(Lloyd's of London) The Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping , which
deals with the design and construction of ships, was first published in the
mid-1700s. The state of a ship's hull was designated by letters and that of
its equipment (anchor, cables, etc.) by numbers. This meant, for example, that
a ship classified A-1 was first-rate. If classified A-2 , the hull was considered
first-rate, but its equipment second-rate.
Behind or aft of; on the after side of; towards the stern relative to some other
object or position.
Abaft the beam:
Any direction between the beam and the stern, more behind a vessel than in front
of it. Behind a perpendicular line extending out from the middle of the boat
At right angles to the fore and aft line of the boat, or beside, the boat; on
the beam; also Abreast.
Able Bodied Seamen:
A member of the deck crew who is able to perform all the duties of an experienced
seaman; certificated by examination; must have three years sea service. Also
called Able Seamen and A.B.
On or in a vessel. Close aboard is close to another ship or an obstruction
Across the wind in relation to the bow. When a sailboat tacks across the wind
to bring it from one side to the other, she is said to go about.
The order to tack the ship
Above the deck, and therefore open and visible. This gave rise to the term used
to denote open and fair dealing.
On the deck (not over it; see ALOFT).
To lay the head-yards abox in a square rigged sailing vessel was to lay them
square to the foremast in order to heave:to.
Alongside of; on the beam.
American Bureau of Shipping: A U.S. based private classification, or standards
setting society for merchant ships and other marine systems.
That part of the ocean lying below 300 fathoms from the surface.
A hole through casing, bulkhead, floor or deck to enable one to reach work or
A cabin fitted for the use of passengers.
Describing an anchor when it hangs by its ring at the cathead or from the hawsehole
ready for letting go.
Additional terms at the end of a charter party.
Mad, insane, or just stupid. An "addlepate" is a fool.
The confirmed or official dimensions of a ship.
The title of a commander of a fleet or a subdivision of it.
(1) Admiralty law (also referred to as maritime law) is a distinct body of law
which governs maritime questions and offenses. It is a body of both domestic
law governing maritime activities, and private and international law governing
the relationships between private entities which operate vessels on the high
(2) Prior to the mid-1970s, most international conventions concerning maritime
trade and commerce originated in a private organization of maritime lawyers
known as the Comité Maritime International (International Maritime Committee
or CMI). Founded in 1897, the CMI was responsible for the drafting of numerous
international conventions including the Hague Rules (International Convention
on Bills of Lading), the Visby Amendments (amending the Hague Rules), the Salvage
Convention and many others. While the CMI continues to function in an advisory
capacity, many of its functions have been taken over by the International Maritime
Organization, which was established by the United Nations in 1958 but did not
become truly effective until about 1974.
An order given by the commander of a fleet, or a counrties navy to all the ships
under that command
A large, cautious turn made to approach a gangway or to come alongside a vessel
or jetty in a boat.
The gingerbread woodwork on the stern of old sailing ships.
Floating free with the currents and tide; said of a free floating object or
boat which can not move by its own power; floating at random.
The distance traveled parallel to original course while turning.
Method of reeving a tackle in order to gain the maximum increase in power.
Can occur any time warm, moist air blows over a surface cool enough to drop
it's temperature below the dew point.
Consignments of cargo sent abroad in a ship to be sold or bartered by the master
to best advantage or when the opportunity arises.
Having a shape that that is not adversely affected by wind flowing past it.
At, near or towards the stern; to move aft is to move back
After Bow Spring Line:
A mooring line fixed to the bow of the boat and leading aft where it is attached
to the dock. This prevents the boat from moving forward in its berth. Its opposite,
the forward quarter spring line, is used to keep the boat from moving aft in
The hatchway nearest the stern.
Said of a line that leads from its point of attachment towards the stern of
In a ship with multiple cabins, the cabin closest to the stern.
In a sailing ship carrying multiple masts, the mast set closest to the stern.
The farthest aft.
The part of the boat behind the beam.
Against the Sun:
Anti:clockwise circular motion. Left:handed ropes are coiled down in this way.
Age of the Tide:
The interval between full moon and change of moon and the highest high tide.
A fee charged to the ship by the ship's agent, representing payment for services
while the ship was in port. Sometimes called attendance fee.
See Ship's Port Agent
Lines on the Earths surface joining point where there is no magnetic variation.
When the hull or keel is touching or fast to the bottom of any body of water;
on or onto the shore.
In front of the vessel, forward; in a forward direction; opposite of astern.
Seaman's call to attract attention.
AHT (Anchor: handling tug):
Moves anchors and tow drilling vessels, lighters and similar.
Lying almost beam on to strong winds and being driven before them while under
bare poles (without sails up). The helm is lashed so as to point the vessel
into the wind, but it continually falls away because of the pressure of the
wind. It is a technique for riding out storms.
Aid to Navigation (ATON):
Any fixed object that a navigator may use to find his position, such as permanent
land or sea markers, buoys, radio beacons, and lighthouses, and to indicate
safe and unsafe waters.
(AIS) Automatic Identification
Picture a shipboard display system (e.g. radar, ECDIS, chart plotter, etc.)
with overlaid electronic chart data that includes a mark for every significant
ship within radio range; each as desired with a velocity vector (indicating
speed and heading). Each ship "mark" could reflect the actual size of the ship,
with position to GPS or differential GPS accuracy. By "clicking" on a ship mark,
you could learn the ship name, course and speed, classification, call sign,
registration number, MMSI, and other information. Maneuvering information, closest
point of approach (CPA), time to closest point of approach (TCPA) and other
navigation information, more accurate and more timely than information available
from an automatic radar plotting aid, could also be available. Display information
previously available only to modern Vessel Traffic Service operations centers
could now be available to every AIS-equipped ship.
A cleat that attaches to the backstay over the cockpit, usually used for hanging
(Albatross around one's neck) Large and long-winged seabird of the southern
hemisphere capable of long flights. It was believed among seamen that albatrosses
embodied the souls of dead sailors, and it was considered unlucky to kill one.
A handheld electric lamp with a finger operated shutter used for the sending
of signals at sea.
Away from the direction of the wind; the side away from the direction of the
With all sails filling from the opposite side from which they are trimmed.
The entire crew; an order on board ship for all seamen to muster on deck immediately.
All hands on deck:
A term used to tell all seamen to get to their stations or positions and prepare
A light showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 360 degrees.
An anchor or riding light is an all:round light.
All in the Wind:
When a sailing vessel is head to the wind and all of her sails are fluttering.
The act of striking or collision of a moving vessel against a stationary object.
Annual publication of astronomical data for the use of navigators.
Above the deck, usually overhead on the mast or in the rigging.
Close beside a ship, wharf or jetty.
(1) Old expression meaning to "keep your luff", or sail as close to
the wind as possible.
(2)A nautical order to keep the ship's head to the wind, thus to stay clear
of a lee shore or some other quarter. The front part of the sail which meets
the wind is called the luff. A sailing vessel that could point higher to windward
and hold its speed better than another was said to stand apart or to sail a-luff
that later became aloof.
(3) Today the word is used to describe a person who is distant or stands apart
from the others.
Down or downwards; as in "Lay alow!"; opposite of Aloft.
Instrument for establishing the altitude and azimuth of stars and planets.
The angle a celestial body makes with the horizon.
An old maritime expression meaning "immediately", as "let go
amain" (drop the anchor at once!).
The outboard hulls of a trimaran.
In or toward the part of a boat or ship midway between the bow and the stern;
also midway between port and starboard sides; toward the middle of the ship
An instrument for measuring electrical current in amperes.
(1) In navigation, the angle between the point at which the sun rises and sets
and the true east and west points of the horizon. :
(2) Wave height.
(1) A heavy metal object, fastened to a chain or line, to hold a vessel in position,
partly because of its weight, but chiefly because the designed shape digs into
the bottom. :
(2) The act of using an anchor.
A black ball visible in all directions, displayed in the forward part of a vessel
to indicate that the vessel is anchored. (day shape)
Chocks which hold and anchor in place either in a locker or on deck.
A type of knot used to fasten an anchor to its line.
A small buoy that is used to mark the position of an anchor. It is attached
to the base or crown of an anchor and can be used to recover the anchor if it
has to be cast adrift, or to trip it if it becomes wedged.
Anchor is Apeak:
The anchor is under the hawse .
Anchor is Aweigh:
Anchor is off the sea bottom when being heaved in .
Anchor is Foul:
Anchor cable is caught around the fluke or an object is caught around the anchor.
Preventing anchor from digging in.
A white light, usually on the masthead, visible from all directions, used to
indicate that a vessel is anchored.
A hawser or line attached to an anchor.
A member or members of the crew that keep watch and check to see whether the
anchor is dragging and the the drift of the ship. This is prudent when anchored
in heavy weather, or where wind direction may change dangerously.
A windlass is a winch:like device used to assist in the raising of the anchor.
A sheltered place suitable for anchoring in relation to the wind, seas and bottom.
An instrument for measuring wind speed
A mechanical barometer used to measure air pressure for warnings of changing
Angle of Attack:
(1) The angle between the sail and the apparent wind :
(2) The angle rudder or centerline (keel) to the flow of water.
Angle of Cut:
In navigation, the smaller angle at which two position lines on a chart intersect.
The fix will be more reliable as the angle approaches 90°.
Angle of Heel:
The number of degrees of list a vessel has. The first indication that a vessel
may need to reef is when there is too great an angle of heel.
The amount by which magnetic variation changes up or down each year in a particular
area. The annual increase or decrease is printed in the compass roses on each
chart and may make a significant difference over a number of years.
A metal, usually zinc in salt water or aluminum in freshwater , affixed to the
outside of a vessel intended to erode by galvanic electric current (caused by
the immersion of dissimilar metals in water) so that useful metal parts are
Area of high barometric pressure where the wind circulates clockwise in the
Northern Hemisphere, and counter-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. These
are fair weather systems with light or moderate winds.
A paint applied to the boat's bottom below the waterline which contains "poisons",
such as copper, to inhibit the growth of marine life such as weeds or barnacles.
A pair of additional backstays temporarily rigged to provide extra support to
the masts of square rigged vessels when sailing downwind.
Any port in a storm:
When trouble struck at sea, seamen would go to the nearest to "any port
in a storm." Now this phrase has entered our everyday language and is used
when we have problems and any and all help is welcome.
Said of an anchor when the cable is taut and vertical.
Large bollards affixed to the main deck near the bow of a square rigged vessel
around which hawsers or anchor cables were belayed.
The direction and speed of the wind as it appears to those on board, relative
to the speed and direction of the boat; combination of the true wind and the
wind caused by the boat's movement through the water.
A rudder, keel, centerboard, or skeg.
A strengthening timber behind the lower part of the stem and above the foremost
end of the keel in a wooden vessel.
A device invented by Captain Jacques Cousteau in 1943 to enable a diver to operate
underwater independent from an air supply from the surface.
Method of settling disputes which is usually binding on parties. A clause usually
in a charter party.
The point at which the Sun , traveling in the Ecliptic , crosses the Equinoctial
when going from South to North declination.
(Armadilla) Any well armed Spanish war vessel that was smaller that a man-o-war.
Armed to the teeth:
This expression does not originate with pirates holding swords in their teeth,
rather it is just one of many uses of the metaphorical phrase "to the teeth,"
meaning "very fully or completely".
Slang expression to indicate that a ship was not fitted with any mechanical
aids, and that all the work of the ship had to be done with the strong arms
of the crew.
Articles of Agreement:
The document containing all particulars relating to the terms of agreement between
the Master of the vessel and the crew. Terms and conditions agreed to by the
crew of the pirate ship. The word articles may have its roots in one of two
places. It may come from the religious definition where articles refer to: the
separate items of any summary of faith or from the political definition where
it means: each of the distinct heads or points of an agreement or treaty. Privateers
also signed articles but the terms and conditions were drawn up between the
Captain and the the persosn issuing the letter of marque or owner of the sailing
Articles of War:
Disciplinary code in which maritime crimes and punishments are specified.
An aid to taking as astronomical sight with a sextant when the sea horizon is
obscured through haze, fog, or darkness.
As the crow flies:
The most direct route from one place to another without detours. Before modern
navigational systems existed, British vessels customarily carried a cage of
crows. These birds fly straight to the nearest land when released at sea thus
indicating the direction of the nearest land was.
On the land or aground.
The relationship (ratio) between the sails height (luff length) and length along
the foot. High aspect ratio means a sail that is tall and narrow, low aspect
ratio is a short, squat sail. A high aspect ratio sail is very efficient in
sailing close to the wind.
Said of an anchor cable when its line angle approximates a continuation of the
fore stay line .
Backwards, somewhere behind the vessel, towards the stern; in the direction
of, or behind, the stern; opposite of ahead.
A precursor to the sextant. An old navigational device for checking the altitude
of the sun or stars.
At a loose ends:
A nautical term for a rope when unattached and therefore neglected or not doing
its job. Thus 'tying up loose ends' indicates having done a complete job or
having dealt with all the details.
In marine insurance this phrase applies to a ship which is free from its moorings
and ready to sail.
Lying along the ship's width, at right angles to the vessels fore-and-aft line
(centerline). Same as abeam.
A member or dimension running from port to starboard.
From one side of a ship to the other.
A horseshoe: shaped or circular reef of coral surrounding a lagoon.
(1) Said of an anchor immediately when it is broken out of the ground. :
(2) In square:rigged ships topsails are a:trip when they are fully hoisted and
ready for sheeting.
Old Latin name for the south wind.
Electro:mechanical steering device; an instrument designed to control automatically
a vessel's steering gear so that she follows a pre:determined track through
(1) A second method of propelling a vessel. On a sailboat this would be the
(2) Machinery fitted in steam and motor vessels, which is not part of the main
propelling machinery. :
(3) A support group, e.g., Coast Guard Auxiliary
A command to stop or cease immediately what one is doing.
Water washing over; the situation of an object when almost submerged.
To raise an anchor off the bottom; the position of anchor as it is raised clear
of the bottom.
A sail or canvas set like a canopy to give shade from the sun.
Yes. "Aye aye sir" is a reply on board ship on receipt of an order.
The bearing of a celestial body from an observer's position.
The unfortunate man who was assigned to remain on deck to watch over the ship's
safety while the ship was in harbor, and the rest of the crew were off duty.
Secondary forestay supporting the leading edge of the mast and used to flatten
the mainsail in building winds.
The wind shifts in a counterclockwise direction in the northern hemisphere and
clockwise in the southern hemisphere (opposite of VEER); the wind is said to
back when it changes contrary to its normal pattern.
A splice formed when a crown knot is made in the end of a piece of line and
the ends are woven three times or more into the standing part of the line to
keep it from unraveling.
Backing A Sail:
To push a sail out so that the wind fills the opposite side, thus slowing the
Backing and Filling:
(1)Alternatively letting the sails draw, then spilling wind so as to keep a
vessel more or less in one place until space is available, marking time.
(2) A method of turning a power boat in little more than its own length also
A spring line from the stern of a boat to mid ships to stop forward movement
Backstaff: (Sextant or
(1) A navigation instrument used to measure the apparent height of a landmark
whose actual height is known, such as the top of a lighthouse. From this information,
the ship's distance from that landmark can be calculated.
(2) Backstaff A backstaff calculates the ship’s distance north or south of the
equator (it’s latitude) by measuring the height of the noon-day sun or the North
Standing or running (adjustable) wire rigging that supports the mast from the
stern; a wire mast support leading aft to the deck or another mast
Wind that is deflected from it's normal course by the sails
When the wind pushes on the wrong side of the sail, causing it to be pushed
away from the wind. If the lines holding the sail in place are not released,
the boat could become hard to control and heel excessively.
Backwinding A Sail:
To hold the mainsail or jib off to the side to cause the wind to blow onto the
backside of the sail, used to slow a boat
Tassels of unraveled line, yarns, etc. which are lashed around chafe spots such
as spreaders to prevent chafe on sails.
To remove water from the boat by hand, bucket, pump etc.
Openings in the bottom or transom of a boat to drain water when sailing.
The degree to which all the forces on a boat are symmetrical so the vessel sails
with just a slight weather helm.
Those frames of a ship's hull which are equal in area, one forward and one aft
of the ship's center of gravity.
Sailing term used to indicate a sailing vessel underway with no headsails set.
A metal ring on a boom, pole or mast where blocks or shackles may be attached.
Weight at the bottom or the lower portion of the boat to give her stability
and/or to provide satisfactory fore and aft trim.. Ballast can be place inside
the hull of the boat or externally in a keel. Heavy substances can be loaded
by a vessel to improve stability, trimming, sea:keeping and to increase the
immersion at the propeller. Sea water ballast is commonly loaded in most vessels
in ballast tanks, positioned in compartments right at the bottom and in some
cases on the sides, called wing tanks. On a tanker, ballast is seawater that
is taken into the cargo tanks to submerge the vessel to a proper trim.
Tanks carried in various parts of a ship for water ballast, for stability and
to make the ship seaworthy.
A reaching headsail that has a big draft and is usually light:weight
From the 17th century, it described the Spanish custom of hoisting false flags
to deceive (bamboozle) enemies. Today if one intentionally deceives someone,
they are said to have bamboozled them.
A day in which no meat was issued in rations.
A region of shallow water usually made of sand or mud, usually running parallel
to the shore. Bars are caused by wave and current action, and may not be shown
on a chart.
Iron in a "dumbbell" shape shot into enemy rigging to cut lines and
Said of a rope when it is under such tension that it is practically rigid.
A sail control used to change the athwartships lead of the jib sheet by pulling
the sheet toward the centerline of the boat.
The name applied to the coast of North Africa extending from the Atlantic Ocean
to the western border of Egypt. Its name is derived from the Berbers, who were
the principal inhabitants of the region. The Barbary pirates date from the 1800s
Bare Boat Charter:
A charter in which the bare ship is chartered without crew; the charterer, for
a stipulated sum taking over the vessel for a stated period of time, with a
minimum of restrictions; the charterer appoints the master and the crew and
pays all running expenses.
Condition of a sailing ship when all sails have been taken down in a severe
storm, very often a hazardous undertaking if there is a high sea running.
(1) A cargo carrying vessel, usually without an engine, towed or pushed by a
tug. Small barges for carrying cargo between ship and shore are known as lighters.
(2) Also a term in sail racing : a boat which forces its way illegally between
another contestant and the starting line is said to be barging.
A small shellfish which sticks to the bottoms of ships.
An instrument used to keep a record of atmospheric pressure, such as on a paper
An instrument that measures atmospheric pressure in inches or millibars of mercury
Atmospheric pressure as measured by a barometer.
Barque (Also Bark):
A sailing ship with three to five masts, all of them square:rigged except the
after mast, which is fore:and:aft rigged.
Sailing vessel with three or more masts. Square rigged on foremast, fore and
aft rigged on all others.
Any wrongful act knowingly done by the master or crew of a vessel to the detriment
of the owner of either ship or cargo; and which was done without knowledge or
consent of owner or owners.
A barrel or cask is a hollow cylindrical container, traditionally made of wood
staves and bound with iron hoops. The term "barrel" typically refers
to wooden vessels that are small enough to be moved by hand,
A small free:moving submersible designed for exploring the ocean depths.
A thin, flexible wooden or plastic strip inserted into a pocket (batten pockets)
on the back part (leech) of a sail to stiffen it and assist in keeping its form.
(1) Secure hatches and loose objects both within the hull and on deck in preparation
for approaching bad weather.
(2) Now used as a term meaning "get ready". The term originates from
the act of securing the hatches and tarpaulins covering them on a boat with
use of battens (long flat blades made of wood) in preparation for a coming storm.
Pockets in a sail where battens can be placed to stiffen the sail.
The names of battles or individual ship actions in which a warship has taken
part, usually displayed in a prominent place on a ship as a source of pride
in her name. Known as Battle Stars in the U.S. Navy.
An indentation of the coastline between two headlands.
Originally a seaman who, not wanting to work, preferred to exist by hanging
around ports and harbors and living on the charity of others. Now more generally
describing any loafer around the waterfront who prefers not to work.
A lighted or unlighted fixed (non:floating) aid to navigation that serves as
a signal or indication for guidance or warning. (Lights and daybeacons both
Name given to the metal point or ram fixed on the bows of old war galleys and
used to pierce the hulls, and thus sink or disable enemy ships.
The protruding part of the foremost section of a sailing ship. It was fitted
on sailing vessels from the 16th to the 18th century and served as a working
platform by sailors working the sails of the bowsprit, The beakhead also housed
the crew's toilets (head), which would drop refuse straight into the sea without
sullying the ship's hull unnecessarily.
(1) The transverse measurement of a boat at its widest point. Also called breadth.
(2) One of the transverse members of a ship's frames on which the decks are
Vessel said to be "on her beam ends" when she is lying over so much
that her deck beams are nearly vertical.
A point of sail where the boat is sailing at a right angle to the wind (wind
coming from abeam). A beam reach is usually the fastest point of sail. A beam
reach is a point of sail between a broad reach and a close reach.
A situation in which waves strike a boat from the side, causing it to roll unpleasantly.
One which blows across a boat's side
Wide, a wide boat is a beamy boat
The direction of an object from the observer's position.
Bear Away, Bear Off:
To turn the boat away from the wind. Also, Fall Off. The opposite of heading
To approach something from upwind, to bear down is to sail fast, often towards
the enemy in a threatening manner. Today to bear down is still used to describe
"making a rush at", as well as exert strength or pressure upon something
or to pay special attention in some situation.
(1) A compass direction, in compass points or degrees, from one point to another.
Relative bearing is the direction relative to the heading of the boat with the
bow 0 degrees and the stern 180 degrees. True bearing is the direction from
the ship relating to true north with north being 0 degrees and south 180 degrees.
(2) Also, a device for supporting a rotating shaft with minimum friction, which
may take the form of a metal sleeve (a bushing), a set of ball bearings (a roller
ball), or a set of pins around a shaft (a needle bearing).
Beat / Beating:
To sail towards the direction from which the wind blows by making a series of
tacks. A point of sail also known as sailing close hauled.
A number system used to describe wind forces and sea conditions from 0 for a
flat calm to 12 for a hurricane
The act of blanketing a ship by cutting off the wind, either by the proximity
of the shore or by another ship. A ship motionless by the absence of wind is
said to be becalmed.
A loop or a small eye in the end of a rope or a block.
The word originated from the name of a London mental hospital, St. Mary of Bethlehem
Hospital, where the Royal Navy would discharge men for treatment of mental illness.
Now the word is used to describe a state of extreme confusion and disorder.
A ring or hoop of metal.
Wooden swells on each side of the after end of a boom, having sheaves through
which to lead the leech reefing pendants.
Bees of the Bowsprit:
Pieces of hard wood bolted to the outer end of a bowsprit through which are
rove the foretopmast stays before they are brought in to the bows and secured.
Before the Mast:
(1) Said of a man who goes to sea as a rating compared with officers, and lives
forward. Forward of a mast.
(2) The crew whose living quarters on board were in the forecastle (the section
of a ship forward of the foremast). The term is also used more generally to
describe seamen as compared with officers, in phrases such as "he sailed
before the mast."
Before the Wind:
Sailing with the wind from astern, in the same direction toward which the wind
(1) To make a line secure to a pin, cleat, bollard, bitt, etc.
(2) Command to stop or cease action, e.g. "Belay the last order".
Iron or wood pin fitted into racks, around which lines can be belayed or secured.
Traditionally a ship's bell is made of brass and has her name engraved on it.
It is used for striking the bells which mark the passage of time and is also
used as a fog signal as an audible warning of a ship's position. Everytime the hour glass was turned the ship's
bell would be rung marking the passage of 30 minutes. 2 bells per hour, a 4
hour watch would be 8 bells marking the time for a new work shift to begin.
Originating aboard sailing vessels, the wide, flared, legs on bell-bottomed
trousers are easy to roll up when working, cleaning or wading on a boat.
A navigational buoy on which is mounted a bell with clappers hung inside a metal
cage, which is rung by the motion of the sea. It serves as a warning of shoal
A short piece of line spliced into the end of the clapper by which the bell
is struck. Traditionally it is finished off with a double wall knot crowned
in its end. ** This is the only working rope on a boat all other ropes are called lines
The strokes on the ship's bell to mark the passage of time. The passage of time
in each watch is marked by the bell every half-hour.
Beneath the decks, i.e., inside a cabin or in a hold
A type of knot used to connect a line to a spar or another line, a sail to a
spar, or a line to a sail. Also the act of using such a knot.
(2) To swing your body when pulling on an oar : "bend to your oars".
Bend on Sails:
To install the sails on the boom or the forestay.
is what you are doing when tying a knot "your are bending a line"
A situation where a vessel has gone aground at the top of the spring tides and
has to wait for up to a fortnight (during which the neap tides occur) for the
next tide high enough to float her off. Vessels beneaped at around the time
of the equinoxes when the highest spring tides occur may have to wait up to
6 months to get off.
Bent on a Splice:
Sailor's term for being about to get married, a splice being used to join two
Pieces of ice, about the size of a small house, that have broken off a glacier.
A sail plan in which the main and/or mizzen, or the foresail of a schooner,
is of triangular shape, very long in the luff and set from a tall mast. This
is almost now universal in all sailing yachts.
(1) A place for a person to sleep.
(2) A place where the ship can tie up or anchor.
(3) A position of employment aboard a ship
(4) A safe and cautious distance from which another vessel or object is passed,
as in "giving wide berth"
Said of a vessel when she is entirely surrounded by ice.
Term used in the days of sail to indicate the starboard of the two anchors carried
at the bow of a ship. The anchor on the port side was known as the small bower
(although they were the same size).
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue
Caulker's name for the seam in the upper deck planking next to a ship's waterways.
There was very little space to get at this seam, making it a difficult and awkward
job. This is the origin of the expression "Between the devil and the deep
blue sea, since there is only the thickness of the ship's hull planking between
this seam and the sea. also known as the garboard seam.
Betwixt Wind and Water:
On or near the line of immersion of a ship's hull.
Old name for bunting from which signal and other flags were made.
Pieces of timber bolted to the hounds of a mast of a square rigged ship to support
the trestle trees.
Bible: Sailor's name for
a block of sandstone used for scrubbing the wooden decks of a ship; seamen had
to get down on their knees to use them. Large holystones were known as "Bibles",
while smaller blocks to reach awkward places were known as "Prayer Books"
(1) The part of a line between the ends.
(2) A loop in a line.
(3) An indentation in the coastline lying between two promontories, larger than
(4) ‘Hook the Bight’ is to get married or become involved with a
woman. From when the fluke of one anchor gets into the bight of another’s
Senior officers in the English Navy were known as "bigwigs" because
they wore huge wigs. Bigwig officers aboard ships were often disliked. Today
it is still used to refer to the most important person in a group or undertaking
and is often used in a derogatory manner.
Long bars or bolts with a padlock on the end, on which iron shackles could slide,
which were used on board ship to confine the legs of prisoners.
The part of the floors of a ship on either side of the keel which approaches
closer to a horizontal rather than vertical direction. The very lowest part
of a boats interior where water is likely to collect.
When a boat has two separate fins, instead of a centerboard or keel, they are
referred to as bilge boards.
