– The first class of excellence of merchant ships, listed by vowel and numeral. e.g. A1, A2, E1, E2, I1, etc.
- Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘in’ or ‘on’. A’back, abaft, etc.
- The name used for the rating of able seaman, an abbreviation comprising the first two letters of ‘able’.
- A ketch rigged cargo ship, used for river or coastal transport, mainly on the Maas and Rhine, for wine shipping.
- A Turkish coastal sailor.
-Ganges river ferry boat.
- A ship is ‘laid aback’ when her way is accidentally, or sometimes purposely, deadened and ‘taken aback’ when the wind suddenly shifts onto the fore side of the sails, blowing her in a different direction to that intended, often dangerously. Hence the use of that phrase for being surprised. Also ‘all aback’.
- To the rear of the ship.
- A vegetable fibre from which fine ropes and rigging could be made. It floated and did not need tarring, due to its resistance to rot.
- A maritime legal term for the release of control of a ship.
- Abandoning an interest or claim, in maritime law.
- To lower a flag or sail.
- When a merchantman has been delayed or otherwise hindered, there may be a case for abatement, or reduction, of freight charges.
- Crossbowman; often carried on early ships.
- Alongside the ship.
- See Fork Beam.
- An unquotable sea-song.
- An apparent change of place of fixed stars, caused by the earth’s orbital movement.
- Infected with mildew.
- An oath taken by officers on receipt of their commission.
- 1. Able-bodied: fit and strong. 2. Able seaman: A senior deckhand, capable of carrying out all the various tasks required to keep the ship afloat and working, including fighting with the guns and enemy crews. Able seamen constituted about one third of crew.
- 1. A popular card game with seamen, in which the loser’s hand gets beaten with a rope. 2. A good share.
Aboard main tack
- The order given when close-hauling, instructing the hands to haul the tack of the mainsail down to the chess-tree.
- Across, such as from shore to shore of a river, etc.
- Go, come, put, etc., – change direction, through 180°. ‘About-ship!’ was the order to the ship’s crew to prepare for tacking.
- Above the deck and visible. Hence the term came to mean honest and fair.
- Said of a square-rigged ship when the yards are braced in opposite directions or laid square to the foremast, in order to heave-to. Yards braced abox were braced flat aback to the wind.
- Nickname for vagrants, from Abraham ward in Bedlam, which was reserved for mentally disadvantaged patients. Malingerers trying to enter the ship’s doctors list were said to ‘sham Abraham’.
Abrase – To smooth planks, etc.
- 1. Opposite to, or parallel with. cf Afore and abaft. 2. When inboard, parallel with the ship’s beams. 3. Positioned off a place that lay directly abeam. ‘Line abreast’ described a fleet moving in a line side-by-side.
- Broached or pierced, as in a barrel in use.
- 1. Foreign, such as being posted to a foreign station. 2. At sea. About. In the vicinity. 3. Spread out, said of a flag or sail.
- A part of the diameter or transverse axis of a cone; used in navigation.
- A formal permission issued to officers to temporarily quit their duties, usually on an urgent mission.
- The subsidence of islands.
- A short register of a warrant officer’s stores. An ‘abstract log’ has brief important features copied from the ship’s log.
- The stowage of casks laid athwartships or sideways across the ship’s hold. The usual way is in a fore-and-aft position.
- The site of a permanent whirlpool.
- A place of deep water.
- A graduate of the Royal Navy Academy at Portsmouth, which was later called Royal Naval College.
- A safe anchorage.
- Lost or cast away.
- A name for a purveyor of victuals, hence, eventually, ‘caterer’.
- Victuals; especially nice ones.
- Means of entry on board.
- Space left in cargo, stores, or ship structure to afford access.
- A boat kept clear and with a well-stocked boat bag, ready for immediate lowering at sea in case of emergency such as assisting another ship or a man overboard. Also sea-boat.
- The slope of a cliff.
- 1. The living space of a vessel, where the officers and crew ate, slept and generally looked after themselves. Cabins on board.
- A light staircase with hand-ropes or rails, fixed at a ship’s sides to a convenient entrance.
- One used to house the crew, perhaps while their own ship was being refitted with cannon, which was done in an arsenal.
- To sail together in company, or convoy.
- To pass within hail of a ship, or to come near.
- Buccaneers were said to ‘go on the account’ when they turned pirate, presumably because it sounded better, but maybe because they would be held to account if caught. Also see Quarterly Accounts.
Accountant-General of the Navy
- The superintendent of pay and general accounts in the navy.
- The ship’s books and registers.
- The equipment of a marine, and other soldier.
- The end of a deep bay.
- The total number of seconds or minutes by which a chronometer has gained or lost over a given period, or epoch.
- An old word for the caterer of a mess.
- A term applied to telescopes in which aberrations of colours had been corrected.
- An old term for the rising of heavenly bodies at dusk, and their setting at dawn.
- Dutch name for a Bock.
- A tide swelling above another, in a river.
- Fresh water, or river, thieves.
- Magnetic equator, where the magnetic needle lies horizontal.
- 1. The term for an anchor hanging by its ring at the cathead and held only by the cat-head stopper, ready to be let go, or from the hawsehole. 2. Said of a yard that has been topped by one lift, thus leaving it tilting and not a right angles to the mast.
- A flat-bottomed Mediterranean boat used to carry goods over shoals.
- Ornamental top to the spindle, carrying the vane at the masthead, to prevent the vane being blown off.
- See Quittance.
- The Greek or Roman forerunner of the figurehead, usually comprising the symbolic fixing of a helmet or shield at the prow of a ship.
- Carrying out the duties, without the promotion confirmed.
- Modern expression for ‘At Quarters’. The places and duties on board detailed to all the sections of a crew for battle.
- The list of naval officers on active service. See also Retired List.
- Serving on full pay, ready to carry out duties against an enemy.
Act of court
- The decision of a court.
Act of god
- A sudden accident from non-human causes, for which ship owners are not held responsible, in maritime law.
Act of grace
- An act of parliament giving free pardon to deserters, etc.
- Ancient long light oared sailing vessel.
- French open troop transport propelled by oars and sails.
- French open troop transport propelled by oars only.
- The loadstone. Used to arm the early compass needle.
- The moon in nautical horoscopes.
- Drinking water.
- Early 17c English navigator who played an important role in the formation of oriental trade in the Far East.
- A fitting into which the eye-piece of a telescope is screwed.
Addel, addle, addled
- Stale and putrid water in a cask.
- 1. An adze. 2. Addled eggs.
- Accumulated pay.
- A lieutenant of the king of Spain. The word often used by early English historians for admiral.
- Temporary cohesion of two vessels, caused by tide action on the beam.
- Entry port in ancient ships.
- 1. To set an instrument or device. 2. To set the frame of a ship.
- The final settlement of indemnity in a claim of marine insurance.
Adjustment of the Compass
- Swinging a vessel from point to point to check the compass variation on each bearing, due to iron in the vessel.
- A military assistant to an officer, performed in the navy by the first lieutenant, but sometimes applied to an assistant captain of a fleet.
- 1. In Elizabethan times, the chief ship of a fleet, later more often referred to as ‘the flag’. 2. A senior officer of the navy, of various ranks. The highest was the Lord High Admiral; the second highest, Admiral of the Fleet (Fleet Admiral); the third highest, Admiral; the fourth highest, Vice Admiral and the fifth, Rear Admiral. Until 1865, these ranks were further divided into red, white and blue squadrons, making nine levels of rank below ‘Admiral’. A Yellow Admiral was a Captain put on the Admiral’s List without posting, i.e. retired. There were a total of thirty Admirals in mid 18c: one Admiral of the Fleet; six Admirals; eight Vice-Admirals and fifteen Rear-Admirals. 3. The senior skipper of a trawler fleet. 4. A shell of the genus Conus.
- Seamen’s name for floating excrement, usually around a becalmed ship.
Admiral’s day cabin
- What it says. This was usually the principal cabin under the quarterdeck.
- Half champagne half brandy.
- Placed on the main top, for identification of the flagship at night.
- A time-served midshipman who had passed for lieutenant and been appointed to a ship by the Admiralty, and not by the Captain, thus having precedence for promotion.
- His general staff.
- The generic term, used internationally, for jurisdiction over maritime matters. A judge of Admiralty would preside over a court with authority to rule on local issues, the court being established at various locations around the relevant area from time to time.
- Reply to Watchman’s Challenge if an approaching boat contained a member of the Board of Admiralty. See Boat Calls.
Admiralty Black Book
- The English version of the Laws of Oleron.
- The ruling body of the Royal Navy. Variously instituted as Commissioners for Executing the Office of The Lord High Admiral, or Lords Commissioners, or The Board of the Admiralty, also The Secretary of the Admiralty, also Admiralty Office. The High Court of the Admiralty dealt with prize money, piracy, &c, and was a source of income for the Lord High Admiral.
- Incorporated in 1645. It ran the Navy under the Parliament of the Civil War.
- The constitution of a court with jurisdiction, on behalf of the king, over navy matters.
- A turn of line around a marline spike, which is then lifted and its tip slipped under the bight on the right of the standing part, used to get a strong grip for heavy hauling or when making splices, seizings or servings. Also marline spike hitch.
- The term for a time-served midshipman who had passed examination and was then appointed to a ship by the Admiralty, as compared to the usual practice of them being rated by the captain and appointed by an admiral.
Admiralty Pattern anchor
- The most familiar type of anchor and the standard type of anchor used before stockless anchors were introduced, given this name after 1840. Wooden stocked and with two triangular flukes on arms opposing the stock. See Anchor.
- A wide turn taken by a ship’s boat to come alongside. Hence used to describe anything overdone.
- Fast 17c sailing warship used for fleet command duties.
- Carvings on the stern and quarter galleries of a ship.
- The demand of boarders to the crew of a captured ship to go below.
- Dozing. A not uncommon state of a crewman off watch, when first roused to duty.
- Best in world, now called Yugoslavian.
- Not under control. Also ‘gone adrift’ from leave or late for watch or duty, i.e. not reported back on time – although not necessarily desertion.
- Duties levied on goods.
- 1. Wages paid to a seaman when he signs on, equivalent to two month’s wages in the Royal Navy. The clearing of this debt was known as ‘working off the dead horse’. Also, Advance Money. 2. To raise or promote.
- 1. ‘Advanced post’ is an outpost. 2. An ‘Advanced squadron’ was one sent ahead, on lookout, or to attack an enemy first, the latter usually being called the vanguard, or just van.
- The register of advance pay given on enlistment to crewmen and officers.
- Promotion in rank.
- When a seaman enlisted he was paid two months wages in advance, prior to going to sea. Clearing off this debt was known as ‘working up the dead horse’.
- A note for one or two month’s wages issued to sailors on their signing the ship’s articles. Received in advance of sailing and often used to indebt a sailor to a crimp.
- 1. The term for reeving a tackle in order to get the maximum power, or advantage, from it. 2. Some element giving superiority over an enemy.
- Share in the enterprise, i.e. the trade upon which the ship is engaged, or speculation in foreign merchandise, often by seamen.
- Speculator or investor.
- Small fast craft used to carry information.
- In Elizabethan times, an announcement.
- An officer whose duty was to represent the Lord High Admiral in the High Court of Admiralty, or in courts-martial.
Adze, addes, addice
- Principal tool of old-time wooden shipbuilders, and coopers, used to smooth or, ‘dub’, a plank.
- An ancient brass-prowed ship.
- The science of the air.
- An early name for meteorology.
- The science of measuring the air and its properties.
- Latin name for the south west wind.
- 1. An indecisive engagement. 2. A duel.
- The subscription to a letter signed by a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Navy when writing to officers that were not of noble birth. Snobs!
- The name of two brother admirals in the Royal Navy during the 18c.
- A contract for letting a ship for freight.
- 1. Floating, as distinct from aground. 2. At sea.
- Sunk or foundered.
- One of the worst descriptions that could be applied to a sea officer, implying cowardice.
- A raised part at the rear of a ship, for fighting. cf Forecastle.
- Applied to any object in the rear part of a ship.
- The term for that part of a ship’s hull that is aft of the midship section.
- An occurrence which takes place after the consequences of the cause were thought to have ceased.
- Midshipmen’s mess on Orlop Deck, used as Surgeon’s Operating Theatre.
- The stern end of a ship, or, of any object, its end towards the stern.
- Nicknamed ‘Sea Dandies’ and ‘Silk Sock Gentry’. Seamen of the mainmast division who were too inexperienced or otherwise unable to go aloft, so who stayed on deck and worked the after sails and after gear from there.
- The part of the main hold aft of the main mast.
- A ladder leading to officers’ or captain’s quarters, and used only by them.
- The lee or aftermost edge of a fore-and-aft sail.
- The last object on a ship, from forwards.
- The men on deck from noon until 4 o’clock. See Watches.
- Daily orders were generally given at a regular time. After-orders were irregular, and given later on.
- The part, of any location, towards the stern.
- The aftermost part of the hold.
- The part of the hull that overhangs the after-end of the keel.
- The sails rigged on the after masts or on the stays running aft from the mainmast. cf Head-sails.
After side fish
- The aft piece of a made mast.
Aft through the hawse pipe
- Promoted from the lower deck.
- Timbers abaft the midship section of a ship.
- A twist in a rope, where strands are laid up, in the opposite direction to the twist of the strands.
Aft hatch, after hatch
- A hatch at the rear.
- The after-hold.
Aft peak, after peak
- That part at the rear of the hold, in the run, or tapering part. cf Forepeak.
Aft powder room
- Gunpowder store.
- Towards the stern.
- A senior Turkish officer.
Against the sun
- The anti-clockwise circular motion employed when coiling down left-handed rope.
- Called affectionately ‘Eggs and Bacon’ by those serving in her.
- A hard, semiprecious stone, used for the bearing, or pivot, of a compass card.
Age (Of Seamen)
- Typically 22-24 years old, with 7 years experience at sea, many started 10-12 years old, some 5-6 years old. It was commonplace for ‘young gentlemen’ to be entered on ships’ books before they served, thereby apparently gaining sea time on their records. This was common, but illegal.
- A rate, usually of 5%, paid for handling the matters related to prizes.
- One who carries out the financial affairs of naval officers, for which the usual fee was 2½%.
- 1. A Prize Agent advanced money for prizes before they were confirmed, and looked after absent clients’ claims. 2. An Agent For Sick & Wounded organised such peoples’ accommodation and pay. 3. A Navy Agent prepared the accounts etc of officers and crew. 4. Agent Victuallers would be responsible for obtaining provisions on a foreign station.
Age of the Moon
- The tidal prediction term meaning the mean period in days between the new or Full Moon and the next spring tide.
Age of a ship
- A necessary disclosure for a contract with Lloyd’s.
Age of the tide
- The tidal prediction term meaning the elapsed time in days since the last New Moon.
- Sailors’ rest homes, first established in 1876.
- Flat bottomed Nile sailing ship used for carrying stone.
- A sea or river embankment.
- East Indian fishing canoe in 18c.
- A prize-fighter.
Agreeing with a climate
- An expression in Elizabethan times used for becoming acclimatised.
- A contract between the captain and each member of the crew of a merchantman.
- A ship resting on the bottom. If the result of an accident, a ship ‘runs aground’, or is ‘stranded’. If intentionally set aground, a ship is said to have ‘taken the ground’.
- The adulterated brandy of Spain that was supplied to her ships.
- A Spanish or Portuguese watering-place.
- Sharp-pointed rocks, from the Italian for needles.
- A malarial, or other, acute fever.
- In front. Opposite to astern.
- An early term for bringing a ship close to the wind.
- Crooked or lopsided. Usually ‘all ahoo’.
- Normal hail to attract attention. Usually pronounced “oy-oy”.
- Riding out heavy weather under bare poles and with the helm a-lee.
- To supply with stores.
- A flag lieutenant to an admiral, or a midshipman to a captain, when in action.
- Metal tips on reeflines, etc.
- French watering-places
- Tagged points on the cords of a uniform. cf Aiglets.
- Sailing against the wind.
- A type of ventilator comprising an opening in the deck to allow air to lower parts.
- A wooden airing/drying platform for gunpowder.
- A leather garment fitted with inflatable bladders, to give buoyancy to the wearer.
- Ventilator funnels used to rd the hold of foul air.
- Scuttles in the ship’s sides to let in air when the other ports are closed.
- Various systems used to pump fresh air into stuffy parts of the ship.
- Miasmas. Often blamed for tropical ailments, though without scientific basis.
- See air-ports.
- A wooden shaft on a vessel used to ventilate the lower parts.
- The drum or signal summoning men to take guard in time of danger.
- Early light ship/vessel
- A large shallow-water ocean fish.
- Slang name for sturgeon caught in the Hudson River during the War of American Independence.
- Large seabird. Said by some to be Pursers’ souls seeking savings or leavings. More commonly, albatrosses were believed to have been the souls of dead sailors, from where came the superstition of it being bad luck to kill one.
- Ad hoc leggings of tightly bound burlap on feet and legs.
- British Isles. Apparently so named after the white cliffs of the south coast.
- On ship, the most common forms of alcohol were rum and brandy, with wine and small beer for more frequent regular consumption, one of which was issued daily, in excessive quantities by today’s standards.
- 1. Said of the helm when it was pushed down to the lee side of the vessel in order to put the ship about. 2. Said of anything on the lee side.
A-lee the helm
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm pushed down to the lee side to put the vessel about. The helmsman would answer ‘helm’s a-lee’. Also down with the helm, or luff round.
Alfred the Great
- (848-900) Often said to be the founder of the English Navy. Although he built up the ship stock his navy did not fight significant sea-battles with the Danes, those having been fought before he came along, and after his death the English Navy lapsed into practical non-existence.
- A particular duty levied on goods, by the Long Parliament, used to release captives in the Mediterranean.
- The science of sea plants.
- The sight rule of an astrolabe.
- Foreign, not British.
- The imaginary line supposed to be kept to maintain a squadron in order.
- Wholly. ‘All aback’ was when the sails were blown from the front. ‘All ahoo’ meant disordered or crooked. ‘All-a-taunt-o’ was the term for a ship that has all its rigging hauled tight and belayed and all yards crossed on the masts. See taunt. ‘All hands’ was the order for all seamen to muster on deck immediately. ‘All hands ahoy’ was the order for all hands to assemble on deck, and not just the watch on duty. ‘All hands make sail’ was a order usually immediately preceding a chase. ‘All hands to quarters’ was an order in an armed merchantman which was the equivalent to ‘Beat to quarters’ used in a man-of-war. ‘All in the wind’ was the point at which, when a ship is gradually steered into the wind, the sails start to lose the wind. ‘All Night In’ was an expression used to describe the duties of crew members who were not members of watches, and who did not therefore turn out at night – except on the call “All Hands Ahoy!” See Idlers. ‘All over’ denotes resemblance to an object, e.g. ‘she’s a king’s ship all over’. ‘All overish’ listlessness and disinterest in food, usually signifying an approaching disease. ‘All ready’ was the answer from the tops when the sails had been loosened and were ready to be dropped. ‘All standing’ meant fully clothed, or was the term for a ship brought suddenly to a halt by its anchor biting, when its anchor has been let go whilst the ship had too much way on, thus bringing her up ‘all standing’. ‘All’s well’ was the sentry’s call on each bell during the middle and morning watches. ‘All to pieces’ meant out-and-out, e.g. ‘she beat us all to pieces’, meaning the other ship out-sailed her. ‘All weathers’ meant at any time or season.
All above board
- This referred to everything being visible when stored on deck and has come to mean all being open and honest.
- Seamen’s term for a fully rigged ship with everything correctly in place.
- A French ballast-boat.
- That passage-way between lower decks of merchant ships, giving access.
All hands aft!
- Call to crew to assemble.
- North American timber raftsmen’s boat, equipped with tackles, ropes, winches, etc.
- Brackish tropical river estuaries.
All in the wind
- Said of a vessel’s sails when going from one tack to the other and the luffs are shaking, or when bad steering sailing too close to the wind.
- An expression in maritime law indicating the collision of one ship striking another, as distinct from using the word ‘collision’, which signified two vessels striking each other.
All my eye and Betty Martin
All of one company
- Traditional sentiment of equality in the RN.
- The part of seamen’s pay apportioned each month to their wives, etc. The ‘allotment list’ was a record of such apportionments that was sent to the Navy Office for implementation.
- The allocation, by a disinterested person, of shares in a ship’s cargo.
- The ration allotted to each crew member.
All parts bearing equal strain
- Everything under control. Sometimes used to mean, going to have a sleep.
- Fully clothed, as in going to bed ‘all standing’.
- Call given by the sentinel when every half-hour bell is struck during the night watches, to affirm safety of the ship, and that he is awake.
- A pipe call, giving an officer’s order to be obeyed ‘all together’. See Pipe calls.
- Silt, such as found in river deltas, etc.
- Arabic name for parallels of latitude.
- African canoe, or larger square-sterned Negro boats.
- Ptolemy’s work on geometry and astronomy.
- Annual book of tables, or a single table, with calendar and astronomical data, used for navigation.
- A Spanish sea officer of senior rank.
- A wife of a Spanish sea officer of senior rank.
- The upright part of an astrolabe.
- Early English transport ship, so named after its constituent wood.
- Above the top deck. In the rigging.
- The order given to hands to go aloft.
- Lengthwise. ‘Alongside’ meant by the side of the ship, or side-by-side. ‘Lying along’ was when the ship inclined towards leeward due to the press of wind on the sails, or, lying alongside the land.
- Nautical term for the coast, or a course in sight of it.
- 1. In the middle of a stream. 2. Moored head and stern.
- A-weather. Specifically a point between abeam and on the bow, with that part of the ship being called the loof. To ‘keep aloof’ is to keep distant, or apart.
- In or on the hull. As ‘alow & aloft’, meaning below and above.
- The list of the names and numbers of the people on the pay-book.
- A platform in the upper part of a dock.
- A navigation instrument, used to find altitudes and azimuths.
- Early name for trigonometry, among navigators.
- The practice of leading the falls of halliards to alternate sides of the ship sail-by- sail.
- All land and sea breezes are alternating winds, blowing onto the land during the day, when the land is warmer, and blowing to sea at night, when the sea is warmer, because of convection currents. However, this term was usually used to refer to exceptional instances of sudden alterations in a wind.
- Trigonometry, used to calculate heights or depressions.
- The measured angular height of a heavenly body above the horizon. ‘Apparent altitude’ is as it appears from the earth’s surface. ‘True altitude’ is that produced after correcting the apparent altitude for parallax and refraction.
- A Turkish silver coin, worth a little under three shillings sterling.
- High small fluffy clouds. A common early sign of an approaching depression.
- High elongated flat clouds. The second sign of an approaching depression.
- An old term meaning ‘yield’ and ‘immediately’. ‘Let go amain’ meant let the anchor go at once. When a warship encountered a merchant ship in the warship’s sovereign waters, it insisted that the merchantman struck its topsail in salute by ‘waving amain’, done by the warship crew waving swords or pikes. The merchantman is then said to ‘strike amain’, if they do salute as required.
- Early code of sea-laws, compiled by the Amalfi, when they were an important maritime power, at about the time of the first Crusade.
- Sea markings on the French coast.
- A prank in which the victims are ducked in the wash-deck tub, in warm climates.
- A valuable waxy substance, used in the manufacture of perfumes, harvested from the intestines of whales, and sometimes found floating free in tropical seas.
- Recompense to the purchaser of a condemned ship, for repairs he has necessarily implemented.
- A brass eyelet fixed into a sail or any piece of canvas.
- The war between Britain and America of 1812 to 1815, caused by the rigorous exercise, by the British, of their rights of search over neutral, i.e. American, shipping, during the war with France. It was common for British deserters to serve on American ships, and also common for them to be taken off by the British when found during such a search. This was not popular with the Americans, who lost some good seamen in this way, and who sometimes lost their own liberty, the British being not too fussy about whether or not the seamen had protections.
- A method of whipping a rope’s end in which the ends of the whip are pulled out at the centre and reef knotted before trimming. Commonly used on hawsers. Also Sailor’s whipping.
- About the middle section of the deck.
- Towards the midship section.
- Warlike stores, including ordnance. An ‘ammunition chest’ was located near the stern and in the tops of a man-of-war, holding ammunition and weapons in readiness for action. ‘Ammunition shoes’ were soft slippers worn by those entering the magazine. An ‘ammunition wife’ was a woman of dubious character.
- Applied to boats that could mount the shore, and to land operations mounted from the sea.
- 18c sailing ships with hull and rigging designed to permit them to sail in both directions without having to go about.
- A Greek sea goddess; the wife of Poseidon and the mother of Triton. A lewd version ‘comes aboard’ with ‘Badger Bag’, or Neptune, at the equator.
- Clay bottles used to transport oil, wine, etc., in ancient times.
- The angle between the point at which the sun rises and sets and the true east and west points on the horizon.
- The ebb of the tide.
- A small swivel gun.
- A friendly foreigner, serving on board.
- An instrument used to in navigation to find the course and elevation of the sun.
- What? Eh? An affected colloquialism of the times.
- Archaic term for the crime of refusing to serve in the navy, punishable by ‘infamy’.
- Middle age fast sailing ship used to carry anchors and other such equipment to larger vessels.
- A heavy hook implement used to hold the ship by being embedded in the sea bed and being tethered to the ship by means of a cable. The term was also used figuratively to signify security. Each ship had, in theory, three principal anchors; the sheet, the best bower and the second bower, but most had many more. As a rule of thumb, the largest anchor weighed approximately one twentieth of the weight of the ship. On a typical 70 gun ship of the early 18c the sheet anchor weighed 52cwt (although it could weigh up to 71cwt), the best bower was about 1cwt lighter, the small bower was the same as the best bower, but on the port bow (the best bower anchor being on the starboard bow), and the spare anchor about 1cwt lighter than that. Smaller stream and kedge anchors were often carried, the stream weighing about a third of the best bower and the kedge about a third of the stream. Proportions of anchors changed over the ages, so figures should be used with caution. A grapnel was carried in each ship’s boat. A 32ft longboat carried an 80lb grapnel, but a 31ft pinnace would have one of just 56lbs, due to the latter boat being used only in sheltered waters. See Anchor Use Expressions.
- Suitable for anchoring.
- Suitable location for an anchor to grip, thus keeping the ship safely moored in position.
- A grenade attached to a grapnel, for attaching to, and setting fire to, an enemy ship.
- The support structure on the side of a vessel’s forecastle on which the anchor was stowed when at sea.
- A bell at the stem of a ship, struck during fog in accordance with the Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea. Also used to indicate the number of cable shackles still out as an anchor is being hauled in.
- A small buoy attached to the crown of a ship’s anchor when it is on the bottom, to show its position.
Anchor chain cables
- In general use after about 1820.
- Indentations caused by wear in the anchor stock, and small blocks of wood or iron on which the stowed anchor rests.
- The bend formed at the end of the anchor cable, through the anchor ring, forming a clinch or bight which is seized by spun yarn.
- Anchors usually consist of the following components: arm, bill, blade, bolt, crown, flukes, hoops, nut, palm, ring, snape, stock, throat, treenails.
- Held by the anchor.
- The grip of the anchor on the ground.
- Hook on the end of the fish tackle, used to lift the anchor.
- Hoops binding the stock of an anchor to the end of the shank.
- The act of casting anchor. ‘Anchoring ground’ is that where the anchor will be effective.
- A riding light.
- Protecting pieces of plank, fastened onto the ship’s sides to prevent wear and tear from the anchor when being fished or drawn up.
- The various orders given when a vessel is coming to, or weighing, anchor. They were given in the following order: ‘pay out the cable’; ‘veer away the cable’; ‘come up the capstan’; ‘man the capstan’; ‘heave taut’; ‘unbitt’; ‘heave round’; ‘heave away’; ‘up and down’; ‘pawl the capstan’; ‘hook the cat’; ‘man the cat – haul taut’; ‘off nippers – surge the messenger’; ‘stoppers before all’; ‘hook the fish’; ‘bitt the cable’.
- Fluke of anchor.
Anchor palm block
- A block on the side of the ship, where the anchor palm rested when stowed.
- The great ring on the anchor.
- The cry indicating that the anchor has broken clear of the ground and is suspended from the ship.
- An archaic name for the prow of a ship.
- A ‘Jew’s harp’ shackle used to fasten the anchor to its chain.
- One who forges anchors.
- The bar at the top end of an anchor, transverse to the flukes.
- A method of joining overlapping wale-planks.
- A method of securing and working planks with tapered butts.
- A small tackle used to hold the stock closer to the ship.
Anchor use expressions
- To lay or lie ‘at anchor’ is to be held by the anchor. ‘Anchor bearings’ were bearings taken while at anchor. ‘Anchor cable ranging’ is that part of the anchor cable that lays flat on the bottom, before the part that rises to the ship, used to prevent heavy pressure immediately being applied to the bitts. The ‘anchor came home’ when it dragged loose from the sea bottom. An ‘anchor clinch’ was a type of half hitch used to secure the cable to the anchor. To ‘anchor man-of-war fashion’ meant tidily and professionally. An ‘anchor spring’ was an additional hawser laid out from the cable, to enable a ship to be slewed round. A ship was said to ‘back an anchor’ when she carried a small anchor ahead of the main one in use, to stop it coming home. A ship was said to ‘break the sheer’ when she turned beam-on to the wind or tide, thus being pushed at right angles to the anchor chain, which force dragged the anchor free of the bottom. To ‘cast anchor’ is to drop anchor. ‘1, 2, 3, Let Go!’ was the command to drop anchor. ‘Cock-billing’ was used to describe when the cable was suspended vertically from the cat-head, with the anchor above water and ready to drop. A ship would ‘come to anchor’ when she let go the anchor. A ‘foul anchor’ is one around which the cable has become tangled. ‘Seamen’s disgrace’ was a foul anchor. A ‘Line of anchors’ was a method of anchoring when more than one anchor was dropped, with the ship moored to span between them. This is considered less safe than if riding at one anchor with the wind at right angles to the line of anchors, due to the stress on the cables. A ship would ‘ride at anchor’ whilst anchored. To ‘sheer’ to the anchor was to move the ship’s bows in the direction at which the anchor lies, while heaving in the cable. To ‘shoe anchor’ meant to cover the palms of an anchor with large triangular pieces of wood, to give the anchor more effectiveness in soft mud. To ‘shoulder’ the anchor was when a ship was given too short an anchor cable, causing her to be thrown across the tide and lift, or shoulder, the anchor and drift off. A ship that swung or turned with the wind and tide, when riding at a single anchor, was said to be ‘tending’. A ship ‘tide-rode’ when it lay with its anchor up current. To ‘trip anchor’ was to move and cause the anchor to lift from the bottom, when it was said to be ‘a-trip’ and no longer holding. To ‘weigh anchor’ was to raise the anchor from the bottom, at which point the weight of the anchor was taken on the cat-head. A ship ‘wind-rode’ when it lay with its anchor to windward.
- 1. The duty of keeping the deck when the vessel is at anchor. An important duty usually performed by a watch of experienced seamen. 2. The officer and seamen detailed to see that the ship does not drag whilst at anchor.
- An archaic term for the colours, or flag, and their bearer.
- An angle of a knee timber. Also a Spanish name for an anchorage.
Andrew Miller, The Andrew
- 1. A legendary pressgang leader, who was reputed to have pressed so many seamen that he owned the navy. 2. US and UK seamen’s nickname for the Navy, and for any other unpopular form of authority, after Andrew Miller. 3. A colloquial American nickname for a Man-of-War, probably through the initial letters, and possibly borrowed from the British seamen’s habit of calling the navy The Andrew.
- Wind gauge or wind speed measuring instrument.
- A wind direction indicator pointer.
- 1. The position of any mast rigged above another. 2. The term used for a rope coiled down and clear for running. 3. Said of a yard rigged perpendicularly.
- A portable barometer.
Angary, Right of
- The claim by a warring country to seize ships of a neutral country that could benefit an enemy. Valid in maritime law, but restoration is required, eventually.
- Slang term for a coin of Elizabethan times.
- Slang term for chain shot.
- Steel or iron rolled bar, used in ship construction, with an L-shaped section.
- Anchor with straight arms meeting in a point, called Admiralty Pattern after 1840.
Angle of commutation
- The difference between the heliocentric longitudes of the earth and a planet or comet, the latter being reduced to the ecliptic.
Angle of cut
- In navigation, the smaller angle at which a pair of position lines intersect. Larger angles give a better fix.
Angle of eccentricity
- An astronomical term meaning an angle whose sine is equal to the eccentricity of an orbit.
Angle of lee-way
- The difference between the true and apparent course, when close-hauled.
Angle of the vertical
- The difference between the geocentric and geographical latitudes of a place.
- A longitudinal frame member made from angle-bars, sometimes with added strength from a bulb bar, often fitted halfway between the deck and the bilge.
- A term denoting heavenly bodies being within measurable distance for calculating the longitude from them. The length of an arc of a great circle.
- Motion in a circular direction, such as planets revolving around the sun.
- The speed of motion of binary stars around each other.
- A sail of triangular shape, with the cloths running differently at the top and bottom, meeting in a mitre joint. Used to save cloth and to spread the load more evenly across the sail. Also mitred sail.
- The commercial term for indigo.
- A cask of about 8 gallons.
- (1665-1714) The only woman to ever hold the office of Lord High Admiral of Britain, in 1708, for twenty-nine days, on the death of her husband, Prince George of Denmark, who had held that office since 1702.
- Regular winds occurring at certain seasons, such as monsoons, trade winds, etc.
- Ancient Roman victualling vessels.
- A ship’s books for the year.
- A navy ship was required to return three reports to the Admiralty each year, in addition to the general accounts; namely, on the sailing qualities, the men and the progress of the young gentlemen in their navigation lessons.
- To cancel a flag signal.
- An eclipse of the sun, in which a ring of sunlight shows all round the silhouette of the moon.
- An invention by Capt. Downes, in which scuppers were fitted with removable concentric rings, thus enabling a surcharge of water to be passed quickly.
- A 16c brass navigational instrument.
- The actual period of the Earth’s orbit.
- Directly, or immediately.
Anson, Lord George
- (1697-1762) English admiral of the fleet who famously circumnavigated in the mid 18c, in the ship HMS Centurion, The ship in which he tested the first practical (if unwieldy) ship’s chronometer on an earlier trip to the West Indies, and returning with few of the original fleet company but with vast prize wealth. He later became a very effective First Sea Lord of the Admiralty.
- To reply or succeed. When a ship was seen to follow the instructions given in signal, she was said to ‘answer’ the signal. Also used in describing the suitability of a gun, boat, etc., e.g. ‘the gun will answer’ meaning it is ‘just the job’.
- A red and white striped pendant that was hoisted when answering a flag signal, to indicate that it was understood. It was hoisted ‘at the dip’, i.e. at half mast, until the message was fully understood.
- The south polar region. The Antarctic Circle is the latitude of 66° 33′ S.
- The boundary where the cold Antarctic surface water flowing north passes beneath the warmer sub-Antarctic waters flowing south, marking a change in sea temperature and chemical composition and significant biological differences.
- Before daylight.
- Before noon.
- A luminous ring surrounding the viewer’s shadow, projected onto a cloud or fog bank.
- A weather pattern comprising the rotary outward flow of air from a high pressure area.
- Temporary additional backstays rigged to provide extra support when a ship was in the trade winds.
- The term for a criminal method of extracting the contents of a cask or bottle, by a straw or tube surreptitiously inserted.
- An opposer of the French Revolution. The Jacobin political party in France in 1789 supported democratic principles, which caused their revolution.
- A type of coral with a black horny stem.
- The opposite side of the globe. Came to popularly mean Australia and New Zealand. Hence ‘antipodean’ applied to the peoples of those countries.
- An enriched vitamin source used in the treatment for scurvy. The best form was fresh meat and vegetables, citrus fruit being often issued, but not often effective.
- A wind blowing steadily in the opposite direction to a prevailing trade wind.
Antwerp Hell Burner
- 16c explosive fire ship.
- Doing ones duty by any means.
- Vertically. “Oars apeak” was an order given in a ship’s boat, on approach to its destination. Also said of an anchor when the ship has moved to be over its vertical cable while being hove in, and it is about to break free of the ground.
- The point on a planets orbit farthest from the sun.
- Ship’s stern ornament.
- Refraction that corrects the aberration and chromaticity of light rays.
- The ornamentation at the prow and the ensign on the stern of ancient vessels.
- Gang-boards on ancient ships, onto the quay.
- The time taken by a planet to return to a heavenly position from whence it started.
- The point on the moon’s orbit farthest from the earth. cf perigee.
- When a ship was well trimmed she was said to be a-poise.
- Towards the port side.
- Two large bollards near the bows, on the main deck, around which anchor cables were belayed.
- All the removable equipment and fittings of a ship, such as sails, rigging, boats, etc.
- The equipment of war.
- The furniture or gear of a ship, for insurance purposes.
- Fully equipped, of a ship.
- The position of the equinox, as it has been affected by nutation.
- The moment when the centre of the sunis on the meridian.
Apparent solar day
- The interval between two successive transits of the true sun across the observer’s meridian, at which times it is the apparent noon. The length of the apparent day varies with the Earth’s orbit.
Apparent solar time
- Time based on the hour angle of the true sun. The time used on sundials. Also true solar time or astronomical time.
- 1. The moment that land is first seen on lanf-fall. 2. The first arrival of an officer for duty upon a new appointment.
- Bluff shaped ship’s bow.
Appledore Roller Boom
- Worm operated reefing system.
- In good order.
- Pay, from the golden apples in mythology.
- Equipped or armed and commissioned for duty.
- 1. An officer’s commission. 2. The equipment of a vessel.
- A legal requirement of the captors of a vessel, from their being responsible for its expenses henceforth.
- A senior officer’s signature on an application.
- 1. Curved timbers of uniform section, fixed below the stem and above the leading end of the keel. Also Stomach-Piece. 2. In dock, the underwater masonry platform at the entrance to a dock, over which the gates close, if they exist. 3. The piece of sheet lead laid over the touch-hole of a gun, in an attempt to prevent the entry of dampness.
- Outrigger structure of a galley which allows the use of longer oar stroke.
- An old term for water-carriage tolls.
- An ancient wooden instrument used to measure altitudes of heavenly bodies, comprising a cross, or transversary, sliding on a staff that had graduated degrees marked on it. Also cross-staff, Jacob’s staff or fore-staff.
- Said of a vessel that tends to fly into the wind, needing an excess of weather-helm.
- An early type of lighthouse or alarm light vessel.
- Part of the stern above the counter.
Arch Of The Cove
- The elliptical moulding installed over the cove of a vessel, at the lower part of the taffrail.
- A type of violent squall under which the clear sky is visible.
- The north polar region. The Arctic Circle lies nearly 23º28’ from the north pole.
- The sea around the north polar regions.
- Said of a vessel that comes to the wind quickly, or gripes.
- A cloud of dust.
- The burial of scorbutic patients up to their neck in sand, for cure, or the spreading of sand over unwell people.
- The crew of the Argo, who sailed, in Greek mythology, to find the Golden Fleece.
- An early large merchant vessel.
- The attendant of the slaves’ shackles in a galley ship.
- The sharp stone corners of jetties.
- The side pieces of a made mast, held by hoops. Also called fish-sides, or side fishes.
- Materials left at the completion of a task.
- The imaginary vessel described in the Bible as having been built by Noah and used to preserve life during The Flood. It is reported to have been 300 cubits in length, 50 in breadth and 30 in height.
- An early name for the Orlop deck.
- A narrow inlet of the sea.
- Usually a Spanish royal fleet of warships, although sometimes used in Elizabethan times to refer to a single warship.
- A fleet of guarda-costas.
- A Spanish privateer.
- The arming of a vessel.
- Ancient fighting vessels that sailed, but fought only under oars.
- A locker holding small arms on the upper decks or tops.
- Equipped ready for war.
- Made from more than one piece of timber. See Made mast.
- A model of the celestial sphere, primarily used for teaching astronomy.
- The application of tallow to and around the cup of the sounding lead, to pick up material from the sea bottom. The identification of sea-bed material was an important aid to navigation in known soundings.
- 1.Decorative cloths once hung on holidays outside the upper works of a vessel. 2. A type of boarding net.
- A small inlet of the sea.
- The warrant-officer responsible for small arms, who was also the blacksmith.
- The place on a ship for the storage and maintenance of the small arms.
- A ship’s fitting used for the stowage, and sometimes local transportation, of small arms.
- 1. All the munitions of war of a ship, from large guns to small arms. 2. The arms of a great gun were its trunnions.
- A pump-action windlass, worked by seesaw operation. Also used to mean ‘handraulic’, or manual.
- An early portable firearm, that was fired from a tripod stand. The name came to be generic for all early firearms.
- One who is skilled and qualified in using an arquebus.
- To dress, equip or arm for battle.
- The term for procurement, for the Crown, of merchantmen to be used as warships. A ship was arrested and held under arrest whilst repairing for the venture of war for which she was arrested. In medieval times it was unusual for the ship or its crew to be paid for, by the Crown.
- 1. The choke end of a block, opposite the swallow. The hole in a block through which the fall runs. 2. The bottom of a buoy, as eloquently described by the seamen of Trinity House.
Articles of Agreement
- Contract between the ship owner and crew, detailing entitlements, penalties, code of conduct, etc.
Articles of War
- The code of discipline used in the Royal Navy, detailing duties and penalties meted out for all offences, including failing one’s duty. First incorporated into navy law in 1661. The final article, to cover anything not covered elsewhere, was informally known as the Captain’s Cloak.
- A member of the crew who works with wood or metal. Usually an idler.
- In Elizabethan times, used to refer to something done skilfully or artfully.
- An eye formed into a rope-end by hitching the unlaid strands over a piece of rope or wood the size of the intended eye, the ends being then scraped down, marled, parcelled and served.
- An instrument attached to the sextant, such as a bubble or pendulum level, used to obtain altitudes when the horizon was not visible.
- Early term used for some navigators.
- What the bow does during a ‘scend.
As Deaf As The Mainmast
- Nautical equivalent of the proverbial doorpost used to describe those of apparently challenged hearing ability.
- The random stonework of a dock or pier, etc.
Asiento, Treaty of
- The concession obtained by Britain from Spain in 1714, to supply slaves to the Spanish Caribbean. This was the first contract of the British South Sea Company.
- Located or placed obliquely.
- Said of a sail only just filling.
- The loom of land over the horizon.
- An ancient cannon, of about 12 pounds calibre.
Aspirant de Marine
- The equivalent to a midshipman, but in the French navy.
- The illegal carrying of goods or vessels.
- Early expression of an assault. Also used as ‘at all assays’, meaning in any danger.
- Long strands of seaweed.
- The opposite of a-port.
- Said of an anchor cable when in line with the forestay.
- Behind, or in the after parts of, a vessel.
- A half-round on flat moulding at the breech and near the muzzle of a cannon.
- In the Royal Navy, until 1925, the day started at noon, and was therefore 12 hours behind the civil day and 24 hours behind the ship’s day.
- Time based on the hour angle of the true sun. The time used on sundials. Also true solar time, or apparent solar time.
- Said of a vessel riding by her anchor.
- Across. When used in navigation, across the line of a ship’s course.
- 1. Said of a ship that has crossed its anchor cable due to the effects of wind and tide, when only riding at a single anchor. 2. Said of a ship anchored across the bows of another vessel.
- Reaching from one side of the ship to the other.
- Ocean bounded by the Americas to the west, Europe and Africa to the east, the Arctic to the north and the Antarctic to the south. The scene of most early exploration voyages and international naval conflicts.
- A book of maps of the eastern North American coast, issued in 1777 for the Royal Navy.
- A legendary island of mid Atlantic that was said to have disappeared under the sea.
- A book of maps. cf Neptune, which name is given to a book of sea-maps.
- Tides caused by the combined effects of the sun and moon, and the movements of the earth in orbit.
- An island with an inner lagoon. Usually formed by sequential coral growth and collapse.
- The state of a ship ready for armed action, with armaments prepared and with the crew in their allotted positions for fighting the ship, or navigating it whilst in action.
- 1. Of a ship at sea, at a standstill, with reduced sails, due to bad weather. 2. To bring-to in a gale.
- Of ships, said of an anchor hanging vertically on its cable while being hove in, after it has broken free of the ground. Of yards, when they were swayed up ready. Of sails, when they were hoisted and sheeted home, ready for trimming.
- Prefix to many orders, when the hands are required to ensure smooth operation of the order. Often shortened to ‘tend.
- A dock-yard official.
- Testifying to the signing of a deed in Admiralty courts. Hence ‘attested’ meant legally certified.
- Old legal term for the equipment of a ship.
- The force between masses that draw each other. In the case of ships, the fact that a ship will stand inshore faster then she can stand off.
Auditors of the Imprest
- Those responsible for the accounts of the Royal Customs and Naval expenses.
- Boring carpentry tool. That is, a carpentry tool used to bore holes, not an uninteresting tool. A wimble.
- A seabird, e.g. a razorbill.
- The Greek goddess of dawn, hence her name given to the faint light glow preceding sunrise.
Aurora Australis, Aurora Borealis
- Coloured lights in the skies at high latitudes, caused by the refraction of light by air borne ice crystals. AA in the south, AB in the north.
- Latin name for the south wind.
Austin, Sir Horatio Thomas
- (1801-65) British vice admiral who took part in the American War and in subsequent voyages of exploration.
- The legal right to command, or written instruction or orders.
- Welsh mythological paradise in the western seas.
- 1. Stop immediately, please. Urgent order to stop, or hold fast. ‘Avast heaving!’ (sometimes ‘vast heaving’) was the cry to halt the capstan when nippers were jammed, or something similar. 2. A pipe call meaning: stop. Also called ‘high enough’.
- The inlet of a port.
- Apportionment of damages incurred for the ship or goods. See General or Particular Average. An ‘Average Adjuster’ was the person engaged to assess damages. An ‘Average Agreement’ was a legal document signed by the consignees of a cargo, committing them to a proportion of the general average.
- (1665-97) Alias Long Ben. A Devonshire pirate of notable success, operating from Madagascar.
- An Italian advice-boat.
- Displaying a stopped flag.
- The judgement in a maritime case, or in a court-martial.
- 1. Deluged with water expected to run off. 2. Reefs or rocks level with the surface of the sea. 3. The anchor at sea level when being heaved up. 4. Used to describe one’s back teeth when eating/drinking to say one has had enough, for the moment.
- Under way, moving. Originally ‘a-way’. ‘Away aloft!’ was the order given to the hands to climb aloft in preparation for being ordered to handle the sails and rigging. ‘Away she goes!’ was the order to step out with the tackle fall, when a ship fills and makes sail after weighing and the call when a ship starts on the slipways on launching. ‘Away there!’ was the call for a boat’s crew. ‘Away with it!’ was the order to walk swiftly with a tackle fall.
- A short pipe call followed by the name of the boat as it leaves the side, such as ‘Away gig’.
- A piping-the-side call followed by the words ‘away galley’ as the galley was leaving the ship’s side.
- Towards the weather or windward side, from where the wind blows, short for ‘a-weather of’. cf Alee.
- 1. A-trip, of an anchor. The point of time when the anchor lifts off the bottom, thus transferring its weight onto the hawser. 2. The vessel is under way.
- Nickname for a division formed of men to whom the skills of seamanship seem impossible to master.
- 1. Temporary covering rigged above the deck on stanchions and suspended from a crowfoot, as protection from the sun or rain. 2. The part of the poop deck that projected beyond the doors of the poop cabins, to shelter the wheel and the binnacle. 3. Piecrust, particularly one made by the mess cook.
- A commonly used heavy sharp-edged tool or weapon.
- Centres of action of rolling, pitching and yawing motions. The plural of axis.
- Pin through the centre of blocks and sheaves.
- Helm indicator showing how much helm was being applied – usually expressed as how much helm was ‘on’.
- Centre of action of rolling, pitching and/or yawing motions.
- 1. The cross pieces of a gun carriage, particularly prone to rot away. 2. The spindle of a chain-pump.
- General reply or acknowledgement to order, etc., followed by “Sir” in the Royal Navy, or else! Reply to Watchman’s or Boat Challenge if boat contained officers below post rank.
Aylon, Lucas Vasquez de
- (1475-1526) Spanish adventurer, credited with the dubious distinction of being the man who introduced African slaves on to mainland North America.
Ayscue, Sir George
- (c.1610-71) English admiral who served both King Charles I and the Commonwealth.
- The horizontal angle, or direction; i.e. the point of compass. The bearing of a celestial body.
- Mariner’s compass with vertical sights, used for taking magnetic azimuth of a heavenly body. An improved version was invented by Adams in 1795.
- Attachment for binnacle compass, or similar, through which the observer looked, to line up on heavenly bodies.
- Spanish for quicksilver. Hence, Azogues were Spanish ships fitted out for carrying quick-silver.
- A group of islands in the north Atlantic, approximately 900 miles west of Portugal, the scene of frequent conflict between neighbouring nations at war.
- The usual term for the deep blue colour of a cloudless sky.
- Early Dutch sailing ship with oars, similar to early cog.
- Old term for a Dutch merchant skipper.
- Catching crabs with a baited line.
- The man detailed to stand watch whilst the other crewmen were off duty. From the name ‘baboon’ often given to one of the apprentices.
- Spanish name for the Newfoundland area, that gave rise to the name used for salted cod-fish from there.
- Canister shot or Langrel.
- Small French river ferry, operated by the bachoteur (ferryman).
- 1. Keel. e.g. ‘broke her back’ meant a broken keel. 2. To ‘back an anchor’ was to set a small anchor to help the main anchor and prevent its coming home. 3. To ‘back a ship at anchor’ was to use the mizzen topsail to hold her head whilst at anchor. 4. To ‘back and fill’ was the action of the sails being alternately filled and emptied of wind, often to get ahead against the wind and in narrow channels. 5. To ‘back a sail’ was to let the wind blow into the front of the sail, to slow or stop the ship. 6. To ‘back astern’ was to row a boat backwards. 7. To ‘back a rope or chain’ was to assist it with a preventer, to stop it breaking. 8. To ‘back water’ was to proceed backwards in the water. 9. To ‘back a worming’ meant to attach a small line in the crevasses of a worming, to prevent the ingress of water, and to make the wormed surface smooth. 10. When the wind changes, contrary to its usual course, it is said to ‘back’. 11. The convex part of a compass-timber.
- To push on a boat’s oars to give her stern way.
Back a strand
- To fill a gap made between strands, when making a long splice.
- 1. The board across the back of a boat, just in front of a boat’s transom, against which the coxswain leans when steering, or supporting the passengers’ backs. 2. Early name for larboard, so named because the helmsman’s back was to it.
- Triangular pieces of canvas fixed to each quarter of a topsail yard, for stowing the bunt of a topsail.
- The crew member of a line-smack who stood in a small boat at the stern, coiling the fishing lines back after the boardsman has removed the fish.
- The driving wheel of a small rope machine.
- To take a boat in through surf backwards to prevent it broaching-to and capsizing.
- 1. The action of taking the wind from the front, thus stopping the ship, by losing motive power. 2. Endorsement of Impress Warrant by local Magistrates. 3. The wind altering direction anti-clockwise. 4. The wood behind the armour-plating of iron-clad ships.
