, he fixes a meal called a “midnight snack” which
the men eat perhaps around seven o’clock. There’s enough food in the
snack to feed a shoreside person for a whole day.


Besides the captain and the cook, a tug needs a chief engineer, an
oiler, a fireman and a deckhand. The deckhand works with the hawsers
that are often used when a tug has to pull a big ship.

This is what happens: An AB aboard the ship holds a coil of light line,
called a heaving line. At the end of the line is a ball-shaped knot
called a monkey fist. The AB gives a big swing and sends the monkey fist
and line flying down to the tug. The deckhand on the tug grabs for the
line. He’s not an outfielder trying to catch the ball. The monkey fist
is there only to make the line uncoil and go straight.

The deckhand pulls on the heaving line, which is attached to a hawser on
the ship. (Sailors don’t say the line is attached or tied. They say it’s
“bent” to the hawser.) The hawser is so big that it can’t be thrown, but
it can be hauled onto the tug by the heaving line. The deckhand makes
the hawser fast to a bitt on the tug’s deck, and now she can pull.

For pushing jobs the tug has a thick pad called a bow fender made of
heavy rope hung over the bow. After the fender has been used a while, it
gets worn and shaggy and is often called a “beard.” It protects any ship
the tug is pushing. There are fenders along each side of a tug, too.
Sometimes they are made of rope. Sometimes they are old automobile tires
or just logs hung loosely over the side. The logs get so much banging
around that they may have to be replaced every few days.

Very often a tug has something on its bridge that looks like a gun. It’s
not. It’s a water nozzle attached to a pump, and it’s there to help
fight fires on ships.

The kind of tug that you can see on the Mississippi River is called a
towboat. She doesn’t tug, and she


doesn’t tow. She just pushes. A Mississippi towboat gets behind a whole
string of flat-bottomed barges and shoves them up and down rivers. She
often pushes ten barges at a time, loaded with twice as much cargo as an
ordinary seagoing freighter can carry.


Many towboats have all of the latest inventions for quick and safe
travelling in water that is often more tricky than the open sea. There’s
a lot of traffic to watch out for on the Mississippi, and the river
sweeps around in many bends. Mud collects on the river bottom, so the
captain can’t always know how deep the water is going to be. Uprooted
trees and other big things that could damage vessels often come floating
downstream. And when it’s pitch dark, or when a thick fog hangs over the
water, all these problems get much worse.

Radar is one of the inventions that help towboats avoid danger. Radar
sends out radio waves which bounce back to the towboat from anything
they hit. In the towboat’s pilothouse is a radarscope, which is a little
like a television screen. The returning radio waves show up as spots of
light called pips on the radarscope. By looking at the pips, the pilot
can locate the shores of the river, other vessels, floating trees and
anything else that’s dangerous.

Another wonderful invention, called a depth recorder, tells the pilot
how deep the water is under the head barge in his tow. If the river
seems to be getting shallow, he can steer the whole tow into safer
water. The depth recorder works by sending out sound waves and making a
record of them when they bounce back from the river bottom.


In the old days, river craft had a leadman who measured depth with a
line tied to a lead weight. Knots and pieces of leather marked the
line. Even at night the leadman could tell by feel how deep the water
was. For instance, if his fingers felt that the line was wet up to a
place where there were two strips of leather, he would know that two
fathoms (twelve feet) of water lay underneath. Two markers at two
fathoms. “By the mark twain,” the leadman would call out to the captain.

There was once a Mississippi River pilot named Samuel Clemens who, like
all pilots, loved to hear that call. It meant that there was enough
water to keep his vessel afloat. Later, when he began to write books, he
signed them with the name Mark Twain.

In Mark Twain’s time, the Mississippi River boats were driven by huge
paddle wheels. As the wood-burning steam engine turned the wheels, the
paddles pushed against the water and shoved the boat forward.

Steam engines began working in rivers very quickly after the first
successful paddle boat, the Clermont, proved that she could push
upstream. River boatmen needed engines more than seafaring men did,
because winds seldom blow upstream as they do on the Nile.

