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International Fellowship of Royal Privateers

(The Guild of Saint Errol)

Ships Positions And What They Entail

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Captain is the traditional customary title and form of address given to the person in charge of a vessel at sea. The word is derived from the Latin capitaneus ("chief" or "big man") which is itself derived from the Latin word caput ("head"), thus the Captain is often rightly referred to by the crew as a "big man head" or "fat head" for brevity's sake. Sometimes more correctly referred to as the ship's Master.

Requirements for Captaincy:
To be a ships Captain, you need to have a crew (unless you wish to command a kayak...). Furthermore, the size of the ship you put to sea in is directly dependent upon the number of crew you have signed aboard. So if you wish to do battle in a skiff, you can shove off with as few as 3 crew folk, but don't expect easy riches any time soon. Conversely, if you wish to dominate the seas in a Royal Manowar, you're going to need a minimum of 100 salty souls to sail the damned thing and run SOME of the guns. Keep in mind that strong leadership is required to hold your position as Captain; Privateers are the first real democracies of the Sea and a dissatisfied crew can vote you out. So, be on your toes, Cap.


Commodore is a position created as a temporary title to be bestowed upon Captains who commanded squadrons of more than one vessel. Mostly, the position was introduced to combat the loss to ego of the Admiralty Office of appointing more Admirals – Lord Roflmao can be such a petty officer sometimes...


For our narrow-minded purposes, a battle grouping of 3 or more ships under a single command of a Lead Captain or Commodore, based in the same Home Port.

First Mate

The First Mate is he head of the deck department on a privateer vessel, second-in-command after the ship's Captain. His or her primary responsibilities are the vessel's booty (cargo) operations, its stability, and supervising the deck crew. He/she is responsible for the safety and security of the ship, the welfare of the crew, maintenance of the ship's hull, cargo tackle, accommodations, the life saving and firefighting appliances (ie. Buckets). If the First Mate happens to be romantically involved with or, heaven's forefend, be married to the Captain, that person is often referred to as the "S.O."

Quartermaster / Quartermistress

The title derives from "master or mistress of the quarterdeck", the quarterdeck being the deck where the helm is situated and navigation is generally performed. Her or she is in charge of the watch-to-watch navigation and the maintenance, correction, and preparation of nautical charts and navigation publications. He/she is also responsible for navigational instruments & clocks and the training of ship's lookouts & helmsmen, performing these duties under the control of the ship's navigator. Signal flags & their deployment will often fall under this position as well. Interestingly, in the English Royal Navy, the task fell to the quartermasters and quartermaster's mates to punish unruly sea men, either with a Rattan boatswain's cane, rope's end, cat o' nine tails or some other such mundane attitude adjuster. We in the IFRP prefer more inventive behavior modification techniques (see Moser's Law...), delivered by the ship's Morale Officer instead.


...or boatswain, is foreman of a ship's crew, sometimes called the third mate or "gumby". The word boatswain is derived from the late Old English batswegen, from bat ("boat") + Old Norse sveinn ("swain"), meaning a young man, servant or lackey. The Bosun is in charge of a ship's anchors, cordage, colors, deck crew and the ship's boats, and would also be in charge of the rigging while the ship was in port. It remains his duty to summon the crew to work by a whistle known as the Bosun's Pipe, which replaced the Bosun's Kazoo after the Battle of the Isle of Willits in the early years of the Guild. As a side note; in the British Royal Navy the rank of bosun was called "Sailing master", who was in charge of all the duties of the boatswain mentioned above as well as being in charge of storing provisions in the hold as they affected the ship's trim. (Not to be confused with the unofficial title of "nailing master", who is responsible for seeing to the needs and stowage of the ships cooch.)

Master Gunner

...the person in charge of the ships artillery battery. He / she is responsible for the training & precision of the gun crews, firing solutions and targeting. Having a Master Gunner onboard makes all the difference between crippling an opponent and putting her on the bottom before she can be looted… something the Crown would prefer a Privateer to avoid.

