|Ship Travel in the 1600s|
| The settlers who became known
as Acadians made the trip to the New World aboard ships. For information
on the trip, ship conditions, etc., see the sections below.
The only passenger ship list that we have from this era comes from the St. Jehan, which left France on April 1, 1636. Though a passenger list hasn't survived, it is known that the St. Jean made a trip to Acadia in 1647, and La Verve made the trip in 1648. [Emigration Rochelaise en Nouvelle-France, Archange Godbout, p. 142]
Though a passenger list hasn't survived, it is known that the St. Jean made a trip to Acadia in 1647, and La Verve made the trip in 1648. For example, births of children by the Hebert brothers started appearing in Acadia in 1649 ... so it is thought that they may have come to Acadia aboard this vessel. Those two ships were chartered by Emmanuel Le Borgne, sieur de Coudray, to bring colonists and supplies to the colony. [Emigration Rochelaise en Nouvelle-France, Archange Godbout, p. 142]
When England took Acadia in 1654, French immigration stopped. It resumed under French control in 1670 and continued sporadically until Acadia was taken by England permanently in the early 1700s.
Since the settlers came over as engages and/or as colonists, they were probably considered passengers. Although not an enjoyable adventure, it would be nothing like what awaited them in the 1750s.
Once in Acadia, smaller boats were used in the area for fishing. It was not uncommon for an Acadian to have a small boat. Cadillac said that “The creolles ... travel most of the time by bark canoes. Their wives do the same, and are very bold on the water.” ["The Cadillac Memoir," p. 81] Meneval wrote of how the Acadians used “canots d’escorce comme les sauvages, ou d’autres petits canots qu’ils font eux mesme d’une troue d’arbre creuse” [AC, C11D-2(1), 206: 1688] He may have meant dugouts or canoes made of one large piece of bark. They also used larger boats (ie. fishing skiff), especially when carrying large loads. [Clark, p. 136]
|Ship Travel in the 1700s|
| Before the deportations, there were 2 types
of sea travel involving Acadians. In one case, a few new settlers
came to Acadia ... but not many. Also, boats were used while in Acadia
for fishing and in a few cases, transportation
From 1755 to 1785, Acadians were deported by ship to Europe and territorial colonies. For the first wave of ship travel ... from 1755 to 1763, the Acadians were being forcefully deported ... packed in ships like sardines and suffered under terrible conditions. They weren't permitted to take their belongings. Hundreds died during travel and while being detained in ports.
One of the seven 1785 ships
| The next major sea movement of
Acadians came in the latter 1760s and in 1785, when 3000 +/- Acadians sailed
to Louisiana ... presumably under better conditions.
For information on the travel, ship conditions, etc., see the sections below.
|Types of ships|
| The French navy had: men-of-war (vaisseaux),
frigates, flutes, corvettes, and barges. The merchant marine (private
ships) had: frigates, full-scale ships (navires), brigantines, schooners,
The man of war was a 3 masted ship with square sails and from 56 to 120 guns. They
were from 110 to 163 ft. long. [Proulx, p. 17] The frigate was also 3 masted with square sails and from 24 to 36 guns. It was 110 to 125 ft. long. It was faster than a man of war. The merchant frigate had only one deck. The flute was a cargo or transport vessel that could carry from 8 to 30 guns. It had a flat bottom and was large. Most had a large cargo port in the stern to load long
pieces of timber. They transported men and goods. The corvette was a small frigate and was used as a messenger ship across the Atlantic. It could carry from 10 to 22 guns. To unload men of war, they sometimes used barges (flat, broad-beamed vessels).
Private vessels included frigates, which were used for privateering or as escort vessels. So they were primarily warships, with capacities from 550 to 800 tons. The word “ship” (navire) was used to describe 3 masted vessels of 100 to 500 tons burden. [France, AM, Rochefort, 2G2,
bundles 2, 5, 7, 8] Brigantines had 2 masts, with a square foremast and a fore-and-aft rig on the
mainmast. The average tonnage was 87. Schooners were 2 masted vessels and were
lateen-rigged fore and aft. Their average tonnage was 61. Bateaux, with only 1 mast, had
an average tonnage of 55. Snows and doggers were 2 masted trading vessels, but never really crossed the Atlantic. [Proulx, p. 18-25]
|The Transatlantic Journey|
Ships from France usually left from the ports of Bordeaux, La Rochelle, LeHavre, Nantes, and sometimes Marseilles and Bayonne. [Proulx, p. 26] Before heading out, sailing ships had to go through a major refit before crossing the Atlantic. In the process known as careening, the ballast would be removed by heaving it down with cables running through pulleys attached to the heads of the lower masts and capstans on the ground; this would put the ship on its side. Then workers replaced rotten planks, stopped up cracks and seams with oakum, and poured pitch and hot tar on to waterproof the hull. Then the other side was done. In some cases, parts of the keel needed to be repaired. The short lives of vessels suggests that they were poorly built.