Before there were paddleboats, men took cargo down the Mississippi in
keelboats. Then they had to get the boats up-river again almost entirely
by muscle-power. Pushing against the bottom with poles, or pulling with
ropes from the shore, river boatmen worked the whole way up from New
Orleans to Pittsburgh.


A river boatman still works hard, but in a very different way. In his
time off, he may listen to radio or even watch television on board the
towboat. In the old days, he would have caught fish and fried them over
a fire built in a pile of sand on the keelboat deck. Today the cook
takes food from a freezer, prepares it on an electric range, and stows
the dirty dishes in an automatic dishwasher.

In the old days, the river was the quickest way for passengers to
travel, and for freight, too. People now go faster by bus or train or
plane. But there’s more and more cargo for the barges to carry on the
Mississippi and the other rivers that flow into it. Oil, coal, grain,
steel, ore, sulfur are some of the things that move along ahead of the
powerful streamlined towboats.



Grain, coal, ore and limestone for making steel travel on Great Lakes
ships, too. So do many other kinds of cargo. Long ago, explorers
believed that the enormous sea-like lakes would lead them all the way
around the world to China. One man even wore Chinese clothes as he
paddled westward in an Indian canoe, so he would be properly dressed
when he arrived!

For nearly three hundred years since then, vessels have used these great
inland waterways to carry goods and the most precious cargo of
all--people. Settlers by the thousand from Germany, Sweden, Scotland and
other countries filled the decks of sailing vessels and paddle
steamboats that took them right up to the frontier. Today almost five
hundred modern cargo vessels shuttle back and forth on the Lakes,
carrying the wealth that the descendants of those pioneers have created.

A Great Lakes ship doesn’t look like any other. She is broad and low and
very long--so long, in fact that she is less rigid than most ships.
Seamen say she feels “willowy” if she steams along in heavy weather
after her cargo is unloaded. The wheelhouse of a Lakes ship is forward
in the bow, along with quarters for the officers and a few passengers.
The engine and the crew’s quarters are away at the stern. In between,
are holds--a great many more of them than on any ocean-going ship.
Marvellous loading machines dump ore or any other loose cargo into the
holds. Other wonderful unloading machines quickly scoop the cargo out.


Many of the ships run between ports on Lake Huron and Lake Superior.
Lake Superior is 22 feet higher than Lake Huron. So ships must use a
sort of ladder to get from one to the other through a canal called the
Sault Sainte Marie--or Soo for short. Locks in the canal are the
ladder-rungs. Suppose a ship is going up. She enters the narrow canal.
Ahead are gates. Gates close behind her. She is in a lock. Now the gates
in front open and let more water into the lock, lifting the ship higher.
She moves forward into another lock and is lifted again in the same way.
Sometimes as she goes along, seamen on board toss money to ice cream
sellers on shore, and catch the pop-sticks that are thrown back.

For eight months each year, the Lake ships keep hurrying back and forth
between Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, Duluth and other port
cities. There’s hardly a time when a man can’t see smoke from other
vessels on the horizon. Then winter comes, and the Lakes freeze over.
Lake sailors tie up their ships and go ashore. Most of them have been on
the water day and night through the whole season.

Sometimes a ship stays out too late in the year and can’t get to port
because ice has locked her in. Then a ship called an ice breaker comes
to her rescue. An ice breaker smashes up ice early in the spring, too,
so that ships can begin to move.


[Illustration: Oil Tanker]

[Illustration: Coastal Lumber Carrier]

[Illustration: Types of Cargo-Passenger Ships]

[Illustration: Banana Ship]

[Illustration: Coastal Freighter]

[Illustration: Collier]

[Illustration: Seatrain]


Merchant seamen man all the different kinds of cargo ships you see in
the pictures on these two pages. Their jobs take great skill and
patience and very often courage. It has always been that way with men
who follow the sea. Some of the things they do are as old as ships
themselves. But many things are different now.

On old sailing vessels, the crew had to get their sleep wherever they
could find a place to lie down. They might curl up on a coil of rope or
on the cargo in the hold. Later, they were given one room, the
forecastle, for the whole crew. Everybody was on watch at least twelve
hours a day. It is only in the last twenty years that seamen have worked
eight regular hours a day.

