before the mast

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before the mast (not comparable)

  1. (literally) Having living quarters in the forecastle
  2. Describing seamen rather than officers
    Before making lieutenant, he sailed before the mast for five years
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby Dick, chapter 33
      [...] but under certain circumstances (night watches on a whaling ground) the command of the ship’s deck is also his; therefore the grand political maxim of the sea demands, that he should nominally live apart from the men before the mast, and be in some way distinguished as their professional superior; [...]