After careening, the ship would be set upright and further work was done. The surface of the hull was scraped and repainted. Ballast (old iron, stones, gravel) were loaded aboard. Cargo and provisions also provided some of the ballast. But when the casks of wine and/or drinking water were used up, they had to be filled with sea water to maintain proper equilibrium. The ballast also had to be distributed evenly for the ship to sail well. [Proulx, p. 42]
Large ships couldn’t enter shallow ports, so lighters and barges (in France) or longboats, schooners, and bateaux (in Canada) were used. Tackle was used to hoist the cargo from the ships to the transports. Spaces between casks were filled with pieces of wood to prevent them from rolling at sea. [London, PRO, HCA 32, bundle 132] The quality of the casks and packing was often poor. Things often arrived in Canada in poor condition, what with the dampness and all. [Proulx, p. 43]
The process of careening, ballasting, and loading often took 3 to 4 weeks. In Canada, unloading took place over about 10 days (as did loading). It was usually the problem that they couldn’t find enough cargo to fill the holds of ships sailing from Quebec. Many craftsmen were hired to fix up a ship ... 50 different trades (ie. carpenters, painters, sailmakers). [Proulx, p. 44]
Other than careening, the work in getting a vessel ready was done by the crew. They stayed aboard ship while it was being loaded. The captain took care of permission to leave port and port duties (for anchorage, beaconage, and light dues). He was required (upon entering or leaving a port) to provide a statement about his cargo. He’d put his papers in a sack and tie them to a cannon ball. [Proulx, p. 45]
When all things were taken care of, a commissioner representing the Admiralty inspected the ship’s company (at least for the king’s vessels). Then the passengers could board. [Proulx, p. 46]
|Who was on board ... the crew and passengers|
Generally speaking, the larger the ship the bigger the crew. A ship smaller than 200 tons would probably have less than 2 dozen on the crew. Larger ships of 250 tons and more would have perhaps a crew of 50. The larger man-of-war might have as many as 200 or more men. [Proulx, p. 82]
The function and size of a vessel determined its crew. Most sailors were recruited from the towns near seaports. In the 1700s, males (age 17-50) in the coastal provinces of France were registered and assigned to one of 3-4 classes. Every 3-4 years, each class had to serve on the king’s vessels for a year. If a sailor couldn’t make it, he had to find a replacement. Sailors were needed, especially as the Seven Years war progressed. Sometimes royal vessels took crew members from merchant vessels if they needed them. [Proulx, p. 83] Sailors were young and poorly paid. Since the profession had little to offer, recruitment was hard. [Proulx, p. 87]
The average age for an able seaman was 26, for an ordinary seaman ... 21, and ship’s boy ... 15. Petty and chief officers were about 29. Captains averaged 36 years old. The crew on merchant vessels were paid 2-3 times more than those in the navy. A seaman’s wage was about the same as a soldier in Canada. [Proulx, p. 84-85]
Some of the positions that may have been onboard were: captain, chief officers, second captain, lieutenant, second lieutenant, midshipman, surgeon, writer, chaplain, petty officers, first boatswain, second boatswain, boatswain’s mate, first pilot, second pilot, master carpenter, carpenter’s mate, master gunner, gunner’s mate, gunner’s assistant, master caulker, caulker’s mate, anchor mastor, leading seaman, coxswain, boatman, master sailmaker, sailmaker’s mate, gunsmith, gunsmith’s assistant, second surgeon, surgeon’s assistant, apothecary, cook, baker, able seamen, ordinary seamen, ship’s boy. Bigger ships utilized more of these positions. [Proulx, p. 86]
Rules for sailors’ duties were spelled out in a couple of codes in the 1680s. Merchant captains had to have 5 years sailing experience. Chief officers were often nobility. The lieutenant was 3rd in line for command (after the 2nd captain). The captain took starboard watch, while the lieutenant took port watch. Half the crew handled the port side, while the other half handled the starboard side. It was a full watch during storms or for casting/weighing anchor ... and everyone had to be at their posts. At sea, each group was replaced every 4 hours (port watch and starboard watch). Sleep for the sailors was never for more than 4 hours at a time. [Proulx, p. 95]
The writer, posted usually on royal vessels, was a notary or clerk. He kept a record of everything ... rigging, merchandise stowed & distributed, food consumed, crew list, deaths & desertions. Petty officers were in charge of: ship handling, piloting, gunnery, and maintenance. The boatswain had the job of the physical operation of the vessel. He gave orders to the crew, usually from the stern to the mainmast. Leading seamen (literally quartermasters) handled 1/4 of the crew. Pilots set the ship’s course. Chief officers and boatswain could be attained after being leading seaman, anchor master, and boatswain’s mate. Petty officers included the master carpenter, coxswain, boatman, master caulker, master sailmaker, etc. [Proulx, p. 97] Able seamen handled the sails and the anchors. Ship’s boys ran errands. Ordinary seamen took orders and learned from able seamen. Coopers maintained and repaired barrels. [Proulx, p. 99]