[Illustration: Types of Freighters in Hawaiian Trade]

[Illustration: Mariner Class Freighter]

[Illustration: Harbor Tug]

[Illustration: New Type Freighter]

[Illustration: Ocean-Going Tug]

[Illustration: Victory Class Freighter]

[Illustration: Liberty Ship]

Almost all ships now have more comfortable bunkrooms, with only two or
four men in each one. Instead of living on old-fashioned salt meat and
salt fish and crackers called hardtack, seamen have almost the same
things that they eat ashore. In the old days, seamen often got a disease
called scurvy because they had no fresh food. Then the British
discovered that lime juice prevented scurvy, and every one of their
ships carried barrels of it. That’s why American seamen still call
British seamen limeys.

There are laws and regulations now that provide for better food and
working hours and pay on ships. Seamen in their unions have worked hard
to get the laws and rules that have made life better for them.


Fishermen have always been among the most daring and hardworking men of
the sea. For thousands of years they have experimented and invented,
always in search of the boats and ships and nets that will do the best
job for them. New England fishermen used to be great whittlers of ship
models. They carved out their models partly for fun, partly to give
shipbuilders new ideas for improving their designs.

One of the great fishing towns is Gloucester, Massachusetts, and there’s
a story about it that goes this way: Almost two hundred and fifty years
ago, a ship builder in Gloucester launched a vessel that everyone
admired. On the day when she first slid into the water, a big crowd
gathered to watch. She was graceful and light, and she fairly skimmed
along--the way a flat stone does when a boy skips it over the water. In
those days in New England, some people called skipping “scooning.”

All at once, someone in the crowd called out, “See how she scoons!” The
builder called back, “A scooner let her be!” And according to the story,
the name schooner--a new spelling--has stuck to this very day.

A modern schooner still has sails, but not so many as the early ones. An
engine now gives her power, so that she can make fast time to and from
the fishing grounds, and her sails are used mostly to steady her in the
sea while the men work. The engine also helps with the heavy work of
handling the nets.


Each kind of fish has its own habits, and the fishermen know them well.
Some fish, such as cod and flounder, live down near the floor of the
sea. They are caught in drag nets which are towed at the right speed
behind the vessel. Men haul the net in, dump the catch into ice-cooled
bins in the hold, then drag the net again.

Mackerel behave differently. They swim along in huge groups called
schools near the surface of the water. The lookout man on the mast keeps
his eye on the sea till he can yell, “School O!” Quickly the men lower a
boat that sets a huge net called a purse-seine. At first the net is
really a fence. Hundreds of floating corks at the top, and lead weights
at the bottom, hold it in place, while the seine-boat draws it into a
circle around the fish. Then, at a signal, a motor in the seine-boat
pulls on a sort of drawstring in the bottom of the net, closing it and
turning it into a kind of giant sack. The seine is “pursed” with the
fish trapped inside.

This is what happens on a lucky day. But mackerel can be very irritating
fish. Sometimes the whole school will suddenly dive and race away to
safety, just the moment before the trap closes. Fishermen must have
patience as well as skill.

Before engines went to sea, the men had to purse the seine by hand.
Since their schooner carried no ice, they cleaned the fish, salted them
and packed them into barrels as fast as possible. Everybody, including
the skipper, worked at top speed. Even the cook lent a hand, and he was
often a boy of ten who hung his pots in an open fireplace or smoked
some of the mackerel in the chimney.


Fleets of fishing vessels go out together when the season is right.
There’s a race for the fishing grounds, and then a race back to deliver
the catch to market. In fishing towns all around the seacoasts, small
forests of masts fill the harbors when the fleets are in.

Among the schooners you can also see sturdily-built trawlers, which are
usually driven by steam-power. Newest of all are the vessels that work
like quick-freeze factories. Machines on board clean the fish, cut them
up, package them and freeze them right where they are caught. Or the
fishermen may quick-freeze the whole fish, then bring them back to be
thawed and sent to market.

People in fishing towns are proud of their fleets, and there’s a warm
welcome for the vessel that comes in first with a big load.


The day a ship returns safely has always been important to seafaring
men. It’s especially important if she has made a new record of some
kind. All the seamen in New York harbor were excited when the passenger
liner United States came in after crossing the Atlantic faster than any
other liner had ever done. And they all showed their respect in the
traditional way.

