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The Definition of “Beer in the Bilges”

Beer in the Bilges, sailing adventures in the South PacificWhen people first hear the name of our book, Beer in the Bilges, they usually have one of two responses. For sailors, it is one of confirmation, and for non-sailors it is one of confusion. After having read the book, everyone gets it, but since you might be wondering, and are too shy to ask, we thought we’d better tell you. But first some history.

For hundreds of years, British sailors depended on alcohol to make the brutish task of sailing bearable. Whether they were volunteers or pressed into service, a sailor’s lot was a hard one, and being slightly sloshed soothed their demeanor and made them easier to manage. The British navy had the bright idea of giving the sailors a daily ration of a gallon of beer each to keep them suitably intoxicated. The problems with beer, though, were that it took up so much space and tended to go off after too long in the keg, especially in the warmer climates. In 1655, however, the navy discovered the benefits of rum, and continued the practice of the daily tot of an eighth of a pint until 1970. Continue reading