is in reference to a person who would be stationed in the barrel of the foremast
or crow's nest
of an ocean going vessel as a navigational
aid. In early ships the crow's nest was simply a barrel
or a basket lashed to the tallest mast. Later it became a specially designed platform with protective railing.
Without the use of navigation aids such as the astrolabe
and modern navigation equipment
, early sailors
relied upon the raven
to determine where the closest land lay when no land was in clear sight. As a bird was released a dead reckoning
course would be set. As ships grew in size and complexity that station became to be mounted on the highest mast
of the ocean going vessel and it became to be known as the crow's nest
. The simplest construction to providing a lookout and setting course direction for the ship was to lash a barrel to the mast. A member of the crew experienced in the matters of navigation was charged with manning this perch and became to be colloquially
known as a barrelman.
In Newfoundland the term barrelman was synonymous with the word scunner.