In my last post on the topic, I spoke of the nobles of the Aruan Empire, mostly self-interested quasi-legal businessmen who hold much of the power.
One important part of their culture is that they do not often leave their islands. This is made doubly important when they are compared to their subjects, who may spend their entire childhood without setting foot on land.
There is some farmland on the islands, and some peasants farm for their living, but a much greater proportion are fishers and traders. A great deal of the land between the islands is much like the Grand Banks, shallow enough to allow for massive populations of fish. There is no real winter this close to the equator, and fishing goes on year-round.
The other sort of seafaring peasants are the small traders, usually peddling small necessities like pots, fresh water, and other similar items. Peasants of this sort have mid-sized ships with small crews, usually four or five people, compared to the ten to fifteen required to run a successful fishing vessel. These traders have a common flag, a red circle on a blue field, that is flown constantly so that ships in need of supplies can attempt to find them without returning to an island.
Both sets of seafaring peasants evolved from the people who lived on the edges of the mountains when the seas began to rise. Their land was covered, and their lords provided little assistance. This experience, long ago, has taught these peasants the need to provide for themselves and for each other. Ships sinking, people falling overboard, running out of water; all these things and more happen, and other ships feel duty and honourbound to assist where they can. It's ingrained into their psyche, and only the most cold-hearted of souls ignores this drive.
At times, many ships come together while meeting a trader, or while fishing, and at times they lash together forming a large raft-like structure. These are called shipmoots, and usually last three to five days, and are huge parties. During these shipmoots, goods and services are exchanged, and occasionally personnel.
This is by no means an exhaustive post, but it should give you an idea about how different the peasants are from their nobles.