Shallow keels, usually placed in conjunction with or in place of a center keel.
Attached to each side of a vessel, they provide lateral resistance and stability,
as well as support the weight of the hull of the ship on the ways when launching,
or when in dry:dock for cleaning or repairs.
A mechanical, electrical, or manually operated pump used to remove water from
A scoundrel. Similar to a scurvy dog
Water which runs down and collects in the bilges of a ship and usually becomes
foul and noxious.
Bill of Health:
A certificate authenticated by a recognized port authority, certifying that
a ship comes from a place where there is no contagious disease, and that none
of her crew was infected with such a disease.
Bill of Lading:
A document by which the Master of a ship acknowledges having received in good
order and condition (or the reverse) certain specified goods consigned to him
by some particular shipper, and binds himself to deliver them in similar condition,
unless the perils of the sea, fire or enemies prevent him, to the consignees
of the shippers at the point of destination on their paying him the stipulated
freight. A bill of lading specifies the name of the master, the port and destination
of the ship, the goods, the consignee, and the rate of freight.
Binge: Nautical term for rinsing or cleaning out something such as a cask of
rum. Thus a sailor who had cleaned out such a rum cask was known to have a binge..
An optical device for magnifying distant objects by means of lenses and prisms,
consisting of two barrels, one for each eye.
(1) The mount and housing for the compass, usually located on the wheel's pedestal.
(2) On ols sailing ships it was a box to contain the compasses in upon the deck.
A ship's sick-list. In the eighteenth century and probably before, a list was
given to the officer or mate of the watch, containing the names of men unable
to report for duty. The list was kept at the binnacle.
A small round platform, smaller than a Crow's Nest, which was placed at the
top of the mast to provide a greater range of vision from a ship at sea.
A Spanish ship from the Bay of Biscay. Biscayer refered to both the privateer
crew on the ship as well as the ship itself. Just as the Spanish considered
all English privateers, pirates, the English considered the biscayers, Spanish
Bread that was supplied to ships before bakeries were introduced on board.
An anchor is said to bite when the flukes dig themselves into the ground and
hold firm without dragging.
Bite the bullet:
To bravely face up to something unpleasant, one is said to "bite the bullet".
This originated from the practice of giving sailors and soldiers a bullet to
bite during amputations or other surgery before the use of anesthetics.
A vertical post extending above the deck for securing mooring lines
(1) The last part of a rope or final link of chain. The end made fast to the
vessel, as opposed to the "working end", which may be attached to
an anchor, cleat, other vessel, etc.
(2) To do anything to the ‘bitter end’ is to do it until no more
can be done. The end of the ship’s cable is secured to the ‘bitts’
i.e. the bollards on the foredeck, to prevent the cable being lost overboard
and, when it reaches the bitts, it is the ‘bitter end.’
(3) Fight till death or disastrous conclusion (however unpleasant it may be).
Beginning in the 1300's, a collection of maritime laws and conduct became known
as the Black Book of the Admiralty. The punishments for offenses were often
harsh. Today, if you're name is in someone's black book, they believe you have
offended them in some way.
Cargo banned by general cargo workers for some reason. This ban could be because
the cargo is dangerous or hazardous to health.
Nautical slang for the engineroom crew. Included the chief engineer, who ran
the engine and supervised; oilers and wipers, who lubricated and maintained
the engine; and firemen and coal:passers, who fed the steam boilers.
(1) The flag traditionally flown by pirate ships.
(2) The name given by sailors to the bubonic plague, whose victims were said
to turn black.
(3) A large leather jug for beer, etc. coated externally with tar often used
by dockside pubs and taverns.
A sudden squall of wind accompanied by lightning.
The operation of tarring and blacking the rigging or hull to act as a preservative
against the action of salt water. the best mixture was said to be coal tar,
vegetable tar, and salt water boiled together and laid on hot.
To "place the Black Spot" on another pirate is to sentence him to
death, to warn him he is marked for death, or sometimes just to accuse him of
a serious crime before other pirates.
A liar. One who tells tall tales. Depending on the situation a joker or a swindler.
The term can be an insult or left-handed complement. (dates from 1883)
To block the wind from the sails of a boat that is to leeward; a tactical maneuver
whereby a boat uses its sails to blanket the competitor's wind, slowing him
down; to take wind from a sail.
To bleed is the operation of draining any water out of a buoy which may have
seeped inside after long use at sea.
Bleed the Monkey:
Secretly, to remove spirit from a keg or cask by making a small hole and sucking
through a straw. also called Suck the Monkey
A wooden, metal or plastic case in which one or more sheaves (pulleys) are placed,
through which turns of line (falls) are threaded for the purpose of gaining
mechanical advantage or changing the direction of motion. Lines used with a
block are known as tackle.
Block and Tackle:
A combination of one or more blocks and the associated tackle necessary to give
a mechanical advantage. Useful for lifting heavy loads.
In maritime warfare, a declaration published by a power forbidding sea:borne
trade with an enemy.
Blood is thicker than water:
A well known saying meaning that family relationships are more important than
all other relationships. It was originally attributed to an U.S. Navy commodore
Josiah Tattnail who used the expression when justifying his intervention in
the British attack on the Peiho forts in June 1859 during the second China war.
Originally known as bounty money, it was the financial reward for sinking an
enemy ship. Today blood money refers to money paid by a killer as compensation
to the next of kin of a murder victim or money gained at the cost of another's
life or livelihood.
In foul language, a vague epithet expressing anger, resentment, detestation.
(dates from 1785) As an intensive (a modifying word used to express importance
or intensity, e.g "That bloody blagueur"), from about 1676. Considered
crude language used only by the poor from 1676 to 1750. After 1750 more commonly
accepted but still frowned upon in polite society.
Light:weight foresail similar to a spinnaker but set without a pole.
The action of a whale when it comes to the surface and expels the seawater it
has taken in while feeding. The traditional hail of the lookout in a whaling
ship when sighting this spouting water is "There she blows".
Blowing Great Guns:
Old term for a heavy gale or hurricane.
Blowing the Grampus:
Old term for waking a sailor asleep on watch by throwing a bucket of cold water
The day of the week when a sailor's misdeeds, duly recorded, met with their
A flag signaling that a ship is about to sail and that all should report on
board. It is International Code Flag "P".
A term describing the seamen of a British warship.
A general nautical term for Canadians, but more especially for Nova Scotian
sailing ships and men.
Open ocean sailing
To go onboard, to go into a ship.
Designated members of ship's company formed into a military or law enforcement
unit that will go aboard another vessel.
A fairly indefinite term. A waterborne vehicle smaller than a ship. One definition
is a small craft carried aboard a ship.
A long sturdy pole fitted with a blunt hook at one end designed to catch a line
when coming alongside a pier or mooring, to facilitate putting a line over a
piling, recovering an object dropped overboard, or in pushing or fending off.
Speed through the water, not "over ground".
Also bosun, bos'n, bo's'n, and bo'sun, all of which are pronounced bosun. The
highest unlicensed rating in the deck department who has immediate charge of
all deck hands, oversees deck crew, maintenance and upkeep of the ship except
for the engine room and galley areas
A stay from the stem of a boat to the end of the bowsprit used to counteract
the upward pull of the forestay.
Steam generating units used aboard ship to provide steam for propulsion and
for heating and other auxiliary purposes.
A large solid post on a wharf or pier for securing mooring lines; the same when
constructed on the deck of a ship.
A piece of wood fitted in various places to act as a preventative to chafe.
A rope sewn into the luff or foot of a sail for use in attaching to the mast
On older sailing ships, an additional lateen shaped mizzen sail carried on the
fourth mast, known as a bonaventure mizzen.
Foam or spray which is thrown out under the bow of a ship when she is under
way. If fast moving with a lot of spray being thrown out, the vessel is said
to have "A bone in her teeth".
Is an additional piece of canvas put to the sail in moderate weather to hold
The cover of a scuttle:way or small hatchway which leads to to or from a store
room, cabin of small craft, crew's quarters, the forecastle or fore peak.
A horizontal pole or spar attached to the mast to which the foot (lower edge)
of the sail is fastened
Boom Crotch or Crutch:
A notched support for the boom when the sail is not raised. Unlike a gallows
frame, a crutch is stowed when boat is sailing.
A block and tackle attached to the boom and the deck to prevent the main from
gybing when sailing downwind
Any system, usually block & tackle or hydraulic, used to hold the boom down.
This is useful for maintaining proper sail shape by exerting a downward pull
on the boom, particularly when running or on a broad reach.
A stern sprit or spar extending from the stern.
On larger sailing vessels, the space between the foremast and mainmast where
spare spars were stored.
Boot Stripe or Boot Top:
A painted stripe along the waterline delineating the topside from the bottom
(1) Goods from a captured ship which was permitted to be distributed among the
captors at once.
(2) Booty may refer to treasure
Sudden and rapid flow of tide in certain rivers and estuaries which rolls up
in the form of a wave. also known as Eagre.
Born With a Silver Spoon:
An old naval saying to indicate those young men who, through birth or connection,
were able to enter the Royal Navy without examination. Their subsequent promotion
The swell of a ship's hull around the propeller shaft.
A curved plate covering (one on each side) the boss of a propeller post and
the curved portion of frames in way of the stern tube of a screw steamer. This
plate is of extra thickness.
Bo'suns Call, Pipe, or Whistle:
Once the only method, other than human voice, of passing orders to men on board
ship; the instructions to perform certain tasks were conveyed by different notes
and pitches on the high:pitched whistle.
Canvas or wood seat attached a halyard to raise and lower someone to work on
(1) The underside of the hull that sits in the water
(2) The ocean floor
Mortgage on a ship executed by the master who is out of touch with the owners
and needs to raise money for repairs or to complete a voyage. also known as
Proceeding in a specified direction, or to a specified place.
The forwardmost or front part of the vessel. Opposite of Stern
Bow & Beam Bearings:
A set of bearings taken from an object with a known position, such as a landmark,
to determine the ship's location. A type of running fix.
A docking line leading from the bow.
Bow Spring Line:
A bow pivot line used in docking and undocking, or a dock line leading aft from
the bow to prevent the boat from moving forward while made fast to a dock or
A propeller at the lower sea:covered part of the bow of the ship which turns
at right angles to the fore:and:aft line and thus provides transverse thrust
as a maneuvering aid.
A reference book named after the original author, Nathaniel Bowditch. Updated
versions contain tables and other information useful for navigation.
A knot use to form an eye or loop at the end of a rope. A knot with many uses,
it is simple and strong, its loop will not slip, and it is easily untied after
being exposed to a strain. also see Running Bowline.
To pull downward on a rope or fall in order to provide more tautness. Heave
means an upward pull and Haul means a horizontal pull.
A spar which projects forward from the bow of some boats, and extends the sail
plan by allowing the headsails to be secured further forward.
In a square rigged ship, the act of hauling the head sheets to windward and
laying the head:yards flat aback in order to bring the ships head out of the
wind while tacking. This is done when helm action alone is insufficient.
Box the Compass:
To know and to be able to recite the points of a compass from north to south
to north again, both clockwise and counter:clockwise.
A particular method of veering a ship, when the swell of the sea renders tacking
The operation of swinging round, by means of braces, the yards of a square rigged
ship to set the sails more efficiently to the wind.
Brace of Shakes:
A moment of time which could be measured by the shaking of a sail as a sailing
ship comes into the wind.
On square rigged ships, lines or cables attached to the ends of each yard; these
are used to pivot (brace) the yards around the mast at different angles to the
fore:and:aft line of the ship to make the most of the wind..
Lines used to pull the outer edge (leech) of a fore:and:aft sail forward to
a mast. These lines are used to temporaily furl the sail.
Ice broken into pieces, and projecting very little above sea level.
A “Premium” apprentice on a merchant ship. One who has paid a cash
premium for his apprenticeship. ‘Brass’ = money, hence he is ‘bound’
by the premium to see out his apprenticeship.
(1) Said of seas that break over a vessel or over a sea wall.
(2) A whale breaches when it leaps out of the water.
Break of the Poop:
The forward end of a ship's after superstructure, where the poop deck descends
to the upper deck.
When an anchored vessel is forced, by wind or current, to swing across her anchor
so as to risk fouling it with her own cable, she is said to break sheer.
Waves breaking over rocks or shoals. A wave that approaches shallow water, causing
the wave height to exceed the depth of the water it is in, in effect tripping
it. The wave changes from a smooth surge in the water to a cresting wave with
water tumbling down the front of it. They serve as a warning that there is danger
A manmade structure, in or around a harbor, designed to break the force of the
sea, thus providing shelter.
An old method of cleaning a vessels bottom by burning off weed, barnacles or
other growth while the vessel was in dry dock or careened. Breaming was also
known as graving.
An athwartship or horizontal member running between the inside surfaces of the
A docking line going at approximately a right angle from the boat to the dock,
preventing movement away from the dock. Also known as a Waist Line.
Breech of a Block:
The part of a block which is opposite the swallow, which is where the line enters.
Brethren of the Coast :
The Caribbean Tortuga) buccaneers called themselves by this name in the 1640-1680
period. During this time, they actually formed a sort of fraternity, and did
not (usually) fight each other or even steal from each other. After 1680, a
new generation of pirates appeared, who did not trust each other . . . with
(1) The location from which a vessel is steered and its speed controlled; navigation
and command center of the vessel.
(2) A man made structure crossing a body of water.
The transverse partition between the cockpit and the cabin.
The erection or superstructure fitted about amidship on the upper deck of a
ship. The officer's quarters, staterooms and accommodations are usually in the
A line or wire secured at both ends in order to distribute a strain between
two points; a short length of wire with a line attached at the midpoint. A bridle
is used to distribute the load of the attached line.
A two:masted vessel with both masts square rigged. On the sternmost mast, the
main mast, there is also a gaff sail
A two:masted vessel with foremast square rigged, and mainmast fore and aft rigged.
Originally, a ship of brigands, or pirates.
Varnished woodwork and/or polished metal
To reverse or change directions, to turn around
To bring a sailing vessel to a stop with her sails still set. This can be accomplished
on a square rigged ship by bracing the yards aback on her foremast; on fore:and:aft
rigged boats it is done by bringing her head into the wind so that the sails
are no longer drawing.
Kept in a neat seaman-like manner.
To spin out of control and capsize or nearly capsize; The turning of a boat
broadside to the wind or waves, subjecting it to possible capsizing; a turning
or swinging of the boat that puts the beam of the boat against the waves, creating
a danger of swamping or capsizing; loss of steering. A knockdown.
Broad on the Beam:
The position of an object that lies off to one side of the vessel.
A point of sail where the boat is sailing away from the wind, but not directly
downwind; Sailing with the wind coming from any direction from abeam to on the
quarter, with the bow approximately 135 degrees to the wind source and the sails
let out nearly all the way
A gangway or gangplank. Used to cross from one ship to another, or from a ship
to a pier.
To ‘Live over the brush’ (jump the broom) is to omit the marriage
service after publishing the banns and to live together as man and wife. Sailors
would do this to have a shore address to which to send their allotment. Because
it was not a legal marriage, a woman could ‘live over the brush’
with many sailors and look after their allotment for them, for a small fee.
The ceremony would involve both parties linking hands and jumping over a horizontal
brush, held by two people, who would be the witnesses to the transaction.
(1) The buccaneers were pirates who attacked Spanish and French shipping in
the Caribbean Sea during the late 17th century.
(2) buccaneers were pig hunters on the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola and Tortuga
A bullying and tyrannical officer; he would drive his crew by brutality and
the power of his fists.
Cargo shipped in loose condition and of a homogeneous nature. Cargoes that are
shipped unpackaged either dry, such as grain and ore, or liquid, such as petroleum
products. Bulk service generally is not provided on a regularly scheduled basis,
but rather as needed, on specialized ships, transporting a specific commodity.
Ship specifically designed to transport vast amounts of cargoes such as sugar,
grain, wine, ore, chemicals, liquefied natural gas; coal and oil.
A name given to any vertical partition or wall which separates different compartments
or spaces from one another, also adding strength. Sometimes bulkheads are also
watertight, adding to the vessel's safety.
Used for hoisting a topmast or topgallant mast on a square rigged ship.
(1) A round eye through which a line is led, usually in order to change the
direction of pull.
(2) A thick piece of glass set flush in the deck to admit light below.
A railing around the deck of a boat to keep things from going overboard and
the seas from coming aboard; the strake of shell plating above a weather or
shelter deck; the part of a ship's side that extends above the main deck to
protect it against heavy weather.
A boat selling supplies, provisions, and articles to ships.
There is no such thing on a boat! See Fender.
A short spar projecting over the stern of a sailing vessel to sheet the mizzen
sail when the mizzen:mast is so far aft that there's not enough room inboard
to bring down the sheet and trim the sail. Also, a short spar extending from
the stemhead in place of a bowsprit.
A round wood plug inserted in a hole to cover a nail, screw, or bolt.
a sleeping berth or bed.
A compartment in which fuel is stored; fuel consumed by the engines of a ship
Re:fueling the vessel.
(1) The middle part of a square sail.
(2) The line(s) attached to the middle of the foot of the sail used to haul
the bunt up to the center of the yard.
Thin cloth of woven wool in various colors used to make flags.
(1) A floating object employed as an aid to mariners to mark the navigable limits
of channels, their fairways, sunken dangers, isolated rocks, etc.
(2) an anchored float marking a position or for use as a mooring.
The capacity for floating.
or "Give way vessel " A boat required to keep clear of a vessel that
has the right of way according to the applicable Navigation Rules
A type of flag used to identify a boater's affiliation with a yacht club or
17th Century A gruel or porridge made of oatmeal or any available grain as minimal
basic sustenance for sailing ship crew. Seasoned with salt, sugar, and butter.
Lascar seamen may have (when almost starving ?) gratefully called it "Bar:goo"
meaning "faeces of the sacred cow" in Hindi.
The squared end of a plank used on the side of a wooden vessel where it is secured
to the timbers.
The breadth of a ship where the hull rounds down to the stern
Buys Ballot Law:
If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, a storm's center and direction of travel
can be determined by using Buys Ballot's Law. To do this, face the wind and
extend your right arm out at about 90° : 135° from the direction you
are facing. Your arm is now pointing approximately at the center of the storm.
Periodic determinations like this will indicate the storm's relative movement
and on which side of the hurricane's track line you are located. It is reversed
in the Southern Hemisphere
By the Board:
Overboard and by the ship's side.
By the Lee:
Sailing downwind with the wind blowing over the leeward side of the boat, increasing
the possibility of an unexpected jibe.
A room or living compartment for passengers or crew.
A boy who waits on the officers or crew aboard a ship. (at least as early as
The floor or bottom surface of the enclosed space under the deck of a boat
(1) A strong rope or chain for pulling or securing anything, usually a ship's
(2) A nautical measurement of distance, a tenth of a nautical mile, 100 fathoms,
or approximately 200 yards
A specially constructed ship for the laying and repairing of telegraph and telephone
cables across channels, seas, lakes, and oceans.
Old term for the galley of a vessel situated normally on the deck and not between
The carriage of goods or passengers for remuneration taken on at one point and
discharged at another point within the territory of the same country.
A group of letters and numbers used for identification during radio transmission.
Little or no wind and flat seas
Calm before the storm:
Although not exclusively nautical, this has been attributed to seagoing folk
as a result of their constant and intimate interaction with the weather. Although
not known at the time, an approaching storm will drop the barometric pressure,
creating a low directly ahead of the storm front. If a storm comes from a direction
that is opposite to the prevailing winds, the prevailing breezes will eventually
be overcome by the storm front. Just before this happens, however, there will
be an equalization of wind speed from two opposing directions resulting in an
absence of any wind.
Breaking away of a mass of ice from a glacier or iceberg.
A mechanical cleat used to hold a line automatically. It uses two spring loaded
cams that come together to clamp their teeth on the line, which is place between
The curvature of an object such as a sail, keel or deck. Usually used when referring
to an objects aerodynamic or hydrodynamic properties. The weather decks of ships
are rounded up or arched in an athwartship direction for the purpose of draining
any water that may fall on them to the sides of the ship where it can be led
overboard through scuppers; the camber is the crown or arch of a weather deck.
Hollow vessel of iron, steel or wood, that is filled with water and sunk under
a vessel. When water is pumped out, the buoyancy of the camel lifts the ship.
Very valuable aid to salvage operations.
Can or Can Buoy:
A cylindrical navigation buoy painted green and having an odd number used in
the United States as a navigational aid. At night they may have a green light.
A manmade waterway used to connect bodies of water that do not connect naturally.
Canals use locks to raise and lower boats when connecting bodies of water that
have different water levels.
A cannon is any tubular piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually
explosive-based propellants to launch a projectile over a distance.
A pointed stern, such as those on a canoe.
(1) A term signifying an inclination of an object from a perpendicular; to turn
anything so that it does not stand perpendicularly or square to an object.
(2) Those timbers in a ship near the bow or stern which are sharply angled from
(3) The operation of turning a ship's head one way or another.
Angled frames in the extreme forward or aft ends of a ship which form the sharp
ends of the vessel's hull.
Naval name for stains down the front of jumper, jacket or coat caused by food
Tightly woven cloth used for sails, awnings, covers, dodgers and biminis; slang
A piece of trim, usually wood, used to cover and often decorate a portion of
the boat, i.e., caprail.
To turn a boat over
A revolving cylindrical device used for heaving in lines or anchors : A vertical,
spool:shaped rotating drum around which cable, hawser or chain is wound for
hoisting anchors, sails and other heavy weights. A capstan rotates around a
vertical axis, as opposed to a windlass, which revolves around a horizontal
The person who is in charge of a vessel and legally responsible for it and its
A sliding fitting that attaches to a track allowing for the adjustment of blocks
or other devices attached to the car.
Small trading vessel also used for exploration. Three:masted, being square:rigged
on the two forward masts, and having a lateen rigged mizzen mast. Christopher
Colmbus' small squadron, the Santa Maria, Pinta, and Nina, were all Caravels,
as were Magellan's ships in his famous circumnavigation.
The compass points of North, East, South and West. Intercardinal or half:cardinal
points are Southeast, Southwest, Northwest and Northeast
(1) To list a vessel so that a large part of her bottom is above water. This
is done to remove weed and marine growth, to examine the bottom, to repair it
and to put on preservative or anti:fouling.
(2) From the Latin carina (keel) or French carener. When hulls on old wooden
ships needed to be cleaned, patched, caulked, etc., careening was the deliberate
heeling to one side in order to accomplish these tasks. Usually this was done
on a careenage -- a steep, sandy shoreline when the tide had gone out
A suitable beach, being steep and sandy, where ships could be careened for cleaning
The act of loading and discharging a cargo ship.
An opening in a ship's deck for the loading and discharging of any kind of cargo.
Carline or Carling:
Timbers used to support the deck planking of a wooden ship; also for supporting
Structural pieces running fore and aft between the beams.
Old three:masted trading vessel which was square:rigged on the fore and main
masts, and lateen rigged on the mizzen mast. Similar to the Caravel, but larger
and more robust.
A knot used to tie two lines together.
Owners or operators of vessels providing transportation to shippers. The term
is also used to refer to the vessels.
Break off; to break a spar, bowsprit or part a rope. A spar is said to "carry
away" when it is broken or disabled. When any part of a vessel's gear or
equipment breaks or gives way, is lost or washed away, it is said to be "carried
In the days of sail, the officer of the deck kept a weather eye constantly on
the slightest change in the wind so that the sails could be reefed or added
as necessary to ensure the fastest headway. Whenever a good breeze came along,
the order to "carry on" would be given. It meant to hoist every bit
of canvas the yards could carry.
A collection of small projectiles put up in cases to fire from a cannon; canister
shot. Its composition and fashion have changed from time to time. Also, a shrapnel-shell,
or spherical iron case containing a number of bullets. (dates from 1654, at
To abandon a ship at sea; to place people in a ship's boat or raft and leave
To let go of a line; to leave a dock or a mooring; to untie or loose a rope
A shipwrecked sailor as compared with one who has been marooned or deliberately
Light, warm wind on surface of sea.
A multihull with two hulls separated by a deck or crossbeams from which a trampoline
is suspended; abbreviated "cat."
A small boat with the mast stepped far forward, carrying a single sail
On older sailing ships, a heavy piece of curved timber projecting from the bow
for the purpose of holding anchors in position for letting go or for securing
them after weighing.
Catching Up Rope:
Light rope secured to a buoy to hold vessel while stronger moorings are attached.
The curve (sag) of a rope, cable or chain hung between two points such as the
anchor rode or towing line; the deeper the curve, the more catenary.
In square:rigged vessels, short lines at the lower end of the futtock shrouds
used to bring in the shrouds tighter to give room to brace the yards at a sharper
angle when sailing close hauled.
Or just "cat" -- a whip with many lashes, used for flogging. "A
taste of the cat" might refer to a full flogging, or just a single blow
to "smarten up" a recalcitrant hand, the punishment where seamen were
flogged on their bare backs.
(1) A ruffle on the water indicating a breath of wind during a calm
(2) A twisting hitch made in the bight of a rope to form two eyes, through which
the hook of a tackle is passed for hoisting purposes.
Short for Catamaran Tug. A rigid catamaran tug connected to a barge. When joined
together, they form and look like a single hull of a ship.
On a ship, a raised bridge running fore and aft from the midship, and also called
"walkway". It affords safe passage over the pipelines and other deck
Forcing material into the seams of the planks in a boat's deck or sides to make
them watertight; the material itself. Oakum was once the material used for this
purpose, and was then sealed with hot pitch to prevent it from rotting. Today
there are polymers used for sealing all kinds of fittings.
Loss of effective propeller thrust caused by the blades cutting across the column
of water sucked along by the propeller instead of working in it. Can also lead
to heavy vibration of the vessel.
To calculate your position using time, the position of celestial bodies, and
mathematical tables. Position is determined by measuring the apparent altitude
of one of these objects above the horizon using a sextant and recording the
times of these sightings with an accurate clock. That information is then used
with tables in the Nautical Almanac to determine one's position.
An imaginary sphere surrounding the globe that contains the sun, moon, stars
Center of Buoyancy:
A point through which all buoyant forces on an immersed hull are assumed to
Center of Effort (CE):
Point at which all of the force of the wind can be thought to concentrate; the
point in the sail plan that is the balance point for all the aerodynamic forces
Center of Lateral Resistance (CLR):
Center point of all underwater area of the hull where the hull's lateral resistance
can be said to be centered.
A board that can be raised and lowered by pivoting in a watertight box called
the trunk or well to increase the draft and lateral area of the hull, preventing
the boat from sliding sideways. Unlike a daggerboard, which lifts vertically,
a centerboard pivots around a pin, usually located in the forward top corner,
and swings up and aft.
Watertight housing for the centerboard.
The imaginary line running from bow to stern along the middle of the boat.
A legal paper or license of a boat or its captain.
Certificate of Registry:
A document specifying the nation of registry of the vessel.
Abrasion, wear or damage to a line caused by rubbing against another object
Canvas, cloth, leather, tubing, rubber or other material placed around a line
or cable to protect it from wear and abrasion
The compartment, near and below the hawse holes at the bow, for stowing the
anchor chains; a compartment in the lower part of a ship for stowing an anchor
A pipe of large diameter, through which the chains pass into the chain lockers.
