We’ve often wondered if there was a particular way that barrels were always loaded.  We’ve tried loading barrels in the bateaux both with the bilge down and with the head down.  We’ve also tried with the bilge of the barrel athwart the vessel and with the bilge along the axis of the vessel.  As far as convenience of loading empty barrels, having the bilge along the axis of the vessel seems easiest and gets the most barrels in the bateau, but I have no idea if this was the standard method or not.

I was looking through Sailing Vessels in Authentic Early Nineteenth-Century Illustrations (“Sixty Five Plates of Shipping and Craft”) by Edward William Cooke, originally published in 1829 with reprints at various times.  I have a Dover Publications book from 1989 (ISBN 0-486-26141-7).  On page 16 is a plate which shows a small boat loaded with barrels (see picture).  Rather than the barrels all being stacked one way or another, they are all in a jumble, stacked any which way.  From this, I conclude that there is no standard method of loading them.