Life aboard ship

"The devil to pay, and no pitch hot!"
Whether sheltered in the forecastle, perched up in the rigging, toiling over the guns or clinging to the yards, the sailors on the Natière ships had to submit to the law of the sea. When their ship was becalmed, they sculpted and polished objects out of bone or wood. Sometimes they beseeched the heavens for a favourable wind. Life aboard ship was lived according to a routine – watches, work, meals – that kept boredom at bay, and that was punctuated with songs, dances and games. Squeezed together below decks, the men lived, ate and slept together, their hammocks hung from the deck beams, and their belongings stowed away in chests. Death was never far away – sailors fell from the rigging, succumbed to fevers or were cut down with blade and gun shot. Two centuries after the Natière ships sank, traces of these men surge up from the past – the fragile remains of a meal, a shoe, dice, a pipe and its holder. Overlooked in official accounts and forgotten by history, they appear to us today, working, singing, praying and dreaming.

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