A Seaman on Providence

A Seaman on Providence

Who really makes a ship run? Sure the captain is important, but the hardest workers on a ship in the age of sail were often the lowest ranking. These were the Landsmen, Ordinary Seamen, and Able Seamen. Seaman was a general term used interchangeably with sailor to mean anyone who works on a ship out at sea during the age of sail. Seamen were important for everything from rigging to cleaning; steering to sail handling.


Our lowest ranking seaman is out Landsman. This rank has its roots in the Royal Navy, but was adopted by the US Navy. These sailors are new trainees who have little to no experience. The lowest grade of adult entry for seamen, they are very new and probably have never been on a ship before. If they have, it has certainly been less than a year. 

These sailors are performing the dirtiest, most grueling tasks on our ship. The things that our slightly more experienced seamen certainly don’t want to do. After generally about a year or so, they could be promoted from landsman to the next lowest rank, Ordinary Seaman.

Ordinary Seaman

The Ordinary Seaman will have one to one and a half years of training under their belt. They understand rudimentary seamanship and have a grasp on the ropes of sailing. Oftentimes, their role is to take care of maintenance, repair, sanitation, upkeep of equipment and material. They may have proficiency in spicing, knotting, and using a marlinspike. This term too also has its roots in the Royal Navy. Turns out when you used to be a colony of the British, you end up taking a thing or two with you when you leave. After enough time working on a ship, the Ordinary Seaman could be promoted to the Able Seaman.

Able Seaman

An Able Seaman will be able to perform a specific range of duties they have been trained for. They receive about a 25% higher pay than an Ordinary Seaman and can be expected to “hand, reef, and steer”. This means they are able to take soundings, work aloft, and steer the ship. More than two years of experience makes an Able Seaman, but some may even have more. These sailors are on track to become a junior officer before long. To learn more about the other roles on Providence, consider watching more of our #TallShipTuesday videos.

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