There was no sailor’s uniform, even in the navy. Though the chief officers and soldiers wore breeches, a jacket and jerkin. Some sailor’s had women shirts and breeches, jerseys, cloth caps, woollen stockings, cloth hankerchiefs, French sabots and shoes, and a canvas or leather bag. Their clothing was usually inadequate. When things became wet, they had to work in them ... leading to fevers and colds. They often kept the same clothes on. Water was too valuable to use for washing. So hygiene was poor. [Proulx, p. 103-04]
|Life Aboard Ship|
INSIDE THE SHIP
Meals were eaten on deck in good weather; but cold and rain usually forced them to eat between-decks. Inside of the boat was not at all like today's cruise ships. The vessel was too be swept once a day and animal droppings thrown into the sea twice a day. Between-decks were to be aired in good weather and vinegar was used as a disinfectant when necessary. There was high humidity in the boat, what with the people and livestock in there. This caused condensation on the walls and beams. Water seeped into the hold and became stagnant. This led to unsanitary conditions. The day after a storm, the ship had to be aired out.
At night is was pitch black inside and passengers and sailors had to move about stooped over. The portholes were closed unless involved in a battle. Lanterns and candles were not
permitted for fear of fire. The only place for “socializing” was on the upper deck, but the weather often rendered that impossible.[Proulx, p. 104]
A sailor’s hammock was a 3x6 foot piece of canvas, suspended between beams by 2 or 4 (one at each corner) ropes. The French called them “branles” or “swings” because they swayed with the ship. One officer called them the “swinging graves”. There was one hammock for every 2 seamen. They slept fully clothed, in case of emergency. They also got a blanket. All hands slept between the decks. They often had to stoop, since the decks weren’t tall. On an 80 ton brigantine, the floor-ceiling distance was 3 1/2 ft. A 50 gun man of war had heights of only 5 ft. Passengers might sleep in the gun room at the stern of the ship ... on bunks set up in two or three tiers. The cots were corded with spun yarn and had a mattress. If there were too many passengers, some would sleep with the crew. A makeship partition of canvas or wood might be set up for privacy. [Proulx, p. 101]
The passenger area was noisy, with the rudder tiller passing through the gun room. It was dark and crowded. There was no privacy to change clothes so many stayed in the same dirty clothing. The movement of the ship would dismantle the cots and people would be flung on top of one another.
The infirmary was forward in the between-decks, and there were cots similar to the passenger area. Chief officers and important passengers slept in rooms or cabins under the quarterdeck. They had locks and paneling (to quieten noise). There was a wardroom; a large chamber used for chief officer meetings and as a dining room, under the quarterdeck. The kitchens were in the forecastle.
Live animals (such as pigs, sheep, chicken, cattle; usually only transported by men of war) were put between-decks in front of the sailmakers. Sometimes they were taken to be eaten; and sometimes to establish livestock in the New World. [Proulx, p. 102] Sometimes horses were transported. Animals were sometimes tossed around so much that they died.
Most provisions (powder, vegetables, sea biscuits) were stored in storerooms that were lined with plaster and hung with matting to protect against moisture.
|Here is an example of the regulations for sailing ships.|
| 1. Everyone must be on time for prayer,
or lose their ration.
2. Smoking under the mainmast without a lidded claypipe ... lose rations.
3. Urinating on the gangway ... lose 1 day’s rations.
4. Defecating between-decks ... 50 lashes while tied to the cannon.
5. Miss a watch ... lose a day’s rations.
6. Fighting ... tied to a cannon in irons and fed bread/water for 4 days.
7. Shooting a gun ... 50 lashes while tied to a cannon, then 8 days in irons on bread/water.
8. Stealing ... run the gauntlet and lose his ration for 15 days.
9. Insulted by someone ... lodge a complaint with the officer on watch.
10. If you don’t bring your drinking mug when called for rations, you won’t get any.
11. Complaint about rations ... talk to the officer of the watch.
12. Smoking a pipe between-decks ... no bread for 4 days, then put in irons on bread/water.
[Proulx, appendix K]
For further information on ships of the Acadian era, check out the book, Between France and New France: Life Aboard the Tall Sailing Ships by Gilles Proulx (Dundurn Press Limited: Toronto, 1984). It's available from a number of libraries (ie. the Louisiana State Library) by interlibrary loan, or you can purchase a copy from Quintin Publications.