Cabin boy

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For other uses, see Cabin boy (disambiguation).
Cabin boy, 1799

A cabin boy or ship's boy is a boy (in the sense of low-ranking male employee, not always a minor) who waits on the officers and passengers of a ship,[1] especially running errands for the captain.

Cabin boys were usually 14–16 years old and also helped the cook in the galley and carried buckets of food from the galley to the forecastle where the ordinary seamen ate. They would have to run from one end of the ship to the other carrying messages and become familiar with the sails, lines and ropes and the use of each in all sorts of weather. They would have to scramble up the rigging into the yards whenever the sails had to be trimmed. They would even begin to stand watch like other crewmen or act as helmsman in good weather, holding the wheel to keep the ship steady on her course.

Royal Navy officers[edit]

Several prominent British Royal Navy officers began their career as cabin boys. The list includes officers that achieved an admiralty rank before 1801.

Lord Admiral Nelson
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Cloudsley Shovell
Admiral Sir Francis Drake
Admiral Sir John Hawkins
Admiral (General) Richard Deane
Admiral (Colonel) William Rainsborough
Admiral Sir William Penn
Vice Admiral Sir William Batten
Vice Admiral Sir John Lawson
Vice Admiral (Captain) Badilow
Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Tiddeman
Vice Admiral (Captain) James Peacock
Vice Admiral (Captain) William Goodson
Vice Admiral Sir Christopher Myngs
Vice Admiral Sir John Harman
Rear Admiral Sir John Berry
Rear Admiral Sir Richard Stainer
Rear Admiral (Captain) Anthony Houlding
Rear Admiral (Captain) Deacons
Rear Admiral (Captain) Robert Sansum

Notable cabin boys[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

  • Cabin Boy, a 1994 film
  • "Cabin Boy" a song by Tom Robinson from the 1984/1997 Castaway Northwest CNWVP006 album War Baby
  • Captain Pugwash, a British television children's animated series about a hapless captain and his crew; Tom, the cabin boy, is depicted as the most intelligent member of the crew.
  • Treasure Island, where the main character Jim serves as a cabin boy on the boarding of the ship the Hispaniola.
  • "Cabin Boy", a short story by Damon Knight
  • Renaissance Festival, The Cabin Boys, Pirate Fire Comedy act from Minnesota.


  1. ^ Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1999, entry "Cabin boy"
  2. ^ 'Wisconsin Blue Book 1915,' Biographical Sketch of Chris Franzen, pg. 519
  3. ^