Sometimes, a picture says it all.
Nummy, aren’t they?
Photo is of Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone in Captain Blood, 1935. You can see the sword fight here. It’s visible that Basil Rathbone was a real fencer; Errol Flynn said, “I really can’t fence worth a damn. I just know how to make it look good.”
Regardless, it’s very unlikely sailors of that period would fence as those two did in the movie–the edged weapon of choice for sailors of the 17th and 18th centuries was the cutlass, a slashing weapon that required little training and was excellent for use in close quarters fighting. The cutlass is both shorter and heavier than, for example, the saber, which was often used by cavalry. Cutlass blades were sometimes straight, sometimes slightly curved, and sharpened on only one edge. Often, the hilt (and the wielder’s hand) was protected by a curved or basket-shaped guard.
Tomorrow, Kirstin Saell will guestblog on “Writing F/F(/M) for the Female Gaze.”