Life on the Sea for Sailors during the Age of Exploration faced incredible pain, deprivation, and possibly a watery grave.
They could be shipwrecked and starve, be killed by hostile natives, or be slain in battle. Their craft could be hurled into shoreline rocks or swallowed by the stormy sea.
They could spend weeks in boredom, the winds dead and the sails hanging listlessly. They endured disease, such as fevers, dysentery, and plagues. Scurvy, which made gums black and puffy, teeth fall out, and limbs weak, killed more sailors than shipwreck.
Sailors could look forward to one hot meal a day, usually served around noon. At sea, the sailor’s diet was primarily salted pork and a biscuit made from flour, salt, and water. Food stores became infested with worms, mice, and rats, and sailors often complained that food smelled of mouse urine.
To relieve their thirst, sailors drank water or wine. The wine became rancid and the water was sometimes so fouled that the crew held their noses while drinking it.
Time was marked by an hourglass filled with sand. When one half emptied, usually after about four hours, a boy called out the time and turned the glass over. The sailors switched shifts, one going to work, the other to rest and eat.
The sailors had no special place to sleep, and simply picked a spot below decks and tried to get as comfortable as possible.
This situation changed for the better after the sailors copied how the Indians slept in hammocks.