The Lay

Payment in the Sperm whale fishery, and indeed in many fisheries throughout time and culture, is handled through a share of profit. The men aboard are obviously fed and bunked, but aside from that their payment comes from an agreed-upon percentage share of profit. Often this share for common sailors was and continues to be scandalously small, while owners and captains are made rich from single voyages.

Chapter 16: The Ship, as well as Chapter 18: His Mark, offer the scene of whaling men bargaining and signing for percentage shares of the voyage about to be taken. Captains Bildad and Peleg, part owners of the ship, offer what Ishmael an insult of a share, which he takes, in his odd complacency. Later, when Queequeg shows Bildad and Peleg his ability with a harpoon, he is immediately offered a very large percentage by the eager captains.

Much discussion on the subject of a retreating player receiving or not receiving their automatic lay has carried us far into game balancing, and in the case of oil, cooperative functionality demands that all lays are honored on every whale taken, despite any moral reprobation that comes up on the subject of cowardice, retreating, and Jonah-ism.