On tugs and freighters, on tankers, on other liners, skippers passed
down the word, “Break out the bunting!” This meant take out all the
brightly colored signal flags and hang them on the stays. (On page 91
you can find out what the signal flags are.) The United States had her
bunting out, too. When she appeared in the harbor, every vessel there
greeted her with tremendous whistle blasts. Fireboats filled the air
with high curving streams of water from all their nozzles.


Aboard the United States, the members of the crew were more excited than
any one else in the harbor, but their work went right on through all the
happy hullaballoo. The AB’s got ready to tie their huge ship up. Others,
from the black gang to the steward’s department, were busy with
last-minute jobs. Working together as one huge team, they had made the
world’s fastest crossing. On the trip from New York to England, the
United States averaged 35.9 knots. (That means she travelled nearly 42
land miles an hour. Seamen never say “knots per hour.” They just say
knots.) Before that the passenger liner Queen Mary held the record. It
took the United States 10 hours and 2 minutes less than the Queen Mary
to cross the ocean.

The United States is really more than a ship. With a thousand people in
her crew and two thousand passengers, she is a floating town. Besides
the seamen who do their regular seamen’s work, there are crew members
with special jobs. In the ship’s shopping centers, storekeepers sell
souvenirs, and all kinds of things that passengers want and need. Movie
operators work in her two theaters. A children’s nurse takes care of
children in the nursery. A veterinarian cares for pets on board. Guards
watch over the swimming pool. A doctor and a registered nurse are ready
in the ship’s hospital to help anyone who is sick. Air conditioning
experts see that every room in the ship is kept at the right
temperature. Everything from the engine room to the dog kennels is


Curtains, chair covers and rugs on the ship are made of material that
doesn’t burn. There is no wood at all in the ship except in the
butchers’ chopping blocks and in the pianos. But suppose a passenger
drops a match into a wastebasket in his stateroom. There’s an automatic
smoke-smelling gadget that sends a signal to a room on the bridge. The
officer there turns on the fire alarm, then pulls a lever which closes
that particular stateroom door and blocks the fire off.

There are lifeboats for all three thousand people in case of emergency.
These lifeboats are driven by propellers--but they have no engines.
People supply the power for the propeller. They push handles back and
forth. Even on this most modern ship in the world, there are boats that
move in the oldest way--by muscle power.


The four propellers of the liner herself are each as tall as a
two-storey house. They are turned by enormous steam turbine engines.
Smoke from the boilers goes out through unusual-looking stacks. Inside
each one are giant filters that take away most of the soot. Besides,
there are wings called vanes at the top of the stacks to help keep the
smoke from swirling down onto the deck.

Although the United States is about five city blocks long and twelve
decks high, she looks as light and graceful in her way as the old
clipper ships. The clippers were American sailing vessels that got their
names because they went at a very fast clip. A hundred years ago they
held speed records all over the world. No wonder the captain of the
United States proudly said that his seamen were carrying on the clipper
ship tradition.


Many people think the clippers were the most beautiful ships ever built.
Certainly they were the first sailing ships to be planned by men who
used scientific ideas in their work. At that time, science was bringing
modern machinery of all kinds to the world. Inventors had already put
steam engines into ships, but they had not yet studied what was the best
shape for a speedy vessel. And speed was becoming very important as more
people and cargoes crossed the oceans.

[Illustration: An Old Bay Liner]

No one knew whether steamships could go fast. But some shipbuilders
believed that sailing ships could go faster than ever before. They built
the record-breaking clippers. Soon the magnificent vessels began to have
races all the way from China to New York and London. It was many years
before steamships caught up with the clippers, but in the end they
proved to be faster. More important, they could keep going whether there
was any wind or not.


It’s the job of a passenger ship to carry people--and give them a good
time on their journey. But passenger ships also carry cargo. That’s true
of big ones and little ones, such as the City of Norfolk which belongs
to the Old Bay Line, the oldest American shipping company.