- To retreat from danger. When a harpoonist had thrown his harpoon into a whale, the order was given “back off all”, and smart compliance was favourable.
- A rope or chain used for staying the dolphin striker, leading inboard of the martingale.
- Box-hauling, by hauling the mainsail or mizzen boom to windward and so forcing the vessel’s head onto a new tack.
- The area of shore above the normal high tide level, that gets wet only in extreme conditions.
Back, Sir George
- (1796-1878) British admiral and Arctic explorer.
- A splice used to finish off a rope end.
- A mooring line attached to the forward part of a vessel and to a buoy or mooring point astern, to prevent her turning at anchor.
- Davis’s quadrant (late 16c), used to take altitudes at sea, with the observer’s back to the sun.
- Rope rigged from mastheads to ship’s sides, used in helping shrouds in support of masts against the thrust of the sails, rigged from the mast heads to the sides of the ship aft of the mast.
- Channel on ship’s side, onto which backstays are fixed.
- Metal plates on the hull, to which the deadeyes and lanyards at the lower ends of the backstays are attached.
- Separate small channels, fixed abaft the main channels, used to avoid extending the latter.
- Said of a ship held back by adverse winds and tides, particularly when trying to enter the Straits of Gibraltar.
- Forms the hollow of the top-timber.
- The backward current of a receding wave and downward movement of water under surf.
- 1. Water flowing from behind or the swell of sea thrown back by the motion of the ship. 2. The motion of a ship moving backwards. 3. An arm of the sea, or a creek, separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land.
- A poor anchorage.
- The decorative ornament particular to a ship, usually in the form of a carved and painted frame to a window, or the ornamental stern framing the cabin window of smaller sailing ships. Sometimes used to create the imitation of a frigate-built ship.
- The name given to Neptune, who traditionally visits the ship on her crossing the line.
- Something to be avoided by a ship, not always easily.
- One who reluctantly, and slowly, turns out to relieve the watch on deck.
- Early name for the Base gun.
- (1584-1622) English navigator and explorer, famous for his expeditions in search of the North West passage, and for Baffin Bay, which is named after him as the discoverer.
- Said of a constantly changing wind.
- Opposite to fore-mast.
- 1. A term of quantity of merchandise. 2. To ‘bag on a bowline’ was to drop leeward from a course.
Bag and baggage
- The whole removable property.
- 1. Passengers’ belongings. 2. Female companion, usually of the less respectable kind.
- Two-masted lateen rigged dhow.
- A protective serving used to prevent chafing of sails, etc., made from off cuts of old manila ropes tied and bunched tightly together onto two lengths of marline, or a wrapping of sennit around a rope to protect it from chafing. Sometimes seen as ‘bag-o’-wrinkle’
Bag piping the mizzen
- Hauling forward of the mizzen sheet, to weather, to make a back sail out of it, when moored with a wind or tide athwart or to bring the vessel to a stop.
- The fourth or fifth reef, used to prevent sails from bagging when on the wind. Probably sometimes called bog reefs.
- Red light district bar.
- A tropical revolving storm originating in the Philippine Islands.
- An 18c wig with the back-hair enclosed in a bag.
- A measure of weight used in various parts of the Far East.
- Inland wooden cargo barge used on the River Dniepr (now in Ukraine) in the 19c.
- 1. Bulwarks of a boat. 2. A bucket or similar utensil for bailing water from a boat. 3. To use a bailer, i.e. to remove water by lading. 4. A surety.
- A wooden handled scoop used to empty water from a boat. Or anything used for this purpose.
- An obligation by one representing another to be responsible for the latter. In prize matters it was an assurance that the courts adjudgement would be accepted.
Baily, Edward Hodges
- (1788-1867) British sculptor of the statue of Lord Nelson which stands atop Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.
- (1774-1833) American naval officer, most famous as captain of the USS Constitution, when she duelled with, and beat, HMS Java, in 1812.
- The charge of a fishing hook.
- Cant word for a port where refreshments would be available.
- (1631-1708) Dutch marine painter.
- Dutch inventor of the camel, use to raise sunken vessels.
- 1. Gather the slack at the peak or clew of a fore-and-aft sail and lash it to the yard or boom, to reduce sail. 2. To reduce a lateen sail by lowering the yard and rolling some of the sail onto it.
- A ship’s wooden frames of equal area, about the centre of gravity of the ship.
- A lug sail with the lower edge attached to a boom that stays on the same side of the mast when tacking, despite the yard dipping around it. Also French lug.
- A rudder supported partway aft of the forward edge, thus not self-centring and easier to turn and hold.
- A rudder configured with its stock away from the leading edge, so as to balance the pressure between the forward and after areas and so reducing the power needed to turn the rudder.
- A reef used in the spanker, from the nock to the after end of the top horizontal reef.
- A band with a shackle, fixed to the shank at the centre of gravity of an anchor, so that it will hang horizontally when suspended on a cable attached to it.
- The centre of gravity.
Balboa, Vasco Nuñez de
- (c.1475-1517) Spanish explorer and adventurer, most widely known as the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean.
- The open stern gallery of old line-of-battle ships.
- A ship that had no sails above topgallants, with a spike bowsprit, a square sail set on the crossjack and no fore-and-aft mizzen.
- A ship carrying no sails above topgallants, etc.
- A package of soft goods or stores wrapped in burlap and secured by ropes or straps. Hence, bale goods, to denote merchandise so packed.
- Springy bone taken from the mouth of a Baleen Whale.
- Cargo packed in bundles as distinct from crates or casks.
- A rope loop joined with a short splice then served with spun yarn over the splice.
- The volume of a vessel’s cargo hold.
- An early Portuguese cross-staff used for navigation.
- 1. 14-15c clinker-built galley of 50ish tons, used for cargo. Originally based on Basque whalers. Probably amongst the first to use stern rudders. 2. A sloop used as a whaler or coaster.
- A rough-hewn beam of Baltic timber.
- 1. A temperance man, or non-drinker who declined his daily grog or beer issue. 2. A man who stood on cliff or promontory and directed the fishing fleet by semaphore to where he could see the shoals. Sometimes spelt ‘balkar’.
- A missile fired from cannon.
- A Caribbean fast-sailing schooner. Also ballyhoo.
- Weight added to a vessel to achieve stability by keeping the centre of gravity low and to give a good firm base to barrels when stowed. Sailing ships usually ballasted with shingle, or iron ingots, or both (shingle:iron, 4:1), tightly packed into the bottom of a ship, brought into dockyards by a local contractor. Usually removed from ship prior to entering dry-dock and reballasted after being refloated. Thus 'in ballast' usually meant sailing with ballast only, and no cargo. Also, "He can't half carry some ballast" means he can hold his booze well.
- Dues charged for ballast, surrendered to Trinity House in 1594, by Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral at the time.
- A basket used to carry shingle ballast, but also often used by the gunner to carry loose ammunitions.
- A barge used for heaving up and carrying ballast.
- The horizontal line marked by the water on a ship's side, when immersed with her normal weight of ballast aboard.
- The port official responsible for administrating ballast.
- Holes low in the sides of a merchant vessel for loading ballast. It was important that these ports were securely sealed before the vessel went to sea.
- The jettisoning of ballast into the sea before loading a cargo. Bad practice later made illegal in home waters, and in many others.
- The trim of a vessel when only carrying ballast.
- A sticky mass brought up by the anchor. Sometimes used to make clay pipes. The latter used also by marines to whiten their uniform cross-straps, etc., to the great amusement of the seamen.
- (mid 19c) British sealing captain who discovered the Balleny Islands, in 1839, the first proof of land inside the Antarctic Circle.
- To twist rope yarns into a ball with a running end which was used to make spun-yarn.
- The action of a course or sail catching the wind and pulling loose, possibly through hauling up a weather clew first.
- The deep water inside a bar or shoal.
Ball, Sir Alexander John
- (1757-1809) British rear admiral. One of Nelson's 'band of brothers'.
- External uprights supporting the rails of galleries, quarterdecks, etc.
- A two-masted vessel with masts raked in opposite directions, formerly occurred in the West Indies, thus also any slovenly craft.
- The Spanish word for "float", first applied to South American rafts and then to the wood from which they were built.
- The northern sea bounded by Scandinavia and Europe.
- Elizabethan queen's agent who negotiated with Hansa merchants for naval stores (masts, cordage, etc.).
- Fast American topsail schooner.
- 1. Generic term for a strap around a mast or spar used to hold it together and to fasten various tackles. 2. A strip of canvas sewn across the vulnerable parts of a sail for added strength. 3. The musicians of a ship.
- A long narrow flag or streamer, often on a pike.
Band of Brothers
- The popular name given by Nelson to the captains serving under him in the Mediterranean Fleet of 1798.
- A narcotic concoction of opium, hemp and tobacco enjoyed by Malays, to their behavioural detriment.
- The hoops of a spar.
- 1. See Banyan Days. 2. A sailor’s coloured shirt. 3. The Banian Tree ficus indica grows in India and Polynesia.
- 1. Shelving of the sea bed near the coast. 2. The manned oars along one side of a boat.
- A cod-fishing ship working on the Bank of Newfoundland.
- A harbour protected from violent seas by banks of shingle or mud or similar.
- Working a Banker.
Banks, Sir Joseph
- (1743-1820) Wealthy amateur scientist who accompanied Captain Cook on his Pacific expedition in 1768-76, and later became President of the Royal Society.
- Office of a harbour master.
- Fog. From the outer banks off north America, where fog is normal.
- A small square-edged fringed flag.
- The officer commanding a squadron of knights.
Banner of the King Death
- The correct name for the pirates’ flag usually known as the ‘skull and crossbones’. It comprised a black flag with skulls, skeletons, crossbones, hour glasses and bleeding hearts in various designs.
- A type of hard ship's biscuit.
- Early use of the word included desserts, such as sweetmeats and wine.
- Loose shirt of Indian origin.
- The name for days on which no meat was served to the crew, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from an East Indian sect who would not kill or eat flesh and whose robes were made of Banian. Fast days that later came to mean feast days, due to the sailors' habit of saving up a few treats to compensate for the lack of meat, and so any day when a crew are given some sort of treat, or a surprise day’s shore leave. Abolished 1825.
- A riotous ceremony inflicted on those first crossing the line of the equator.
- 1. A natural barrier of sand or mud causing shallows, often shifting, across a harbour entrance or river mouth. 2. A piece of wood or iron used in various applications, as an aid to leverage.
- Cleaning a deck by swabbing it with sand and cleansing powder.
- A mineral fluid bitumen.
- An alternative name for rum.
- The name of a series of various 16c Mediterranean sea-rovers who became a nuisance through their attacks on Christian ships.
- The Mediterranean north west coast of Africa, particularly Algiers, noted for its pirates or corsairs.
- Hair cutters. Usually a rating on board ship.
- The low fog off Halifax, North America, which, coupled with northern winds, cuts one to the bone.
- A platform for guns in an ironclad ship, to enable them to fire over the parapet.
- The outwork defending the gates of a castle.
- Capstan with recesses in the base, designed to accept the links of the cable, named after its French inventor.
- A buoy marking a harbour bar.
- A Spanish or Italian bark.
- A Spanish fishing boat with three masts, each with a lugsail. Also Barque Longue.
- An Italian boatman.
- Early large bore short guns used on ships.
- See barrico or breaker.
Bare Boat Charter
- A charter of a ship without her crew and with few restrictions as to her use by the charterer. Also sometimes Bare Pole Charter.
- A poorly victualled ship, in which there were no little extras.
- The state of a ship when all sails have been taken in, due to heavy winds.
- (c.1550-97) Dutch navigator and explorer, known mostly for his Arctic exploration, in seeking a northern route to India, or the north east passage.
- Famous sea battle of 1692, between an Anglo-Dutch and a French fleet, to the great disadvantage of the latter.
- 1. The second of a ship's boats, usually reserved for the Captain's use. 2. A ceremonial state vessel, propelled by rowers. 3. A form of large coastal merchant sailing vessel. 4. A flat wooden mess table dish for bread or biscuit.
- One who mans a trading barge. Those who rowed the captain's or the state barges were usually picked men and known as rowers.
- The officer of a barge, when it carries an important passenger.
- Sailor’s slang for weevils, found in the bread barge.
- A long ironclad heavy pole used on a barge to fend off other vessels or to push off from an obstruction, hence 'would not touch with a barge pole'.
- Burgoo stirrer (dialect).
- Three masted sailing ship, square-rigged on fore and main masts, lateen rigged on mizzen mast. In early times this name was given to any ship of reasonable size.
- A keel made up from flat iron bars, joined end-to-end and overlapping, onto which the garboard strake flanges were fixed.
- A ship with the foremast square-rigged and the main and mizzen masts fore-and-aft rigged.
- Lower deck guns and pistols.
- The generic name given by a seaman to his ship.
- The treatment given to the sails of fishing and other vessels, as a preservative, giving them their red, brown or yellow appearance. See Cutch.
- Large duelling pistols.
- Early fishing trawler.
- An oilskin apron worn by fishermen.
- Shelled sea creature that sticks itself to ships' hulls, and anything else usually under water. The cause of serious drag to ships if not cleaned off regularly.
- Early anti-fouling paint, used to discourage the growth of barnacles.
Barn door rudder
- A tall narrow rudder.
- A figure in marine proverbs, very popular in marine repartee, but not usually in polite company.
- An instrument used to find the atmospheric pressure, on which weather predictions could be based, invented in 1643 by Torricelli.
- Original name for a corvette, from a Spanish fishing boat. Also Barca Longa.
- See Barkentine.
- The term used for an officer or rating who spends long periods in the shore barracks.
- Enclosure for slaves prior to selling on to slave trader.
- Theft from cargo by captain or crew.
- 1. Cylindrical wooden container used for most cargo or stores on board. See casks, kegs, etc. 2. A commercial measure of 31½ gallons. 3. The main cylindrical body of a capstan, mounted on a vertical spindle, with sockets in the top rim into which the capstan bars are inserted and pawls in a rim at the base. 4. The barrel of the wheel was the cylinder around which the tiller ropes were wound. 5. The tube of small arms through which the projectiles are fired.
- A cooper.
- A measure of bulk, equal to five cubic feet, used to judge the carrying capacity of a ship.
Barrel, to be over
- When a sailor was flogged he was either seized up, or tied, to a grating or a mast or the barrel of a cannon.
- 1. A stout rail fence across quarterdeck Sometimes also called the barricado. 2. Fenders.
- A ship's tender, or odd job boat, in harbour.
- Pronounced, and sometimes spelt, "breaker". An 8 gallon keg or container into which rum is poured and conveyed from the Spirit Room, for the grog issue, or used as a small water cask carried in a boat.
- Offshore reef formed by coral growth, separated from land by a deep channel.
- (1768-1851) American naval officer, most widely known as the captain of USS Chesapeake, who tried to surrender to HMS Leopard when the latter stopped her to search for deserters. One of the incidents that eventually led to the war of 1812, between Britain and America.
Barrow, Sir John
- (1764-1848) British statesman who, for forty years, from 1801, was a greatly trusted second secretary to the Admiralty, and a biographer of some acclaim.
- (c.1745-1803) American naval officer, born in Ireland, who was the senior officer of the US Navy from its inception in 1794, until his death.
- Ammunition used to inflict damage on spars and rigging, comprising two hemispheres joined by a bar that would spin in flight.
- (1650-1702) French naval officer who became a famous commerce raider and privateer.
- 1. Lowly. 2. Rear part of a cannon between the knob and the base ring. 3. A small 16-17c cannon that fired a six ounce shot.
- An ointment considered to be a supreme curative.
- A long 48 pound cannon.
- An enclosed area of water with constant depth that could be used as a safe anchorage. Most often applied to such areas equipped to serve ships with goods and repairs.
- The protective whole-hand guard of a cutlass.
- The largest fish, named for its habit of lying on the surface of the water.
Basque Roads, Battle of
- Famous battle of 1809, between British and French squadrons. It was a victory to the British, but the leader of the attacking British ships, Captain Lord Cochrane, complained afterwards about the excessive caution of his commanding admiral, Lord Gambier, which he claimed prevented destruction of the French squadron. His continuing stand on this matter contributed to the ruin of Cochrane's naval career in the Royal Navy.
- A type of sedge or rush used to make rough rope and matting.
- (1771-1802) English naval surgeon, naturalist and explorer, known for his surveys of the Australian coast, including the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Australia, named after him.
- Old name for shoals or rocks awash.
- A piece of ordnance of non-standard proportions.
- Anglo-Saxon term for boat.
- Original name for Djakarta, named for its Dutch rulers, who were called Batavian, after the island Batawe, between the Rhine and the Waal. Hence also, Batavian, for a product of Batavia.
- Famous 17c Caribbean pirate ship, named by John Cook from his band having earlier swapped a ship for sixty slave girls, who sailed with them in this ship.
- A long French river boat.
- French name for a ship's gunnery officer.
- A Brazilian river boat, used to transport latex.
- An old term for boat-hire.
- The original Anglo-Saxon for boatswain.
- An early small cannon.
- To securely close hatches against bad weather, by covering their gratings with tarpaulin and firmly fixing them all round by battens wedged into the coamings.
- A sail, more usually found on smaller yachts, fitted with batten or splines of wood, running horizontally, to keep the sail taut and to help with its handling on heavy weather.
- A way of determining the extent by which a vessel rolls by means of reading where the sea horizon cuts across a vertical batten fixed near the ship’s side.
- 1. Wooden strips nailed to masts and spars to prevent chafing. 2. A bar from which hammocks are slung. 3. Thin wooden or iron bars used to tightly secure hatch covers.
- An onshore emplacement of cannon.
- 1. A big fight, between fleets or single ships. 2. The central squadron of a fleet.
- A fitting installed through the cable bitts and projecting at the sides, used to keep the cable in place.
- Knocked back and forth by the sea and winds, from the racquet game of 'Battledore and Shuttlecock'.
- Lantern kept in a fire-bucket, for use in night action. Usually one for each gun. Also Fighting Lanterns.
- The names of battles in which the ship has taken part.
- Modern name for a Line-of-Battle Ship, which was usually called a Ship of the Line.
- A right noisy affair.
Battle the watch
- To cope with a difficulty as well as possible by ones own efforts.
- A large timber beam used in ship construction.
- A small Kentish or Essex coastal fishing vessel.
- An old expression meaning larboard.
- 1. Indentation of the sea into the land. 2. 'The Bay' usually referred to the Bay of Biscay. 3. The area between decks, in front of the bitts, usually referred to as the starboard and larboard bays.
- A violent squall off the southern coast of Cuba.
- New sea ice. See Ice.
- Men from the Bay of Campeche, in the Gulf of Mexico, renowned for their usefulness as seamen.
- Small flat bladed weapon attached to long barrelled firearms, as they would originally fire just once and then be useless until they could be recharged and reloaded. The bayonet consequently converted a club into a stabbing weapon.
- Swampy flatland and streams near the coast of southern US.
- Salt from Baye in France, used by some fishermen to preserve their catch.
- Place of work of the ship's surgeon, usually located in the orlop or main deck, in a dark unventilated space.
- A Ganges pleasure-boat.
- The shore. To 'beach' a boat meant to run it up the beach with sufficient force for it to stay there. To 'beach' a man was to land and desert him, a form of punishment 'enjoyed' by pirates. 'On the beach' referred to a sea officer or seaman out of work.
- Harbour loiterers and main-chancers.
- A land attack from the sea, having landed and holding position.
- The officer in charge of the landing of an attacking force.
- Boatmen who ferried passengers through the heavy surf of a beach, where no more convenient landing place occurred.
- Beach-combers who have been turned out of ships for bad behaviour.
- A slang name for the coast-guard.
- Sea battle of 1690, between an Anglo-Dutch and a French fleet, in which great damage was sustained by both sides, mostly to the English.
- 1. A post erected to warn of a bank or shoal. 2. A bonfire, often raised in a byre, used to signal. A chain of fire beacons was usually prepared and manned along stretches of coast threatened by invasion or attack.
- Payments for the maintenance of beacons.
- The famous brig sent to survey the Magellan Strait in 1825 and later used by Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery. Keel laid 1818, 1825 1st commission as survey ship, 1828 2nd ditto, 1831 3rd ditto, Darwin unpaid naturalist. 1840 4th ditto, 1841 5th ditto, 1845 decommissioned, 1870 broken up.
- Originally a projection at the prow of early galleys, but later came to mean a small platform at the fore part of the upper deck. More correctly called beakhead.
- Pointed or hooked.
- Small platform at fore part of upper deck, in front of the forecastle. In early vessels of war this was shaped into a threatening pointed shape. See also Boarding platform, and Heads.
- See Cat-Beam.
- Separation of the beakhead from the hull interior.
- 1. Large horizontal transverse timber holding the ship's sides together and supporting the decks above. 2. The width of the ship. 3. Sideward direction: lee or weather beam; starboard beam, etc. 4. 'On her beam ends' means the ship referred to is over on her side. 5. 'Land on Port Beam' means land has been seen on the port side. 6. 'Beam On' means at the side. 7. 'Before the beam' refers to any object ahead of an imaginary line drawn at right angles to the midship-beam.
- See crow-foot.
- The position of a vessel that is listing to the point where its deck beams are nearly vertical and it is unlikely to recover.
- 1. Small items of cargo stowed in the spaces between the beams and just under the deck. 2. Loose boards between the beams to prevent the surface movement of a bulk grain cargo.
- A heavy timber, shaped in a right-angle, forming the connection between a beam and the vessel's side.
- Heavy hooks used to raise hatch covers.
- The line visible on a ship's side, indicating the upper sides of her beams.
Beam of the anchor
- Anchor stock.
- Modern term replacing 'sailing with the wind abeam'.
- Large horizontal timber onto which deck beams sit.
- A trawl net that was dragged along the sea bed, with a heavy beam at its mouth, to keep it down.
- A wind coming directly from abeam.
- Wide; broad beamed.
- A Mulletta, a type of small sailing vessel. An English seaman's name for it, in jest, after its shape resembling a bean.
- 1. To 'lie off' or head in a certain direction. 2. 'Bear up': let the ship sail to leeward. Also, applied to a seaman who has served for a commission without success and consequently leaves the service 3. To ‘bear up round' was to put a ship right before the wind. 4. 'Bear down' is to approach from windward. 5. 'Bear away': to head off with the wind, usually in a squall, in order to reduce relative wind speed. Similar to 'bear up'. 6. 'Bring to bear': aim and range guns. 7. 'Bear a Hand': quickly join in on the task at hand. 8. To 'bear of from' or 'in with' meant standing off or going towards the land. 9. A large block of stone covered with matting and weighted with shot, pulled to-and-fro by means of ropes, to scrape the decks clean. Sometimes just a coir mat filled with wet sand was similarly used and so named.
Bear a bob
- Lend a hand.
Bear a hand
- To assist of give help.
- 1. To change a ship’s course to make her run before the wind. Also bear up. 2. A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm pulled so that the vessel may go large before the wind. Also ‘bear up the helm’, or ‘up with the helm’.
- Lower facial hair, usually worn as a sartorial statement, originally not allowed by The Admiralty, but after being copied from the Army in the Crimean War, and after pressure on The Admiralty from Queen Victoria, they were allowed after 1869, if kept tidy. Chief popularity did not occur until the Second World War.
- The fore-part of the rudder and the corresponding bevel of the stern post. Also the process of removing timbers from a vessel's hull to modify it.
- The brim of a vessel.
- 1. To approach another vessel, usually threateningly, from windward. 2. To keep closer to the wind.
- 1. Thwartship timbers immediately above the keelson of a ship or in the stern sheets of a boat. 2. Supports for the carpenters
- 1. The direction of ship's travel, or compass point. 2. The direction of one fixed object from another measured from a reference direction in degrees.
- A small secondary binnacle with just one compass.
- Crutching of the weather breast backstay to outrig it from the channel, to give better lateral pull.
- A plate used to take relative bearings.
- 1. The line on the ship's side marked by the water level when she is fully loaded and manned and correctly trimmed. 2. One was 'brought to his bearings' if he was persuaded to see reason.
- The order given to a boat’s bowman to cast off the painter and push the bow off from the ship or wharf. Also shove off.
- Swedish name for the Lubbers' hole, in the tops.
- To change a ship’s course to make her run before the wind. Also bear away.
Bear up the helm
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm pulled so that the vessel may go large before the wind. Also up with the helm, or bear away.
- (v) To make a series of tacks or legs to windward to make progress.
- Forced to return to port in foul weather.
Beating the booby
- Beating hands in cold weather, to increase the blood circulation.
Beating the Retreat
- Ceremony at the end of the day to note cessation of hostilities until morning reveille. Also 'Setting the Watch'.
- A contrary wind that forces the ship to make her way by tacking.
Beat to Quarters
- "Hearts of Oak" played as a drum call to the crew to stop work and attend at their assigned positions for fighting the ship, i.e. 'At Quarters'. Also 'beat to arms'.
Beaufort, Sir Francis
- (1774-1857) British rear admiral who served as Hydrographer of the Navy from 1829 to 1855.
- Scale devised in 1806 by Francis Beaufort, when he was Captain (he later became a rear admiral) of HMS Woolwich, to describe wind speed, as shown in the table below.
- To prevent the wind on a sail, usually by a high cliff to windward, or the sails on each other.
- Condition of a ship having lost all wind, due to its dropping below Force One. Unable to make way due to a lack of sailing wind.
- The Holothuria, or sea-slug. For some incomprehensible reason it is considered a great delicacy in the Far East.
- 1. A loop of rope with an eye at one end and a walnut knot at the other, used to fasten. 2. A short length of rope with its ends spliced together. 3. A short rope with an eye splice at each end, used to fasten. 4. The eye at the base of a block, to which the standing end of a fall is fastened. 5. Short cordage loops attached to yard jack-stays, for a man to pass his arms through as a safety measure. 6. A short rope or a large iron hook, used to hold larger ropes.
- A short length of rope holding an oar within its thole pins. These are more common in surf boats where the oars can more often be forced out of place by the waves.
- To make a rope fast to an anchor by first fastening it to the flukes and then lightly seizing it to the ring. If the anchor gets caught on rocks, a jerk on the rope breaks the seizing and brings the anchor home by the flukes.
- A method of securing the anchor for use in hard ground, by taking the cable round a fluke or the crown and tying it to the ring with light seizing. If the anchor fails to break ground normally the seizing can be broken by a sharp tug and the anchor hove up by its fluke.
- 1. Timber supports placed under casks stowed in the hold to keep their bilges off the floor. 2. The base of any heavy object.
- Block of wood seating the fish davit.
- A bolt that passed horizontally through a gun carriage, on which the stool-bed rests.
Bedding a cask
- Securing a cask in place by packing it with dunnage.
- Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in London, for the insane.
- Seamen’s term for a ship’s ordnance being considered too heavy for the scantlings to take.
- Heavy equipment placed against the side of a ship to be launched, for starting her. Also barrel screws.
- Stupified with noise.
- A hoop of metal. 'Bees of the bowsprit' were pieces of hard wood fixed to the outside of the bowsprit, through which the foretopmast stays are rove before they are brought in to the bows to be secured.
- A rectangular elm block with a sheave on the fore end and mortise in the aft end. Two bee blocks would be bolted onto the sides of the bowsprit, with the bolts acting as the sheave pins. The foretopmast stay and the spring stay would be reeved through the starboard and port sides respectively.
Beechey, Frederick William
- (1796-1856) British rear admiral, noted for his good work in surveying and geography.
- Salt beef was one of the staple foods for seamen. Roast fresh beef was very popular when available. It was also used as a term for strength.
- Small craft used to deliver fresh meat to the fleet, usually when on blockade duty, recognised by a large bullock painted on the main sail.
- A mess utensil, for carrying meat from the galley to the mess table.
- What it says. See Cargo.
- Small beer was a light beer or ale, often preferred by seamen to the rum ration, as they got eight pints a day and it was healthier for them, by providing some vital vitamins. Beer ration was stopped in 1831.
- Seamen's term for money, especially when on a run ashore.
- 1. A heavy mallet used to drive reeming irons between deck seams when caulking. 2. Overhanging cliff. Hence 'beetle browed', denoting a projecting forehead.
- In front of. 'Before the mast' referred to a common seaman's or petty officer's position in life, originally from the fact that his accommodation on board was in the forecastle, or, at least, not in the cabins, which were situated aft. cf 'made the quarterdeck'. 'Before the wind' referred to fine sailing, with the wind behind one of the quarters.
- Make foul, or tangle with rope.
- Seamen’s' term for missiles thrown at attacking ships by galley-slaves.
- Handling characteristics of the ship.
- Request or command.
- Elizabethan for advantageous.
- The luff spar on an old Viking ship.
- 1. (v) To fasten a rope by turning it a few times round two timber-heads, or some similar fitting. Tie off, came to mean 'stop'. “Belay there!” was the order to stop or desist. Or just ”Belay!” - Stop right now, please. 2. A pipe call meaning: cease hauling and make fast.
- A short brass, iron or wood bar or pin, thickened at one end, that would be set vertically into a socket in a pinrail and about which a line would be secured. The line could be quickly released by removing the pin from the socket.
Belaying-pin hash, A dose of
- Beating to 'cure' slackness or insolence.
Belcher, Sir Edward
- (1799-1877) British admiral, the subject of a turbulent career of action and surveying.
- Place a ship so as to cut her off from the wind.
- Late rig on a four master, with split topgallants on the front three masts.
- Ship's bell housing, usually ornamental, positioned at the rail of the forecastle. Larger ships sometimes had two belfries and bells, one forward and one aft.
- At half hours of the Watch the ship's bell was rung a set number of times, as scheduled below, to inform crew of the time, particularly for Watch changes, etc. See Watches.
- Short length of hand-rope attached to the clapper of a bell, by the pulling of which it is rung.
- Old name for the cross-staff.
- A particular bow shape on some clippers.
- An audible warning device, moored in a waterway to show the route of the navigable channel. There was a famous one on the River Mersey.
- Handle fixed to bell, to cause it to ring manually.
- Action in Quiberon Bay on 7 June 1761 at which the marines shone, and of which they remain proud.
- A famous Royal Naval ship in which Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland in 1815. The ship was fondly known as 'Billy Ruffian' to British seamen.
- (1767-1830) Scottish engineer who was a pioneer of steam engines in ships.
Bellin, Jacques Nicholas
- (1703-72) French engineer who for 50 years was first engineer of the Depôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine, established in 1720.
Bellingshausen, Thaddeus Fabian von
- (1779-1852) Russian naval officer, known for his explorations of Antarctic areas.
- An affectionate term for a seaman who knew his stuff and applied it well.
- A short rope spliced onto the bell-crank, with a double wall-knot crowned at the end.
- Old name for the cross-staff.
- A particular bow shape on some clippers.
- An audible warning device, moored in a waterway to show the route of the navigable channel. There was a famous one on the River Mersey.
- Handle fixed to bell, to cause it to ring manually.
- Action in Quiberon Bay on 7 June 1761 at which the marines shone, and of which they remain proud.
- A famous Royal Naval ship in which Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland in 1815. The ship was fondly known as 'Billy Ruffian' to British seamen.
- (1767-1830) Scottish engineer who was a pioneer of steam engines in ships.
Bellin, Jacques Nicholas
- (1703-72) French engineer who for 50 years was first engineer of the Depôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine, established in 1720.
Bellingshausen, Thaddeus Fabian von
- (1779-1852) Russian naval officer, known for his explorations of Antarctic areas.
- An affectionate term for a seaman who knew his stuff and applied it well.
- A short rope spliced onto the bell-crank, with a double wall-knot crowned at the end.
- The number of times the ships’ bells were rung signified the times given below.
- 1. The swollen part of a sail, that is full of wind. 2. The main body of a fishing net.
- A reinforced band of canvas running horizontally across a square sail, halfway between the close reef and the foot. Named after the belly of a sail, where it swells out in the wind. Also middle band.
- An additional halyard rove through a block at the middle of a gaff, to give extra support.
- Extra support given to a warp put in a crippled mast.
- 1. 'Bellying canvas' applied to a ship going free, when the belly and foot reefs are shaken out. 2. 'Bellying to the breeze' meant the sails were filling. 3. 'Bellying to leeward' meant too much sail was being carried.
- A lashing midway between the bowsprit-cap and the jib-boom band, to secure it in position.
- See paunch mat.
- Of sails, to swell out.
- A stay used half-mast down.
- Not on deck. 'Go Below' means to leave the deck. 'The Watch Below' referred to the watch that was off duty.
- A warning called to those below when something is on the move gravitationally.
- Delphinapterus leucas. The white whale. In fact a member of the dolphin family, found in Northern Seas.
- (1635-1702) British admiral, known for his fiery attitude to his captains, they in turn getting into trouble for not being able to accept it.
- 1. The seat across the rear of the Great Cabin or a boat. 2. The curved seat in a boat’s stern where the officer or guest sat in transit.
- 1. The generic naval term for a knot. 2. The chock of the bowsprit. 3. (v) To tie or make fast. 4. To 'bend to your oars' was the order given to rowers to row a longer stroke. 5. To temporarily tie a rope to another.
- The order given to attach parts of the rigging together.
- The heavy shackle used to attach the anchor to its chain cable.
- A heavy cast-iron plate with holes into which iron pegs, called dogs, would be placed in a pattern forming the shape of the frame member to be formed. The red-hot frame piece would be worked against the dogs, by means of mauls and squeegees, until it stays in the correct shape.
Bending the cable
- Securing the cable to the anchor, by taking it through the anchor ring and round the bight, where it is seized into a clinch.
Bend on the tack
- The distant line, that piece of rope used when hoisting signals to keep the flags the required distance apart.
- A musket rest.
- 1. Knots. 2. Wales; the thickest planks on a ship’s sides. 3. Disease of divers, caused by rapid decompression (uncommon in the days of sailing ships).
- Attach a sail to its yard, spar or stay.
- Said of a vessel that has run aground during periods of neap tides, or has been prevented from leaving a barred harbour until a corresponding period of higher tides occurs. Also neaped.
- Blue lights, used to indicate the ship's position to a boat.
- A low-crowned, wide-brimmed straw hat
- 1 A signal flag is bent onto its halyard before hoisting. 2 A rope is bent onto another before being spliced to it. 3 Bent on a splice means about to get married. 4 Also slang term for being worn in with usage, particularly applied to sails.
- A triangular, or narrow-footed course, with its foot extended by a boom that pivots about its centre, to help when going about, used as trysails, but superseded by storm staysails, except in the US where they were retained.
- A boom stretching from the foot of a foresail, used to stretch the foresail foot and to help with adjustment of the sail.
- A course with its foot extended by a bentinck-boom stretched between clews.
- Additional shrouds rigged to support the mast when the vessel rolls, rigged from the weather futtock shrouds to the lee channels, up to mid 19c.
Bent on a splice
- A seaman's term for intending to get married.
- The shaped frames or ribs of a boat.
- Incense from Sumatra.
- An iceberg, or ice mountain, usually afloat.
- A small Mediterranean rowing and sailing vessel, similar to a pinnace.
- A disease often contracted by seamen, but confused with scurvy until the early 19c, when scurvy was under control, if not yet fully understood. Beriberi was eventually ascribed to a deficiency of vitamin B1 and caused inflammation of the nerves and eventual heart failure.
- (1681-1741) Danish explorer of Arctic seas.
- A small boat or yacht rig with raked mast short gaff long boom and bowsprit and a high tapering sail called Bermudian Mainsail. Also called Bermudoes or Bermudian rig.
- A sudden violent storm from the Gulf Stream near Bermuda, preceded by heavy clouds, thunder and lightning.
- Three-masted schooners built in Bermuda.
- The modern understanding of how a ship can sail to windward, by the negative pressure generated by air flow on the leeward, forward aspect of the sail, thus sucking the ship forwards.
Berry, Sir Edward
- (1768-1831) English rear admiral, one of Nelson's 'band of brothers'.
- An early sea cannon.
- 1. A mooring against a dockside. 2. Convenient sea room when ships were swinging at anchor, as in 'give a wide berth' which meant to moor far enough apart. 3. Place where a ship is at anchor. 4. Place on board ship where a mess put their chests, etc., and hence where they sleep, mess and reside. 5. Sleeping place in a ship. 6. A job or position on board ship.
- The 'tween decks.
- The person responsible for allocating places for hammocks to hang in.
- The action of applying the planks to the ship's sides.
- The upright planking of the ship's sides, especially outside the sheer strakes.
- A ship-rigged round ship of the Mediterranean.
- Old seaworthy packets.
- Immovably surrounded by ice.
Best bower anchor
- The starboard and of the two principal anchors used every day. In fact the port bower, or small bower, was the same size. See Anchor for details.
- A person who does bete-ing.
- Seamen’s' church or nonconformist chapel.
- Fishing nets that have been mended.
- The space between any two decks of a vessel, often called the 'tween decks.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea
- The devil was the outermost deck seam, up against the ship’s side (next to the sea). If a seaman slipped on deck he could fall into the junction between the deck and the side and so be between the devil and the deep blue sea. The expression evolved into that for a precarious choice between two evils. See devil.
Between, or betwixt, wind & water
- The point on a ship's side which is just above the waterline.
- To hew a timber with the correct curve, as determined by the mould being laid along the working edge.
- An alteration of an edge, away from square. Also applied to the forming of a timber to a mould.
- A piece of board on which bevellings were described.
- A drink made of sugar-cane juice and water, in the West Indies.
- Watered-down wine.
- High quality woollen material used to make sails and flags in 17c. Sometimes called bewpars.
Bezan or Bizan rig
- Small yacht rig, usually ketch rigged.
- Single-mast short gaff boom rig
- Small gold coin.
- A bracket under the trestle-tree of a mast. Also called cheeks.
- 1. A hand axe. 2. Holystone used to scrub the decks. So called through its resemblance in size and shape to a bible, in the religious sense.
- A horse-piece of whale blubber, sliced repeatedly nearly through, to facilitate the trying out or boiling out of the whale oil.
- A hand rolloing board for preparing cartridge cases and similar.
- Solemn litany between Captain and crew at the commissioning ceremony.
- (1750-78) An American naval officer of great promise, who threw it all away by getting himself blown up with his ship Randolph whilst fighting the British ship HMS Yarmouth near Barbados.
- A flat bowl or basin used for carrying liquids. Sometimes beaker.
- A small boat-hook.
- A Danish, Swedish or German bottomry contract.
- 1. A turn or loop of rope. 2. The central part of a rope. 3. An area of sea between two promontories.
- A type of square topsail rigged on yachts with a square yard above a gaff mainsail.
- A disrespectful term for high officers.
- Two masted merchantman hoy used for Dutch coastal and canal traffic.
- An old term for a flexible cutlass, from Bilbao where the best were made.
- Fictional hero of 'The Hobbit', by J R R Tolkein. He has no connections with the sea.
- Heavy iron fetters used to restrain a felon under arrest, to the floor, just abaft the mainmast.
- 1. That part of a ship's floor either side of the keel, where it starts to slope upwards, upon which a ship sits if grounded. Hence: 2. The cavity between the ship's sides and the keel, where water collects, and from which it is pumped out periodically. 3. The largest circumference of a cask.
- Short heavy timbers used to support the bilges of a vessel in dry dock.
- Timber coverings over the bilges, used to stop bilge water getting out of and rubbish getting into the bilges.
- Sliding planks used when launching a ship.
- Said of a ship that has been holed in her bilge.
- Sickness caused by breathing vapours from a foul hold.
- 1 Some cargo had to be stowed away from the bilge to avoid water damage. See also 'Bungs up and bilge free'. 2 Full of booze but not quite drunk enough to get caught.
- Horizontal length of plate and angle-bars fixed at right angles externally to the hull, at the turn of the bilge. These reduced roll and added strength to the hull. Sometimes called docking keels.
Bilge piece, or bilge rail
- Wooden hand grips fixed to the outside of a boat’s bilge, to be used by the crew to hold on if the boat has capsized.
- Timber pieces used to reinforce the inside or outside of the bilges, to prevent damage.
- The main pump of a sailing ship, comprising a wooden tube extending from the bilge to the deck, where it was operated by the pump brake and two attached pistons. Often simply called the pump. Cf chain pump.
- See bilge piece.
- An unloved shipmate, usually because of his personal habits.
- The continuous horizontal row of plating at the turn of the bilge, extended the entire length of the vessel.
- Water in the bilge, usually stagnant, so also anything that tastes unpleasant in the extreme.
- Bilge coads.
- Water that has entered the ship from rainfall or penetration and collected in the bilges, awaiting pumping out, and has usually become dirty and smelly.
Bilge water alarm
- A clockwork bell located in the bilges that rings when the water level rises above a comfortable level.
- A timber laid longitudinally beneath the bilges of a ship under construction, as part of the cradle built to support the hull.
- Yellow fever, or derangement of the bile.
- 1. The fluke or triangular plate on anchor arms. Also pea or peak. 2. An Elizabethan halberd or pike. (Cross ref with Halberd). 3. A point of land.
- Crooked dealing, particularly amongst those in authority.
- Block on a ship's side, onto which the anchor bill rested.
- A metal plate supporting the bill block attached to the cat-head to hold the anchor flukes when stowed.
- The figurehead of a whaler. Also billet-head.
- 1. A block of wood at the bow of a whale-boat, round which the harpoon line runs. 2. A simple figurehead usually in the shape of the end of a violin. Sometimes called fiddlehead, or scrollhead.
- Small pieces of wood used for dunnage or as fuel.
Bill of Exchange
- A document used to transfer money from one country to another.
Bill of Freedom
- A pass for a neutral at time of war.
Bill of Health
- A certificate issued at the port of departure, signifying no contagious disease on the ship, if 'clean'. Required by port authorities before berthing was permitted at port of arrival.
Bill of Lading
- A list of the cargo.
Bill of Sale
- A document used to transfer ownership of a vessel.
Bill of Sight
- A custom house officer's warrant to examine goods.
Bill of Store
- A certificate issued by a custom house licensing a ship to carry stores for a voyage, custom-free.
- An elevated and airy expression describing a swelling wave of the sea.
- The ends of a compass or knee timber.
- Seamen’s nickname for Admiral Sir William Cornwallis.
- An east coast small barge type trading boat. Also, Billy-boat.
‘Billy go tight’
- One of many nicknames for Admiral Sir William Cornwallis.
Billy Pitt's men
- See Lord Mayor's men.
- HMS Bellerophon.
- Portable tackle for tightening braces, etc.
- A connecting timber.
- A length of uniform width deck plank running front to back of the ship, into which the ends of parallel planking terminate.
- To rinse out, or 'bull', a cask to prepare it for use.
- Housing for the compass and other navigational instruments, fixed in front of the ship's wheel. It usually had an internal light. Previously called the Bittacle.
- A small round top placed at the masthead, most often on whalers, from which the widest field of view was achieved. Also crow's nest.
- Early oared galley, with two tiers of oars.
- Small Highland oared galleys from medieval times to 16-17c.
- Marks above which a ship should not be loaded.
- Ship's Biscuit was the staple starch food and was hard baked bread that did not go off. It was usually broken up and soaked in soft foods, to stretch the meal and make it more edible. Weevils liked Ship's Biscuit and often infested them, resulting in the reflective habit of rapping the biscuit on the mess table before eating it, to make the weevil grubs fall out.
- Ship handling theory, in which the angle of the sail bisects the angle between the wind and the ship's head.
- A silver coin formed in Spanish colonies from ‘cut-money’ (coins cut into pieces), which had a value of one eighth of a dollar, or 12½ cents, as it still does in the US today.
- (v) To dig into the holding-ground, or seabed, said of an anchor.
- Large baulks or posts arranged in pairs, fastened into the deck, for belaying anchor cables, halliards, ropes, etc. See also Carrick bitts, Riding bitts, Topsail sheet bitts, Windlass bitts, etc.
- (v) To turn a cable or rope round the bitts to fasten it or to slacking it off slowly. See also veering away.
- The binnacle. Originally its Latin name was habitaculum.
Bitter - The turn of cable around the bitts. Hence, 'the bitter end', which referred to that part of the chain or rope inboard of the bitts, usually just a short length.
- The inboard length of an anchor cable was secured to strong timbers called riding bitts and lashed fast to the bottom of the cable locker. If the cable was run out all the way it was said to be at the bitter end, which has come to mean anything at its limit.
- The upper end of a heavy timber set vertically through the deck and used to make a cable fast.
- The evolution of passing a turn of cable round a bitt.
- Older, experienced but less active seamen who did not go aloft. So named as they expertly handled the ropes. Also stoppermen or mast party.
- A large iron pin inserted into a hole in the bitt, around which the hawser or rope was tied off, for a quick release. Also Norman.
- Heavy timber uprights used for securing anchor cables or other heavy ropes.
- Approximately a fathom of rope about half the size of the cable, lashed round the turns of an anchor cable securing it to the bitts, to keep it taut and prevent slipping.
Bitt the cable
- When weighing anchor, the order given once the anchor is fished to remove the stoppers and attach the anchor cable to the bitts to prevent it running out accidentally.
- A wind off the coast of southern France.
- A very black negro.
- A small bag sewn out of an old piece of sailcloth, painted black, in which a sailor kept his most treasured belongings. If offered to a 'lady' it was said to represent a proposal of marriage. Replaced in 1870 by the Ditty Box or Ditty Bag.
- To exclude a seaman from peer society, due to a misdemeanour.
- A slave ship.
- atching slaves. Also ‘black bird catching’.
Black Book of the Admiralty
- A list of the laws and customs of the sea, including the English version of the laws of Oleron that dated from the thirteenth century to Tudor times.
- Modern name for 31 July 1970, when the last tot was issued; so called because of the tradition being lamented, not for the rum, of course.
- Nickname for Admiral Lord Howe.
- To tar and black the rigging, using a mixture of coal tar, vegetable tar and sea water boiled up and laid on hot, as a preservative.
- Common seamen’s term for whales and other cetaceans.
- North east ports of England, particularly Newcastle, Shields and Sunderland.
Blacking the rigging
- Applying black stuff, or blacking down, for preservation.
- 1. A flag traditionally flown by pirate ships. 2. Sailors' name for bubonic plague. 3. Leather beer mug or leather jerkin.
- Forbidden private record of misdemeanours, kept by some captains for their own use against crew members.
- A coarse, unstable, early form of gunpowder. See serpentine and corned powder.
- The horse whip used at the Naval Academy, Gosport.
Blacks, as seamen
- There was no discrimination at all, but they were neither common nor rare.
- A ship built in India, from the colour of the builders, not their light-coloured teak timbers.
Black silk handkerchief
- Became popular with sailors, worn as a protection of the coat from greased pigtail, and as a sweat band when in action, to keep the eyes clear of sooty sweat.
- All the gear of the patent reefing systems on the yard.
- A wind off the Cape of Good Hope.
- West Indian sudden squall of wind, usually accompanied by lightning.
Black's the white of my eye
- Seamen’s' denial of a charge.
- Wide strakes just above the wales, made of blackwood, or painted with a mixture of tar and lamp-black to preserve them and to show them up in contrast to lighter parts of the side.
- A drink usually concocted from rum + molasses + a dash of vinegar. But also an unpopular Spanish red wine, from which, being posted to the Mediterranean was known as 'being Black Strapped'.
- Slang term for an antifouling compound made of coal or vegetable tar and seawater boiled together, laid hot onto hulls and rigging.
- Yellow fever or Yellow Jack.
- Large flat-decked merchant sailing ships of mid-19th century, originally designed and built at Blackwall on the Thames. Also, the name applied to some later merchantmen painted black.
- A tackle hook guy in which the bight of the rope is held by it being jammed against the standing part.
- A ratline seized to the foremost shroud, to confine the running rigging.
- The Right Whale.
Blackwood, Sir Henry
- (1779-1832) The best known of Nelson's captain's after Hardy. Became vice admiral in 1819 and finished his active service as c-in-c at the Nore.
- 1. The part of an anchor that receives the palm. 2. The flattened end of an oar that enters the water and applies force to it. Also called the ‘wash of an oar’.
Blaeu, William Janszoon
- (c1608) Dutch map publisher.
- Yellow, in English north-eastern dialect. Hence, if someone looks sickly they may be said to ‘blake’.
- (1599-1657) British admiral and colonel. Introduced the Articles of War and the Fighting Instructions to the British Navy.
- Cable stopper.
Blane, Dr Sir Gilbert
- (1749-1834) Influential naval physician, made physician of the fleet in the West Indies, in 1779, by Lord Rodney. Was Commissioner for Sick and Wounded from 1795 to 1802. Fellow of the Royal Society. Advocate of the benefits of lemon juice as an antiscorbutic. Author of Observations on the Diseases Incident to Seamen in 1785 and Select Dissertations in 1822, both of which proved very helpful in treating seamen’s' maladies.
- The level line mark of a cannon, usually 800 yards. Also point-blank.
- 1. (v) To sail to windward of another vessel, when both are tacking, and rob the wind from the other vessel. 2. A strip of blubber flensed or peeled off a whale’s carcass. Also called a blanket piece.
- A strip of blubber peeled off a whale’s carcass.
- More particularly the action of some sails preventing useful wind onto other sails, if the ship is not well trimmed.
- 1. To bellow. 2. A paste of hair and tar used to caulk a ship's decks or a boat.
- Wet and dirty weather.
- 1. A sudden gust of wind. 2. An explosion.
- An inflated whale, floating alongside the whaler until it could be tried out, or processed.
- A machine for pumping fresh air into a hold and stale air out.
- To 'blaze away' was a common term for firing the guns briskly and continuously.
- 1. In 1845, HMS Blazer's gig crew were required, by their captain, to wear particularly smart blue and white striped jerseys, before blue jackets became standard uniform issue. Where RN leads, Henley still follows. 2 A mortar or bomb vessel, from its phenomenal blast when firing.
- 1. To draw or let blood surgically. 2. To drain a water logged buoy. 3. To remove grog whilst it was in transit from the grog-tub to the mess where it was due, by means of taking a sip from the 'monkey', or wooden grog kid. Hence 'bleeding the monkey'. 4. To drain a buoy.
- Those French seamen and officers who were not aristocrats. cf Rouges.
- (1754-1817) British vice admiral. A skilled navigator who first proved himself on Captain Cook's last circumnavigation in 1775-79. Famous as the captain against whom the crew of HMS Bounty mutinied in 1789, and who navigated a 3,600 miles voyage in an open boat as a result. Went on to show courage at the battles of Camperdown and Copenhagen and appointed as governor of New South Wales, where he fell out with those operating the rum traffic and was sent home in 1808.
- A hidden, uncharted reef.
- Dutch name for lee helmsmen, who followed the movements of the weather helmsman, watching only him, as only the weather helmsman could see the compass, sails, etc.
- A large wooden plug used as a cover for the hawse hole, without a hole for the cable, used when at sea to prevent ingress of water. Cf buckler
- A hidden uncharted reef.
- One in which the entrance is not readily visible from sea.
- One lying just submerged and not visible.
- A shell that has failed to explode.
- A weir or fish kettle just submerged and not visible.
- A bright reflection of ice in the sky, seen from afar.
- A gust of wind and rain.
