Vessel Command Structure

Command Structure on a Sea-Faring Ship

Open-ocean sailing ships are complicated feats of design and engineering, and they take a huge amount of effort, skill, and organization to operate. The largest ships are veritable floating towns, with hundreds of sailors working all hours of the day and night, and Navy ships cram in more hundreds of marines, soldiers, and batteries of siege engines to pound enemies to splinters.

Below is an example of a ship’s command structure and crew requirements, using one of Queen Daphne of Osil’s Second-Rate Ships of the Line, a flagship, to demonstrate how large crews are wielded efficiently. Most ships are significantly smaller than this, but every role must be filled in some capacity. For smaller ships several of these positions can be folded into a single sailor’s responsibility.


Sailing ships require tending twenty-four hours a day while they’re at sea, and so crews work in rotating shifts, with the crew split into multiple watches. There are myriad watch systems used by merchantmen, but the Royal Oslander Navy uses a two-watch system detailed below. The two watches are named Port Watch and Starboard Watch.

Time(name) – Watch Team
0000(Midnight) – Port
0400(Dawn) – Starboard
0800(Forenoon) – Port
1200(Afternoon) – Starboard
1600-1800(Yondalla) – Port
1800-2000(Dallah Thaun) – Starboard
2000-0000(Dusk)- Port

This system allows all crew to eat breakfast and dinner more or less at the same time (while it’s still moderately warm). The Port and Starboard teams alternate watches every day, such that if Port as the Midnight watch on one day, Starboard will have the Midnight watch the next day.

  • Bells The Junior Officer of the Watch (Portwatch or Starboardwatch) is posted near the ship’s bell, and is tasked with timekeeping and logging the ship’s speed on a slate each hour for navigational purposes. On the hour, he or she rings the ship’s bell (several patterns exist for distinguishing the time).

Crew Breakdown

Second Rate Ship-of-the-Line (Crew: 350 not including gun crew)
Gun Crew may act as marines in close-quarters and will generally be assigned menial/unskilled tasks when they are not drilling with their weapons.

Deckhands (Junior Sailors): 159
Deckies are the lowest-ranking ratings on the ship, responsible for general tasks, cleaning, handling the rigging & cargo. Work in concert with ABS, and assist under them with maintenance and repairs.
Able Bodied Sailors: 150
Fully trained and experienced crewmen capable of performing most tasks aboard, including maintenance, repairs, cargo handling, and operating the running rigging.
Mates: 20

  • (4) Boatswain’s Mates: Act as the Boatswain’s assistants and supervise work gangs. Tend to be assigned specific work gangs by the Boatswain, which are rotated as they master them.
  • (1) Carpenter’s Mate: Assists the Carpenter with repairs and maintenance, including caulking and tool maintenance. Also supervises small repair gangs as assigned by the Carpenter.
  • (1) Sailmaker’s Mate: Assists sailmaker in repairs & maintenance, including ropemaking and tool maintenance. Supervises small repair gangs as assigned by the Sailmaker.
  • (2) Armorers: Assist the Gunner in repairing and maintaining siege weapons aboard ship, including their mounts, ropes, and firing mechanisms. Maintain tools and personal weapons aboard, as well.
  • (4) Cook’s Mates: Assist the cook in preparing and serving meals for the entire crew. Organize ship’s stores/haul water casks to the weather deck as needed.
  • (1) Apothecary’s Mate: Assists the alchemist by maintaining tools & equipment. Monitor’s routine reactions.
  • (2) Corporals: Report directly to the Master at Arms and assist in disciplining the crew and maintaining order. Assist in combat drills and man the weapons locker during watches.
  • (5) Gunner’s Mates: Responsible for a battery of siege weapons, directing teams during combat engagements, and cleaning/maintaining the weapons and gun decks.

Warrants (Chiefs): 7

  • Boatswain: Senior rating aboard, supervises work gangs and deck operations while directing maintenance and repair teams.
  • Carpenter: Directs & conducts repairs and maintenance, maintains the spare timber and repair supplies.
  • Sailmaker: Directs & conducts repairs and maintenance to the rigging (standing & running) and sails, maintains spare sails, tar, rope, etc.
  • Gunner: Responsible for the ship’s siege weapons and coordinating gun teams. Maintains the ship’s magazine.
  • Apothecary: Concocts useful tinctures, potions, and alchemical agents for the crew and ship. Maintains alchemically treated ship components.
  • Master at Arms: Maintains discipline and oversees punishment aboard the ship. Also responsible for maintaining personal weapons and the weapons locker.
  • Cook: Cooks.

Jr. Officers (7):

  • Portwatch: Responsible for assigning the port watch, assigning work gangs and lookouts
  • Starboardwatch: Responsible for setting the starboard watch, assigning work gangs and lookouts
  • Yeoman of Sheets: Responsible for the rope locker, rotating & drying lines in storage to prevent rot and inspecting the stores.
  • Clerk: Assists the captain and wardroom officers with paperwork and maintains the ship’s library and/or wardroom.
  • (2) Corpsmen: Assist the ship’s surgeon in treating ailment & injury, maintaining the infirmary.
  • Arcswain’s Mate: Assists the Arcswain, often an apprenticed wizard.

Wardroom Officers (7)

  • Purser: Responsible for purchasing supplies, collecting payment, paying harborage & maintenance fees in dock, and sending/receiving the ship’s mail, and distributing wages. Commands the wardroom and ship’s stores.
  • Arcswain: Responsible for defending the ship from arcane threats and supporting the ship’s mission through the use of arcane powers. Commands the laboratory.
  • Chirurgeon: Responsible for the health of the crew, treating illness & injury. Commands the infirmary.
  • Parson: Acts as a spiritual attendant for the crew and performs religious rites. Commands the Chapel.
  • Navigator: Responsible for navigation and the ship’s course, including the schedule and sail plan.
  • First Mate: Second in Command of the ship, usually responsible for the loading and balancing of cargo to optimize ship performance and safety. Normally in operational command while cruising and at port.
  • Captain: Master of the ship, holding final authority over all aspects of operation. Normally in operational command only during combat engagements or emergency situations.

Chain of Command


Vessel Command Structure

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