A metal plate, strap, or rod bolted to the hull structure to which the lower
ends of shrouds and stays are attached
Two cannonballs chained together and aimed high to destroy masts and rigging.
A person who deals in the selling of provisions, dried stores, supplies, equipment,
Maker and seller of candles was known as a chandler, and the place where candles
were made and sold was a chandlery. Before oil became available candles provided
the only illumination at night. Every boat consumed large amounts of candles
A wise chandler would often stock other nautical goods, such as rope, leather
and tar. Using chandlers that carried nautical supplies in addition to candles
saved the captain a lot of time and trouble. Consequently, captains would prefer
a chandler that carried additional supplies. Over time, captains came to look
solely to chandlers as the source for their nautical supplies.
A navigable route on a waterway, usually marked by buoys. Channels are deep
enough for ships or boats to navigate without running aground.
Seaman's name for the excitement on board as the ship approachs her destination,
giving the crew some liberty ashore.
Chanty or Shanty:
A song sung by sailors to the rhythm of their movements while working.
The distinguishing qualities of a navigational light, including its color and
whether it is fixed or flashing (and the flashing sequence).
Galley smokestack or chimney.
A representation on a plane surface of the spherical surface of the earth. The
equivalent of a map for use by navigators.
The water level used to record data on a chart. Usually the average low tide
water level. It is the level below which depths on a chart are measured, and
above which keights of a tide are expressed.
A table designated as the area in the boat where the navigator will study charts
and plot courses.
The renting of a boat
Chase-gun or Chasers:
Usually distinguished as bow chasers and stern chasers are cannons mounted in
the bow or stern of a sailing ship. They were used to attempt to slow down a
ship either pursuing or being pursued, typically by damaging the rigging and
thereby causing the target to lose performance. Chasers tended to be long range
guns firing lightweight charges
Small heavily armed boat used around Porto Bello to ward of pirate attacks.
Often armed with two very large iron guns and four brass swivel guns, they acted
as a type of Coast Guard for Porto Bello. They also acted as river boats in
the Isthmus region.
An old expression meaning heartily or quickly.
To ease away slowly, as in a line, sheet, or falls of a tackle.
Slacking a rope smartly, carefully and in small amounts.
A block with one end permanently attached to a surface.
(1) The two sides of a block.
(2) Pieces of timber attached to the mast below the masthead to support the
To coil down the tail of a line on deck to present a neat appearance.
Chew the Fat:
In the days when brine was added to barrels of meat, it had a hardening effect
on the fat. It was still edible but it took considerable chewing. So, to "chew
the fat" has come to mean to talk endlessly
The senior engineer officer responsible for the satisfactory working and upkeep
of the main and auxiliary machinery and boiler plant on board ship.
The officer in the deck department next in rank to the master; second in command
of a ship. He is next to the master, most especially in the navigation and as
far as the deck department is concerned. The chief mate assumes the position
of the Master in his absence.
The operation of pressing oakum into a seam as a temporary measure until the
seam can be properly caulked.
The angle of intersection between the topsides and the bottom of a boat. In
a hard:chined boat this angle is pronounced.
A deck fitting to guide an anchor, mooring, towing or docking line. Usually
smooth shaped to reduce chafe.
(1) When a line is pulled as tight as is can go, as when two blocks are pulled
together so that no further movement is possible (also known as "Two blocked").
(2) (Chock full): When the sails were pulled in tight so that the boat could
sail as close to the wind as possible, the blocks (pulleys) would be pulled
"hard-up" or in as tight or close together as possible. This would
be called "chock-a-block," or chock full."
Choke the Luff:
To temporarily stop all movement of a line through a block by placing the hauling
part across the sheave of the block. This jams the sheave and holds it tight,
and a pull on the hauling part will release it.
Small, steep disorderly waves at rapid intervals.
An imaginary line drawn between the luff and leech of a sail. The chord depth
is an imaginary line drawn to the deepest part of the sail from the chord. The
ratio of chord depth to chord length represents the sail's draft : a high ratio
indicates a full sail; a low ratio, a flat sail.
The ceremonies involved in naming and launching naval ships are based in traditions
thousands of years old.
An opening in the deck near the bow from which the spinnaker is hoisted. Spinnakers
are also often referred to as chutes.
A severe type of food poisoning caused by eating contaminated fish
To sail around the world
A voyage around the world.
To clap on is to temporarily add something to an existing part.
General category into which boats of the same or similar design are grouped
Worldwide experienced and reputable societies which undertake to arrange inspections
and advise on the hull and machinery of a ship. A private organization that
supervises vessels during their construction and afterward, in respect to their
seaworthiness, and the placing of vessels in grades or "classes" according
to the society's rules for each particular type.
Beat to windward to avoid being driven onto a lee shore.
A "C" shaped fitting which can be slipped over the boom, for example,
when the sail has been roller reefed to allow the boom vang to be reattached.
Referring to the lines of a vessel's hull when they give a a fine and unobstructed
run from bow to stern so that she moves through the water smoothly.
Clean Bill of Health:
A widely used term which originates from the "Bill of Health", a document
issued to a ship showing that the port it sailed from suffered from no epidemic
or infection at the time of departure.
It was the custom in sailing ships to record courses, distances and tacks on
a log slate. The new watch would always start with a clean slate if things had
been growing fine, disregarding what had gone before and starting anew.
(1) Free, not entangled
(2) To finalize all formalities in a Customs House.
Clear for Running:
A sheet or halyard coiled so that it will run out quickly without becoming tangled.
Clear the Decks:
Clear the deck/Clear for action: In preparation for heavy weather, "Clear
the deck," (or a naval engagement, "clear for action") meant
removing anything from the deck that was not essential.
A fitting of wood or metal, secured to the deck, mast, or spar, with two horns
around which ropes are made fast. The classic cleat to which lines are belayed
is approximately anvil:shaped; verb : to belay.
A large pin that secures one fitting to another.
The lower aft corner of a fore and aft sail, both lower corners of a spinnaker,
and the lower corners of a square sail
The tackle used to adjust the clew in and out on the boom.
The clinometer is an optical device for measuring elevation angles above horizontal
A sharp:bowed sailing vessel of the mid:19th century, having tall masts and
sharp lines; built for great speed; the generic name used to describe types
of fast sailing ships.
Absolutely calm weather with a perfectly smooth sea.
A ship developed to withstand pirate attacks. It had very high sides and a raised
bow and stern.
Close alongside; very near; in close proximity to.
A point of sail where the boat is sailing as close to the wind (as directly
into the wind) as possible; sails are pulled in tight, enabling the boat to
point as high as possible to the direction the wind is coming from; Also, "beating"
Sailing with the wind coming from the direction forward of abeam. A close reach
is the point of sail between a beam reach and close hauled.
This term has a nautical origin. In the 17th century hand-to-hand skirmishes
onboard ships were known as close-fights. The term appears to have been applied
both to those fights and to the barriers that sailors erected to keep the enemy
at bay. Captain John Smith, in his record of early seafaring terms, - 'The Seaman's
Grammar', 1627 is good enough to define the term: "A ships close fights,
are smal ledges of wood laid crosse one another like the grates of iron in a
prisons window, betwixt the maine mast, and the fore mast, and are called gratings."
Closest Point of Approach (CPA):
The nearest another vessel will come to yours when both are under way, usually
expressed in distance and relative bearing.*
Various pieces of rigging which hold a bowsprit in position.
Two half hitches around a spar or post. Easy way to make a line temporarily
fast to a piling or post. The clove hitch can jam under heavy tension, making
it difficult to untie. Worse, is its tendency to untie itself when subjected
to repeated strain and release, such as a boat rocking in waves. You can add
one or two half hitches on the standing line for a more secure attachment.
A boom on a jib or staysail.
The cabin roof, raised above the deck to provide headroom in the cabin. Also
Decorative ropework with an even number of strands to form a herring:bone pattern.
A low vertical lip or raised section around the edge of a cockpit, hatch, etc.
to prevent water on deck from running below.
Books covering information about coastal navigation, including navigational
aids, courses, distances, anchorages and harbors.
Navigating near the coast, allowing one to find one's position by use of landmarks
and other references.
Domestic shipping routes along a single coast.
Coins 1500-1780's were produced in denominations of one, two, four and eight
reales A bar of silver was simply cut into chunks of the appropriate weight.
These small sliver clumps were then treated as if they were finished planchets
and were hammer struck between crude dies.
In port, the yard arms where slewed inboard by the cock up crew and neatly braced
so that they would not foul other ship's rigging or dock equipment
The small triangular space found at the intersection of lines of position on
a chart when a ship's position is determined by taking three bearings.
The location from which the boat is steered, usually in the middle or at the
stern of the boat.
Floor of the cockpit.
The steersman of a boat, in direct charge of the crew if any. Pronounced "Cock:sun."*
A large and powerful sheet winch
A void or empty space separating two or more compartments for the purpose of
insulation, or to prevent the liquid contents of one compartment from entering
another in case of a leak.
Course Over Ground
To lay a line down in circular turns, known as fakes, or to arrange in loops
so it can be stowed. Line is sold by the coil, which contain 200 fathoms
Used in meteorology to describe a mass of cold air moving toward a mass of warm
air. Strong winds and rain typically accompany a cold front.
A method of bending a material into an appropriate shape without heating or
steaming the material first to soften it.
Correct alignment of the optical parts of an instrument.
Vessel used for transporting coal.
Collision Avoidance System:
Electronic system commonly used to prevent collisions in inland navigable waterways.
A watertight bulkhead at the forepeak extending to main deck. This bulkhead
prevents the entire ship from being flooded in case of a collision.
A large square of heavy canvas fitted with lines to allow it to be drawn under
the hull of a ship where it is damaged. The pressure of the seawater holds it
tight against the ship and greatly reduces the inflow of water.
National flag or insignia flown by a ship at sea.
International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea
Comb the Cat:
When flogging a seaman, to run the fingers through the Cat-O'-Nine-Tails after
each stroke to separate the strands in preparation for the next stroke.
Combination passenger/cargo vessel.
Ships which can carry both liquid and dry bulk cargoes.
Come/Coming About :
Bringing the boat from one tack to the other when sailing into the wind, so
that the sail is flown in the opposite side by turning through the eye of the
An anchor is said to come home when its flukes are not holding in the ground
and it drags.
Come through the hawse-pipe:
The hawse-pipe is a pipe in the ship's bow for the anchor cable to run through.
Anybody who has risen to Captain from lowly deckhand is said to have "come
up through the hawse-pipe."
The naval rank next below that of Captain.
(1) The documents by which naval officers hold their status as accredited officers
in the navy they serve.
(2) To place a vessel into active service. Decommission is to remove such a
vessel from activity.
(1) An intermediate rank between Captain and Rear Admiral, often held by a senior
captain when given extra responsibility. (2) The leader of a yacht club.
The area leading down from the deck to the cabin, usually with steps (ladder)
The whole crew of a ship.
The spaces between the transverse bulkheads of a ship.
Navigation instrument, either magnetic, containing a magnetized card indicating
the direction to magnetic north (showing magnetic north) or gyro (showing true
Compass Card :
A card labeling the 360° of the circle and the named directions such as
north, south, east and west. Part of a compass, the circular card is graduated
in degrees. It is attached to the compass needles and conforms with the magnet
meridian:referenced direction system inscribed with direction. The vessel turns,
not the card.
The direction of a ship's heading as read on a compass. The compass course has
added the magnetic deviation and the magnetic variation to the true course.
The amount the compass is deflected from the true direction by variation (magnetic)
and deviation (metallic influences) together
A circle on a chart, showing all 360°, indicating the direction of geographic
north and sometimes also magnetic north.
The number of officers and crew employed upon a vessel for its safe navigation
An object made with more than one type of material.
A vertical post, supporting the coach roof or deck, between a deck:stepped mast
and (usually) the keel.
Station, usually on the bridge, from which a ship is controlled; the act of
A ship constructed in such a way that she can easily stack containers near and
on top of each other as well as on deck. The hull is divided into cells that
are easily accessible through large hatches, and more containers can be loaded
on deck atop the closed hatches.
Continental Shelf :
A region of relatively shallow water surrounding a land mass where the depth
increases gradually before it plunges into the deeps of the ocean.
The spiral grooves between the strands of rope after it has been laid up.
Goods which have been prohibited from entering a belligerent state by the declaration
of a blockade.
One or more merchant ships sailing in company to the same destination under
the protection of naval ships.
The definition of the exact position on the surface of the globe in relation
to two lines, latitude and longitude, which intersect at right angles.
Thin sheets of copper applied to the hull of a wooden ship below the waterline
to prevent the toredo worm eating the planks, and also to limit the growth of
weed, barnacles or other marine life.
Any rope or line.
A 19th century term for a yachtsman who sails his own yacht without the help
of a professional skipper.
A private ship operating under license from a government against the merchant
shipping of an enemy.
A small double:pronged bendable pin used to secure a clevis pin or to keep turnbuckles
The overhang of the stern aft of the stern post. At the stern of the boat, that
portion of the hull emerging from below the water, and extending to the transom.
That part of the water which is diverted from the main stream of a current and
as a result flows in the opposite direction.
Couple of shakes:
Shakes refers to the shaking (luffing) of the head sails if the vessel points
up too close to the wind. Sailors would measure short periods of time before
watch changes with a "couple of shakes."
(1) The prescribed compass direction in which a vessel is being steered
(2) The lowest yard on a mast (square:rigged vessels).
(3) The large square sail that hangs from that yard
(4) The sequence of marks rounded in a race
An instrument with a movable arm to plot a course on a chart
A smaller version of the flag of the country being visited. It is flown from
the starboard spreader.
(1) A small coastal inlet generally protected from the worst of the prevailing
(2) A thin, hollowed line cut along a yacht's sheer below deck level and traditionally
In sailboat racing, to have a controlling position over competitors by staying
between them and the next mark or buoy : a tactical maneuver in which the lead
boat stays between the trailing boat and the wind or the next mark.
Any bend or hitch which slips as a result of being improperly tied; an improvised
knot which is not a recognized maritime knot as used at sea.
Scoop like devices used to direct air into and ventilate a boat.
A coxswain or cockswain was at first the swain (boy servant) in charge of the
small cock or cockboat that was kept aboard for the ship's captain and which
was used to row him to and from the ship. With the passing of time the coxswain
became the helmsman of any boat, regardless of size. .
The original distress call made by a ship requiring assistance, giving way to
SOS. It stood for CQ, the signal for all stations (still used by Amateur Radio
Operators, or Hams), and D for distress; it also meant "Come Quickly, Danger"
An anchor that is designed to bury itself into the ground by use of its plow
shape. Also called a plow anchor.
Going sideways due to a current's set.
To carry sail to the full limit of strength of masts, yards, and tackles.
A frame that supports a boat when she's hauled out of the water onto shore.
Vessel or vessels of practically any size or type.
From the Dutch krengd, Said of a vessel with little stability, whether due to
design or to stowage of cargo.
To search for a sunken object by towing a grapnel along bottom.
The top of a wave.
Personnel, excluding the Master, who serve on board a vessel (also excludes
the passengers on passenger ships). In some cases a differentiation between
officers and ratings is made; but officers are "crew" in a legal sense.
A short haircut given to the whole ship crew.
List prepared by the master of a ship showing the full names, nationality, passport
or discharge book number, rank and age of every officer and crew member engaged
on board that ship. This serves as one of the essential ship's documents which
is always requested to be presented and handed over to the customs and immigration
authorities when they board the vessel on arrival.
Timbers used to support bottom of ship while it is under construction.
Person who decoys a seaman from his ship and gains money by robbing and, or,
forcing him on board another vessel in want of men.
A large reinforced eye in the leech and clew of a sail that allows a line to
fasten to it; e.g., the reef cringle and clew cringle.
Two or more bearings are noted on the chart in order to determine the ship's
position at the intersection of the two
Iron or steel straps fastened diagonally across a ship's frames to make a rigid
The lower yard on a mizzen mast of a square:rigged ship.
First used for navigation in 1514, the cross-staff is an instrument used for
taking the altitude of the sun or a star to find lattitude. The cross-staff
pre-dates the octant and the sextant. The vertical piece, the transom, slides
along the staff so that the star can be sighted over the upper edge of the transom
while the horizon is aligned with the bottom edge. While more difficult to use
than a back-staff, they were still around in the 1700s because they were inexpensive
and could be used at night whereas the back-staff was difficult and sometimes
impossible to use at night.. It was difficult to use on moving ships, especially
in bad weather.
A sea running in a direction contrary to the wind, which can be confused and
Crossing the Line:
A ceremony performed on board ships when passengers or crew are crossing the
equator for the first time during a voyage.
Small horizontal spars extending athwartships from one or more places along
the mast. The shrouds cross the end of these "spreaders", enabling
the shrouds to better support the mast.
A knot formed by taking the strands of the end of a line and tucking them over
and under each other to prevent them from unraveling.
Is a number of small lines spread from the fore-parts of the tops, and being
hauled taut upon the stays, to prevent the foot of the top-sails catching under
the top rim; are also used to suspend the awnings.
(1) A small lookout platform with a protective railing and windscreen, located
near the top of a ship's mast or superstructure
(2) A barrel or cylindrical box fixed to the mast-head of an arctic, whaling
or other ship, as a shelter for the look-out man. (The term came into the English
language around 1604, for land use but was not commonly used as a nautical term
Voyage made in varying directions. To sail in various directions for pleasure,
in search, or for exercise.
A small sheltered cabin on a boat.
Laying up of a vessel, in a dock, for repairs.
A line used to control the tension along a sail's luff in order to maintain
proper sail shape.
Cup of Joe:
From American Navy lore. Josephus Daniels (1862- 1948) was appointed Secretary
of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. During his time as Secretary
of the Navy, "Joe" Daniels abolished the officers' wine, after which
the strongest drink aboard Navy ships was coffee. A cup of coffee became known
as "a cup of Joe".
Horizontal movement of the water caused by tidal change, wind, river movement,
or circular currents caused by the motion of the earth.
Usual and accustomed speed.
Government officials responsible for regulating goods, services and supplies
into a country.
Document listing all personal goods of crew members.
The shape or design of a sail.
Cut And Run:
To escape, or leave in a hurry. When ships anchor cables were made of hemp,
the cable was cut, if required, to allow the vessel to run before the wind.
Alternately, the saying comes from the cutting of the ropeyarns used to fasten
the sails so the sails could fall quickly when the need to get under way was
Cut of His Jib:
The recognition of a person by his recognizable characteristics (originally,
the shape of the nose)
Two lines spliced together to form an eye.
The cutlass is best known as the sailor's weapon of choice, the naval side arm,
likely because it was robust enough to hack through heavy ropes, canvas, and
wood. It was also short enough to use in relatively close quarters, such as
during boarding actions, in the rigging, or below decks.
The bearing surrounding the propeller shaft where it exits the hull.
A single masted sailboat similar to a sloop except sails are arranged so that
many combinations of areas may be obtained. A sail plan with two headsails,
a main jib and a smaller staysail set between the jib and the mast.
Cutting His Painter:
A seaman's personal "painter" is his lifeline, and if it is severed,
The forward curve of the stem of a ship.
Similar to a centerboard, except that it is raised and lowered vertically in
a trunk rather than pivoted. Like a keel, daggerboards are used to reduce leeway
by preventing a sailboat being pushed sideways by the wind.
Dancing the Hempen Jig:
The punishment for pirates caught and convicted of their crimes. The "hempen
jig" was the dance of death at the end of the hangman's hemp rope. Pirates
often joked about being executed, and for most pirates the everyday dangers
of life at sea were more of a hazard than the hangman.
A brand of lightweight anchor. It has pivoting flukes that dig into the ground
as tension is placed on the anchor.
A reference datum is a known and constant surface which can be used to describe
the location of unknown points. On Earth, the normal reference datum is sea
level. On other planets, such as the Moon or Mars, the datum is the average
radius of the planet.
Davit(s) : A small crane that projects over the side of the boat to
raise or lower objects (such as smaller boats) from or to the water.
(1) Nautical slang for the spirit of the sea, usually in the form of a sea devil.
Davy Jones's Locker is the bottom of the sea, the final resting place of sunken
ships, articles lost or thrown overboard, and of men buried at sea.
(2) This expression is believed to be from the story that Davy Jones was the
owner of a sixteenth-century London pub where unwary sailors were drugged and
put in lockers and then awoke aboard ship to find they had been 'recruited'
into the Navy.
A fixed navigation aid structure, visible during the day, used in shallow waters
upon which is placed one or more daymarks.
A signboard attached to a daybeacon to convey navigational information presenting
one of several standard shapes (square, triangle, rectangle) and colors (red,
green, orange, yellow, or black). Daymarks usually have reflective material
indicating the shape.
A small boat intended to be used only for short sails or racing.
Black diamond, ball, and cone shapes hoisted on vessels during the day to indicate
restricted movement, ability, or type. For example three balls means aground.
A position directly in front of the vessel.
A position directly aft or behind the vessel.
Dead on End:
Said of wind when exactly ahead; and of another vessel when her fore and aft
line coincides with observer's line of sight.
(1) Dead Horse (Flogging a dead horse): The term "flogging a dead horse"
alludes to the difficulty of getting any extra work from a crew during a celebration
held by British crews when they had been at sea four weeks and had worked off
their initial advance (often one month's pay). At the expiration of the first
month of the voyage, it was at one time customary to hoist in the rigging a
canvas effigy of a horse.
(2)Seaman's term for the period of work on board ship for which he has been
paid in advance when signing on.
Dead Soldier: An expression used for an empty bottle of wine, spirit or beer.
Originally the expression was "dead Marine." In the late 1700 Duke
of Clarence ordered the steward to remove the "dead marines" to make
room for new bottles.
Dead men tell no tales:
Standard pirate excuse for leaving no survivors
Dead in the Water:
A sailing ship that is dead in the water is stationary with no wind in its sails
to make it come alive. In everyday usage, the term means "not going anywhere".
The process of plotting a theoretical position or future position based on advancing
from a known position using speed, time, and course, without aid of objects
on land, of sights, etc. Term comes from deduced reckoning, abbreviated first
to "ded reckoning".
Circular blocks in the shrouds or stays to adjust tension.
Space booked by shipper or charterer on a vessel but not used
(2) To travel as a deadhead, or non-paying passenger.
(1) Eyes. "Use yer deadlights, matey!"
(2) Fixed ports that do not open which are placed in the deck or cabin to admit
The measurement of the angle between the bottom of a boat and its widest beam.
A vessel with a 0º deadrise has a flat bottom, high numbers indicate deep
V shaped hulls.
A common measure of ship carrying capacity. The number of tons (2240 lbs.) of
cargo, stores and bunkers that a vessel can transport. It is the difference
between the number of tons of water a vessel displaces "light" and
the number of tons it displaces "when submerged to the 'deep load line'."
A vessel's cargo capacity is less than its total deadweight tonnage. The difference
in weight between a vessel when it is fully loaded and when it is empty (in
general transportation terms, the net) measured by the water it displaces. This
is the most common, and useful, measurement for shipping as it measures cargo
Heavy longitudinal timbers fastened over the keelson. The timbers of the bow
and stern are fastened to the deadwood.
A permanent covering over a compartment, hull or any part of a ship serving
as a floor.
A beam which supports a deck.
The officers and seamen comprising the deck department aboard ship. Also called
deck crew, deck department, or just deck.
Continuous longitudinals fastened under the deck.
A small house erected upon the deck of a ship for any purpose. A low building
or superstructure, such as a cabin, constructed on the top deck of a ship.
Deck Log :
Also called Captain's Log. A full nautical record of a ship's voyage, written
up at the end of each watch by the deck officer on watch. The principal entries
are: courses steered, distance run, compass variations, sea and weather conditions,
ship's position, principal headlands passed, names of lookouts, and any unusual
happenings such as fire, collision, etc.
As distinguished from engineer officer, refers to all officers who assist the
master in navigating the vessel when at sea, and supervise the handling of cargo
when in port.
A metal plate fitting on the deck that can be opened to take on fuel or water
A prism inserted into the deck which provides light down below.
A mast that is stepped (placed) on the deck of a boat rather than through the
boat and keel stepped. The mast of a deck stepped boat is usually easier to
raise and lower and are usually intended for lighter conditions than keel stepped
Seaman who works on the deck of a ship and remains in the wheelhouse attending
to the orders of the duty officers during navigation and maneuvering. He also
comes under the direct orders of the bosun.
The underside of the deck, viewed from below the ceiling.
The angular distance North or South of the equator, measured from the center
of the earth. It thus corresponds to latitude on the earths surface.
A fathom, the unit of measurement for the depth of the sea, is 6 feet. Sailors
used the term to refer to throwing something overboard and it has come to mean
getting rid of something ("deep sixing").
Refers to the shape of a boat's (usually power boat) hull. A deep V hull is
usually good at cutting through rough waves at high speeds.
The line to which a vessel is submerged with a full cargo on board.
Deliver a broadside:
A broadside was the simultaneous firing of the guns and /or canons on one side
of a war ship.
(1) The last position on a chart, when a ship is leaving the land.
(2) The number of nautical miles that one place is eastwards or westwards of
An area of low barometric pressure. The wind circulates clockwise in the Southern
Hemisphere and counter:clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Generally these
are bad weather systems.
An instrument that uses sound waves to measure the distance to the bottom.
Any abandoned vessel.
A hoisting apparatus consisting of a block and tackle rigged at the end of a
Design Waterline (DWL) :
Also length waterline or load waterline (LWL) : This is the length of the boat
where it meets the water when loaded to its designed capacity.
(1) Differences between the compass reading and an actual magnetic direction
caused by magnetic forces in the vicinity of the compass, which are usually
the result of masses of metal, speaker magnets, etc.
(2) Vessel departure from specified voyage course.
A listing of a particular boat's steering deviation on each point of the compass
Caulker's name for the seam in the upper deck planking next to a ship's waterways.
There was very little space to get at this seam, making it a difficult and awkward
job. This is the origin of the expression "Between the devil and the deep
blue sea, since there is only the thickness of the ship's hull planking between
this seam and the sea. also known as the garboard seam.
Devil to Pay:
Devil and the deep blue sea: In traditional wooden ships, the sailors had to
caulk or pay the seams with hot tar between the planks of the deck to prevent
leakage into the bilge. The devil seam was topmost on the hull next to the scuppers
at the edge of the deck and the longest and most difficult seam to caulk. Hence,
if there was the "devil to pay," then this was the most difficult
and dangerous job since the sailor might be knocked down by a large wave and
find himself between the "devil and the deep blue sea."
In controlling damage, to pump out a compartment. 1
Temperature at which moist air becomes saturated
Slang term for a small swab made of rope and used for drying decks.
A small open boat often used as tender and lifeboat for a larger craft; a small
open boat, usually carried aboard a yacht for going ashore
Nickname for a dinghy
(1) Scots word for a short dagger; sometimes a cut-down sword blade mounted
on a dagger It was used for fighting in close quarters, as well as cutting rope.
(2) A small naval sword worn by midshipmen or their equivalents when in full
When a ship is unable to sail efficiently or in a seaworthy state as a result
of engine trouble, lack of officers or crew, damage to the hull or ship's gear.