The City of Norfolk goes on short trips back and forth between Norfolk
and Baltimore on Chesapeake Bay. She takes on cargo during the day and
sails at night. Although she’s an old ship, she has radar to help guide
her through the busy waters of the Bay. All around are fishing craft,
ferries, ocean-going vessels--endless traffic through which the officers
must steer a safe course. In the dark wheelhouse, soft small lights hold
the key to safety--the sea-green light by which the man at the wheel
sees the markings on the compass, the yellow pips and the revolving blue
line on the radarscope.

In the hold below are automobiles, piles of second-hand truck tires,
crates holding all kinds of things, copper sheets by the ton which have
come by train from Utah, and will end up in some eastern factory.

[Illustration: Interior of an Old Time Bay Line Steamer]

[Illustration: Seattle to Bremerton Ferry]

Passengers stroll all over the decks. Some are travelling on business;
some are just sailing for fun. A group of school boys and girls on their
class trip dance to phonograph records. Their staterooms are
air-conditioned, but the inside of the ship looks almost as it did in
their grandmothers’ day, with balconies and big living-rooms called

The City of Norfolk--and many other ships like her on bays and rivers
and lakes--is really a sort of combination ferry boat and hotel. Most
ferries, of course, have much shorter runs, and they are built to fit
the needs of their own special work.

Many ferries look exactly the same fore and aft. They have propellers,
rudders and wheelhouses at both ends, and there’s a good reason why. A
double-ended ferry makes quick trips back and forth. She can save time
if she doesn’t have to turn around in the water when she goes in and out
of her dock which is called a slip.

The big ferries carry automobiles, trucks, and as many as three thousand
people at a time. Some of them, on long runs, have up-to-date snack bars
so passengers can get quick meals. For safety, they carry lifeboats and
life jackets, just as ocean-going vessels do. But a ferry could never go
to sea. She is built very broad, with very little of her under the water
and a great deal above. Big ocean waves would tip her over.

[Illustration: Staten Island Ferry]

[Illustration: Arkansas River Ferry]

Men have used ferries from the earliest times. Hundreds and even
thousands of years ago people and animals were ferried across rivers on
rafts. Even today there are raft-like ferries which men guide across our
rivers by steel cables.

[Illustration: Railroad Car Ferry]

Train ferries take loaded freight cars across harbors where there are no
railroad bridges. In some harbors, the cars travel on flat-bottomed
barges which tugboats shove along.


Long ago, barges were quite different. They were elegant vessels in
which kings and important people travelled on rivers. And fancy barges,
towed along behind paddle steamboats, once carried passengers up and
down the Hudson River, too. At that time the steam boilers on
paddleboats often exploded. Many crewmen and passengers were killed. So,
in order to attract customers, some steamboats towed “safety barges”

Nowadays barges are plain cargo vessels that do heavy work. Most of them
have no power of their own. They must be towed or pushed. The seaman who
handles a barge is called a barge captain. He must be an AB to get the
job, and on some barges he lives in a house at the stern. If he has a
family, they may make their home there the year round.

Before the days of railroads, a whole system of canals joined many of
the important American cities. Along these waterways horses or mules
pulled barge-loads of freight. Many a canal boatman started before he
was twelve years old, driving a mule on long trips all by himself. There
are still some canals in use, and powerdriven barges carry cargoes on


The old-fashioned engines that used to explode are gone now. So are the
candles and whale-oil lamps that lighted ships. All these caused fires
in wooden vessels. But even today, when most ships are made of steel,
with fireproofing equipment, there’s work for fireboats to do.

The seamen aboard fireboats belong to the Fire Department. They do deck
work or engine work, and they also handle the pumps and nozzles that
shoot enormous streams of water. The pumps suck in water through holes
in the side of the boat and force it through hoses and nozzles that can
be aimed like big guns.


Sometimes fireboats go a little way outside their harbor to help a
burning ship. On the way, the fireboat captain guides his vessel between
buoys that mark the channels where ships can go. All harbors have these
channels, which are really streets for water traffic. The buoys are
floating signals anchored to the bottom. On a clear day, seamen can tell
by looking at the shape and color what each buoy means. In a fog or at
night, they listen for the bells or whistles on some special buoys and
watch for the flashing lights on others.