- A snow squall.
- A concoction of hair and paper used to pay a vessel’s bottom.
- 1. An enclosed pulley, usually with one, two, three or more sheaves, used for purchase, particularly when working sails. The many types of blocks include the following: bee, brace, bullseye, buntline, cheek, cleat, clewgarnet, clewline, closed heart, continental lift, D-block, deadeye, double sheet, euphroe, fiddle, gin, iron-bound, jeer, lead-cleat, leechline, leg and fall, lift, long tackle, monkey, ninepin, open heart, quarter, rack, ramshead, sheet, shoe, shoulder, sister, snatch, spritsail sheet, strop, thimble, tie, topsail sheet and lift, truck, etc. 2. The large piece of timber from which the figurehead is carved.
- To cruise off an enemy's port, stopping ship movements and thus, usually, trade.
Block and block
- A tackle in which two blocks have been drawn together, thereby seizing it up and making the purchase useless until released and redrawn. Also 'chock-a-block'.
- Manufactory of blocks.
- Solid oak timbers laid across the ground-ways, on which a ship is built or repaired. Usually called fixed blocks.
- A ship used to block a harbour entrance, a strategy commonly used in modern times by French fishermen when they feel aggrieved about the EC Common Fisheries Policy, but a tradition of historical longevity. Sometimes, an unrigged ship used as floating battery.
- A length of wire used to keep the lower blocks of a boat’s falls from getting tangled when the boat has been released.
Blood and guts
- Seamen's slang for the Union Jack.
- Name for the small ship's cutter used to bring off fresh meat.
Blooding and Sweating
- The common pirates’ punishment of captured captains who were reluctant to cooperate with their captors. It comprised the offender having to run the gauntlet of all crew members, who were armed with spiked or nailed strops that drew blood at every stroke. The victim would then be covered with a blanket and fastened inside an empty sugar cask infested with of cockroaches, where the heat, blood and sugar would encourage the vermin to feed.
- Popular (with ships' surgeons) cure-all.
- Money paid to an innkeeper, or similar, for the illicit procurement of seamen for a ship.
- An unfriendly name for those friendless crewmembers who avoided their share of the labours.
- Seamen’s' name for the large red flag hoisted at the mastheads of British ships to indicate that they were about to go into battle.
- A northern dialect expression for the break up of a storm.
- 1. A storm. 2. The exhalation or spouting of a whale.
- Fishermen’s name for whale.
- A whale's breathing nostril, or double nostrils, in the top of its head, through which it spouts when surfacing.
- A wind is said to blow home if it blows at equal strength across land and sea.
Blowing great guns and small arms
- Old term describing a heavy gale or hurricane.
Blowing the Grampus
- Sailor's term for waking a crewmember asleep on watch by throwing a bucket of water over him. A grampus whale would blow in a similar way to the waking sailor.
- See freshening.
- Continuous strong gales.
Blown into her courses
- Said of a ship with a increasing wind from astern.
Blown itself out
- Said of a finishing gale.
- What is said to be about to happen to a gale expected to soon finish.
Blow the gaff
- Expose a secret or inform against someone.
Blow the horns off a bull
- Said of a strong wind.
- An excessive feast. The usual second wish of a seaman on a run ashore.
- Said of a gale expected not to last too long.
Blow The Gaff
- Expose or inform against someone.
- Oil rich under-flesh layer on a whale, seal, walrus, etc. A whale carcass, during flensing, would have 'tears' of fat running down its sides, like weeping tears on a face - hence the verbal link with common language.
Blubber chopper, fork and hook
- Implements used to flense a whale by carving and pulling strips of blubber off the carcass and then chopping it up for storage.
- A rope between the fore and mainmast heads, used to rig the speck-falls when flensing.
- The area below decks where the blanket pieces was placed before being cut into horse pieces.
- The proverbial colour of deep sea. 'Till all's blue' was a term meaning carried out fully, from the action of leaving harbour. 'To look blue' was to look surprised and displeased.
- Privately published English sea charts, from the stiff blue backing paper.
- One of many nicknames for Admiral Sir William Cornwallis.
- Naval officers' depression.
- Originally denoted the squadron of the fleet.
Bluejacket, Blue jacket
- Another name for Jack, or a sailor of the Royal Navy, after 1858, when the blue uniform became standard.
- 1 Night pyrotechnic signal on an approaching ship, to summon a pilot or boat, or to indicate a ship's position to a remote ship's boat. Also Bengal Lights. 2 Nickname for a captain who ordered prayers every day and twice on Sunday, i.e. sanctimonious.
- An indefinable period.
- A native of Nova Scotia.
- Blue flag with white square in middle, originally used to recall officers and men to ship, prior to her sailing.
- Seamen’s' nickname for the sounding lead.
- French naval professional commoners. See Bleus.
Blue water navy
- Deep-sea craft, as distinct from brown water craft.
- Sibaldus musculus. The world's largest whale, and the largest animal ever on earth, reaching over 100 ft long and weighing over 100 tons.
- Vertical, of ship's bows, cliffs, etc.
- A slang term for ready money.
- The technical term for the stern of a vessel. Compare with its opposite number, sharp end.
- Stormy weather, or said of a bombastic person.
- A Malay oared pirate ship.
- 1. A ship's side, hence 'go by the board', 'on board', 'over board', 'weather board', etc. 'To run a ship on board' meaning to run foul into the side of another ship, and 'to lay a ship on board' meaning to place one's own ship alongside of it. 2. Sideways direction of ship's course, especially when tacking, hence 'make short boards' meaning to tack frequently. The distance travelled on a tack when beating. Also leg. 3. Attack, hence 'board and carry' meaning to take another ship by occupation. 4. To come alongside. 5. ‘Above board’ referred to anything on deck, in plain view. 6. ‘Gone by the board’ meant swept overboard and lost.
Board and board
- Said of vessels sailing together on the same tack, or board.
Board & half board
- When a ship is turned up into the wind, as if about to tack, but falls off again on the same tack, the manoeuvre was called 'half board' or 'pilot's luff'. A succession of these was called 'board and half board'.
Board a tack
- To haul on the tack of a sail to sail closer to the wind.
- Seaman or officer boarding an enemy ship in an attack.
Board Him – To assail a male opponent with unfriendly intention.
- To assail a female opponent with friendly intention.
Board him in the smoke
- To take someone by surprise.
- Placing one’s vessel alongside another.
Boarding and entering
- A phrase commonly used to describe taking an enemy’s vessel. In fact ‘boarding’ means placing one’s vessel alongside the opponent and ‘entering’ means going onto/into that vessel to take it.
- A book in which details of ships boarded were returned to the commanding admiral.
- Netting rigged outboard at the ship's sides, etc., to hamper boarding by others.
- Pikes, long handled bladed weapons used when boarding.
- Platform forming part of the beakhead area, upon which boarders could most easily assemble and then cross onto the ship under attack.
- Hand ropes rigged down ships' sides, usually near entry ports, to assist those climbing aboard.
- 1. Small, bladed, hand weapon used when boarding. 2. A sword-like tool used to dismember a whale and to make a hole in the carcass for the blubber hook.
- Recently appointed members of the Admiralty or Navy Boards who have not yet earned the respect of their subordinates, as named by the latter, and who are usually not expected to.
Board of the Admiralty
- The agency that managed the day-to-day running of the Navy. Also the Admiralty Board, the Board of Commissioners of the Navy, etc. cf Navy Board, Ordnance Board, etc.
Board of Customs & Excise
- That government agency set up to control Customs & Excise matters.
Board of Longitude
- The name by which the Commissioners for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea were generally known, comprising scientists, naval officers and government officials. It's role was to judge the entrants to the competition to find a means of accurately determining longitude at sea, for which they offered a prize of up to £20,000.00, in the 1714 Act of Longitude, the extent of the prize being subject to the accuracy of the method. The Board ceased to exist in 1828, by which time it had disbursed more than £100,000.00 in prizes. See also John Harrison.
Board of Trade
- The ministry created to encourage commerce.
- The crew member of a line-smack who baits and shoots the lines.
- Small open vessel. A boat is not a ship. Types of boat include: Accident boat; Cock; Dinghy; Dory; Galley; Jolly boat; Lifeboat; Pram; Pulling boat; Quarter boat; Row boat, or rowing boat; Sea boat; Surf boat; Whaleboat.
- (v) To bring oars inboard and stow them.
- Waters navigable by boat.
- Watchman's challenge to an approaching boat. See Boat Calls.
- Spar, in pairs mounted across the waist, upon which the ship's boats were stored.
- Buoyancy aids for lifeboats, etc.
- Challenges and responses to boats approaching a moored ship at night, initiated by Watchmen of the Gangway, as follows: "Boat Ahoy!", pronounced "Oy-y", first challenge by watcher; "Standard", reply if a Royal on boat; "Admiralty", reply if member of Admiralty Board on boat; "Flag", reply if Admiral on boat; "Staff", reply if Admiral's staff officer on boat; "Ship Name", reply if Captain of named ship on boat; "Aye-aye", reply if officer on boat; "No-no", reply if no officer on boat; "Coming here?", secondary challenge to boat; "Passing", alternative response; "Guard Boat", reply if relevant.
- Blocks used on boat booms to secure the boats.
- Large cloak worn at sea by officers.
- The canvas cover used to protect a boat stowed in the davits.
- A curved sheaved timber projecting over a boat's stern, for use in weighing anchor.
- Top deck, on which the ship's boats were stored.
- 1. The regular mustering of crewmembers and passengers at their allotted lifeboats stations to familiarise them with what to do in the case of an emergency. 2. Practice in hoisting out the ship's boats.
- The painter or boat rope.
- The rigging and furniture of a boat.
- Triple hook bent onto a rope, used to hook onto a makeshift dock, jetty, etc.
- An American term for the experienced whaleman who steered the whaleboat as it approached its quarry and who killed it with lances after the harpooner had caught it.
- The use of non-naval boats when in harbour.
- An iron or brass hook and spike on a long wooden pole, used to pull in a boat, or push off again from a dock or from a ship's side or for picking up thrown lines.
- That crew member left in charge of a boat when the others are away.
Boat leadlines, or Boat lead and line
- A tapered 7 lb lead attached to 10 to 12 fathoms of 2½ lb (light) line marked with depths, as with a ship’s lead line, used to precisely establish the depth of an area in soundings, or being chosen as an anchorage, from a boat. See also leadline.
- Seamen’s term for rowing.
- A rope connecting a boat to its ship, attached to the front of both to keep it pulling alongside.
- The insignia on a boat, to show what ship she belongs to.
- A bag of tools and materials often needed in an emergency, kept stocked and ready in an accident boat.
- 18c Dutch three mast ship with flat transom stern, used primarily as coaster or in herring fishing.
- A boat’s compass.
- The regular men appointed as the crew of a particular boat.
- Lashings used to secure boats when stowed.
- Hardwood chocks on which a ship’s boats are stored.
- The flag hoists used by a ship to summon her boats back. Early ship’s recalled their boats by firing cannon.
- Seamen's slang for small ships. In modern times refers to destroyers.
- The American title for the crew member assigned to man the harpooner oar.
- Boat husband, literally. Pronounced 'Bosun'. The Warrant officer responsible for keeping the general maintenance of the ship, and the crew, in order, and who carries out punishments. His badge of office was his pipe or whistle worn on a chain round his neck and his cherriliccum.
- The cheeky name given to a captain who knows all the various duties on board.
- What it says.
- Traditional pipe or whistle used by the boatswain to make various whistled signals to crew. The pipe comprised a white metal tube mouthpiece, known as the 'gun', joined to a chamber, the 'buoy', with an orifice on top and a 'keel' under, which had a 'shackle' attached on to which a chain was fixed. Now only used ceremonially, when greeting naval dignitaries to a ship.
- Calls made by the boatswain with the Boatswain's Call, or Pipe. Originally there were over 22 calls in the Royal Navy, but the main ones were as follows: 'Piping the side', a purely Naval salute accorded to Royal or Naval visitors of appropriate rank, and never to others. The only known exception to this was the honour accorded to Sir Winston Churchill. This salute was only for daytime visitors, except foreign naval visitors who were so saluted at any time; 'Hoist', first pipe call; 'Lower', second pipe call; these two calls often used to hoist an officer from one ship to another in heavy weather.
-Made from rattan and used to encourage the men in their work, by striking them with it. Known as 'starting', hence his cane also known as his starter.
- A board,
- A two-foot long board suspended on a bridle from each corner, forming a mobile seat used to sway a man aloft or over the side, for scraping, painting, etc., where there is no safe foothold.
- Boatswain's mate.
- A Petty officer assisting the boatswain, often used as ship's police, but, or consequently, not popular with the seamen.
- See Boatswain's Call.
- A plait made from three strands of rope, with two strands hitched alternately over a single strand foundation strand.
- The forward inclination rake of a ship's masts.
- Store room for sails, rigging, etc.
- See Boatswain's Call.
Boat the anchor
- Bring the anchor onto a boat.
Boat the oars
- Stow the oars fore and aft at the thwarts, ready for use.
- The action of directionless waves, as in cross currents.
- The rope or chain rigged from the end of the bowsprit to the stem, to hold it down against the upward pull of the foremast stays.
- Collar on the bowsprit onto which bobstays are attached.
- Hole in the bobstay piece at stem, through which bobstays pass.
- The part of the knee of the head timber attached below the figure block at the stem, with bobstay holes, to which the bobstay was attached.
- An iron plate at the lower end of the bobstay, where it attaches to the stem.
- The tackle in the upper end of the bobstay and used for setting it up, comprising a double running block, a single fixed block attached to the selvagee strop and another double block through which the fall is rove.
- Wig with a bobbed tail, i.e. with the ends turned up short.
- Largest type of 19c Weser barge, up to 80 tons load. See also achterhang and bullen.
- Hoops securing the aris pieces of a made mast, so holding a made mast together.
- Design drawings of a ship, showing sectional view(s) at right angles to the sheer plan. RHS looking at bows from aft and LHS looking at stern from forward.
- US stove used by mess.
- Maybe a corruption of bag reefs.
- To fall off from the wind, used to describe poor handling craft.
- A liquor made of rum and molasses.
- A small Dutch shallow-draught ship, usually a single masted sloop.
- A ship's cooking utensil, or copper.
- “The whole boiling lot” was a disparaging remark applied to anything, but alluding to the fact that cooking on a ship was unsophisticated, in the extreme.
- Baltic version of Dutch Boier.
- A broad bluff bow.
Boldering, or boldering weather
- Cloudy, thundery weather.
- A steep or abrupt coast with deep water near inshore.
- 1. A strong wooden post on ships or quaysides, sometimes iron on shore, onto which ropes can be secured, to fasten vessels alongside. On later, iron, ships these were often hollow, to double as ventilators. 2. On a whale-boat, the bollard was a sturdy timber at the front, round which the harpooner's line was turned.
- Two large timbers bolted to each side of the stem, supporting the bowsprit. Also called knight-heads.
- Going with the wind free. Also bowling along.
- Two blocks at the centre of the topsail, through which the topsail ties are rove to increase lift. The term has come to apply to a similar arrangement of male body parts, in impolite society.
- An old name for a boatman's pole.
- 1. Small cushion of tarred canvas or timber, used to prevent chafing between ropes and hard surfaces. 2. Canvas covered soft-wood or smoothly rounded cushions of hardwood on top of the trestle-trees, for the eye of the rigging, saving the rigging from chafing on otherwise sharp edges. in the trestle-trees. 3. Shaped pieces of oak under the hawse-holes, to stop the cable chafing the cheeks. 4. Any shaped and rounded pieces of wood used to prevent chafing, eponymously identified.
- 1. A metal pin used to join parts of a vessel, of various types appropriate to their jobs, including 'bay bolts' with barbs; 'drift' or 'drive bolts' used to drive out others; 'clench bolts' that have their ends clenched, or turned over; 'fend' or 'fender bolts' with thick heads to protect the ships' sides; 'forelock bolts' which have forelocks to prevent them drawing out; 'set bolts' that forced planks tightly together; 'ring bolts' onto which the breeches and tackle of guns, etc. could be fastened; 'scarp' and 'keel bolts' used temporarily and 'bringing-to bolts' with the usual screw and nut at one end but an eye at the other. 2. The standard length of a roll of canvas; 39 yards of usually 22 to 30 inches wide material. 3. 'To bolt' is to run off.
- A boat that makes good in rough seas.
- Rope sewn to the edge of a sail, to stop it ripping. At the top it is called the head-rope, at the sides the leech-ropes and at the foot the foot-rope. The stay or weather rope of fore-and-aft sails was called the luff.
- A large strong needle used to stitch the sail to the bolt ropes.
- The strakes, or hull planks, through which the beam fastenings pass.
- The gun-lock cock.
- 1. A bomb vessel. 2. The missile thrown by a bomb vessel, usually a mortar.
- 1. Type of early cannon that used stone balls. 2. Mortar vessel.
- The principle seaport of western India. First came into prominence when passed from Portugal to the British on the marriage of Charles II and Princess Catherine of Braganza, in 1661, and his transferral of it to the East India Company in 1668.
- Cockroach. Also Cockie.
- If a seaman was too drunk to leave his hammock to pump ship, this was the name of the resultant dampness.
- The bed of a mortar.
Bomb bed beams
- Large beams supporting the bomb-bed in a bomb vessel.
- A relatively modern device that fires an explosive harpoon into a whale.
- A small ketch rigged vessel carrying one or more mortars for bombarding.
- Early rifle-fired explosive weapon for killing whales.
Bombora or Bombo
- A weak cold punch.
- A large hollow cast-iron ball thrown from mortars, which had a fused hole connecting to the internal charge and ears by which it was lifted by shell hooks into the mortar. The explosion on ignition became synonymous with a great shock, hence ‘dropping a bomb-shell’ entered civilian parlance.
- As a bomb ketch, but other rigged. Also mortar vessel.
- A large spar, from a corruption of ‘boom spar’.
- A lateen shaped mizen sail used before the 17c.
- Fourth after-mast used during Elizabethan era. Later known as the jigger mast.
- An enclosed tidal water where timber is stored.
- A crewman kept bound for the good behaviour of another on leave. Not common practice, not popular and not often necessary under a good captain.
Bond of bottomry
- An authority to borrow money, by pledging the bottom of the ship. See bottomry.
- 1. To scrounge or pilfer, after a boatswain so named, in the Revolutionary War, whose flair for such things was legendary. 2. The foam crest at the bow wave of a moving ship, said to be ‘a bone in her teeth’ or in her ‘nose’. Also see ‘cut a feather’.
- Slang for a naval store yard, from its being a suitable place to practice boning.
- Royal Naval Hospitals at Haslar and Stonehouse.
- Negro-head tobacco or sweet cake.
- The practice of locking items in warehouses, without their having been taxed, in readiness for onward shipping or exportation.
- An enclosed tidal water basin in which timber was kept.
- Junk fenders. See bowgrace.
- The frigate made famous when used in privateering by John Paul Jones around Britain’s coasts in 1779.
- Thynnus pelamys. Striped tunny fish.
- 1. A canvas cover strip to a vertical break in sail, or an additional piece of canvas laced to the foot of a sail, to increase the sails area and so catch more wind during fine weather. The expression fell out of use during the late nineteenth century, after when it was only used on fore-and-aft sails on small craft. 2. A covering used to prevent water entering the cable locker via the navel pipe.
- The arm attaching the central boss of a self-reefing yard to the bonnet of the sail.
- An early 18c Irish female pirate of the West Indies. The secret wife of John Rackham.
- A dim-witted bird that could too easily be caught, making its sporting value low – hence ‘booby-prize’.
- A small sliding hatch cover that lifts off in one piece. ‘Booby’ comes from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, meaning silly, from the antics of the booby seabird, which has come to be used to refer to anyone silly.
- 1. Official ship’s document. 2. A term for the method of packing muslins, bastas, etc. Also see ‘Brought to book’, Muster and Log.
- 1. Long spar run out to extend foot of sail, or from which stunsails are rigged. 2. A floating barrier across a river or harbour. 3. ‘To boom’ is to sail with a boom. 4. ‘Boom-off’ is to push off. 5. To ‘top one’s boom’ is to start off.
- A levy covering harbour dues, anchorage and soundage.
- Ship’s boat that is sufficiently large to need the use of booms for hoisting inboard.
- A brace used to ‘brace in’ booms along the yards.
Boom brace flying forward
- A yard was braced forward, requiring the bracing further forward.
Boom brace guy
- Tackle used to steady the boom guy forward.
Boom brace pendant
- A rope bracing the pressure of a studding-sail on its boom.
Boom brace tricers
- Crewmembers who triced up booms to provide working space for topmen.
- Iron hoops around yards and booms to hold stunsail booms.
- Cleats fixed to booms.
- A painted or tarpaulin cover on a spar.
- A deck fitting used to hold a boom in place when it has been lowered.
- A receptacle on the counter or the deck of small ships, used to secure the boom when not in use, such as when at anchor.
- A triangular sail whose foot is extended by a boom.
Boom guy, or lazy guy
- The rope used to hold the spanker boom steady when running free.
- Wooden hoop joining boom to mast, allowing it to lift or lower.
- A type of ketch-rigged east coast sailing barge, on which the main sail has only a boom. cf sprittie or spritsail barge.
- An iron band on a yard-arm, through which the studding-sail boom would be run in and out and fitted to hold its heel, when rigged. Also withe.
- Tackle for rigging the topmast studding sail booms out or in, comprising double and single blocks stropped with tails.
Boomkin, bumkin, bumpkin
- 1. A short boom extending from the bows of a vessel and used to stretch the lower windward corner of a foresail. 2 A similar boom on a vessel’s quarters and used to take the main brace blocks.
- The space on larger ships, between the fore and mainmasts, where spare spars are stowed. Ships’ boats were carried on the booms when at sea. See also Boom.
- A sail set to a boom instead of to a yard.
- A sheet fastened to a boom.
- A larger spar.
Boom square sail
- A square sail set on the lower foremast of a schooner, or on the lower mast of a cutter.
- The fittings joining a boom to its mast.
- The span from the top aft end of a fore-and-aft boom to the peak of the spar above.
- A tough military prison.
- An Old English name for a boat.
- Heel over ship, scrape or burn off grass, slime, shells, barnacles, etc. and daub with tallow, sulphur or lime & resin, as temporary protection against shipworm. Also boot topping.
- A Royal Marine, whose 19c uniform had a leather strip at the nape, to hold the collar shut tight and for protection against his greased pigtail. Also Leatherneck.
- See boot-hose-top.
- Those parts of a prize which, when captured at sea, were allowed to be distributed amongst the captors at once, usually at the capstan-head. Usually anything that could be picked up by hand that was above the main deck, a definition that often lead to interesting interpretations by prospective beneficiaries. This form of prize taking was abolished during the Napoleonic War. Sometimes called pickings, from the requirement that the subject matter was to be pick-upable.
- A carouse, from which ‘boozy’ means intoxicated by liquor.
- A violent Adriatic storm.
- A storm with thunder and lightning.
- In early 14c the largest and richest city of the English empire, due to the duty from wine exports. In 1324 Gascony contributed £13,000 to the English exchequer.
- An old term for sea coasts, from board, meaning edge.
- Houses built along a strand.
- 1. The pitch motion of a ship. 2. The sudden surge of tide in certain rivers, usually caused by the meeting of two tides or a narrowing of the channel. Also eagre. 3. The interior cavity of a gun barrel.
- An old name for the north wind.
- Sailed down from to windward.
- The pitching motion of a ship.
- The action of forcing the ship through loose ice in Arctic regions, under press of sail, or trying to.
Born with a silver spoon
- Old navy expression, of the ‘young gentlemen’ of privilege and advantage, who were said to have been so born with one in their mouth, and to have entered the navy through the cabin windows, as distinct from those who worked they way up through the ranks by merit, who were said to have been born with a wooden ladle and to have entered the navy through the hawseholes.
- Said of someone placed in the ship’s books for victuals and wages, also of a supernumerary.
- (1525-84) British navigator who was one of those seeking the North East Passage to China. He had an active navy life that included commanding a ship in the battles against the Spanish Armada in 1588, but badly fell out with Drake by questioning him in the Cadiz campaign, and hence fell out of favour with the Court.
- 1. To hug the coast and so avoid an adverse tide. 2. A euphemism for acquiring a thing permanently and dishonestly.
Boscawen, The Hon. Edward
- (1711-61) Famous British admiral. “Wry Neck Dick”.
- A short length of angle-bar fixed inside the angle of another angle-bar, to strengthen it, or between two angle-bars, to join them.
- A head, or reservoir, of water.
- Midship reef tackle.
- The centre of early settlement in Australia.
- Dried fish sometimes issued to crews instead of meat on Banyan Days.
- To make a mess of the job in hand.
- Early spelling for boat.
- Long strands of seaweed.
- (1577-1643) British seaman and administrator whose writings give insight into the early 17c British Navy.
- An old term for a boat’s coxswain.
- Said of a ship falling amongst adverse currents and with shifting winds.
Both oars in the water
- What a person with mental problems was said not to have.
Both Sheets Aft
- 1. Said of a ship with the wind right astern. 2. Said of a drunken sailor staggering along with his hands in his pockets and his elbows out square.
- The muster of all hands.
- A Spanish earthenware jar.
- Dutch fishing boat.
- A dressing down, from ‘a dose from the Foretopman’s bottle’, meaning a ticking off from a taut hand.
- Charts on which surface currents are marked, derived from the records of bottles containing notes, thrown overboard for that purpose and collected and recorded over the years.
- A later replacement for dead eyes, comprising a cylindrical threaded sleeve into which two screws fitted, one into each end, used to set up the rigging by turning and thereby tightening it.
- 1. The seabed. 2. The keel. 3. That part of a ship below the waterline. 4. The end of a cask. 5. ‘Go to the bottom’ means sink. 6. ‘Send to the bottom’ means sink someone else. 7. ‘Bottom clean’ refers to a ship that has been thoroughly cleaned and is free of weeds, etc. 8 A ‘bottom plank’ is one placed between the garboard strake and the lower back strake.
- Floor planks laid over a boat’s frames to keep the weight of the crew off its plankings and timbers.
Bottomry, Bottomree, Bummery
- Ship mortgage.
- A higher rate of interest charged on the safety of a ship, usually meaning the lender losing all his money on the loss of the ship.
- Nickname for freight-carrying ships.
- Seamen’s preferred position for a glass of liquor or beer in order that it may soon be refilled.
- A type of food enjoyed by buccaneers, from which their name derives.
- A metal plug which is drilled to form the vent of a cannon.
Bougainville, Comte Louis Antoine de
- (1729-1811) French naval officer and navigator who was a soldier until he was 37 years old, but then learnt to improve himself. Known for his explorations of the South Seas and for his subsequent services to, and honouring by, Napoleon.
- 1. Largest diameter of a cask. 2. An old term for the bilge. Also bowge.
- A small tapering flag, swallow tailed.
- Pierre Bouguer published a mathematical book, in 1757, dealing with manoeuvrability and optimisation of wind on sails.
- What seamen termed ‘bully beef’, which was as unpopular as it was unpalatable, having had all its goodness boiled away. Later the term was applied to canned beef, which may not have been much of an improvement.
- A tin containing preserved meat.
- A rampart built against the action of the sea, comprising wooden stakes.
- A strong drink made of arrack, lemon-juice, sugar and muscadine.
- Admiral Collingwood’s dog. Bounce was a constant companion and consolation to the admiral, who was kept interminably at sea towards the end of his life.
- The term given to a gun that kicks violently when fired.
- 1. Intended destiny of service, or voyage to a place. 2. Held. Such as ‘Ice-bound’ surrounded by ice; ‘Tide-bound’ beneaped; ‘Wind-bound’ prevented from sailing by contrary winds, &c. 3. ‘Bound on a cruise’ meant get ready to sail.
- Money paid at recruiting centres, to encourage sailors to enlist. In the early 18c it was 40/- in London for prime seamen, while the government offered 30/-, in Bristol it was 20/-, etc. The system was very much abused by dishonest seamen, who would sign on in one town and then desert, signing on again under a different name in another town, thus receiving multiple bounties.
- The famous ship from which Captain Bligh and others were cast adrift after the mutiny under the leadership of Fletcher Christian, in 1789, and from where Bligh navigated a 3600 mile open boat voyage to safety in Timor. The Bounty was burnt by the mutineers when they arrived at Pitcairn Islands, to settle in exile, to avoid it being spotted and to avoid the temptation of returning to justice.
- A register of all who had received the bounty, to which they were only entitled after they had passed three musters in the service.
- A gathering place for merchants.
- Wrote the first accurately written account of the actions of ocean currents, written in 1578.
- 1. (v) To pull down on a rope or a tackle fall. 2. The order given to the hands working a rope to haul downwards.
- Drink, for pleasure.
” ‘Bout Ship”
- The order for ‘about ship’.
Bouvet, Francois Joseph
- (1753-1832) French admiral.
- 1. The front of the ship, or sharp end. Hence, ‘on the bow’ means close hauled. ‘A shot across the bow’ was used to ‘invite’ an enemy, or suspect ship to stop, ignoring which usually resulting in an attack upon the target ship. 2. A hand weapon of early fleets. 3. A ship is said to ‘bow to the wind’ when sailing with sails belly out full, when she will go pitching and bowing over the waves. 4. To bend.
- The lubberly situation when a ship is in stays, falls back off the wind and gets into irons, requiring skilled seamanship to recover.
- Light long cannon mounted on the forecastle, usually one of a pair used to fire on ships under pursuit. Also bow piece or bow chase.
- Eaten by weevils.
- (1773-1838) American Navigator and author, whose works on navigation were authoritative for many years, amongst Americans.
- One of two principle everyday of a ship, carried at the bows and permanently attached to the anchor cable, ready for immediate use. There was usually a Best Bower Anchor and a Small Bower Anchor, which weighed the same, but were so named for the bow on which they were placed, that on the starboard bow being ‘best’ and that on the larboard, or port, being ‘small’. See anchors.
Bower anchor cable, or bower cable
- What it says: the cable fixed to the bower anchor. ‘Best’ and ‘small’ nomenclature applies also to the cables serving their respective anchors.
- A mooring rope leading from the bow of a vessel to a dockside.
- An old term for the bilge. Also bouge.
- Old junk or chain fenders, rigged over the side in cold rivers, to protect the ship’s sides from damage by ice.
- A certain shape of bow on clippers.
- 1. Damage done to yards or masts by overloading them or by setting the rigging too taut. 2. ‘Bowing the wind’ was the term given to meeting a heavy swell when coming to the wind. 3. The 16c practice of contriving the broadside great guns to fire as far forwards as they could. cf Quartering.
Bowing and Scraping
- Doffing a hat and causing a scraper to scrape on the ground.
- A line attached to the leech rope of a close-hauled square sail and used to hold its weather side forward and steady, enabling the ship to sail as close to the wind as possible. To ‘check or come up’ a bowline is to slacken it to suit a wind going large or free, and to ‘sharp or set taut’ a bowline is to pull it as taut as possible.
- A method of bending warps or hawsers together. Now known as a ‘bowline knot’ in everyday language.
- Heavy timbers onto which bowlines were fastened.
- Subdivision of the bowline on the weather side of square sails that connects the bowline to two places to spread the load.
- The eye worked into the leech-rope of a square sail to take the bowline brindle. By the number fitted seamen could identify the sail to hand in the dark.
- A strong pull by a group of seamen on the bowline.
- Knot in the bowline, used to fasten it to the cringles.
Bowline on a bight
- Two parallel rigid loops knotted on a bight.
- The longitudinal curves cut in vertical sections to represent a ship’s fore-body, in shipbuilding.
- Going free.
- The small store compartment in a boat’s bow, in which the boat’s bag is kept, together with other essential items.
- Small black tubs attached to the headlines of a drift net to keep it afloat.
- The boat’s crewmember whose normal work station was to pull the bow oar and to man the boathook when coming alongside. In an accident, boat the bowman would release the boat rope. Sailing boats would have two bowmen, who were also responsible for the tack of the foresail. Also called bow oar.
- Seaman in the bow.
- 1. The foremost and consequently the most difficult to operate oar. 2. The oarsman who wields the bow oar, also known as the bowman.
- The rail around the bows.
- A rudder mounted at the front. This was largely ineffectual and therefore un-common, which follows.
- 1. Beer. 2. The order given to a boat’s crew, when approaching the landing point, to raise the oars to the vertical, boat them and take hold of boathooks. Also ‘in bows’.
- 1. To tie and secure firmly, having tightened with a tackle. 2. To ‘bowse up the jib’ was to drink oneself insensible, probably from the Dutch verb buyzen, to booze.
- The small platform or grating in a boat’s bow. Also head sheets.
- In Elizabethan times, about 240 yards.
- Large spar projecting from the stem of the ship.
- Strong timbers secured to the below deck beams, between which the inner end of the bowsprit is stepped.
- The cap or crance on the end of a bowsprit, through the hoop of which the jib-boom is fixed.
- One of several metal bands fitted around the bowsprit to prevent it splitting.
- The name for the whole set of ropes, blocks, &c. of the bowsprit.
- The block of wood to which the lower end of the fore-stay is secured and the inner end of the jib-boom is inserted.
- Foot-ropes on the bowsprit.
Bowsprit horse netting
- Safety netting rigged under the bowsprit, to supplement the foot-ropes.
- Skids on the bowsprit of some ships, to allow the crew to run along it.
- The netting placed above the bowsprit, in which the fore-topmast staysail is stored.
- Strong rope or chain shrouds rigged from the end of the bowsprit to the sides of the bow, to give it lateral support and prevent lateral movement of the bowsprit.
- Timbers forming the bow of a ship.
- The wave formed under the stem by the forward motion of the ship. A ship with a bow wave was often referred to as having ‘a bone in or under her nose’, or such similar expressions.
- 1. The space between the stern-post and the back-board of a boat, on which the coxswain sits. 2. Pumps had a lower and upper box, permanently fixed, joined by pipe.
- A beam formed from four long plates riveted together by means of angle-bars, to form a hollow box section.
- Marine clock on gimbals in a box, like the ship’s compass.
- To veer a ship round on her heel, when she could not tack.
- A method of wearing in a confined space, by judicious use of sails and helm to turn the head at the moment of making sternway.
- A box-beam formed to be used as the keelson, with its foundation plate riveted to the centreline of the top of the floors. Not to be confused with hollow iron keels.
- 1. Small dry pieces of hardwood, used to connect the frame timbers. 2. An area around the hawse holes where the planks fail to meet. 3. If the stem is joined to the fore end of the keel by a side scarph it is said to be boxed. 4. Box hauling. 5. A type of scarf joint.
- To pay the ship’s head out of the wind when tacking, by hauling the head sheets to windward and laying the head yards flat aback, when the helm alone would not answer.
- To make a vessel’s head pay off by hauling the jib sheets aft and bracing back the foremast yards, usually in an emergency.
Box the compass
- 1. Repeat the names of 32 compass points, in order and then backwards, and then answer random questions about its divisions, an exercise learnt by those seeking to master navigation, or just be allowed to con a ship, the efforts to which would be the cause of great hilarity amongst those ‘superior’ beings who could do it, having usually ‘forgotten’ how difficult it really is and the trauma of being laughed at themselves. 2. Turn a ship through sixteen points, stern to wind, then gradually turning again into the wind.
- Ship’s boy, who slaved as directed.
- Whoever was the current youngest captain on the Navy List.
- Between Perpendiculars. Modern designers measure of length, roughly equal to length on the lower deck as used in 18c.
- 1. A rope or wire attached by a block or pendant to a yard-arm and used to adjust the yard horizontally. 2. See gudgeon.
- (v) To swing round the yards by means of braces, to improve sail efficiency to suit the wind conditions. ‘Brace aback’ was to brace the yards in and thereby bring the wind onto the front of the sails, to take the way off the ship. ‘Brace about’ was turn yards round for the contrary tack. ‘Brace abox’ was to brace the headyards flat and stop the ship. ‘Brace by’ was to brace yards in contrary directions on different masts. ‘Brace in’ was to trim the sail angle, to suit the wind direction, into a square position. ‘Brace sharp’ was to brace the yards round to the smallest angle with the fore-and-aft line, when close hauled. ‘Brace to’ was to ease off the lee braces. ‘Brace up’ was to brace the yards into a more oblique position.
- To arrange a yard by means of braces so that the wind strikes the fore side of the sails.
- A block for a brace attached to a yard.
- To bring a yard more athwartships by using the braces.
Brace of shakes
- Naval term that found its way into everyday language, meaning the time it takes for a sail to shake twice, i.e. not long.
- A short length of rope or chain suspended from a yard-arm, fixing brace blocks to foot-ropes, etc.
- Same as brace about.
- Ropes attached or reeved to the end of all yards, used to turn the angle of yard relevant to the ship’s centreline, and to firmly fasten them in position. Hence, ‘splice the main brace’ was a usually fictional command resulting in a double issue of rum. The actual main brace was rarely spliced as it rarely parted, demonstrating the rarity of the command being given, either to actual or metaphoric ends. In Dutch, the order ‘Bezaans-schoot aan‘, or ‘Haul the mizzen sheet’, served the same purpose, regarding the rum issue.
- Spreader used to keep aft blocks away from the ship, thereby giving more force to the braces. Also spider.
- To ease the lee braces and draw in the weather braces to bring a yard round when tacking so that the sail is taken slightly aback.
- To bring a yard to more of a fore-and-aft direction by using the braces.
‘Brace up and haul aft!’
- The order given after being hove-to, with sails aback and jib-sheet flowing, for the purpose of heaving to.
- An invention of Jarvis, comprising a winch with pairs of conical drums, first used in mid 19c merchant ships to brace yards simultaneously, and hence to reduce labour .
- Aim to hit a gun target each side, leaving the third shot to land right in the middle, and spot on – with luck.
Bracket knee plate
- A flat, usually triangular, plate that is fixed at the join of a beam and frame member, to form and strengthen the join.
- 1. Generic name for various shaped timbers or steel members used to connect two parts of the ship. See knees. 2. The side pieces of a gun carriage. Usually the cheeks.
- 1. Partly contaminated by a salty taste. 2. Nautical.
- One of the ropes attached to the leech of a fore-and-aft sail and used to truss up sails before furling them to a spar or boom, originally used for shaping sails. The run from points on the leech of the sail down to the deck, via leading blocks on the mast bands.
- The order given to gather a fore-and-aft sail to its mast.
- Block through which brails were hauled.
- Sails hauled up by brails.
- Thimble in sail for fastening a brail.
Brail up, or in
- Gather a fore-and-aft sail into the mast by hauling on the brails.
- The lever or handle, used by up to six men, to operate the ship’s pump.
- To lie to in arctic waters, usually in the lee of an ice floe, to watch for whales.
- The pilot’s certificate issued by Trinity House to one qualified to navigate in particular places. Hence a Branch Pilot was one holding a branch.
- A discharge given to one who was discharged from the Navy, on which the reason for his discharge is written. The corner was then cut off, to distinguish it from a regular discharge.
- A sometime punishment of branding “Mutiny” on forehead of such a recalcitrant.
- Ardent spirit distilled from wine or grapes.
- A slang term for brandy and water, in India.
- New and unused, as applied to sails that had not previously been bent on.
- (1783-1852) Royal Navy officer who surveyed the South Shetland Islands in 1820 and who then was the first to chart a part of the Antarctic mainland.
- A mass of ice fragments.
Brasil, Brazil, or Hy Brazil
- A legendary island in the Atlantic Ocean.
- 1. Bronze zinc alloy used as decorative metalwork. 2. Impudence.
Brassbound apprentices, Brassbounders
- Merchant ship apprentices, from the twin files of bright yellow buttons on their monkey jackets.
Brassey, Thomas, Earl
- (1836-1918) Naval expert who started Brassey’s Naval Annual, in 1886.
- An officer has gold wire braided around their hat, which has come to refer to any elevated person.
- Abbreviation of ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’, used to mean seriously cold. Iron cannon balls would contract in freezing temperatures and drop through the holes in their brass storage racks, known as monkeys. And you always thought . . . well, never mind what you thought.
- 1. Said of a strong wind. 2. Elizabethan expression for fine and well decorated.
- To waterproof a vessel with resin.
- Obsolete spelling for what became a brail.
- A wood used to in dyeing cloth, after which the country of Brazil was named, because good dyewood was found to be plentiful there.
- Hammocks, introduced in 1590s.
- Fishing vessel used by Venetians and Dalmations in the Adriatic.
- 1. A whale’s leap out of the water. 2. The breaking in of the sea, in a ship or a sea defence. ‘Clear-breach’ referred to waves rolling over without breaking. A ‘Clean-breach’ was when masts and all objects on deck were swept away. cf breech.
- The action of a whale surfacing from great depth at such a speed that leapt from the water.
- Ship’s biscuit, named ironically. Fresh bread was a rare treat, and called ‘fresh bread’.
- Container used on the mess table, for bread or ship’s biscuits.
- Artocarpus incisa. A useful fruit grown for its nutritional value. Its importance will not be lost on those who have read of the voyage of Captain Bligh’s HMS Bounty in 1787.
- Store room for bread or ship’s biscuits.
Bread room Jack
- The purser’s assistant whose duties included the issue of the daily bread ration. Also Jack of the Dust, or similar such names.
- The width of a ship, at whatever designated place.
- The maximum width of the ship.
- An imaginary line drawn around the ship, touching the timbers at their greatest extent from the centreline of the ship.
- See Moulded Breadth.
- Diagonal timbers fixed at about the widest parts of a ship, to strengthen the other timbers.
- 1. An interruption of continuity, such as a change of deck level at the break of the poop, etc. 2. To remove an officer’s commission or warrant, or a seaman’s rating.
- 1. Empty spaces in a stowed hold. 2. Damage to goods, in an insurance claim.
- Beams installed to support any break in the deck, or similar.
- Remove the first part of the cargo and the start of unloading. In some merchantmen this was a contractual event that triggered the first payment of wages to the crew.
- 1. A rolling topped ocean wave, usually as it hits rocks, the shore, etc., and usually plural. The cry “Breakers ahead!” was the common call, from the lookout, to warn of approaching broken water, usually signifying rocks and usually terrifying all who heard it. 2. A small keg, originally called barrico, mostly known as the vessel used to carry rum to the grog barrel, or fresh water in a lifeboat.
- Was traditionally taken at 8am(or eight bells of the first watch) and it took thirty minutes.
- The act of breaking the anchor out of the ground into which it was holding, when weighing.
- The act of removing stores or cargo from the hold.
- Failing to return to the ship when due to.
Breaking of a gale
- Signs of a gale passing.
Breaking plate distance
- A measure of the strength of steel or iron plates used in ironclad ships, to withstand concentrated fire.
- The maximum load that can be put into a rope. Sometimes the term ‘working strain’ was incorrectly used, and may be encountered in fiction.
Breaking the trumpet
- Dutch expression for making the first fold in the leech when reefing.
- 1. When the wind direction just prevents a ship from holding her course. 2. The moment of changing duties from one to another.
Breaking-up of the monsoon
- Seamen’s’ term for the violent storms that come with the seasonal wind changes in tropical areas.
Break of the poop
- The forward end of the high structure at the aft end of a ship.
- The order to open a storage container of any type.
- 1. Describes a ship that has run cross its anchor cable due to the effects of wind and tide, when only riding at a single anchor. 2. To figuratively break a ship’s back by marring the gradual sweep lengthways.
- to dismantle a ship at the end of her useful life.
- 1. An artificial defence against the force of the sea, protecting ships lying behind it. 2. A low bulkhead across the forecastle, used to channel water into the scuppers and to prevent it washing over the decks.
- 1. Freshwater and sea fishes. 2. To clear a ship’s bottom of shells, weeds, barnacles, etc., by singeing it with burning faggots, etc.
- Burning of a ship’s bottom fouling and reapplying tar.
- 1. To run abeam of an object. 2. To cut through a sea. 3. To heave at something, such as a capstan bar, etc. 4. The opposite end of block to that through which the fall runs.
- An anchor laid at right angles to the fore-and-aft line of a vessel, either at the head or the stern.
- A rope backstay rigged from the weather or windward side of an upper mast, through an outrigger to the channels.
- A rope or canvas band passed around the chest of the leadsman, to help him avoid falling overboard.
- A beam at the fore-part of the quarterdeck and at the after-part of the forecastle.
- Loaded carriage onto which yarns were fixed at the foot of the ropewalk.
- A large mooring rope arranged at right-angles to a vessel’s fore-and-aft line used to secure a ship’s broadside to a quay or another ship. Also breast rope. The ship was usually similarly secured with a head-fast and a stern-fast.
- The longest gaskets, in the slings, or in the middle of a yard. Sometimes called bunt gaskets.
- Large compass timber fixed within and athwart the bow of a ship.
- Long timbers used to breast off a vessel from a quayside.
- Timber fixed in the forward part of the ship to unite both sides of the bow.
- To keep a vessel away from a harbour wall, usually in order to enable lighters to get all round her.
- A horizontal plate used to join the side plates at the stem.
- The upper rail of the balcony.
- 1. The rope securing yard-parrels. 2. The rope securing the leadsman when sounding, from the channels. 3. A mooring rope arranged at right-angles to a vessel’s fore-and-aft line. Also breast-fast.
- The balustrade at the forward edges of the quarterdeck and the poop and at both ends of the forecastle.
- A tropical storm.
Breath of wind
- An expression used for conditions all but dead calm.
- It took several voyages before a merchant seaman knew how to supplement his earnings with clandestine trading. When he had learnt how, he was said to be ‘bred-up’.
- 1. The part of a cannon behind the bore. 2. The outside angle formed by the knee timber. 3. To secure a cannon by breeching. 4. That part of a block that lies opposite the swallow.
- Removable steel block used to seal the muzzle of a gun. Also breech plug.
- Bolt in the ship’s side, onto which the breech rope is secured.
- A life-buoy with suspended canvas support resembling breeches.
- ‘Y’ shaped protective mat at the collar of the mainstay, resembling breeches with legs upward.
- Ropes used to secure the carriages of cannons and to raise masts. Also Double Breeching.
- Used to secure breechings.
- Cannon loaded from the rear.
- Loop on the breech rope.
Breech of a block
- That part of a block opposite the swallow, where the rope enters.
Breech of a cannon
- The massive after-end of a cannon.
- Breech block.
- Stout rope attached to the cascabel of a gun, securing it to the ship’s side.
- Iron screwed cylinder used to press the vent piece into its place when the gun is loaded.
- The notch in the base ring of a cannon, used to aim it.
- (v) To make a fishing net.
- A gentle or light wind, originally from the north or north-east. See Beaufort Scale.
Breeze, to kick up
- To cause a disturbance, or a row.
Breeze up, to
- Of the wind, to freshen.
- A toast given at a mess table, from the French brisée générale.
- A sharp gust of wind.
- Of a storm, seen to be developing.
- French Advice Boat.
Brick de Guerre
- French brig-of-war.
- Powdered brick, used to burnish brass and bright metalwork.
- A hot, dry and dusty Australian wind.
- Term used to describe seamen or, more often, lubbers who claimed to be at sea through having fallen on hard times or to have ‘known better times’ and whose slightly better education impressed some of those less fortunate.
- 1. A gangway or pier or jetty. 2. A raised platform from side-to-side of a ship, on which officers stand. 3. A narrow gangway between two hatchways. 4. A narrow ridge across the bottom of a channel, creating a shoal. Very dangerous if not spotted.
- A piece of land that becomes cut off at high tide, such as Linisfarne.
- 1. A rope or chain attached at both ends. 2. A mooring cable resembling a horse’s bridle. 3. Yoke for yards. See fore, main and dandy bridle.
- A cable leading from a vessel to a rope or chain that is fastened at both ends, to hold the vessel at her moorings.
- The port in a ship’s bow, through which bridles could be run, or chase guns fired. Also called main-deck chase-ports.
- The ropes attached to the lute heads, to which the main towing warp of a trawl net is attached.
- 1. Brigantine, also called a snow, when the main mast was rigged with a trysail mast abaft it. A vessel with two masts, square-rigged, as a ship’s fore and main mast, but with a gaff and boom fore-and-aft sail on the lower main mast. 2. A modern name for a ship’s jail.
- 1. A brig. ‘Brigantin’ was the southern expression and ‘brigantine’ was northern. 2. An English, oared tug, of c1690, 48′ long with 13′ beam.
- Term for an alert lookout.
- Fancy brass and/or metalwork and/or painting to the stern, or any brass or copper fittings that needed to be kept shiny clean.
- A brig with square-rigged foremast and schooner-rig on the mainmast.
- 1. The edge of the bank of a stream, river or lake. 2. The circular outer edge of the top of a container. Sometimes called the rim.
- Full glass or goblet.
- 1. Water saturated with salt. 2. The sea.
- See salinometer.
- To reverse ship.
Bring by the lee
- With the wind on the quarter, if by careless steering the stern swung round to bring the wind onto the other quarter, throwing the main topsail aback, the ship was said to have been ‘brought by the lee’. In heavy weather this could result in the ship broaching to; undesirable.
‘Bring ’em near’
- Colloquial term for a telescope.
- The last members of a boarding party, or landing force.
Bring her all up
- To stop the ship.
- 1. To ‘bring home the anchor’ means to weigh it. 2. A ship ‘brings home its anchor’ when it drags and causes the anchor flukes to slip and not hold. 3. To ‘bring home the log’ is to cause the pin to slip out of the log, thereby letting it slide easily through the water.
- To detain a suspect vessel on the high seas and bring her into port for adjudication.
- 1. To tie or bend a rope. 2. Stop a vessel by bringing her head to the wind. 3. To cause a vessel to come to a standstill, so the evolution of anchoring a vessel. cf Come to and Lay to. 4. The order shouted from one ship to another instructing her to make herself ready to be boarded. This order is sometimes forcibly given by firing a shot across the target ship’s bow. 5. To apply a rope to the capstan, such as ‘bring to the messenger’. More often used in the past tense as brought to, after the event.
Bring to anchor
- To let go the anchor at the chosen mooring.
Bring to the wind
- Steer into the wind.
Bring to the yard
- Hoist up a sail and bend it onto its yard.
- 1. To cast anchor. 2. To ‘bring up with a round turn’ is to stop a running rope by quickly taking a turn round a bollard or similar device. 3. Used to express the sudden, effective, completion of a task. 4. To ‘bring up with a round turn’ is also to put someone in the right, sharply.
Bring up to the mast
- Informal trial. It was permitted for seamen to talk to officers ‘at the mast’, and for officers to question seamen about a transgression, without resorting to a court martial, or formal trial. The attraction for seamen was that they had more freedom to speak up, and for officers was the lack of fuss and the speedy resolution of a developing problem.
- A South American off-shore north east wind.
- West country seaport, the principal English port after London, at some times, known for its very large tide height, at 50 feet the second highest in the world, that resulted in ships spending up to two thirds of their time in dock drying out on the mud flats. This required ships to be well made and kept in good condition, so they became known for their smartness and the habit of ship’s captains to require their ship to be among the best in port. Hence the phrase ‘shipshape & Bristol fashion’.
- 1. Young herring and sprat. 2. A Briton.
- A non-rusting alloy of copper, tin, antimony and bismuth. Used for tableware.