An essential document for officers and seamen as it serves as an official certificate
confirming sea experience in the employment for which he was engaged.
Leave the vessel.
To unrig a vessel and discharge all of its stores.
The loss of a mast on a boat.
The weight of a floating boat measured as the weight of the amount of water
it displaces. A boat displaces an amount of water equal to the weight of the
boat, so the boat's displacement and weight are identical.
A type of hull that plows through the water, displacing a weight of water equal
to its own weight, even when more power is added.
The theoretical speed that a boat can travel without planing, based on the shape
of its hull This speed is 1.34 times the length of a boat at its waterline.
Also known as hull speed.
Distance Made Good:
The distance traveled after correction for current, leeway and other errors
that may not have been included in the original distance measurement.
Distress Signals :
Any signal that is used to indicate that a vessel is in distress and needs help.
Flares, smoke, audible alarms, EPIRB, electronic beacons and others are all
types of distress signals.
A small bag for carrying or stowing all personal articles.
A small wooden box, with lock and key, in which seamen keep sentimental valuables,
stationery, and sundry small stores.
Daily; occurring once a day.
A navigational tool used to measure distances on a chart.
The U.S. Navy seamans hat dubbed the “Dixie-cup” because it resembled
the paper cup of the same name "'dixie cup"'-style hat has appeared
and reappeared in the Navy as part of the uniform since it was first written
into the uniform regulations of 1886
The area a boat rests in when attached to a pier or wharf; also the act of taking
the boat to the pier to secure it
Screen of cloth or other material to give the crew protection against the weather,
wind and water spray.
Doesn't have both oars in the water:
This is an expression used to describe someone that is thought to be slow or
crazy, or just not all there.
Don't hand me a line:
An expression now used to ask for a speaker to consider telling the truth. This
originated from the frequent observation that the person speaking or telling
a story would not be helping to tie up boat lines or ropes while docking, but
rather leaving the job to the other sailors.
Don't rock the boat:
Keep things the way they are.
(1) Heavy latch by which doors, hatches, portholes, etc., are secured; verb
: to latch
(2) A mild friendly insult.
A dogwatch at sea is the period between 4 and 6 p.m, the first dogwatch, or
the period between 6 and 8 p.m., the second dog watch. The watches aboard ships
Noon to 4:00 p.m. Afternoon watch
4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. First dogwatch
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Second dogwatch
8:00 p.m. to midnight 1st night watch
Midnight to 4:00 a.m. Middle watch or mid watch
4:00 to 8:00 a.m. Morning watch
8:00 a.m. to noon Forenoon watch
An old salt I know uses this term in reference to a "tangled mess of lines".
The short deckhouse or main hatchway which is raised above the level of the
cabin top or coachroof.
The area of calm which lies inside the trade winds near the equator. To be ‘in
the doldrums’ is to have a sense of depression or be in a period of inactivity.
The doldrums are regions near the Equator where ships are likely to be becalmed.
A dolly-shop was a marine store where sailors bought rags and old clothes. “He
dressed from the dolly-shop” means the wearer is badly attired.
A mooring buoy or spar. A group of piles driven close together and bound with
wire cables into a single structure.
A short spar under the cap of the bowsprit used for holding down a jib boom.
A steam boiler on a ship deck used to supply steam to deck machinery when the
main boilers are shut down.
An auxiliary engine used for furnishing power for a variety of small mechanical
The structure on deck where the donkey engine is located.
Merchant seaman's name for his bed or mattress.
Crew who tends a donkey boiler, or engine, and assists in engine:room.
A passage through a bulkhead Dorade:
A horn type of vent designed to let air into a cabin and keep water out.
The dory is a small, shallow-draft boat, about five to seven metres (15 to 22
feet) long. It is is a lightweight and versatile boat with high sides, a flat
bottom and sharp bows.
General term for all watertight spaces contained between the outside bottom
plating, the tank top and the margin plate. The double bottoms are sub:divided
into a number of separate tanks which may contain boiler feed water, drinking
water, fuel oil, ballast, etc.
an old sea term used by seamen when one of them got married. Clews, with their
nettles, were the cords which supported a seaman's hammock. A double set of
clews, in seamen's humour, were required to support a seaman's wife as well
Any Boat Designed with a pointed bow and stern.
An extra plate of the same strength or stronger than the original plating secured
to the original plating for additional strength.
Name given to that portion of the mast of a large sailing vessel where an upper
mast overlaps the lower mast, as a topmast with the lower mast.
A Spanish gold coin. At different times, it was worth either 4 or 16 silver
pesos, or "pieces of eight. "The basic gold coin was the eight escudo
piece, often called a doubloon.
To take down a sail quickly; the entire action of getting a sail out of the
wind and furling it.
(1) Line attached to the bottom of the boom used to flatten the sail by pulling
the boom down, and thus tightening the luff of the sail.
(2) A line used for hauling down a jib or staysail.
Down the Hatch:
This is a drinking expression that is believed to have its origins in sea freight
where cargo was lowered into the hatch for transport below deck. The freight
appeared to be consumed by the ship.
In the direction the wind is blowing. A boat sailing downwind, away from the
wind source with the sails let out all the way, is running with the wind.
Dead reckoning (DR) is the process of estimating one's current position by advancing
a known position
(1) The depth of the boat below the waterline; the amount of vertical distance
from a boats water line to the bottom of it's keel.
(2) The depth of water necessary to float a vessel
(3) The belly or chord depth of the sail, its fullness
Draft marks are numbers marked on each side of the bow and stern of the vessel.
Draft marks show the distance from the bottom of the keel to the waterline.
The draft marks are 6 inches high and 6 inches apart. The bottom of each number
shows the foot draft mark.
(1) The resistance to movement.
(2) Dragging your anchor: When a vessel is caught in a storm and heading
for land or rocks, they would drop anchor to try to avoid running aground. If
the anchor did not grip, it would drag along the bottom.
(1) A sail is said to be drawing when it is full of wind.
(2) Said of a vessel to indicate her draft. e.g., she draws 10 feet.
A bridge that can be raised vertically to allow boats to pass underneath.
Drawn and Quartered:
To be hanged, drawn and quartered was the penalty once ordained in England for
the crime of high treason.
Drawn is to be dragged on a hurdle (a wooden frame) to the place of execution.
Hanged by the neck for a short time or until almost dead.
Quarterd The body divided into four parts, (still alive) then beheaded (quartered).
Typically, the resulting five parts (i.e. the four quarters of the body and
the head) were gibbeted (put on public display) in different parts of the city, *After 1814, the convict would be hanged until dead and the mutilation would
be performed post-mortem.
*Women found guilty of treason in England were sentenced to be drawn and burned
at the stake.
Dressed to the nines:
To celebrate victories, a returning ship would approach her home waters or port
"dressed" in bunting and flags. As many of the crew as possible would
line up on the nine primary yards as a salute to their monarch.
To decorate a ship with flags in celebration of certain occasions.
(1) Speed or velocity of current
(2) The leeway, or movement of the boat, when not under power, or when being
pushed sideways while under power.
To be carried along by currents of air or water: a balloon drifting eastward;
as the wreckage drifted toward shore.
Ice in an area containing several small pieces of floating ice, but with total
water area exceeding total area of ice.
A ship drives when her anchor fails to hold and she is at the mercy of wind
and tide, or when she can make no progress against the wind.
Any object used to increase the drag of a boat and slow her down. Typically
shaped like a parachute or cone opened underwater, drogues decrease a boat's
speed in heavy weather. Also see sea anchor.
Merchandise other than liquid carried in bulk.
A dock into which a vessel is floated, which when raised lifts the boat out
of the water. Can also be a watertight basin with one end open to the sea that
can be closed and sealed with a gate, thus allowing the basin to be pumped out.
This facility allows inspections, painting and repairs to be made on the hull
and any underwater machinery.
Storing on land. Many small boats are placed in dry storage over the winter.
Tubes used to move air, such as to ventilate an enclosed area.
everything a sailor owns, also the nickname for the bag which holds it
The naval name for a trial or practice in which all the motions are gone through
but nothing else. The expression is therefore freely used in the navy to mean
(1) A coarse kind of unbleached cotton cloth. The term dates back to the 18th
century, from the Hindi word 'dungri', a particular type of sturdy Indian cotton
cloth that was used for making sails.
(2) Navy enlisted personnel wore the popular and functional denim dungarees.
In 1852 a white cover was added to the soft visor less blue cap. In 1866 a white
sennet straw hat was authorized as an additional item. During the 1880's the
white sailors hat appeared as a low rolled brim item made of wedge shaped pieces
of canvas. The canvas hat replaced the straw. Then the canvas was replaced by
cotton as a cheaper more comfortable material. During World War II this navy
hat was dubbed the “Dixie-cup” because it resembled the paper cup
of the same name.
Any material, permanent or temporary, that is used to ensure good stowage, and
protect cargo during carriage.
Dutch treat or going Dutch:
This means sharing the expenses. The expression, intended to be negative, originated
as a result of the hostility between the British and the Dutch during the 17th
and 18th centuries during which there were trade disputes, shipping embargoes
as well as war.
A small line used to fasten the upper corners of a square sail to its yard.
Ease, Ease Off:
To let out a line or sail slowly; to slacken or relieve tension on a line; to
take pressure off.
Ease the Sheets:
To let the sheet out slowly while maintaining control.
One of the 4 cardinal compass points. East is at 90° on a compass card.
East Wind, Easterly Wind:
A wind coming from the east. The current is to where it flows, The wind from
where it blows
Ebb, Ebb Tide:
The falling tide when the water recedes out to the sea and the water level lowers;
a period or state of decline.
An electrical depth sounder or fish finder that uses sound echoes to locate
the depth of objects in water. It does so by timing the sound pulses.
A small local current usually caused by tidal streams as they ebb and flow around
or against obstructions.
If somebody “felt the end of a salt eel” it meant he was flogged.
At one time, eel skins were used for whips at sea
A temporary injunction against ships or cargo to prevent their arrival or departure
in time of war.
To go aboard the vessel; to put onboard a vessel.
Emergency Tiller :
A tiller that is designed to be used in the event that wheel steering fails.
Engine Bed :
A structure of wooden or metal supports that make up the mounting for a ship's
Engine Order Telegraph:
A set of mechanical signaling devices, connected by cables, by which engine
commands are passed from the pilot house to the engine room and by which the
engine room responds.
Where the engines of a ship are confined.
(1) A nautical version of the national flag of the country usually flown at
(2) Adopted by the United States Navy in 1862, the rank of a young officer equivalent
to that of midshipman
The shape of the fore:body of a ship as it thrusts through the sea. A vessel
with a slim bow is said to have a fine entry.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. An emergency device that uses a
radio signal to alert satellites or passing airplanes to a vessel's position.
An imaginary line around the center of the earth at 0° of latitude.
The great circle on the celestial sphere in the plane of the earth's equator;
also called the celestial equator. The sun is on the equinoctial twice a year,
on the equinoxes, March 21 and September 23. On these days the sun rises at
6 a.m. and sets at 6 p.m. (local time) at every place on earth.
A position based on estimations of a boat's position using estimated speed,
currents, and the last known position/fix : of the boat.
Estimated time of arrival
Estimated time of departure
Even Keel :
When a boat is floating on its designed waterline, upright without any list
to either side, it is said to be floating on an even keel.
Everything on top and nothing handy:
This is used to describe any gear carelessly stowed. The expression is believed
to come from the lack of organization in the crew's storage chest.
A loop or hole which is spliced or tied on the end of a line
Eye of the Wind:
Direction from which the wind is blowing; an unsailable sector between close
(1) A permanent loop spliced in the end of a line, sometimes around a thimble.
(2) To splice, ('episeer' French. 'splitster', Dutch, 'plico' Latin) to join
the two ends of a rope together, or to unite the end of a rope to any other
part thereof. There are several different methods of performing this operation,
according to the services on which it is to be employed. Thus, there is the
short-splice, the long-splice, the eye-splice, and the cunt-splice-- all of
which are used for different purposes. The "eye-splice" is intended
to make a sort of eye or circle at the end of a rope.
(1) Metal bolts with an eye in the end.
(2) A bolt having a looped head designed to receive a hook or rope
The tendency of the strands of a line to fray out at the ends.
(1) In good condition.
(2) To adjust to proper shape or size.
(1) Term applied to the direction of the wind when it is favorable to the course
(2) Fair winds! -- Goodbye, good luck!.
A fitting used to guide a line in a particular direction without chafing.
A navigable channel in a body of water.
One circle of a coil or rope. To coil or arrange a rope ornamentally with each
fake flat, or almost flat, on the deck, usually in a circle or figure:of:eight
pattern. Sometimes called "Cheesing down".
The part of the tackle which is hauled upon; a hoisting rope or chain, especially
the part of rope or chain to which power is applied.
Fall Off :
To change direction so as to point farther away from the wind. Also Bear Away,
Bear Off or Head Down. The opposite of heading up.
An additional keel secured outside the main keel, usually as protection in the
event of grounding.
Valve of a pump box; to prime a pump.
Overhanging part of a vessel's stern. The area of the upper deck of a ship that
is nearest the stern.
Buoy at seaward end of channel leading from a port.
Fastened or held firmly (fast aground: stuck on the seabed; made fast: tied
Ice extending seaward from land to which it is attached.
To make secure
Something, such as a hook, used to attach one thing to another firmly
(1) A unit of measurement relating to the depth of water or to the length of
line or cable; one fathom is 6 feet or 1.83 meters
(2) This was originally a land measuring term derived from the Anglo-Saxon word
'fætm' meaning the embracing arms, or to embrace. In those days, most
measurements were based on average sizes of parts of the body. A fathom is the
average distance from fingertip to fingertip of the outstretched arms of a six-foot
tall man hence six feet.
(see fathom above) In the days of sailing vessels, soundings were made by lowering
a lead weight on hemp line. As the line was retrieved, it was measured with
outstretched arms. The expression "can't fathom it" means that we
don't understand or can't work it out or, more close to the origination, we
can't find the depth of the meaning in something.
A depth measuring device.
Federal Communications Commission Rules governing radio equipment and operation
in the United States.
If somebody ‘cuts a fine feather’, they have a good appearance,
as a ship does when moving at speed and fine feather of spray is produced at
Foaming water that rises upward immediately before stem of any craft being propelled
Sailing upwind so close to the wind that the forward edge of the sail is stalling
or luffing, reducing the power generated by the sail and the angle of heel.
Also known as pinching.
The turning of the blade of an oar from the vertical to the horizontal while
it is being taken aback for the next stroke. This reduces the windage on the
blade thus reducing the effort expended.
A propeller that can have the pitch of its blade changed to reduce drag when
not in use.
Feed the fish:
What a pirate did when someone was thrown into the sea, dead or alive.
Today 'feeling blue' means being sad or depressed. It comes from a custom that
was practiced when a ship lost its captain during a voyage. The ship would fly
blue flags and have a blue band painted along her hull when she returned to
Feeling down in the doldrums:
"Feeling down in the doldrums" originates from the area near the equator
known as "The Doldrums" where light winds make sailing difficult or
Feeling under the weather:
This refers to feeling ill or sick and came from the frequency of ship passengers
becoming seasick in heavy weather.
To fend a boat or ship is to prevent her striking against any quay, jetty, vessel
or any object that may endanger her. Hence a fender is an object used to soften
the blow. To "fend off" is to prevent another vessel or object (quay,
jetty, etc.) from striking a boat or ship. We use it more commonly in the sense
of keeping something away or even in fending off an attack (even a verbal one)
of some kind.
A cushioning device, such as a bundle of rope or a piece of timber, or tire
used on the side of a vessel or dock to absorb impact or friction.
A vessel designed for the transport of people or goods from one place to another
on a regular schedule.
(1) The distance that the wind and sea has to travel over open water unimpeded
by land; the longer the fetch, generally the higher the waves.
(2) Also to reach someplace, especially in adverse conditions. When sailing
close:hauled, being able to arrive at some point without tacking.
A pointed tool used to separate strands of rope.
A small rail on tables and counters used to keep objects from sliding off when
the vessel rolls and pitches.
A double block where the two sheaves lie in a plane one below the other, rather
than alongside each other.
A sailor's paradise where amusements were plentiful, and the women were accommodating.
A sailor with over 50 years of service was said to go to "Fiddler's Green"
when he died.
A partially raised deck over the engine and boiler rooms, always around the
smokestack, to let the hot air and fumes escape.
(1) Originally a day for cleaning all parts of the vessel.
(2 ) The expression used today is a reference to a good time; "Have a field
Ice pack whose limits cannot be seen from ship.
A rail around the lower part of a ship's mast to which the belaying pins for
the rigging are secured
Figure Eight Knot:
A stopper knot in the form of a figure eight, placed in the end of a line to
prevent the line from passing through a grommet, block, or other fitting.
An ornamental carved and painted figure on the stem of the vessel.
(1) From the Dutch for 'vrybuiter' (freebooter) translated into French as 'flibustier'.
The term originated from the Buccaneers known in England as filibusters who
would stop sailing vessels.
(2) It is now used as a political term meaning to delay or obstruct the passage
of legislation by non-stop speech making.
A keel that is narrow and deeper than a full keel. It looks like a fish's fin
extending below the boat, and the boat usually has a rudder mounted some distance
aft, often on an additional keel:like extension called a skeg.
A small pier that projects from a larger pier.
An unlicensed member of the engine room staff whose duties consist in standing
watch in the boiler room and insuring the oil burning equipment is working properly.
First Assistant Engineer:
Usually handles engine maintenance. Assigns duties to unlicensed personnel and
monitors and records overtime. Consults with Chief regarding work priorities.
First Mate (Chief Mate) :
Directly responsible for all deck operations (cargo storage and handling, deck
maintenance deck supplies). Assigns and checks deck department overtime. Ship's
Originally, this term referred to the largest and most heavily armed ship using
the old system of grading English ships.
General term used to denote all activities connected with the catching of fish
by any means.
A traditionally shaped anchor having flukes perpendicular to the stock of the
anchor and connected by a shank. These are less common than modern anchors such
as the plow and lightweight anchors.
Fisherman's Bend :
A knot used to fasten a line or cable to the anchor.
Slang sailing expression for a piece of metal or shroud that can cut or stab
Fits the bill:
A Bill of Lading was used to acknowledge receipt of goods and the promise to
deliver them to their destination in good or like condition. Upon delivery,
the goods were checked against the Bill of Lading to see if all was in order.
If so, they "fit the bill".
The general preparation of a vessel to make ready for the sea in all respects.
A vessel's position determined by observation and navigational data.
Fixed Light :
A navigational light with a steady beam of light, having no intervals of darkness.
Flag of Convenience:
Registry of the vessel is foreign to that of the country in which the company
that owns the ship is located.
All naval officers with the rank of rear admiral (or its equivalent) and above.
Nautical Flag meanings can be found here.
The ship that carries an admiral's flag.
(1) To lay a line out in coils so that it can run without fouling.
(2) Folding a sail in layers on the boom.
A safety device used to prevent or stop unwanted flames.
(1) The outward curve of a vessel's sides near the bow.
(2) A distress signal.
Used to describe a light that blinks on and off, where the period of light is
shorter than the period of darkness separating the flashes.
To trim the sheets in.
A company of vessels sailing together.
Shifting the moving block of a tackle from one place of attachment to another
place farther along to give more advantage.
to make a Flemish coil by taking the end of a line and laying it in a tight
flat spiral on the deck. Used to "tidy" up and keep line neat
The short foot rope at the end of a yard at the outer corner of a square sail
used when reefing or furling.
The word originated from the paper certificate issued to an officer when leaving
an appointment to show as to his previous conduct. The paper was known as the
Floating Dry Dock:
dry dock that can be submerged under a vessel and then raised , a drydock is
a narrow basin or vessel that can be flooded to allow a load to be floated in,
then drained to allow that load to come to rest on a dry platform. Drydocks
are used for the construction, maintenance, and repair of ships, boats, and
Flogging a dead horse.
The term "flogging a dead horse" alludes to the difficulty of getting
any extra work from a crew during a celebration held by British crews when they
had been at sea four weeks and had worked off their initial advance that was
often one month's pay. At the expiration of the first month of the voyage it
was at one time customary to hoist in the rigging a canvas effigy of a horse.
Flogging the glass:
Old Naval term for being early for an appointment or doing anything earlier
than planned. The expression originated from the half-hour sandglass used during
sea watch to measure time "Flogging the glass" was when the hourglass
was shook in order to shorten the watch.
(1) To fill a space (room) with water;
(2) A rising tide.
Lower part of a transverse frame running each side of the keelson to the bilges;
a virtually horizontal platform extending to the ship's sides.
The surface of the cockpit on which the crew stand.
Women who were let aboard during the time a vessel was in port.
(1) A U.S. Navy organizational unit of two or more squadrons of small warships.
(2)A similar unit in the navy of another country.
(3)A group of vessels owned or operated as a unit:.
Debris floating on the water surface; Any part of the wreckage of a ship or
her cargo which is found floating on the surface of the sea.
Flower of the Winds:
Old expression for the engraving of the wind:rose on charts.
(1) The portion of an anchor that digs securely into the bottom, holding the
boat in place.
(2) The two triangular parts which make up a whale's tail.
Said of a wind when it is light and variable in direction, not blowing steadily
from any direction. A wind that is light and variable.
A sailors' nickname for an Officers' Steward or a Marine acting as a Ward Room
Attendant. In a more general, everyday sense, it is applied to anyone perceived
as a subordinate, minion,
A deck whose top side is flush.
The wind direction indicator on the masthead.
Fast boat used for passenger and cargo traffic in fairly sheltered waters.
The term comes from replacing several smaller, more intricate sails which require
less attention than the large sail which are generally used at night and for
In sailboat racing, to take to opposite tack of the rest of the fleet when behind,
hoping that the wind will shift to your benefit.
The highest navigation bridge. It usually includes an added set of controls
above the level of the normal control station for better visibility.
(1) According to folklore, is a ghost ship that can never go home, doomed to
sail the oceans forever. The Flying Dutchman is usually spotted from afar, sometimes
glowing with ghostly light. It is said that if hailed by another ship, its crew
will try to send messages to land or to people long dead. In ocean lore, the
sight of this phantom ship is a portent of doom.
(2) Flying Dutchman
One superstition has it that any mariner who sees the ghost ship called the
Flying Dutchman will die within the day. The tale of the Flying Dutchman trying
to round the Cape of Good Hope against strong winds and never succeeding, then
trying to make Cape Horn and failing there too, has been the most famous of
maritime ghost stories for more 300 years. The cursed spectral ship sailing
back and forth on its endless voyage, its ancient white-hair crew crying for
help while hauling at her sail, inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write his
classic "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," to name but one famous
literary work. The real Flying Dutchman is supposed to have set sail in 1660.
originally meant the upper deck of a sailing ship, forward of the foremast
A series of sound signals required by COLREGS to prevent collisions at sea.
A horn for sounding warning signals in fog or darkness, used especially on buoys,
and coastal installations. A horn on a ship is called a whistle, big ships had
whistles first, and it is still customary to refer to the ship's primary audible
signalling device as the "ship's whistle"
A sea with waves approaching from the stern of the boat; a sea in which the
waves are moving in the same direction as the vessel
(1) The bottom edge of a sail.
(2) Sailing slightly more away from the wind than close hauled to increase the
Footloose and Fancy-Free: When the bottom of the sail that is known as the foot
of the sail is not attached to the boom. If it is not properly attached it may
become footloose causing the vessel not to sail properly.
On a square:rigged ship, the ropes which hang below a yard upon which the topmen
stand while aloft furling or reefing a sail. They were supported by ropes from
the yard known as "stirrups".
Towards, near, or at the bow; Prefix denoting at, near, or toward the bow.
Fore and Aft:
In a line parallel to the ship's keel.
Fore and Aft Rigged:
Sails that lie in the direction of the ship's length and whose luffs abut the
masts or are attached to stays.
The compartment at the bow of the vessel
The forward part of the bow which overhangs the keel.
The headway a vessel makes when luffed in the wind; the distance a sailing vessel
will shoot up to windward when brought head to head in the act of tacking.
Sailor's songs sung in the forecastle when the men of a watch were off duty.
These were sung for entertainment, thus they were not shanties.
The cabin towards the front of the vessel.
A weather prediction.
Also fo'c'sle or fo'csle. Pronounced "foke:sul". The most forward
below decks area of a vessel; The crew quarters on a traditional sailing ship
forward of the main mast.
The forward part of a boat's main deck.
The point where the stem joins the forward end of the keel.
A line leading forward from the end of a mainsail boom to prevent the boom from
swinging inboard while broad reaching or running. also Preventer
The forward mast of a boat with more that one mast
A space or compartment in the bow of a vessel : The compartment farthest forward
in the bow of the boat. Often used for anchor or sail stowage.
A sail placed forward of the mast, such as a jib; the sail set from the foremast
on a schooner; the lowest square sail on the foremast of Square Riggers.
A support wire running from the upper part of the mast to the bow of the boat
designed to pull the mast forward. A forestay that attaches slightly below the
top of the mast can be used to help control the bend of the mast. The most forward
stay on the boat is also called the headstay.
A sail attached to the forestay as opposed to a jib which is attached to the
The triangle formed by the masthead, the base of the mast at deck level, and
the lower end of the headstay.
A naval term for going ahead slowly.
At or toward the bow. Also the fore part of the ship.
Said of a line that leads from its point of attachment towards the bow of the
Closing small leaks in a vessel's underwater body by drawing a sail, filled
with oakum, underneath her.
(1) To foul is a nautical term meaning entangled,
(2) Generally something wrong or difficult
(3) In racing, a rules infraction
A place not suitable for anchoring.
Any piece of equipment that is jammed, clogged, entangled, or dirtied.
An anchor which has become entangled with some object on the bottom, or, on
weighing, has it's rode or chain wound around its stock or flukes.
When a vessel fills with water and sinks.
Forecastle, also spelled fo'c's'le , originally meant the upper deck of a sailing
ship, forward of the foremast
The mast in the forepart of a vessel, nearest the bow.
A design in which the forestay does not go to the very top of the mast, but
instead to a point 3/4:7/8 of the way up the mast.
A timber or rib of a ship running from the keel to the side rail; the transverse
strengthening members in a ship's hull that extend from the keel to the deck
or gunwale. The frames form the shape of the hull and act as a skeleton on which
the hull planking is secured.
The distance between frames.
To bind together in order to increase tension or to prevent from blowing loose.
Frazil ice is a collection of loose, randomly oriented needle-shaped ice crystals
in water. It resembles slush and has the appearance of being slightly oily when
seen on the surface of water.
(1) Clear, not tangled.
(2) sailing free: a vessel is sailing free when her sheets are eased.
(3) running free: to sail with the wind from astern.
A port free of customs duty and most customs regulations.
Clearance by the Health Authorities.
The distance from the gunwale to the water. Most often this will vary along
the length of the boat.
The uppermost complete deck of a ship having a secure means of closing all openings
to be fully watertight.
To go on the account, to become a pirate. Freebooter: Mercanary, privateer or
An opening in the bulwark or rail for discharging large quantities of water,
when thrown by the sea upon the ship's deck. Some ships have "swing gates"
which allow water to drain off but which automatically close from the pressure
of sea water.
