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Watch, aboard ship

Published Sources
Watch was the name given to the period of time during which a proportion of a ship's crew were givewn duties to perform.

Working at sea was difficult, exhausting and of course did not stop with the setting of the sun. Work was consequently organised by dividing day and night into set periods of time during which one portion of a ship’s company remained on deck performing their assigned duties while the remainder of the crew rested, or did necessary chores such as mending rigging or sails. The length of time men spent working on deck was called a watch.

In the eighteenth century, the length of a watch could vary, but on Royal Navy ships it was usually four hours long, with what was called a dog watch between four and eight in the evening. During the dog watch two groups of men spent only two hours on deck. This ensured that over time each group of men shared the burden of working through the night.

In the Royal Navy each watch was usually commanded by a lieutenant, accompanied by the ship’s master or one or more of his mates.


Created: 28 February 2004

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000363

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