Every sailor on Constitution is part of a 12-strong family called a mess. “Messmates” are not related, but they might as well be, for they are as close as brothers. Each mealtime, they gather in the same spot on the berth deck, spread out a cloth, and sit round it cross-legged to share their food. In a mess,
everyone is equal, whatever their age or rank, and they can choose their messmates. This is a rare freedom in a world where officers control almost everything else they do.