Freeze the balls off a brass monkey:
Cannon balls where piled on deck beside the cannon, pyramid fashion, and retained
in a brass monkey or ring. If the weather was very cold the brass ring would
contract faster than the iron cannon balls thus causing some of them to topple.
Goods transported in a ship, or the money paid for such goods.
Freshen the Nip:
To veer or haul on a rope, slightly, so that a part subject to nip or chafe
is moved away and a fresh part takes its place.
From stem to stern:
An expression for all-inclusive or very thorough. The expression comes from
the nautical term stem or very front of a ship and stern or very back of a ship.
From stem to stern means the entire ship.
Used in meteorology to describe boundaries between hot and cold air masses.
This is typically where bad weather is found.
"fudging the books": This expression is believed to come from a Captain
Fudge, also known as "Lying Fudge" who was a notorious liar in the
A floating or fixed structure used to dispense gasoline or diesel and related
service to boats.
Full and By:
Sailing as close to the wind as possible with all sails full and drawing.
Full Keel :
A keel that runs the length of the boat.
A sail having battens that run the full horizontal length of the sail.
A mast supported by the use of lines or wire known as stays and shrouds.
To fold or roll a sail and secure it to its main support
The essential fittings and equipment of a ship, such as anchors, rigging, masts,
davits, derricks, winches, etc., excluding her consumable stores such as water,
fuel and victuals.
A curved or vertical timber that when paired with a floor or additional futtocks
makes the frame of a wooden ship.
Short shrouds which give support to the top of a lower mast.
Any little handy contraption such as a scraper or sailmaker's palm, etc.
(1) A spar that holds the upper side of a four sided gaff sail.
(2) A pole with a sharp hook at the end used to get a fish on board.
Any sailboat with a four:sided mainsail, defined by two booms, one located on
the bottom, perpendicular to the mast, and another, located on top, at an angle
from the mast.
A four sided sail used instead of a triangular main sail. Used on gaff rigged
A light triangular or quadrilateral sail set over a gaff.
An unusually strong wind. In storm:warning terminology, a wind of 34 to 47 knots
(39 to 54 miles per hour or 62:87 kilometers per hour).
A development of the carrack, with the high forecastle eliminated.
In larger sailing warships, the walk built out from the admiral's or captain's
cabin and extending beyond the stern. Often decorated with carved and gilded
work, they were also covered and enclosed with elaborate glass windows.
(1) . The galley is the kitchen of the ship. The best explanation as to its
origin is that it is a corruption of the word gallery. Ancient sailors cooked
their meals on a brick or stone gallery laid amidships.
(2) Very old fighting ship propelled by oars.
Sailor's term for soot or ashes which sometimes fell into food while it was
A prisoner sold in the slave market. He was forced to serve in the war galleys,
where he pulled on one of the oars.
A frame used to support the boom when the sail is down.
The process of coating one metal with another, ordinarily applied to the coating
of iron or steel with zinc. The chief purpose of galvanizing is to prevent corrosion.
Circular iron band used to hold a bowsprit on the stem of a sailing vessel.
A board or ramp used as a removable footway between a ship and a pier. Also
(1) A narrow portable platform used as a passage, by persons entering or leaving
a vessel moored alongside a pier.
(2) "Get out of my way!"
The first plank on the outer hull of a wooden vessel next to the keel. In steel
ships, the plating next to the keel, or what is known as strake A.
On a square:rigged ship, a tackle used for hoisting casks and provisions.
Slang for the leg irons which were used to secure men under punishment.
Ties used to tie up the sails when they are furled to the boom or yards.
A valve with a faucet type handle used to restrict the flow of water in a line
A general term for ropes, blocks, tackle, equipment, instruments, riggings,
any apparatus used aboard ship; clothing and other personal items taken aboard
The outer resin surface of a fiberglass boat, usually colored.
Old term for the boat used by the captain to go ashore.
The positions and functions assigned to every member of ship's company to manage
emergencies or fight the ship; also, the order spoken to take such positions.
A large sail that is a cross between a spinnaker and a genoa. Hoisted without
a pole, the tack is attached at the bottom of the headstay.
A large foresail or jib that overlaps the mainsail. Also known as a genny. Can
be expressed in percentages of overlap, e.g. 150 Genoa is 50% overlap of the
The expression "get cracking" means to get moving or hurry up. It
is a common slang expression indicating the importance of haste. It possibly
comes from the old sailing expression "cracking on" meaning "to
speed more sails".
This is a common term used to describe the act of marriage. It comes from the
act of joining or hitching two ropes together to form one.
Slang for getting married. A splice joins two lines together permanently.
To make headway when there is no apparent wind.
A wooden frame from which dead pirates were hung, often in a metal cage especially
fitted for the dead man. (hanging in irons) This was done as a warning to others
who would think of taking up a career in piracy.
A system by which an object such as a compass is suspended so that it remains
horizontal as the boat heels.
Gilded carving and scroll work decorating the hulls of ships.
To haul in or bind something together in order to create more space.
Additional thickness of planking on a wooden ship about her waterline to give
the vessel more stability.
The measurement around the body of a ship. The half girth is taken from the
center line of the keel to the upper deck beam end.
Give a wide berth:
To keep a safe distance, to avoid a collision by giving a large distance between
The practice of allowing extra room off a dangerous lee (downwind) shore in
case of error or mishap in order to allow the vessel extra distance to maneuver
in an emergency
A term, from the Navigational Rules, used to describe the vessel which must
yield to the "Stand:on Vessel" in meeting, crossing, or overtaking
situations. also known as the Burdened Vessel
In the days of tall ships the barometer was a glass vessel with a thin stem.
The fluid in the glass (in most cases water) would move up and down the stem
as the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere changed. These movements were
used to predict changes in the weather. also the seaman's name for a telescope.
Global Positioning System (GPS):
A navigation system using satellite signals to fix a position with great accuracy.
Global Ship Number System:
The Global Ship Number (GSN) system is designed to give every significant ship
a unique identifier. For modern merchant ships, this is achieved via the Lloyds
Register 7-digit number, which has also been adopted by the International Maritime
Organisation. A ship carries the same number throughout its life, whatever its
name or owner or flag. But warships and merchant ships that did not exist when
LR started their numbering system in the mid 1960s, have no such identifier.
As there can be scores of ships with the same name, neither name nor other existing
characteristic like tonnage is necessarily unique. The GSN system is designed
to allocate a unique 8-digit number to such ships.
Any small enclosed space in which unwanted items are stowed when clearing up
Mean solar time at the meridian of Greenwich. Abbreviated GMT. Also known as
Greenwich civil time; universal time; Z time; zulu time.
To turn the boat head:to:wind so as to go about on the opposite tack
To break loose from a mooring, anchor or docking.
A length of rope used in a tug to bowse in the towrope. Gog rope.
The expression is thought to originate in the nautical practice of placing a
grapeshot in the mouth (gob) of an over-talkative ship's youngster. The term
refers to a large, round, hard candy, known as jawbreakers
Going to Weather:
To sail against the prevailing wind and seas.
A small boat, highly ornamented, with a high rising stem and sternpost. Used
on the canals of Venice, it is propelled by a man standing near the stern using
a single oar
Sailor's phrase for a seaman who has died.
The fitting which connects the boom to the mast.
Indicates the jib or staysail being boomed out on the opposite side of the mainsail
in a following wind, giving a large amount of sail area presented to the wind.
see Wing and Wing. The term originates, however, from square riggers, and means
to haul the: (weather) tack of a square sail forward, to encourage it to fill
when the vessel is hauled so closely on the wind as to begin to backfill the
Global Positioning System.
A pillar or handhold on a boat : Hand:hold fittings mounted on cabin tops and
sides for personal safety when moving around the boat.
A small multi:pronged anchor used on dinghies and small boats. Also used to
drag along the bottom to recover something that has sunk.
To clean (a wooden ship's hull) by applying heat to soften the pitch and then
The largest circle which can be inscribed on a sphere by a plane that cuts through
the center of the sphere. On the earth, the equator is a great circle, as are
all the meridians of longitude which pass through both poles. The shortest distance
between two points on the earth's surface lies along the great circle which
connects the two points.
A can buoy. A cylindrical buoy painted green and having an odd number used in
the United States as a navigational aid. At night they may have a green light.
Green buoys should be kept on the left side when returning from a larger body
of water to a smaller one.
A navigational aid used in the United States and Canada to mark a channel. Green
triangular daymarks should be kept on the left when returning from a larger
to smaller body of water.
Greenwich Mean Time:
GMT for short. Greenwich Meridian Time, also known as Universal Time or Zulu
time. A time standard that is not affected by time zones or seasons. It is the
time used by navigators in celestial navigation.
Gripe: A sailing vessel 'gripes' when she can not properly sail close hauled
(at a angle close to the direction of the wind) due to being incorrectly designed
or because she has an imbalance of sail which results in bow (front) heading
into the wind when sailing close-hauled. The sails flap around and forward progress
is difficult. The term is now used to mean complain.
Small lines or bands used to hold down and secure boats on deck while at sea.
Rum diluted with water. In the 1700s the daily ration of rum in the British
Navy was diluted with water with the idea of reducing drunkenness. The term
groggy was derived from the effects of drinking too much grog. This originates
from the nickname the British sailors had for their Commander, Admiral Vernon,
who wore a cloak made of a coarse cloth called grogram. Admiral Vernon became
known as "Old Grog". In 1740, he ordered his men to dilute their daily
ration of rum with water
A ring or eyelet normally used to attach a line, such as on a sail.
A common measurement of the internal volume of a ship with certain spaces excluded.
One ton equals 100 cubic feet; the total of all the enclosed spaces within a
ship expressed in tons each of which is equivalent to 100 cubic feet.
To touch bottom.
(1) Long wave formations during calm or light air formed by waves running into
(2) A sudden swell or rise of water near the shore that often occurs in otherwise
calm conditions. It is caused by undulating water from a far away storm.
A collective term for the anchor, anchor rode (line or chain), and all the shackles
and other gear used for attachment.
Small iceberg that has broken away from a larger iceberg.
Glass Reinforced Polyester. Commonly called fiberglass, a material used for
The upper deck rail along both sides of a vessel to prevent anyone on board
from falling overboard.
A ring:shaped fitting into which the rudder pintle is inserted which allows
the rudder to pivot.
Cruising in shallow water and spending the nights in coves.
The top of the side of a ship [wale, ridge of planking originally supporting
Development of the lugsail rig where the sail is cut with a very short luff
and lon leech.
The upper edge of a boat's side; the part of a vessel where hull and deck meet.
Gun Salutes were first fired as an act of good faith. In the days when it took
so long to reload a gun,
it was proof of friendly intention when the ship's cannon were discharged upon
entering port and thereby
proving that the weapons were not cocked and ready to fire.
A brace, usually triangular, for reinforcing a corner or angle in the framework
of a structure.
A supporting or steadying line or wire; a line used to control the end of a
spar. A spinnaker pole, for example, has one end attached to the mast, while
the free end is moved back and forth with a guy.
(Jibe) Turning the boat so that the stern crosses the wind, changing direction.
To change direction before the wind onto another tack with the boom coming over
by the force of the wind. Caution is needed in this maneuver, especially in
A windlass or capstan drum.
A circular or spiral motion, especially a circular ocean current
Steel beams with cross section like the letter "H."
Code of minimum conditions for the carriage of cargo under a bill of lading.
To attempt to contact another boat or shore, either by voice or radio.
Originally this expression has its roots in Greek mythology. Halcyone was the
daughter of Aeolus (Aeolus custodian of the four winds) and wife of Ceyx. When
Ceyx drowned, it is said that Halcyone threw herself into the sea. Out of pity,
the gods changed the pair into kingfishers also known as halcyons. The gods
also forbade the winds from blowing seven days before and after the winter solstice.
This is the breeding season of the halcyon. The expression "halcyon days"
has come to mean a time of peace and tranquility.
A single turn of line around an object with the end being led back through the
bight. It's the basis upon which many nautical knots are constructed.
Half Seas Over:
(1) The condition of a vessel stranded on a reef or a rock when the seas break
over her deck.
(2) Half drunk; incapacitated by drink.
A line used to hoist or lower a sail, flag or spar. The tightness of the halyard
can affect sail shape.
A member of the ship's crew.
Hand Bearing Compass:
A small portable compass.
A weight attached to a line used to determine depth by lowering it into the
A hand hold. Usually along the cabin top or ladder.
Sailors were armed to the teeth for battle, but they were not allowed to carry
arms at other times. The one exception to this rule was the sailor's knife -
a tool essential to all seamen. Drawing of a knife in anger was prohibited by
admiralty law, and should a sailor do so, he risked forfeiting a hand. Thus,
the expression, "Hands off".
Hand over fist:
The expression "hand over fist" means to go forth rapidly in some
endeavor, such as, making money hand over fist. Originally the expression came
from the act of quickly climbing the rigging of the old sailing ships "
hand over hand" or "hand over fist".
To do something carefully and in the proper manner in shipshape style.
A movable block and tackle used on board for a variety of purposes, including
the handling of cargo in holds.
A locker big enough to hang clothes.
Rings or piston hooks by which sails are attach to stays, usually spring:loaded;
metal hooks used to secure a sail to a stay; to hank on a sail is to hook it
on a stay using the hanks
A safe anchorage, protected from most storms; may be natural or man:made, with
breakwaters and jetties; a place for docking and loading.
Various local charges against all seagoing vessels entering a harbor for the
use of the harbor and its facilities; these fees are used to cover maintenance
of channel depths, buoys, lights, etc. All harbors do not necessarily have this
The official who is in charge of a harbor, enforcing all its applicable regulations.
A vessel which has gone aground and is incapable of refloating under her own
The command given to inform the crew that the helm is being turned quickly to
leeward, turning the boat windward
Hard and fast:
An expression used to describe inflexibility, such as, a hard and fast rule
The term is nautical in origination and was used to describe a ship grounded
on the shore; 'hard' meaning firmly and 'fast' meaning fixed.
An abrupt intersection between the hull side and the hull bottom of a boat.
Turning the wheel or tiller as far as possible
(1) To sail a boat closer to the wind : to steer closer to the wind, usually
by pulling in on the sheets
(2) Hard up: Originally when a sailing crew was ordered to tighten the sails,
the blocks would be "hard up" meaning hauled together as close as
Hasn't got a clue:
With nautical origins, the clew refers to the corner of the sail where a brass
ring is sewn into the fabric of the sail in order to properly hold the sail
in place. If a clew should rip, the sail would loose shape and the vessel will
not sail in a controlled manner. Until it is refastened, it "hasn't got
a clew," or needs to "get clewed up" again. Today if someone
"hasn't got a clue" then they do not understand or are not knowledgeable.
To "get clued up" is to learn about or to come to fully understand
A sliding or hinged opening in the deck, providing people with access to the
cabin or space below; an opening in a boat's deck fitted with a watertight cover.
Covers for closing up hatchways.
One of the large square openings in the deck of a ship through which freight
is hoisted in or out, and access is had to the hold.
To pull in or heave on a line by hand; to pull.
Change from a run to a reach
Remove a boat from the water.
The part on the object which is hauled upon.
That part of a ship's bow where the hawse holes and hawse pipes are situated.
A hole in the hull for mooring lines, cable, or chain to run through.
Pipes made of heavy cast iron or steel through which the anchor chain runs;
placed in the ship's bow on each side of the stem, or in some cases also at
the stern when a stern anchor is used.
Hawse Plug or Block:
A stopper used to prevent water from entering the hawse hole in heavy weather.
A heavy line or cable used for towing, mooring or anchoring a large vessel
An object that might not allow safe operation. A group of rocks just under the
water or a submerged wreck could be a navigational hazard.
Haze or Hazing: is used to refer to an initiation ritual of a newcomer to a
group by humiliating and harassing him or her, thereby asserting the authority
of the group. Originally hazing was the practice of captains asserting their
authority by having a ship's crew work all hours of the day or night, whether
needed or not, in order to make them generally miserable thereby more humble
and easier to manage.
(1) A marine toilet or the compartment containing a toilet.
(2) Generally, the top or forward part.
(3) The upper corner of a triangular sail.
(4) The top portion of a mast.
To turn the boat away from the wind. also Fall Off.
A sea which is traveling in the opposite direction to that of the boat
Head to Wind:
Where the boat is pointed directly into the wind, sails luffing
Change direction so as to point closer to where the wind is coming from. The
opposite of falling off.
A small wooden, metal or plastic insertion at the head of a mainsail.
When the wind shifts toward the bow. Opposite of lifted.
(1) A wind shift further forward relative to the boats direction or heading.
(2) A bar or angle under a deck the same size as deck beams. It is used around
stair openings in deck, small hatch openings, or at dead end of longitudinals.
A grooved metal extrusion fitted on a forestay and used to secure the luff of
a sail by holding its bolt rope in place.
Direction in which ship's bow is pointing at any instant.
A sail set forward of the foremast on the headstay; a foresail
The stay leading from the mast to the bow
The forward motion of a boat through the water. Opposite of sternway. Heave
: (1) To throw, as to heave a line ashore. (2) An upward pull on a line; to
lift (3) The rise and fall of a vessel in a seaway.
(Me Hearties): One with Heart, a brave a loyal mate or sailor. "Me hearties":
My brave and loyal crew or brave and loyal ship mate.
To haul in.
to move in a certain direction: Heave the capstan around! Heave up the anchor!
To stop a boat and maintain position (with some leeway) by balancing rudder
and sail to prevent forward movement, a boat stopped this way is "hove
to"; such as when in heavy seas. The idea is to bring the wind onto the
weather bow and hold the ship in that position, where she can safely and easily
ride out a storm.
Upward displacing swells.
A light line with a weight on the end used for heaving from ship to shore (or
ship to ship) when coming alongside. A heavier cable or hawser is attached which
can then be hauled over using the heaving line.
Heavy Seas :
When the water has large or breaking waves in stormy conditions.
Stormy conditions, including rough, high seas and strong winds.
(1) To lean over to one side, due to wind pressure on the sails or crew on the
side; The amount that a boat is tipped over side:to:side, relative to its normal
(2) The after end of a ship's keel.
(3) The lower end of a mast.
The error in a compass reading caused by the heel of a boat.
The apparatus by which a vessel is steered, including the rudder, steering wheel
The one who steers the boat.
Half of a sphere. On the globe hemispheres are used to describe the halves of
the earth north or south of the equator.
High and Dry:
Originally used to describe a ship that is beached or on the rocks. She is left
'high' by the receding tide and 'dry' by being out of the water.
The area of sea not under the sovereignty of nations with a seaboard.
The point of a tide when the water is the highest.
The best of its type of fishing boat. Word originates from a time when the crew
used to fish from the deck of a vessel. The best fisherman got the highest place
on deck, up in the bow, so his line was the highest above the sea.
The harlot's call to the sailor "Hi, Jack!" acquired its more sinister
meaning when, after the first embrace, she hit him with a lead filled handbag
and he was dragged off to be sold to a ship in need of crew
Leaning out over the side of the boat to to counteract heel and balance it.
An extension to the tiller allowing the helmsman to steer while hiking. This
may be desired for improved visibility or stability.
Straps to hook your feet under in cockpit when hiking out.
(1) A knot used to secure a line to another object such as a ring or cylindrical
object or to another line;
(2) Common term for an enlistment.
The prefix placed before the name of a warship of the British Navy to indicate
that she is Her (His) Majesty's ship.
The alternate rise and fall of the bow of a vessel proceeding through waves.
A vessel whose bow and stern have drooped. The opposite of sagged.
A large cask usually used for shipping wine and spirits or other liquids or
dry goods. In the Americas, Hogsheads were used frequently in the transportation
of tobacco and sugar cane. The tobacco hogshead used in colonial times was very
large. The standardized hogshead measured 48 inches long and 30 inches in diameter
at the head. Fully packed with tobacco, it weighed about 1000 pounds.
To lift or raise, such as a sail or a flag.
A general name for the spaces below the main deck designated for stowage of
A dog or brace to hold objects rigidly in place.
The type of bottom that the anchor is set in.
A storage tank where sewage is stored until it can be removed to a treatment
A gap unintentionally left uncovered while painting or varnishing.
Because mackerel is a fish that spoils quickly, merchants were allowed to sell
it on Sundays contradicting the blue laws in 17th-century England. The phrase
"Holy Mackerel!" is still used today as an expression of surprise
Sailor's name for a block of sandstone used for scrubbing the wooden decks of
a ship; seamen had to get down on their knees to use them. Large holystones
were known as "Bibles", while smaller blocks to reach awkward places
were known as "Prayer Books"
Slang for anchor
On gaff-rigged sailing vessels the luff of the mainsail is secured to the mast
by wooden hoops, which slide up or down the mast as the sail is raised or lowered.
Slang. A place for the confinement of persons in lawful detention: brig
Where the water and sky or ground and sky appear to intersect.
A heavy longitudinal timber that angles upward from the stern to support the
underside of the fantail.
(1) A musical wind instrument having the bell and mouthpiece made of horn. The
insturment was often played aboard ship as the only form of music.
(2) The dance or jig, usually performed by a single person, associated with
the playing of a hornpipe
(1) The points of the jaws of a boom or gaff where they embrace the mast.
(2) The outer ends of the crosstrees.
To cheat or bamboozle (The term came in to use in 1829)
Areas of the ocean lying between the mostly westerly winds of the higher latitudes,
and the trade winds. These areas usually have prolonged calms, and in the older
days of sail it could take quite a while to clear out of this area, by which
time the seamen had worked off their "dead horses"
An unhandy seaman.
A floatation device shaped like a U and thrown to people in the water in emergencies.
Wooden shoulders attached below the masthead to either side of a wooden mast
which originally supported the trestle trees.
An hourglass, also known as a sandglass, sand timer or sand clock, is a device
for the measurement of time. It consists of two glass bulbs placed one above
the other which are connected by a narrow tube. One of the bulbs is usually
filled with fine sand which flows through the narrow tube into the bottom bulb
at a given rate. Once all the sand has run to the bottom bulb, the device can
be inverted in order to measure time again. The hourglass is named for the most
frequently used sandglass, where the sands have a running time of one hour.
Use of the hourglass dates back to the 11th century.
Lying nearly head to wind and stopped, and maintaining this position by trimming
sail or working engines.
Person who assists in saving life or property from a vessel wrecked near the
coast. Often applied to a small boat that lies in narrow waters ready to wait
on a vessel, if required.
A vessel used for the transportation of passengers and cargo riding on a cushion
of air formed under it. It is very maneuverable and is also amphibious.
A nautical expression for an old sailing vessel that is no longer seaworthy.
The larger vessels were sometimes stripped of their rigging and used for in-port
The main structural body or shell of the boat, not including the deck, keel,
mast, or cabin.
Said of a distant ship when her hull is below horizon and her masts and upper
works are visible.
The maximum speed a hull can achieve without planing : the fastest a keelboat
will go, usually dependent on length of the hull at the waterline
(1) Floating, but at mercy of wind and sea.
(2) Piercing the hull with a projectile.
(3) Taking in sail during a calm.
A strong tropical revolving storm of force 12 or higher. In the northern hemisphere
hurricanes revolve in a clockwise direction. In the southern hemisphere these
storms revolve counterclockwise and are known as typhoons.
A craft more or less similar to the Hovercraft insofar as it flies over water
and thus eliminates friction between the water and the hull. Under acceleration
it rises above water but remains in contact with the surface through supporting
legs or foils.
The study of the earth's waters.
Steel wire, used to support over:the:side sampling apparatus
A life:threatening condition where there is loss of body heat; the greatest
danger for anyone in the water. As the body loses its heat, body functions slow
down, and this can quickly lead to death.
Steel beams with cross section like the letter "I."
A floating island of ice. Only one:ninth of the total mass of an iceberg is
visible above water level.
Short for Intercoastal Waterway. A system of rivers and canals along the Atlantic
and Gulf Coasts of the United States allowing boats to travel along them without
having to go offshore.
This was the name for those members of a ship's crew, such as cooks and sail-makers,
that did not stand night watch because of their work.
A sailboat with its bow pointed directly into the wind, preventing the sails
from filling properly and stopping the boat. It can be very difficult to get
a boat that is in irons back under sail. also known as "In Stays".
In the Drink:
Is a term used to indicate that someone or something has fallen into the water.
A vessel is in soundings when she is in sufficiently shallow water for soundings
to be made and used as an aid in the vessel's navigation.
(1) Toward the center of the boat.
(2) An engine that is mounted inside the boat.
Inches of Mercury:
A unit used when measuring atmospheric pressure. 33.86 millibars.
(1) Any of the large sailing ships engaged in the British trade with India from
roughly 1600 to 1880.
(2) Indianman: A ship from one the East India Trading Company.
England, France, Holland, and Portugal; all of the countries had had East Indianmans.
The ship were well armed and deadly, similar in defense to the Spanish Galleons.
In every case they belonged to a government sanctioned corporation.
Person given a passage in one of H.M. ships; usually on compassionate grounds.
A dinghy or raft that can be inflated for use or deflated for easy stowage.
Navigation rules governing waters inside designated demarcation zones
Term referring to lakes, streams, rivers, canals, waterways, inlets, bays, etc.
Near or toward the shore
A watertight covering, usually small, that may be removed so the interior of
the hull can be inspected or water removed.
International Code of Signals:
A set of radio, sound, and visual signals designed to aid in communications
between vessels without language problems. It can be used with Morse Code, with
signal pennants, and by spoken code letters.
International Date Line:
The line of longitude 180 degrees opposite Greenwich, England, located in the
Pacific that marks the date change
International Maritime Organization: IMO is the United Nations' specialized agency responsible for improving
maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships. The Convention establishing
the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was adopted in Geneva in 1948
and IMO first met in 1959. IMO's main task has been to develop and maintain
a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes
safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime
security and the efficiency of shipping.
Navigation rules governing waters outside designated demarcation zones
Consist of international straits, inland and interocean canals and rivers where
they separate the territories of two or more nations.
Domestic shipping routes along a single coast.
A system of rivers and canals along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United
States allowing boats to travel along them without having to go offshore.
Electrical power converter; converts square:wave DC current to sine:wave AC
Old sailor's term for a flat calm with no wind.
Loose ends of line left hanging over a ship's side.
The clear, soft plastic material used for dodger window panels
Lines drawn on a weather map indicating regions of equal pressure. When the
lines are close together, this indicates a rapid change in air pressure, accompanied
by strong winds.
Line on a chart linking points of equal depth. also known as a Depth Contour.
A line connecting points of equal magnetic variation on a map.
A schedule of all ports to be visited on a ship's cruise, with dates of arrival
and departure and the local agents' names and addresses
The national flag flown on a jackstaff on the bow of naval ships while anchored.
(also John Ketch) The Hangman. The term dates from around 1673, probably earlier.
It remained a common term throughout the Golden Age. To "Cheat Jack Ketch"
would be to escape hanging. To "Dance with Jack Ketch" is to be hanged.
Safety lines, usually of flat webbing, that run along the deck between bow and
stern used to attach a tether from a safety harness.
Nickname for an unpopular seaman.
