The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.
This chapter describes an activity that happens when two whale-ships meet on the open ocean. They have a “gam” which Melville defines in this way:
GAM. Noun—A social meeting of two (or more) whale-ships, generally on a cruising ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boat’s crews: the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.
This cordial meeting is unique to whale-ships. Other types of sea craft (including pirate ships, men-of-war, merchant vessels, and slave ships) tend to have more standoffish and hostile relationships with their fellow sea-farers.