Historical information

The bosun’s chair is a typical piece of equipment included on board a vessel in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The nautical word 'bosun' is an abbreviation of the word 'boatswain' who is the person responsible for the repair and maintenance of the vessel. It could be used when rigging the sails and for rescue at sea, along with a thick rope anchored on shore or a rope between ships. It could also be used to move passengers to and from a ship as well as cargo on, to and from the vessel. A bosun's chair is a simple piece of equipment made from a short plank of wood and a sturdy piece of rope. It looks a little like a child's swing but usually has a pulley system that allows the user to adjust the length of the hanging piece of rope, and in so-doing adjusts the height above the floor or ground or sea.

In modern times a harness would also be worn by the bosun’s chair user for safety reasons. Bosun's chairs are also used by window cleaners, construction workers and painters. The bosun’s chair is sometimes just a short plank, or even a canvas sling.


The bosun's chair is significant for its association with maritime equipment carried on board a vessel in the late 19th and early 20th century for maintenance and safety purposes. It was occasionally used to save lives.

The bosun's chair is also significant as an early version of equipment still used today. Since its invention there have been many safety features added in certain industries such as window cleaning and painting.

Physical description

Bosuns chair; flat smooth rectangular piece of wood, with rope passing through two holes at each end of plank and looped together above plank to form a suspended seat swing. Loops a are joined with knot work and ends are spliced together under the seat.