- Relating to Great Britain. e.g. ‘His Britannic Majesty’, meaning the British king.
- See Quatuor Maria.
- English ketch-rigged trawler. Very good to handle, they were and still are, often used for training.
- 1. To open a cask or bottle. 2. To broach a subject is to begin it.
- 1. To veer suddenly so as to turn the ship’s broadside to windward, or to meet the oncoming seas, and be turned over onto her beam ends, or to cause the ship to go down stern foremost. 2. To be brought broadside on to the wind and sea in heavy weather.
- The traditional royal mark on government stores, introduced during the reign of Elizabeth I.
- Originally a weapon of war, but subsequently a tool favoured by the ship’s carpenter, for making masts and for cutting away the detritus of conflict.
- Square sails.
- Double width fine plain weave dressed cloth used to make officers’ uniforms.
Broad Pennant or Pendant
- A tapering swallow-tailed bunting flag at the mast-head of a man-of war, being the mark of a Commodore and often used as the term for the officer himself. See also Bougee. cf cornet.
- Modern term replacing ‘going large’.
- Fresh-water lakes.
- 1. The side of the ship above water, between the bow and the quarter. 2. The whole array of artillery on one side of a ship. 3. The simultaneous discharge of item 2. 4. An old folio sheet on which ballads or proclamations were printed and distributed on land, giving news or comment on events.
- The side of the vessel, as distinct from end-on.
Broadside weight of metal
- The weight of shot fired from all the guns on one side, single-shotted.
- Pay office of the Royal Navy. This is where seamen officially had to attend to claim their pay, resulting in the practice of trading Pay Tickets with agents and money lenders, when remote from Broad Street, in the quest for cash-in-hand, often with a loss to the original owner of the Pay Ticket, due to bad exchange values set by unscrupulous agents.
- See cutlass.
- A lake connecting with the sea.
- Coarse seamen’s’ sandals of green hide. As distinct from the well known strengthened shoes of a landsman.
- The sentence of a court-martial, removing a guilty officer’s commission, resulting in the culprit being forced to leave the service.
- 1. Reduced in rank. 2. A storm is said to have broken when it passes its worst. 3. Parole is broken by one who abuses the trust placed in him, and runs.
- The state of a ship whose frame had loosened, causing droops at both ends. A ship in this condition is said to be hogged.
- 1. Fallen off course. 2. Men taken off one duty to perform another were said to have been ‘broken off’.
- Term used to describe a squall that divides, the two halves passing either side or end of a ship and failing to seriously affect it.
- Thrown overboard??
- Unsmooth water, at sea or in a channel.
- One who carries out negotiations and transactions between tradesmen and shipowners, regarding cargoes and clearances. He also arranged contracts and insurances with the undertakers. Originally a broken tradesman himself acting as go-between, for a commission, being unable to trade on his own account, but latterly developing into a respectable profession, if carried out honestly.
- 1. A ship that has come apart on a reef or on rocks. 2. Said of a gale that is passing away.
- 1. A stream of fresh or salt water. 2. Clouds are said to ‘brook up’ when they gather together and promise rain.
- (1723-1759) English maritime artist, considered by many to be possibly the greatest, certainly had he lived, although dying early was a bad habit of maritime artists.
- When a ship was to be sold, a broom or besom was bent onto the mast-head as a signal to those interested.
- Thin soup made from boiled meat and vegetables.
- White shoes with brown leather trims, said to be a sign of bad taste.
- One from the same ship.
- To collect scraps of rope to make coarse paper.
Brought by the lee
- See Bring etc.
- 1. Said of a ship that has been anchored. 2. A cable is ‘brought-to’ the messenger by nippers. 3. A messenger is ‘brought-to’ the capstan, etc. 4. A chase made to stop is ‘brought-to’.
‘Brought to his bearings’
- Made to obey.
‘Brought to book’
- When a transgression resulted in the need for formal punishment, such punishment was entered into the Punishment Log, in the presence of the transgressor, who was then said to have been ‘brought to book’.
‘Brought to the gangway’
- Of a vessel, stopped but not anchored.
Brought up all standing
- Of a vessel, stopped suddenly and taken aback, by a sudden change of wind.
- 1. Old name for the gangboard between ship and shore, particularly for loading horses or wheeled vehicles.. See gangplank. 2. Any inclined plane of planks used to communicate internally, or to accommodate shipwrights carrying materials on board during construction.
- Floating faeces in harbour. Also known as brown trout.
- A burnished axe.
- Faecal matter, used in many expressions, such as ‘Done brown’, which meant done the dirty on, or dropped upon, from a great height.
- An old government issue bronzed musket.
- A particularly hard and coarse biscuit.
- A whaler’s term for the Polar bear.
Brown Paper Warrant
- See Warrant.
- A transverse bar used to retain the anchor cable, was known by the Dutch as a ‘brown stopper’.
- Slang term for antifouling compound made of brimstone mixed with tar and pitch.
Brown water navy
- Coastal fleet.
- Derogatory term for a ship with a bluff bow.
- Pitching heavily to a head-sea, making little headway.
- French or Italian name for fireships.
Brunton’s anchor trigger
- Patented mechanism for releasing the anchor chain in a safe way, to prevent it fouling the rigging, etc.
- Nickname for Ship’s Painter.
Brush the salt off his shoulders!
- Said of an old salt who is perceived to be telling exaggerated sea stories, or swinging the lamp, as they now say.
- A mix of bustle and rustle, used to describe a ship making a lot of fuss and spray.
- Dockside ‘ladies’.
- An early name for cable, from the fact that the best hemp cables were made in Bridport, Dorsetshire. There was once a statutory requirement that all Royal Navy cables were to made in Bridport.
- A drink. To Bub and Grub meant to drink and eat.
- Slang term for a spirit level, as used in astronomical instruments.
Bubble, South Sea
- Delusive financial and commercial adventure, which ‘burst’ in 1599.
- Grog, and later, any rum. When the rum was diluted three and one with water in the rum tub, the mixture foamed. Not to be confused with the inferior French fizzy wine.
- The messdeck member assigned to collect the grog issue, in a rum fanny.
- 1. One who dries and smokes flesh on a boucan. 2. One of the piratical rovers who infested the Spanish coasts of America.
- State barge of the Doge of Venice. Also a large 17c ship.
- Heavy breakers onto the rocks on the extreme east coast of Scotland.
- 1. A canvas, leather or wood container principally used to fetch water to wash the decks, serving the purposes of pails. 2. A small globe of canvas-covered hoops, used as a recall signal for the boats of whalers.
- A rope attached to the handle of a bucket for bringing up water from alongside.
- Dried, salted white fish.
- 1. The action of a mast under compression. 2. The action of sea ice piling up under an advancing ship’s bow.
- 1. A large wooden shield or shutter backing up the jackass, or hawse-hole plug, used to close the hawse hole whilst it was in use, so shaped to let through the hawser, to prevent water ingress. cf Blind buckler. 2. A small fighting shield.
- General name for a lively young sailor, from the corruption of ‘buckra’, the negro name for white man. ‘Bucko mates’ was the nickname for hard mates in the American navies.
- A black West Indian’s or African’s name for a white man.
- A bow-net used to catch fish.
- An old term for the biscuit weevil.
- A small copper and wooden cask with one head forming a leather hose or bag, in which powder was safely carried, protected from sparks.
- A passage-boat of the Ganges and the Hooghly rivers.
- Elizabethan name for Buffalo.
- Chief boatswain’s mate, the buffer or go-between, to smooth contact for complaints, etc., between crew and officers.
Buffet a billow
- To work against wind and tide.
- Leather or glass spheres filled with air used instead of bowls to keep a drift net afloat.
- Clean and polish something.
- A ship regarded as large but not efficient.
- A large Persian trading boat.
- Fourth bow anchor.
- Originally, one who commits buggery, but it came to be used as an expletive, or a derogatory name for someone generally considered unpleasant.
- Let someone else do it.
- The form or construction of a ship.
‘Build a chapel’
- To turn a ship suddenly, by negligent steerage.
- A document containing the ship’s denomination, tonnage, trim, etc. and details of who built it and where, required by the admiralty courts.
Builder’s Old Measure
- The formula, adopted in 1773, for calculating the deadweight
- The name, used up to 1836, for the deadweight of a ship.
- The action of constructing a ship, as distinct from designing it.
- Inclined slipways onto which new keels were laid down and on which ships were then constructed.
- Used as a suffix to denote the style of construction of a ship, such as carvel-built, clinker-built, frigate-built, English-built, etc.
- A block made of several pieces of wood, usually elm. The same as made-block.
- Made masts.
- Early cannon made from bundles of metal rods, before accurate casting was mastered. Succeeded by solid cast guns which were eventually themselves replaced by modern built-up guns assembled from many components.
- An iron or steel plate with one edge worked into a bulb, for extra strength.
- Bilge. Hence ‘bulgeways’ were bilgeways.
- 1. The cargo of a ship, usually stowed without cases or packages. 2. The hold of a ship. 3. The gangway of a ship.
- One whose job it was to measure goods on board and determine the freight chargeable.
- The practice of trawlers staying at sea in company, for months on end, for mutual protection during times of hostility, sending their catches ashore on board cutters.
- 1. ‘The Bulkhead’ was the main partition between the forecastle and the head. 2. Upright partitions forming ship’s cabins or simply separating one area of ‘tween decks from another. 3. Any wall on board. A drunken sailor would partake in ‘bulkhead bouncing’ as he made his merry way along, if capable. Modern use includes watertight compartments.
- A plate stringer with gussets connected to a bulkhead by angle-bars, for stiffening.
- 1. An old male whale. 2. A small keg.
- A dance performed by men with men, when without women. Also called a stag dance.
- The name given to the great gun in the ward-room cabin, and sometimes to all main-deck guns.
- One of many earrings, used for first and second reefs.
- A roaring sound from waves.
- Cannon or small firearm ball.
- Simple block with no sharp corners.
- An official account of some public event.
- A mould for casting musket balls and bullets.
- Leaden balls fired from small arms.
- To get a last, illicit amount of grog out of an empty rum cask by pouring in water and letting it stand, not always successfully!
- Gold or silver in the lump, or in coin, if the pure metal.
- Marines’ name for soldier.
- Blocks fitting below centre of lower yards to lead topsail chain sheets down to the deck.
- Used to hoist live bullocks on board, or off again.
- Ulcers caused by scurvy.
- 1. A hawser let through the bowsprit end block to a buoy, to keep the buoy clear of the stem. 2. A rope used to haul an item of cargo from the wings of the hold into apposition under the hatch, ready for hoisting.
- 1. Glass boss illuminator in a gun port-lid, scuttle-hatch or deck. 2. Small solid block in the form of a ring with rope around the edge and a hole in the middle, through which another rope could pass. Also called trucks. 3. The centre of a target.
Bull’s eye cringle
- A wooden ring used, rarely, to replace an iron thimble on the fore and main bowline bridles at the tack or leech of a sail.
- 1. An eyed length of rope fastened to the back of the lower yard to keep the earring from slipping under the yard. 2. Wire strop with a thimble, used to reef merchant ship sails on steel yardarms.
- 1. A swashbuckler, or blustering gallant. 2. In full, ‘bully beef’, the nickname of a tinned beef, actually Bouilli, first introduced 1813 and used in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, and subsequently in the British army.
- To bluster and abuse, often to cover for self-deficiencies.
- The raised side of a ship, above deck level.
- A large cask or vessel containing liquids.
- A drink made from rum, water, sugar and nutmeg.
- 1. Scavenger’s boat used in the Thames. 2. A sort of sea costermonger or provision boat calling on ship’s in harbour to trade with them. ‘Bumboat men’, or ‘women’ were the crew of bumboats.
- Soft bread sold by bumboat men.
- Short naval jackets worn by crew men.
- A short boom projecting from each bow of a ship to extend the lower edge of foresails to windward. The same name was used for a similar device over the stern of a boat, to extend the mizen. cf boomkin, although this name is more frequently given to the short boom extending from the mizen mast.
- A block at the end of the bumkin.
- Bottomry. Ship mortgage.
- To pull astern of another boat and insultingly bump the stem into her. Great fun when looking for a fight, and usually effective.
- To run a boat stem-on up the beach and let the waves bump her further up.
- 1. A glass or goblet filled to the brim. 2. A log of wood hung over the ship’s side to protect it against the action of pack ice.
- An iron or wooden bar projecting out-board from the ship’s side, to which the lower and topsail brace blocks are sometimes hooked. Also Bumkin and boomkin.
- Mortar vessel.
Bunch of knitting
- An entanglement of ropes.
- Embanked dam to prevent flooding.
- Hindu name for a seaport or quay.
- A boat used on the Bombay coast, to ply between ship’s at anchor.
- Usually referred to married men on their way to leave, taking their bundle of dirty washing, or dhobey, and gifts to their wives.
- The call to the men below to hurry onto deck.
- Arranging things in a sloppy way.
- To carry out a task badly.
- A bat-shaped tool used to start out a bung. Hence also it was the term given to the captain of the hold, and to the master’s assistant serving his apprenticeship for hold duties.
Bung up & bilge free
- The proper stowage of rum, varnish, sacramental wine casks, etc., in the Spirit Room, chocked with the bung uppermost and the bilges kept off the deck on beds so they would not move as the ship rolled. Also used to describe anyone lying asleep during a ‘make and mend’.
- A hole in a cask, sealed by means of a bung.
- 1. Nickname for ship’s cooper. 2. The nickname for the master’s mate who superintended the serving of the grog.
- A bed built into a ship’s cabin serving as a sleeping berth for officers. To ‘bunk with’ someone was to share a cabin or lodgings with them.
- An angular side space of the hold covered and allocated for the storage of sand, holystones, etc. and ultimately coal.
- A famous battle on 17 June 1775 in the American War of Independence, of which the Marines are justifiably proud, for their predecessors’ valour.
- To share ones bunk, and colloquially what can result.
- 1. Those cloths of a square sail which are nearest to the mast when the sail is set. 2. The central portion of a furled square sail. 3. The middle part of a yard, or the slings. 4. To ‘bunt a sail’ was to haul up the middle part and secure it by the bunt-gasket.
- Men on the yard who gather the bunt when furling sails.
- Before the wind.
- The gaskets in the middle of a yard, used to tie a buntline to a sail. Sometimes called breast gaskets.
- 1. Hauling up the middle part of a sail. 2. Worsted stuff used for making flags.
- The signalman, usually a midshipman or junior lieutenant.
- A small gin-tackle purchase, used on large sails to bowse up the bunt when furling.
- The rope attached to the footrope of a topsail, that passes up the front of the sail to a block on the yard, and used to pull up the bottom of the sail, to spill its wind.
- A lining sewn up the fore-part of a sail to prevent the buntline from chafing the sail.
- A ring of rope at the foot of a sail.
- Circular thimbles on the fore side of a sail, to guide the bunt-lines.
- Two half hitches, the second made inside the first.
- A sailor of limited ability.
- Short ropes with a thimble at one end and a whipping at the other, through which the bunt-lines are rove, attached to the tie blocks to keep the sail in bunt when hauled up.
- The bulk of a sail dragged up to the centre, or bunt, of the yard and secured.
- Thimbles through which the buntline was guided up a sail.
- Ropes used to lift the foot of a sail, to help see, or to prevent chafing, by reeving through a block on the slings and passing under the sail, making fast to its foot.
- Arms encircling the yard to give it bearing, in self-reefing systems.
- 1. A floating marker fastened in position on the sea bottom or some other object on the bottom, to show where the things were under water, such as anchors, channels, shoals, rocks, etc. The shapes of buoys evolved over the years to be more important than the colour, usually either can, cone, sphere or spar shaped, to denote different purposes. 2. A floating keg or block of wood attached to the anchor by rope, to show its location after casting, so that the ship could avoid tangling her cable. To ‘buoy a cable’ was to attach a buoy to the cable to hold it off the bottom, in order to avoid it galling or rubbing the bottom. A vessel intending to return to the same mooring will usually slip her cable after first attaching it to a buoy, for later recovery. The anchor buoy is ‘streamed’, which means it is let fall over the ship’s side before the anchor is let go, to avoid fouling the buoy-rope as it sinks to the bottom.
- The providing of buoys.
- The capacity to float, usually used to refer to vessels floating lightly. ‘Centre of buoyancy’ is the naval architectural term for the mean centre of that part of a floating vessel that is immersed in the water.
- Sealed metal tanks of air in a lifeboat, that keep it afloat even when swamped.
- Having the power of flotation.
- Using a buoy to support the bight of an anchor cable or chain to prevent it chafing on the seabed.
- A rope attaching an anchor-buoy to its anchor.
Buoy rope knot
- A knot made by unlaying the strands of a cable-laid rope, and a small strand of each large strand, single and double walling them and worming the divisions and rounding the rope, where the end is lashed to the anchor shank.
Buoys & beacons
- The earliest records show the first ever in the British Isles were laid in about 1520.
- The tonnage of cargo that a ship can carry. See Burthen.
- A small tapering swallow-tailed flag. Also bougee.
- A sailor’s dish of boiled thick oatmeal porridge, seasoned with salt, butter and sugar or cooked with vegetables and meat when available. Also loblolly.
- Religious, or pseudo, service accompanying sea burial funeral.
- To treat canvas, timber, cordage, etc., with a solution of chloride of zinc, known as Sir William Burnet’s fluid.
- To make shiny by friction.
- One who burnishes.
- A hazy circle that appears around the moon before rain.
- Canister shot or case-shot or langrel or langrage, usually containing odd bits of iron, nails, etc. gathered together in a hurry.
- The bilge pump.
- The explosion of a shell, or a gun.
- The quantity of goods that a ship will carry, expressed in tons, when loaded to a proper sea trim, determined by certain strict rules of measurement, and usually referred to as the tonnage. In fact a ship could carry about twice the tonnage, but would be deemed deeply laden, which is not advised. A ‘ship of burthen’ was a merchantman.
- A tackle comprising two blocks arranged to bring the rope back on itself, thus increasing the mechanical advantage, used for heavy loads and to tighten shrouds. To ‘up Burton and break out’ was to hoist a heavy item out of the hold.
- 1 A rope with an eye in the upper end, which is looped over the topmast head and has a tackle at the other end, used for lifting heavy weights. Sometimes called just burtons. See also fish-tackle burtons. 2 Tackles used for setting up topmasts.
- A small tackle containing three blocks, used to set up a tightening rigging, or to shift heavy bodies.
- A sea funeral resulted in the deceased being ‘buried’ at sea.
- The metal lining of a hole.
- Cased with harder to prevent wear.
Business, The Day’s
- The name for a midshipman’s navigation calculation lesson.
- 1. To beat about, or tack. 2. To cruise as a pirate.
- A boot reaching to the calf or knee.
- Cruising an enemy coast looking for something to attack. Not dissimilar to its modern usage, but with the theatre/cinema queue replacing the coast.
- 1. A vessel of burden. 2. A two- or three-masted vessel used in the Dutch herring fishery.
- ‘Busy as the Devil in a gale of wind’ was an expression of fidgety restlessness, or double diligence in a bad cause.
- Provider of meat comestibles, or a dealer in meat.
- An ironic term for the list of those killed in a battle. The butcher’s bill was often considered an important measure of the captain’s bravery. For example, a successful battle with a small butcher’s bill may be considered inferior to a less successful one with a large butcher’s bill. Certainly, to have failed, but with a large butcher’s bill, was more ‘honourable’ than with a small one, in the eyes of the establishment. Seamen’s and officer’s lives were considered trivial and cheap, by the Senior Officers and the Admiralty, when glory was at stake.
- The early name for officers in the British Navy.
- Called out to those falling into the scuppers.
- The count of dead and wounded after action.
- 1. A cask for wine holding between 108 gallons, of ale, to 140 gallons of wine. 2. The thick end of an item. 3. The end of a ship’s plank. 4. To join two items end-to-end. When they are said to ‘abut’.
- The term denoting that the two ends of planks are come together, but not overlapping.
- 1. The end of a plank or plate on a ship’s side, which joins onto the end of the next. 2. The shoulder part of a long firearm.
- British seamen’s nickname for Dutchmen.
- A small snatch block, or hinged block, with a length equal to twice the circumference of the rope used, for hauling in a deep-sea line.
- A joint between two planks, in which the ends meet flush together. The joint is usually plated to strengthen it.
- The breadth of a ship astern, the convex part from the tuck upwards.
- In naval architecture, the longitudinal curves at the rounding of the after body in a vertical section.
- 1. The ball fixed on the centreline of a cannon bore, at the rear of the breech. 2. Slang name for the circular wooden cap on an upper masthead, usually having sheaves for signal halyards. Also called truck or top button.
- Relatively recent name for the boy detailed to stand on top of the mast-top truck, when manning a ship overall, for display purposes. Not an enviable duty.
- To ‘make buttons’ is an expression for sudden apprehension or misgivings.
Button your flap!
- Seamen’s’ trousers originally had a flap front instead of modern flies, resulting in this expression, meaning shut up!
- A rope with a thimble or eye at one end and whipping at the other end, so that it can be passed through the eye to form a sling.
- A metal strap spanning and covering the butt joint between two adjoining plates, for added strength.
- Two timbers fixed to overlap end butts, holding the frame together.
- A gratuity necessary in oriental trading.
- A word used by American whalers, meaning gossiping, or gathering news and information, from ship to ship.
- One compass point (11¼°) further on in the direction of the last named compass point. e.g. NbyE=11¼°, NEbyE=56¼°, etc.
By and by
- In Elizabethan times this meant ‘at once’.
By and large
- Both sailing close to the wind, which is ‘by’, and sailing with the wind wherever it is, which is ‘large’. So, if a ship sailed well ‘by and large’ it would respond well to all circumstances. This expression came ashore meaning ‘on the whole’.
- Newfoundland fishery boat.
- The old word for tonnage. cf Burthen.
By the board
- Deeper in the water on one side than the other.
By the deep
- Leadsman’s call to indicate the depth as a quarter over the mark on his line.
By the head
- Deeper in the water forward than aft.
By the lee
- The situation of the vessel going free.
By the mark
- Leadsman’s call to indicate the depth as on the mark on his line, and consequently, a whole measure.
By the run
- The order given to the hands working a rope to release it and let it run freely, or to run up a lighter halyard.
By the stern
- Deeper in the water aft than forward.
By the wind
- 1. The situation when the vessel sails as near to the wind as possible, or within six points of it. As ‘full and by’. 2. Seamen’s slang for broke or penniless.
By the wind hitches
- Rare expression for use by coastal ships of hitches on braces, to ensure correct trimming of yards when frequently tacking.
Byng, George, Viscount Torrington
- (1663-1733) Became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1727.
- (1704-57) British admiral, fourth son of George Byng. Rose rapidly through the navy, thanks to his father’s influence, and outreached his experience. He was court-martialled for not doing his utmost to save Minorca, in 1756, and was shot as a result of being found guilty in 1757. This incident is the source of Voltaire’s remark, in Candide, that in England it was sometimes necessary to shoot an admiral ‘pour encourager les autres‘.
By the book
- In strict accord with Regulations.
– The prefix to ships’ names used for the warships of the States of the Confederacy (the South) during the American Civil War, standing for Confederate States Ship. cf USS.
- 1. A room or space on a ship, particularly allocated to an individual. See also great cabin and coach. cf steerage. 2. Any single room in Navy accommodation ashore. 3. The Cabin, on board, was the Captain’s Cabin.
- A junior rating assigned to attend to the needs of the officers.
- A passenger entitled to a private cabin, usually through having paid for it.
- Floor. More usually used in yachts.
- 1. Strictly, a heavy chain or hemp rope of about 120 fathoms length, to which the anchor is attached, made from nine strands laid in three threes and then the three into one, it came to refer to any large hemp or wire rope, or, occasionally, chain that attached to the anchor. Originally, in the Royal Navy, the term applied only to a 20 inch cable of hemp made in Bridport, but later came to be more loosely used to refer to other heavy ropes. The size of anchor cable of a ship was determined roughly as half an inch of circumference for every foot of beam of the ship. The standard rope cable length was between 100 and 115 fathoms, with hawser-laid cable being 130 fathoms. 2. A measure of distance at sea of 100 fathoms or 200 yards. Approximately one tenth of a nautical mile. Also cable’s length.
- Look up open hawse, foul hawse, flying moor, cross in the hawse, elbow round turn, round turn & elbow.
- Capstans on the forecastle deck of larger ships set on either side of ship’s centreline, by which the bower anchors are weighed or veered. Cable-holders are geared into the main capstan engine so that the cable is hove in mechanically, and are freed from the clutch when letting go so the anchor and cable run free.
- A term used to describe the heaviest ropes, made by laying or twisting three ordinary ropes, each themselves made from three strands laid together. The three final strands, or hawsers, are twisted from right to left; otherwise the cable would become untwisted and lose its strength. Also cablet and water-laid. cf hawser-laid.
- The compartment in the bow of a vessel where the anchor cable is stowed, with its inboard end secured.
- A short length of spun-yarn used to temporarily fasten the cable to the messenger. Chain cables would be similarly attached by using hinged iron nippers.
- Those crewmembers detailed to work the anchor cable.
- A shackle with a pin flush in its side, used to join lengths of cable in such a way that the cable’s passage through the hawse holes would not be obstructed.
- A measure of length of 120 fathoms. Approximately one tenth of a nautical mile. Also cable.
- A short length of spun-yarn used to make a light rope or messenger fast to a cable when heaving it in. An iron nipper would be used on a chain cable. Many devices were used to hold the chain cable when a ship lies at anchor. These were either used as standbys when the cable was held on a brake, or used to hold the cable temporarily whilst the inboard part of the cable was handled. The four most common types of stopper were: 1. Brake slip, which comprised a tongue gripping the cable, attached in turn to a short length of chain cable fastened to a deck bolt. 2. Riding slip, which was a Blake slip, but attached in the cable tier, between the cable-holder and the navel pipe. This was used as a preventer when the ship was lying at anchor, in case the brake renders. 3. Screw slip, which was another Blake slip, but with a bottle-screw in the chain. This was used at sea to draw up the anchor to the hawse. 4. Senhouse slip, which was attached to the last link at the end of a chain hawser, to prevent its being drawn out. See also Devil’s Claw.
- An alternative name for cable-laid rope.
- The hold into which the anchor hawser drops in folds when the anchor is raised, and in which it is coiled up and stowed. The name comes from the tiers onto which the cable is laid, to assist its drying out.
Cable tier pinch
- A pinch bar or crowbar for manipulating lengths of cable in the stowage tiers or racks.
- The housing for the galley chimney. Came to be applied to the galley or cook-house, when built as a small deck-house, or any other enclosed space on deck, usually on smaller vessels.
- (Giovanni Caboto) – (c.1450-98) Italian navigator, born in Genoa, who is now credited as being the first European to find the north American landmass, for the King of England, Henry VII. He moved to England in 1484, fired up with the idea of reaching Cathay (China) by voyaging west, probably after hearing of Columbus’s expeditions, which he seems to have been sceptical about, and certainly driven by the attraction of trade, not glory. Well, not much glory. He sailed from Bristol in May 1497 in the ship Matthew, manned by a crew of eighteen, and sighted Newfoundland on 24 June of the same year. On this voyage he discovered the rich cod fields of the Grand Banks, when catching fish over the ship’s side by the basket load, which led to the development of the Newfoundland cod fishery. Henry VII granted him a prize of £10 for finding the ‘new island’, which they all thought was off the coast of Cathay, after which a new expedition was proposed, to seek Cipango (Japan). This second expedition comprised five ships and 300 men and it set off in February 1498, but was never heard from again. If the expedition had survived, even if it had failed, it is now supposed that accounts of it, and the previous voyage, would have resulted in John Cabot, and not Christopher Columbus, being hailed down the centuries as the true discoverer of the New World, because Columbus only ever found the Caribbean and never knew about the American continent.
- (1476-1557) A son of John Cabot. He came to fame as Pilot Major and chief navigator of Spain, in 1518. He led an expedition westward to find the Orient, for Spain, but went south and was sidetracked by tales of vast riches, before he even reached the Magellan Strait, for which he was banished to Africa on his return to Spain. He later tried to get a licence from Henry VIII of England to lead various expeditions, but by the time he succeeded he was too old to lead them. He founded the Bristol company of Merchant Adventurers in 1551 and under his stewardship the first of the many expeditions to find the North-East Passage was sent out. If he had been a more honest chronicler of events experienced with his father, the family name may have been enhanced, but, unfortunately, those stories he did relate led only to incredulity.
- French coastal trading.
- A small French coastal trading vessel.
Cabral, Pedro Alvarez de Gouvea
- (c.1467-1530) Portuguese navigator who led an expedition to South America in 1500, following the voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1499. Cabral is inaccurately credited with discovering Brazil, which had in fact been found three months earlier by the Spaniard Vicente Yañez Pinzon. The expedition continued to India where it loaded a vast cargo of spices, and landed back in Lisbon in July 1501, after which Cabral retired wealthy.
Cadamosto, Alvise da
- (1432-77) Venetian Navigator who commanded the expeditions sent by Prince Henry the Navigator to explore the west cast of Africa, in 1455 and 1456.
- 1. A West Indian chieftain. 2. A local political chief in Latin countries.
- An early term for a measure of sprats, of about 1,000.
- A modern sea trainee.
- A major seaport on the west coast of southern Spain, from which the combined Napoleonic fleet, under Admiral Villeneuve, sailed to meet its destiny with Nelson’s fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
- Slang for wooden mess drinking utensil.
- An early type of kedge anchor.
- 1. A light Turkish boat. 2. The Turkish Sultan’s ceremonial barge. 3. A lateen-rigged Levantine vessel.
- 1. From the French caisson, meaning a large chest, it was used to mean an enclosed underwater space with a method of pumping it out. It therefore means an enclosure used in the construction of bridges, dams, etc., from which the works could be carried out. 2. The working part of dock gates. 3. A floating enclosure that can be submerged under a wreck and then pumped out, thereby raising the wreck by giving it buoyancy. cf camel.
- Slang name for the bends, or decompression disease.
- A watch in which all hands were to stand by for a call, such as when the ship is making short boards or tacks.
- 1qt = 1qt Pease Equivalent.
- A major seaport on the mouth of the Hugli River in India, founded in 1690 by the Honourable East India Company
Calder, Sir Robert
- (1745-1818) Scottish admiral in the Royal Navy, knighted for his services in the Battle of Cape St Vincent. Known for having let Villeneuve’s fleet slip past him in the fog after the latter having been chased from the West Indies in the summer of 1805, for which he was court-martialled. He was severely reprimanded at the court-martial, which ended his naval career.
- The name for Cadiz prior to 1600.
- 1. A ‘small’ piece of floe ice that has broken off the main body of pack ice, after calving. 2. A small island lying off a larger island. 3. A young sea mammal.
Calf in the reef
- The English translation for the Swedish term used to describe an unsightly bulge in a reef.
- The modern term used to express the measurements of a gun, or sometimes just its bore.
- Small arm. A long, light musket.
- 1. The special whistle blown by boatswain’s mates of the Royal Navy, to give orders or pay respects in a salute. Also called boatswain’s call or boatswain’s whistle. 2. A signal sounded on the boatswain’s call. Also called a pipe.
Call boatswain’s mates
- A summons to the boatswain’s mates to muster for a long call that had to be sounded in unison.
- Mixture of rum, sugar and small beer, after a similar N American drink. Also Kallebogas.
- The junior rating who duty it was to carry the boatswain’s pipes, to relay his orders and to take part in the ceremonial piping aboard of visiting dignitaries.
Callender, Sir Geoffrey Arthur
- (1875-1946) The British naval historian who founded the National Maritime Museum and was the drive behind the successful appeal to restore HMS Victory.
Calling the soundings
- ‘Marks’ were the fathom depths marked on the lead-line, at 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, 15, 17 and 20 fathoms. ‘Deeps’ were the fathom depths not marked. The sounding calls were as follows:
At 5 fathoms - ‘By the mark, five!’
At 5¼ fathoms - ‘And a quarter, five!’
At 5½ fathoms - ‘And a half, five!’
At 5¾ fathoms - ‘A quarter less, five!’
At 6 fathoms - ‘Deep, six!’
’No bottom!’ - ‘No bottom at 20 fathoms!’
Call the wheel
- Take a trick
- Callao. Seamen’s slang for unduly free and easy, especially of the ship’s routine, which they did not like disrupted.
- The name for the weather condition when there is not a breath of wind.
- Weapons thrown from the attacking deck to another deck.
- (fl.1482-6) Portuguese navigator who was the first European to explore the west coast of Africa south of the equator. Sometimes called Diogo Cao.
- 1. The curve of a deck downwards to the ship’s sides. 2. A small salt water dock where timber was stored submerged to pickle, which was sometimes used as shelter by small boats.
- A vessel’s keel in which the depth at the bow and stern is greater than in the middle.
- An American term for the cookhouse or galley of a whaleship.
- 1. A pair of floats made to fit against a ship, which were firmly chained to the sides, semi-submerged, then pumped out, thus raising the ship. Of great use when moving a ship in shoal water. 2. Strong wooden fenders used when alongside a wharf.
- A famous furious sea battle fought off Camperdown on the coast of Holland in 1797 between a British fleet commanded by Admiral Adam Duncan and a Dutch fleet under Vice Admiral Jan de Winter, fighting on behalf of Napoleon. Not a good day for the Dutch, by a long way.
- Fortified wine, similar to Madeira.
- A sea marker in the shape of a truncated cone painted red, or in red and white chequers, indicating the port side of a channel when entering. See buoys.
- Crete (Elizabethan).
Candle out of binnacle
- To run out of money was to ‘run the candle, etc
- Fenders made from bundles of cane lashed together.
- A wooden collar with a cannon ball attached, used as a punishment for swearing.
- Hooks arranged in pairs, joined by chain, used to hoist casks by fitting the hooks under the chines.
- larger than perier, it fired stone or iron balls.
- Various types of cannon are as follows: 12pdr: long, medium, short(hgv) 24pdr long(hgv) 32pdr long(hgv) Many cannon were named after birds, e.g. a Saker Drake was named after the saker falcon a small portable gun, and the drake was a large form with a tapering barrel, thus using a reduced charge. Lanyard, Port Piece- Pre 17c in RN, Sling- Pre 17c in RN, Slow-Match, Fowler- Pre 17c in RN, Saker, Power-Train, Flintlock, Cannon-Royal- Short gun with 8.5 inch bore, 10 foot long, Cannon-Perier, Bombard- Pre 17c in RN, Bass- Pre 17c in RN, Culverin- Long-barrelled heavy gun firing lighter iron shot at higher velocity for greater distance, short range impact similar to cannon. Demi cannon- Very heavy gun, a cross between cannon and culverin. Cutts or Curtal – A short heavy gun firing large heavy iron shot.
- In Elizabethan times, the English cannon was a 7 inch gun firing a 40 pound round shot. The Spanish was larger, firing a 50 pound round shot.
- Minion- Pre 17c in RN.
Cannon of 7
- A 42 pounder cannon with a 7” bore, weighing about 3 tons.
- A small primitive open boat.
- 1. The cut made in the side of a whale, between the neck and the fins, used to attach a purchase that was needed to turn the carcass during flensing. 2. The timber of a ship, located near the stem and stern, that are not at right angles to the keel. 3. To cant a ship is to turn its head to one side or the other when weighing anchor or leaving a mooring. 4. To cant a yard is to brace forward a yard.
- One of the frames of a ship near the stem and stern, that are not at right angles to the keel.
- A hooked lever used to handling heavy cargo.
- A type of quoin.
- Turning something over.
Canting a yard
- The bracing forward of a yard.
- The groove between the strands of a rope.
Can’t make head nor tail of it!
- Originally expressed by the signal midshipman unable to read or make sense of a distant hoist of flags signals.
- A strip of whale blubber about two feet wide and up to 40 feet long.
- A heavy tackle rigged from a whaleship’s mainmast, used to haul the cant piece inboard. The American term was cutting tackle.
- The vertically fixed horizontal deck plank, at the junction of the deck and the bulwarks or sides, usually a band of gilded and/or painted mouldings, that runs along the sides of a vessel, canting up towards the stern.
- The old name for a four-stranded rope laid without a central core.
- A length of timber suitable for making a small mast or spar.
- The tackle attached to the blubber to be stripped off a whale carcass alongside a whaler. When hoisted it would cant the carcass and tear off the blubber strip prepared by the flensers.
Canute or Cnut
- (c.995-1035) The king of Denmark and England who is most famous for ordering the tide back from the bank of Thames at Westminster. This was to demonstrate to his courtiers that there are some forces that cannot be withstood, in preparing them for his intention to submit to the Holy See in Rome.
- Someone who prefers sleeping to waking, and avoids the latter.
- The choice and number of sails set, selected by considering the direction and strength of the wind.
- A cloth woven from hemp, from the Greek word kannabis for hemp. Sails were made of hemp canvas that was numbered according to thickness and hence strength, the lowest number being coarsest and heaviest. See bolt and cloths.
- 1. The wooden block with two holes at the top of a mast, holding the top of a lower mast and the foot of an upper mast, rigged at the top of the former. Also Cap Plate. 2. The semi-circular projection from the sides and round the end of a block, into which the strop is let to prevent chafing.
- Nickname for the misappropriation of Government stores. Also Cape Bar and Cappabar.
- A plan of a vessel, showing the capacity of its tanks, holds and carrying spaces.
Cap a rope
- To parcel a wormed rope by wrapping tarred canvas round the end before it is served, to keep water out of the end.
- The most westerly point on the coast of Spain, off which a naval battle was fought in 1747, between a British fleet under Admiral Sir George Anson and two French squadrons, for which Anson was awarded a peerage.
Cape Horn Fever
- 1. The name given to the disease of malingering, from the reluctance of seamen to sign on for a voyage intending to round the Horn, because of the well known hardships they would endure if they survived, or, having signed on, feigning illness to avoid dangerous conditions. 2. Any imaginary disease.
Cape Horn Snorter
- Particular storm
- This originally referred to the American clipper ships that rounded Cape Horn during the 19c. Later the name was extended to apply to any ship or sailor that had achieved the feat and survived.
Capelle, Jan van de
- (c.1624-79) Dutch maritime painter, particularly known for his calm seas and limp sails.
- A small Dutch vessel used as a privateer.
- Seamen’s nickname for Cape Horn.
Cape St Vincent
- The site and name of the battle fought on 14 February 1797 between a British fleet under Admiral Sir John Jarvis (as a result of which to become Earl St Vincent) and a Spanish fleet under Admiral Don José de Cordova. This is the famous battle in which Commodore (as he was then) Horatio Nelson, in HMS Captain, exceeded the current Fighting Instructions by acting independently to attack San Nicholas and San Josef, the latter being boarded across the former; described by Nelson as his ‘patent bridge for capturing enemies’ and for which action he was knighted. Jervis is reckoned to have missed further destruction of the enemy by failing to pursue them throughout the night.
- Generally used to refer to Cape Horn, but also used for the Cape of Good Hope if nearby, but without the capital letters.
- Seaport of South Africa, founded by the Dutch in 1652.
Capful of wind
- An occasional breath of wind.
- Sailing a coastal course within sight of land, from cape to cape.
- The term used for the most important ships in a nation’s fleet, usually applied to ships-of-the-line during the periods relevant to this dictionary.
- A type of sea-worm that attacks a ship’s bottom.
- Strips of hardwood fitted to the tops or edges of gunwales, tops, etc., to strengthen them.
- The vertical pillar located under the fore part of the lower mast cap, to shore it up when under strain.
- To upset or overturn a vessel, so that her keel is above water and her masts submerged.
- A supporting spar between the cap and the trestle-tree.
- The large vertical barrel-shaped mechanism turning about an upright spindle on the main deck of larger ships, first used in 14c as a manpowered winch for heavy work, such as weighing the anchor or swaying up a yard. The men powering it pushed against capstan bars, inserted into the head, the other ends of which were joined together by a swifter, to give more space for extra men to pull. The capstan had a set of pawls at the base that would drop into a pawl rim to prevent it slipping back. For really heavy work a messenger was rigged, to allow even more men to join in the ‘fun’. Smaller vessels had a windlass to carry out similar tasks, the main difference being that the spindle of the windlass is horizontal as compared to the vertical capstan.
- One of many long wooden levers or ‘handles’ that were inserted into sockets in the drumhead of the capstan when in use, against which the crew pushed in order to work the capstan by hand. They were usually made of ash and had a metal shoe at the inner end. When not in use they were placed on shot boxes as seats for crew at entertainment or church
- Early word for capstan.
- Sprung levers that clicked into place as the capstan turned and prevented it from slipping back as pressure was released.
- The space on board directly beneath the capstan.
- A stay rigged forward from the mast-cap.
- 1. The commissioned rank below admiral. 2. The title of the commander of any naval ship, regardless of his commissioned rank. 3. The master of a merchant ship. 4. The senior rating in charge of a specific group of men, such as the captain of the maintop, captain of the fo’c’s’l, etc. 5. The early title of a Mediterranean commodore of a galley fleet. See Post Captain.
- Seven ships of the British Navy have famously held this name, the most famous being the seventy-four gun flagship of Commodore Nelson in the Battle of St Vincent, in 1797, qv.
Captain of gun/ maintop/ head/ sweepers/ crosstrees, etc
- See Captain.
Captain of the Heads
- Seaman assigned the duty of cleaning the heads, usually selected as a punishment.
Captain of Fleet
- The Post Captain responsible for the day-to-day organisation of a fleet, under local Admiral. Now known as Captain’s Agent.
Captain of top
- The petty officer in charge of one of the three groups of topmen in each watch.
Captain’s bed place
- The traditional name for the captain’s sleeping cabin, in which his cot was slung.
- Article 36 of War, the Article of War that covered anything judged by the captain as a misdemeanour, that was not specifically covered by any of the previous thirty-five articles.
Captain’s day cabin
- The cabin in which the captain spent his working time when not on deck.
Captain’s dining cabin
- The captain’s dining cabin.
- The captain’s private record of events on board, and his private thoughts about them. It was, and is, the captain’s choice about whether or not they were kept and the most interesting have often turned out to be those consciously prepared for later publication and self-aggrandisement. cf Captain’s Logs.
- The Admiralty list of Captains showing seniority of posting. A post-captain’s climb up the Captains List was strictly controlled by his place on it, eventually followed by the elevation to the vast height of rear-admiral, automatically achieved when the top of the list was reached, by those above having been promoted off the list, either by becoming an admiral or by dying. The list could be jumped by dint of brave action, at the whim of The Admiralty.
- The captain’s official record of events on board. These were usually returned to The Admiralty at the end of a mission, unless lost during the mission. cf Captain’s Journal.
Captain’s Order Book
- Standing Orders for the ship.
- A waiting room at The Admiralty; in which captains waited to learn their fate regarding their next posting.
- The title given to a boy entered into the Navy before he became a midshipman, usually at about the age of twelve or before. He was a personal follower of a post-captain, usually taken on board as a favour to family or friends. He rarely carried out any of the tasks usually associated with the term ‘servant’, being in fact an aspiring officer. The gunner was charged with his supervision, and he was berthed with the gunner before moving into the midshipmen’s mess later, for his own protection, particularly of his morals. In 1796 the title was changed to Volunteer, First Class; boys of the second and third classes not looking forward to commissions. cf Volunteers-per-order and King’s letter boys.
Captain’s sleeping cabin
- Te captain’s bed place.
- The store of private foodstuffs and goodies kept on board for the captain’s use, perhaps shared when entertaining fellow ship’s officers or visitors, and perhaps not.
Caracciolo, Prince Francesco
- (1732-99) Neapolitan admiral who trained and served in the British Navy, serving in the War of American Independence. Hanged at the orders of Nelson, for alleged sympathy with French republicanism, largely on the word of the queen of Naples, a friend of Emma Hamilton, with whom Nelson was infatuated, and for which he was to suffer criticism for both the hanging and the infatuation.
- Originally 13c Portuguese fishing boat, later the term referred to a two-masted, lateen-rigged merchant ship and, eventually they became three-masted square-rigged ships, of about 75-80 feet long, with a lateen-rigged mizzen, which made them very seaworthy. Vasco da Gama’s ships were all caravels on his voyage to discover the sea route to India, via the Cape of Good Hope, in 1498, as were two of Columbus’ ships (Nina & Pinta) with which he discovered the Caribbean in 1492.
- 1. An incendiary shell fired from ship-to-ship, comprising a hollow ball filled with explosive combustibles that vented through three or more holes, sometimes with added pistol barrels discharging bullets, introduced by the British Navy in the late 17c ad used until the early 19c, intended to ignite the sails and rigging of enemy ships, but not very successful and therefore not popular, even with the users. 2. Cannon balls heated to red-hot and fired from ship-to-land targets.
- North, south, east and west on a compass card. Those halfway between, such as north-east, south-west, etc., are known as half-cardinal points.
- See buoys and buoyage. CHECK
- To heave a ship over onto its side, on a beach or similar situation, to clean the bottom of weeds, barnacles, etc., or to repair it. See also Parliamentary heel.
Careen, to sail on the
- To sail heeled over to keep shot holes, etc., above water level.
- A steep sandy beach where a ship could be careened.
- A capstan installed at a convenient shoreside location, where ships could regularly stop for careening, to which the careening tackles were led to pull the ship over.
- A pit used to accommodate the bilges of a ship when careened, to avoid undue strain on the hull, from the weight of the ship.
- A wharf usually in a dockyard where ships could be careened, permanently equipped with a pit, capstan, etc.
- Cargo, or bill of lading.
- Loose planks used to keep a cargo away from direct contact with a ship’s sides whilst leaving airways for ventilation.
- A screw jack used to compress cargo, such as hides, cotton, etc., into the holds of merchant ships, to get more in.
- A square net of rope or wire used to hoist a large number of smaller items of cargo in or out of the hold.
- A diagram of a vessel’s cargo spaces, drawn either in plan or section.
- Pieces of square timber fixed fore-and-aft between deck beams to support the deck planking of wooden ships.
Carnegie, William, Earl of Northesk
- (1758-1831) British admiral who was known for his involvement with the Nore mutiny, in 1797, where he unsuccessfully presented the seamen’s’ grievances to the king, as a result of which he resigned his command of the Monmouth. He was third in command at the Battle of Trafalgar and was made a Knight of the Bath for his services in action.
- Seamen’s slang for hypocrisy and cant. After Captain Carny who was mild ashore and unbearable at sea.
- The open space where the captain of a galley slept, under the poop deck.
- A pivoted, unwieldy, form of bridge used on ancient vessels to board enemy ship’s, before accurate guns made them unnecessary.
- In the Royal Navy, the commissioned officer who was responsible for all the ship’s woodwork, including the hull, masts, spars and boats. In action he was in charge of repair parties plugging shot holes and repairing damaged masts and spars. In merchant ships the carpenter’s duties were the same, but his rank was petty officer.
- 1. A cable stopper comprising a metal hinged-topped box, in one side of which was grooved to take the lay of a wire rope and into the other side of which was driven a wooden wedge. 2. A small plug of oakum or wood, used to temporarily repair gunshot holes in battle.
- A passageway that ran along the insides of the hull, below the waterline, along which the Carpenter or his mates could quickly gain access to shot-holes, or other leaks.
- Larger 14-17c Mediterranean three-masted (sometimes four) square-rigged ship with lateen mizzen (also lateen rig on fourth mast, if it had one).
- A flat knot used for joining hawsers, due to its ability to pass round a capstan without jamming between its whelps. A bight is formed in one rope; the end of the other rope is passed through it, over the cross of the first rope and then brought back through the loop.
- The supports at each end of the windlass barrel. Also windlass bitts.
- To take an enemy ship by boarding.
- 1. (verb) The breaking or parting of masts, spars, hawsers, etc., suddenly put under too much strain. 2. (noun) A parted piece of rigging being carried downwind.
Carry lee helm
- To correct a ship’s tendency to fall off, by keeping the rudder a little to weather. cf carry weather helm, which is the opposite, when a ship’s inclination is to turn into the wind.
- 1. The order to resume duties. 2. To add more sail, even when the wind is strong.
Carry the tide
- To gain advantage from the tidal flow.
Carry weather helm
- To correct a ship’s tendency to turn into the wind, by keeping the rudder a little away. cf carry lee helm, which is the opposite, when a ship’s inclination is to fall off.
- 1. Ships or ship’s boats used to communicate with the enemy, by flying a white flag. 2. An agreement between nations at war for the exchange of prisoners-of-war, during the war.
Carteret, Sir George
- (c1609-80) Royal Navy commander under Charles I, appointed comptroller of the navy in 1639. Held the island of Jersey for the royalists until 1651 after the execution of Charles, and was made treasurer of the navy by Chares II in 1660. Eventually one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
- (c1738-96) British rear admiral who accompanied Captain John Byron on his circumnavigation in 1764-6. Best known for his second voyage of circumnavigation, in which he discovered Polynesian and Melanesian island groups and became one of the greatest explorers of his time.
- (1491-1557) French navigator who discovered the St. Lawrence River in Canada, when searching for the North-West passage to China.
- The science, or art, of mapmaking.
- From 16c gunpowder charges, or cartridges.
- 1. A small Portuguese and Mediterranean lateen-rigged cargo vessel of the middle ages. 2. The staple food of sea-turtles, comprising mainly molluscs.
- Built with hull strakes and planks butt-jointed along their top and bottom edges, instead of being overlapped as in the Clinker-built* method. Probably from the Portuguese caravel.
- A butt joint between timbers or planks.
Casabianca, Louis de
- (1762-98) French naval officer who was in command of Orient when she blew up after being set on fire whilst engaged in the Battle of the Nile in Aboukir Bay. He perished in the explosion, together with his son, whose bravery became the subject of Mrs Felicia Heman’s ballad:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled.
- The cavity in a sperm whale’s head that contains the finest sperm oil. Also the Heidelberg tun.
- Preferably wooden, but sometimes canvas, cases into which were stuffed bits of old iron, stones, bullets, etc., as available, to cause much damage to enemy personnel when in the line of their fire.
- Also See Spile*. Casks are raised, not built.
- 1. To bring the bow of a vessel on to the required tack as the anchor was weighed. 2. To ‘cast off’ is to let go of the rope or cable securing a vessel to its mooring. 3. To ‘cast the lead’ was to heave the lead line when sounding for depth. See lead-line. 4. (v) To make a vessel pay off.
Castaway, cast away
- A deliberate shipwreck or a shipwrecked sailor. cf marooned.
- Letting go the moorings so that the vessel can move away and proceed to sea.
Castor and Pollux
- Seamen’s name for the fire frequently seen ‘dancing’ on masts and yards, often seen in pairs.
- 1. The heavy purchase used to hoist an anchor onto the cathead, in the process of stowing it. 2. (v) To hoist an anchor by its ring to the cat-head, and to let it hang ready to drop or be hoisted inboard. 3. A strongly- built sailing collier that was the type selected by Captain James Cook for his voyages of discovery. 4. The cat ‘o nine tails was an instrument of punishment comprising nine rope ‘tails’ on a handle, with which recalcitrants were lashed. If knotted it was called a thieves cat. Two expressions came ashore, the first from the practice of storing the cat in a red baize bag – when the cat was let out of the bag retribution was imminent. The other expression to come ashore is the expression that there is hardly room to swing a cat, in a cramped space. 5. A small open sailing boat in North America, correctly called a cat-boat.