Nickname for a British naval seaman.
Jack With a Lantern:
Used by some seamen to describe St. Elmo's Fire.
someone who is unimportant but cheeky and presumptuous.
Four:masted sailing ship square-rigged on the two foremost masts and fore-and-:aft
rigged on the two after masts.
A short vertically erected pole at the bow on which the national flag is hoisted
on naval ships while at anchor.
A line or cable secured between two points and used as a support for various
A yard or pole extending the head or foot of the topsail beyond the topmast
or gaff of a gaff-:rigged boat
A rope ladder with wooden steps. A rope ladder, lowered from the deck, as when
pilots or passengers come aboard.
A cleat designed to hold a line in place without slipping. It consists of two
narrowing jaws with teeth in which the line is placed.
The distance between a rope's adjacent strands, giving a measure of the tightness
of the lay. The shorter the distance, the harder the lay. When a line has been
overused and the lay has become slack, it is said to be slack:jawed.
A fitting holding a boom or gaff to the mast.
A genoa jib. A large jib that overlaps the mast.
Search of a vessel, by Customs authorities, for unreported goods.
Anything thrown overboard; debris, jettisoned items, floating at sea. Goods
deliberately thrown overboard from a ship, for example to lighten her if she
is in danger, while flotsam refers to goods accidentally lost overboard or which
may float up from a hull of a wrecked ship.
To cast overboard or off. To discard something as unwanted or burdensome. Goods
or equipment may be jettisoned to lighten a ship in danger.
A man made structure projecting from the shore. May protect a harbor entrance
or aid in preventing beach erosion.
On square:rigged ships, the blocks attached to those yards on which studdingsails
The foremost sail; a triangular shaped foresail forward of the foremast.
A rope net to catch the jib when it is lowered.
Jib Sheet :
The lines that lead from the clew of the jib to the cockpit and are used to
control the jib.
The stay that the jib is hoisted on. Usually the headstay.
A small jib set high on the headstay of a double headsail rig.
Spar forward of bowsprit to extend the foot of the outer jib.
Jibber the Kibber:
The act of decoying a ship ashore by means of false lights.
Jibes (Gybes): This is the term to describe the often unwelcomed and possibly
violent and dangerous swing of the boom and sail from one side of the vessel
to the other. This is brought about when a boat sailing down wind alters course
or when the wind changes direction so that the wind passes from one side of
the stern to the other.
A triangular topsail set above the mainsail in a gaff:rigged vessel.
The headstay on which jibs are hoisted
A method of lowering the sail in sections so that it can be reefed quickly.
(1) A light tackle consisting of a double and single block used for many small
(2) Aft sail on the mizzen mast of a yawl or a ketch, or on the jigger:mast
of a schooner.
After mast on a schooner or sailing ship carrying a spanker; usually the fourth
mast of a five or six masted schooner.
Nickname for a ship's cooper.
A spar used to prevent the spinnaker guy from fouling on the stanchions.
(1) The Jolly Roger is the name given to any of various flags flown to identify
a ship's crew as pirates.
(2) The flag most usually identified as the Jolly Roger today is the skull and
crossbones, being a flag consisting of a skull above two long bones set in an
x-mark arrangement on a black field. This design was used by four pirates, captains
Edward England, John Taylor, Sam Bellamy and John Martel. Despite its prominence
in popular culture, plain black flags were often employed by most pirates in
the 17th-18th century.
The largest of the headsails; corresponds to the genoa.
Jump (a line):
To stand at the mast and pull down on a halyard as another crewmate winches
A short strut on a mast angled forward at about 45° which spreads the effective
angle of a short jumper stay. This adds stiffness and support to the mast.
Also known as a preferred channel buoy. A red and green horizontally striped
buoy used in the United States to mark the separation of a channel into two
channels. The preferred channel is indicated by the color of the uppermost stripe.
Red on top indicates that the preferred channel is to the right as you return,
green indicates the left.
(1) A sailing vessel common in the Far East. It's flat:bottomed, high sterned,
has square bows, and has two or three masts carrying lugsails.
(2) Old and condemned rope.
This term describes something that is assembled in a makeshift manner offering
nothing more than a temporary solution. It originates from the nautical term
"jury mast," which is a temporary mast made from any available pole
when the mast has become damaged or lost overboard.
Eskimo word for a light, covered:in canoe type boat.
Winding small rope around a cable or hawser to prevent damage by chafing. The
rope with which a cable is keckled.
(1) A small auxiliary anchor.
(2) To kedge is to move a vessel (e.g., a grounded boat) by setting out an anchor
and pulling the boat toward it by taking up on the anchor rode
(1) The backbone of a vessel, running fore and aft along the center line of
the bottom of the hull; the timber at the very bottom of the hull to which frames
(2) A flat surface built into the bottom of the boat to prevent or reduce the
leeway caused by the wind pushing against the side of the boat. A keel also
usually has some ballast to help keep the boat upright and prevent it from heeling
too much. There are several types of keels, such as fin keels and full keels.
Blocks on which the keel of a vessel rests when being built, or when she is
in dry dock.
This describes the action of a boat that rolls over, often as a result of a
strong wind gust.
A mast that is stepped (placed) on the keel at the bottom of the boat rather
than on the deck. Keel stepped masts are considered sturdier than deck stepped
A severe naval punishment for serious offenses in which the victim was hauled
from one yardarm to the other under the keel of the ship. The victim rarely
survived; he would either be cut to ribbons by the shellfish on the ship's bottom
A beam attached to the top of the floors to add strength to the keel on a wooden
Keep an even keel:
A nautical term for keeping a boat upright, not heeling over to either side.
Today the expression is used when describing a persons emotions. To "keep
an even keel" is to remain level headed or emotionally stable.
Keep Her Full:
To keep the sails full and drawing
Keeping a weather eye open:
This expression comes from the importance of a sailing crew staying alert and
looking for potential trouble such as approaching bad weather. Today it has
a similar use, meaning to generally watch out for trouble.
Good order and readiness.
Sixteenth:century term for a sea distance at which high land could be observed
from a ship. Varied between 14 and 22 miles according to average atmospheric
conditions in a given area.
Permanent pip iron ballast specially shaped and placed along each side of keelson.
Name is sometimes given to any iron ballast.
A sailboat with two masts. Generally, the shorter mizzen mast is aft of the
main mast, but forward of the rudder post, while a similar vessel, the yawl,
has the mizzen mast aft of the rudder post. The mizzen mast of a ketch is larger
than that of a yawl.
Nautical name for an anchor. Originally, was a stone used as an anchor.
The center plank on a wooden deck.
King Post :
A vertical post usually employed as a support : Also called a Sampson post
The top spoke (usually marked) on the steering wheel when the rudder is centered.
Former name for the equipment of a vessel, and included the personnel.
A light sail, such as a spinnaker, used to make the most of light following
An angle or channel from deck beam to shell frame taking the place of a bracket.
Supporting braces made into a right angle, used for strength when two parts
A wind shift that forces a boat to sail below its mean wind course.
A type of schooner without a bowsprit.
A boat that has rolled so that she is lying on her side or even rolled completely
over (can be caused by a sudden gust or squall). A boat with appropriate ballast
should right herself after being knocked down.
(1) A speed of one nautical mile (6,076 feet or or 1,852 meters) per hour. It
is incorrect to say knots per hour.
* A knot IS NOT method of attaching a rope or line to itself,
another line or a fitting. on a ship that is called "bending the line"
Know the ropes:
This is a term that originally meant to know the proper use of the many ropes
the older sailing vessels had. Today the term means to be accomplished or be
proficient at some particular job or task.
Enormous sea monster supposed to have been seen off coasts of America and Norway.
Sometimes mistaken for an island.
Description of a vessel when she rolls or pitches excessively while underway
in heavy seas.
A length of line or thin rope; A line used to attach a sail to a spar.
Stairway of inclined or vertical steps on board ship.
That which is loaded into a ship. The act of loading.
Jettisoned goods that cast overboard and are buoyed for subsequent recovery.
An area of water totally or partially enclosed by coral islands, atolls, and
A boat in a dry dock.
A wind moving from the land to the water due to temperature changes in the evening,
where the temperature of the land falls below the sea temperature.
Arrival at land
Surrounded by land.
A person inexperienced with or uncomfortable around boats.
A distinctive fixed reference point that can be used for navigation.
A Short line used to attach one thing to another : a short rope or cord that
secures or attaches an item onboard a boat, usually for keeping it attached
to the boat
A large foresail which extends aft behind the mast.
The overlapping of wooden planks, used to form the outer surface of a boat's
The original name for the left side of the vessel when facing forward. The name
was changed to Port to avoid any confusion with starboard, the right side of
the vessel when facing forward.
Said of vessel sailing with wind abaft the beam but not right aft.
To tie something with a line; to secure
A rope used for securing any movable object in place
Lask: To sail large, with
wind about four points abaft beam.
Narrow triangular sail set on a long yard or spar, the forward end of which
is hauled down so that it sets obliquely on the mast with a high peak.
Lateral Resistance :
The ability of a boat to keep from being moved sideways by the wind. Keels,
daggerboards, centerboards, and leeboards are all used to improve a boat's lateral
The distance north or south of the equator measured and expressed in degrees.
The equator is 0° and the north and south poles are 90°.
(1) To float a vessel off the ways in a building yard after it is completed.
(2) A small boat used to ferry people to and from a larger vessel.
(1) As a command, it means to go in the direction indicated, e.g., "Lay
foward" (go up) or "Lay alow!" (come down).
(2) Of a line or rope, it refers to the direction in which the strands are twisted.
(3) Lay the course: able to fetch a given point when close:hauled
To come alongside. Also known as "Lay Alongside".
(1) Order to men at the mast to extend themselves at intervals along a yard.
(2) To keep a vessel at a certain place until a specified time has elapsed.
Lay of the land:
Nautically to "know the lay of the land" was important for navigation
as well as an indicator of what the seafloor may be like. If the land is flat
and sandy, the seabed is likely to be shallow and sandy.
Lay the Land:
To cause the land to sink below horizon by sailing away from it.
To store a yacht away on land for the winter
Laying on Oars:
Holding oars at right angles to fore and aft line of boat with blades horizontal
and parallel to surface of water.
The direct sailing line in which a racing mark or buoy can be fetched while
sailing the desired course
Compartment in the stern of a vessel used for storage; a storage space below
the deck in the cockpit.
A line attached to the boom to prevent it from accidentally gybing.
A line led to a sail, but is not currently in use. The line currently in use
is known as the working sheet. Usually the working and lazy sheets change when
the boat is tacked.
Light lines from the topping lift to the boom, forming a cradle into which the
mainsail may be lowered.
Refers to the direction in which a line goes.
A line with a weight on the end used to measure depth. The lead is dropped into
the water and marks on the line are read to determine the current water depth.
The lead usually has a cavity to return a sample of the bottom type mud, sand,
A single block such as a snatch block used as a fairlead to bring a line in
a more favorable direction.
It was customary to mark the entry to a port with a line of leading lights to
show the way. Someone who shows the way or is a leader is called a "leading
Unlit navigational aids for use during the day. They mark a bearing to a channel
when they are lined up one above the other. Leading lights are lighted at night
and serve the same purpose.
A measure of distance approximately 3 nautical miles. One/twentieth of a degree
Learning the ropes:
This expression has come to mean generally learning how to perform some specific
task or gain skill within some particular field of endeavor. The term comes
from the important task of learning the use of the many ropes aboard a sailing
The side of a ship, or a shore location, sheltered from the wind; also used
in context to refer to a sheltered place out of the wind, as in the lee of the
island; The area to the leeward
Sailing with the tiller over to leeward by force of the wind
Heavy roll to leeward with a beam wind.
A shore that wind blows onto; it is best to stay well off a lee shore in a storm
Boards fixed vertically to a boat to prevent leeway
In sailboat racing, to disturb the wind of a windward boat by positioning your
boat a bit ahead and to leeward. If done correctly, the disturbed air hitting
the windward boat will slow it down, leaving it at a distinct disadvantage and
causing it to tack away with a loss of speed and distance
After or trailing edge of a sail; the after edge of a fore:and:aft sail and
the outer edges of a square sail.
A line used to tighten the leech of a sail, helping to create proper sail shape.
Cloths hung on the lee side of a berth to keep one from rolling out of their
Direction away from the wind. In the Rules of the Road, the leeward boat is
the one farthest from where the wind is coming from. Opposite of windward.
The sideways movement of a boat caused by either wind or current, usually unwanted.
Keels and other devices help prevent a boat from having excessive leeway.
The working portion of a cruise between ports. A long cruise may have many legs.
The distance sailed on one tack. The course from one race mark to another.
Length Over All (L.O.A.):
Measured from the most forward part of the fore end to the most after part of
the after end of the hull.
The action of letting go the sheets of a sailing vessel, thus spilling the wind
and reducing the forward motion of the boat.
Let the cat out of the bag:
On board a square-rigger meant some one had just committed an offense grave
enough to extract the "cat o' nine tails" from its canvas bag. US
Congress prohibited the use of the "cat" in 1850, and it was outlawed
by the British Royal Navy in 1879
Letter of Marque:
Papers issued by a national government during wartime, entitling a privately
owned ship to raid enemy commerce, or even attack enemy warships. Early letters
of reprisal were issued to merchants to make it legal for them to counter-raid
pirates! A ship bearing such letters, and operating within their limits, is
a privateer rather than a pirate . . . that is, a legal combatant rather than
a criminal and murderer. The problem is that letters of marque aren't always
honored, even by the government that issued them. Captain Kidd had letters of
marque; his own country hanged him anyway.
A gigantic sea animal.
Term for a seaman's short leave from his ship, permitting him to go ashore for
the day or night.
A pilot with a license stating that they are qualified to guide vessels in a
To bring a sailing vessel head to the wind or as close to it as possible in
high seas, maintaining a slight forward motion.
To remain nearly alongside another vessel.
See Heave To
A naval rank next below that of lieutenant:commander, which is next below that
of captain (the equivalent of commander).
A device used to keep a person afloat. Also called a life preserver, life vest,
PFD or personal floatation device.
A raft used in case of emergencies, such as sinking or fire.
A wearable device used to keep a person afloat. Also called a life jacket, life
preserver, PFD or personal floatation device.
Small boat carried on the vessel and used in case of emergency.
Lifeboat Drill :
The master of every vessel is bound by international law to make the officers,
crew and passengers adequately acquainted with the procedures of lowering and
the use of lifeboats in case of emergency.
Lifebuoy, Life Ring:
a circular donut:shaped buoy designed to support a person in the water. It is
attached to the vessel with a (floating) line so that the person can be hauled
back to the boat.
Stout line or cable fore and aft around the deck of the boat to keep crew from
A wind shift that allows a boat to sail above its mean wind course.
On square:rigged ships, the lines which are lead from the masthead to the ends
of the yards to support them.
In sailing, to be lifted by a wind shift that allows your boat to be lifted
closer to the wind where by it allows you to sail a shorter distance to the
next mark, buoy or finish line
Sunken cargo or gear which has been thrown overboard and buoyed. It remains
the property of the owners: if not claimed it becomes the property of the Crown.
A lit navigational aid such as a lighthouse that can be used at night or in
Light List :
A list of navigational lights arranged in geographical order, giving the position
Light Load Line:
The water line when the ship rides empty.
An opening in a ship's side, provided with a glazed lid or cover for the admission
Sails, such as the spinnaker, reacher and reaching staysail used when running
Holes cut in a plate to make it lighter and yet not reduce its strength.
General name for a broad, flat:bottomed boat used in transporting cargo between
a vessel and the shore. The distinction between a lighter and a barge is more
in the manner of use than in equipment. The term "lighter" refers
to a short haul, generally in connection with loading and unloading operations
of vessels in harbor while the term "barge" is more often used when
the cargo is being carried to its destination over a long distance.
Conveying cargo with another vessel known as a lighter from ship to shore, or
A structure erected to display a characteristic light as a warning of danger
at sea and as an aid to navigation.
A stationary vessel carrying a light used for navigation, serving the same purpose
as a lighthouse.
A smooth hard wood grown in the West Indies which had many maritime uses, such
as deadeyes and the sheaves of blocks. Its hardness stood up well to wear, and
its smoothness allowed lines to render through easily.
Like rats deserting a sinking ship:
This is a derogatory term for a person who leaves a given situation at the first
sign of trouble, just as rats were said to leave a sinking ship.
Like ships passing in the nights:
This expression indicates a meeting or passing which had a low probability of
occurring just as it was unlikely that ships met at night on the sea when boat
traffic was little and before navigational aids such as radar were used.
Holes in the bottoms of floors or floor timbers for drainage; holes in the bilge
crossframes to allow bilge water to drain to the lowest point, which is where
the bilge pump would be located.
A nickname referring to British seamen. All British ships were to carry a supply
of lime juice for issue to the crew as a preventative against scurvy.
Any rope in use as part of the ship's rigging, or as a towing line, the only
exception is the bell rope.
A gun used to shoot a messenger line from one ship to another, or to persons
A squally wind sometimes accompanied by rain, observed as a dark cloud stretched
across the horizon.
A passenger or cargo:carrying ship which is operated between scheduled, advertised
ports of loading and discharge on a regular basis.
The naval architect's drawings of a ship showing the various sections.
A device used to keep a line from slipping, such as a jamcleat.
Small sea that rises just above bows or gunwale.
Liquid Petroleum Gas:
LPG or propane for short. Propane is a common fuel used for cooking and heating.
CNG natural gas is considered safer because propane is heavy than air and will
sink into the bilge if it leaks, creating the potential for an explosion. Propane
is more easily available throughout the world than CNG however, so it is used
for most boats outside of North America.
The leaning of a boat to the side because of excess weight on that side; inclination
of a boat due to excess weight on one side or the other.
Listing to port or starboard is used to describe vessel is leaning towards the
left or right
A short length of line with a thimble spliced into the end, used for several
LNG Carrier: Liquefied
natural gas carrier, perhaps the most sophisticated of all commercial ships.
The cargo tanks are made of a special aluminum alloy and are heavily insulated
to carry natural gas in its liquid state at a temperature of :2850F.
Load Water Line (LWL):
A line painted on the side of the vessel to which the vessel sinks when carrying
its full load. The water line when a vessel is carrying its full load.
A familiar dish at sea before refrigeration was available. It was a stew of
salt meat, broken biscuit, potatoes, onions and available spices.
A closet or chest:like storage space.
a ship’s pilot.
Sailor's name for the north star, Polaris, which for all practical purposes
remains fixed above the north pole, bearing north from everywhere in the northern
hemisphere, making it a true aid to navigation.
(1) A record of all the activities aboard a ship. The Log Book.
(2) A device used to measure the distance traveled and speed through the water.
In the early days of sailing ships, the ship's records were written on shingles
cut from logs. These shingles
were hinged and opened like a book. The record was called the "log book".
Later on, when paper was readily
available and bound into books, the record maintained its name.
Where a vessel's engineering records are keep.
The wooden bit in the stem of a whaling boat around which the harpoon line was
The largest boat belonging to a sailing vessel (other than a launch). A longboat
is often used as a tender for a larger craft and used to transfer personnel
between ships or ship to shore. Longboats also act as life boats in time of
emergency. However, the term “life boat” did not properly enter
the English language until 1801! Sometimes longboats are referred to as “ship’s
boat” or “ship’s boats”.
Early telescope: was a telescoping barrel with glass lenses used on the bridge
of a ships to identify other ships and landmarks from a distance.
Long barreled cannons firing a nine pound solid shot often used as chaser guns
on frigates and ships of war.
Joining the ends of two lines without increasing the thickness over the length
of the splice, so that the splice will pass freely through a block.
2,240 pounds (1016.05 kilograms)
Imaginary lines drawn through the north and south poles on the globe used to
measure distance east and west of the prime meridian at Greenwich, England (designated
A bulkhead, frame, or longitudinal stiffener, running fore and aft.
Sailor slang for marriage.
pilot, expert who helps navigate to the harbor or coast
A person designated to watch for other vessels and hazards.
A slang name for a Telescope; a synonym sometimes heard is a "Bring 'em
To loose a rope is to let it go
"loose cannon" refers to someone who is out of control, unpredictable,
and who may cause damage, just as the canons would do if they were to break
loose on the decks of the old sailing vessels.
A sail attached to the boom at the tack and clew, but not along the foot, or
a fore:and:aft sail which is set without a boom.
Loose lips sink ships:
This term originated during World War II by the US military and was meant as
a reminder that classified information was never to be discussed as it posed
unnecessary risks for naval ships.
Long:range navigation system that uses radio signals transmitted at specific
times. An onboard receiver computes position by measuring the difference in
time of signal reception. This system is being phased out in favor of GPS.
Low and Aloft:
An expression describing a sailing ship set with every sail she can carry.
A clumsy and unskilled man.
An opening in the floor of the tops of a square:rigged vessel's masts, giving
access from below. Timid crew climbing the rigging preferred to go through this
hole to reach the top rather than over the futtock shrouds, the path taken by
more experienced sailors.
A line on the compass aligned with the centerline of the vessel that indicates
the vessel's compass heading. Since it points to the vessel's bow, it enables
a course to be steered by bringing the lubber's line to the point on the compass
card which indicates the desired course.
The place where lost items may be reclaimed, or after a time claimed anew.*
The forward edge of a fore:and:aft sail
To steer the boat more into the wind, thereby causing the sails to flap or luff.
To luff or luff up is to head into the wind, causing sails to flutter.
Lug or Lugsail:
A four sided sail bent onto a yard. Similar to a gaff sail, but with a wider
A sailing vessel rigged with lugsails.
Metal or plastic pieces attached to a sail's luff that slide in a mast track
to allow easy hoisting of the sail.
Man employed in unloading ships in harbour, or in taking a ship from one port
to another. Paid "lump" sum for services.
Sudden and long roll of a ship in a seaway.
A boat that is letting herself be subjected to prevailing conditions without
the use of sails or other devices. Lying ahull is usually not preferred to other
actions because a boat may tend to lie with her beam to the waves and the wind
parallel to the waves. This can cause a boat to roll excessively and even become
Said of a vessel when stopped and lying near the wind in heavy weather.
The bearing of an object after magnetic variation has been considered, but without
compensation for magnetic deviation.
The course of a vessel after magnetic variation has been considered, but without
compensation for magnetic deviation.
Compass error. The difference between the reading of a compass and the actual
magnetic course or bearing due to errors in the compass reading. These errors
can be caused by metals, magnetic fields and electrical fields near the compass.
The act of checking for magnetic deviation is called swinging.
The direction to which a compass points. Magnetic north differs from true north
because the magnetic fields of the planet are not exactly in line with the north
and south poles. Observed differences between magnetic and true north is known
as magnetic variation.
The difference between magnetic north and true north, measured as an angle.
Magnetic variation is different in different geographic locations, so the nearest
compass rose to each location on a chart must be used.
A term to reference a ship's first voyage.
Transverse structural member supporting the deck and, in most modern sailboats,
the deck:stepped mast; also the designated location of the ship's Official Number
and (in some instances) Tonnage (affixed to or cut into the beam)
(1) The uppermost complete deck.
(2) Main (deck): This is the deck just below the spar deck on a man of war or
the deck that rest between the poop and fore-castle on a merchant ship. The
main deck will be the upper most deck on a man-o-war being with a full compliment
of guns The guns on this deck are sometimes referred to as main-deckers. These
means the guns rest on the main deck (if their is just one deck of guns, it
is called the gun deck) and the spar deck acts as the ceiling. (not to be confused
with Spanish Main)
The tallest mast; the forward mast of a yawl or ketch; the mast furthest aft
on a schooner
A topsail on the main mast.
The principal sail that is set on the main mast.
The line that controls the angle of the mainsail in its relation to the wind.
Make Dead Men Chew:
If it was said of somebody that he would ‘make dead men chew’, it
meant he was a scurrilous cheat and thief. It is an 18th
century expression used of pursers who “sold” tobacco to dead men
who had died on voyage by entering the transaction in their books. The term
also applied to those who drew the pay and victuals for those who had died or
To attach a line to something so that it will not move.
Moving through the water.
Man the Yards:
On square:rigged ships, a form of ceremonial salute to honor the visit of a
high official. The yards were lined by men standing upon them, and there was
also a man standing on the truck of each topgallant mast.
A hole in a tank, boiler or compartment on a ship, designed to allow the passage
of a man for examination, cleaning, and repairs.
A document containing the ship's name and port of registry, a full list of the
ship's crew, passengers, full details of her cargo, and other relevant information.
Before the introduction of man:made fibers, much of the rope used at sea was
made from manila. Made from the fibers of banana plants in the Philippines,
manila did not rot when it was exposed to seawater.
The most common type of sail used today, a triangle:shaped mainsail defined
by the mast and one horizontal boom perpendicular to the mast.
A place where boats can find fuel, water and other services. Marinas also contain
slips where boats can stay for a period of time.
Originally an Army soldier trained to serve on board ship and in the dockyards.
During the Golden age of Piracy the Marines were not a separate branch or service
under the Navy but were actually Army units. Later specific army units were
raised solely for service on or with navy ships
In general, a person employed in a sea:going vessel. In some cases, applied
to a seaman who works on deck.
An object used as a reference point while navigating.
To wrap a small line around another.
Pronounced "marlin" : small line used for whipping, seizing, and lashing.
Used for lashing down sails, awnings, etc., a series of round turns where the
end is passed over the standing part and under the bight and pulled taut on
(1) Pointed tool used for line work, for opening line strands for splicing,
and especially for prying tight knots apart.
(2) The weapon of choice among the otherwise unarmed mutinous crew. Basically
a metal spike with a wood handle used to split lines on a nautical craft.
One who is adept at splicing, knotting, and working with line and canvas.
To deliberately put a sailor ashore and leave him there while the ship sails
away. The victim was left on a deserted coast (or, of course, an island) with
little in the way of supplies. That way, no one could say that the unlucky pirate
had actually been killed by his former brethren.
The operation of bringing two lines together; term also applied to other objects.
Marry the Gunner's Daughter:
Old Navy nickname for a flogging, particularly when across a gun.
On square:rigged ships, the stay which holds the jib:boom down against the pull
of the fore topgallant:mast stays.
The vertical pole or spar that supports the boom and sails. a mast on a mechanically
propelled vessel holds electronics antennas, lights, etc.
A protective cover wrapped around the mast at the deck on a keel stepped boat
to prevent water from entering the boat.
The top of the mast
Rings around a mast which can slide vertically, attached to the forward edge
of a sail, which hold the sail in place.*
Reinforcements for a mast where it passes through a deck.*
The opening up the back (aft) edge of the mast in which the mainsail luff rope
slides when it is hoisted. Some masts have an external sail track.
The fitting in the bottom of the boat in which the bottom or heel if the mast
Fittings on the mast to which the forestay and shrouds attach.
A track or groove in the back of the mast to which the sail is attached by means
of lugs or the bolt rope.
The Captain of a vessel. Highest officer aboard ship. Oversees all ship operations.
Keeps ships records. Handles accounting and bookkeeping. Takes command of vessel
in inclement weather and in crowded or narrow waters. Handles communications.
