It takes 4-6 months for a landlubber, or "ordinary", to learn the nautical skills of a sailing ship. After a year, half of the "ordinaries" become able-bodies sailors.
Ships have a chain of command, with the captain at the top of the pecking order. The Chain of Command, or COC, follows in descending order. If a captain becomes incapacitated or killed, the highest-ranking member of the ship takes the role of captain.
CaptainThe captain is the senior officer of the ship.
LieutenantJunior officers with navigation skills and a understanding of all ship functions. All petty officers, except the sailing master, report to the lieutenant(s). On larger ships, there may be 1 or more lieutenants.
MidshipmenMidshipmen are petty officers training to become lieutenants. Middies supervise work parties and carry out the orders of the lieutenants.
Petty Officers and Mates
Sailing MasterDuties include navigation and training other petty officers in navigation. Unlike the other petty officers, the Sailing Master reports directly to the captain.
Master's MatesAid in navigation of the ship.
QuartermasterThe Quartermaster is a very junior master's mate whom takes the wheel and steers the ship.
Bosun, or BoatswainThe bosun is in charge of ship supplies and maintenance.
Bosun MateThe bosun mate helps the boatswain in his/her daily duties.
Master-At-ArmsThe master-at-arms is in charge of the weapon's locker, discipline, and crew combat training.
There are other petty officers and mates not in the COC; cooper, sailmaker, cook, carpenter, purser, and their mates.