- Vessel with two hulls. Originally from east coast of India.
“Cat & Fish”
- Hold anchor up with fish tackle to fluke and hung off cat head.
- A small line attached to the rear of the cat hook at the end of the cat-fall, used to insert the hook into the balancing band of an anchor, in order to cat it. The similar line attached to the cat-block was called the second cat-back.
- The heavy three-sheaved block fitted to the cat davit.
- A strong iron-bound double or triple block fitted with a bound iron hook attached to the anchor ring and used in catting the anchor. See catfall.
Catch a crab
- To turn an oar blade the wrong way in the water so that the oar jams in its rowlock.
Catch a turn
- To make a temporary turn with a rope.
- A light line used to temporarily moor a vessel until a heavier mooring can be attached. Also picking-up rope.
- A ratline that has been reinforced. These were rigged regularly amongst normal ratlines.
Catch the boat up
- 1 Seaman’s term for getting ill, form the time a sick boat would circulate through the fleet at anchor and take any sick off to the local naval hospital, for fear they would desert if sent alone. 2 Now used in the Navy to refer to catching a social disease.
- A heavy davit used to hoist the anchor up to the billboard.
- The curve of an anchor cable as it lies between the ship and the sea bed, caused by the effects of gravity. A good catenary, with more curve, is necessary so that the anchor pulls horizontally into the sea bed and so that the ship does not snub at its anchor as she rides to the sea. Chain cables tend to form better catenaries, hence their choice. 2. A weight attached to a hawser in order to produce a deeper curve in it, to reduce the shock effects from sudden jerks.
- The rope tackle used to hoist the anchor.
Cat-harpins, catharpins or catharpings
- Short ropes rigged between the futtock shrouds under the tops, tightly bracing the lower futtock shrouds, and to therefore giving more room to brace the yards round sharply.
- The foremost of the futtock shrouds, which was never held by the cat-harpins.
- Short beams located one each side of the bows and projecting over the side, with a sheave at the outer end, through which the cat tackle was rove, for heaving the anchors up to the cat-head, clear of the bow.
- A small rope or chain used to hold the stock of an anchor fast after it has been hoisted to the billboard.
- The English translation of the French term for the lubber’s hole.
- A double-edged sharp pointed knife used for amputations.
- A means of punishment common to most navies, used to flog miscreants, comprising nine lengths of cord about eighteen inches long, joined to a larger rope that formed a handle. If knotted it was called a thieves’ cat. The regulated maximum number of lashes that a British Navy captain was permitted to sentence for any crime was twelve, a number largely ignored by those captains who used the ‘cat’, as most did. It was a form of punishment generally accepted and respected by seamen, if administered fairly. To ‘let the cat out of the bag’ was the term for having caused the need for punishment. Room to ‘swing a cat’ came to denote plenty of room, from this source. See also flogging and thieves’ cat.
Cat’s out of the bag
- Referred originally to the cat o’nine tails, but came to mean that any trouble is due.
Cat’s Paw or catspaw
- 1. A twisting hitch made in a bight of rope to form two eyes, through which the hook of a tackle could be passed. 2. A ruffle caused by the wind on the water, indicating the approaching end of a calm. Old sailors would then stroke a backstay and whistle, to encourage the wind.
- Held the anchor “cock-billed”
- The large tackle rigged from the cat-head, used to weigh the anchor. Tradition has it that the name is from the practice of carving a lion’s head on the end of the cat-head, but this is probably an unsolvable chicken-and-egg situation.
Catting & Fishing
- See cat and fish.
- Being sick; vomiting.
- An elevated walkway, without handholds, between the fore and aft parts of a ship, across the waist.
- The verb and noun for the sealing of seams in a vessel’s hull to make it watertight, by compressing oakum into the seams and sealing with hot pitch or resin to keep it from rotting.
- Those employed in caulking.
- An iron chisel-shaped tool used for compressing oakum into seams, when struck with a caulking mallet.
- A wedge-shaped wooden mallet used with a caulking iron to force oakum into seams between timbers or deck planks.
- In Elizabethan times, a causeway or raised roadway.
Cavendish (sometimes Candish), Thomas
- (1555-92) British navigator who accompanied Sir Richard Grenville on his voyage to colonise Virginia, following which he set out to circumnavigate the world in 1586, arriving back just in time to miss the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. He died on the return trip after attempting a further circumnavigation in 1592, which failed to pass through the Straits of Magellan.
- Thick horizontal timber bolted to partner to form a large cleat.
- Disturbance of the water caused by the negative pressure created when a ship passes through.
- The inside planking of a vessel. What we call the ceiling ashore is called the deckhead aboard ship.
- Any body on the celestial sphere, such as the moon, sun, etc. Also heavenly body.
- The means by which the positions of heavenly bodies can be identified, by reference to the equator, using right ascension and declination, or to the horizon, by using altitude and azimuth.
- The apparent heavenly line coinciding with the terrestrial equator. Also equinoctial.
Celestial equator coordinate system
- A navigational system based on terrestrial points of reference, such as the poles and equator.
- The great circle located halfway between the zenith and the nadir. Also called rational horizon.
- A body’s apparent angular distance north or south of the ecliptic.
- A body’s angular distance along the ecliptic, from the equinox to a point where a perpendicular drops from it to the ecliptic.
- Great circles through the celestial poles, coinciding with the terrestrial meridians. Also hour circles.
- The north and south poles.
- The imaginary sphere onto which the stars appear to be projected, referred to as such in navigation.
- The north-eastern edge of the Dogger Bank, where the seas can be very dangerous during north-westerly gales.
- 1. A strip of sennit nailed to a staysail boom, with short gaskets on each side, used for ‘harbour stowing’ the staysail. 2. Fast rowing smugglers boats of the south coast, often with a dozen or more oarsmen, in which they would dash to France and back in the dark.
Centre of buoyancy
- The centre of flotation or displacement of a vessel, about which it seems to be poised, where all forces meet.
Centre of effort
- The position on a sail plan where theoretically all the wind forces act.
Centre of lateral resistance
- A point theoretically at the geometric centre of the side underwater profile of a vessel, upon which side forces act.
Centreboard, centre board
- A drop keel on a boat, used in boats of shallow draught to increase the depth of their keel by lowering it and improving the vessels resistance to leeway. Generally attributed to American boatmen, it was in fact first used in early Chinese junks. Introduced to the British Navy in the late 18c, by Lord Percy, who had a trial boat made in Boston.
Centre Pawl Bitt
- on hand lever windlass. CTC
Centre through plate keelson
- The heavy central girder at the centreline of the hull, formed of a vertical plate with angle-bars riveted to it and the floors.
- The chains rigged across the entrance and head of a dry-dock, with a marker at its centre to show where the centres were of the blocks on which the ships keel must rest when the dock is pumped out.
- 1. Commodore Anson’s flagship on his circumnavigation started in 1740, she was a fifty gun fourth rate launched in 1732. 2. HMS Centurion is the modern day Pay and records establishment near Portsmouth.
- The clause in a charter party in which the charterer’s liability ceases when the vessel has been loaded and the master has a lien on the cargo.
- To rub or wear the surface of a rope or spar. A hazard to all timber parts and standing rigging, particularly, from the rubbing against them of running rigging, braced spars, etc. It was known as the bosun’s great enemy, and was protected against by the use of mats or rounding or baggywrinkle.
- A jib sail that is shivering in the wind.
- Any smoothly rounded piece of timber fitted in a position to save the rigging from chafing on otherwise sharp edges.
- Sheaves used instead of blocks on the yardarms of light vessels.
- Any protective mats or covering fitted in a position to save the rigging ropes, masts or spars from unnecessary wear, rigged at a position where wear could occur. See breeches, hanging, paunch, Scotchmen and sword mats.
- Puddening. See breeches, hanging, paunch, Scotchmen and sword mats.
- A small spar carried abaft the yard to prevent a rolled sail chafing on the lee rigging, on some self-reefing systems.
- A portable mat of woven rope or yarn, used to save the rigging from chafing on masts or spars.
- In place of a hempen anchor cable, chain cable was introduced into the Royal Navy in 1811, and generally adopted by 1820. It was a heavy chain with studs lightly welded across each link to prevent kinking and stretching, as was a problem with open, or crane-chain. Swivels were needed with chain cables.
Chain Cable Lifter
- on windlass
- A long handled hook used for handling the chain cable on deck or in the chain locker.
- The compartment below decks where the chain cable is stowed when the anchor is weighed and secured.
- A chain version of messenger, in which a square linked chain passed round the base of the capstan, engaged on sprockets designed to fit the chain, or vice versa, and forward round two rollers that adjusted to keep the chain messenger taut. It then worked as a normal messenger, by the hawser being nippered to it for heaving.
- Strips of iron or bronze bolted between the channels and the ship’s side, carrying the deadeyes of the standing rigging. These used always to be chain, hence the name, which stuck.
- A heavy pump installed in large sailing ships, comprising a continuous chain enclosed in a wooden tube fitted with valves and worked by a number of crew at a roller or winch to shift a large quantity of water quickly from the bilges. Doubled the speed of pumping out, but with little over half the number of hands.
- Riveting where the rivets are in adjacent pairs. Usually called double riveting.
- Strengthened small platform areas on the outside the sides of a vessel, onto which the shrouds are rigged. The shrouds are rigged over the channels, to spread them, and then the deadeyes are fixed to the iron chain-plates. The chains were often a popular alternative venue for evolutions normally carried out by seamen in the heads, when bad weather made the latter uncomfortable. The leadsman would usually stand on the chains when heaving his lead to take soundings.
- A missile designed to destroy enemy rigging and to clear crews from the enemy deck, comprising two cannon balls joined by a chain, or an iron bar (then strictly called bar-shot), that would spin at high speed when fired from cannon.
- Yards that did not lower, such as lower yards, were suspended from the mast in such a way as to permit them to swing to either side, for control. Originally they were suspended on ropes, called slings, but later the slings were made of chain as it was more durable. Later still, forged steel slings were used, but that is for a later entry.
- Deck mounted devices through which chain cables were gripped to prevent the cable slipping through and the anchor dropping. See Blake’s slip and devil’s claw.
- See Channels.
- Famous late 19c screw steam corvette used for surveying works.
- Made by Watchmen of the Gangway*, usually commencing with “Boat Ahoy”*. To this the usual replies were “Admiralty”*; “Aye aye”*; “Flag”*; “Guard Boat”*; “No no”*; “Passing”*; “Staff”*; “Standard”*; “Ship Name”*; as appropriate. Usual secondary challenge was “Coming Here?”
- Small gun for firing salutes
- Urine used for washing clothes in.
- An area of sea between headlands, but strictly outside the three mile limit.
- (1803-40) Famous marine painter. Father of a son of the same name (1831-90), whose paintings were often indistinguishable from his father’s.
- In Elizabethan times, a kind of mohair or camelhair cloth.
Champlain, Samuel de
- (1567-1635) French explorer who first served under Henry IV of France, known best for his work in Canada, particularly in the creation and support of Quebec.
- (d 1556) British navigator, whose discovery of the White Sea, when seeking the north east passage to India, led to the formation of the Muscovy Company.
Change of the Moon
- The tidal prediction term meaning the New Moon, from it being the time when the Moon’s age becomes zero again.
- Navigable part of a river.
- Rolled iron bar with a U section.
- A buoy marking a channel.
- Seamen’s’ name for the excitement, at the prospect of a run ashore, on a ship approaching her home port through the English Channel, after a long time away.
- The broad thick planks projecting out from the hull and used to spread the base of the shrouds, thus giving wider and better support to the masts. Also Chain-wales. See Chains.
- Orders chanted to encourage the crewmen, such as ‘Let go and haulo-o-oh!’
- The incorrect name for sea songs, used by many supposedly educated writers, who assume sea songs must derive from the root ‘chant’. See shanty.
- Chinese lighters.
- Said of a ship that turns completely around in light winds, or, when close hauled, goes about and then comes back on the same tack, without bracing her head-yards. Also sometimes called building a chapel.
Chapel, Chappell, To
- To back sails.
- Putting a vessel’s head through the wind without bracing her yards.
- The grooves in a made mast, by which the components fit together neatly.
Chapman, Frederick Hendrick af
- (1721-1808) Swedish innovative naval architect, the son of a Yorkshire émigré who was a captain in the Swedish Navy. Chapman junior’s work had a great impact on world ship design, especially his published works.
- The entrance to a channel. Also chops.
- The distinguishing features of a navigational light, such as its colour and the frequency of the exposure of the light. The five groups of light are alternating, fixed, flashing, fixed and flashing, or occulting, and the number of groups in each cycle, in red, white or green light.
- In Elizabethan times, responsible, expensive, troublesome.
- In Elizabethan times, said of a tall or high ship, such as one having tall castles fore and aft.
- (1748-1818) The king of Sweden and Norway who served as an admiral in the Russo-Swedish war of 1788, with great distinction.
- A portable chimney from a stove or coal fire, originally used as the name of the galley fire chimney.
- Seamen’s’ name for on-shore policemen.
- The world’s first commercial steam propelled vessel, designed by William Symington and built for Lord Dundas, after whose daughter she was named, and used on the Forth and Clyde canal following her maiden voyage there in 1802.
- (1756-1807) British naval architect and naval biographer, who’s worked considerably influenced contemporary ship design. He died in the King’s Bench prison, where he had been incarcerated because of debt.
- A sea map, showing the coastline and any navigational aids, the characteristics of lights and the depths of water. Every chart has a compass rose showing the direction and annual rate of change of variation. Dutch and French charts were historically better than English, but still unreliable.
- The level from which the depths below it and the tides above it are given on charts. Now normally the mean low water at ordinary spring tide.
- The contract for the employment of a merchant ship. In a time charter the owner provides the crew and all requirements for working the ship. In a bare pole, or bare hull, charter the charterer provides it all.
- Contract between shipowner and freighter
- The art, supported by the science of surveying, of representing the three-dimensional surface of the world’s seas and coastlines in a two-dimensional plane. Homer is attributed with first recognising the need for charts, between 950 and 750 BC, although the earliest known map is a clay one dated as 7th or 6th century BC, with Babylon at its centre.
- 1. The quarry or vessel being chased. 2. The name given to each of the guns mounted in the bows or stern, hence called the bow- and stern-chase, and used to fire directly ahead or astern. Also sometimes chase guns or chasers, cf. 3. Sometimes referred to the bow of a ship.
- To pursue a vessel with the intention of capturing her, or interrogating her crew.
Chase guns, chasers
- Chase guns or chasers were guns temporarily moved to fire through gunports temporarily cut in the bows or stern, to fire from gun deck level and not from the upper deck, as were the bow- or stern-chase guns.
- French two/three mast flush deck ship used as a tidal coaster, privateer or small warship, mostly in 18 & 19c. The foremast was nearly vertical and stepped far forward and with small sail area and they usually had a lateen mizen. The French term means ‘tide chaser’.
Chateau-Renault, François Louis de Rousselet, Marquis de
- (1637-1716) French admiral, who transferred to the navy in 1661, after three years army service, which was not uncommon in those times. He was made a marshal of France in 1703.
Chatham or Chats
- One of the principal naval ports of England, one of three royal dockyards, located on the River Medway in Kent. Although a dock since medieval times, it was first used as a naval dockyard under Henry VIII, when he first established a permanent navy.
- A contributory fund established by Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins and Lord Howard of Effingham in 1590, to benefit wounded seamen and the families of seamen, who paid sixpence a month from their pay. Despite stringent security measures, the chest was often plundered by administrators. It was combined with the funds of Greenwich Royal Hospital in 1814.
- Ships put in ordinary and kept at Chatham were said to be ‘keeping Chatham Church’.
- The informal name used by seamen for the naval dockyard at Chatham.
Chatterton, Edward Keble
- (1878-1944) British naval officer and historian, whose works may be of interest to readers of this dictionary.
- Open grate for lighthouse fire.
Chazelles, Jean Mathieu de
- (1657-1710) French hydrographer, famed for his excellent works in the second volume of Le Neptune François.
Chearly, cheerily, cheerly
- Heartily. An old maritime expression, used such as ‘row chearly lads!’.
- Larger tartane type of vessel. Usually a corsair. Rig was usually changed between square and lateen rig to suit weather conditions.
- (v) 1. To ease off a rope and then secure it again. 2. To slow down the speed with which a rope is running, by making a turn or two around the bitts. 3. To stop a vessel’s headway.
- 1. To check a cable was to slow the rate of veering. 2. To check-in a yard was to brace it in a little. 3. To check a rope was to start to ease it off. 4. To check a vessel was to stop it by letting go the anchor or by making fast to a wharf.
- (v) To gradually ease the pressure on a rope under strain.
Checking around, of wind
- A wind that had shifted about was said to have checked around.
- A light line rigged to haul the upper eye of a yard up to the crosstrees, worked from the top.
- Temporary moorings used to stop a ship as it left the dockside, to prevent it going too far out into the stream.
- A cable stopper comprising a short length of chain or spun-yarn attached to a deck ring-bolt and taken around a moving rope or wire and back through the bolt, used to used to check the speed at which the cable was paid out by being made of just strong enough to slow it but light enough to break under strain.
Check the ship for leaks
- An expression of the intention to pass water.
- A block made to match the size of the topmast head to which it was attached by a pin that also served as the sheave pin.
- See Head knee.
- 1. The timber or iron brackets fitted each side of a mast and supporting the heel of the upper mast and the trestle-trees. Also called Bibbs. 2. The two sides of a block. 3. The timber sides of a gun carriage. 4. The extension of the bows, under the forecastles of early warships. 5. The heavy shaped knee pieces between the knee of the head and the bows. 6. Nickname for Marine Officer, from his short uniform jacket.
- An old maritime expression used to express the need for a job to be carried out briskly. cf roundly.
Cheering the ship or cheer ship
- A ceremony when all the crew stand visible all over and wave hats and cheer in unison to another ship or some suitable personage, who returns the courtesy.
- A drop-keel on a smaller boat.
- An incorrect term meaning to coil the tail end of a rope on deck, with the end in the middle of a flat coil with each fake touching. The correct term is to flake the rope (or fake, which has become interchangeable over time). A Flemish coil was a tiddley coil of rope, and, if it was Flemish, it follows that it must be cheese. Not done on ropes needed to be used quickly, as they could easily kink when uncoiled.
Cheese of Wads
- A bundle of wads that resembled a cheese shape, or thick disk.
- See cheese and cheese down.
- See Suffolk Cheese.
- An important French naval harbour since Roman times.
- A badge of office of the boatswain. It was a cane sheathed in the cured penis of a bull, with which he beat the crew to encourage them in their labours.
- One of the six original frigates forming the first US Navy in 1794. Although a famous valiant ship, she is perhaps best remembered for the ‘Chesapeake Incident’ in 1807, when she was surrendered to Captain Broke commanding HMS Shannon, after an action lasting less than 15 minutes, off Boston, Mass., when her captain, James Barron, was killed.
- The large inlet on the US east coast, the scene of two major actions in 1781, fought between English and French fleets during the War of American Independence. Neither action were particularly decisive, in naval terms, but the second resulted in relief being prevented from reaching the occupying British Army, under the Earl of Cornwallis, who was consequently forced to surrender.
- Two vertical pieces of, usually, decorated timber mounted one on each side of the topsides of square-rigged ships, where the curve of the bows meet the ship’s side, with a hole or sheave in the middle through which the bowlines were reeved, in order to help the crew with a clear haul to the mainsail to windward. The mainsail tacks also run through holes at the top of the chess-trees.
- A boat rope extending from a ship’s bow to an entry port in her side.
Chew the fat
- When seamen chewed the tough rind of old salt-beef they would take a long time, and talk whilst so employed.
- Wooden cleats for the tacks and sheets of sails.
Chew the fat
- A long and drawn out discussion, from the time it took to soften, by chewing, the tough rind of old salt beef.
- A Chilean seaport and province that was the first welcome sight of land by many an early explorer, after rounding Cape Horn from the east.
- The action of pressing oakum into a seam with a knife or chisel, temporarily, until it can be properly caulked. It sometimes referred to the light caulking of those more delicate parts of a ship’s structure that could not stand hard caulking with an iron and hammer.
- 1. The angle where the side of a boat meets the bottom strakes. If sharp, the boat is said to be hard-chined, and, if rounded is said to be soft-chined. 2. The part of the waterway of a ship, projecting up along the side of the top deck, to assist caulking the spirketting. 3. The part of the ends of a barrel that project beyond the top or bottom. 4. Smallest diameter of a cask.
Chine & bulge
- The description of the way a layer of casks lay on top of its next layer below, namely, the chine or rim of the one above was located over the bulge or middle of the one below, by half a length and half a width displaced. In this way, the cask above rested on four below. This was repeated layer by layer, the bottom layer being well chocked and ballasted to make a firm base to the stack.
Chine & chine
- When casks were laid end to end they were said to be stowed chine-and-chine. See chine and bulge.
- An uncontrolled gybe in which the boom moves but the gaff does not, from its commonness in Chinese junks, which had no boom.
Chinky, or Chinky Silver
- Chinese traders used to cut chips, or chinks, off gold and silver coins, to make small change, from which they earned this epithet. Pieces of silver dollar or other coins were valued in China by weight. These coins broke up after repeated stamping by traders.
- 1. A twist in a light line. 2. A small bight made in a rope or line, with a crossing or riding turn and seized; used in the middle of back ropes and passing round the end of the dolphin striker. 3. A half-crown.
- A caulker’s tool with a grooved curved lower edge, used to force oakum into seams between planks.
- A weighted billet of wood that floated upright and therefore still in the water, onto which the log-line was attached. See Log.
- Later seamen’s nickname for the shipwright artificer or an orthopaedic surgeon (even more recently).
- Earlier seamen’s nickname for the ship’s carpenter, or one of his crew. Cf Chips.
- 1. The ship’s Carpenter’s nickname. 2. Pieces cut off timber in Royal dockyards, when ships were under construction, which were traditionally the perquisites of the carpenters and shipwrights, who were permitted to remove them from the dockyard without penalty. The system was frequently abused, especially during the 17c, with whole planks and timbers being removed, for house and furniture construction.
- 1. (v) To secure an article stowed away to prevent them breaking loose in heavy weather. 2. A wooden wedge used to keep any article of cargo from moving when the ship is in motion.
Chock a block
- An informal name for block and block.
- Wedges or similar devices used to chock an article of equipment.
- Wooden stands on which the ship’s boats are stored. Used to wedge casks etc into place BDD
- The state of tackle when it’s standing and moving blocks are hauled tight together and so immovable. Hence its colloquial use to mean bored.
- The prevailing brisk north-west wind of the West Indies, as known to seamen.
Choiseul, Étienne Francçois, Duc de
- (1719-85) French minister of marine in 1758, during the Seven Years War. Plotted to create an excuse to start a war of revenge against Britain, for which he was dismissed in 1770.
Choke his luff!
- Shut him up! See next item.
Choke the luff
- A quick method of stopping a rope through a block, by trapping the hauling part across the sheave of the block. Released by a tug on the hauling part.
- 1. Commercial quantity of tea. Merchants bought in chops. 2. Seamen’s’ term for a Chinese bribe, or for Customs revenue, which was considered to be equally offensive.
- Whaler crewmen whose task it was to chop up the carcass.
Chopping, or choppy sea
- See short sea.
- The place where tides meet or where a channel meets the open sea. Also chapp.
Chops of the Channel
- The western mouth of the English Channel, between Cornwall and Brittany.
- Food, after the Chinese “chow-chow”.
- Shark meat, salt pork and biscuit.
- Naval slang for civilised.
- (1764-93) An English seaman, from the Isle of Man, who was a protégé of Captain William Bligh, who acted as lieutenant on the Bounty during her voyage to Tahiti in 1788. After falling out for various reasons, Christian led the mutiny, resulting in Bligh’s famous open boat journey of escape and in Christian’s people setting up home on Pitcairn Island, where he died.
- Captain’s Christmas morning rounds, accompanied by the lowest rating dressed as a mock Admiral and with the Master-at-Arms and a scratch band.
- Although technically the name for a large watch, it was generally agreed as the name first coined by Jeremy Thacker (English horologist) in 1714, which became accepted as the name for a marine timekeeping instrument. Such an instrument was essential if longitude was to be accurately and simply calculated, and it had to be accurate because the calculation is a function of the difference between local time and Greenwich mean time, the chronometer needing to maintain the latter. It is now recognised that Harrison’s chronometer was the winner of the competition to find a means of finding longitude, set up by the Board of Longitude in the early 18c. An essential feature of Harrison’s, and indeed all, chronometers is some form of compensation spring, to replace the balance of a land based clock. After extensive testing, Harrison’s chronometer was first used during 7 Year War, in 1735. John Harrison was a village carpenter nicknamed “Longitude Harrison”, after his obsession. See Harrison and Board of Longitude for more details.
- The amount by which a chronometer varies with Greenwich Mean Time when checked.
- Shared. A term used by seamen who paired off for the mutual convenience of such things as plaiting each others hair, and watching each others belongings.
Church Pennant, pendant
- An old signal flag, formed from a red St George cross on white with red white and blue fly, therefore formed from a combination of English and Netherlands colours, used to call a temporary cessation of hostilities so that prayers and worship can be conducted, from the First Dutch War in 17c when both used a common pennant, so the other would not fight when flown. Still used today.
- French exiled and active supporter of the king, during the revolution.
- Seamen purposely marooned as punishment, or to avoid paying(Also” Maroons”).
- Originally, the grouping of five ports, namely Dover, Hastings, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich, to which later was added Rye and Wynchelsea, brought together to provide ships and their crews for the crown, in return for rights over shipping and fishing in the English Channel. The first charter is known to pre-date 1278, the date of the earliest existing charter, and their power lapsed when the first true English Navy was formed by Henry VII.
- Japan, as she was known in 15-17c.
- Sailing along a great-circle.
- A seamen’s’ name for a circuitous route or journey.
- Generally meant to refer to the globe. The first was by Magellan. The first Englishman to do it was Drake in late 16c.
- Begins at midnight, unlike ship’s time, which started at noon.
- Seamen’s term for food; one of many.
- 1. Another name for a fish on a mast or spar. 2. Planks laid fore and aft under the deck beams of the lower and orlop decks, to add strength. 3. Strakes on the inside of ships, onto which the knees were fastened.
- A remark that is so inappropriate as to make the ship’s bell clang.
Clap … on
- An expression for the temporary adding on of a new component. Such as ‘clap a purchase on to a guy’ when extra power is needed, or, ‘clap a seizing on the main stay’ when something had to be attached, or ‘clap on sails’ to take advantage of a fair wind, etc.
- Privilege of the Master of a merchant ship to carry some private cargo. BDD
- Whaler crewmen who carried blubber.
- An open iron hoop fitting around a mast or spar, whose lugged open ends can be fastened together. Also truss hoop.
Class or classification
- The ancient method of assessing the seaworthiness of ships, used throughout the world. The old classification of A1 is now only used for inshore craft.
- To beat to windward of a lee shore or other hazard.
- A modern expression for a fitting on a boom where roller reefing is fitted, to take the main sheet.
- The wooden casing to the buoyancy tanks.
- The term applied to a hull having fine lines, with a clean entrance, a clear run and a clean run aft, thus allowing an undisturbed passage through the water, with no cavitation or drag.
- Refers to the ship’s bill of health, when all the crew are in good health.
- The same as ‘full and by’, in which the ship is sailing as close to the wind as possible with the sails filled and drawing well.
- Said of a vessel with a fine entrance and smooth lines in her underwater design.
- 1. Details of the course steered by a ship, during a watch and before being entered in the log, were entered on a log-slate. At the end of the watch the information was transferred from the log-slate to the deck-log and the slate was wiped clean for the next watch to use. 2. On land, it has come to also mean clearing a debt, or just a fresh start, in everyday language.
- 1. A ship is cleared to sail when her papers are in order with the custom house at the port of departure. 2. A ship was steered to clear a headland, etc. 3. In preparing for battle a ship was cleared for action, involving removal of all unnecessary clutter from fighting areas, including cabin partitions, furniture, etc., and otherwise checking and preparing nets, fire-hoses and adding secondary rigging, in case of damage by shot. 4. Clear weather referred to it being fair. 5. A coast is clear when it is free of danger. 6. Hawser cables are clear when they are un-tangled and ready for use.
“Clear a Foul Hawse”
- When at anchor with two bow anchors, the action of wind and tide moving the ship can cause the hawsers to cross, or become foul. The action of clearing them was vital if the ship was likely to need to weigh anchor in a hurry, as the flukes of one anchor would tangle with the hawser of the other. Clearing a foul hawse required the slackening and then releasing of one hawse and its laborious unwinding by hand – a difficult task best avoided by preventing it happening in the first place.
- The document issued by the custom house after they have found all the ship’s papers in order, giving permission for the ship to go foreign, or leave port.
- The antithesis of a fouled anchor, in which the anchor has not been fouled by its cable. It is important that a ship at anchor is handled properly as wind and tides changed, if a clear anchor was to be kept.
Cleared for Quarters
- The same as cleared for action, but spoken in the usual North American language.
Clear for action
- To get a ship ready for action by clearing away anything removable, securing everything else, rigging protective nets, etc.
Clear for running
- Description of a rope that has been carefully coiled with the end underneath, so that it is able to run out smoothly and without tangling.
- 1. A ship lying at two anchors, with each hawse leading directly to its anchor, without crossing the other hawse, was said to have a clear hawse. cf Cross in the hawse, fouled hawse and open hawse. 2. The evolution of disentangling a foul hawse, caused by the effects of wind and tide. Also open hawse.
Clear hawse slip
- A slip used to temporarily secure the ends of a foul hawse whilst it is being cleared.
- In pilotage, a transit line chosen to mark the edge of a danger area.
Clear lower deck!
- An order for all hands to stop work and muster on the upper deck to hear an announcement, with the few exceptions of those who can’t leave their assigned task unattended.
Clear ones yardarm
- Make sure the blame for something that has gone wrong would not attach to oneself.
- 1. A device of wood or metal with two arms, fixed at various places around the ship, to which falls or other ropes can be made fast by taking it in turns around the arms. 2. Wooden wedges on the yards to prevent sail earrings from slipping off.
- Seamen’s’ expression for big ears.
- To bend over and flatten down a nail or bolt. Also clinch.
- Hammering a bolt head over a washer to mushroom it out. The bolt head was held against another hammer and the bolt shaft would also swell up and shorten, which strengthened the metal and made a tighter fit.
Clerk of the Cheque
- Officer of control in a dockyard or royal port.
- The first steam powered vessel built in the USA, designed by Robert Fulton, whose maiden voyage on the East Hudson River was in 1807.
- (1745-86) English marine artist and naval draughtsman, who accompanied midshipman Horatio Nelson on the polar expedition of 1773, and whose sketches are a useful record of their experiences. He became a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and was appointed painter to the Prince of Wales, later George IV. He died when he fell over a cliff at Dover, as one would.
- 1. The lower aftermost corner of a fore-and-aft sail, or the two lower corners of a square sail, onto which the sheet is fastened. 2. The lanyards and nettles used to sling a hammock from hooks on the deck beams. Also clue.
- An iron ring or eyelet with two or more holes, stitched into the clew of a sail, through which ropes pass or are attached. Also clue cringle.
- To use clew lines as downhauls by keeping sheets taut when lowering yards.
- 1. Hammocks hang from clews, so to be clewed up with someone is to serve on the same ship. 2. It also sometimes was used to refer to a group of seamen joining together for a run ashore, or similar adventure. 3. Seamen’s slang to describe someone who is very knowledgeable at their work.
- The clew line, or tackle, attached to the clews of a course, from which they run to the centre of the yard and are used to pull the clews up and inwards to ‘goose-wing’ a sail, by which it is drawn up and trussed to the yard. Clew garnets are the name given to these items on the courses, whilst on other sails they are just called clew lines. Yet another mystery of the sea.
- Three or four rings formed into a single iron cringle at the clew of a sail, onto which the running rigging is attached. See Spectacles, spectacle clew, spectacle iron.
Clew line, clue line
- The tackle of any sail, except the courses, by which it is drawn up and trussed to the yard. On the courses they are called clew garnets.
Clew line block
- A block through which a clew line is rove.
Clew to earring
- Said when the clew of a sail has been hauled up to the earring.
- To haul the clews of a sail up to its yard by the clewlines.
Clifford’s lowering gear
- A mid 19c form of davit rigging that enabled a boat to be lowered by one man, comprising two three sheave friction blocks with leads to a roller that when turned released the ropes by unwinding.
- 1. To fasten a rope to an object by a half hitch with the end stopped back on itself by a seizing. The stopped part was the end, so to run a rope out to its clinch was to run it out as far as possible. 2. To bring two things together tightly and fix them with a clinch, or clench, nail, by turning over the ends of nails fastening through the planking, or similar. 3. The old term for the attachment of a hemp anchor cable to a vessel.
- A method of ship or boat building with the outer timbers or running planks laid fore-and-aft and overlapped horizontally, i.e. with the bottom edge of one plank overlapping the top edge of the plank below. Eventually usually limited to small boat building. cf Carvel method.
- Joint in which the two members overlap.
- Strengthening pieces at the corners of a gaff sail.
- Plating with overlapping strakes.
- The throat of a gaff or boom.
- Two similar shaped hooks attached to a thimble, used for small tackles. Or a ring or thimble made with two hooks facing in opposite directions.
- High speed merchant sailing ships first developed early 19c on the American east coast. Usually three-masted full-rigged ships, sometimes four-masted, with an increased sail area often with staysails and moonsails above the royals and using studding sails whenever possible. The largest clipper, Great Republic had a cargo capacity of 5400tons, was 100m long and carried 1253m² of sail when fully rigged, and the fastest clipper, Lightning, was capable of travelling at 18 knots. The record time for a run from New York to Hong Kong was 81 days, set by the clipper Oriental. Clippers were only beaten when steam came to rule, although a few clippers survived as training ships and museums.
- The name for a bow shape that has delicate concave curves forward above the water-line.
- Said of a vessel with a concave bow, fine lines and raked masts.
- As calm as an old case clock.
- Said of something near the ship.
- Said of a ship’s planks that have been so well formed and fastened as to not need caulking.
- A type of block.
- When a signal flag cannot be hoisted higher on its halyard, it is closed-up.
- The state of a vessel sailing as close to the wind as possible, with her sails full and not shivering. A square-rigged ship could get as close as about six points off the wind, while a fore-and-aft-rigged ship could get to four points off the wind. Modern sailing boats with the narrow high Bermuda rig can get even closer to the wind.
- Extremely close-hauled, so that even a little more so would take the vessel aback.
- Said of a vessel with its internal planking so close to the sides that there is no air space.
- The name of strong wooden barriers with loopholes, rigged on the decks of merchant ships, behind which the crew could fire on and defend themselves against privateers. It came to mean fighting close to an enemy ship.
- The state of a square-rigged ship when all the topsail reefs have been taken in.
Close the land
- Approach the land.
Close to the wind
- Sailing close to the wind is to sail as nearly as possible towards the compass point from which the wind is blowing.
- To provide the running rigging and sails of a vessel.
- Can mean the lowest sails meet the deck. Also, ‘well clothed’ means a well fitted set of sails.
- The name for the set of rigging holding bowsprit in position. cf apparel for the masts.
- The term for a single strip or width of canvas, from which sails are made. Usually 24 inches wide.
- Boards split radially from a tree, used in the best clinker-built ships.
- A bend formed by two half hitches around an object to be secured.
- The rarely used topmost square sail on some clippers.
- A rag or cloth. Also a blow: “I fetched him a clout i’ the ear.”
- A method of fastening any part of a rope onto a post or similar object, by taking two turns in a rope, passing the lower over the upper and slipping both over the object to be secured.
Clowes, Sir William Laird
- (1856-1905) British naval writer, best known for The Royal Navy, its History from the Earliest Times, which is still the only complete history on this subject, although now largely out-dated.
- 1. (v) To drift downstream with the current, with the anchor down. 2. A spar set at the foot of a triangular sail.
- The action of a vessel drifting with the current with the anchor down to control itself. Also called dredging. cf kedging.
- A last resort method of tacking, used when embayed on a lee shore in bad weather, when the ship could not tack successfully. The ship would be close-hauled on the port tack, would fail to stay, when the starboard anchor would be let go, with a spring to the quarter; the spring would bring the quarter to the wind, the cable slipped, the spring cut and the ship would be brought up close-hauled on the starboard tack. As simple as that! It does not work for fore-and-aft-rigged ships, as they do not gather sternway the same way.
- See Clew-garnets.
- See Clew-line.
Clue Sabran, M de la
- (c.1703-59) French admiral.
Clue to earring, from
- Thorough going, out-and-out, applied to a seaman.
- A large wooden block with a wide swallow and with a length equal to twice the circumference of the rope used, used for heavy everyday work on board ship.
- Short beams projecting at the bows to which the anchor is suspended when the cable has been unshackled for mooring to a buoy.
- An American term for the thwartships plank at the bow of a whaleboat, which had a notch to take the whaleman’s left knee to steady him.
- 1. Originally, the forward part of the cabin, under the poop deck, but later referred to the area just forward of the great cabin. On larger ships the lower coach was known as the great coach or steerage and the upper coach was known as the roundhouse or upper coach. On a flag-ship the coach was occupied by the flag-captain, otherwise the master would usually occupy it.
- The coach, by any other name would smell as sweet.
- The navy name for the men who rowed the admiral’s barge or the captain’s galley. It later came to be applied to the liverymen who row state barges.
- The old name for a cabin top, usually in yachts.
Coach whipping, coachwipping
- A traditional type of sennit work commonly done by boatswains and their mates, forming a square herring-bone pattern. Usually used to decorate a rope or stanchion, to make the ship smart and tiddley.
- 1. A sunken mortise or projections on a shaped timber, made to fit into recesses shaped into the adjacent timber, used in made masts and spars to make a stronger lateral joint and to stop the pieces sliding and drawing apart. 2. The cylindrical metal bush bearing in a sheave, originally wooden but later brass, fixed through the middle of a block, by means of two riveted end plates to take the pin, to keep the block from wearing and splitting. Also called coques or coak dowels.
- The use of coaks in spars or timbers to join them together more strongly.
- A manual method of unloading coal.
- The raised framework around a hatch or doorway that prevents water from running in off the deck.
- A cable stopper used to control the cable when veering, from the hatchway. Also hatchway stopper.
- A graze caused by hitting a shin on the raised coaming around a hatch. Also hatch rash.
- The cylindrical bronze or gun metal bearing fitted in the lignum vitae sheeve/ shiver of a block., originally wooden but later metal, fixed through the middle of a block, by means of two riveted end plates to take the pin, to keep the block from wearing and splitting. Also called coques or coak dowels. Invented and patented in 1781 by Walter Taylor (1734-1803) of Southampton, it enabled him to give a seven year guarantee against failure from fair wear and tear. None of Taylor’s blocks failed during the battle of Trafalgar.
Coarse metal and Fine metal
- Grades of gunmetal; there was a 3:2 price difference between the two grades, so quality versus quantity choices had frequently to be made when ordering new ordnance to be manufactured.
- (v) To sail along the coastline.
Coastguard, Her Majesty’s
- Formed 1820 (1822?) by the joining up of the Water Guard, the Revenue Cutters and the Custom’s Riding Officers. Originally to stop smugglers.
- Originally meant travelling by ship from port to port, without ever losing sight of the coast. Blue water seamen considered such travel as gentle, easy and safe, and indicative of someone not really trying and so worthy of contempt. It came ashore to mean doing something in a relaxed manner.
- A vessel that coasts.
- A canvas jacket, painted with tar, shrouding the end of a mast or bowsprit where it penetrated the deck, to prevent water getting in around it.
- One of various methods of doing just that little bit more to bring the ship round, or to get that bit more out of her.
- Internal shapings or hardwood pins used to hold timber joints together.
- Spanish Dollar piece
- A gunroom beating, a punishment used in the Royal Navy, in which the offender was tied down and struck on the buttocks with a cobbing board or a hammock clew, usually given for offences against the offender’s shipmates.
- A flat piece of wood used in cobbing.
- A 14-15c ship between a cog and a carrack.
- The medieval name for a small boat.
- Said of a vessel’s yards and booms rigged awry at various angles, usually as a mark of respect or mourning.
- Cocked, tilted towards the vertical, or otherwise out of true, to show mourning. This comes down from the tradition of “Sackcloth and Ashes”.
- The act of setting yards etc., cock-billed.
- Small fishing boat, like a dinghy.
- 1. A three-cornered hat when worn athwartships by Admirals and Fore and Aft by other officers. 2. Navigators would try to mark three bearings on a chart, which inevitably resulted in slight errors that ended up with a triangular space in which the ship was (hopefully) located. It was called a ‘cocked hat’ from its similarity to the officers’ hats and, if someone was knocked into a cocked hat it meant they would not know quite where they were.
- Cockroach. Also Bombay runner.
- Short sharp waves breaking against each other. See Short sea.
- The space under the lower deck, where wounded were attended to during action. Often the midshipmen’s’ accommodation at other times.
- A particular problem on whalers, growing up to 1½” long and voracious.
- A decorative cover to a rope or rail, made by half-hitching consecutively a series of lines to it.
Cockswain, cox’n, coxswain
- The senior seaman on board, from cog (a type of vessel) and swain (husband). The helmsman and senior rating of a ship’s boat. From a ship’s boats originally being called cockboats.
- 1. The name used by other fishermen for those vessels line-fishing for cod. 2. The name used by those same other fishermen for the crews of those vessels line-fishing for cod, who kept their catch alive in a saltwater well until they docked, when they would kill the fish by banging them on the head.
- The tapered end of a trawl net, where the catch is held.
Cod end knot
- The knot at the cod-end that is untied to release the catch.
- A short heavy club used to kill the live cod from the well of a fishing boat, when the catch is landed. Also called a priest.
- A small line made of three or six hemp threads to a strand and three strands to the whole line, originally used for fishing.
Cod’s head & mackerel tail
- The descriptive way of referring to a ship’s underwater shape being fuller forward than aft.
- Originally a seamen’s term for a load of rubbish.
- Dutch military engineer and inventor, Menno van Coehoorn, 1641-1704. See cohorn.
- Coffee drink with a tot of rum in it.
- Semi-submersible timed explosive that would be floated by wind and tide up to enemy target ship. Early 19c. Of dubious efficacy. Napoleon described their effectiveness as “Breaking the windows of the good citizens of Boulogne with English guineas” and called their use “Unmanly and assassin-like”.
- Ships with defects or that were overloaded, and therefore unseaworthy.
- Early N European sailing ship.
- A small 18th century mortar, named after its inventor. See Coehoorn.
- 1. A length of rope of about 120 fathoms, wound concentrically and accoil. 2. A single coil of a fake of rope on deck.
- The method by which a rope is stored, coiled round in a left- or right-handed direction to suit its lay.
- Rope made from coconut fibres that was about a third as strong as hemp, but was capable of floating and was used to attach to a heavier cable to be hauled in for towing or mooring.
- 15c ship’s boat of twelve oars.
- 15c spelling.
- Woollen comforter.
- 1 The heavy eye worked into the top end of a shroud, for looping over the mast head. 2 A rope formed into an eye with a dead-eye inside.
- A granny knot comprising two identical half knots made in the middle of two ropes to make temporary shrouds for a jury rig.
- A deck-tackle comprising a rope clapped onto the cable near the hawse, with the end taken to the jeer-capstan.
Colling and Pinkney’s Patent Self-Reefing and Furling Topsails
- A system of reefing by means of a roller arrangement on the fore side of the yard. Superseded by simpler methods due to its complications. See also Howe’s close-reefing topsail.
Collins, Captain Greenville
- Authorized to survey the whole of the British Isles in 1681, the results appearing in 1688 as Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot.
- The unintentional, usually, and violent coming together of two or more vessels.
- A temporary patch used to repair an accidental hole below a ship’s waterline, comprising a heavy canvas mat.
- Seamen’s slang for someone who provides hospitality ashore.
- 1. The ship’s identification flags. 2. The name of the ceremony to start the working day, from 1820ish, comprising hoisting of the white ensign in silent respect. 3. A ship’s colours were flown above enemy colours on prizes. 4. A term now used of address of the Royal Marine Colour Sergeant.
- A short length of rope knotted at the end, used by Royal Navy officers to punish minor felonies.
- US ill-fated (?) attempt to improve the carronade by making it lightweight and with a larger bore.
- Vegetable oil popular for pouring on troubled waters
- A piece of wood bolted to the beakhead, with two holes in, to which the fore tack is taken.
- A fitting used to prevent ropes from fouling each other. Usually made of elm or ash and with a semi-circular back like a cockscomb.
- Reach an agreement, or an encouragement to someone dim to reach understanding.
- Said of an anchor that will not hold or has broken free of the ground and is dragging towards the ship.
- 1. Stopped. cf Bring to and Lay to. 2. A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel’s head nearer to the wind. Also come up a little.
Come to anchor
- To drop the anchor and then ride by it, safely and normally.
- The order given to the hands working a rope to stop hauling and slacken off, or to let go sail handling gear.
Come up a little
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel’s head nearer to the wind. Also come to.
- A telescope with divided lenses that gave two images. When they separate, the images show the object to be moving away; when the images overlap, they show that the object is moving towards the viewer.
Come up the capstan
- The order given to reverse the capstan, in order to slacken the anchor cable.
- The challenge called to an approaching boat. See Boat Calls.
- The action of the anchor dragging.
- To alter course to sail by the wind.
- The same as coming to.
- The tack that takes a vessel to windward of her course.
- The early Mediterranean title of a boatswain.
- 1. The naval rank below Post Captain. Strictly, Master and Commander. 2. A wooden mallet.
- 1 An officer’s warrant, the document of an officer’s status in his ship. 2. The period of a ship’s service on a particular assignment. 3. The time during which a warship is in active service, numbered sequentially as first, second, third, etc. commission.
Commissioners of the Admiralty Board
- First Lord was in charge of all business; First Sea Lord was in charge of the organisation of war and the distribution of the fleet; the Second Sea Lord was in charge of personnel; the Third Sea Lord was in charge of materials.
Commissioners of the Dockyards
- Theoretically members of the Navy Board, but in fact detached, receiving their orders from a member of the Navy Board or a Principal Officer. Each dockyard had its own senior officer, a master shipwright, the master(s) attendant.
Commissioners for Sick and Wounded Seamen
- Independent of the Navy Board. Responsible for the navy’s hospitals and for prisoners of war. Also Sick & Hurt Board.
- Pennant that remained flying whilst ship was in commission. Also Masthead Pennant.
- In Elizabethan times, used to mean convenient, profitable or advantageous in some way.
- In Elizabethan times, profit.
- Highest rank in American Navy, until ??.
- A knot made by passing the end of one rope through the bight of another, then round and under the standing part.
- Common sense.
- Device for measuring ship’s speed. Comprised a Logship*, Stayline*, Logline* on a Logreel*. See “Streaming the Log”. Originally named from the actual “log”.
- A whipping made by laying a loop of whipping line along a rope, making a number of turns around it, passing the end through the loop and then drawing the loop back under the turns and so hiding and securing the end.
- E India, Russian, Levant, South Sea, Muscovy, Royal African, Hudson’s Bay, Venice, Turkey
- The wooden hood over a hatchway.
- A ladder leading from one deck to another.
- A ladder on board ship.
- The complete crew and officers of a ship. See Ship’s Company.
- Ships in convoy, used to apply to people on land
- The direction indicated by a vessel’s compass, as distinct from true north.
- Naturally curved or bent timbers, used in various parts of a ship’s construction.
- Developed and first patented by Englishman Dr Gowan Knight in 1766, then by Ralph Walker in late 18c, although the principles were known since 11c at least.
- A device using a magnetised needle on a pivot, from which the direction north can be determined.
- North as indicated by the compass.
- The name given to the great oak trees with sweeping branches that were harvested to use for compass timbers in ship construction.
Compass of proportion
- See Gunter’s section.
- The pattern on a compass card that show all points of the compass.
- A naturally curved timber, harvested to be used as a frame member when building a ship.
- The squeak that a block, or some other component of a vessel, does when it does not like the strain it is put under. A ship complains when her nails, planks, timbers or rigging begin to give way.
- The number of people needed to operate a ship.
- Ship constructed of timber with iron or steel framing. Post 1820
- In Elizabethan times, compromise, or treaty, or agreement.
- See Traverse sailing.
- The device used to stop a chain cable, comprising a curved lever pivoted at one end on a vertical bolt, mounted over a chafing-piece at the corner of a coaming. The cable was veered back to the compressor and then checked by being jammed by the lever against the chafing-piece, on the order ‘bowse to the compressor’.
- (v) To direct a ship by ordering the helmsman. Also cun.
- In Elizabethan times, ideas or fancies.
- The person who cons a vessel by giving directions to the helmsman.
- Giving verbal directions to the helmsman. Also conning or cunning.
- Travel expenses when on leave and due to report back to a different base.
- ?The order to cease.
- Steering a vessel.
Continental System, The, or Blockade
- By Napoleon from inside Europe, against trade with UK.
- In maritime law, those articles of a warlike nature which a belligerent nation can prevent reaching an enemy by way of neutral shipping.
- In Elizabethan times, an Exchange.
- A wind that lay in the twelve point sector of the compass that a ship was unable to steer into, so preventing her from lying her course. The ship would the need to work, beat, ply or turn to windward, if she was to head in that direction. See Foul wind.
- Another name for a chain cable compressor.
- Were remarkable for their inability to cook
- Rounded section iron banding, used to line the outer edges of tops and cross-trees of later ships, to prevent chafing of rigging on sharp edges.
- A floating pub and purveyor of tobacco, pornography, etc. to fleets at sea. From the Dutch ‘kooper’ meaning buyer.
- Smuggled tobacco.
- Said of a ship whose hull was sheathed in copper to prevent fouling and protect against worm; a practice introduced in the latter half of the 18c. From Seamen’s slang for doubly safe and sure, the expression came to be used in land life to mean anything properly done.
- Said of a vessel whose fastenings were of copper instead of iron.
- Protection against Teredo Worm; 1st ship HMS Alarm 1758; see Deal Sheathing
- 1. The name for the collection of ropes and lines of a ship. 2. The materials from which ropes are made, before they are laid up.
- A fine leather made in Cordova in Spain.
Core or coar
- 1. The central strand of a four-stranded rope, around which the other strands are laid. 2. To untwist a rope from its kinks.
- In Elizabethan times, currants.
- Gunpowder processed into beads, or corns, of glazed powder, to prevent their decomposition or separation in storage. First adopted by the Royal Navy in 1580, because it burnt more steadily and was therefore more reliable and powerful.
Cornwallis, Admiral Sir Wm
- His nicknames included “Coachée”, or “Mr Whip”, from carriage driving, not punishing, due to certain mannerisms that were evocative of a coachman. More usually “Billy-Go-Tight” or Billy Blue”.
