For the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal boatmen and their family or crew, the captain's cabin was their living quarters on the boat. About 10 feet by 14 feet in size, the cabin served as the eating and sleeping area for as few as two and as many as 8-10 people. Some boatmen had a small crew consisting of a mule driver and a boat hand in addition to themselves. Others traveled the canal with their entire family. Family members served as the crew. Young teens served as mule drivers and even small children helped with the care of the mules when they were old enough. Imagine your entire family fitting into the small cabin on a canal boat.
The kitchen section of the cabin contained a cook's stove for cooking meals and heating the area, a table and chairs, and a cupboard to store dishes, pots and pans. Sleeping areas included the captain's quarters or stateroom and an area for bunk beds for the children or crew members. Because boatmen typically worked 16-18 hour days, they likely ate the evening meal and headed straight to bed.
Wives of the boat captain cooked and cleaned and cared for the family. Coal dust from the coal cargo onboard was a problem. Lavenia Brust, young child of a C&O boatman remembers, "Our cabin was always spotless; small but neat. She (her mother) made it home for father and me." The captain's cabin was
truly a home on the boat.
The Captain's Cabin served as eating and sleeping areas.
The captain's children often worked as part of the boat crew. Here a young girl tends to one of the mules.
Young children were harnessed to prevent them from falling overboard while mother tended to laundry."