The sailor would be tied to a the rigging, sometimes so that only his toes were touching the deck while his bare back would be whipped with the "cat." These floggings were generally carried out in front of the other men so they could learn by example to obey orders.
Even after a law was passed in 1850 to abolish flogging on vessels at sea, incidents still occurred. A sailor on the Hannibal, captained by an abusive man named Suman Gray, wrote in his journal: "... then lashed him up to the starboard rail and gave him 8 solid blows with a piece of rattling. The man then said something which I could not hear, upon which the captain doubled the rattling making 4 parts to it and gave him 7 blows more as hard as he could lay on. After a little time, he untied him. The man came forward and set down on a booby hatch and cried so loud that he started the men up from below." Other journals and logbooks tell of a captain who sent men aloft and took pot shots at them with a revolver and another who forced one of his crew to be stripped and scrubbed with a brick of lye daily.
Martha's Vineyard Museum R. H. Dana