A forecastle is the forward and most prominent part of a ship, which can be used either for combating purposes or for the sailors’ quarters. It is in fact the forward part or upper deck of a ship. It was named considering its defensive, as well as offensive, purposes in wars, where the ships were built with tall, huge decks called forecastles. It is also used as the observation area for checking the navigational movements and watching for any threats. Equipment and machinery of the ship, such as ropes, sails and other equipment may be stored in the forecastle, out of the way until they are needed.
Apart from its combating and storage purposes, it is mostly used as the social or crew area, where different crew members perform their duties and other related work. The anchor windlass, which is used to wrap up the anchors of the ship, is also on the forward part of the forecastle. There could be a large storage of weapons and combat equipment to be reached easily and quickly if needed, when enemies have approached. Hence, it is the very integral part of the ship, serving a number of different purposes including crew residence, storage for ship equipment, and armaments.
Approximately 7 percent of the ship’s length is taken up by the forecastle. The side plates have variable thickness and width depending upon the ships design and other parameters. These plates are a little heavier than the other plates. It requires even more stiffness if the forecastle’s length is 50 percent of the ship’s overall length.
The forecastle design and characteristics are constantly changing. In order to increase the efficiency of the ship, its length and sizes have changed throughout history, considering the requirements of crew’s area and equipment storage. After some time, the aftcastle was introduced as the most upper or forward end of the ship ranging from the mast to right down to the stem.
A ship is divided into different parts, considering each and every compartment’s responsibility and serving needs. The supported crew would bunk in this area, along with the other sailors. This supportive crew is often answerable to the boatswain or bosun. On the other hand, the marines or the guardians of the ship, who are there to protect the ship against any invasion being enforced by an enemy, reside in a separate section. In the past, there was a rule saying that separation between the sailors and marines were necessary and they had different sleeping compartments because of it.