I was glancing through a book my father purchased for $1.00 in 1939, "The ship's Medicine Chest." In the back of the book, as part of an appendix entitled "Exerpts from Maritime Laws," I read this: "Crew space required on vessels constructed between June 30, 1895, and March 4, 1915. -- (a)....Every place appropriated to the crew of the vessel shall have a space of not less than 72 cubic feet and not less than 12 superficial feet [square feet], measured on the deck or floor of that place, for each seaman or apprentice lodged therein."
Do the math. If you allow six feet to accomodate most men, then the bunk only needs to be two feet wide. Allowing for the thickness of the bunk frame and mattress, (maybe a foot), this leaves about three feet by two feet of space under the bunk to store all of the sailor's belongings; and about a foot and a half between his nose and the deck or bunk above him.
I don't know what the regulations are today, but you can be assured that before 1895, when coastal schooners were a regular sight along the Outer Banks, it was probably the luckiest of common sailors who had 72 square feet of space to call his own.
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You can read our latest newsletter here. It's the story of two old maps (1590 & 1795) and place names on the Outer Banks.