The cat

The cat of nine tails. Every single man on the ship was subjected to the captain. He could punish the insubordinate. The captain would shorten rations for lesser offenses, but major offenses were punished by tying the man to the mast and whipping him with a rope-end (up to 100 lashes) or up to 30 lashes with the cat of nine tails (a whip made of several strips of leather with pieces of metal attached to it). The culprit was usually incautious for several hours after the punishment and slept only on his stomach. The most severe form of punishment was hanging or the so called keelhauling – the culprit was tied up with a long rope, a cannon ball was tied to his legs and then hauled up the mast. After that the culprit was thrown in the water from his position on the mast and hauled under the keel of the ship. The keelhauling was usually repeated several times and resulted in death. With a sea crab on the mast. There were six shipyards in Kurzeme. The most notable was the Ventspils shipyard, established in 1638, where around 120 ships were built. The ships served both as warships and as trading vessels. If there was not enough space on the deck, the ship was partially or fully stripped of its cannons. The supervisors of the shipyards were foreign nationals, most of them Dutch or German. Latvian serfs were used as unskilled worker. In the middle of the 17th century, there were 62 people working in the shipyard – 18 Dutch and 7 German foremen and 37 Latvian handymen. The fact that more than 30 ships were built for the grand sea-states of the time (France and England) showed the proficiency of the shipyard workers. The beginning of the building of a new ship – the laying of the keel – was usually a festive moment and another festive moment was the launch of a ship – the christening of a ship. The Duke Jakob Kettler was the one to decide who will become the captain of the ship and named the ship to his liking. He was also the one to make the order to rise the flag. There were ships named – Hope, Dame, Bigwig, Courage, Decay, Crocodile, The Coat of Arms of Kurzeme, The Flatfish of Kurzeme, Bear, Mildness, The Great Jakob, Faith, Louise Charlotte (the wife of the Duke), Lynx, Hunter, Independence, Flower Pot, Envy, Thrift, Three Herrings, Loyalty, Unicorn etc. During the christening of a new ship, the flag of the ship was raised. The war flag of the Duchy of Kurzeme Navy was a crimson rectangle with a black sea crab in the center. The captain (a foreigner) and every other member of the crew was chosen by the Duke himself. The captains were subjected to the Duke, but when in open sea, the seafarers always kept in mind that the God is high in the sky and that the Duke is too far away.