The person empowered by the captain to be responsible for keeping order, maintaining
discipline, taking charge of prisoners, etc. on a ship or in a shore station
The top of a mast.
Masthead Light :
Also known as a steaming light. The masthead light is a white light that is
visible for an arc extending across the forward 225° of the boat. When lit
the masthead light indicates that a vessel under power, including sailboats
with engines running. Masthead lights are usually located halfway up the mast
rather than at the top.
A design in which the forestay runs to the top of the mast.
A deck officer ranking next below that of master. Usually divided into first,
second, third, etc. to indicate seniority.
An internationally recognized distress signal used on a radio to indicate a
life threatening situation. Mayday calls have priority over any other radio
transmission and should only be used if there is an immediate threat to life
or vessel. Mayday comes from the French M'aidez which means help me. For urgent
situations that are not immediately life threatening there is the PAN PAN identifier.
Less urgent messages such as navigational hazards should send a SECURITE message.
Mean Low Water (MLW):
A figure representing the average low tide of a region.
Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW):
There are two low tides in each tidal cycle (so usually two low tides in each
day). These two low tides are not quite the same height because one tide is
generated by the gravitational interaction with the sun (which is small), and
the other is generated by the gravitational interaction with the moon (which
is not so small). Since the two low tides (or water levels) are different levels
of low, one is naturally the higher low water (higher low tide) and the other
is the lower low water (lower low tide). So Mean Lower Low Water is the average
of the lower low water height of each tidal day (ie average of the lowest low
tide from each day). The averages are taken over a period called the National
Tidal Datum Epoch (a 19:year epoch).
A course marked by buoys or ranges measuring one nautical mile. Measured miles
are used to calibrate logs.
A method of docking with a boat's stern to the dock.
An order to the helmsman to put on opposite rudder to check the swing of the
Method of producing a chart in which the parallels of latitude and the meridians
of longitude intersect each other at right angles.
The merchant ships on the official registers of any nation.
A semi great circle joining the north and south poles. Known as lines of longitude,
they cross the equator and all parallels of latitude at right angles.
A mythical creature, half human and half fish.
Dining room facilities and kitchen for crew separate from the passenger dining
room and kitchen.
Where meals are eaten
A small line used to pull a heavier line or cable. The messenger line is usually
easier to throw, lead through holes or otherwise manipulate than the line that
it will be used to pull.
A dining room on a ship.
The study of weather patterns in order to predict changes in the weather.
A red and white vertically striped buoy used in the United States to mark the
middle of a channel. Midchannel buoys may be passed by on either side.
Shoal area between two navigational channels.
A non:commissioned naval rank. Midshipmen play a part, under supervision, in
most of the ship's activities, and are in training for higher command.
In the middle portion of the boat : Roughly halfway between a ship's stem and
stern, and where the beam usually is the widest.
The watch or work shift beginning at midnight, usually lasting until 4:00am
Mind your P's and Q's:
Sailors would get credit at the taverns in port until they were paid. The barman
would keep a record of their drinks on a chalkboard behind the bar. A mark was
made under "P" for pint or "Q" for quart. On payday, the
sailors were liable for each mark next to his name, so he was forced to "mind
his P's and Q's." Today the term means to remain well behaved.
Distance at sea is measured in nautical miles, which are about 6067.12 feet,
1.15 statute miles or exactly 1852 meters. Nautical miles have the unique property
that a minute of latitude is equal to one nautical mile : Measurement of speed
is done in knots where one knot equals one nautical mile per hour.
A unit used to measure the barometric pressure of the atmosphere. 1 millibar
equals 0.03 inches of mercury.
Miss the mark:
This expression comes from sailing where the "mark" is a rounding
mark or buoy that sailboats competing in a regatta must sail around before turning
towards the next mark or finish line. If a sailboat misses the mark, it must
complete a 360-degree circle before continuing the race as a penalty.
A small sail set on the mizzenmast.
The mast aft of the mainmast in a sailing ship : the shorter mast behind the
main mast on a ketch or yawl, or the third aftermost mast of a three:masted
schooner or square:rigged ship.
A pattern or template. Also a shape of metal or wood over or in which an object
may be hammered or pressed to fit.
The large enclosed floor where the lines of a vessel are laid out and the molds
or templates made.
(1) A small wooden cask in which grog was carried.
(2) A type of marine steam reciprocating engine where two engines were used
together on the same propeller shaft.
A large heavy knot usually made in the end of a heaving line to aid in accurate
A thick serge jacket worn by seamen while keeping watch at night or in stormy
A boat with one hull.
Legendary opportunists who lured vessels onto shoals during nights when there
was no moonlight to illuminate the coastline.
On square:rigged ships, a small light square sail set above the skysail in fair
weather. If the sail were triangular, it would be called a Skyscraper.
To attach a boat to a mooring, dock, post, anchor, etc.
An anchor or weight, permanently attached to the sea floor, with a buoy going
to the surface, used to hold the boat in a certain area.
A strong pair of iron, steel or wooden posts on a ship's deck, around which
ropes or cables are wound and held fast.
A buoy secured to a permanent anchor sunk deeply into the bottom.
A line used to secure a boat to an anchor, dock, or mooring.
A language of "dots" and "dashes" used to send messages,
either sound using radio waves, or light using a searchlight or Aldis lamp.
(1) An engine.
(2) The act of using an engine to move a boat.
Sailing with the motor on and in gear
An attachment point for another object.
Any small collar made with spunyarn or light line to hold something in place.
Mouse a Hook:
The passing of several turns of line across the jaw of a hook to prevent something
on the hook, such as an eye or a line, from jumping clear.
Sailor's slang for anchor.
A vessel formed of two or more hulls. A catamaran has two hulls, and a trimaran
has three hulls.
A type of anchor with a heavy inverted mushroom shaped head. Mushroom anchors
are used to anchor in mud and other soft ground.
To assemble passengers and/or crew.
A forceful resistance to recognized authority. A refusal to obey a legal order
of a superior officer is also considered mutiny.
The flag carried by a ship to show her nationality.
Short for compressed natural gas or CNG. A type of compressed gas used as fuel
for stoves and heaters. CNG is stored in metal cylinders prior to use. CNG is
considered safer than other types of fuel such as propane LPG : because it is
lighter than air and may rise into the sky in the event of a leak. Caution should
still be used as CNG can collect near the cabin ceiling, potentially causing
Having to do with boats, ships, or sailing. Nautical originates from the Greek
word 'nauti' meaning sailor.
An annual publication that contains tidal information and information about
the position of the sun, moon, planets and stars. This information is used for
Distance at sea is measured in nautical miles, which are about 6076 feet, 1.15
statute miles or 1852 meters. Nautical miles have the unique property that a
minute of latitude is equal to one nautical mile. Measurement of speed is done
in knots where one knot equals one nautical mile per hour.
One who designs ships.
The art and science of designing vessels.
Water of sufficient depth to allow a boat to travel through it.
The art and science of determining the position of a boat and the course needed
to safely and efficiently move the boat from place to place.
The bridge used for taking observations, or directing the handling of the ship.
Required lights on a boat help others determine its course, position and what
it is doing. Boats underway should have a red light visible from its port bow,
a green light on the starboard bow and a white light at its stern. Other lights
are required for vessels under power, fishing, towing, etc.
The maritime regulations governing the movement of vessels in relation to each
other, generally called steering and sailing rules. : COLREGS
Navigational Aid :
Any object that a navigator may use to find his position, such as permanent
land or sea markers, buoys, radiobeacons, and lighthouses.
The officer on board responsible for the navigation of the ship.
A tide in which the difference between high and low tide is the least. Neap
tides occur twice a month when the Sun and Moon are at right angles to the Earth.
When this is the case, their total gravitational pull on the Earth's water is
weakened because it comes from two different directions
The Roman god of the sea, associated with Salacia, the goddess of Salt Water.
Nickname for waves breaking into foam.
Useful cargo carrying capacity of vessel. The volume of cargo a ship could carry,
equal to gross tonnage minus the crew cabins, storerooms and machinery spaces.
One ton equals 100 cubic feet.
(1) A short turn or twist in a line.
(2) The seized part of an eye splice.
Said of a vessel when caught between ice on both sides.
(1) A short length of line, usually braided or marled, used to temporarily bind
the anchor cable to the messenger when the anchor is weighed by hand around
(2) NIPPER The hands whose job it was to 'nip' a sailing ship's anchor cable
to the endless belt activated by the capstan when the anchor was being weighed
were always the smallest and youngest men on board. Hence the word 'nipper'
has come to mean a youngster.
No Go Zone:
Area into which a boat can not go without tacking.
No Man's Land:
On a square:rigged ship, the area between the after end of the forecastle and
the forward end of the booms where lines, blocks, and tackle were stored.
No Room To Swing a Cat:
During the whipping punishment using the "cat o' nine tails," all
hands were called on deck to witness. With a full crew, the deck could be so
crowded that the cat o' nine tails was difficult to use without hitting other
crew members. In other words, there was "no room to swing a cat."
No Quarter Given:
(1) It means that no mercy would be shown and all souls on board killed
(2) a warning that if you resist, you will be killed, if you do not resist then
your life will be spared
Now You're talkin':
This expression was originally used by sailors to indicate that the sails were
set correctly and the ship was balanced.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S.), produces nautical
charts and weather forecasts
A sighting taken for celestial navigation at noon, when the sun is at its highest
point in the sky.
The watch or work shift beginning at noon, usually lasting until 4pm or the
a wind coming from the northeast
A pin placed through the head of a rudder to prevent it from being lost.
One of the 4 cardinal compass points. North is the direction toward the North
Pole and is at 0° or 360° on a compass card.
The top point of the line about which the earth rotates.
Polaris, the North Star, is visible in the northern hemisphere and indicates
the direction of north. In the southern hemisphere the Southern Cross is used
to find the direction of south.
North Wind, Northerly Wind:
Wind coming from the north.
Notices to Mariners:
Periodic publications containing details of any alterations to charts, to keep
them up to date.
A Nun Buoy marks the LEFT side of the channel leaving a harbor. It will be RED
and have even numbers on it.
Isolated rocky peak rising from a sheet of inland ice.
A material made of tarred hemp or manila rope fibers, used for caulking seams
of decks and sides of a wooden ship in order to make them watertight. A prisoner
in the ship's cells is required to pick two pounds of tarred hemp (or 6 lbs
of tarred sisal) into oakum daily, Sundays excepted the material to be weighed
in his presence morning and evening.
A pole with a blade at the end used to row a rowboat. Oars are different than
paddles because they have a provision to be secured to the rowboat for rowing,
such as an oarlock. The three parts to an oar are: the blade, the part which
enters the water; the shaft, the main body of the oar: and the loom, the inboard
end on which the rower pulls.
A device to attach oars to a rowboat, allowing the operator to row rather than
paddle the boat.
A position or fix determined by observing landmarks or other objects to find
A navigational light which turns on and off in a regular pattern, but is on
more than it is off, so the period of light is longer than the period of darkness.
(1) An instrument in the form of a graduated eighth of a circle, formerly used
for making angular measurements
(2) In astronomy and navigation. Used perhaps as early as 1672. Replaced by
the Sextant. Hadley' octant of 1731 was a major advancement over all previous
designs and is still the basic design of the modern sextant.
Off and On:
It originated as an old naval expression meaning close to the shore by sailing
off and on or away from and towards the shore.
Off and Fair:
Order to take off a damaged part of a vessel, to restore it to its proper shape
and condition, and to replace it in position.
Off Soundings :
In blue water beyond the 100:fathom line.
Off the Wind:
Sailing with the wind coming from the stern or quarter of the boat.
Any of the licensed members of the ship's complement.
Dining room facilities for officers separate from the crew and passenger dining
Official Numbers were issued to all British seagoing vessels extant in 1855,
in order to give each ship a unique identity – there were hundreds of
ships with names like MARY. The same number remained with the ship throughout
its life, despite changes of name or Port of Registry
OFFING. If something is “in the offing”’ it means something
is about to occur. A ship is said to be ‘in the offing’ when visible
at sea from the land, often approaching port. Hence it is ‘likely to occur’
that the ship will dock
Away from land, toward the water.
Wind blowing from off the shore.
Any point of sailing away from the wind.
Used in emergencies, this is a container which allows oil to drip into the sea
in heavy weather. An oil slick is produced which prevents waves from breaking
over the deck of a boat.
A member of a ship's engineering crew who assisted the chief engineer with lubricating
and maintaining the engine.
Old sailor or someone with many years of sailing experience.
On a Tack:
A sailboat is always on one tack or the other; that is the sail is always on
one side or the other.
On or in a ship.
On the Account:
A man who went "on the account" was turning pirate.
On the Beach:
Said of a seaman who has retired from sea service.
On the Beam:
The direction at right angles to a ship's heading or the line of her keel
On the Bow:
To the bow of the boat, forward of the beam.
On the Hard / On the Ways:
Hauled out of the water for repairs or storage
On an even keel:
This is a term to indicate that a vessel has no lean or tilt towards either
side. The expression is often used to reference something or someone in a state
of stability and balance.
On the Quarter:
A direction of forty five degrees or less from the stern.
On the Wind:
Sailing close hauled. Sailing toward the wind as much as possible with the wind
coming from the bow.
On the wrong tack:
This was originally a nautical term for a sailing vessel which is sailing a
bit too close to the wind for that particular tack.
One o'clock gun:
In Edinburgh, Scotland, cannon fired from the Royal Castle in order that the
fleet's clocks could be synchronized. Now, a remark to become timely.*
Any boat built to certain standards or rules so that is like all others in the
Toward the shore
Navy term meaning Officer of the deck.
A location that is not sheltered from the wind and seas. An open location would
not make a good anchorage.
Ordinary Seaman (OS):
An apprentice Able Seaman, assists AB's, bosun, and officers, keeps facilities
Name given to the lowest deck in a ship.
Out of Trim:
Sails that are not properly arranged for the point of sail that the boat is
on. The sails may be luffing or have improper sail shape, or the boat may be
heeling too much. These conditions will slow the boat down.
To sail closer to the wind than another boat on the same tack.
(1) Toward or beyond the boat's sides.
(2) A detachable engine mounted on a boat's stern.
A propulsion system for boats with an inboard engine operating an exterior drive,
with drive shaft, gears, and propeller; also called stern:drive and inboard/outboard.
The outside plating of a vessel.
A control line that adjusts tension along the foot of the sail, pulling the
clew away from the tack; used to maintain proper sail shape.
A structure which extends outboard beyond the edge of the hull for some special
purpose. Some Polynesian canoes use outriggers to support an "ama"
or small secondary hull, while fishing boats may use outriggers to suspend lines
or nets over the water.
Over a barrel:
Sailors being punished were sometimes tied over a cannon barrel when being whipped.
In the water outside of the vessel.
Dangerously steep and breaking seas due to opposing currents and wind in a shallow
The area of the bow or stern projecting above and beyond a perpendicular from
the water line at stem or stern.
(1) Repairing or refitting. The action of the crew going aloft to adjust and
replace ropes or lines to avoid chaffing while sailing.
(2) To overtake another ship at sea.
(3) To extend a tackle so that distance between blocks is increased.
Nautical equivalent of ceiling
The distance the bow of a boat is forward of another's stern
This is an expression that originally meant to continue to sail longer upon
a tack than is necessary in order to reach a given point.
Sailing beyond a racing mark or buoy whereby you sail a greater distance
Passing another vessel.
This term comes from the Middle English word meaning "to capsize"
or overturn a vessel.
A boat owner's private pennant.
A speck of cloud which could indicate the approach of wind.
Numbers of large pieces of floating ice that have come together and lie more
or less in contact.
A loop shaped fitting attached to the deck, spar, boom, etc., used to secure
a line or block to some part of the vessel or container
A stick with a blade in the end of it used to propel a small boat through the
water; The act of using a paddle to propel a boat.
Seaman's scornful name for any lead of a rope by which effort is lost or wasted.
a boy (male minor) who serves as seaman and/or is trained for such service.
It was the job of a ship's page to turn the hourglasses and thus provide the
times for the ship's log.
A line tied to the bow of a small boat for use in towing, securing or tying
A flat tray, generally made of wood but occasionally of steel, on which goods
particularly those in boxes, cartons or bags, can be stacked. Its purpose is
to facilitate the movement of such goods, mainly by the use of forklift trucks.
A leather tool worn on the hand with a thimble shaped structure on it, and used
when sewing canvas or sails.
An urgent message used on a radio regarding the safety of people or property.
A PAN PAN message is not used when there is an immediate threat to life or property,
instead the MAYDAY call is used. PAN PAN situations may develop into MAYDAY
situations. As with a MAYDAY, PAN PAN messages have priority on the radio channels
and should not be interrupted. In the case of a less urgent safety message,
such as a hazard to navigation, the appropriate signal to use is SECURITE.
Small, circular sheets of newly:formed ice that do not impede navigation.
Describes the pulsating, in and out movement of ship's plating subjected to
variations in water pressure, especially during heavy weather as the ship alternately
rises and plunges deep into the water.
Painting The Lion:
An old nautical punishment for a misdemeanour against shipmates, e.g. theft,
whereby the culprit was stripped naked and painted all over with tar.
Beam placed from shipside to shipside to support the shell plating against panting.
Frames placed in the forward and after sections of the hull to resist the panting
action of the shell plating.
A horizontal stiffener with a breast hook giving added strength against panting.
An emergency signal flare that will float down on a parachute after launch,
hopefully improving its visibility.
Error that can be introduced when not reading an instrument, such as a compass,
directly from its front, due to the separation of the indicator and the scale
Tool used for transferring course and bearing to and from the compass rose on
A means of hauling up or lowering a cylindrical object.
Parcel a Rope:
Parcelling a rope consists of binding it with strips of tarred canvas, applied
in the direction of the lay of the rope. A rope, or part of a rope, is wormed,
parcelled and served to protect it from chafe, to make it less liable to chafe
other ropes, and, with a wire rope, to protect the hands of men handling it.
The old rhyme goes -
"Worm and parcel with the lay,
Then turn and serve the other way"
Parcel a Seam:
After a seam is caulked, to lay over it a narrow piece of canvas and then pour
on hot pitch and tar .
Limber hole of a ship.
Break; e.g., the line parted under strain
Strop inserted between two hawsers, and weaker than the hawsers, so that strop,
and not hawsers, will part with any excessive strain.
A framework of supporting structures used to support areas where high loads
come through openings in the deck, such as the opening in the deck through which
the mast passes.
A journey from one place to another.
Died. Perhaps derived from the sun setting in the west.
Passed with flying colors:
This expression comes from the custom of sailing ships that would fly their
colors or put up their flags and pennants if they wanted to be identified when
passing other ships at sea.
A ship that is authorized to carry more than twelve passengers.
The waters adjacent to a country over which it claims jurisdiction. also, Territorial
(1) Said of ship's head when it moves away from wind, especially when tacking.
(2) To discharge a crew and close Articles of Agreement of a merchant ship.
To ease out or slacken a line, chain or cable or let it run in a controlled
The upper corner of a four sided sail or outer end of the gaff.
Columnar support for the steering wheel in the cockpit.
Merchant Navy nickname for seaman whose turn of duty it is to keep the mess
A card marked in degrees and having sightings on it that is used to take bearings
relative to the ship, rather than magnetic bearings as taken with a compass.
The line by which a boat is connected to a mooring buoy; a short rope hanging
from a spar having at its free end a spliced thimble or a block. Sometimes called
A small tapering flag, which can be used for identification or communication.
This word comes from the naval abbreviation of the word "perquisites"
meaning the allowances or benefits (often money) offered with any specific office
Personal Flotation Device (PFD):
Official terminology for life jacket. When properly used a PFD will support
a person in the water. Also called a life jacket, life preserver or life vest.
Personal Watercraft (PWC):
Small boat similar to and including jetskis
Rank intermediate between officer and rating, and in charge of ratings; more
or less equivalent to the rank of sergeant.
Alphabet used by the Navy when making sure that a letter is understood; i.e.
"BRAVO OSCAR ALPHA TANGO spells BOAT"
(1) A pirate or privateer, also athief or outlaw; a rogue, a scoundrel.
(2) A small ship of a kind used by pirates, a small fishing boat.
Pieces Of Eight:
The Spanish silver peso of eight Reals of the 17th & 18th -centuries. One
side was marked with a number ‘8’.
A loading/landing platform or structure extending at an angle from the shore.
Very small wooden pail having one stave prolonged to form a handle. Used as
a bailer in a boat.
A wood, metal or concrete pole driven into the bottom. Craft may be made fast
to a pile; it may be used to support a pier or a float.
(1) A piece of equipment used to drive piles into the ground.
(2) Name given to a ship which because of her short length, cannot ride two
consecutive waves, and pitches violently into the second.
Support, protection for wharves, piers etc.; constructed of piles.
Any steel bar or column, fitted vertically, to support a deck, or any part of
a ship's structure. Also called a stanchion.
To raid, rob, and sack a target ashore.
Block of timber mounted on the deck just inside the bow on which the inner end
of the bowsprit was supported.
An individual with specific knowledge of a harbor, canal, river or other waterway,
qualified to guide vessels through the region. Some areas require that boats
and ships be piloted by a licensed pilot.
The act carried out by a pilot of assisting the master of a ship in navigation
when entering or leaving a port. Sometimes used to define the fee payable for
the services of a pilot. Also, the act of navigating a vessel coastwise when
land is near and the water is relatively shallow.
A compartment on or near the bridge of a ship that contains the steering wheel
and other controls, compass, charts, navigating equipment and means of communicating
with the engine room and other parts of the ship. Also known as wheelhouse
Navigation by using visible references, the depth of the water, etc.
In sailboat racing, the mark or buoy that signifies one side of the starting
line, opposite of the race committee boat.
A rail fastened along the inside of the bulwarks of a vessel and pierced to
hold belaying pins
To sail too close to the wind so that the sails start to luff.
Sailing too close to the wind
(1) A small light vessel, usually having two schooner-rigged (originally square-rigged)
masts, often in attendance on a larger vessel and used as a tender or scout,
to carry messages, etc..
(2) A small boat, originally rowed with eight oars, later with sixteen, forming
part of the equipment of a warship or other large vessel.
A tapered metal pin which fastens the rudder to the stern by dropping into gudgeons.
Another name for the bo'sun's whistle.
A call on the bo'sun's pipe at night for the hands to turn in, for silence in
the messdecks, and for lights to be extinguished. Also a term used by a sailor
to another to make them stop talking.
The act of taking a ship on the high seas from those lawfully entitled to it.
(1) The alternate rise and fall of the bow of a vessel proceeding through waves;
also called hobby horsing
(2) The theoretical distance advanced by a propeller in one revolution.
(3) Tar and resin used for caulking between the planks of a wooden vessel.
Said of a boat which turns end over end in very rough seas.
Anything that is straightforward and easy.
To gain hydrodynamic lift, causing the boat to lift, rising slightly out of
the water so that it is gliding over the water rather than plowing through it,
reaching speeds in excess of those normally associated with its waterline length.
A type of hull shaped to glide easily across the water at high speed.
The speed needed for a boat to begin planing.
On a wooden vessel, the outermost deck plank covering the gunwale. also called
Wood boards used to cover the ribs, frames, deck or hull of a wooden vessel.
Flat steel stock of various thicknesses used in the construction of a ship to
form the sides and decks.
The difference between the diameter of a shaft rod, etc., and that of the hole
in which it works.
(1) The mark stencilled in and painted on a ship's side, designated by a circle
and horizontal lines to mark the highest permissible load water lines under
(2) The original "Plimsoll Mark" was a circle with a horizontal line
through it to show the maximum draft of a ship. This symbol, also called an
international load line or Plimsoll line, indicates the maximum safe draft,
and therefore the minimum freeboard for the vessel in various operating conditions.
To mark a course on a chart.
(1) A tapered device, usually made from wood or rubber, which can be forced
into a hole to prevent water from flowing through it. Plugs should be available
to fit every through hull fitting on the boat.
(2) The pattern on which the hulls of small craft are molded in fiberglass.
Plumb the depths:
This is an expression meaning to find out what's going on or to fully investigate
something. Originally the phrase "plumb the depths" came from the
plumb or lead weight attached to a rope used to test the depth of the water.
Persons on board.
A group of whales.
To sail as close as possible to the wind. Some boats can point better than others,
sailing closer to the wind.
Division of the circumference of the magnetic compass card into thirty:two points,
each of 11° 15'.
Points of Sail:
The headings of a sailboat in relation to the wind, i.e., upwind, close reach,
reach, broad reach, downwind.
Polaris: or Pole Star:
The North Star; visible in the northern hemisphere and indicates the direction
of north. In the southern hemisphere the Southern Cross is used to find the
direction of south.
(1) A spar. Such as a pole used to position a sail (e.g., spinnaker pole or
whisker pole, which serves the same purpose for a jib).
(2) One of the two points around which the earth spins, known as the north and
A hollow, watertight tank used to give buoyancy.
The short aftermost raised deck of a vessel.
A rail surrounding the poop deck.
(1) Hit by a wave over the stern; having a wave wash over the stern of the boat.
This can be a very dangerous situation. Pooped:
(2) This word is used to denote the swamping of an aft deck when sailing down
wind in high following seas.
A short, confused sea.
(1) The left side of the boat when facing forward; originally called larboard.
The opposite of starboard.
(2)A porthole. A window in the side of a boat, usually round or with rounded
(3) A harbor. *Why do we say
Port and Starboard?
Today the term is used to describe the windows, or openings on a vessel. The
word originates from the French word porte which means door. The expression
"port hole" originated when French boat builders began to install
small doors on the side of ships which could be opened to shoot the cannons.
Sailing with the wind coming from the port side, with the boom on the starboard
Port of Call:
Country, island or territory the vessel visits.
Openings in a ship's hull for ventilation, light and other purposes.
The Greek god of the sea.
Position Line or Line of Position:
A line drawn on a chart, as a result of a bearing, along which the boat is positioned
Port Out, Starboard Home,” the cooler,(shady side of the boat) and thus
more expensive, side of ships traveling between England and India in the mid-19th
century. The acronym POSH was supposedly stamped on the tickets of first-class
passengers traveling on that side of ships Port Out, Starboard Home ... Used
for Cruising Liners years ago for the "BEST" Cabins. Hence the name!
A flat bottomed, blunt nosed dinghy (or small boat).
Certificate given to a ship arriving from a foreign port, by the port's health
officer, indicating that there are no cases of disease aboard the ship and the
health of all on board is good.
Preferred Channel Buoy:
Also known as a junction buoy. A red and green horizontally striped buoy used
in the United States to mark the separation of a channel into two channels.
The preferred channel is indicated by the color of the uppermost stripe. Red
on top indicates that the preferred channel is to the right as you return.
A group of men used to capture men and boys and force them to join the navy
The typical winds for a particular region and time of year.
(1) Line and blocks or the boom vang used to keep the boom in place while reaching
or running and to prevent an out of control swing during an accidental jibe.
(2) Any additional line or wire temporarily rigged to back up any standing rigging
in heavy weather.
Money paid by shipper to Master of ship for diligence in care of cargo. Not
now paid to Master, but added to freight. Amount was usually about 1% of freight.