Corporation of Trinity House
- Incorporated 1514 by Henry VIII
Corpusants, or Corposants
- St Elmo’s fire*.
- One of a variety of devices used to reduce the deviation of the compass, caused by extraneous effects.
- In Elizabethan times, a magistrate or sheriff.
- To Christian: pirates, but to themselves: Muslim anti-Christian privateers.
- Walkway down centre of galley
- In Mediterranean languages: Muslim anti-Christian privateering.
- French fast three-masted full-rigged ship, usually 18-24 guns.
- A ship’s bed made of canvas in a frame suspended from the deck beams like a hammock, used by a ship’s officers.
- +20, Hollow, See Settee
- The arched section aft of the ship, curving upwards from the wing transom and buttock, to the stern above, beneath the cabin windows.
- To brace the fore and main yards in opposing directions to take the way off a square-rigged vessel.
- Braces rigged forward of the points of yards onto which braces are attached, thus providing four braces to each yard. If a yard was braced in the after braces were used and if braced up the counter braces were used.
- A secondary current flowing alongside but in the opposite direction to the main current.
- See Cross sea.
- Timbers supporting a projecting stern.
- Originally those belonging to rich Indian nabobs and far eastern rich traders, used to transport wealthy pilgrims to the Red Sea area and great wealth in jewels, gold, silver etc. Later this came to mean ships that were built for EIC and others in the eastern colonies, from local teak and other timber and crewed by lascars, etc.
- The direction sailed by a vessel form one place to another.
Course made good
- The actual direction made good over a period.
- The principle sails rigged on lower yards, namely the foresail, mainsail and mizzen.
Courts of Enquiry
- In the 18c many pirates held a Court of Enquiry into the treatment of a captured ship’s crew by their captain. If they spoke up for their captain, he was usually treated well, but if not, he was not. This was from the fact that by 18c many pirates were disaffected merchant seamen, who had voluntarily become pirates to escape the harsh merchant or naval services.
- The arched roof of the stern gallery.
- A successful fishing vessel.
- See Cockswain.
- 1. A small capstan with no drumhead, but through which the capstan bars would pass at various levels near the top. It was usually portable and used wherever a rope or tackle could not be served by one of the main capstans. 2. (v) To make leeway, or move sideways.
Crab, To Catch a
- See ‘catch a crab’.
- Modern seamen’s slang for the Royal Navy grey paint, from its similarity to the ointment issued for use against crab-lice.
- Small early capstans, later found only in merchantmen.
- Dirty. Originally the expression for being lousy from crabs.
- Said of a well performing ship. Usually a ‘crack frigate’.
- Sea pie, comprising layers of salt beef, peas and powdered biscuit, baked and eaten hot or cold.
- A sailor’s dish of salted meat or soup mixed with crumbled ship’s biscuits and whatever else is available.
- Set all sail and make as much speed as possible.
- False currency paid by EI Company to their employees, valid only in Company stores at Company prices, used to keep Company servants in debt.
- The frame built on a slipway, on which a vessel is constructed, or supported when out of the water.
- 1. A measure of about 1,000 herring. 2. The basket containing a cran of herring.
- See Bowsprit cap.
Crance or crance iron
- The iron fitting at the tip of the bowsprit, hooped to take the jib-boom. Also bowsprit cap.
- Open linked chain.
- Lines rigged between the foremost shrouds of a fore or main-mast to give access to furl or unfurl the staysails of main or mizzen-masts. Also called stays’l horses, swifters, hand-lines and man-ropes.
- An American term for the whaleboat davits of a whaleship.
- 1. Unstable, said of a vessel liable to capsize or just to lean over too far. Also light or tender. 2. An iron brace supporting a lantern on the poop quarters.
- Said of a vessel reluctant to return quickly to the vertical when laid over. Technically, when her metacentric height and righting moment are small. Also said to be tender.
- French word for toad. Hence the term used by some English seamen for their French counterparts:
- Three-masted coaster cog used to fish for herring and mackerel.
- An iron grapnel used to recover lost items from the seabed.
Creeping for an anchor
- The same as sweeping for an anchor when the cable has parted, by using a weighted hawser to sweep or creep for the lost anchor from two boats with the hawser suspended between them. The theory was that the hawser would be hooked onto the anchor fluke, and sometimes it actually worked.
- All members of a ship’s company, except the captain.
- The name, on a merchantman, for what is known on a man-of-war as the muster-book.
- Optimum: 44G = 320; 38G = 250; 36G = 230; 4th = 420; 6th = 160
- Caribbean BDD
- 1 An agent commissioned to produce a crew, usually by underhand methods, such as drunkenness and kidnapping. A seamen, who had been Shanghaied would be delivered, by the crimp, probably unconscious, to a short-handed ship about to sail. 2 To crimp off a length is to defecate. 3. To sleep deeply is to be crimped out.
- A small loop made in a sail’s bolt-rope, sometimes with a metal ring, used to hold one of the controlling ropes.
- Fitted with iron rings or cringles.
- The lower yard on the mizen mast, and the sail it wears. Also cross-jack or crossjack yard.
- The first step towards a foul hawse, when a ship riding by two anchors turns through 180° and the cables cross.
- Cannon shot in the form of a cross or a bar.
Cross bar to belfry
- (bell attached)(hgv)
- Heavy section of timber running across the bitts in the bows of a ship.
Cross his bow
- Seamen’s slang for to annoy a superior, originally by walking in front of him, but now for any reason.
- Intersecting the route of another vessel.
Crossing the line
- 1. Crossing the equator. 2. The traditional ceremony carried out whenever a ship crosses the equator, to appease King Neptune by first crossers of the Equator, who become subjects of King Neptune, in which King Neptune comes aboard with his court, to initiate novices into the Brotherhood of the Sea. Messy mayhem.
Crossing the Tee
- Battle tactic.
Cross in the cables
- The result of a vessel at anchor with a clear hawse being turned by the wind changing with the tide, or not changing when it would have helped. To clear the hawse manually was a tricky business.
Cross-jack, crossjack yard
- The lower yard on the mizen mast, and the sail it wears. Also crojack
- See Cross-jack.
- Heavy timbers used to temporarily support the frames of a wooden vessel under construction.
- The heavy horizontal bar joining two knight-heads or bitts.
- Dutch name for the square mizzen topsail.
- Said of a series of waves crossing another series at an angle, usually after heavy weather.
- A seizing used where the two items to be joined cross each other at right angles.
- An ancient wooden instrument used to measure altitudes of heavenly bodies, comprising a cross, or transversary, sliding on a staff that had graduated degrees marked on it. Also arbalest, Jacob’s staff or fore-staff.
- A strengthening plate fixed on top of the floors and over the keelson plate.
- A floor timber that crosses the keel at right angles and whose centre is fixed to the keel.
- Pieces of timber laid across the top of a mast, supported by the cheeks and trestle-trees, used to support the top and to widen the span of the upper shrouds.
- 1. Any forked wooden or metal support for spars and booms. 2. One of the angled timbers mounted on the keel, that form part of the narrowing hull at the end of the keel.
- 1. An iron lever with one end flattened into a forked wedge used to move guns from side to side and other tasks. 2. A crow released at sea will instinctively fly straight towards the nearest land. Crows were therefore kept caged on some ships, to be released if the ship’s captain became unsure of the direction to land, when he would set course to follow the crow.
- (v) To set all sails in order to sail as fast as possible, even to the point of recklessness.
- The setting of a great press of sail. This often resulted in a reduction in speed, through blanketing of some sails by others.
- To increase sail.
- An arrangement of small lines all emanating from a long block and used to suspend an awning, or similar.
- The modern term for the Senior WRNS accommodation.
- 1. The top of a block. 2. On an anchor, the junction of the shank and the arms.
- A method of finishing off the end of a cable, by whipping it a bit short of the end, which is then unlaid and the strand formed into a crown and finished off.
- Originally a plait formed with crown and diamond knots, but it came to mean any plait containing crown and other knots.
- A voyage to various destinations, usually unaccompanied.
Cruise the Marshalsea
- Pretend to be a seaman
Cruisers and Convoys Act 1708
- Introduced Prize Money.
- In Elizabethan times, to gather up or gain strength.
- Hoys of Newcastle.
- A chain holding the heel of the jib-boom tight to the bowsprit head.
- First planted the idea that English Navy could operate outside home waters.
- Regulating petty officer or ship’s policeman
- 1. The triangular plate fixed horizontally in the stern, onto which longitudinal members were attached. 2. A U-shaped swivel holder for a boat’s oars, that came to replace pairs of thole pins in some boats.
Crutching the backstays
- The method of holding the weather backstay away from the top by crutching it in an outrigger rigged on the top, to give better lateral pull thus helping support the topmast.
- A heavy clinker planking bulkhead between the space under the forecastle and the waist, to allow it to be defended against borders.
Cuckolds knot, or neck
- 1. A loop in the anchor cable, dropped over the upright of the riding bitts. 2. The seizing of a rope to a spar.
- 1. A cabin in the fore part of a vessel. 2. A top deck cabin, used by the Captain or some other bigwig. 3. A room in a large ship, where officers eat. 4. The servant that works in the cuddy, for the senior officer of a merchant ship.
- The term for laying a ship up in a dry dock, for repairs or refitting.
- Larger than a cannon, firing iron balls. Culverin Weighed 4000lbs, 18 pound ball, 460 yds ‘point blank’, 2650 yds at 10 degrees. The longest muzzle-loading gun in use in Elizabethan times, having a smooth bore and firing round shot of about 17 pounds weight.
- Seamen’s slang for something for nothing, or a back-hander, or unofficial commission, or something obtained without payment, such as tips to Customs, etc., from Pidgin Chinese for Thank you!
- (v) To direct a ship by ordering the helmsman. Also con.
- See conning. Also, in Elizabethan times this was used to describe someone skilful or clever.
Cunningham’s Self-Reefing Topsail
- A patented system of reefing by means of rolling the yard. Superseded by simpler methods due to its complications. See also Howe’s close-reefing topsail.
- See mare’s tail.
- Non-tidal horizontal movements of water. Sometimes called non-tidal currents.
- Traverse sailing, also using the tidal or other current.
- Dog Watch joke.
- And Demi # – Brass Cannon
- Sails are naturally curved and it is now understood that they act as aerofoils and not, necessarily, as wind-bags.
- 17th century mortar.
- Customs house officials.
- Inc 1643. Ran the Navy under the Parliament of the Civil War.
- (v) Loosen the gaskets holding a furled sail, in preparation to setting it.
Cut a feather, cut a fine feather
- An early expression for the action of a vessel forming a foaming crest, looking not unlike a feather, at her bow wave. Also see ‘bone’.
Cut and run
- To cut the light yarns by which a sail had been stopped after furling, so that the sail fell and started to draw instantly, in the direction to which the wind was blowing. This became seamen’s slang for sudden departure. Often mistakenly taken to mean the cutting of the anchor cable, which rarely happened because of the high costs and risks involved with losing an anchor.
- The mixture of shredded oak bark, tallow, tar, and red or yellow ochre, mixed with boiling water and used to bark the sails of some fishing and other vessels, as a preservative, giving them their brown appearance.
- A concoction usually of linseed oil & red ochre, etc.
Cut his painter
- A seaman’s painter was his link with life, as a boats painter was its link with land, so a seaman whose painter had been cut was no more.
- The short, curved, heavy sabre-like sword introduced late 18c, used by seamen in hand-to-hand combat.
Cut of his jib
- Seamen’s slang for the characteristic look of a person, or his actions or style, usually used when approved of.
- A splice made into standing rigging where pendants or ropes are to be attached.
Cuts very little ice
- Makes little impression, from the difficulty of a wooden ship to force its way through pack ice.
- 1. A small single-masted English ship with sloop rig, clinker (later carvel) built, with a light hull, a large gaff mainsail, with a square main course, a deeply roached topsail, a topgallantsail and a spritsail. 2. A ship’s boat with light oars and a lugsail and with a flat transom.
- Said of a fine lined craft
- A method of setting up lower rigging by knotting each lanyard at one end and then reeving it through the upper and lower dead-eyes, as commonly done in cutters.
- The curved line formed by the upper sides of the floor timbers amidships, curving up towards the stem and stern, above the dead-wood, showing the curve on the keelson.
- A platform rigged outboard of an American whaleship from which the crew cut up a whale’s carcass alongside.
- The American name for a cant purchase.
- A method of joining two single shrouds by forming a loop of crossing ends and seizing them together.
- The vertical timber member forming the foremost hull component, leading from the keel to the beakhead. See knee of the head.
- Tropical revolving storms originating in the Indian Ocean area or in the Arabian Sea.
- A ‘D’ shaped wooden block with a fixed central hole bolted onto the channels, to reeve the lift.
- A shackle made with two parallel sides.
- Distressed British Sailor. A term applied to those who are invalided home from a foreign port.
- A seaman, from the habit of washing decks in bare feet.
- A timber used to support the shores in a bilgeway, that hold a vessel’s hull upright.
- Knees that are fixed at an angle to a vessel’s timbers, instead of perpendicularly.
- Any timber fixed at an angle, in a vessel’s frame.
- A timber or plank used to join the shores that support a vessel under construction.
- Used for gun practice, as a target.
- The amount by which a chronometer gains or loses each day. Also called the rate of going.
- The geographic term given to long islands lying parallel to shore. Where the grain of land lies parallel to a shore of submergence.
- Dutch ferry boat used on canals and rivers in 17 and 18c.
- Mixed with oil and blacking to treat hull prior to coppering CTC
- Mariner said by some to have been a pirate. The first to account for ocean currents being caused by the Trade Winds, in his A Collection of Voyages, first published in 1699.
- A small buoy with an ensign, used to mark where fishing lines have been shot
Dan, Dan buoy
- A buoy fitted with a tall upright pole from which a flag was flown, to show where fishing lines or nets or lobster pots had been laid.
- A sloop rig with a small mizzen, halfway between a cutter and ketch rig.
- Tackle used to keep the after part of a trawl beam in place.
Dandyfunk, Dandy Funk
- A sailor’s dish of molasses mixed with crumbled ship’s biscuits and whatever else is available.
- A fairlead with rollers fitted onto the port side of a fishing trawler, through which the beam trawl dandy bridle was led aboard.
- A small windlass used to work the dandy bridle.
- A long-haul fishing net with long narrow wings and a long bag, used to catch seabed dwelling fish.
Darkness, Sea of
- Early European seamen’s’ name for the North Atlantic.
- The action of throwing a harpoon into a whale.
- Customary bonuses to slave factors and suppliers.
- One of the greatest of English Elizabethan sailors.
- See Backstaff, NTUS1902
- A small crane or derrick used to hoist an anchor up to the bows, or in a longboat, to weigh an anchor, or used in pairs to lower and raise a ship’s boats.
- Originally for stowing anchors, not boats.
- Strictly ‘Duffy’ Jones, or ghost of Jonah. ‘Duffy’ is an old English word for ghost, corrupted by misuse and came to mean the grave of the sea. A legendary Welshman said to be storekeeper of the underwater world, who would take possession of all drowning seamen. The name may have derived from Duffy Jonah, ‘duffy’ being a negro name for a ghost.
Davy Jones’s locker
- The domain of Davy Jones, where all drowned seamen ended up.
- To bring someone back to consciousness.
- The first appearance of daylight in the eastern sky before sunrise. Also first light, or daybreak.
- Air played by fiddler or fifer to announce rum issue.
- The time that elapses between successive passes of a heavenly body across the same meridian.
- The book into which the permanent record of the details of a vessel’s course and events were written up from the log board at noon each day. Also log book, or just log.
- The first appearance of daylight in the eastern sky before sunrise. Also first light, or dawn.
Day Diving Boat
- Diving boat built 1774 by Day, an Englishman, who carried out diving experiments in Plymouth harbour, unfortunately sinking with crew and inventor all lost. Thought to be the first total loss in the history of submersibles.
- A midshipman’s navigation lesson calculations.
- The daily reckoning of a vessel’s progress according to dead reckoning.
- Discharged Dead, as abbreviated in the muster book when a seaman had died on board.
- A wooden shutter used to seal off an open window in a ship.
- A solid wooden block with three holes through which a lanyard is rove and used as a purchase for the standing rigging. Two dead-eyes are linked by a lanyard, with the upper one fastened to the shrouds and the lower to the chain in a ship’s side.
- The point marking the midship frame, where the fore half of the vessels joins the after half.
- Any rough piece of wood used as an anchor buoy.
- A heavy brass hinged plate or wooden shutter fixed across inboard of a scuttle to protect the glass in heavy weather, to keep out the sea, or sometimes used to darken ship.
- The end of a rope or yarn left dangling untidily.
Dead man’s fingers
- Whaler speak for the stalked barnacles found on whales.
- Seamen’s’ slang term for an empty wine bottle. The Duke of Clarence is reputed to have remarked that an empty bottle had done its duty and was ready to do it again, just like a Marine.
Dead on end
- A head wind, blowing from right ahead. Also referred to as dead wind, or wind in the teeth.
- Sailors kept on payroll after death.
- The calculation of a vessel’s position by estimating the speed and course of ship by considering the distance logged, courses steered, currents acting upon it, leeway, etc. Also position by account. ‘Dead’ was a corruption of ‘deduced’ and does not indicate a sinister connection, although the results of many errors of such navigation could suggest otherwise.
- The angle of the floors in the midship section of the ship. A ship with a vee-shaped hull had a large deadrise, whereas a ship with a flat bottom had no deadrise. A line on the body plan showing the angle of the midship frame in relation to the horizontal line of the keel. It is expressed in the number of inches risen above the base line at half breadth.
- A rope that is not rove through a sheave or block.
- Extra ‘pays’, or shares of pay, distributed among ship’s officers.
- Between voyages in a foreign port, merchant seamen were not usually paid, so they became casual labourers.
- The total weight that a ship can carry, over and above her own weight, including all the cargo, stores, fuel, provisions, water, crew and passengers that she can carry up to her certified maximum limit.
- The amount of cargo that will take the ship down to her maximum draught.
- The scale showing the deadweight capacities of a ship and the draughts at various displacements.
- A head wind, blowing from right ahead. Also referred to as dead on end, or wind in the teeth.
- Solid blocks of timber fastened to and forming part of the keel at fore and aft, where the shape narrows and the angles of the frame members are most acute, thus forming solid supports for the stemson and sternpost and other frame members.
- An old name for the parts of a vessel visible above water when full laden.
- 1 Hiring money in anticipation of quarter-pay, in dockyards. Originally, borrowers would ‘deal’ with alehouse-keepers, at very high interest rates, and be expected to spend some of what they borrowed. 2. In 1805, quarter-pay had subsistence money added to it, to obviate the need for dealing. ‘Dealers’ came into landlife.
- Sawn timber used on decks, etc.
- Preceded copper sheathing as protection against Teredo Worm
- Fast smuggling boats.
- Fast smuggling boats.
- Owing more than £20-Act of 1706, see Smugglers
- The planked floor running the length or part of the length of a ship, covering the various compartments and connecting the sides. To a lubber, the floor.
- A thwartship timber forming the support for the deck planking.
- Items of cargo carried on the open decks of a ship, either because they are dangerous or because they will not fit into the holds.
- A sheave in a metal shell attached to a lug projecting up through the deck.
- A seaman who works on deck.
- The underneath side of the deck above. What a landsman would know as the ceiling. A deckhead inspection is carried out from ones hammock or bunk, in a relaxed manner.
- The timber framework inside the bow, giving it strength and supporting the fore end of the deck.
- Watch record of a ship’s progress, orders, actions and events, written by the deck officer on the Slate and later transcribed into the Log.
- Six inch nails used to fix the deck planking to the beams beneath.
- The officer on watch.
- The name given to the accommodation, or lack of it, enjoyed by poor travellers, refugees, etc., for whom a cabin or berth was not available.
- Flat iron plates forming the deck.
- Poop, Quarter, Upper, Middle, Lower, Orlop,
- 2nd=upper, 1st=Lower gun, Deck=Main+22, Orlop+25, Half deck+21= Steerage, Spardeck+22
- The sheet controlling the foot of a studding sail, which led directly to the deck.
- A short rope or chain attached to the deck at one end and with a cable-hook at the other, used to secure the anchor cable.
- A timepiece used on deck when astronomical observations are being taken, the readings from which are compared with the ship’s chronometer.
Declination (Dec or d)
- 1. The navigational measurement north or south of the celestial equator, equivalent to the terrestrial latitudes. 2. The angle observed between the deck of one ship and the top(truck) of another’s mainmast.
- A D shaped wooden block with a fixed central hole bolted onto the channels, to reeve the lift.
Deep, By the
- Call made by the Leadsman when the Leadline* is between marks*.
Deep-sea lead and line
Deep-sea line block
- A single block in which a part of the shell is cut away, like that of a snatch block, in order that the line may be laid across it and held in place by a hinged part of the strap.
- Seamen’s slang for a sailor who sails the world’s oceans and not just a coaster.
Deep sea tot
- Short measure. From the result of ones tot being drawn just at the moment of an excessive roll by the ship.
- Beyond the deepest marker on the lead line. Used to refer to giving something a float test, i.e. ditching it.
- Said of a vessel in which the quarterdeck and forecastle are significantly higher than the main deck.
- Long distance shipping, as against coastal shipping.
- The formal muster for hearing charges of indiscipline. The name was also used to describe those so parading.
- In Elizabethan times, to forbid.
- See Cold Defender*.
- 19c Nile cargo and passenger ship
Deliver, quick to
- Nimble and active.
- Very heavy gun, cross between cannon and culverin. *55
- 9 pounders
- Brass cannon
- Compensation due to shipowner from the freighter for delaying the vessel beyond the time specified in the Charter-Party.
- Used instead of brickdust to polish Great Guns.
- See Fathom lines, NTUS1807
- The name for a vessel abandoned at sea without hope of recovery.
- A type of crane used to hoist heavy loads, comprising a swinging boom supported by a topping lift and side guys or guy pendants. Named after a seventeenth century hangman.
- A short heavy mast from which the derrick is supported and stayed, located about midway between the ship’s side and her centreline.
- An early type of anchor.
- In Elizabethan times, to withdraw from.
Deviation of the compass
- The error caused by the ship’s own magnetism and the effect may be minimised by the compass adjuster. for different headings/ courses steered. Cf Variation.
- 1 The deck seam immediately adjacent to a vessel’s side, between deck and hull (See Between the Devil and the deep blue sea). 2 The plank running adjacent to the keel (See Devil to pay, and no pitch hot).
- Bolts with two visible ends but no middle, used to save money in unscrupulous shipyards, with deadly results sometimes.
- Naval padre.
- Grey whale, for their ferocity when trapped in shallows.
- A strong two-pronged hook connected at one end to the windlass or deck and used to hold the chain cable.
Devil’s Table Cloth
- The cloud over Table Mountain.
Devil to pay and no pitch hot
- Seamen’s slang for an unsolvable dilemma. This is from the devil being the name given to the outermost deck seam, which had to be payed by sealing it with pitch but which was the most difficult seam to get at and of a very awkward shape.
- Seamen’s slang for the action of laundering, or just for dirty washing, from the Hindi word for laundry.
- A form of boat construction in which the side planks are laid edge to edge but at an angle of forty-five degrees to the keel. It was usual for naval sailing boats to have two thicknesses of diagonal planking.
- A decorative knob knot formed by unlaying the rope’s end, making the knot and laying the rope up again. Sometimes also used as a hand-hold at the end of a rope.
- A rock of the island of Martinique in the Caribbean, located outside the French port of ??? and taken by the Royal Navy in 1804. It was then given the new name of HMS Diamond and rated a Sloop and armed appropriately, with lieutenant ??? in command and ??? men. They held the island against strenuous French marine counter-attacks for ??? weeks, eventually surrendering only through lack of water.
- Small jagged pieces of iron used as shot.
- A Master’s Mate.
- Seamen’s slang for something small, such as a dicky run, being a shore leave for the evening only, rather than a long leave.
- Dressed up and decorated.
- Seamen’s slang for a small rope mop used for drying the deck.
- A small general purpose boat with a pair of oars and a small sail.
- 1. Noon for hands (Early Dinner =11.30) (30minutes). 2. A pipe call meaning: dinner, or supper is ready.
- A signal flag is at the dip when it is hoisted and ready to be unfurled.
Dip a light
- To sail away from a navigation light, or one on another vessel, so that it dips below the horizon.
- See Dipping needle, NTUS1906
- Another name for a boat’s bailer.
- Moving below the horizon. e.g. ‘We dipped the beach’.
- A lug sail that is moved from one side of the mast to the other by dipping the front end of the yard around the mast when tacking.
Dipping the ensign
- A method of returning a salute.
- Deep sea lead. 30lbs. Not swung!
- Elongated elaborate knife of late 18c. Regularly used by midshipmen in 19c. Probably originally made from broken swords. Mid’s knife, issued after 1856 instead of previously a sword. Now the seaman’s clasp knife. Also pusser’s dirk.
- To flow out of or into.
- 1. (v) To unload cargo. 2. The release of a crewmember from his duty for a particular voyage.
Discovering the Longitude
- Became a synonym for tackling the impossible in the early 18c.
- A mechanism used to release a boat’s falls quickly and simultaneously when lowering.
- Mention “Observations on the Diseases Incident to Seamen” by Dr Sir Gilbert Blane
- Seamen’s nickname for Admiral Gambier. Also Preaching Jemmy.
- 1. The term for the state of a ship that has lost its masts. 2. Lost a leg.
- The natural level of elevation in a gun aimed along the line of metal, because of the taper of the gun, the muzzle ring diameter being less than the breach diameter.
- A short metal upright fitted to the gun top to reduce the tendency towards elevation. A foresight.
- The amount of water displaced by a vessel when fully loaded and crewed, expressed either as a weight or as a volume. The weight of displaced water equals the weight of the vessel and the volume of displaced water equals the volume of the submerged parts of the vessel.
- Seamen’s slang for ‘the word on the street’, or shipboard intelligence amongst the crew.
- 1. To dispose of something over the side, or submit it to a float test, as seamen say. 2. The sea, or particularly the English Channel.
- Dialect name for Thames barges
Ditty box, or bag
- The seaman’s personal wooden container, usually elaborately decorated,.
- A small canvas bag used by a seaman to carry the everyday tools and materials needed for his day’s work.
- A small wooden box used by a seaman to keep his most valuable, at least to him, possessions.
- A day-to-day record. NTUS1601
- Made each lieutenant responsible for the health of his quota of men.
- A formal parade on board ship, or at a shore establishment.
- A share, or dividend.
- Pay a share, or dividend.
- A large mess tin or cooking pot.
- Small peter-boat on R Medway.
- Another name for bilge keels.
- Any big or heavy job, including a sit-down job in the heads.
- Seamen’s nickname for the Cook, from the time when the cook had responsibility for the ship’s medicines.
- A medicine chest usually made up, complete with instructions on the use of its contents, by an apothecary at the port of departure, for use by the captain of a merchant ship that did not carry a surgeon, often by choice. Required by law in the 19c.
- Heave to in heavy weather and maintain slow way with head to wind, usually applied to trawlers.
- 1 A protective canvas, or similar, weather screen rigged to shelter the man on watch. 2 The rating whose duty it was to be messdeck cleaner.
Dog & Bitch
- (a brace block with a thimble seized round a strap) ERR
Dog & bitch thimbles
- Dutch fishing vessel
- An assistant or a friend. From dogsbody.
- A thin line wound tightly around a rope.
- 1. Not good-looking. 2. To be quiet is to lie doggo.
- 1. Seamen’s slang for dog watches, which came to also mean any time off for leisure purposes. 2. The fishermen’s term for all types of dogfish, all of whom were a menace.
- Seamen’s’ food. A dish made from fat pork and pease pudding.
- Untrained helper.
- The last chocks on a launching cradle.
- A wind direction indicator, comprising a suspended canvas bag, or a contraption of cork and feathers, used to inform the helmsman.
- Two short watches from 1600 to 1800 and from 1800 to 2000, included to break up the sequence of four-hour watches, so that the men would not have to do the same watches every day by alternating. Famously, the fictional Dr Stephen Maturin asserts that the name derives from the fact that these watches are cur-tailed. The term came to be used to express a short length of time in general conversation.
- An area near the equator where the trade winds meet, resulting in calms and light variable winds caused by the local high pressure, coupled with sudden squalls and storms.
- The portion of profits due to a shareman.
- Used by rivetter inside rivet. CTC
- 1. Wooden structure in harbour for securing ship. 2. A strap of plaited cordage supporting a puddening.
- A short spar projecting downwards from the end of the bowsprit, to spread the martingales and to counter the upward pull of the jib-boom.
- Dropped upon, from a great height, to put it politely.
- 1. A six-foot sack filled with hay, used as a mattress by seamen in the early days. 2. Seamen’s slang for anything badly performed resulting in a mess.
- Jewing Firms’ sewing machine.
- A small coal-fired boiler used to drive the steam capstan on a fishing vessel.
Dooflicker, doo hickie
- Seamen’s ironic slang for a gadget too complicated or technical for a simple sailor.
- A flat-bottomed boat used by line fishermen of the Newfoundland Grand Banks, equipped with two pairs of oars and a small spritsail. They could be stored by stacking after removing their thwarts.
Do the honours
- Pour wine for ones neighbour at table.
- (v) To sail round a cape or promontory.
Double angle iron
- Two angle-bars riveted back to back. Sometimes unsurprisingly called back to back bars.
- 1. An oar pulled by two oarsmen. 2. Having two tiers of oars, such as a bireme.
- Cable turned on both sides of bitts.
- A single-shelled block in which two sheaves turn on the same pin, thus permitting two ropes to be worked at the same time.
- similar to galley
- Just married. This is from the need to double the number of nettles clewed to a hammock, to take the extra load.
- A modern jib with two sets of sheets used on racing craft. Also quadrilateral jib.
- A tackle comprising two double blocks, one fixed and the other free to move.
Double plate keelson
- A keelson formed with angle-bars riveted through at top and bottom.
- Riveting where the rivets are in adjacent pairs along close parallel lines. Sometimes called chain riveting.
Double sheet block
Double the Horn
- To pass from 50 degrees latitude on one side of Cape Horn to 50 degrees latitude on the other side.
- An occurrence caused by geographical circumstances where the high tide consists of two maxima and/or two minima.
- Two narrow sails without reefs, replacing a single, larger topsail. As merchant seamen became more expensive, owners sought to reduce their numbers and double topsails were easier to handle than the original large sails, thus needing less crew to work them. The Royal Navy, who could not reduce crews as they were needed to fight the ship, retained single topsails until they stopped using sails at all.
- To double the number of moorings, usually when heavy weather threatens.
- The overlapping part of masts, one below with one above. NTUS2001
- A strake of plating fixed over the shell plating where more strength was needed.
- The parts of overlap between lower and upper masts. Consequently, the space between the cap and the trestle-trees.
- A marine. From the habit of marines to use pipe-clay ‘dough’ to clean their white belts. Borrowed from the Americans.
- (v) To slacken a rope suddenly, resulting in the attached object dropping. The term was also used for sudden lowering of something or the putting out of a light.
- Thwartship timbers extending to the knight heads.
- All talkers and no hearers
- The plate shaped to be used at the junctions of the keel with the stem and stern posts.
Down by the head, stern
- Ship similar to clippers, but less sharp of prow and with little dead rise
- Lines attached to yards or the upper corners of sails and passing down through the loops that hold the sail to its stay, to haul them down, in the event that the normal effects of gravity are rendered inadequate through the pressure of wind, or through jamming.
- A tackle comprising a series of heavy blocks, used to haul down the main or fore yard to furl the sail in heavy weather, when the wind force could prevent the yard lowering only by gravity.
- On the side to which a stream is setting.
Down the hatch
- A Seamen’s toast.
- See To leeward, NTUS1503
Down with the helm
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm pushed down to the lee side to put the vessel about. The helmsman would answer ‘helm’s a-lee’. Also a-lee the helm, or luff round.
- Roadstead off S.E. coast of Kent, protected by being inshore of the Goodwin Sands.
- (v) To slacken a rope suddenly, resulting in the attached object dropping. The term was also used for sudden lowering of something or the putting out of a light.
- Drunk, as in “dowsed to the gaff t’sl”
Dozen at the Gangway
- Flogging. Supposed to be the maximum number sentenced.
- A ship or boat with a stern extended to the point where the sea would slap into her was said to be a drabble-tail.
- Additional pieces of sail laced onto the lower edge of a bonnet.
- In Elizabethan times, used to refer to a chart.
Drafting ship’s companies
- The whole crew of a ship needing refit being transferred to one without a crew, but otherwise ready for sea.
- (v) To pull a freed anchor along the sea bottom.
- 1. The most frightening and largest of 11 to 13c Nordic longships, so named after their dragon’s-head stems, although other animals heads were more commonly used. 2. Far Eastern Dragon ships or boats were 100ft long narrow vessels used for ceremonial occasions.
- A sail or canvas used to form a drogue by being attached to a spar.
- A gun with tapered bore, fired with reduced charges. Also a short name for Saker Drakes. See Cannon.
- 1. A neat rum ration. 2. Timber from Drammen, Norway.
- The depth measured on a particular vessel, from the water-line to the bottom of the keel, indicating the depth of water needed to float the vessel.
- Figures carved into the stem and stern posts of a vessel to assist in setting her trim and determining her draught.
- 1. A vessel is said to draw a given depth of water in which to float. 2. Sails draw when they are working well and full of wind.
- A spare sail deployed beneath the keel of a becalmed vessel to use the tide to tow the net.
Drebbel Diving Boat
- Boat invented by Dutchman Drebbel, who experimented with his diving boat in 1620s, including one demonstration in front of James I of a boat with 12 oarsmen and several passengers rowed and steered underwater at a depth of between 13 and 16feet (4 and 5m) from Westminster to Greenwich.
- A fishing net used to scrape mussels and oysters from the seabed, comprising a drag net attached to an iron frame.
- Viking ship of about 30 rooms.
- Decorate a ship with signal bunting.
- Decorate a ship with signal bunting, from the jackstaff to the ensign staff, via the mastheads.
- This was the treatment of old sails with oil and/or wax to renew them and help resist the water. An officer who was reprimanded was said by seamen to have received a dressing down.
Dr Hale’s ventilation system
- Patent improvements to ship ventilation, introduced in 1753, using windmills and air pumps, that greatly reduced sickness and death rates on ship-board. A 2:1 improvement was claimed by the inventor.
Dried out in the Shrouds
- Punished mildly for mutiny by seizing into the shrouds. BDD
- 1. (v) To be carried by the action of wind and tide without helm. 2. The speed of a stream or current expressed in knots. 3. The extent of leeway over the ground.
- A sea anchor or drogue.
- A broad, shallow, slow-moving current.
- A fishing vessel that used drift nets to do its business.
- 1. The technique of using a tapered punch to line up the holes in two plates, prior to riveting. This method was condemned due to the strain and damage it caused to plates. 2. Fishing with a drift net.
- Developed to catch pelagic fish – herring, mackerel, pilchard, sprat, etc.
- The piece of timber that connects the plank sheer to the gunwale.
- The breaks in the sheer rails, where they change height, usually with a scroll decoration.
- A temporary drogue achieved by throwing a sail attached to a strong line overboard.
- Seamen’s slang for a complaint or a complainer, particularly when there is no just cause.
- 1. (v) To fall to leeward by the pressure of wind or sea. 2. Said to be done by a captain who did everything to make a faster passage.
- The gaff mizzen sail. Also spanker. Originally it was a sail set on the outer end of the gaff mizzen.
- Of a drifter, having its nets out and moving with the tide.
Driving the spigot out
- The moment a whale spouts blood after it has been lanced.
- A device used to slow down a vessel, or hold her head to the sea in bad weather, comprising a hollow canvas bag or sail attached to spars that was dragged along against the flow and could be collapsed when no longer needed. Heavier ones are called sea anchors.
Droits of the Admiralty/Crown
- Rights due to...
- 1. A large Byzantine oared warship. 2. Large 15c ship built at Southampton for use as a Royal Yacht.
- To let the anchor go, on its cable.
- To fall behind in a chase.
- A boat keel that could be lowered when tacking, to reduce the boat making leeway, comprising an iron plate in a wooden frame that was lowered by means of a suitable tackle.
Drop on board
- Drift leeward into the side of another ship.
- NTUS1701 One form of punishment was dropping from the yard, often coupled with a flogging, but usually preferable to being hanged from the yard.
- Steamed plum pudding.
Drown the miller
- Dilute the grog by more than the regulation three parts of water to one of rum. Something a few purser’s should have had red ears over.
- A small fast transport or fighting vessel.
- The top part of a capstan barrel with sockets into which the capstan bars are inserted.
- A short religious service held in action, from the practice of holding it around the capstan drumhead.
- A drum roll would precede many calls, particularly in action.
- The deck. To hang a thing on the drummer’s hook was to drop it.
- A plait formed by the bight passing through each previous loop.
Dry-card, Dry compass
- The height above the chart datum of an object that dries out at low water.
- A shackle made with two parallel sides.
- To finish off a timber by smoothing it.
- Two-masted mid 19c Russian coastal cargo vessel
- In Elizabethan times, a Spanish coin worth about 5s. 10d. of English money.
- Currency unit
- heavy cotton used by Americans for sails CTC
- Cloth used for light sails or working suits.
- The latticed wooden floorboards found in the bottom of boats were said to keep a seaman’s feet a dry as a duck’s
- 1. A punishment in which the offender was hauled up to the yardarm by a rope round his body and repeatedly immersed in the sea. 2. Clearing sail out of the way of the helmsman, to give him a clear view.
- Area of deck under whaler’s tryworks, filled with water against overheating.
- Alcoholic content 100%, i.e. pure rum. (see Grog*)(NW – Half and half;
- Alcoholic content nil, i.e. pure water (see Grog*)(NW – Half and half;
- Seamen’s slang for 1. A pudding: figgy duff, plum duff, and 2. anything not good enough.
- The darker parts of twilight in the morning or evening.
- Jack Dusty, or Jack o’ the Dust, was the seaman assigned to issue flour.
- Sea mammal often mistakenly thought of as a mermaid, or perhaps the basis of “genuine” mermaid sightings. Also Halicore*, Moon Creature*.
- Used only the tide-flow for propulsion, so had the right of way in a river.
- Chalder* is a gudgeon.
- A temporary fastening used to hold a timber or plank in place temporarily, whilst fixing it permanently.
Dummy gantline, or girtline
- A rope passed through a block, with a gantline attached to it for reeving.
- on iron hulls, as warping chocks etc. CTC
- Seamen’s’ food.
- A cheap rough thin cloth woven of coco-nut fibre.
- 1. Seamen’s slang for the kit or baggage of a seaman. 2. Wooden blocks used to protect items of cargo from shifting in the hold or from damage or leakage.
Dusseuil’s jury rudder
- Nickname of Purser’s Steward, employed in the Bread Room
- Evil ghost ships, the first legend starting about 1660, but name applied to many similar phenomena since.
- Any small floating object thrown overboard to determine the ship’s speed. cf Chip-log.
- A nickname used for foreigners generally.
- Steer just as at present?
- A net attached to a hoop on a long handle, with which fish that have fallen out of the fishing net are picked up. Also called a lade-net.
D'ye hear there
- A long pipe call followed by the spoken words, used before any other long pipe call or other announcement, to ensure that listeners were alert.
- Original ancient name for the binnacle.
- To comb out straight the fibres when making rope, by means of a hackle-board. From this came the phrase ‘to make ones hackles rise’.
- Hardwood CTC
- See Deck watch. NTUS
- Loose strands of rope protruding from a badly made paunch mat.
- 1. To call or salute a ship from another, by means of a hailer (verbally). 2. Said of a person’s origins: ‘He hailed from …’.
- A kind of spear, about 6 feet long, with a head that could be used for thrusting or cutting. Also called a Bill.
- Haul, “Hale and How”, “Hoise and Hale”
- Half a point, i.e. 5 5/8 degs
Half a dog watch
- A very short period of time.
- The equal share out of the profits from a fishing vessel, from the owner getting half and the crew getting the other half.
- A beam cut to form a hatchway.
- When a ship is turned up into the wind, as if about to tack, but falls off again on the same tack, the manoeuvre was called ‘half board’ SMS
Half breadth plan
- NTUS 03.01
Half breadth staff
- A wooden rod marked in half lengths of beams, used for measuring a vessel.
- A small bight made in a rope or line, with a crossing or riding turn and seized; used in the middle of back ropes and passing round the end of the dolphin striker or put into sail ropes. Also chinkle.
- A deck above the main deck that does not continue for the whole length of the vessel. Sometimes used to refer to those parts of the upper and lower decks used for officers’ accommodation.
- One of the timbers extending from the keel to the lower end of the second futtock.
- In soundings =4 1/2 fathoms
- A knot made by passing the end of the rope over the standing part, through the bight and laying it up to the standing part.
Half-legged reef points
- A poop deck that is not as tall as a man.
- A cover over half a gun port, cut away to accommodate a gun barrel.
- The ancient term for mid-channel.
Half seas over
- Seamen’s slang for being nearly drunk.
- Another seamen’s slang for being nearly drunk.
- Long standing gaff without boom
- The water level, or time, halfway between high and low water.
Half tide rock
- A rock that is submerged at high tide but visible at low tide.
- A short futtock used in vessel’s with rounded or angled bottoms, instead of flat.
- Worked out why the winds blow as they do, in late 17c.
Halliard, Halyard, Haulyard
- The rope and tackle used to haul a sail, yard or spar.
- A simple single drum winch used to replace a purchase on a halliard.
- A line made of six, nine or twelve strands used to strengthen reef holes.
Hammer & Anvil
- Sport in which Man 1 gets on all fours and Man 2 is swung by his arms and legs to hit Man 1 base to base, thus sending Man 1 flying along the deck.
- A hanging bed made of canvas suspended from the deck beams by clews at each end, used by seamen. Hammocks were first introduced to ships by Columbus after he saw them in the new world in late 15c.
- A number of lengths of nettle stuff attached to each end of a hammock, by which it was suspended from the deck beams.
- A tarpaulin cover to the hammock netting.
- Ropes lashed around a hammock when not in use, to secure it.
- Rows of netting along a warship’s sides and at the breaks of quarterdecks and forecastles, in which the crews tightly rolled hammocks were stored, when not in use, and where they doubled as protection against flying muck and bullets.
- 1. (v) To take in sail. 2. A member of a vessel’s crew.
Hand a sail
- (v) Furl a sail.
- Used in warfare at least from 16c. Hollow cast iron or glass sphere weighing about two pounds, with a bursting charge of about four or five ounces of powder.
- Worn to protect coat from greasy pigtail* and as sweat rag in action.
Hand-lead and line
- NTUS 19.01
- A fishing line, usually fitted with several hooks.
- A length of timber suitable for making a mast.
- A large holystone that would be dragged about the deck by two seamen pulling on attached lines, to clean the decks.
Hand over hand
- The order given to the hands working a rope to continue hauling in a smooth way by alternating one hand in front the other along the rope.
Hand, Reef & Steer
- The measure of an Ordinary Seaman as contrast with the skills of “A Sailor-Man”
- The call to crewmembers to take up position and stand by.
- 1. A boatwork instruction meaning to do something slowly, smoothly and carefully. 2. Seamen’s slang for with great care, from the boatwork term.
- A length of timber suitable for making a spar.
- A wooden bar used as a lever, such as to work the windlass.
- A small light tackle comprising a single and a double block, used for general purposes.
Hang an arse
- Seamen’s term for hold back or hesitate, presumably from the enforced period of idleness most experience whilst sitting on the heads.
- Early sword, named for the way it was worn.
- A bracket fixed upside-down, i.e. with its horizontal part at the bottom.
- Hand spit for roasting meat.
- An L-shaped bracket used to fasten a beam end onto the ship’s side, with its horizontal part fixed to the underside of the beam. Invariably of naturally grown timber, until steel came along in 19c.
Hanging mat; nippers
Hang on with your eyelids
- An instruction given to someone required to work in a place where it is unsafe to work with two hands.
- The expression for a rope’s end that is a taut as a hand pull will make it.
- The expression for a rope’s or yarn’s end that is hanging loose.
- See Jenny Haniver.
- A skein of rope, twine or spunyarn.
Hank for hank
- Said of vessels tacking together and progressing to windward.
- A ship in which the upper and lower decks got on well together, with the resultant high morale.
- #-due, #-master, #-watch, “#-Stow”
- Weak beer. Also Petty Warrant Beer.
- The neat stowing of sails when coming into harbour. A matter of much pride, or shame, depending on how good the crew were.
- Special decorative gaskets used in port to make the furled sails look neater. The gaskets used at sea were longer and easier to use.
- The record of a ship’s work while she is in harbour.
- Seamen’s slang for easy and relaxed, there being no heavy work to do.
- The group of seamen assigned to stay on board when a ship is in harbour and carry out any necessary duties.
- 1. A firm landing place on a foreshore. 2. Hard-a-lee, -a-port, # and fast, etc.
- A helm order given when the conner wanted maximum helm.
- A helm order given when the conner wanted maximum helm to port.
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the rudder and ship’s head to carry to port. Also ‘starboard the helm’.
- A helm order given when the conner wanted maximum helm to the weather side.
- Beer that is nearly sour
- Tied tightly
- A knee fixed edgeways to the stem and the cutwater, to strengthen the latter.
- Ropes in which the strands are tightly tortioned for added strength.
Hardly room to swing a cat
- Referred to the cat o’nine tails.
- Ship’s biscuit.
Hard to fathom
- Deep, and so, on land, difficult to understand.
Hard up in a clinch
- Seamen’s slang for being in a difficult position, out of which there is no clear route, from the action of two blocks clashing, or two ropes lashed together..
- With difficulty.
- (#-cask = Store for one weeks supply of salt meat etc)
- The large open cask kept on deck, in which the salt meat was steeped (in sea water) on board prior to cooking, from the assertion that the horse had been stabled in it, without his harness.
- An office or room from which the salt meat is issued, and in which it is sometimes stored.
- The strong planking extending as the forward ends of the wales and forming the heavy bows.
- A spear used to fasten whales, comprising a barbed shaft fitted to a wooden shank and attached to the whale-line.
- The foremast oar in a whaleboat.
- An early portable firearm that was fired from a tripod stand. The name came to be generic for all early firearms.
- One who is skilled and qualified in using an arquebus.
- One of the seamen’s name for tinned meat, from a girl murdered in 1874 or one that fell into the machinery in a tinned meat factory.
Harris, Sir Wm Snow
- British innovator who first used a copper lightning conductor down masts in 1846, which was the first effective lightning conductor system. The down conductor was connected to copper plates on the hull and keel.
- Seamen’s slang for taking a horizontal rest.
- Something acquired free of charge, after a Tooley Street warehouse owner who issued free beer to his workers.
- The Portsmouth creek where the naval hospital was built in 1746 (when building started), to which sick seamen were rowed ‘up the creek’.
- Naval hospital in Gosport, completed in 1761, after it took 15 years to build; it was in use before finishing.
- US name for Burgoo.
- A rectangular opening in the deck of a ship, providing access to another deck or the hold.
- A flat iron bar used to secure the hatch cover to the coamings.
- A removable beam across a hatchway that was taken out to facilitate loading and unloading.
- The raised structure around a hatchway that prevents water from running into it. The hatch bars were secured into the coamings.
- A graze caused by hitting a shin on the raised coaming around a hatch. Also coaming rash.
- See Hatch. NTUS 01.01
- After#, Fore#, Main#
- Canvas screens rigged around hatchways during loading and unloading, especially of dirty, dusty or dangerous stores, or as a precaution against fire.
- (v) To pull directly on a rope.
- 1. The order given to the hands working a rope to heave on it. 2. A pipe call meaning: haul.
Haul and veer
- A pipe call comprising the two calls, ‘heave round the capstan’ and ‘walk back’.
- A pipe call meaning: hoist.
- The wind altering direction clockwise. Also wind veering.
- To sail with the wind before the beam.
Haul of haul
- The order given prior to going about, to cause all ropes and tackles to be pulled as tight as possible.
Haul of the headyards
- 1. The order given to the hands working a rope to take up the slack. 2. A pipe call meaning: hands to pull hard on a rope.
Haul the wind
- Sail closer to the wind.
Have the legs of
- Be faster.
Have the R taken off
- Apply to be no longer listed as a deserter. ‘R’ was used to signify “Run” on the ships muster.
Having sea room
- Far enough from the land for a vessel to be safe to scud before the wind.
- Ex-farmworker landsmen.
- 1. The part of a vessel’s bow where the hawse pipes are located. 2. Anywhere between the vessel’s head and the anchor to which she lies. 3. That part of the anchor cables ahead of the ship’s stem, which can be clear, or open, when they are not crossed, or foul when they are crossed, or worse.
- A large wooden plug used to fill the hawse hole when a ship was in heavy seas, to prevent their entry through the hole.
- The heavy planking above and below the hawse holes to protect against wear from the cable.
- Of a vessel, to have pitched her head low and taken water in through her hawse holes.
- Hole cut through the heavy upper bow of a vessel, through which the anchor cables pass.
- A breast hook fitted to the upper deck.
- The foremost timbers of a ship, usually parallel with the stem, with their lower ends adjoining the knuckle timbers or cant-frames.
- A pipe between the hawse hole and the capstan, through which the cable could run.
- A small cable used to sway up the topmast.
- The term for a three-stranded rope laid right-handed.
- The heavy vertical bow timbers through which the hawse holes were cut.
- To harass with overwork, or unsuitable work, or to pay practical jokes on. See hazing.
Hazel rod fender
- A fender made from bundles of hazel rods lashed together.
- Bullying by giving an unofficial punishment in which the offender was kept hard at unnecessary or dirty disagreeable duties. Also, see haze.
- 1. The front or fore part and bows of the ship. 2. NTUS 1412 3. Part of mast above trestle tree. 4. The upper part and edge of a sail.
- The foremost bulkhead of a vessel.
- Sport in which two negroes were made to head-butt each other.
- Ropes with which head of sail is stretched along yard.
- Moored by the head. NTUS 2003
- 1. The direction in which a vessel’s head is pointing. Also ship’s head. 2. A heading wind was a bad wind.
- Iron frames attached to the ends of a trawl beam to lift it above the bottom and let the fish enter.
- A thwartship hatchway coaming.
- 1. The line stitched into the upper edge of a flag. 2. The line used to lace a sail-head to its gaff or yard.
- Paid to Prester.
- Used to refer to the ship that is at the front of a fleet or squadron.
- Ornamental network decorating the bulkheads at the bow of a warship.
- The upper rope at the mouth of a trawl net, fitted with floats to keep the net mouth open.
- Formerly, a ship’s lavatory, comprising a number of seats over holes through the gratings in the bow of the ship, from their original location as a plank across the ship’s head, over the leeward bow wave, but the name later applies to any of the crews’ lavatories.
- Any sail set on the bowsprit, jib-boom and flying jib-boom.
- 1. The sheets of jib and fore staysails. 2. The small platform or grating in a boat’s bow. Also bow sheets.
- Small spars rigged to the top of, usually, fore-and-aft sails, to stop their heads from twisting.
- A contrary tide.
- A timber supporting the gratings in the bow of the ship.