Rivers have channels marked with buoys, too, and men who belong to the
United States Coast Guard Service have the job of placing and repairing

The Coast Guard also cares for lighthouses at dangerous points along the
shore. Powerful lights and foghorns in the lighthouses warn ships away
from rocks or shallow water and also help them find out exactly where
they are. In some places, lightships anchored in the sea do this same
job. A lightship is really a giant buoy. Seamen live aboard her to care
for the safety equipment. They get their food and mail from vessels
called tenders. (Any vessel that supplies another is a tender.)

Coast Guardsmen help seamen in other ways, too. Suppose a ship is
sinking. Fast, tough little Coast Guard cutters race off to the rescue
the minute the dreaded SOS signal comes over their radio. (SOS is the


signal for “help!” and every radio man understands it, no matter what
language he speaks.)


Using a special gun, men on the cutter shoot a lifeline across to the
sinking ship, and a breeches buoy is rigged on it. This is a canvas
seat, made like a pair of short pants. The seat hangs from a wheel
called a block which runs along the line. One by one the seamen sit in
the seat and are pulled along to safety.


In the days when the United States was still a very new country, many
people in Europe longed for the freedom they were sure they could find
here. One of them was Ferdinand Hassler, a young Swiss mathematician.
Hassler was no seaman when he set out for the new world in a sailing
ship. But luckily he did know a great deal about the stars. After the
captain of his vessel collapsed in a terrific storm, Hassler was able to
look at the stars and tell the seamen how to steer the ship.


The things Hassler knew about mathematics made it easy for him to
navigate, but real troubles began when the ship came into Delaware Bay.
The map of the bay was old and very inaccurate. Hassler could not tell
whether the ship was in shallow water or deep water, except by watching
the leadline day and night.

This last part of his adventure made young Hassler very angry because it
was so unscientific. He realized that the safety of all ships depended
on accurate maps, called charts, of the coasts and harbors. Soon after
he landed he began to make plans for a survey of the whole American
coast. He talked to President Jefferson who agreed with him, and
Congress finally gave him the job. At last his good charts began to help
save lives.

Today the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey carries on the work
Hassler started. Using many ships and small boats with marvellous
equipment, the scientific men of the sea go about their important and
often dangerous work. It’s their job to map the earth that lies under
the oceans, rivers and harbors. Here are some of the things they do
along the Alaskan coast.

A survey ship moves through the water sending sound waves to the bottom
of the ocean. A delicate machine records the echoes made when the sound
waves bounce back from the deep valleys and the high mountain tops that
lie beneath the surface. Scientists know how fast sound travels in
water, so they can tell exactly how deep it is. But some of the peaks
are narrow and sharp. Even the wonderful machines miss them. And so
these very modern vessels must do something old-fashioned and simple.
Two of them travel side by side with a long wire cable hanging between
them. If the cable catches on a rock, the men know they have snagged a
sunken mountain top.

Often, men on shore help the men on ships with their surveying. The
instruments they use are so delicate that the warmth of direct sunlight
would cause inaccuracies. One slight error might mean a shipwreck. So,
even in Alaska, a surveyor works under an umbrella.


You might think that all the charts and maps should have been finished
in the long years since President Jefferson’s time. But the work of
making charts can never be finished. The coastline is always changing.
Currents and tides, storms and floods shift millions of tons of sand
near the coast. Earthquakes and volcanoes raise land or lower it. A
place that was safe for ships yesterday may be dangerous today.

In Alaska, glaciers that run into the sea grow bigger or melt back.
Sometimes these enormous rivers of ice push themselves out under the
water. The little survey vessels mapping the ocean’s bottom have to sail
over the sunken glaciers. There is always danger that, at any moment, a
great mountain of fresh-water ice may break loose and rush toward the
surface. When this happens, any vessel nearby is almost certain to be

Seafaring men need to know about the tides when they enter or leave
harbors. Tides are very different at different places along our enormous
coastline, and they change from one day to another. The Coast and
Geodetic Survey has worked out a wonderful way of telling ships about
tides in advance. Every day, records pour into Washington from all along
the seacoast. The figures they give are put into a fantastic “thinking
machine,” together with other figures about the sun and moon which cause
the tides. Electricity is turned on, and in no time the machine tells
what tides will be like with ordinary weather tomorrow or even next

Men have come a long way since they first learned to float on a blown-up
animal skin or a bundle of reeds. For thousands of years, they have been
inventing new and better ways to travel across water. But the oceans
have an enormous power and force. Science and seamen still have much to
learn about the power which they must fight and make work for them--and
which will always be exciting.



