Another reason, however, is that women on board ships were virtual ghosts. They were not listed on muster roll, nor were their deaths recorded in ships' records, even though in most cases, they performed vital tasks aboard the ship.
However, if you were the wife of an officer (and especially the Captain), your life on board was far better. You were permitted to share your husband's tiny cabin and perhaps even have the service of a cabin boy who, much like a house servant, polished shoes, ran errands, and did a variety of tasks for you. As the wife of an officer you were permitted to eat with the officers and enjoy a varied diet of fresh meats, delicacies and wines. But life on board could be very lonely. While your husband was busy running the ship, you had to find something to pass the long hours. Many women brought sewing and crafts on board, as well as books and scrapbooks.
Some wives assisted in the running of the ship, from helping out during battle, to repairing sails, to cooking, and to doctoring. Recalling the 1798 Battle of the Nile, a seaman wrote "The women behaved as well as the men. . .There are some of the women wounded and one woman belonging to Leith died of her wounds." Women assisted the surgeon and his mates in attending the wounded and even aided the gun crews as powder monkeys.
So the next time you think that the sea was only a man's domain, think again!