Eightmaster / Eigthmistress (aka Quartermaster's Mate)

...the flunky, assistant, Left Hand of Dog or, occasionally, the spouse of the Quartermaster/mistress. This position is at times under the jurisdiction of the Morale Officer for situations of public discipline of crew, but mostly in a nagging capacity. Eightmasters will participate in the gun crews during combat or other antisocial engagements.


...the warrant officer aboard ship responsible for the design and construction of offensive, defensive and logistical structures for warfare at sea. Sometimes this title is held by the Ship's Carpenter on smaller vessels. On Galleys & Galliots, the Engineer will sometimes stand in for the Drummer below decks just for the sheer amusement of calling up to the Captain in the heat of a pursuit "I dinna think thay cahn tehk aney morrre, Cap'n!" Engineers are advised not to have sense of humor.

Navigator / Navigatrix

...the person onboard ship responsible for the navigation of the vessel. The navigator's responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the captain (or helm) while en route, and ensuring that hazards or obstacles are avoided. Oddly enough, this job was historically done by men WHO READ MAPS. Curious.

Cabin Boy / Cabin Wench a lad or lass (in the sense of low-ranking male crewmate, not always a minor, though unfortunately there are those that prefer it that way contrary to the several Admiralty Offices memos condemning it…) who waits on the officers of a ship, especially performing errands and other "services" for the Captain. In cases of shipwreck or starvation from prolonged be-calming, they are the first to be eaten by higher-ranking crewmates. The only perks in this job are those you create by your clever manipulation of those you service, if you catch our drift...


Keeper of the stores, duh. (see Purser)

Morale Officer

Historically, the responsibility for the crews positive mind-set rested with the Quartermaster, effectively taking up the QMs precious time setting up such diversions as clog-dancing classes, poetry slams & the occasional wet-bodice contest to keep the crew from rioting over every little slight, like extra deck swabbing duty or someone bogarting the grog bong. The Morale Officer's special rating was created exclusively for the person who makes sure crew members play well with themselves… uh, we mean together. YOU KNOW WHAT WE MEAN.

Master At Arms

...the ships officer who looks after personal arms such as swords and firearms, ensuring they are kept in good order and their ammunition is prepared and ready for use in combat. He or she also instructs other members of the crew in the use of arms. On top of all that drilling, the Master at Arms is responsible for discipline amongst the crew, particularly the boarding party he/she selects & commands. With the Armourer, they manage the ships Armoury, both having the only keys.


...the Warrant officer in charge of ships provisions, such as victuals, clothing, bedding, candles, inflatable companions and so forth. Unlike more modern times, the purser is not actually in charge of pay per se, but tracks the dividing up of booty with the Captain closely, since the crew often has to pay for all the supplies they forgot to pillage before leaving port. The purser usually has to buy everything (except victuals) on credit, acting almost as a private merchant. In addition to his or her official responsibilities, it is customary for the purser to act as a literal private merchant for luxuries such as pipe weed and tooth spackle, and to be the crew's banker. As a result, the purser is often at risk of losing money and being thrown into debtor's prison if he or she has the lack of foresight to contract a personal goon squad for collections; conversely, the crew and officers habitually suspect the purser of making an illicit profit out of his or her complex dealings… but can never prove it in an admiralty court of law. How typical.

Rigger (aka "Rigging Monkey" or "crazy person" or the more politically correct "person of canvas")

A rigger is he or she who, for lack of common sense or in excess of bravery, climb the ratlines and tend the ships sails in all weather & situations. Without these potentially suicidal souls, the ship would sit idle as the winds merrily blow by, hopefully taking the stench rising from the bilge with it. So, when you look up from the deck to see silhouetted figures feverishly lashing lines as they cling tenuously to a jib or halyard or some such tackle, wave gratefully to those bonny, mad sods and call up "Yo! Wazzup, ma Riggaz?!" If they're smart, they won't wave back.

