"The anecdotal evidence is that homosexuality did sometimes occur, though it is hard to find many actual cases. However it is not quite as simple as that; ""those old wooden sailing ships"" came into several categories. 1...Warships. In those heavily-manned and overcrowded vessels, the crews on the whole did not like, and did not tolerate homosexual practice between crew members. Records of court-martials in the RN, for instance, show that crew were quick to inform on any of their number who were actively gay - and it was then a hanging matter, and some were actually convicted and hanged. No doubt some got away with it (with ship's boys or otherwise) but it seems to have been quite rare. Even where men had their wives aboard (quite common for the standing officers - boatswain etc.) and could acceptably have sex with them, they often found it hard to find privacy. It would be even harder to find a spot where you could poke a boy and get away with it. 2...Ships in the coastal trade. Voyages were short and opportunities for shoreside sex sufficiently frequent. The temptation to risk hanging by buggering a shipmate, inevitably in circumstances where there could be little privacy, and where a ship's boy would soon have an opportunity to report the assault to his parents or to the authorities must have been slight. I have not come across a single court record relating to such an offence in all the centuries covered by the sailing ship era. Gays as well as others probably kept their codpiece fastened up until reaching port. 3...Ships in intercontinental trade. With long isolation from the land the temptation would be greatest here. Some sailors, we know, were outright bullies especially when far from any possibility of immediate detection and punishment. Although I know of no documented cases, in memoirs or in court records, it is in this sector, if anywhere, that I should expect to find sexual abuse of the youngsters. In general, though it must have happened here and there, it seems to have been uncommon. Hope this helps."
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