While at sea, the crew of Cutty Sark did not get much free time for themselves. They would work a four-hour watch, followed by four hours off-duty, unless stormy weather required all hands on deck. In the time when they were not working, the crew might catch up on some sleep, do some washing or maybe write a letter home. Apprentice Clarence Ray writes in his letter to his mother, 25 November 1894, “I am always mending, sewing bottoms on, and washing.”

Some crew, however, devoted their spare time to their hobbies. On the ’Tween Deck of Cutty Sark, visitors today can see a model of a four-masted barque under tow, made on board the ship by an unknown crewmember.  Also on display is a box – perhaps a tea caddy – made by apprentice James Weston, in 1886. An inscription scratched on the inside of the lid reads:  Made on board Cutty Sark coming home from China for Jessie Weston.

James Weston, Cutty Sark apprentice © Cutty Sark Trust James Weston, Cutty Sark apprentice © Cutty Sark Trust

The camera belonging to Captain Woodget, Master of the ship1885-1895, can also be viewed on board Cutty Sark. Woodget was inspired to take up amateur photography by a young apprentice on board, Toby Mayall, in 1887. Mayall’s father was a photographer, and his grandfather was the well-known portrait photographer, J J E Mayall who in 1860 took the first carte-de-visite photographs of Queen Victoria.

Captain Woodget’s camera, crewmember’s ship in a bottle, and wooden box made by James Weston © National Maritime Museum, London Captain Woodget’s camera, crewmember’s ship in a bottle, and wooden box made by James Weston © National Maritime Museum, London

Thanks to Woodget’s photography, we have a unique insight into the passages of Cutty Sark as he captured the ship in full sail and at anchor, and wondered at huge icebergs on the homeward journey to London. According to Basil Lubbock, author of The Log of the Cutty Sark, Woodget’s photography was unpopular with the crew– “the chief drawback to photography aboard a sailing ship from the apprentices’ point of view is the constant necessity of filling up the skipper’s bath tank in order to provide him water for developing”.

Icebergs photographed by Captain Woodget, 1888 © Cutty Sark Trust Icebergs photographed by Captain Woodget, 1888 © Cutty Sark Trust

In port, once the ship had been made good after the voyage – decks cleared, sails stowed, necessary maintenance carried out – the crew would be granted some free time and shore leave. Clarence Ray tells his mother “I have made a hammock since I have been in port and will fix it up over the grass plot in front of the window for you to lay in”. We know Captain Woodget entertained Australian guests on board and visited friends while in port in Sydney. Also, while waiting for the wool clip, he apparently took to riding his bicycle and roller-skating on the ’tween deck.