Head way, headway
- A vessel’s forward movement through the water. SMS
- A wind blowing from right ahead. Also referred to as dead on end, or wind in the teeth.
Head yard, headyard
- A circular or oval block of lignum vitae with a groove around the outside for turning into standing rigging and with the centre cut out to form a bed for lanyards. Used instead of dead-eyes to set up fore-and-aft rigging. Man of #,type of dead-eye, #strand NTUS 0502
“Hearts of Oak”
- Seamen’s popular patriotic song written, by David Garrick in 1759 to commemorate the victories of that year. Ships’ drummers would beat the rhythm when calling the crew to quarters:
Hearts of oak are our ships, hearts of oak are our men;
We always are ready, steady boys, steady,
We’ll fight, and we’ll conquer again and again….”
- A wooden or metal thimble with a heart-shaped central hole, circular at one end and tapered at the other.
- The inside strands of a rope.
- 1. (v) To pull on a rope in a horizontal direction, usually by the rope being turned around a capstan. 2. The rise and fall of the waves. 3. (v) To move violently up and down in heavy seas.
Heave and hold
- The order given to the hands working a rope to pull hard and hold any gain.
Heave & pall (or pawl)
- Take in cable around capstan*, preventing run back by engaging pawls.
Heave and rally
- The call to encourage hands on the. NTUS 1102
Heave and rally
- The order given to the hands working a rope or capstan to heave heartily.
- To haul a ship sternwards by heaving on an anchor cable or a spring.
- The order given to start working the capstan. Also heave round.
Heave Down, to
- Turned on one side in order to clean the ship’s bottom
- A wooden lever used to tighten a rope or strop by twisting it.
- Good riddance.
Heave in sight
- To become visible.
Heave in stays
- To come into the wind when tacking.
- Any body on the celestial sphere, such as the moon, sun, etc. Also celestial body.
- To stop a vessel by bringing her head towards the wind and trimming her sails so that she can ride out heavy weather.
- To move a ship by heaving in the cable from an anchor that has been set some distance ahead, thus pulling the ship towards the anchor.
- Bringing a vessel to berth at the dockside.
- To move a ship by heaving in the cable from an anchor that is almost vertically below the ship, or at short stay.
Heave in sight
- NTUS 1204
Heave in stays
- NTUS 1208
- NTUS 1507
- The order given to start working the capstan. Also heave away.
Heave round the capstan
- A pipe call meaning: turn the capstan.
- When weighing anchor, the order given to take the strain of the anchor cable by working the capstan.
Heave the lead
- NTUS 1901
Heave the log
- See Stream the log. NTUS 1901
- Stop in the water.
- 1 Being sick. 2 Filthy and smelly.
- NTUS 0601
- NTUS 2002
- A small line, weighted with a monkey’s fist, thrown from a ship to a dockside or other ship, to be used for transferring a heavier rope or cable attached to it.
- NTUS 0601
- Heavy ropework for lifting and moving.
Heavy press of sail
- To make heavy weather of something is seamen’s slang for exaggerating a problem.
- 17c three-masted cargo ship. Heck means “stern”, so term also sometimes applied to the boat suspended on davits at the stern of the ship.
- 1. The junction of the keel and the sternpost. 2. The lower end of a topmast, that stands on a fid. 3. To lean over to one side or the other from the effects of the wind, the sea or of shifting cargo. Also heel over.
- The chain used to hold the heel of the topmast to the lower mast-head.
- A timber stop bolted on top of the bowsprit to prevent the heel of the jib-boom coming too far inboard.
- (Lammermuir was one)
- An operation in which a vessel is deliberately heeled over, in order to verify her ability to right herself.
- A shaped timber used to connect the keel to the sternpost.
- To lean over to one side or the other from the effects of the wind, the sea or of shifting cargo. Also heel.
- A rope passed through the heel of a spar, such as a jib-or studding-sail-boom, to haul it into position.
- 1. Said of a trawl net caught on an underwater snag. 2. The underwater snag.
- The Honourable East India Company.
- The cavity in a sperm whale’s head that contains the finest sperm oil. Also the case.
- Although soundings on charts are shown as the depth below the lowest water level, the height of navigational objects such as lighthouses and hills are measured from the highest tidal water level. On land, the ordnance datum used to show contour heights, are measured from the mean sea level.
Height of tide
- The vertical height of water above the chart datum at a particular place and time.
- A merchantman with a cruel reputation, which was hard to find crew for.
- The tiller. The term also came to include the whole mechanism of the steering gear of a vessel. Each sailor took a turn on merchant ships BDD
- See helm’s a-lee.
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm brought back to amidships after it has been put to port or starboard. Also ‘midships’, or ‘right the helm’.
- The orders given by the person who is conning a vessel.
- The opening in the stern of a ship, through which the rudder stock passes to the helm.
Helm port transom
- The heavy timber of the helm port.
- 1. A helmsman’s answer to the helm order ‘down with the helm’, given by the conner when he wanted the helm pushed down to the lee side to put the vessel about. 2. The call made when a ship goes about.
- A seaman steering a vessel. In a merchant ship the helmsman was usually a quartermaster. Also wheelman or steersman.
- “Take a walk up Ladder Lane and down Hemp Street” – Seamen’s expression to describe hanging.
- Whaler with a wife on board.
- A heavy trip hammer used to forge anchors.
Her Majesty’s Coastguard
- Formed 1820 (1822?) by the joining up of the Water Guard, the Revenue Cutters and the Custom’s Riding Officers. Originally to stop smugglers.
- Spare spar that could be formed into a topmast or a lower yard CTC
- A large drifter with two or three masts and lugsail-rigged fishing for herring.
- Seamen’s slang for taking cargoes of hides along the coasts of America.
High and dry
- Said of a ship that has run aground in a position where her keel is exposed at low water. The expression came ashore to mean well and truly stranded.
- A pipe call meaning: stop. Also called avast.
High-Low-Jack & The Game
- US Nautical card game
- The highest water level reached during one tidal oscillation. Also high water, or full sea. cf low water and low tide.
- The highest water level reached during one tidal oscillation. Also high tide, or full sea. cf low water and low tide.
High water full and change
- The tidal prediction term meaning the lunitidal interval at a given port on days of full and change. Also establishment of the port, or vulgar establishment.
- Said of a ship’s boat with an exceptionally amount of freeboard.
- Any noose made around an object, or the standing part of a rope.
- Marine barracks at Portsmouth.
‘His Ventilators On The Wind’
- Seamen’s expression for someone having his nose to the ground.
Hitching the messenger
- His/Her Majesty’s Ship.
- Hookers, in Dutch.
- 1. The tendency of the middle, wider and more buoyant, part of a ship to rise up relative to the less buoyant stem and stern, due to their finer lines. this was a structural problem and was solved by strengthening. See hogging and huck. 2. A large brush made from twigs fastened between two timbers, used to clean a ship’s hull by hauling it along underneath the hull.
- A strongly formed fore-and-aft frame in a vessel, provided to stop it from hogging.
- Said of a ship whose stem and stern sank lower than the midships section.
- Yearling sheep.
- Seamen’s slang for the sea.
- 1. The natural tendency of a ship to droop at bow and stern and to arch in the middle, caused by the higher buoyancy where the ship is widest. More extreme in a ship with a relatively weak keel. 2. Scrubbing the bottom of a vessel.
- The strain which results in a vessel drooping to stem and stern, resulting in her back breaking if extreme.
- A cable run fore and aft to prevent hogging.
- The relatively heavy timber secured inside the keel, from the fore to the after dead-wood, to which the garboard strake, floors and frames are attached.
- 54 – 56 gallon cask. 500pounds + BDD
- Seamen’s slang for nonsense and for the sea.
Hoist, or hoist away
- 1. The order given to man all relevant lines and haul on them to lift a sail or spar into place. 2. (v) To lift a load by using a tackle. 3. The distance by which a yard or sail can be raised by its tackles. 4. That part of a sail that is bent to a yard or stay. 5. The first Pipe Call meaning hoist. Sometimes called haul away.
- See Hoist. NTUS 1101
- Seamen’s slang for understanding a matter.
Hoisting flags, methods of
- NTUS 1304
- 1. The internal cavity of the ship in which cargo, stores and ballast are stored. 2. A fort.
Hold a luff
- To continue sailing close to the wind.
- The seabed into which a ship’s anchor is required to do its job. Good holding grounds included clay and mud bottoms, but foul or poor holding grounds include such conditions as soft mud, sand or rocks.
- To keep on course.
- The supports in a vessel’s hold, between the floor and beams of the hold, for deck support and strength.
- Fore-and-aft timbers at the sides of a vessel’s hold, for strengthening.
- 1. A bare patch missed during the painting or varnishing of the surfaces of a vessel, from the assumption that the painter had had a break there. 2. A gap between items rigged to dry on a clothes line.
Hollow iron keel
- A box-section keel formed from bending up an iron plate, as distinct from a box keel, which was assembled from flat plates riveted together by angle-bars.
Hollow plate stern-post
- A stern-post formed in the same way as a hollow iron keel, by bending a flat plate instead of an assembly of plates and angle-bars.
Holmes storm & danger signal lights
- Soft white sandstone or pumice blocks, used to scrub wooden decks. Large ones were called bibles and small ones were called prayer books.
- (v) To use a holystone – what else?
- Said of an object secure in its right place. e.g. sails are home when tightly clewed in; stores are home when securely lodged in the hold; the anchor comes home when it is freed from the ground and hauled aboard.
- Heading for the home port.
- The Channel; North Sea; Western Approaches; Atlantic Coasts of France, Spain & Portugal
- Chinese mercantile house.
- A screen protecting a hatchway or companion way from the weather.
- The ends of the planks that fit into rabbets of the stem and stern-post.
- 1. Slang term for the anchor. 2. A triangular plate fixed to the fore end of the hull, for connecting the stringers and for strengthening. 3. A swivel or plain hook attached to the rope or iron block strapping, by which a block is attached.
Hook and butt
- The name for a joint in a ship’s timbers or planks, made by scarfing.
- A block with a hook on its lower end, by which it could be attached.
- A bolt with a hook formed in one end, onto which attachments could be made.
Hooker, Hookers, Hoekers
- 1. A periphrasis for ship, from a ship carrying a hook or anchor. 2. The generic name given to fishing boats on which hooks are used to catch the fish.
- Tin pots, part of mess* issue.
- A rope with a hook attached at one end and used for various jobs.
Hook the cat
- When weighing anchor, the order given to attach the cat tackle.
Hook the fish
- When weighing anchor, the order given once the cat tackle has been removed, to attach the fish tackle and then to fish the anchor, bringing its arms up to lie on the anchor bed.
- Measure through which the tightly rolled hammock* must pass before being placed in the netting. Hence the expression “Go through the Hoop”, meaning get into trouble, if it did not go through.
- 1. Iron or other metal bands shrunk onto made-masts and spars at intervals, to hold their components together and to strengthen them. 2 The rings attaching a sail to a spar or mast, in such a way as to allow the sail to slide up or down.
- A reach of The Thames.
- See Celestial Horizon.
Horizon coordinate system
- A navigational system based on the observer.
Horn hoop to tiller
- An originally Celtic folkdance played on a horn pipe, adopted by seamen, since about the 15c, and later played on an accordion.
- 1 The points of a boom’s jaws. 2 The outer ends of the cross-trees.
- The heavy timber extending aft and upwards from the keel, forming part of the structure of the counter.
- Good bye, from au revoir
- 1 A foot-rope running from the opposite quarter of a yard to near the end. 2 A rope attached to the foremast shrouds, with a dead-eye to hold the spritsail sheet clear of the anchor flukes. 3. On a smack, a large iron strap about midships, from side to side, on which the main sheet slid. 4. A shallow wooden tray with three sides in which fishing lines are coiled ready for shooting and recoiled when hauled. Lines lashed to the horse are said to have been horsed.
- On which the officer of the watch stood to call his orders.
- 30N and 30S. Where horses and cattle were thrown overboard to save water, if the vessel was caught in a long calm.
- Seamen’s slang for clumsy or awkward seamen.
- A block of blubber cut up in the mincing machine from a blanket-piece to make it easier to handle and quicker to try out.
- An iron clamp fastening between the dead wood and the lower stem.
- The horseshoe-shaped plate fitted round the rudder stock, under the counter.
- The rack, shaped like a horseshoe and placed abaft the masts, to hold blocks acting as fairleads for the running rigging.
- NTUS 0512
- Caulking the seams in a vessel’s sides.
- A galley slave overseer ?
- A vigorous impressment, usually in times of dire national emergency, in which protections were ignored.
- Mediterranean sailing vessel.
- 1. Part of mast between trestle tree & deck CTC 2. That part of the bowsprit immediately outboard of the bed.
- The projections at the sides of the trestle tree at the top ends of upper masts, to support the trestle-trees and to where the yard ties run. On main masts, the cheeks fulfil the same role. Their location is the same as the fourth quarter of the mast, which is called the hounds instead.
- A metal band around the upper end of a mast, to which the shrouds are fastened.
- The angle at the pole between the observer’s meridian and the meridian through a celestial body at any time.
- Great circles through the celestial poles, coinciding with the terrestrial meridians. Also celestial meridians.
- To make secure.
- Brought inboard
- The special flag of the firm to which a merchantman belongs.
- A loose laid line made of three strands, used to seize strops onto blocks.
- Part of mast below deck CTC SMS
- That part of the bowsprit immediately forward of its heel, which could be round, square or octagonal in section. NTUS 0306
Housing (of bowsprit)
- The inboard part of a vessel supporting the bowsprit.
- Cleaned and repaired, originally of ships, but eventually applied to anything
- An unlicensed pilot or other boatman. Sometimes used to refer to smugglers and wreckers. Also called Hobbler.
Howe’s Patent Close-Reefing Topsail
- The first system of double topsails that superseded more complicated systems of self-reefing. In Howe’s, both sails were laced together, but this later proved unnecessary.
How’s her head?
- A request from the conner when he wanted to know the compass course being steered.
- A flat-bottomed sailing vessel.
- The person who arranged waterborne transport from the victualling yards.
- To remove barnacles or marine growth from hull in Graving Dock or when being Careened.
- The spaces between a fishing net rope and the net.
Hudson‘s Bay Company
- Est. 1670
- The preservative tannin solution in which new fishing nets are steeped.
- Unofficial pilots cum labourers.
- (v) To keep as close to the shore as possible.
- 1. The hull of a sailing ship, stripped of its masts and rigging, used for various fixed duties such as stores, magazines, barracks, hospitals, churches and prisons. 2. A broad cargo vessel, with its beam about half its length. Originally a northern clinker-built keel-less, banana-shaped ship construction that evolved with the cog into the Baltic merchantman of the same name.
- The body of a vessel.
- Said of a distant vessel that was only visible by its sails and masts, the hull being below the horizon.
- Floating free with neither rudder nor sail.
- Kept at work for nothing or no good reason.
- Solid wooden scraper used by the scavelman.
- Hanger decorated with hunting scenes, introduced by Admiral John Benbow and popular by 1700.
Huntley Diving Boat
- Submarine boats invented by Captain H L Huntley of the Southern States in the American Civil war, comprising converted boilers 36ft(11m) long by 6ft(1.8m) diameter, driven by muscle power turning a crankshaft rigged fore-and-aft and driving a large propeller at the stern.
- Seamen’s slang for a scene of confusion. “Everything on top and nothing to hand”.
- Rigged underwater across (e.g.) English Harbour, onto which towed anchors could snag in a hurricane, thus preventing the ship from being blown onto land.
- A document officially stating a seaman’s injuries, sustained in action. The purser would purchase these certificates on the seaman’s retirement from the sea, as a form of pension payment.
- Seamen’s slang for his kit for repairing his clothing, from a corruption of ‘housewife’.
- An instrument that measured the density of liquid, used in the navy to check the proof strength of spirits, including rum. Before its use the Purser had to verify proof of rum by introducing gunpowder and attempting to ignite it by means of a glass focussing sunlight. It is alleged that, if the gunpowder did ignite the Purser was inevitably blown up, and if it did not then he was lynched by the crew for trying to cheat them. Most Pursers were therefore glad when Sykes’ Hydrometer arrived on the scene.
- An iron or steel bar with an I-shaped section.
- Frozen water. Arctic and Antarctic types and terms are as follows: Anchor Ice – Ice formed on the sea bed, when winds prevent the cold temperature from freezing the sea surface; Bergy Bits – House sized lumps; Brash – Fragments and roundish nodules, the wreckage of other types of ice; Crack – Any fissure; Drift Ice – Loose open ice, where area the of water exceeds that of the ice; Field – An area of ice whose limits are not visible from a masthead; Floe – An area of ice whose limits are visible; Growlers – Room sized greenish lumps, barely showing above water level; Hummocking – Process of build up through pressure; Hummocky Floes – Old ice with lumpy features, sometimes translucent due to salt draining away; Land-Floes – Heavy ice plus snow cover, land locked; Lane – Navigable crack; Lead – Navigable crack; The Pack – Any area of sea ice; Pack Ice – An area of floes, ‘Close’ or ‘Tight’ means touching, ‘Open’ means not touching; Pool – Enclosed open water, roughly square or circular; Sludge or Slush – Freezing seawater in the early, soupy stages; Young Ice – Flat ice up to a foot thick.
- A single-fluked anchor used to dig into ice to be used as an alternative anchorage.
- A heavy timber beam used to protect the bows from ice.
- Patchy light reflections in the polar sky, indicating distant sea ice and open water.
- A fringe of ice skirting Arctic or Antarctic shores, usually formed by sea spray.
- The navigating officer of a whaling ship.
- The seamen’s contemptuous name for any member of a ship’s crew that works only during the day and does not serve night duties, such as the boatswain, carpenter, etc.
If I wasn’t a gunner…
- Incantation used to time the firing of salute guns, e.g. “If I wasn’t a gunner I wouldn’t be here, number two gun fire, if I wasn’t a gunner I wouldn’t be here, number three gun fire, etc…..”.
- Seamen’s slang for being all right. I’m all right, Jack.
Immortal Memory, The
- What has become a traditional speech given by the guest of honour at Trafalgar Night dinners, in which Nelson’s achievements are mentioned, one of which is then expanded upon, as it applies to a current situation.
Impress or Imprest Service
- The organisation who carried out impressments. Sometimes called Press Gangs. It died quietly and unmourned in 1833.
- The taking of seamen into the navy, or landsmen into the army, or vice versa, when normal recruitment levels failed to meet the numbers needed. Originally, the intention was for only seamen to be persuaded to join the navy, by accepting an imprest, or advance payment of wages, and for those with protections (certificates of exemption from duty) to be excluded, but when things got difficult, anyone would do and protections were often generally suspended in times of great danger. When recruitment could not be achieved by peaceful means, members of the Imprest Service had to resort to the force frequently, but often incorrectly, associated with the so-called Press Gangs. Later impressment was renamed as ‘National Service’.
- Money paid in advance to a public servant constituting an advance of wages, by way of establishing a contract of employment. Used initially by the Impress Service to persuade seamen to enter the Royal Navy, but later, force was more frequently applied.
- Similar to an overdraft; used by Victualling Board to control pursers’ and victualling contractors’ expenditure.
- The order given to shorten sail.
In and Out
- The Naval and Military Club in London, from its imposing gate pillars and the signs thereon.
In and out plating
- A method of plating in which alternate rows of plating strakes overlap above and below the adjacent strake.
- Said of a vessel that has no cargo and is sailing only with ballast to help keep her trim.
- Said of any part of the ship or one of its pieces of equipment that is nearer to the longitudinal centreline of the ship.
- The order given to a boat’s crew, when approaching the landing point, to raise the oars to the vertical, boat them and take hold of boathooks. Also, just ‘bows’.
Inclination of ship
- The angle of a ship’s list from the vertical.
- NTUS 1906
- A tapered projection beneath the bowsprit.
- Short for East Indiaman.
- Spanish Galleons guarding the silver fleet.
- Tobacco. BDD
- An explosive vessel; similar to fire ship but packed with explosives. Also Machine Vessel.
- Boarding and taking. cf Off-fighting.
- The state of a ship under construction, when the frames were finished but without the planking. It was beneficial for a ship to be left ‘in frame’ as long as possible, during building, to help it dry out and so reduce rot.
- The parts of a tackle that brings a load inboard.
- Said of a vessel with her head to the wind and unable to pay off on either tack.
- The ability by which an upright vessel can withstand forces tending to make her heel over.
- Halfway across any channel, or river.
- In the middle of a current.
- The plating laid on top of the floors. In a vessel with a double bottom, the upper layer of plating.
- A timber fastened along the fore side of the stern post, to strengthen it and to support the transom.
- The turns of an earing, fastening the sail to the yardarm, that are inside the lift and closer to the corner of the sail. See also outer turns.
- See Ordinary.
- Close to land. Also onshore.
- An anchor clinch.
- A plate in direct contact with a frame member.
- NTUS 1501 Close enough to land to determine the depth by means of a lead line, indicating that the sea’s depth is reducing.
- Said of a sailing vessel with her head to the wind as she goes about from one tack to another.
- The amount of cargo that a ship can take in.
- To attend to.
- The basis of all modern navigation introduced in 1874 by Marc St. Hilaire of the French Navy. Also, Marc St Hilaire method or the new navigation.
The basis of all modern navigation introduced in 1874 by Marc St. Hilaire of the French Navy. Also, Marc St Hilaire method or the new navigation.
- A keelson formed of vertical plates fitted between the floors and connected to the bottom plates by angle-bars.
- NTUS 0316
International code flags (1931)
- NTUS 1305
- The tidal prediction term meaning the period between the Moon’s southing and the next high water. Also lunitidal interval.
In tidal waters
- NTUS 1602
- NTUS 1304
- Blockade of enemy ports.
In way of
- In line with.
- A lump of salt horse (beef) that was more tough and grisly than usual, from the belief that Irish horses were worked longer by their poor owners.
- Lots of talking, but no conclusions.
- Seamen’s name for a frayed flag or a loose end of rope or twine, or a fender, left dangling free.
- Ragged and loose ends in rigging, or clothing.
- A whaleman’s name for the harpoon.
- Rocky with no anchorages.
- Early term for armoured warship, from the initial practice of fixing iron plates onto the wooden structure of the ship.
- A punishment in which the offender was shackled by his legs to an iron bar.
- A block with a quick release mechanism.
- The general term for ships built of iron instead of wood, first tried out in late 18c but taking over from wood during 19c.
- The condition of a ship in which the iron fastenings have worked loose from adjacent woodwork, due to corrosion.
- An engine in a sailing ship.
- A ship’s guns.
- Used as block pins.
- The Royal Navy’s unofficial name for Madeira.
It flows tide and half tide
- An expression for the fact that the tidal ebb starts three hours sooner inshore than offshore and for tidal streams that are reversed at half-flood and half-ebb.
It’s not my part of the ship
- Seamen’s slang for something not being his responsibility.
- Shown by the sea when the wind gets up.
- A frilly cravat worn as part of the full dress uniform of a naval officer.
- Dutch term first coined early 17c referring to a new type of three-masted Barque rigged ship.
- 1. The flag on the bowsprit jack-staff denoting a naval vessel. 2. Our friend, the seaman, in common and familiar parlance.
- Early name for the rough wool monkey jacket worn by seamen.
Jackass barque, bark
- A three-masted ship similar to barquentine but which carried fore-and-aft sails on its lower mainmast and square sails on its topmasts. A rig with at least one fully square rigged mast, but otherwise unorthodox.
- Any unusual rig.
- A single block stropped with a button and eye arrangement by which it could be attached to the topgallant mast.
Jack Dusty or Jack-in-the-Dust
- Originally the Purser’s steward or seaman, assigned to issue flour in the bread room, whose title came with the job. But later it also referred to the rating responsible for the book-keeping of the daily rum issue. Also, Dusty, or Jack o’ the Dust.
- An additional timber or number of timbers fixed for protection onto the outside of a ship’s hull.
- The Master-at-Arms.
- A ladder with wooden rungs and rope sides.
- A rope rove through the grommets of a reef band, and used for reefing with a toggle on the jackstay. Also reefing jackstay or reef line.
- A form of reefing arrangement resulting in a jack-line fore and aft of the sail, instead of individual reefing lines. Also French-reef.
- Nickname for the cook’s assistant, or anyone else disliked by the crew, from the fictitious name put on petitions circulated in the early nineteenth century, exposing bad conditions.
Jack of all trades
- A seaman capable of turning his hand to any necessary task.
Jack o’ the Dust
- Dusty, or Jack Dusty.
- A pin-shaped belaying pin used in the shrouds.
- A device used to compress soft goods in the hold, or to move heavy goods into place in the hold.
- To clap on a Jackson was to crowd sail.
- The flagpole at the bow, on the bowsprit cap, from which the jack, or national flag, is flown. For the British, when the union flag is flown anywhere else but on a jackstaff, either at sea or on land, it should be called the ‘Union Flag’ and not the ‘Union Jack’.
- 1. A rope, batten, wire or iron stay carried on short stanchions fitted along the upper side of a spar or yard, to which the head of a square sail is bent, or attached. 2. A light jackstay is a rope rigged between two ships under way, for hauling loads across. 3. A heavy jackstay is the same, but heavier.
- Seamen’s slang for a troublemaker or sea-lawyer. NTUS 1010
- Seamen’s slang for a sailor, but now used only in a derogatory sense. From the tarred canvas worn by seamen in heavy weather.
- See Jackyard topsail. NTUS 0411
Jackyard topsail, jackyarder
- A square sail set above a gaff sail, with its head attached to a small spar angled across the mast, like a lugsail. Also lug topsail.
- A rope or jack ladder rigged abaft a topgallant or royal mast, to save seamen having to shin up the mast. Also, the ladder from a boat to a boat boom.
- An ancient wooden instrument used to measure altitudes of heavenly bodies, comprising a cross, or transversary, sliding on a staff that had graduated degrees marked on it. Also arbalest, cross-staff or fore-staff.
- The last tight pull on a sheet or bowline, etc.
- Dutch coastal trader.
- Habitual prisoner.
- Scandinavian coastal trader.
James the First
- The First Lieutenant.
- See Jimmy Green.
- Said of rigging or cargo, etc., that has been wedged tight and is immovable.
- Turkish soldiers on Corsairs’ galleys.
- Punishment, extra work. <./P>
- Seamen’s slang for the Master-at-Arms; probably a corruption of the French “gendarme”, or maybe gentilhomme” (but, on second thoughts, probably not the latter).
- 1. The open ended fitting of a gaff or a boom, by which it fits to the mast. 2. Seamen’s slang for backchat to a superior.
- An arrangement of alternating trucks and ribs threaded onto a parrel rope, to keep the trucks separate. Also called rib and truck.
- A rope fastened to the jaw of a gaff or boom to hold it fast to the mast, usually rigged with bull’s eyes to reduce chafing.
- Used in Elizabethan times to mean mistrust or suspicion.
- NTUS 0313 (Jear) CTC
- Tackles used for hoisting (swaying) or lowering (striking) the courses. On other sails, halyards perform the same function.
- See Jimmy Ducks.
- See Jimmy Green. SMS
Jenkin’s Ear (War of)
- The story that it was presented, by Jenkins, to Parliament, in a jar, is a myth.
- A small Spanish horse.
- A fake mermaid.
- Customs clearance?
- AKA ‘Old Jack’.
- Goods or material which has been thrown overboard, or jettisoned. See Flotsam.
- To throw goods or equipment overboard, usually to lighten ship in an emergency.
- A light single block attached to the ends of the main and fore yardarms, through which the studding sail halyard is run.
- Seamen’s slang for sewing and repairing. Hence the Jewing Firm was a group of seamen running a tailoring business on board ship.
Jew’s harp shackle
- An open shackle. One was used to fasten the anchor to its chain.
- A triangular sail set on a stay before the foremast and extending from the bowsprit or jib-boom.
Jibber the kibber
- The old name for luring a ship onto the rocks, by rigging false and misleading lights.
- A spar extending the bowsprit and taking the forward stay and the foot of the forward jib.
- The rope used to pull the jibsail down to the jib-stay.
- Ropes used to stay down the jib-boom against the lift of its sail.
- The rope used to hoist the jibsail.
- The name for all triangular sails not set on a lateen yard.
- An iron hoop fitted loosely around the jib-boom, holding the lower foremost corner of the jib, and allowing it to travel along the jib-boom.
- An extreme extension of the bowsprit, sometimes added to the flying jib-boom.
Jib of jibs
- A sixth jib sometimes set at the outer end of the head sails.
- The rope attached to the back of the jibsail and used to pull it outwards.
- The rope used to control and hold the clew of the jibsail.
- The foremast stay onto which the jibsail is set.
Jib, The cut of (someone’s)
- Sailing warship’s would often cut down their jib sails to help them maintain point – i.e. keep their heading. When a distant ship was sighted, the cut of the jib could be a clue to the observer as to whether or not the ship was a warship, and so give them a chance to escape. A phrase that has come ashore.
- A sliding device used instead of a block?
- 1. The aftermost mast of a four masted ship. 2. A light tackle used to rig studdingsail booms. 3. A small tackle comprising a single and double block used to hold the anchor cable when it was being hauled.
- A small light tackle comprising a single and a double block, used for general purposes.
- Just enough wind to jill us along
- See Jimmy Green.
Jimmy, or Jimmy the One
- The First Lieutenant. Originally Jeminy the One, but it became corrupt.
- Seamen’s nickname for the ship’s cooper.
Jimmy Ducks, Dux
- Seamen’s nickname for the ship’s galley boy or the butcher’s assistant, who was in charge of poultry on board.
- A four-sided fore-and-aft sail set under the bowsprit and jib-boom by clippers in light airs. Also Jamie or Jimmie Green.
- The Master-at-Arms.
- Fishermen’s name for young herring.
- One who temporarily stood in for the ship’s real captain who was unavailable for some reason.
- See Deck watch. NTUS 1904
- A roller spaced away from, but close to, the destination of a line, to ensure a more suitable angle of that line to its destination, and hence a better reaction.
- A long bent shackle with a quick release pin, used when the chain cable is hauled round the bows to fit a mooring swivel.
- Weed substitute used instead of tobacco by Lascars.
- A frame member shaped so that each hull plank or strake slopes outwards, and so has the appearance of having been clinker-built, although not actually overlapping each other.
- The name given to the operation of shaping a plate or a frame flange to make the plate fit snugly and continuously to the frame.
- Seamen’s nickname for The Honourable East India Company.
- A shackle with an oval pin fitted flush with the lugs, used to join lengths of chain cable together.
- Seamen’s nickname for the Royal Marines, particularly from Trained Bands.
- Small ship’s boat used for general ferrying duties between ship and shore. From a small yawl (jolle, julle, N European terms) NTUS 0901 ERR
- Seamen’s name for all the moonsails.
- The flag depicting a skull and crossed bones which is recognised by all to indicate that the wearer is a pirate, although it is probable that no self-respecting pirate ever did so, this flag being the result of fertile fiction writers’ minds. The more likely flag used by a pirate, if any, was a plain black flag. NTUS 1303 BDD
- 15c ship’s boat of four oars.
- Seamen’s name for someone considered unlucky on board ship, from the biblical story of Jonah and the whale.
Jonah’s lift, or toss
- A method of helping a Jonah to stop being one, by boosting him over the side on a dark night.
- Seamen’s slang for honest, true correct or fair.
- Seamen’s slang for fortune, as in bad joss meaning bad luck, or joss stick being an offering to bring good luck.
- The summarized transcription of the log book. In the Royal Navy, the journal would be forwarded to the Admiralty for analysis. Also fair log.
- Seamen’s slang for something, particularly a piece of rigging, serving no purpose and hanging free.
- Saturday, being the day on which many ships administered justice and punishment.
- Swollen wrists often experienced by trawlermen from the effects of hauling the nets.
- A person who unloads cargo by jumping.
- Ropes used to stay down the ends of the bowsprit whiskers.
- Any stay set up in heavy weather to prevent the yard from jumping out of place.
- A method of lifting a load of cargo from a small boat by holding a rope attached to the load through a triatic stay and jumping off a platform, to hoist the load free of the boat.
- A rope ladder hanging from a ship’s sides, usually only used by the crew.
- To desert ship, or leave it without permission.
- A strong rope strop passing three times round a block and once round the thimble. Made from an unlaid rope plaited into nettles.
- 1. The remnants of old rope, teased out, cut up and used to make oakum, swabs, mats, etc. 2. European name for three-masted Chinese sailing cargo ships. Sometimes used in suitable form as warships, pirate or fishing vessels.
- Pieces of boiled beef or pork.
- A knot of three overlapping hitches used in jury rigs, to attach stays and shrouds. Also a shamrock knot.
- 1 A temporary set up to replace a mast lost in battle or storm; usually by replacing it with a large spare yard or spar. 2. A temporary mast fitted in a shipyard, whilst the vessel is under construction.
Jury mast knot
- A knot of four overlapping hitches used in jury rigs, similar to a jury knot.
- A temporary mat made of woven rope.
- Any incomplete and unsatisfactory rig, but most often applied to a temporary set up made from available materials in an emergency.
- A temporary arrangement of mast, rigging, rudder, etc., from its being ‘for the day’, or de jour as the French say.
- A temporary rudder rigged when the proper rudder has been damaged beyond use.
Jury steering gear
- A temporary steering gear rigged when the proper helm has been damaged beyond use.
- Mixture of rum, sugar and small beer, after a similar North American drink. Also sometimes Callbolus.
- Slang for a Pacific Islander.
- Great mast timber from New Zealand after 1804.
- Coconut fibre rigging, from rind of the nut, used by Lascars.
- Canvas and rope protection of anchor cable against seabed chafing.
- A small (5cwt) anchor first introduced late 18c, used as a secondary anchor, supportive to the bower anchor in bad holding ground. Also used to move a ship around inside a harbour, by laying it out by boat and drawing the ship to it by means of the capstan – an evolution known as kedging.
- The principal length of timber in a ship, running fore and aft and supporting the entire structure and frame of the ship. Usually the first component laid in shipbuilding and comprising several shorter lengths of timber joined together by means of scarf joints.
Keel band, or stem band
- The metal strip running up a boat’s stem.
- Short heavy timber blocks used to support the keel of a vessel in dry dock.
Keel hauling, keel dragging
- 1. The old form of naval punishment in which a weighted victim was hoisted up a yardarm with a rope attached to him that had been passed under the ship, dropped into the sea, dragged under the ship, across the barnacle-infested hull and hoisted up to the opposite yardarm, half drowned. Sometimes a cannon, the rogue’s gun, was fired over his head, just to add to the discomfort. 2. It became seamen’s slang for a dire threat of reprisal, so, in common language, someone who is keel-hauled has to undergo a great hard ship.
- One of the plates of a flat plate keel.
- Flat bottom boats.
- The internal keel mounted over the floor-timbers immediately above the main keel, to provide additional strength to the structure.
- The relatively heavy timber secured inside the centreline of a boat, above the floors, to hold the mast steps and the thwart pillars.
- Metal staples, usually of iron or copper, used to hold together the false keel and the keel.
Keep her away
- A helm order given when the conner wanted to warn the helmsman that he was too close to the wind. Also ‘no nearer’, or ‘no near’, or ‘keep her full’.
Keep her full
- A helm order given when the conner wanted to warn the helmsman that he was too close to the wind. Also ‘no nearer’, or ‘keep her away’, or ‘no near’.
Keep her so
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel to continue sailing in the present direction when sailing close-hauled. Also ‘very well thus’, or ‘very well dyce’, or ‘thus’.
- To ensure that a vessel keeps away from the land or another vessel.
Keep the land aboard
- (v) To sail along within sight of the land.
Keep your luff
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel to come closer to the wind. Also ‘luff’, or ‘keep your wind’, or ‘spring the luff’.
Keep your wind
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel to come closer to the wind. Also ‘keep your luff’, or ‘luff’, or ‘spring the luff’.
- Type of cable protection comprising a small rope wrapped in the grooves of the cable. cf serving, parcelling, worming, rounding, platting, link worming.
- Seamen’s term for all in order and in good condition.
Kelvin sounding machine
- NTUS 1901
- The early Scottish expression for the approximate distance high land could be seen from the sea, which varied between 14 and 22 miles.
- See Spy glass. NTUS 1906
- Permanent iron ballast.
- The mast step in Viking ships.
- To make into grains or granulate.
- Early common attire.
- A two-masted fishing and coastal cargo ship first built about mid 17c in which the mainmast is fairly central with the mizzenmast well aft, but afore the tiller.
- A basket submerged for fishing, originally corrupted from keddle. Hence the common expression about fine kettles of fish.
- A thick horizontal timber bolted to a partner to form a large cleat at a ship’s sides, used for belaying large ropes.
- The top extension of a frame member, raised above the level of the gunwale, used as a kevel.
- The American term for a rope fastened across the clumsy cleat under which the whale-line passed to keep it in place.
- The cord that is worked through the gills of herring to carry them.
- 1. Metal dish for carrying food from the galley. 2. To signify something and signal it. 3. A tub.
- Wicker fish-basket.
- 16c seamen’s weapon, named after the place in the belt where it was kept.
- (leather, for the lash)
- The compartments used to hold the catch in fishing vessels.
Kill Devil, Killdevil
- Rum, an alternative name, coined originally by slaves.
- A type of stone anchor, or other old anchor or just a small stern anchor. The term came to apply to any leading seaman or leading hand, because of his fouled anchor sleeve badge.
- A tight bend or loop in a rope, caused by its having been twisted too hard or carelessly drawn from a coil.
- 18 gallon cask.
King’s Bedchamber, The
- Seamen’s’ slang for the Spithead area, because it was so safe.
King’s (or Queen’s) Hard Bargains
- 1. Useless sailors. 2. Quota men.
King’s Letter Boys
- Established in 17th Century by Samuel Pepys, modified in 1730 to RN Academy, Plymouth.
- The spoke of the steering gear, marked with a brass cap, that indicates when it is vertical that the helm is amidships.
King’s (Queen’s) shilling
- The bounty paid to a volunteer on enlisting. This was sometimes found in the bottom of a proffered pint of ale, the acceptance of which meant the recipient had volunteered, albeit involuntarily.
- An old term, from equipage, meaning the equipment of a ship, including the crew. A ship and its kippage.
- A small boat or ship, equipped to cater for royalty or similar dignitaries, on a cruise in ships that were less suitable for the cooking parts, which were often considered important.
- Small light good weather sails set at extremities of studding sails*, but more usually confined to the unusual Skysails.
- Viking merchantman.
- An angled timber piece used to connect the beams of a ship with her sides or frames. They were sometimes arranged at different angles to suit their natural shape or to accommodate a gun port. See also lodging and hanging knees.
Knee of the head
- The cutwater or foremost part of the stem, which is in the form of a widening leading edge, to assist in parting the waters as a vessel moves forward, fixed to the bows by means of the cheeks of the head. This also supports the figurehead.
- An alternative name for a wooden bracket, or knee.
Knight heads, knightheads
- Two heavy timbers mounted just behind the foremast, one on each side of the stem, supporting the bowsprit which is fixed between them, the ends of the windlass and, sometimes, as bitts for the anchor cable. Originally carved with the heads of knights. Also called bollard timbers.
Knights of Malta, The
- An order formed younger sons of aristocratic European Catholic families to fight the ‘Eternal War’ against Islam.
- A small line made of two or three rope yarns twisted hard together between thumb and finger, with the twist of the rope starting in the middle and the ends whipped. Also nettle.
- An officer or other member of the upper class, from ‘noble’, used in disrespectful way.
- Take something apart, such as a used cask.
- The order given on a trawler, to knock out the pin of the towing block and so release the warp, in preparation of hauling the net.
Knock the gilt off the gingerbread
- Spoil a joke by coming in with the punch line out of turn.
- The unit of speed of a vessel under way. 1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 1.151 land miles per hour. From the use of the knotted log line to determine a vessel’s speed. The use of the phrase “knots per hour” is a certain indicator of the user’s lack of familiarity with matters nautical.
- A vessel’s position determined by reference to seamarks or landmarks.
Know the ropes
- Seamen’s slang understanding the rigging, fully, from which it came to mean being experienced, especially to know all the dodges.
- 1. A sharp angle in one of a vessel’s frame members. 2. A sharp bend in a jetty or the edge of the pier-head, from which a ship turned with the tide to depart. Hence, when a ship was ‘on the knuckle’ she was ready to leave. 3. In the 19c the customary salute was to touch the clenched fist to the forehead in acknowledgement of having received an order. ‘Knuckle under’ came to mean, getting on with something.
- The foremost cant frames, in the bow.
- Overflow fish-well towed behind peter-boat, or similar welled fishing-boat, comprising perforated wooden container with opening in top.
- A whale carcass with all blubber stripped off and the head emptied of spermaceti; left to float away from whaler.
- Whaler crewmen who did the initial trimming of a carcass.
- A small rope cringle, used for the bowline brindles on a square sail.
- A two-masted full-bodied coastal cargo ship with well rounded hull ends and with pronounced bow and stern sheer, used on Dutch/Belgian coasts during 18 and19c.
- Navy nickname for chocolate and for a hot drink served on watch, made from melted solid slabs of chocolate.
- (v) To pitch and roll heavily.
- Of Ship’s Timbers.
- A fore-and-aft mainsail attached to the mast by a continuous lacing spiralling around the mast and through eyelets in the luff of the sail.
- Fastening a sail to its mast, yard or gaff, by spiralling through eyelet holes in the sail and around the mast or spar.
- To take a walk up Ladder Lane and down Hemp Street was seamen’s slang for to hang.
- An old term for a fully loaded ship.
- A net attached to a hoop on a long handle, with which fish that have fallen out of the fishing net are picked up. Also called a dydle.
Laden in bulk
- Said of a ship loaded with a bulk cargo in all holds.
- Chinese pirates.
Lady of the gunroom
- 1. The night watchman of the gunroom. In the Royal Navy it became the slang term for the crewman in charge of the gunner’s stores. 2. The youngest Inferior Officer, whose duty it was to look after the children.
- A small store room or compartment.
- Said of shrouds in which the ratlines are too closely rigged.
- 1. Any article thrown overboard with a buoy fastened to it, to enable it to be found and recovered later, from the French word lagand for lying. 2. An article lying inside a sunken ship or on the sea bottom.
- Laid back – When the sails on the mainmast are laid back against the mast, whilst the sails on the foremast are drawing, with the wind abeam, the vessel will heave to.
Laid by the heels
- Put in leg-irons, eventually came to mean arrested.
- The state of a vessel that has been unrigged and her gear removed.
Lamb’s wool sky
- NTUS 1705
- Magnifying lens used to concentrate light.
- 1 Eyes. 2 To lamp someone was to hit them.
- The petty officer under the boatswain who duty it was to maintain all the oil lamps on board.
- Whaler’s spear. Used to finish off the whale after it had tired itself out.
- The side of a ship that was moored to the land for loading and unloading. Led to ‘larboard’, which became ‘port’, from the same tradition and which was less liable to confusion with ‘starboard’ during orders for evolutions.
- The first sight of land after a seagoing voyage.
- The lookout’s call under obvious circumstances.
- The overlapping parts of strakes or planks in a boat.
- The second strake down from the gunwale.
- Said of a harbour from which the sea is not visible.
- Seamen’s derogatory name for a landsman, sometimes also applied to an unhandy sailor.
- NTUS 1802, 2002
- Dockside criminal or tradesman seeking to relieve Seamen of some or all of their earnings.
- The planking overlaps in clinker built boats.
- 1. Lawyers. Considered unlucky to have them aboard. 2. Similar to Land-Rat, but worse. cf Crimp.
- Dialect term for a landscape picture.
- A crewmember who had volunteered without training as a seaman. ‘Volunteered’ was a somewhat elastic term in this context. Approximately one third of a crew started a voyage as a landsman. For a landsmen to become Ordinary usually took about a year, and to become Able usually took at least two years.
- Towards the land. Also shoreward.
- Open tracks of water through ice. Also Leads.
- The small ear of a sword handle that overhangs the scabbard.
- See lanyard.
- 1 The short lines securing the shrouds and stays. 2 Any short line fastened to something to secure it or to help with handling it, such as a line tied to flintlock on a cannon. Also sometimes called laniard, or lanierd.
- Thimbles used in place of a heart on small stays or hand lines, etc., which are set up with lanyards.
- A joint between plates in which their edges overlap.
- Clinker built.
- The left side of ship looking forward. Its name was changed to ‘Port side’, in the British Navy, by Admiralty Order on 22 November 1844. From the fact that the larboard side of the gun-deck was traditionally kept clear for officers’ promenade while in port, and at other times.
- Seamen of the larboard watch. See starbolins.
- Sailing with the wind abaft the beam but not dead aft.
- Indian native seamen.
- 1. A temporary or bad job. 2. To stand treat.
Lashed into his Hammock
- Dead. From the practice of a dead seaman being lashed into his weighted hammock for burial at sea. In battle, time was rarely wasted on such niceties, the dead being shoved unceremoniously overboard if they were in the way of continued fighting.
- Any rope or line used to tie two items together or secure an object in place.
- 1 Originally the term used to describe the process of running the gauntlet, but now generally applies to something badly done. 2 The process of securing hammocks and stowing them, on the call “Lash up and stow!”
- (v) To sail well with a quarterly wind, with the yards braced up and the sheets eased out.
- Small hooplike lines sewn into the top of bonnets and drablers to attach them to the sail above.
Lasking, or lasking off
- Going large, i.e. sailing neither before nor against the wind but with a quartering wind.
- 1. A 32 gallon barrel – old Dutch measure, used as a quantity of gunpowder. 2. A measure of ten thousand herring. 3. 2400 pounds.
- 1. Any cargo in a ship. 2. A duty levied on a cargo ship.
- The Dog Watch of 1800 to 2000. See First Dog, for obvious reasons.
Last dog and all night in
- Under the normal watch system, a sailor would stand the last dog and then not be required to report again until 0800, having slept long.
Last in, first out
- The etiquette to be observed in the carrying of officers in boats.
Last square frame
- NTUS 0300
- A large triangular sail attached to a lateen yard by its foremost edge. Used as the mizzen rig on early square-rigged ships, before the spanker came into general use. They originated in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, where they are still found. Sometimes called ‘latene’, from ‘Latin’ sail.
- A long spar hoisted on the mizen mast of early square-riggers, with the shorter and lower ‘half’ before the mast, forming the leading edge of a lateen sail. Commonly used, still, on foreign smaller vessels, most notably Arabic.
- The angular distance of a location north or south of the equator.
Latitude by Polaris, or by North Star
- The action of determining the latitude by measuring the elevation of Polaris.
Latitude by single (or double) altitude
- The action of determining the latitude by solving spherical triangles.
- 1. To place a boat in the water. 2. To cause a vessel to travel down its launching ways and enter the water for the first time, or after a refit that has entailed the vessel to be taken out of the water.
- 1. A broad ship’s boat that was the main workboat of a warship, replacing the longboat, used for carrying heavy loads such as anchors, drinking water, etc. As a landing boat a Launch could carry up to a hundred men, with their kit. (hgv)
- Heavy timbers laid on the slipway, on which the cradle slides as a vessel is launched.
- When a drifter is blown back onto its nets the wind is said to be blowing against the law.
Law of the Navy
- The order of those in the Navy List, from which seniority was/is decided.
- Ships going about their business correctly and legally.
Laws of Oleron
- An early maritime code enacted by Eleanor of Aquitane for the seafarers of the Island of Oleron and later adopted by nearly all seafaring nations. It was introduced into England in 1190, by Richard I.
- 1. Aim guns, etc. 2. Whaleman’s share of the profits. 3. The direction in which the strands of a rope are laid. Hawser-laid and shroud-laid are right-handed; cable-laid ropes are left-handed.
- To take a warship alongside an enemy vessel.
Lay a hold
- Come closer to the wind by putting the helm down.
- 1. To list. 2. A ship in harbour or a time when hands are not required on deck.
- To position a ship by the side of another.
- When the sails on the mainmast are laid back against the mast, whilst the sails on the foremast are drawing, with the wind abeam, the vessel will heave to.
- The member of a gun’s crew responsible for deciding the necessary elevation.
- The order given to hands on the yards to move in towards the mast.
Laying out on the yard
Lay of rope
- Ordinary-lay is when the lay runs downwards from left to right, like a right-handed screw thread. Cable-lay is the opposite way, or left-handed. Wire ropes are always ordinary-lay.
- The order given to hands to spread out along the yard.
Lay the course
- Maintain a course.
Lay the land
- To sail away from the land, so that it drops below the horizon.
- Come to a temporary stop. cf Bring to and Come to.
- To make rope by applying the torsion to strands that forms them into a rope. See hard-laid and soft-laid.
- 1. A store room for a ship’s provisions, usually located in the after part of the hold. 2. An area used to quarantine anyone with an infectious disease. 3. A room used to confine a felon.
- The term given to an article in temporary disuse. Hence, a lazy tack is the unfixed end of a tack and a lazy sheet is the unfixed end of a sheet.
- A single-rope guy, used to steady something that would not cause much strain on the guy. See Bottom guy.
- NTUS 1901
- A small light rope attached to the stem of a boat and used to tether her when conditions are benign. Naval boats used to be fitted with two painters. The painter was secured to into the boat. The lazy painter, a much smaller, lighter rope was secured to the jacob’s ladder on the boom. Being lazy it had a lot of slack and at no time did it hold the weight of the boat. The first crewman down the Jacob’s ladder would use the lazy painter to haul the boat up to the ladder so that the boat could be manned.
- See Lazy. SMS
- The direction in which a rope is led through blocks, cleats or fairleads.
Lead and line
- NTUS 1901
- Lead used to lower the centre of gravity, usually only in small vessel’s.
- A fixed block at the leading part of a tackle, through which the direction of a rope could be altered.
Leading Hand, or Rate
- The next stage up from Able Rate.
- In pilotage, a transit line chosen to lead safely down a safe track.
- The parts of a rope forming the fall and moving parts of a tackle.
- 1. A wind from abeam or from a quarter. 2. A wind blowing straight up or down a channel.
- See Common Log. A line marked with knots to determine depth.
- Page 129
- 1. The routes of running rigging. 2. Open tracks of water through ice. Also Lanes.
- A measure of distance of one twentieth of a degree of latitude, or 3.18 miles, usually reckoned as about three nautical miles. In early accounts, a Roman League was 4 Roman miles.
League of Armed Neutrality
- Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia.
- Half#, Third#, etc
- The ingress of water into a vessel, through a breach in her bottom or side, where she is said to have ‘sprung a leak’.
- A screen behind which carcasses were fused.
- Leather was used wherever standing rigging could be chafed, over the worming, parcelling and serving.
- The US Marines, from the leather patch on their collars, and from a lively inclination to disparage them.
- General #, Short #
- Scottish name for the figurehead, even if not a ‘lady’, or even a human.
- Athwartship timbers, between beams, used as additional deck supports.
- The side of a vessel opposite to that from which the wind blows, namely the weather side, and so used to refer to any sheltered place out of the wind.
- A heavy composite board mounted at the sides of a flat-bottomed vessel that could be lowered to reduce leeway when tacking, in a similar way to a drop keel.