Helmsman /Helmswench a person who steers a ship. Sometimes this is done by the Quartermaster when not otherwise occupied with the Loblolly Boy or Grog Boss.

Gunner who is part of a gun crew, the minimum of which three is the basic, if not magic, number. (6 crew folk per gun is preferred for more efficiency) Positions on this crew are called the Primer, the Wad Man, the Packer, the Rammer, ambiguously homoerotic job title #5 & Powder Monkey.

Gunner's Mate

...the person responsible for the maintenance of the guns, but not always the actual firing of them in the presence of the Master Gunner. In combat, he or she either acts as a forward observer for the gun crews or manages the powder magazine. Basically the Master Gunners second in command. Not recommended for habitual, careless smokers.

Powder Monkey

...the person responsible for fetching gunpowder charges from the ships magazine to the gun crews. Not to be confused with a simian struggling with cocaine addiction; essentially a monkey with a monkey on his back. Which is not to be confused with a circus or sex act. We're just sayin'.

Swab / Swabbie / Swabbette

...swabbing the decks (with the purpose of keeping them clean of the various grits, shards, viscous fluids & diverse genetic materials Privateers are prone to drop on it) is a near constant task. Thus, a swab or swabbette is a person in charge of swabbing. At the Barber Surgeon's request, this position occasionally includes ear cleaning, but not with the same size swabs, as that could be fatal.

Ships Carpenter

...the crewperson who specializes in shipbuilding, maintenance, repair techniques and carpentry specific to nautical needs, the carpenter is the most popular person aboard when there's a hull breach as a result of battle or storm damage. Sometimes referred to as a shipwright or "The Chippy", for all the sawdust, splinters & adz chips left in their wake. Unless you like your ocean on the inside of the ship, you need a ship's carpenter.

Carpenter's Mate

...assistant to the ship's Carpenter and indispensable for emergency repairs, as they are the ones going below the water line to assess damage and adjust braces. Sometimes, but not always, the position is held by the Carpenter's spouse, adding to the irony.


...a person, usually a trained smith, who is specialized in manufacturing and repairing of weapons, firearms and armor. The ships Armourer usually does not have to produce new weapons so much as keep all the pointy, sharp, explode-y items in functioning order and make repairs or modifications when needed. This person is also responsible for maintaining an inventory of the ship's armory & artillery supplies (but not the powder magazine). The Armourer answers directly to the Master at Arms.

Stitch Witch

...the ship's chief sail-maker & tailor, in that order. The job responsibilities include producing, maintaining & repairing the ships sails, often with the Bosun's aid or direction. Flags, hammocks & general clothing repair often falls to them, along with debuting their Spring or Fall Line at any prêt a porter of call. Be forewarned: don't even JOKE about sliding down a sail while using a knife as a brake in front of a stitch witch unless you want to wake up one watch sewn into your hammock. They are known for their sense of style, not humor.


...the crewperson in charge of the ship's brig. Part warden, part screw, all-powerful… in that very small space. You will find no redemption for your Shawshank on this watch.


see Gunner

Chaplain in many obscure rituals from a variety of the known & unknown religions of the world makes the Ship's Chaplain quite possibly the most learned person aboard. This fails to explain why he or she was dumb enough to get on the boat in the first place, but no matter. The Chaplain is responsible for the spiritual needs of the crew; counseling the troubled, selling indulgences, blessing the cannons, hearing confession while trying not to laugh, baptizing the virgins, performing extreme unction or exorcisms, re-baptizing the virgins, contacting the ancestors, sacrificing chickens, re-re-baptizing the virgins, etc.