Here are some words that you haven’t met in the rest of the book. They
are all part of seagoing language.




     AHOY--a call given by men on one ship to greet men on another.

     AVAST--an officer shouts “avast” if he wants a seaman to stop
     hauling on a line.

     BELAY--to tie or make fast. A belaying pin is a short rod which can
     be stuck into a holder so that a line can be twisted around it.
     There were many belaying pins on old sailing vessels, and they made
     handy weapons at times.

     DEEP SIX--when a sailor throws something overboard, he “gives it
     the deep six.” The expression comes from the days when sailors
     measured the depth of water with a leadline. The “deep six” was a
     place on the line which showed the water was six fathoms (36 feet)





     FOUL--Seamen use this word to describe anything that has gone wrong
     or got mixed up. A snarled line is foul. A ship’s hull covered with
     barnacles is foul. Bad weather is foul.

     NORWEGIAN STEAM--seamen say they use “Norwegian steam” when they do
     heavy work without the help of machinery.

     SCUTTLE BUTT--the drinking fountain on a ship. Because seamen often
     gather there to talk, the rumors and gossip that they pass on are
     also called “scuttle butt.”

     SEA LAWYER--a seaman who likes to argue about rules and

     SLOP CHEST--a room where seamen can buy clothes. Every ship is
     required to have one.

     SLUMGULLION--a seaman’s word for stew that he doesn’t like.

     TRAMP--a freighter that ties up anywhere and has no regular

     WINDJAMMER--a sailing vessel.


Code flags make it possible for ships to talk to each other at sea. Each
flag stands for a number or for a letter in the alphabet. The flags are
used in combinations--not to spell out individual words, but to send a
whole message. For instance, the two flags N and C flown together mean,
“In distress. Need prompt aid.” No matter what language a seaman speaks
he knows what this signal means. Some of the other messages he can read
are IQ--“Do not pass ahead of me”; RW--“Where are you from?”; AG--“Shall
not abandon my vessel.”


