Cabin boy

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Thomas Rowlandson's depiction of a cabin boy (1799)

A cabin boy or ship's boy is a boy (in the sense of low-ranking young male employee, not always a minor in the juridical sense) who waits on the officers and passengers of a ship,[1] especially running errands for the captain. The modern merchant navy successor to the cabin boy is the steward's assistant.


Cabin boys were usually 13–16 years old, but sometimes as young as 8,[2] and also helped the cook in the ship's kitchen and carried buckets of food from the ship's kitchen to the forecastle where the ordinary seamen ate. They would have to scramble up the rigging into the yards whenever the sails had to be trimmed. They would occasionally stand watch like other crewmen or act as helmsman in good weather, holding the wheel to keep the ship steady on her course. They could be found on pirate ships sometimes.

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.

Notable cabin boys[edit]

Popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1999, entry "Cabin boy"
  2. ^ D. K (2013-10-17). History Year by Year: A Journey Through Time, from Mammoths and Mummies to Flying and Facebook. ISBN 9781409350279.
  3. ^ 'Wisconsin Blue Book 1915,' Biographical Sketch of Chris Franzen, pg. 519