Before the mast

(Naut.) as a common sailor, - because the sailors live in the forecastle, forward of the foremast.

See also: Before

References in classic literature ?
No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast, plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal mast-head.
But now I find that every man before the mast knows more than I do.
Opponents said they had raised their concerns with Northumberland County Council before the mast was put up and say they will be asking the authority not to allow it to be reinstated.
We have decided to carry out health surveys and blood tests before the mast goes up and then carry out surveys after to see if health problems develop," she added Maria was speaking at the annual meeting of the city wide campaign group Birmingham Residents Against Masts.