Keeping time onboard ship was once essential for navigation. Find out how ships keep time and make sure your ship would make it home.
Just like schools ships have timetables, to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on. In Nelson’s Navy all the men ate at the same time but they couldn’t all sleep at the same time. If everyone went to sleep at the same time what do you think would happen?
The ships day began at
when the angle of the sun over the horizon was taken to help find out where the ship was. The day was divided into 7 watches, like this:
24 hr clock
4pm to 6pm
First dog (After the Dog Star, first to be seen at night.)
6pm to 8pm
First watch (1st watch of the night)
12am to 4am
Middle watch ( middle of the night)
4am to 8pm
8am to 12noon
Just like in school the sailors were split into groups. In school they are called classes; on board a ship they are called divisions. Each division would have something different to do during each watch.
24 hr clock
Take sightings to find out where the ship is. Everyone else has dinner
1st division at rest, 2nd division gunnery practice.
Officers to dinner
1st division get grog and supper
2nd division get grog and supper
Hammocks are set out by entire ships company ready for sleep. 1st division go to sleep
1st division watch get up, 2nd division go to sleep
1st division go to sleep, 2nd division get up.
Cook gets up to light galley fires
2nd division get up and begin swabbing decks
The entire ships company take down hammocks
Entire ships company have breakfast
Training and maintenance begin from whole crew.
Crew are gathered to watch punishment of there is to be any.
Ships company called to dinner.
Use a sand timer to measure out half an hour then ring the right number of bells.
Get two clear plastic bottles of the same size and shape, something like a shampoo bottle will do.
Use a short piece of plastic drinking straw, (the thinner the better) and wrap it in plasticine.
Fill one of the bottles with salt.
Stick the plasticine into the open neck of the salt filled bottle and then stick the other bottle on top. Try and get the same amount of plasticine in each bottle. Turn the timer over and if you have a stopwatch start it. Otherwise carefully watch a clock or watch until exactly half an hour has passed. When half an hour has passed, turn the timer onto its side to stop the salt running any more. Very carefully remove the top bottle and empty out the extra sand.
Replace the top bottle, and test your sand timer.
You may need to test and adjust a few times to get a really accurate half hour timer.
You could try creating, a 1-minute, a 5-minute or an hour or even a 24-hour timer, but you will need much bigger bottles for 24 hours.