The Tudors - Age of Discovery

A Sailor's Life in Tudor Times

A life at sea offered great fame and riches and also offered exciting adventures. Sailing voyages could take many years and were often very dangerous and living conditions were very cramped.


Sailors rarely touched down on land and fridges and freezers were not yet invented meaning there was no fresh food. Lack of vitamins meant sailors suffered from diseases such as scurvy. Food had to be salted, smoked, dried or pickled and animals were also kept on the ship to provide a source of meat and eggs. Water was kept in barrels but this did not keep fresh for very long and sailors drank beer as this could be stored for longer.


Sailors often had to sleep on deck and conditions were very uncomfortable. The living conditions were made worse by the presence of rats on board ship, although sailors traditionally kept cats to kill them.


There was no policing at sea and there was a high risk from piracy, which made a sailor's life very dangerous. Living on the ship itself could also be quite perilous as punishment was severe, for example sailors were often dragged by rope under the boat as a form of punishment.


To discover more about life at sea in Tudor Times visit the National Maritime Museum website (see Related Links below).

To discover more about Tudor Hull using original documents, look at our related resource Henry's Hull

Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull Maritime Museum |  Heritage Learning |  Merchant Adventurers' Hall | 
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