The Watch System

The Watch


Wiliam Spavens
The ships company is generally divided into two equal parts, which are thus been denominated — the starboard watch and larboard watch…The duration of a watch at sea, is four hours, beginning at 8 o’clock at night, which is called the first watch; from 12 to 4, the middle watch; 4 to 8, the morning watch; from 8 to 12, the forenoon watch; from 12 to 4, the afternoon watch; and that from 4 to 8 is divided into two, called the dog watches; the design of which is to prevent one watch having two night watches every 24 hours. The trick at the helm is two hours, at the lead half an hour, and that the masthead the same… And in his majesty ships and vessels of war, the lieutenants (who take charge of watches) and the inferior officers are equally divided; but the captain, master, boatswain, other warrant officers sleep all night; and there are several who are excused from watching, to occupy their trades, such as the armor, butcher, barber, &c. who are called idlers, and are occasionally called up to assist the watch when it is not necessary to call hands; these are in charge of the Master at Arms and ship’s Corporal to turn up when they are called, which in squally weather is frequently three or four times in the watch. These are the common roles, on board all ships navigating in high latitudes, either for discovery or to fish for whales, &c. They make three watches, to prevent too great an exposure of the men to the intense cold, and to avoid the bad cop box of it, as they approach either of the poles, and in that case they termed the starboard, larboard and middle watch. When an anchor watch as Capt, it generally consists of only a petty officer and a few men to keep a lookout, and in blowing mother to stand by the sheet anchor to cut it away if necessary. The officers correct their timekeepers by the sun when he is in the meridian, and we then ring the bell and turn four-hour and half-hour glasses and hang them both up, and when the small one is out, we strike one on the bell; when it is out again, two; and so to seven; and when the large one is out we rang the bell, call and relieve the watch; but at 4 in the afternoon, only the little glasses turned, and that not for the last half hour; so when it is an 8:00 by the pocket watches, the bell is rung and both glasses turned for the first watch.

Watch-glasses, (horloge, Fr.) a name given to the glasses employed to measure the period of the watch, or to divide it into any number of equal parts, as hours, half-hours, &c. so that the several stations therein may be regularly kept and relieved; as at the helm, pump, look-out, &c. (Falconer 1468)

Watch Glass
To set the watch is to appoint one division of the crew to enter upon the duty of the watch; as at eight o’clock in the evening. Hence it is equivalent to mounting the guard in the army.

Watch bill
, a list of the officers and crew of a ship as divided into watches, with their stations.



Falconer, William
1790 Universal Dictionary of the Marine. T. Cadwell. London.

Spavens, William

1796 The Narrative of W. Spavens. Sheardown & Son. Louth.



Plymouth Parade

Some members of the Crew had the privilege of bolstering the ranks of our friends, the New Plimmoth Gard in the recent Plymouth Thanksgiving Parade. This is a fantastic Annual event and well worth visiting.

I think we Ravens can agree that hauling lines is preferable to lugging a pike. Huzzah to the Gard! 12234967_1269457769737334_1376986263190627206_n 12246976_1269483769734734_3280755444308342770_n 12249767_10208224642553227_2858300909540288172_n 12294832_1016656435022434_8282187371870624971_n


2016 Schedule, Updated Dec. 30

Ravens and followers, it is early, but schedules are already shaping up. This is a beginning document that will expand and contract over time. If you have an event to bring to the table, please let us know. We have confirmed invitations and connections to some of these events. In cases where we do not, I have contacts and can get confirmed invitations if that is the will of the crew.

For our fans and followers, this will give you an idea of where you can see us next year.
I am also in touch with NPS Charlestown Navy Yard to arrange dates for 1812 living history days.
More word will be forthcoming on a meeting or teleconference after the holidays to discuss next year. Fair Winds!!

Feb 20 Sturbridge, MA Reenactor Fair
Feb 27 Manchester CT Pirate Ball
Apr 9 Bedford MA Liberty Capping Rev War
May 6/7 Benton Homestead, Tolland, CT. King Philip’s War (1675-8)
May 14/15 Coventry RI General Greene Homestead Rev War
May 21/22 Plymouth MA Pirates Ashore, (1646)
May 28? Wethersfield CT Historical Society, Rev War
June 24 & 25 Pequot Museum , 17th C.
July 4 Plymouth Ind. Parade, Supporting NPG

July 16-17, Aptucxet Trading Post – Bourne, MA
July 30/31? Coventry CT Nathan Hale Homestead Rev War
Aug 6/7 Sturbridge MA Old Sturbridge Village Rev War

Aug 13, Leffingwell House Museum, Norwich, CT. 1812
Oct 22 Wayside Inn Battle Tacticals Rev War