Life on Board

Daily Duties of Crew in the Barque Picton Castle

Watches in Port

Depending on how long the Picton Castle is in each port, the time is divided among the three watches, or whatever we can do to look after the ship adequately and give the crew the most time on shore. Typically a port layover is three full days or six full days. The rule of thumb is two days free, one on watch.

What generally happens is that one watch works from 8 AM until 8 PM, when they are relieved by the next watch. Then they have 2 days off and return to duty again on the 3rd day. In some ports like Cape Town, South Africa, where the harbour facilities are particularly secure and we are there for a longer time, the crew are able to travel, go on safari etc. The turnover of the watch would be longer, for example, 3 days on watch and 6 days off watch.

In port, the duty-watch carries on with the usual ship's maintenance work, or maybe a special project that can only be done when we were not underway, such as laying out and cutting a big new sail, engine work, or overhauling one of the small boats. It can also be something pertaining to that port, such as stowing provisions or cargo that comes onboard.

At the end of the work day in port, the watch breaks into hourly segments after 1800 hrs (6:00 PM), and each member stands anchor watch on deck for an hour. This generally is to look after the security of the ship, to keep an eye on the weather, to look after the boats alongside or to check for chafing on the mooring lines when we are tied up at a wharf. One third of the crew is aboard to help if needed. The watch-stander is to call the Mate for any reason.

During his or her watch, the watch-stander bails the boats in the water and does an overall ship check, as well as being generally vigilant. The watch-stander then awakens the next person for his or her watch. These anchor watches allow us to not only sail around the world safely but give the off-watch complete freedom to come and go as they like without really worrying about the ship.

Watches at Sea

There are three watches at sea around the clock: 4–8, 8–12 and the 12–4. How your day breaks down depends on which watch you are on. If you are on the 12–4, you are on watch from noon until 4 PM and then on watch again from midnight until 4 AM. In between those times your time is generally your own, unless it is "All Hands," which means that all crew are on deck.

Each Watch has chores specific to that watch:

Meal times are arranged by watches for Breakfast and Lunch, but everyone eats Dinner at the same time. For example, the ongoing watch and the daymen eat lunch at 1130 hrs and then the off watch, the 12–4 and the 4–8 eat at 1200 hrs.

Ship's work is done Monday through Saturday noon. Everyone breaks from noon on Saturday until Monday morning at 0800 hrs. However, over the weekend the watches are still stood, and any immediate repairs are made; but no routine ship's maintenance is done unless needed at the time.

Late Sunday afternoons we often have a "Marlinspike," which is punch and popcorn, a socialising and relaxing time when everyone is on deck together.

Ship life at sea is very simple. You stand your watch, you sail the ship, keep her up, you have free time, you eat and you sleep.

There are a few exceptions to a typical day at sea

These include being on Galley and being a Dayman.

Galley Duty

Galley is helping in the ship's kitchen. One person from each watch is assigned to Galley every day, so there are a total of three helpers plus the ship's cook who make and prepare the meals everyday.

The Galley starts at 0630 hrs and will finish when the last dish is put away neatly so that it looks as if no one even ate that day!

The Galley staff are totally at the mercy of the ship's cook. Often they will get free time in the afternoon to have a nap or read. Other times they will just finish early. The bonus about being on Galley is that you miss your next night watch, and start again the next day, so you can sleep the whole night through!


Being a Dayman means working on some kind of special project. There are Daymen who never go on watch. They include the Purser, the Bosun, the Cook, and the Sailmaker.

In good steady weather a deep-water sailing ship breaks some hands off the watch system and puts them to work as Daymen. This is popular with most but not with all; some prefer to stay on the watches and so they may. Day-men will sometimes work as apprentice sailmakers, or dayman riggers who help the Bosun. Other times it may be Engine Room work. It is volunteer and only if the trainee is quite interested.

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