Dropping from the yardarm

posted in: History | 1
View of a mast

Continuing with the concept of suitable punishments while at sea, if you weren’t keelhauled you could be dropped from the yard. Masts and the accompanying yardarms were common on all ships (of course) and they provided a venue for a simple and very damaging treatment. The victim’s arms were tied behind his back, lead weights were attached to his ankles. A long rope was tied to the wrists (which were behind the back, remember). The man was then thrown off a yardarm, falling fifty feet or so toward the sea. The fall was ended when he reached the end of the rope. Needless to say, the result was usually dislocated shoulders and quite often broken wrists and ankles. As with keelhauling, this punishment was delivered in threes, so the shattered victim was pulled back up on the yardarm and dropped again. And again.

Several of Cornelisz’s accomplices convicted of lesser crimes were sentenced to this punishment. As usual, having survived being dropped, they were then flogged, as well.

Oh, what a wonderful life sailors must have led, going with the bad food, ‘off’ water, cold, damp, crowding and general discomfort.