- The side edges of a square sail and the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail.
- NTUS 0409 ERR
Leechline & spritsail brace blocks
Leech line cloths
- Additional cloths sewn on the fore side of a sail, where the leech lines would chafe, to prevent it.
- A current that sets with the wind.
- An iron rail rigged athwartships along which the traveller of a fore-and-aft sail could run freely when tacking.
- The position to leeward of another vessel.
- Bring the rudder and wheel to windward in order to bring the vessel into the wind.
- Helmsmen who followed the movements of the weather helmsman, as he could not see the compass, sails, etc., whereas the weather helmsman could. When not at the wheel he was required to stand at the lee side of the wheel, ready for when he was needed.
- A heavy and unexpected roll to leeward.
- Said of the shore when it is downwind of a vessel.
- The side sheltered from the wind. See Lee.
- A tide flowing in the same direction as the wind.
- (pronounced “loo’ard”) – Direction towards which the wind is blowing at sea. In other words, on the side sheltered from the wind. Opposite of Windward or Weatherside.
- Said of a vessel inclined to fall away. SMS
- The sideways drift of a vessel, from the effect of the wind. If a ship was too close to a lee shore, onto which it might be blown, it had insufficient leeway.
- The direction of lay of cable-laid ropes, where the strands lay from upper left to lower right.
- 1. The distance travelled on a single tack. Also board, or a trip. 2. A short rope that branches into three or more parts.
Leg of mutton sail
- A triangular sail with its fore edge attached to the mast, as in Bermudan sail. Also shoulder of mutton sail. NTUS 1208
Leg of mutton mizzen
Leg of mutton sail
- NTUS 0414
- The order given to release the weather fore-sheet of a head sail when tacking.
- 1. The order given to let a sail drop. 2. The order given to a boat’s crew to place the oars in the rowlocks and to level them. At this order, any fenders are taken in. Also out oars.
- The order given in an emergency to release the sheets as quickly as possible.
Let fly (or go) topgallant sheets
- The order given to release a mooring line or other rope.
- To fit one timber into another.
Letters of Marque (P200?)
- A Letter of Reprisal, originally called Letter of Marque in 16c, was different from the L of M of the 17 and 18c. The latter was a licence issued by an Admiralty Court in time of war, empowering a private ship to cruise against a named enemy and to sell her prizes after they had been condemned by that court. A L of R was authorisation by an Admiralty Court for a merchant or traveller who had been robbed, in time of peace, in the territory or by the subjects of a foreign power, who had been unable to obtain justice in that country’s courts, to recoup his losses, up to a specified sum, by seizing property of persons belonging to the town or country concerned. Deriving from medieval Marcher Law (Lettre de Mark). Latter was classic form of privateering.
Letter of Marque, (sometimes mart)
- A modern expression. Originally, royal licences, called letters of reprisal, were granted to shipowners who had suffered from the actions of foreign pirates and had failed to get recompense from foreign courts, to get equal retribution from other ships of that country. The rules were soon forgotten, so letters of reprisal were often seen as licences to carry out acts of piracy.
Letter of Reprisal
- 16c Royal licences granted to shipowners who had suffered from foreign pirates and had failed to get recompense from foreign courts, to get equal retribution from other ships of that country. See also Letter of Marque.
Let the Cat Out of the Bag
- Doing a deed that results in the Cat-O-Nine Tails being taken out of its baize bag.
- NTUS 1703
Levant Company, The
- Formed from Venice and Turkey Cos, formed 1592. Trading with eastern Mediterranean countries.
- Lines drawn on a ship’s plans, parallel to the keel, delineating the horizontal sections.
- In Elizabethan times, said of anyone who was foolish, unprincipled, evil, vulgar, etc.
- Scourer, sometimes made from burnt Fritters.
- The punishment for a liar was to clean the heads. The first crewman caught in a lie on Monday morning would then keep the heads clean for the week.
- Wind ?? NTUS 1703
- The ship’s boat used to take those privileged few seamen entitled to a run ashore, and which they sometimes ‘missed the boat’ on returning late, missing which would lead to their missing a quiet life for a while, as a defaulter.
Liberty men, man
- Passengers of a liberty boat. A Royal Navy seaman on a run ashore.
- (v) To keep a ship secure in an anchorage.
- Heave to in heavy weather. Also lie to.
- To heel over in the wind. Also lie over.
- NTUS 2001
Lie along the land
- To sail as close to the coast as possible, on a roughly parallel course with the coastline.
- To stay close by another vessel.
- To stay well clear of another vessel or of the land.
- To heel over in the wind. Also lie along.
- Heave to in heavy weather. Also lie a-hull.
- A buoyant jacket or belt used to keep a person in the water afloat.
- Boat used as rescue craft. Up to the eighteenth century this usually meant the normal ship’s boats. The first specialised Lifeboat was built by L. Lukin in the Tyne estuary in 1786 and had cork inserts and buoyancy chambers.
- 1. Old caulked cask suspended over stern, usually two. 2. Any buoyant object thrown overboard to support a person in the water until they can be rescued.
- 1. A rope rigged as a handhold or similar for the security of the crew in heavy weather. 2. A buoyed rope or rope’s end thrown into the water to rescue a crewmember that had fallen overboard. 3. A rope attached to life-buoys or lifeboats, with Turks heads at the ends to help stop weakening fingers from slipping off.
Lift & send
- Words used to describe the pitch of sea-wave action.
- The term for all the cranes, derricks and similar equipment used for handling the cargo.
- A vessel designed for salvaging sunken ships, first known in the fifteenth century BC used by Egyptians.
- Items thrown overboard and buoyed for later recovery.
- 1. (v) To help bear a rope in the desired direction. 2. An opening in a vessel’s side or deck, used to let in light. 3. Said of a ship not fully loaded with cargo.
- 1. To pass a rope along in the required direction. 2. Used as a slang expression to mean carry anything along, from 1.
- Revenue raised by lighthouse authority, deducted now by customs officials from port dues, paid by all ships using British ports. CTC
- Said of a ship carrying no load and so having the minimum draught.
Lightening the ship
- Originally a boat used to lighten the load of a ship, thus enabling it to go further upstream in shallow waters. Now often applied to barges, etc.
- A young bright seaman who would often suffer banter from older crew members.
- Said of a ship without her full complement.
- NTUS 1802 First flashing light installed at Walney in 1820, by Robert Stevenson.
- A copper strip running from a mast-head to the sea, to conduct safely away any lightning strikes. Also see Sir Wm Snow Harris.
Lightning rod chain
- Often three pronged, with chains connected at the foot of the Masts, ready to be thrown into the sea in a thunderstorm.
- A glazed port hole or scuttle.
- The small compartment where the gunner could fill powder cartridges. It was separated from the magazine by double glazed windows, and contained the magazine light outside, so as to avoid the danger of explosion.
- See Lightvessel. NTUS 1802
- 1. Move a ship into the wind. 2. A pipe call meaning: stop hauling.
Light vessel, lightvessel
- A stationary anchored ship fitted with a warning light to alert mariners in dangerous areas of sea, where it would not be possible to erect a permanent Lighthouse. In ancient times the light was emitted from open fires, torches, candles, lanterns etc, but in 1807 Robert Stevenson developed an optical device of concave mirrors around a column, which made the beacon more efficient. Frenchmen A J Fresnel and D F Arago invented the Fresnel lens in early 19c, which is now fitted to many navigation lights on ships. NTUS 1802
Light weather reacher
- Triangular barge sail set from bowsprit to topmast head.
- An ambassador or commercial representative.
- roller in tiller sweep – (hgv)
- Planks fixed between the keelson and the futtock plank, to seal the junction and form part of the floor. They were removable to facilitate cleaning.
- Holes cut through the lower floor timbers, through which water could drain into the limbers, and then to the pump well.
- A rope pulled through the limbers and pulled back and forth to clear them out.
- Channels running fore-and-aft either side of the keelson, through which water drains to the pump well.
- The strake immediately adjacent to the keelson.
- The compulsory ration introduced by the Royal Navy to combat the effects of scurvy. So British sailors were the original ‘lime juicers’.
- British ships
- Any soft drink, from the practice of issuing lime drinks to combat scurvy in tropical climates.
Limey, lime juicer
- British seamen were called limeys by their American counterparts, from their habit of taking limes in the West Indies, as a cure for scurvy. British ships were consequently lime juicers.
- The world occupied by minor officials, who lived with one foot on shore and the other in the sea.
- of 12pdr gun (tge)
- Any cordage less than one inch in diameter.
- See Line of Battle.
- Paraded as defaulter.
Line of bearing
- The discovery by American Captain Thomas Sumner, in 1837, that an altitude observation yields a position line. Also Sumner line.
Line of position
- A line drawn on a chart (or imaginary) along which a vessel must lie. Also position line.
- 1. Fishing boats using lines. 2. Passenger or cargo ships regularly travelling a fixed route to a schedule.
Line, Toe the
- When mustered on deck, the crew would form up with their toes touching a seam in the deck planking. This term came ashore to refer to the practice of complying.
Line throwing appliance
- A gun designed to fire out a line to or from a stranded vessel.
- An additional cloth sewn on the fore side of a sail to strengthen it. (tge)
- A filling piece between plates and frames, inserted to make joggling unnecessary.
- A method of worming hemp rope, with a small chain laid along the cantlines to reduce chafing.
- A pointed forked stick about a yard long, which was stuck into the deck and held the match.
- The mesh of a herring net.
- Type of small boat.
- The disturbance caused on the surface of the sea by a shoal of fish.
- NTUS 1906
- 1. The tilt of a vessel to either side. 2. Scraps of the seamed edge of fabric, used to make hard-wearing but soft slippers. 3. The Navy, or Captains’ List, the list of all RN Captains which recorded their seniority.
- See List.
- The Navy List.
- Seamen/officers (?) of Cnut and Edward the Confessor.
Little one bell
- The signal of one stroke on the bell, for the night watch to muster and be checked.
- Seamen’s slang for doing something quickly and with enthusiasm.
- A hook with an inward turned bill to prevent slipping, used at the end of a cargo runner.
- Ship’s biscuits, from their hardness.
Living high off the hog
- Eating well off salt pork, as a relief from salt horse (beef).
Living Six on Four
- Six men living on the rations of four men.
- 1. Short strops, seized to hanks at intervals down the luff of a sail and used to guide the downhaul. 2. An iron thimble spliced into the main bowlines and pointed over one end so that a tackle could be attached to it. 3. A rope with a thimble at one end, attached to a boat boom to which a boat could be made fast.
Lloyds Coffee House
- The centre of maritime finances…Started in 1692
Lloyds Presentation Sword
- Given to Royal Navy captains who were judged, by Lloyds, to have done them a good service, usually by capturing or destroying enemy ships that had caused mischief to commerce, resulting in losses to Lloyds.
Lloyd’s Register (LR)
- 1. (v) To stow a cargo on a vessel. 2. A wagon load of timber. Typically one load = one oak tree. A single third rate ship of the line would take approximately 3400 loads. 3400 loads = approximately 64 acres of woodland.
Loaded and run out
- Ready, originally of cannon, but, with the seaman’s’ habit of arcane language, it came to be applied to anything. e.g. If someone’s jaw was ‘l and r o’ it meant they were ready for a chat, usually a long and unstoppable one.
- The distance from the water-line to the keel taken by a particular load.
- The marks made in a ship’s side at the waterline to show when she is fully loaded. A ‘recent’ innovation.
- A shore establishment.
Lobby (to hanging magazine)
- Seamen’s’ food.
- The thin gruel served in the Sick Berth.
- Ship’s Surgeon’s young (usually) assistant or mate. From the sound of boiling porridge and thick gruel often served to make sick men better, and often failing to.
- A sailor’s dish comprising minced salt beef, stewed vegetables, crushed ship’s biscuit and whatever else is available, layered and cooked. ‘Scouse’ derives from this name.
- A regular soldier’s name for the Royal Marines, because of their scarlet uniforms.
- A sperm whale at play by slapping its tail on the surface of the water.
Local mean time
- Mean time kept at any place.
- An enclosed basin interconnecting areas of lower and higher water level, through which vessels can pass to get from one to the other.
- A cupboard or small, lockable, storage compartment, used for food, cleaning equipment, clothing, etc.
- Water-gates located at the upper and lower ends of a lock, the sequential operation of which enables the lock to fill or empty as required.
- Flat iron bars used to secure the tarpaulin covers to hatchway coamings in heavy weather.
Locking of yardarms
- A flanged pintle used to prevent the rudder from becoming unshipped accidentally.
- A heavy right-angled timber bracket fixed horizontally between a vessel’s beams and sides to give it strength.
- To lay out a full scale working drawing of the lines of a vessel’s hull. See Mould Loft.
- 1. Device used to measure speed of ship. Normally Common Log. Originally an actual log was used as the float. 2. Or log book – The official record of events on board ship and of her movements.
- The book into which the permanent record of the details of a vessel’s course and events were written up from the log board at noon each day. Also log book, or day book.
- Two hinged boards that were folded together, painted black and ruled, onto which the details of the courses, log distances, winds and other occurrences were temporarily chalked, before being written up into the log board. On smaller vessels the same job was done by the traverse board.
- The book into which the permanent record of the details of a vessel’s course and events were written up from the log board at noon each day. Also log, or day book.
- Actually Log-Ship.
- The recording of a reprimand to an officer that was usually disregarded when that officer moved on to another ship.
- Hollow spheres of iron on a shaft that were heated in a fire and used to melt solid pitch in a bucket, and avoid ignition. Seamen considered it fun to settle a dispute by attempting to beat each other with loggerheads whilst dodging their opponent’s swing. It could hurt. Ashore, to be ‘at loggerheads’ has come to be slang for any quarrelling. Also were used to fire guns by giving a hot touch to the priming. (Maybe only in the US Navy).
- 14, 28 or 30 second timer used with the Common Log.
- Main Line of Common Log, marked in knots.
- Onto which the Log-Line was wound.
- A contrivance by which a ship’s speed is measured, comprising a lead weighted wooden quadrant used as float of Common Log.
- A heavy and slow fishing vessel.
- For advertising recall etc — Gazetteer, Daily Advertiser, Public Advertiser, Evening Advertiser, Whitehall Evening Post, and General Evening Post.
- Originally the main ship’s boat until replaced by the Launch in mid 18c.
- Yawl-rigged fishing vessels from Aldeburgh, Suffolk, so named because of their long retractable bowsprits.
- A Wardroom table call for something to be passed up from down the table.
- Worn by landsmen on land. Also Long Togs.
Long flaking of cable
- In navigational terms, a great circle that passes through the poles. In other words, they run north to south, as distinct from latitudes that run east to west. The angular distance of a location east or west of a prime meridian, usually Greenwich.
- 1714 Prizes of £20,000, £15,000 and £10,000 offered for practical sea-going methods of finding the longitude, of accuracies of half a degree, two-thirds and one respectively.
Longitude by chronometer
- A method of determining Greenwich time by carrying an accurate timekeeping device on board, set at Greenwich time, taking an altitude observation and solving the navigational triangle. The longitude was established by adding local mean time to Greenwich Mean Time.
Longitude by lunar distance
- A method of determining Greenwich time by measuring the angular distance of the Moon from a nearby predicted star and looking it up in an almanac to establish the longitude. The calculations necessary were called ‘clearing the distance’ and they were very laborious and the sights of Moon and stars had to be done during twilight, when they could be done simultaneously.
Longitude by Time Keeper
- NTUS 1511
- The strain on any longitudinal member of a vessel’s structure that can cause distortion.
- The term for a rope laid with its strands forming an angle of less than 45° from the run of the rope.
Long leg and thimble
- to spritsail yard parrel, to allow its being easily lowered and raised.
- A fishing line worked from a boat or set at low tide, with from 20 to 4,000 hooks attached to the main line by light lines called snoods.
- All ships used long pennants. Also known as Coach Whip.
- Southsea term for white man, usually thought to refer to his meat rather than his manners.
- 1. Generic term for long narrow Viking ships of 9c onwards. 2. Originally, seamen’s term for a ship with poor rations, or poor quality victuals. It came to mean, not being offered hospitality.
- A current running parallel to the shore.
- The expression for a chancy try at something, from the practice of trying a cannon shot at extreme range, without much hope of a hit.
- Said of an anchor cable that extends away from the bows more than four times the depth of the water.
Long tackle block
- A single-shelled block in which two sheaves turn on separate pins, a larger one above a smaller, thus permitting two ropes to be worked at the same time. Similar to a fiddle block.
- A timber among the cant frames, forming a floor by stretching from the deadwood to the second futtock. Sometimes called the long top-timber.
- A paintbrush on a pole.
- See Long timber.
- 1. An early spar that was replaced by the bowline and tack that did the same job of hauling the leach of a sail forward or down respectively. 2. The after part of the bow, where the planks start to curve in towards the stem.
- To haul part of a fishing net out of the sea to check whether or not the fish were in the net.
- The crewmember assigned to keep a visual watch from high on the foremast, or sometimes in the bow, or both when conditions were bad.
Look out for
- Seamen’s slang for being a substitute on duty.
- 1. The handgrip part of an oar. 2. The sense of nearness of a coast, even when not in sight. 3. To seem unnaturally large or close in a fog or mist.
- An easy gale.
- Small holes cut through a ship’s bulkheads, or elsewhere, through which a boarding enemy could be fired at with small arms.
- (v) To let go the gaskets of a furled sail, ready to set it.
- A whale that is fair game for anyone to harpoon.
- Said of a sail that had an unattached foot, as distinct from those on which the foot is attached to a boom.
Loose points, reefing
Loosing to a bowline, buntline
- Short quick-running seas.
- Said of a sea with lop.
- A small Chinese pirate sailing vessel with a European style hull but Chinese junk rig; usually armed.
Lord High Admiral
- Now, the Sovereign, but in the past, a high office of state in the gift of the Sovereign. Known to have been abused.
Lord Mayor’s Men
- Delinquents who were sent to sea rather than to prison.
Lost the number of his mess
- Died, of a seaman.
- A small bell, usually used in fowling.
Lowdies or lowders
- Woodlice, the curse of ship’s timbers
- Second Pipe Call.
Lower and dip
- The order given to dip a lugsail round to the other side of its mast.
- The order given to lower a yard or sail.
- Earlier name for a guess warp boom, usually arranged by the rigging of a studding-sail boom from the lower yard-arm.
- The order to lower something rapidly.
- The deck immediately above the orlop deck.
Lower deck, On the
- Not an Officer. Generic term denoting non-commissioned ranks and ratings.
- One of the crew members who assisted on the lowering and raising of a ship’s boats.
- The order to lower something carefully and slowly.
- The bottom part of the mast, erected directly onto the keel and carrying the lowest sails and the upper parts of the mast.
- The lowest water level reached during one tidal oscillation. Also low water. cf high tide, or high water, or full sea.
- The lowest water level reached during one tidal oscillation. Also low tide. cf high tide, or high water, or full sea.
- A rhumb line.
- Lines radiating from the wind rose on ancient charts.
- A lazy and inexperienced seaman, or any disappointing person. Landlubber is such a person ashore.
- Seamen’s slang for an imaginary paradise where even lubbers can be tolerated.
- A gap in the top, next to the mast, through which nervous climbers gained the top, to the disdain of seamen.
- The line drawn across the bowl of the ship’s compass, indicating the fore-and-aft line of the ship. The coincidence of the lubber’s line and a point on the compass card indicated the course being steered.
- Similar to Lubber’s line, but a single pointer.
- A bee that accidentally turns up on a vessel at sea.
- 1. To bring a ship closer to the wind is known as ‘to spring a luff’. 2. A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel to come closer to the wind. Also ‘keep your luff’, or ‘keep your wind’, or ‘spring the luff’.
Luff, and lie & touch her
Luff and touch her
- A helm order given when the conner wanted to see how close to the wind the vessel will sail.
- Caught to do an unpleasant task.
- Staggered, said of a drunk.
- A method of joining staysails to stays where booms are used, that loosen on lowering, preventing jamming.
- A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm pushed down to the lee side to put the vessel about. The helmsman would answer ‘helm’s a-lee’. Also a-lee the helm, or down with the helm.
- A heavy tackle comprising a single and a double block, used for various purposes.
Luff upon luff
- A tackle formed by attaching the block of one luff tackle to the fall of another, to increase their mechanical power.
Lug or lug sail
- A four-sided sail with a shorter fore edge and the yard set obliquely to the mast.
- A small fast 18c sailing ship carrying three short masts all carrying lugsails. Favourite of French privateers.
- Short lengths of angle-bars, used throughout a vessel, for uniting and strengthening structural components.
- See Lug. NTUS 0414
- A square sail set above a gaff sail, with its head attached to a small spar angled across the mast, like a lugsail. Also jackyard topsail or jackyarder.
- A port worker, paid by the lump to load or unload a ship.
- The tidal prediction term meaning the interval between successive Moon transits across the meridian. The average lunar day is 24 hours and 50 minutes. Also tidal day.
- The tidal prediction term meaning the interval between one New Moon and the next. The average lunar month is 29½ days. Also lunation, or synodical month.
- Meyer’s -1755
- The tidal prediction term meaning the interval between one New Moon and the next. The average lunar month is 29½ days. Also lunar month, or synodical month.
- The tidal prediction term meaning the period between the Moon’s southing and the next high water. Also interval.
- An early navigation instrument.
- The frames at each end of a trawl net from which the net is dragged.
- The Philippines (Elizabethan).
Lying heavy on the helm
- Small Highland oared galleys from medieval times to 16-17c.
- A fore-and-aft schooner.
- An explosive vessel; similar to a fire ship but packed with explosives. Also Infernal Vessel.
- A scanty outfit of cloths brought on board by an enlistee. From this, anything poor or scanty.
- A built block.
- Large mast made from several shaped timbers slotted together. Masts made from a single piece of timber were superior, but suitable large timbers were rare. The components included: Bolsters, Cheeks, Trestletree.
- The storeroom of a man-of-war in which gunpowder and other explosives were kept safely.
- NTUS 1906
- See Variation. NTUS 1905
- NTUS 19/05
- See Dip NTUS 1905
- The direction indicated by a north-seeking needle affected by the earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic variation is the difference between magnetic and true north.
- The first true voyage of a ship for the purpose for which she had been built, as distinct from trials and shakedowns.
- Seamen’s term for post, or letters.
- To lower a sail or sails, usually as a salute. Also Amain.
- 1. The principal item, such as the mainmast, mainsail, etc. 2. The open sea. 3. The mainland. Usually then called The Main.
- A spar used to spread the foot of the main sail in a fore-and-aft rigged vessel.
Main brace, parting
- The greatest distance between parts of any pair of opposite frames in a vessel’s structure.
- The main tackle used on a trawl beam.
- The mainsail. The principle sail on the lower mainmast.
- The principal deck. On a three-decker the main deck was the one immediately below the upper deck.
- The assemblage of tackles on deck at the main mast, used to hoist and lower the main yard.
- The rope used to hoist the mainsail.
- The largest hatchway.
- The main cargo space of a vessel.
Main jeer capstan
- NTUS 0300
- The principal mast. In a two-masted ship it was the chief mast; the centre mast in a three-masted ship and the second mast in all others.
- The timber component of the stem, shaped to take the bobstay piece.
- The rigging of the mainmast, sometimes used to refer only to its shrouds.
Main royal staysail
- The order given to tack a square-rigged ship, when the foremast yards are braced aback, the after yards are braced round and the mainsail is set for the new tack.
Main sheer strake
- The plating strake that runs alongside the line of the main deck.
- The rope holding the weather clew of the mainsail.
- A large heavy-duty tackle comprising fixed single and double blocks with a moving double block, rigged on the main pendant, used to secure the masts or to set up rigging and stays.
- The platform at the head of the main mast. It’s purposes were to spread the width of the upper shrouds, to provide a place from which the upper sails were controlled and to be used as a battle station.
- A schooner rig with square-rigged topsail and mainsail./
- NTUS 0101, 0305
Make a board
- Sail a short tack.
Make a good board
- Sail to windward without making much leeway.
Make a dead man chew
- Reference to the alleged practice of Pursers drawing a tobacco allowance for dead sailors.
Make a leg
- Bow or curtsy.
Make and mend
- A half day rest period aboard, during which the seamen’s’ personal belongings and clothing were repaired. Came to mean a half day off for anything and is still used to mean time off.
Make a signal
- Send a message.
Make it so!
- The formal response from the officer of the watch, upon receipt of notification that a ceremonial was due, such as “Noon, Sir..” “Make it so!”
Make one’s number
- Introduce oneself to the captain on arriving for duty at a new posting, or to a new mess. From the fact that a warship would make her number when joining the Fleet.
- 1. To set sails ready for sailing. 2. To increase sail.
- To move stern first through the water.
Make the land
- To come within sight of the land.
- To settle up the finances at the end of a fishing trip.
- Have water leak into the ship’s hull through the side or bottom.
- On a whaler, chopping blubber blanket pieces into small bits to fit into kettles.
- The ingredients or materials for making something, such as a cup of tea or a rolled cigarette.
- Making headway. This is often mistaken for ‘Under way’.
- A wooden hammer used by caulkers, riggers, shipwrights and sailmakers. Also called a beetle.
- Seamen from St Malo.
- Severe diarrhoea and sickness.
Malta, The Knights of
- An order formed from the younger sons of aristocratic European Catholic families to fight the ‘Eternal War’ against Islam.
- Threadbare material with holes worn in it, or the frayed edges of clothing.
- Weighed thirteen ounces.
- A large tropical fruit tree.
- The order to hands to stand by at their station, or some other place where they would be needed.
- Leftovers from the officer’s table, of great value to the ship’s youngsters. It came to mean any scraps or odds and ends.
- 1. A measure of about 1,000 sprats or herring. 2. The basket used to hold a mand of sprats. Also maund and cade.
Man, E & F
- Also James Man. Exclusive rum broker from 1784 for about 200 years.
- A net to hold a mand of herring.
- The compartment between the hawse-holes, on the lower deck, formed with a bulkhead at its after part, known as the manger-board, which prevented water from the hawse-holes flowing aft, by diverting it into the scuppers.
- A bulkhead across the after part of the manger, to stop water from the hawse-holes from flowing aft, redirecting it through the scuppers.
Man harness hitch
- A loop made into the bight of a rope to make a hand or shoulder hold, to give better purchase to the man hauling on it.
- 3 Strand Shroud Laid.
Manning the ship
- Originally a form of salute to a foreign ship with the whole crew lining the bulwarks, to signify the guns not being manned.
- A vessel’s movement evolution of speed, position or direction change.
Man-of-war fashion anchoring
- NTUS 1101
Manrope, man ropes
- ERR NTUS 0508
- A knot made as a hand hold in a rope.
- A rope rigged as a handhold alongside a ladder or at some other hazardous situation.
- To provide a crew.
Man the capstan
- The order given to stand by to work the capstan.
Man the cat – haul taut
- When weighing anchor, the order given to man the cat tackle and to then haul to take the weight of the anchor.
Man the fore shrouds
- In heavy weather men stood in for sails
Man the yards
- In the Royal Navy, the ceremonial positioning of the crew along all yards as a salute.
Marc St Hilaire method
- The basis of all modern navigation introduced in 1874 by Marc St. Hilaire of the French Navy. Also intercept method, or the new navigation.
- (v) Gossip, particularly between the crews of two fishing vessels that meet at sea.
- Private cargo of a seaman’s choice BDD
- NTUS 1705 SMS
- First raised in 1664 under Order of Council, for the Lord Admiral’s Regiment of Sea Soldiers. In 1755 it became a permanent force under the Admiralty, mostly used to maintain discipline aboard, provide sentries, etc.
- NTUS 1904
- Department of the Board of Trade which supervised the signing-on and paying-off and treatment of merchant seamen.
- NTUS 1906 SMS
Mariner’s Mirror, The
- First appeared in English in 1588, it was a translation of a combined sailing directory and sea atlas by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer, entitled Spieghel der Zeervaert, in 1584.
- NTUS 0512
- NTUS 1804
- See Spy glass. NTUS 1906
- See Marine chronometer. NTUS 1904
- A sum of money of the value 13s. 8d. There were no mark coins.
- The fathom markings on a sounding line. Came to be used as ‘mark my words’ ashore. See Lead.
- A white or coloured yarn laid into each strand of any rope issued by one of HM Dockyards or those of the East India Company, or similar, to identify the owner of the rope. Also rogue’s yarn.
- When the cat wailed (was used to flog) BDD
Mark of Cain
- White patches on the uniform collar of a midshipman. Also called quarterly accounts.
- (v) 1. To wind a small line around a rope, with each turn secured by a hitch, so that if either was cut the other would hold. 2. To wind a small yarn or twine around a splice before serving.
- A line comprising two threads laid together, used to seize a strop onto a block.
- A series of single overhand knots used to lash a bundle or hammock or similar loose load. Also used to make up selvagees.
- An iron tool in the shape of a large tapered pin with a sharp or a wedge-shaped end point, used to separate the strands of s rope when being spliced.
Marline spike hitch
- A turn of line taken around a marline spike, which is then lifted and its tip slipped under the bight on the right of the standing part, used to get a strong grip for heavy hauling. Also Admiralty hitch.
- An unofficial punishment in which the offender was left on an island, or similar isolated place, without the means to escape.
- As pirates so frequently punished there own by marooning them, some proudly called themselves “Marooners”.
- Orig. the abandonment of an unwanted crewmember to live amongst the ‘Maroons’, short for Cimaroons, who were escaped black slaves of the Caribbean.
- Seamen purposely marooned as a punishment or to avoid paying them. Also Cimaroons.
Marry the gunner’s daughter
- A Royal Navy punishment involving the thrashing of a miscreant, over the breech of a gun. Said to be usually done to a midshipman when having his seat spanked whilst bent over a gun. A not uncommon punishment.
- Work two lines together to form one, or to generally bring things into line.
- Grub Street? “Cruise the Marshalsea”- Pretend to be a seaman.
- Seamen’s name for what landsmen called griping of the gut.
- A rope or chain passing down from the jib-boom end to the dolphin striker, staying the former against the upward tensions of the jib and the jib-stay. Sometimes also used as an alternative name for the dolphin striker.
- See Gob rope. NTUS 0408
- The leech line of any sail.
Maryatt’s signal code flags
- NTUS 1304
- A vertical or raked spar stepped on a vessel’s keel and carrying sails, yards, rigging and other gear. See also made mast. The foremast was 1/9 down length of lower gundeck, from bow; the mainmast was at the centre or slightly aft centre of lower gundeck; the mizzenmast was 17/20 down lower gundeck, all measured from the bow.
- Any metal band around a mast, with lugs used to fasten blocks.
- Heavy fore-and-aft timbers fixed on the underside of the deck beams, where masts pierce the decks, to give added strength. Also called mast partners.
- A metal clamp that holds the mast to a boat’s thwart.
- Additional cloths sewn on the after side of a sail, where the mast would chafe, to prevent it.
- A shaped canvas cover around a mast base, to seal it to the deck and prevent water penetrating below.
- 1. The navigating officer on a Royal Navy ship. 2. The officer in command of a merchant ship. The name for both derives from the original term of master mariner.
Master at arms
- The petty officer, under the boatswain, who was responsible fro disciplinary duties.
- Responsible for all ships in Ordinary in a port.
- The original name of master.
- The upper parts of a mast, above the rigging. If a midshipman was caught in a misdemeanour he was likely to be ‘mast-headed’, which meant he was condemned to sit up there until recalled – not popular.
- The sending of a midshipman to the mast-head, for misbehaviour, which meant he was sentenced to sit up there for a, usually, undefined period.
Mast head pennant
- Remains flying whilst a ship is in commission. Also Commissioning Pennant.
- A sliding ring of wood, later metal, to which the edge of a fore-and-aft sail attaches to the mast.
- A type of crane on shore, or on a sheer hulk, comprising a pair of sheer-legs, used to hoist a mast into position on a ship.
- A reinforcing piece of canvas sewn to the after side of a topsail to prevent chafing by the mast.
- The position on a mast where it passes through the deck.
- Vat of Pickle+13
- Positions along the mast at which bands were fitted.
- A rope used to hoist an upper mast.
- A ship specially designed to transport masts, or trees from which to make them, usually with rectangular ports at bow and stern to facilitate the stowing of long timbers below deck.
- A strong recessed wooden or steel framework mounted on the keelson, in the form of a socket that tightly holds the square heel, or butt, of a mast.
- 1. A heavy tackle used for lifting a mast, comprising fixed treble block attached to sheers and a moving double block onto which the mast is attached by means of a selvagee strop and toggle. 2. Any tackle attached to a mast.
- The wooden or metal sheath in which a small vessel’s mast is stepped.
- A flat piece of protective fabric made up from woven ropes, yarn, straw or other fibres.10
- A slow-burning fuse used for firing guns. Small rope treated to make it inflammable. Used to make slow- and quick-match.
- 1. On a merchant vessel, an officer serving below the master, with seniority denoted by the title First Mate, Second Mate, etc. The First Mate was and still is usually called the Mate. 2. An assistant to a non-commissioned officer; hence: Bosun’s Mate, Carpenter’s Mate, etc.
- The marines’ and, eventually, seamen’s slang for a lower deck sailor, from the French word for sailor.
- The practice of pairs of buccaneers sharing their lives, livings, etc, from the French for ‘bed companion’.
- A log kept by the ship’s mate, compiled from entries in the deck, or rough, log and prepared by the mate for the master’s signature. Also called the smooth log.
- Dockyard mateys were the artificers working in the dockyards. They were very defensive of their roles, as is not unknown in some unions.
- A knob knot formed in the separate strands at the end of a rope, to thicken it to prevent its slipping through a sheave or similar.
Matthew Walker’s Roses
- A knot.
- A heavy iron, or sometimes wooden, hammer.
- 1. A measure of about 1,000 sprats. 2. The basket used to hold a maund of sprats. Also mand and cade.
- Herrings in poor condition after spawning.
- The average of the forward and after draughts of a vessel.
- An imaginary sun that is considered to travel at a constant speed around the ecliptic, used in navigation when the inconstant real sun makes things difficult.
- Quay dues on goods.
- NTUS 1901
- The name given to the answer proposed in 1530 by Gemma Frisius to the question of how to find longitude at sea. It was correct, in that it proposed the use of an accurate timekeeping machine, as turned out to be the successful method, by John Harrison, in the 18c, but it was ahead of the capabilities of 16c technology to realise it practically.
- A helm order given when the quartermaster or navigator wants the helm reversed to stop the vessel swinging any further round. Because of the slowness with which a ship turns, when rudder is put over to alter course it is necessary to ‘meet her’ with opposite rudder before the required heading is reached, to prevent swinging too far.
- Navigation beacons set up so that when they line up, or meet, when viewed from the sea, they indicate the direction of the deep water channel.
- NTUS 1703
- (v) To protect a rope with an extra serving.
- Flemish Cartographer.
- NTUS 1804
- Sailing by using the principles of a Mercator chart. Also rhumb line sailing, or Wright’s sailing.
- Treatment for Pox or VD.
- A semi-great-circle on the world, from pole to pole and perpendicular to the equator.
- The action of taking an observation of the sun’s altitude at noon, at its culmination, and deducting its declination, from which the latitude can be derived. Also noon sight.
- The lengths of the arc of the meridian between the equator and a given parallel on a Mercator chart. These were expressed in units of one minute of longitude on the equator.
- Gaily dressed sailors. In the pre-late-twentieth century sense of the word gay.
- 1. A group of crew members of the same rank who were berthed in the same quarters and who ate together. 2. The space allotted to a mess.
- For monthly orders from the Purser.
- For the Week.
Messdeck, Mess deck
- 1. The deck on a man-of-war, on which the crew lived and took their meals. Home-from-home for a sailor. 2. The term would prefix many expressions, meaning they were of the lower deck, such as a messdeck lawyer, who was always complaining and quoting regulations and rights; messdeck dodger, who did the cleaning; messdeck justice, informal and roughly administered by messmates, etc.
- 1. A long loop of endless rope passed round the capstan, used to heave the anchor cable when it is too heavy to be turned round the capstan itself. The anchor cable would be temporarily attached to the messenger by means of nippers, which would be cast off and reattached as the cable is hauled in. 2. Any lighter rope used to haul in a heavier one.
- The set of eating and drinking utensils used by a mess.
- A person who shares the same mess.
- The space on a merchantman, on which the crew took their meals.
- Mess utensils
- A measuring device comprising planks at right angles, used to measure the hold depth.
- One name for a hammock, or hammick.
- See Channel buoy. NTUS 1803
- Plural of Midshipman.
- The middle watch, midnight to 0400; not everyone’s favourite.
- A reinforced band of canvas running horizontally across a square sail, halfway between the close reef and the foot. Named after the belly of a sail, where it swells out in the wind. Also belly band.
- Regions of shallow water located between navigable channels.
- NTUS 1803
Middle latitude sailing
- A combination of plane sailing and parallel sailing, from the average of the latitudes sailed. Also tangent sailing.
- An extra square topsail used on some schooners and similar smaller boats. It had a sharp outward curve from the foot to the middle and was set at the heel of the topmast.
- 12pm – 4am
Middling, Minor and Great Repairs
- Three grades of repair and refit to ships in royal dockyards.
- Singular and plural of Midshipman.
- In the middle of the ship, measured in either direction.
- The longest beam in a ship’s midship body.
- See Midship section.
- The central part of a ship’s body where the thwartship sections are roughly continuously similar in shape and size.
- The broadest and largest frame of a vessel.
-Up to the early seventeenth century this referred to a Non-Commissioned Officer under the Boatswain, then it gradually came to mean ‘Young Gentlemen’ (all mids were ‘young’ however old they were), first termed ‘Volunteer’s’ then ‘King’s Letter Boys’ due to Charles II’s support. They were the lowest ranking commissioned officers on a Royal Navy ship, and usually the youngest, who were training and accumulating sea-time before taking their lieutenant’s examination.
- Broken ship’s biscuits.
Midship reefing buntline
- A contraction of the term ‘Amidships’. See Helm amidships. A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm brought back to amidships after it has been put to port or starboard. Also ‘helm amidships’, or ‘right the helm’.
- The broadest part of a ship’s hull, formed by the midship frame and adjacent frames of the same breadth.
- Hard fist-fighting for sport. Fisticuffs.
- Overseer of Trying Out on a whaler.
- A four-pounder great gun.
Minor, Middling and Great Repairs
- Three grades of repair and refit to ships in royal dockyards.
- Failing to complete a tacking manoeuvre, usually because of insufficient wind.
- Seamen’s name for mistela, Spanish white wine. Sometime substitute for grog in the Med.
- A fiery Spanish white wine used as a substitute for grog when it was not available, commonly known by sailors as ‘Miss Taylor’.
- A two- or three-masted Mediterranean coastal cargo ship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, often used by pirates.
- A crutch type fitting used to hold a boom in place when not in use.
- A triangular sail in which the cloth runs in a different direction at the top to the bottom, meeting in an angled joint somewhere in the middle. Used to save cloth and to spread the load more evenly across the sail. Also angulated sail.
- Combinations of diurnal and semi-diurnal tides.
- The third mast from forward in a vessel with three or more masts.
Mizzen burton pendant
- Currency unit.
- A breakwater built to provide berths for loading and unloading on the landward side and, sometimes, to be used for military protection of an anchorage.
- A portable roller fairlead through which a drift net warp was led.
- Molly-hawks, or Fulmar petrels.
Moment altering trim
Money for old rope
- When old rope was condemned as worn and dangerous, it could not be sold because it was worthless – or could it? The term became seamen’s slang for an easy or cheap job, or getting something for nothing.
- Brass Monkey used to hold cannon balls. In cold weather brass contracts more than iron and ball could fall out, hence “Freeze the balls off a brass monkey”
- 1. A small block attached by means of a strap and swivel, enabling ropes to be lead in many directions. 2. A large iron block bolted to a chock on the deck.
- The small channels abaft the main channels on both sides of a hull, onto which the royal and topgallant backstays are held.
- A weighted knot made at a ropes end, around an iron or stone core, used to heave a line ashore or to another ship.
- A small signal gaff rigged from the topmast cross-trees to give more elevation and so better visibility of signal flags than from the spanker gaff, which was the more usual arrangement.
Monkey in a ball of wool
- Descriptive of a seaman’s face surrounded by whiskers.
- A short heavy navy blue coat worn by petty officers and officers, sometimes known as a bum-freezer. Short coats were preferred by seamen because they kept clear of their legs, but then the officers decided to wear short coats, too.
- A low poop deck.
- The light rail fixed above the quarterdeck bulwarks. Also called the topgallant rail.
- A broad canvas belt used as a safety harness by whalemen working over the side of a whaleship on the carcass.
- The strengthened seam down the centre of a square sail, in which the inner selvages are overlapped, stitched and tabled.
- The fancy knot tied around a weight, on the end of a heaving line.
- A young sailor, too inexperienced to be sent aloft.
- A rope attached to the end of a lever to allow more crewmembers to haul on it.
Monkey with a marlin spike
- Affectionate name for the rampant lion and dagger crest of Trinity House.
- Thrum cap.
- A fine-weather sail set above a skysail. Also moonsail.
- A square fine-weather sail set above a skysail. Also moonraker.
- The ancient tidal prediction method of reckoning the time of high water by the point of the compass at which the Moon was situated at the time. Of more common use by those sailing inshore and pilots.
- An expression used to describe a vessel with more than the usual sheer, both forward and aft.
- The tidal prediction term meaning the Moon’s transit across the meridian.
- (v) To anchor a vessel, or attach her to a permanently installed point provided to secure her.
- Used to lay out cables.
- A heavy swivel shackled onto the cables forward of the stem, comprising two three-eyed forgings to which studless links are attached. One eye would be used for the swivel and the other two for the inboard and outboard sections of cable, to prevent twists in the cable.
- (v) To make round pegs (trenels) by hand, from square sections. Hence a mooter did so.
- A hand-maker of trenels. Usually a home-worker on piece rate.
- The herring fisherman’s name for money.
- The watch between 0400 and 0800.
- Seamen’s’ term for the youngest crew member.
- Seamen’s’ term for the smallest boat carried on a ship.
- “Forty stripes lacking one.” A frequent pirate punishment of thirty-nine lashes, for serious offences against fellow crew members.
- Ships moored together and ready to be prepared for sea-duty and action at short notice.
- A ship that earns her owner enough to enable him to buy a replacement or second ship.
- A place (in the W.I.?) where ships gather.
- Pattern used by shipwrights for the frames and curved pieces of a ship’s structure, made from flexible timber. The bend-mould was used to determine the convexity and the hollow-mould the concavity of timbers, particularly where they curve in and down towards the keel. See also bevelling.
- The vertical depth of a vessel measured between the keel and the uppermost deck beams
- The shaping of a ship’s frames and timber during construction.
- The large room in a shipyard used as a ship designer’s studio in which the full size plans, elevations and moulds are prepared and laid out, or lofted.
- Proper name for a sword handle.
- 1. A large pear-shaped knot formed around the eye of a stay to prevent it chafing against the mast. 2. To tie several turns of spunyarn tightly across the mouth of a hook to prevent the load jumping off. 3. An elongated knot made on a shroud or messenger to prevent the nippers from slipping.
Mr Clerks Tactics, Proctor’s Bills
- The creaming off of profits from the taking of privateers, by shore officials?
- Whaling for grey whale in Baja California shallows.
- Seamen’s slang for an anchor.
- River pilot on the River Thames.
- A stoppage of pay as a punishment.
- A Portuguese lateen-rigged fishing boat with characteristic long bowsprit, giving it a large sail area for its size.
- Seamen’s term for food. Probably a corruption of the French manger.
- The carved uprights between a ship’s stern windows.
- 50/50 zinc and copper mix, used for “coppering” CTC
- An iron bar fitted with a number of hooks that was dragged along the seabed to impale fish. Also called a fluke bar.
Muscovy Company, The
- Established ?, trading finished cloth with Russia, for timber and naval supplies. Sought NE & NW Passages to Asia.
- Flat-bottom landing boats, built for the Commission des Cotes de la Manche flotilla, for use by Napoleonic invasion force in 1797. Muskein was the name of the Antwerper who designed them.
- Large calibre musket mounted on swivels.
- Occasional seamen’s name for the sails.
- A design of yacht in which the bow is formed into a shallow shape like a mussel shell.
- 1 The formal gathering together of the crew. 2 A Kit Muster is the formal inspection of kit aboard. 3 Passed muster is what happened when the kit was in order.
Mustering by the Open List
- The men would walk up to the Captain in turn and declare their listing.
- Calling all the crew and/or passengers together for drill or discipline, or for a head count.
- Collective insubordination. Includes striking an Officer, they were usually over pay and were considered to be in the tradition of the sea service. Sometimes “Mutiny” was branded onto the forehead of a mutineer, but see also Punishment.
My Lord Mayor’s Men
- Quota Men.
- The point in the heavens directly opposite the zenith.
- When a vessel begins to complain
Nantucket sleigh ride
- The American term for the wild ride in a whaleboat being towed by a recently harpooned whale, before it tires out enough for the lances to be used to finish it off.
- Early Portuguese/Spanish sailing ship.
- Mention The Continental System of trade embargo.
- The English Channel.
- Generic term in Latin navies for large ship.
- Greek word for ship, from which we get the word nausea. Very apt.
- First useful one by Maskelyne in 1767. Then revised editions published throughout 18c.
- See Sea-chart. NTUS 1804
- Began at noon 12 hours before the civil day and so 24 hours before the astronomical day, until early in the nineteenth century.
- A measure of distance of one minute of arc on the meridian. Because of the flattened shape of the earth the actual distance varied between 6,046 feet at the equator and 6,108 feet at the poles, with the standard sea mile being taken as 6,080 feet. Also sea mile.
- Modern term for present day sea officer trainees.
- A court convened by a naval or consular officer to try a member of a crew or to enquire into the loss of a ship, comprising three to five naval officers or people of similar rank.
- NTUS 0305
Naval, or navel, line
- A rope attached to the mast-head and passing round the yard truss, to help hold it up.
- Mid 19c curved sword.
- Any item issued by the purser, or pusser.
- Generic term originating in Latin navies for large sailing ships in Middle Ages in the Mediterranean.
- The lowest futtock in the midship frame of a vessel.
Nave line, naveline
- A tackle rigged to the parrel, from the main and foremasts, to keep the former level and in line when raising or lowering it.
- See Naval line. NTUS 0412
- NTUS 1704
- The art of locating the position of a vessel.
- The basis of much maritime navigation, comprising a spherical triangle abounded by the pole, the observer and the heavenly body, joined by zeniths. Also PZX triangle.
- English trade restriction laws first passed in 1382 and 1463, reserving English trade to English ships. Many foreign shippers found it to be irksome. Strictly reimposed by England on foreign shipping in the seventeenth century, when we were seeking to irritate our foes, and finally repealed in 1849, when we wanted to encourage foreign trade after having taken over the world’s oceans and whilst leading the world in producing cheaply manufactured goods.
- First formed in 1546 as the ‘Council of the Marine’ or ‘Chief Officers of the Admiralty’, it became the first permanent Royal Navy administration. Members entitled the Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Navy. The Controller (Chairman of the Board); Surveyor, responsible for ship design and construction; Clerk of the Acts, who supervised the Secretariat; and civilian Controllers. The Principle Officers & Commissioners of the Navy – Navy Office – Responsible for the admin of Dockyards, Design & Construction & Repair of ships & the supply of naval stores. The ‘Principle Officers’ were the Controller, Surveyor, Clerk of Acts & Controllers of Treasury A/Cs, and Victualling A/Cs & Storekeepers A/Cs-See Commissioners of the Navy Board WW33
- Originally met in Will’s Coffee Shop in Scotland Yard in mid 18c.
- The body that replaced the Navy Board during 1618-28.
Navy List, The
- The annual list of officers in the Royal Navy, on which their seniority was/is recorded.
- Located in Crutched Friars, Seething Lane, near the Tower of London
- Incorporated by Henry VIII.
- Said of a vessel that has run aground on the highest spring tide. Successive following tides are never high enough, until the next spring tides, to float float the vessel off. She is there all through the neap tides. Hence neaped. Also said when a vessel has been prevented from leaving a barred harbour until a corresponding period of higher tides occurs. Sometimes called beneaped.
- Tides of reduced range occurring when the sun and Moon are not aligned, at the first and last quarters.
- Undiluted rum. Popular, but rare.
- Furl sail to make a “Neat Harbour Stow”
- Leather shoes from early Slops.
- A seaman’s or marine’s bedroll, in which other necessaries were contained.
- Seamen’s term for a tot of rum and water, or grog.
- See Cuckold’s knot. NTUS 0501
- A chain round the lower mast, securing the lower ends of the futtock shrouds.
- Hoop through which tightly rolled hammock had to pass before being placed in the hammock netting.
- French term for ships in general and for a single-masted freighter from 11 to 16c.
- Born 29 Sep 1758.
- Black/yellow bands with black port lids – black/white chequer became fashionable later in the Napoleonic Wars.
- Navy rum. This nickname was used after Trafalgar in the mistaken belief that Nelson’s body was transported back to England in a cask of rum. In fact only brandy and spirit of wine were used, so no rum was spoiled.
Nelson’s signal flags (Trafalgar)
- NTUS 1302
- White horses, or breaking wave tops.
- Young herring that swim ashore in autumn.
- A wooden needle used to make or mend fishing nets.
- Were rigged over the gun deck whilst a ship was in action to prevent danger to crew from falling debris.
- 1. A small line made of two or three rope yarns twisted hard together between thumb and finger, with the twist of the rope starting in the middle and the ends whipped. Also knittle. 2. The cords by which a hammock was hung, known as the clews. A knotted length of nettle would be used to sting shipmates who have been sentenced to run the gauntlet. Nettled, ashore, means hurt, and derives from this usage, not from weeds.
- Small spunyarn made with two or three strands, used to make gaskets or similar.
- A post holding one end of a rail.
New England Saint
- Widely believed to be a rarity and so used as an example of something scarce. BDD
- Prison ship or boat used by press gangs to visit ships afloat in search of recruits.
- The basis of all modern navigation introduced in 1874 by Marc St. Hilaire of the French Navy. Also, Marc St Hilaire method or the intercept method.
- Workers ashore who are late arrivers and early leavers, who complain about their travelling problems.
- The first watch, from 8pm to Midnight.
- A single block that looked like a flattened ninepin, fixed under the forecastle and quarterdeck bitts and used to lead running in a horizontal direction.
Nine thread stuff
- A one inch diameter line made up of nine strands
- (v) To temporarily stop a rope or join it side-by-side to another, by making turns of yarn alternately round each rope.
- Seamen’s slang for a small turn in a rope, used to hold it temporarily.
Nip the rope
- Make a loop or twist.
- 1. The expression used for a rope that has been jammed or caught up in some way. 2. Said of a vessel beset by ice.
- 1. A short length of light line used to temporarily bind and quickly release the hemp anchor cable to/from the messenger cable, a continuous loop of heavy rope that turned by the capstans, when weighing anchor. 2. The ship’s boy who was assigned to use a first definition nipper and who had to be nippy, so they were also called nippers. 3. On an American whaleboat, a piece of quilt