Barber Surgeon

The Tsar of triage, the Maestro of meatball surgery, the Doctor Jeckle to your missing hide, he or she is the ships chief (and probably only) medical officer. The barber part comes from the fact that he/she is the only one onboard good enough with a blade one can trust to give them a shave. Most of the time at sea, the surgeon's duties consist of sunburn treatment, drinking, de-lousing the crew, stomach pumping, drinking, substance abuse counseling, more drinking and practicing the line "He's dead, Captain." After a battle or particularly good shore leave, however, is when we see the barber surgeon's true colors. Usually, they're shades of red.

Loblolly Boy / Lass

...essentially the Barber Surgeon's Mate or assistant. The name itself comes from the serving of loblolly - a thick, goopy porridge, sometimes with chunks of meat or vegetables (just like your Gramma Baba Yaga used to make) - to sick or injured crewmembers to speed their recovery… you hope. Duties included serving the aforementioned loblolly, but also anything that a ship's Leech was too busy (playing God) to do. This ranged from holding down or clubbing patients unconscious during surgery, obtaining and cleaning tools & blades, disposing of amputated limbs & other gory bits, and carrying out what is always euphemistically called "chamber pot duty". The good side of the job is that the loblolly boy or lass performed inventory control of (and had unlimited access to) herbs, medicines, and medical supplies… the good drugs. They gots the hook up, yo.


...essentially the command staffs butler, but with sea legs. The Steward maintains the wardroom, runs the Scullery crew, argues with the Cook and answers to the Quartermaster. Sometimes referred to as the Grog Boss or Keeper of the Grog Bong, as the Steward also moniters the liquor rations of the crew and administers to the Captains wine/mead/absinth closet. Imagine John Geilgud in the movie "Arthur", but with a bandana, silk eye-patch & oil-skin tuxedo jacket.


...a musician in the employ of the crew or as a member of the crew whose job it is to provide rhythm & melody to lighten the more repetitious tasks set upon by the crew. Jigs, reels, galliards, ballads and especially shanties are the Ship's Minstrels stock & trade and the Minstrel is one of the few members of any crew allowed a day off by right (usually the Sabbath). It is forbidden, however, to take jig requests from riggers aloft, as the "getting down" in the Tops usually meant the hard way.


...the trained thespian of the crew, with a diverse variety of responsibilities. As The Face, he or she is often essential in fooling suspicious port officials or captains of enemy vessels of the crew's real intentions whilst preparations are made unawares. As Speaker of the Lie, they record, recite & (most importantly) embellish the exploits of the brave crew for all those sober enough to listen. Sometimes, at the behest of the Morale Officer, the Ship's Bard will direct & or perform instructional morality plays on the dangers of pipe smoking in the powder magazine or sex with non-domesticated animals (called "futzing", incidentally). The works of Shakespeare, Moliere, C.S. Forester & Stevenson are staples of the Bard's crew pleasing craft, a brave notion considering a bad review can be followed by a "night in the barrel" or keelhauling. Not necessarily the classic musician balladeer of landlubber lore so much as the Man or Woman for All Seasons.

Ships Leech

see Barber Surgeon


...often considered the most important person on the ship, the cook proves that a fleet sails on it's belly. Hearty provender, tended with flavor & skill, will keep a hungry crew from gutting you like a fish… usually. Remember loblolly?


...the cook's mate, literally or figuratively, helping with everything from collecting provisions at market (legally or not so much…) to tending the stove to cleaning the pots & pans.

Sniper / Lookout

...consigned to the crows nest high up on the ships main mast clings this hearty lad or lass, hoping the bosun will strike the damned bell to call the next watch. Cross-trained by both the Quartermaster/mistress and the Master Gunner, this rating has dual duties in war & peace. In combat, the crow's nest is the best position on the ship to pick off enemy command staff from, ethically and physically precarious at the same time. In regular sea going operations, he or she keeps watch on the horizon for land or shipping and is trained to identify & report concisely what is seen to the quarterdeck.


The ship’s barrel maker. A well made barrel will keep food stores from spoiling and, most importantly, keep the ale/grog/port/mead/wine from getting skunky.

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