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Thread: Xenophon on seamanship and stowage:

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 1999
    Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK

    Default Xenophon on seamanship and stowage:

    "I think that the best and most perfect arrangement of things that I ever saw was when I went to look at the great Phoenician sailing-vessel; for I saw the largest amount of naval tackling separately disposed in the smallest stowage possible.

    For a ship, as you well know, is brought to anchor, and again got under way, by a vast number of wooden implements and of ropes and sails the sea by means of a quantity of rigging, and is armed with a number of contrivances against hostile vessels, and carries about with it a large supply of weapons for the crew, and, besides, has all the utensils that a man keeps in his dwelling-house, for each of the messes. In addition, it is laden with a quantity of merchandise which the owner carries with him for his own profit.

    Now all the things which I have mentioned lay in a space not much bigger than a room which would conveniently hold ten beds. And I remarked that they severally lay in a way that they did not obstruct one another, and did not require anyone to search for them; and yet they were neither placed at random, nor entangled one with another, so as to consume time when they were suddenly wanted for use.

    Also, I found the captain's assistant, who is called 'the look-out man,' so well acquainted with the position of all the articles, and with the number of them, that even when at a distance he could tell where everything lay, and how many there were of each sort, just as anyone who has learnt to read can tell the number of letters in the name of Socrates and the proper place for each of them.

    Moreover, I saw this man, in his leisure moments, examining and testing everything that a vessel needs when at sea; so, as I was surprised, I asked him what he was about, whereupon he replied--'Stranger, I am looking to see, in case anything should happen, how everything is arranged in the ship, and whether anything is wanting, or is inconveniently situated; for when a storm arises at sea, it is not possible either to look for what is wanting, or to put to right what is arranged awkwardly.'"

    Quoted, as you might expect, in some older editions of "Thomas on Stowage" and also in Dr T Harrison Butler's "Cruising Yachts, Design and Performance". But Dr Harrison Butler translates "the captain's right hand man, called the look out man" as "the boatswain".

    It's one of my favourite quotes, and shows that the essentials of seamanship have never changed.

    Edited to add - it's a quote from Xenophon; he of the March to the Sea...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Bradford, VT

    Default Re: Xenophon on seamanship and stowage:

    And has been echoed times without number since then.
    I liked the term 'leisure moments.'

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