AB, 12, 26

Able Bodied Seaman, 12

accommodation ladder, 26

amidships, 25

anchor, 34-35

athwartships, 25

backstay, 28

banana boats, 43-46

basket boat, 40

barge, 60, 80, 81

barnacles, 50

batten down the hatches, 27

beam, 28

bells, 14

bilge, 28

bireme, 33

booms, 27

bosun, 24, 29

bosun’s chair, 29, 31

bow, 12

Bowditch, Nathaniel, 18, 19

brightwork, 31

bulkhead, 24

buoy, 82

canal, 62, 80, 81

capstan, 22

captain, 29

chantey, 21, 22

charts, 84-87

Chips, 24, 25, 34

Clermont, 58

clipper, 75, 76

City of Norfolk, 76, 77

Coast Guard, 82, 83

companionway, 24

compass, 17, 18

crow’s nest, 13

davit, 46

depth recorder, 57

dhow, 33

dock, 27

draft, 28

drydock, 50-51

dugout, 32

Egypt, 31-32

engineer, 30

engine room telegraph, 19

fathom, 58

fender, 54

ferry boats, 78, 79

fireboat, 81

firemen, 30

fishing vessels, 66-70

forecastle, 10

gantries, 44

galley, 12

galleys, 33

Great Lakes Ships, 60-62

handy billy, 25

Hassler, Ferdinand, 84-86

hatch, 27

hawse pipe, 34

heaving line, 53

helm, 26

helmsman, 26

ice breaker, 62

International Code flags, 91

Jacob’s ladder, 26

junk, 39

jury rudder, 37

keelboat, 58

king posts, 27

knots, 29

leadline, 57, 58, 85

leeward, 25

lifeboat, 44-46, 73, 74

lifeline, 38

life raft, 41

lighter, 40

lights, 15

limey, 65

locks, 62

Mark Twain, 58

marlinspike, 29

mate, 14

merchant ship types, 64-65

messmen, 31

mizzenmast, 24, 29

monkey fist, 53, 54

navigating, 19

oiler, 30

oil tanker, 37-41

Old Bay Line, 76, 77

ore carriers, 60-62

outrigger, 39

paddleboats, 58, 80

papyrus reed canoe, 32

passenger ships, 70-79

pea coat, 10

pier, 27

pilot, 26, 57

pilot house, 26

poop deck, 28

port, 15

purse seine, 68

Queen Mary, 72

quartermaster, 26

radar, 56, 57, 77

radio man, 31

raft, 40

SOS, 82, 83

sailor, 12

sailor’s palm, 21

Samson posts, 27

Santa Maria, 33

schooner, 66, 67

scrimshaw, 49

sea anchor, 45

Seatrain, 42

sheepshank, 29

shroud, 28

sparks, 31

standing watch, 10-19

starboard, 15

stay, 28

steward, 31

storm oil, 45, 46

survey ships, 86-87

taffrail log, 28

tanker, 37-41

tides, 88

towboat, 54-59

trawler, 69

trireme, 33

tugs, 52-59

United States, 70-74

United States Coast Guard, 82, 83

United States Coast Guard and Geodetic Survey, 86-87

Viking ships, 39

watch, 12

whaler, 48-49

wharf, 27

wheel, 17

wheelhouse, 13-14, 17, 26

wildcat, 35

windlass, 35

windward, 25


     The saltiest thanks of the author and artist go to the following
     who, in one way or another, have helped make this book possible:
     Margaret Gossett; R. L. Jones of the Old Bay Line; Inez M. DeVille
     of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; Penelope Spurr of the United
     Fruit Company; Arthur L. Pleasants, Captain, USN; Samuel S. Yeaton,
     Colonel, USN, Ret.; the Cleveland, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce: the
     Lake Carriers Association, the Mariners’ Museum, Newport News,
     Virginia; the National Maritime Union, CIO; the Norfolk Chamber of
     Commerce; the Pennsylvania Railroad; the State of Washington;
     Department of Fisheries; the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce;
     Seatrain Lines, Inc.; the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey); the
     State of New York, Department of Public Works; the United States
     Coast and Geodetic Survey; the United States Coast Guard; the
     United States Lines; and finally to a modest AB and to many people
     who have written careful, enthusiastic books about ships and
     seafaring men.

                  *       *       *       *       *


                             SHIPS AT WORK

                           _By_ Mary Elting

                   _Illustrated by_ Manning deV. Lee

Here is the colorful, exciting life of the sea--the men, the ships they
sail, the work they do, the cargoes they carry to the far corners of the
world--all vividly presented.

Freighters, tankers, ferries, tugs, and the many unusual ships that do
highly specialized jobs are shown in action. The work, the sailor’s
language, the kind of life a seaman lives, the use of recent inventions
(such as radar) all contribute to this fascinating picture of SHIPS AT
WORK. The newest and proudest of ocean liners, the “United States,” is
pictured and described as well as the humblest dugouts and sailing
vessels of ancient times.

The illustrator, famous for his marine paintings, has combined beauty
with clear, sharp detail. His many full-color pictures in this book give
added interest to your seafaring knowledge.

You will find this book an exciting companion to TRAINS AT WORK, TRUCKS


Garden City Books

Garden City, New York

                  *       *       *       *       *

                           MACHINES AT WORK

                           _By_ Mary Elting

                     _Illustrated by_ Laszlo Roth


There are machines to dig, to hammer, to push--to do every kind of heavy
job and to make work thousands of times easier and faster.

On farms, in the mines, in cities where huge buildings are built and out
in the woods where powerdriven saws slice through great trees, many
kinds of special machines do many kinds of remarkable jobs.

Can you imagine a giant shovel so huge that it took 45 freight cars to
haul it from factory to mine? Do you know that there is a machine that
plucks the feathers off chickens, ones that pick corn, dig potatoes?
Inventors of machines work on everything--they even had fun making a
mechanical mouse that can sniff about until it finds a piece of “cheese”
and then “remember” and run straight to it next time!

As marvelous and complicated as all these machines are, the author
points out that no inventions will ever be as wonderful as the men who
invented them--and the men who make them work.

Garden City Books

Garden City, New York

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