It was, appallingly enough, a bit over half a century ago that I slept in a hammock aboard the USCGC Eagle. My career in that service was very brief, but I did manage one of the short cruises. On the Eagle underclassmen slept in hammocks in those days, upperclass had the folding pipe racks and officers had staterooms with actual bunks.

Hammocks are surprisingly utilitarian and space saving aboard a ship with a large crew. The mess deck or other such space becomes a sleeping compartment at nighr just by swinging hammocks. Officers, on the other hand, have some sort of compartment with a bunk. If they wanted to grab forty winks when off watch, all they had to do is go lie down in a comfortable bunk. Sailors seldom got any such perks as a nap but if they could manage one before the boatswain got there, they had to make do with a small piece of incredibly hard deck.

Aboard ship hammocks are not swung like a typical shoreside hammock, slackly, between a pair of trees. Our canvas hammocks included a very thin mattress and a thick blanket, with a fan shaped rigging of about 3/16 inch line ending in a ring, at each end. A ring at one end went over a hook in the overhead and a lanyard went from a ring at the other end, around a jackstay, back through the ring, once more around the jackstay to give a three part purchase to rove the hammock up taut. The tighter, the more comfortable, so it was as flat as you could get it, harp string tight. There wasnothing appraching either a 60 or even 45 degree bend to it. When properly drawn up, it was like a cylinder with a slit along the top. Once in it, it was very stable.

In the morning you rolled up your hammock, secured it with 7 marline hitches and stowed it in to a big bin in the center of the mess deck/sleeping compartment. At night, to make the best use of space there was a certain amount of overlapping of the tapers at the end of the hammock rigging. There was really no need for much thwartship space between hammocks as they all moved in tandem. But, as I remember it, what amounted to the full deck area of the crew compartment was taken up with people sleeping four feet over the deck. In other words, it was crowded.

But now to the nice part: sailing vessels are constantly at some degree of heel around which they roll a bit. Hammocks are on "gimbals" - they hang straight down. This is really a nice feature as you cannot get rolled out of bed. Bunks for officers are different. They are fitted with boards to keep the occupant in. Pipe racks are the worst of all possible solutions - no boards and they tilt. Although I never personally experienced any rough weather, I was told that in foul weather the upper class would swop a bunk for a hammock any time they had a chance.

(For those never aboard a naval vessel or military transport, these pipe racks were instruments of torture. Hinged at one side to a permanent part of the ship, they were supported at the open side by chains. In the daytime they are triced up to give more deck space. Bad enough for the sailors in the crew who had a bit more space, they were horrors for soldiers or Marines in the troop transports where they were truly crammed in like sardines.)

But let me tell you, it is a bizarre sensation to come off watch late at night, with nothing but the red battle lanterns for light, and see this mass of hammocks swaying slowly to & fro, some four feet off the deck. For by this time you are completely used to the motion of the ship, have forgotten heel and don't notice the ship's slow rolling. THEY seem to be moving, not you.

My opinion? I thought that hammocks provided an excellent nights sleep.

Calm Seas & A Prosperous Voyage