Able-bodied seaman

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The denotation or rank of an accomplished sailor.

In contrast to the modern navies of the world, navies during the Napoleonic Era had little in the way of ranks for the men. A newly pressed hand who had never set foot on shipboard might be rated "Landsman", indicating his proper placement. Once he had learned the ropes enough to keep from being in the way, he might be rated "Ordinary" or "Ordinary Seaman". A good sailor, however, was one who could "hand, reef, and steer", using his body and brain ably and, thus was rated "able"" or "able-bodied seaman".

This terminology has survived in the modern American merchant marine. The lowest level of merchant-mariner documentation is for Ordinary Seamen and, having passed certain examinations, one may attain the rank of Able-Bodied Seaman or "AB".

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