Cabin boy

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.

Cabin boy ou mousse 1799
Cabin boy, 1799


Cabin boys were usually 14–16 years old 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 run from one end of the ship to the other carrying messages and become familiar with the sails, lines and ropes and the use of each in all sorts of weather. 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.

Royal Navy officers

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

Popular culture

  • Cori, de Scheepsjongen ("Cori the Cabin Boy"), a comics series by Belgian artist Bob de Moor about a cabin boy working for the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie in the 16th century.
  • Cabin Boy, a 1994 film.
  • "Cabin Boy" a song by Tom Robinson from the 1984/1997 Castaway Northwest CNWVP006 album War Baby.
  • Captain Pugwash, a British television children's animated series about a hapless captain and his crew; Tom, the cabin boy, is depicted as the most intelligent member of the crew. It is an urban myth that he was called 'Roger the cabin boy' (a slang sexual meaning of the name Roger).
  • Treasure Island, where the main character Jim serves as a cabin boy on the board the ship the Hispaniola.
  • "Cabin Boy", a short story by Damon Knight.
  • Renaissance Festival, The Cabin Boys, Pirate Fire Comedy act from Minnesota.


  1. ^ Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1999, entry "Cabin boy"
  2. ^ 'Wisconsin Blue Book 1915,' Biographical Sketch of Chris Franzen, pg. 519

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