The meridian from which longitude is measured eastwards or westwards. The longitude
of the prime meridian, passing through Greenwich, England, is 0°
A ship owned and armed by a private individual that is empowered by a government
to fight with enemy ships and capture enemy shipping in time of war.
A vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rule, has right:of:way.
Also known as the "stand on" vessel.
An enemy vessel captured at sea by a privateer or a ship of war. The term is
also applied to contraband cargo taken from a merchant ship.
The acting of one person on behalf of another; a document authorizing one person
to act on behalf of another.
The side elevation of a ship's form.
When water from a leak passes successively from one compartment to the next,
usually in the absence of watertight bulkheads or watertight doors left open.
Slang for propeller.
Sideward force created by a spinning propeller.
A rotating device, with two or more blades, that acts as a screw in propelling
a vessel. Sometimes called a screw.
Movement of crest of a progressive wave. Can also refer to radio waves.
The method by which a racing yacht may object to the actions of a rival on the
basis of a breach of the racing rules. A protest committee will hear both sides,
and if the protest is upheld, the offending yacht may be penalized.
A signal which is hoisted during a sailing race to protest the actions of another
(for rules infractions)
The bow and forward part of the vessel above the waterline.
A sudden burst of wind stronger than the current wind conditions.
An elevated guardrail set up at the bow of a vessel. When erected at the stern,
it is called a pushpit.
Removing waste from a holding tank.
A small flat bottomed boat square at either end.
Spiked pole used for propelling a barge or boat by resting its outboard end
on an unyielding object.
To haul in or draw in, using any sort of mechanical device to increase power
employed in raising or moving heavy objects. Where two or more blocks are involved
in a purchase, it is generally known as a tackle (pronounced "taykle").
The small boats used to drag and close the Seine.
A ship's officer who is in charge of accounts, especially on a passenger ship.
Hypocritical smile, or sneer.
Push the boat out:
This is an old navel expression meaning to have drinks all round
A pulpit located on the stern.
To change the course of a sailing vessel. Put In
Q Flag, Quarantine
The Quebec pennant is flown when first entering a country, indicating that the
people on the ship are healthy and that the vessel wants permission to visit
the country. The flag means "My vessel is healthy and I request free pratique.
(1) A nautical instrument, on the arc of which is a finely graduated scale showing
degrees and minutes, with adjustable reflectors, etc.; used to find the altitude
of heavenly bodies, angular distances, etc.
(2) On a steering gear, the rudder quadrant is a section of a wheel or sheave
fastened to the rudder head.
A harbor restriction placed on a ship which has an infectious disease on board,
or which has arrived from a country where such a disease is prevalent. The crew
may not go ashore until the ship is granted pratique.
(1) That portion of the vessel forward of the stern and abaft of the beam. "On
the quarter" applies to a bearing 45º abaft the beam. Every boat has
a starboard and a port quarter.
(2) Mercy shown to captives or enemies, such as giving quarter to the passengers
of a seized vessel.*
A bunk which runs under the cockpit
Boat carried at davits on quarter of ship, and kept ready for immediate use
when at sea.
Line led forward, from quarter of a vessel, to prevent her from moving astern.
The part of the upper deck which is abaft the mainmast, or in that general location
of a ship without one. The quarterdeck was normally reserved for officers.
Winds and waves on a boat's quarter
An able:bodied seamen entrusted with the steering of a vessel when entering
or leaving a harbor. He is also involved with the use and upkeep of navigational
Living space for the crew.
A solid wharf or structure built of stone along the edge of a harbor used for
loading and offloading of cargo, and embarkation and disembarkation of passengers.
A quay may be constructed parallel or perpendicular to the bank of a waterway.
Small staysail located between the foremast and mainmast.
Quick Flashing Light:
A navigational aid with a light that flashes about once per second.
(1) A strong, confused tide or current.
(2) A competition of skill and seamanship between yachts.
The operation of temporarily holding two lines together by seizing.
Radio Detection and Ranging. An electronic instrument that uses radio waves
to find the distance and bearing of other objects. Used to avoid collisions,
particularly in times of poor visibility.
An arch to mount the radar, usually at the stern of the boat.
An object designed to increase the radio reflectivity of a boat so that it is
more visible on radar. Many small boats are made with fiberglass and other materials
that do not reflect radar very well on their own.
Fog over land caused by condensation of vapor in the air above cooler ground.
An instrument that uses radio waves to communicate with other vessels. VHF very
high frequency : radios are common for marine use, but are limited in range.
Single Side Band SSB : radios have longer ranges.
A navigational aid that emits radio waves for navigational purposes. The radio
beacon's position is known and the direction of the radio beacon can be determined
by using a radio direction finder.
Radio Direction Finder (RDF):
A navigational instrument which provides a bearing to a radio beacon.
An officer who operates and controls the shipboard communication equipment.
Radiowaves: Invisible waves
in the electromagnetic spectrum that are used to communicate (radio) : and navigate
A bun:shaped cover placed over a radar scanner to prevent risk of fouling and
to protect it from the weather.
A small flat boat, usually inflatable.
(1) When two or more boats tie up alongside each other.
(2) Overlapping of edges of two ice:floes, so that one floe is partly supported
by the other.
(1) The edge where the deck joins the hull; top edge of bulwarks.
(2) The railing around the deck.
The inclination of a vessel's mast from its vertical position. The rake may
be either forward or aft, and can be deliberately induced (by adjustment of
the standing rigging) to flatten sails, balance steering, etc. Normally slightly
aft. The term can also be used to describe the degree of overhang of a vessel's
bow and stern.
Rake you from stem to stern:
This expression refers to the attempt during battle between ships to maneuver
in a way as to have the opponents stem or stern facing your cannons so they
could be fired to "rake the ship from stem to stern".
A strengthened or armored projection from the bow of a warship for the purpose
of disabling or sinking an enemy ship by ramming her.
(1) Sighting two objects in a line to indicate a course to be steered
(2) The distance a boat can travel using the fuel stored aboard.
As close to the wind as possible, with all sails full, and no wrinkles in them.
A rat guard for a ship, installed on a rope which connects a quay and a ship,
to prevent hygiene-threatening animals, such as rats, snakes and cats from boarding
The rank held by a naval seaman.
(1) Term describing the status of seamen, corresponding to rank in the case
(2) A method of measuring a yacht's expected performance relative to another
yacht while racing. Over the years many formulas have been experimented with,
in order to enable diverse yachts to race competitively against each using a
handicap based upon the rating.
Ratlines or Rattlings The ropes secured horizontally between the shrouds of
a sailing vessel to form a ladder (always secured by a clove hitch). hence the
expression "to rattle down" meaning to fit ratlines to the shrouds
in this manner.
The operation of securing the ratlines to the shrouds.
Radio Direction Finder. The RDF is used with a radio beacon to find a radio
bearing to help determine the vessel's position.
(1) A point of sail between close:hauled and a run, with the wind coming from
(2) A distance, or fetch.
(3) Straight stretch of water between two bends in a river or channel.
Any point of sail with the wind coming from the side of the boat. If the wind
is coming from directly over the side, it is a beam reach. If the wind is coming
from forward of abeam it is a close reach. If the wind is coming from over the
quarter, it is called a broad reach.
An expression used to the crew to indicate that the boat is about to tack.
A silver coin formerly used in Spain and Latin America
A bearing 180° from the other. A direction directly opposite the original
A form of steam engine where a piston moves back and forth inside a cylinder,
transmitting its motion to a driving shaft by a connecting rod and crank.
The record of courses steered and distances traveled since the time a ship's
position was last fixed by shore or astronomical observations.
The gears that reduce engine speed to propeller speed.
(1) The rolled up part of a sail, tied with the reef lines, that is used to
reduce sail area for heavy winds; To reduce the sail area.
(2) A group of rocks or coral generally at a depth shallow enough to present
a hazard to navigation.
Reinforced cringles or thimbles in the sail designed to hold the reefing lines
when reefing the sail.
Also known as the square knot, it is formed by two half hitches in which the
ends always fall in line with the outer parts. This knot is used to loosely
tie lines around the bundles of sail that are not in use after reefing.
Short pieces of line fastened to the sail at reef points, used for tying a reef
to reduce sail area. The reef line will pass through reef cringles, which will
become the new tack and clew of the reefed sail.
Short lengths of line attached to the sail used to tie the extra sail out of
the way when reefing.
(1) Slang for refrigerator.
(2) Refrigerator ship; a vessel designed to carry goods requiring refrigeration,
such as meat and fruit.
The operation of reducing a sail by taking in one or more of the reefs.
To pass or lead a line through a block or other object. When the end of a line
is passed through anything, it is said to be "rove" through it.
Removal of worn or damaged gear and the fitting of new gear in replacement.
The country in which the vessel is registered.
Direction or bearing of an object relative to a boat's heading.
Relieve the watch:
crewmembers take over the operation of the vessel from those who have worked
(1) The action of a line as it passes over the sheave of a block.
(2) The act of easing away gently.
An order announced for the ship's company to arm themselves to prevent boarding
of their ship. *
Vessel moves to a new area for a new season.
The lifting power. It may be measured by the volume of a watertight hull above
the load water line.
The proper return port of a discharged seaman.
A single masted cutter built expressly for the prevention of smuggling and the
enforcement of customs regulations.
When the sheer curves down towards the bow and stern.
A straight line compass course between two points. A line on the earth's surface
which intersects all meridians at the same angle.
Strips of material temporarily holding parts of a ship in position.
The frames or timbers of a ship as they rise from the keel to form the shape
of the hull.
Lie at anchor
An all around white light displayed at night by a ship when she is anchored.
The way a boats spars and sails are arranged. To rig a vessel is to fit her
with masts, spars, sails and running and standing rigging; term is also used
to mean the setting up a device, e.g., to rig a lifeline, a tackle, etc
One whose occupation is to rig or unrig vessels.
A general term applying to all the lines, stays and shrouds necessary for spars
and sails. The standing rigging is the mast, shrouds and stays, while running
rigging refers to halyards and sheets that control the sails
Right Ascension of a celestial body is the arc of the equinoctial between Aries
and the meridian of the object, always reckoning eastward from Aries.
Right of Way:
The right to maintain a course according to the Rules of Navigation. When two
boats are on intersecting courses, one is the "stand:on" vessel (has
"right of way" and must hold its course steady) so the other "give:way"
vessel may steer clear.
The horizontal distance between the center of gravity and a vertical line through
the center of buoyancy of a ship that is displaced from the upright position;
knowledge of this quantity is necessary to determine the righting moment.
The rip tide is not a tide, it is a current. When waves hit the beach they hit
at an angle and push water ahead of them. This water forms a current that flows
parallel to the shore, called the longshore current. When the shape of the beach
changes, or its direction (as in from North:South to Northeast:Southwest) the
speed of the current changes. Locally this can cause more water to flow into
an area than can flow out, and water will pile up. This is much like a traffic
jam for the currents. However, the water, which is trapped next to the shore,
cannot get out because of the longshore current. Eventually, so much water will
pile up that it can break through the longshore current in a small area. The
large amount of water rushing through a small break causes a strong current
in a small area that flows perpendicular (away) from the shore. This is the
Short, steep waves caused by the meeting of currents.
A metal pin by which the plating and other parts of iron and steel vessels are
joined. Rivets are known by their heads, such as: Flush, pan, snap, plug, tap,
countersunk, mushroom, and swollen neck.
A curve out from the aft edge (leech) of a sail. Battens are sometimes used
to help support and stiffen the roach.
The upward curvature of the keel towards the bow and stern.
The anchor line, cable or chain that connect the anchor to the boat.
Seaman's name for a reef knot tied upside down. also called a "granny"
The alternating motion of a boat, leaning alternately to port and starboard;
the motion of a boat about its fore:and:aft axis.
A method of storing a sail, e.g., by rolling the jib around the headstay.
A system of reefing a sail by partially furling it. Roller furling systems are
not necessarily designed to support roller reefing.
A hitch used for bending a line to a spar, which if tied properly, won't slip.
The end of the line is passed around the spar and then passed a second time
around so it rides over the standing part. Then it is carried across and up
through the bight.
The navigable water to leeward of a vessel.
When rope comes aboard a vessel and is put to use, it is called line, although
some still call it rope if it is over one inch in diameter. A coil of rope that
is not designated for any particular use.
Rope Yarn Sunday:
A time during working hours granted by the Captain for the off:watch to attend
to the condition of their clothing and other personal items, usually an easier
day granted as a break from hard work.*
The strainer at the end of the suction pipe of a bilge pump which prevents solid
material in the bilges from being sucked into the pump and choking it. Also
known as a strum box.
A verb with a variety of meanings. To round in is to haul in quickly; to round
up is to bring a sailing vessel head into the wind; to round down a tackle is
to overhaul it; to round a mark is to pass a racing mark.
This is an expression rooted in British nautical tradition. Sailors planning
a mutiny would sign their names in a circle so the leader could not be identified.
One complete turn of the line around a cleat, spar or another line.
Round Turn and Two Half Hitches:
A knot widely used when making a boat fast to a post or bollard.
Turning out all hands on board ship in the morning, or calling the watch for
duty on deck.
A method of moving a boat with oars. The person rowing the boat faces backwards,
bringing the blade of the oars out of the water and toward the bow of the boat.
They then pull the oars through the water toward the stern of the boat, moving
the boat forward.
A small boat designed to be rowed by use of its oars. Some dinghies are rowboats.
On a square:rigged ship, a light weather sail set next above the topgallant:sail
in fair weather.
Also rubbing strake or rub strake. An applied or thickened member at the rail,
running the length of the boat; serves to protect the hull when alongside a
pier or another boat.
A board:shaped swinging vane, controlled by a tiller or wheel, and attached
to the rudderpost or stern for steering and maneuvering a vessel.
Rudder Angle Indicator:
Piloting instrument showing the number of degrees to port or starboard at which
the rudder(s) currently is/are positioned.*
The post that the rudder is attached to. The wheel or tiller is connected to
the rudder post.
Rules of the Road:
The rules concerning which vessel has the right of way if there is a possibility
of collision between two or more boats; written to prevent accidents and collisions;
includes right of way, lights, pennants, and whistle signals
Originally meant "to stow cargo". Now, means "to search a ship
carefully and thoroughly".
(1) Sailing away from the wind with the sails let out all the way; going with
the wind, downwind sailing
(2) To allow a line to feed freely.
(3) The shape of the afterpart of the underbody of a ship in relation to the
resistance it creates going through the water.
To take a boat into water that is too shallow for it to float in, i.e: the bottom
of the boat is resting on the ground.
To put out a mooring, hawser or line from a ship to a point of attachment outside
Run the gauntlet:
A naval punishment where the punished crew member was forced to proceed between
two lines of men who would beat and whip him.
Sailing in the same direction as the wind with the wind coming from the stern.
Running Backstay, Runners:
Adjustable stays used to support and control tension on the mast when the wind
is from abaft the beam; temporary backstays used to stabilize the mast and prevent
undue flexing due to the pumping action of the sea.
A type of knot that tightens under load. It is formed by running the standing
line through the loop formed in a regular bowline, or by tying around a bight
in the line.
A fix taken by taking bearings of a single object over a period of time. By
using the vessel's known course and speed, the location of the vessel can be
Lights required to be shown on boats underway between sunset and sunrise; they
tell other vessels not only where you are, but what you are doing
All control lines such as sheets and halyards used to control the sails
Prefix before a ship's name to indicate that she is a steamship.
An anode attached to a metal object, such as a boat or underground tank, to
inhibit the object's corrosion. The anode is electrolytically decomposed while
the object remains free of damage.
A block of wood or a bracket attached to a spar to support another spar attached
A device worn around a person's body that can be tethered to jack lines to help
prevent a person from falling overboard.
(1) Any pin that is used to prevent a fitting from falling open.
(2) A pin used to keep the anchor attached to its anchor roller when not in
When from some cause a vessel's form is so altered that the ends of the keel
are much above the level of its midship portion, it is said to be "sagged."
The opposite of hogged.
SAIL = Sailcloth, A large piece of fabric designed to be hoisted on the spars
of a sailboat in such a manner as to catch the wind and propel the boat.
The specification for naval sailcloth in 1794 (the heyday of sailing ships required
the material to be made of the best flax, unbleached, with a small mixture of
Names of Parts of Boats' Sails
Head ... upper edge (Peak to Throat).
Luff ... foremost edge (Throat to Tack).
Leach ... after edge (Peak to Clew).
Foot ... lower edge (Clew to Tack).
Roach ... curve in the foot or leach.
Throat (or Knock) ... upper foremost corner (between Head and Luff).
Peak ... upper after corner (between Leach and Head).
Tack ... lower foremost corner (between Luff and Foot).
Clew ... lower after corner (between Leach and Foot).
The shape of a sail, with regard to its efficiency. Controls such as the cunningham,
boom vang, outhaul, traveler, halyards, leech line, sheets, and the bend of
the mainmast all can affect sail shape. Also sail trim.
Sail Track :
A slot into which the bolt rope or lugs in the luff of the sail are inserted
to attach the sail.
The positioning and shape of the sails to the wind; To sheet in or out the sails
for the most optimal performance and speed
A boat which uses the wind as its primary means of propulsion.
A fabric, usually synthetic, used to make sails.
Sailing By The Lee:
Sailing on a run with the wind coming over the stern from the same side as the
boom (danger of jibing).
Publications that describe features of particular sailing areas, such as hazards,
Small masses of drift ice with waterways in which a vessel can sail.
The equipment used to sail a boat, including sails, booms and gaffs, lines and
Man or boy employed in sailing deep:water craft. Word is sometimes loosely used
to include men who go to sea. Used officially to denote a seaman serving on
St. Elmo's Fire:
An electrical discharge caused by certain atmospheric conditions, which takes
place around the rigging. Known by many other names, it was regarded by many
superstitious seamen as a favorable omen, foretelling the end of stormy weather.
And others believed they would die within 24 hours if light from this phenomenon
fell upon their face.
Rolling a vessel, that is slightly ice:bound, so as to break the surface ice
around her. May sometimes be done when a vessel is lightly aground, but not
ice:bound. Can be accomplished by having most of the crew run side:to:side.
Also saloon; the main social cabin of a boat
Recovery and reclamation of damaged, discarded or abandoned material, ships,
craft and floating equipment for reuse, repair, re:fabrication or scrapping.
Also the property which has been recovered from a wrecked vessel, or the recovery
of the vessel herself.
A strong vertical post used to attach lines for towing or mooring.
Sargasso Sea :
An area of the North Atlantic east of the Bahamas where a powerful eddy in the
water causes Sargasso weed to collect in vast quantities and float on the surface.
A method of reducing sail in a fore:and:aft rig by hauling up the tack and lowering
the peak of a sail. It was used by older sailing trawlers to reduce speed through
the water while operating a trawl. Also the yards in a square:rigged ship are
said to be scandalized when they are not set square to the masts after the ship
has anchored. Scandalizing the yards of a ship was a sign of mourning for a
death on board.
The dimensions of all parts which go into the construction of a ship's hull.
Scarf or Scarph:
The joining of two timbers by beveling the edges so the same thickness is maintained
throughout the length of the joint.
A fore:and:aft rigged sailboat with two or more masts. The aft mast is the same
size or larger than the forward ones.
The ratio of the length of an anchor line, from a vessel's bow to the anchor,
to the depth of the water.
A boat with a flat bottom and square ends.
Scraping the bottom of the barrel:
This is an expression originating from the ship's cook who literally scraped
the bottom of the food barrel, resulting in a small desired serving.
A boat's propeller.
A sailor's carving or etching on bones, teeth, tusks or shells.
Self Contained underwater Breathing Apparatus : see Aqualung.
To run before a gale with reduced sail or bare poles. This could be dangerous,
with the possibility of being pooped.
Moving the rudder, or a single oar over the stern, back and forth in an attempt
to move the boat forward
(1)An opening in a deck, cockpit, toe rail or gunwale to allow water to run
off the deck and drain back into the sea.
(2) naval slang for killed, to overwhelm or massacre
(1) A disease caused by lack of Vitamin C historically common to seaman, because
of the difficulty in preserving fresh fruits and vegetables.
(2) A derogatory adjective suitable for use in a loud voice, as in "Ye
(1) To deliberately sink a ship.
(2) A small hatch; a round window in the side or deck of a boat that may be
opened to admit light and air, and closed tightly when required.
Gossip, usually about other people or events. The term scuttlebutt evolved from
the name of a keg containing water and alcohol that sailors used to gather about
(1) A body of salt water. A very large body of fresh water.
(2) The condition of the water around a boat. Heavy seas for example.
A drogue or drag device to slow down a boat, hold its bow into the sea in heavy
weather, and reduce the boat's drift downwind.
Assault upon a seaman, by Master, while at sea.
Ship's boat kept ready for immediate lowering while at sea. When used for life:saving,
it was called an "accident boat" or lifeboat.
Cool air pulled ashore by rising thermal air currents caused by the air inland
rising as the land heats up
The last buoy as a boat heads to sea.
Master of a sea:going vessel. Certificated officer competent and qualified to
be master of a sea:going vessel.
The cavity inside a Sea Suction from which pumps raw seawater, often for cooling
A through hull valve, a shut off on a plumbing or drain pipe between the vessel's
interior and the sea.
Underwater opening in a ship's hull. May be several feet in diameter. Usually
fitted with a grating to prevent the entry of large, unwanted objects.
Old and experienced seaman.
A boat that is comfortable in rough weather.
Nautical name for an argumentative person.
The average level of the oceans, used when finding water depths or land elevations.
Captain John Smith, in his record of early seafaring terms, - '', 1627
A safe distance away from a shore, jetty, another boat, or other hazards.
Vapour rising like steam or smoke from the sea caused by cold air blowing over
A series of trials conducted by the builders to determine if the vessel has
met the specifications and is operating properly.
A soft, cylindrical fabric bag for clothes and personal possessions
A through hull valve, a shut off on a plumbing or drain pipe between the vessel
and the sea
One who earns his living by service at sea.
On vessels constructed of wood, the narrow gap between the planks which form
the decks and sides and were caulked to make them watertight. Since wood swells
when it's in contact with water, a narrow seam is necessary to allow for the
In a manner, or fashion, befitting a seaman.
All the arts and skills of boat handling, ranging from maintenance and repairs
to piloting, sail handling, marlinespike work, rigging, and all aspects of a
Statement on the condition of the vessel. The sufficiency of a vessel in materials,
construction, equipment, crew and outfit for the trade in which it is employed.
Any sort of disrepair to the vessel by which the cargo may suffer, overloading,
untrained officers, etc., may constitute a vessel unseaworthy.
Second Assistant Engineer:
On steam vessels has responsibility for the boilers, on diesels, the evaporators
and the auxiliary equipment.
Old nickname for a second mate.
Ships navigation officer. Keeps charts (maps) up to date and monitors navigation
equipment on bridge.
A port that is not directly listed in the tide tables but for which information
is available as a difference from a nearby standard port.
A drawing representing the internal parts of a vessel as if she had been cut
straight through, either longitudinally or athwartships. It shows the positions
of the frames and their exact curvature in relation to the hull shape.
An arc of a circle in which certain types of navigational lights known as sector
lights are visible.
To make fast; to make safe and shipshape. To stow an object or tie it in place.
A radio call to inform of a hazard to navigation.
Short period oscillation in level of enclosed, or partly enclosed, area of water
when not due to the action of tide:raising forces.
The large nets used for fishing they have weights on one edge and floats on
the other. They can be closed to contain the fish.
(1) To bind a line with marline, cord, twine, wire, or other "small stuff"
to prevent accidental opening or unraveling
(2) To freeze up, as a valve.
The cord, twine or other small stuff which is used to seize line.
A watertight cockpit with scuppers, drains, or bailers that remove water.
A method of signaling and communicating using two flags held in position by
the signaler, the positions of the flags denoting the meaning.
A region drawn on a chart to separate two lanes that have shipping vessels moving
in opposite directions.
To wind small line around a rope to protect it. Rope is wormed, parcelled and
served to protect it from water which could rot it, or from chafing
Serving Mallet :
A mallet used for passing serving around a line.
(1) To raise a sail.
(2) A term applied to sails in relation to their angle with the wind; e.g.,
the set of the jib.
(3) The direction the current is flowing
(4) Movement of a ship, due to current or tide, not necessarily in the direction
in which the ship is heading.
(5) A ship sets sail when she departs on a voyage, whether sails are used or
(6) An anchor is set when it has gripped the bottom and holds without dragging.
Said of a vessel when water level has fallen from the level at which she would
float, so she would be aground and need to wait for the next tide before re:floating.
Also said of the water that has receded and caused a vessel to go aground.
(Sextant or backstaff) A navigational instrument used to measure the altitude
of celestial bodies
A U:shaped fitting closed with a pin across the open ends, the pin sometimes
being threaded at one end and sometimes held in place with a cotter pin, and
used to secure sails to lines or fittings, lines to fittings, fittings to fittings,
anchors to chain, etc.
A cylinder used to carry rotating machine parts, such as pulleys and gears,
to transmit power or motion; such as a propeller shaft.
The narrow compartment ending at the place where the shafts go through the packing
glands at the skin of the vessel. 1
A heavy longitudinal timber placed over the keel in a ship's stern through which
the propeller shaft passes.
A term applied to a bracket supporting the after end of the propeller shaft
and the propeller.
(1) A longitudinal crack in a mast or other spar.
(2) The shivers of a sail when sailing too close to the wind.
(3) As a verb, to let it out.
Shake a leg:
A call to get the hands out of their hammocks to go to work.
To remove a reef from a sail and hoist the sail aloft
(1) A large heavy boat, usually having two masts and carrying fore-and-aft or
(2) A small open boat fitted with oars or sails, or both, and used primarily
in shallow waters.
(3) Small fishing vessel with foresail, boom mainsail, and mizzen trysail.
To make a man drunk or insensible and get him aboard an outward-bound ship in
need of a crew. Originated in the phrase “Ship him to Shanghai”
where a known trouble-maker, signing-on at the seaman’s pool, would be
sent on a long voyage to keep him out of the hair of the authorities.
The main shaft of an anchor which connects the arms to the anchor ring.
Shanty: also spelled "chantey"
A song with chorus sung by sailors as an aid to work on a ship. The earliest
references to sailors songs date from the 16th century, but most shanties known
today (such as Blow the Man Down, Rio Grande and A-rovin') are of 19th-century
origin, while the term itself is even more recent.
This is an expression meaning to point up or shape up the current course to
avoid danger when sailing off a lee shore.
(1) Your foes, who are about to feed the fish
(2) A worthless or lazy sailor; a lubber who is no use aboard ship
Said of a square:rigged ship with her sails trimmed as close to the wind as
To come up more into the wind
All boats are referred to as female. She is at anchor. Her sails are set. She
A safety device, used to fasten a propeller to its shaft; it breaks when the
propeller hits a solid object, thus preventing further damage.
A covering to protect the bottom of a boat.
The revolving wheel with grooved edge mounted in a block to guide the line or
cable (pronounced shiv)
A knot used to temporarily shorten a line.
The straight or curved line of the deck line; curvature of the lines of a vessel
toward the bow and stern.
A vertical longitudinal center line section of a vessel.
The topmost planking in the sides, next below the gunwale, often thicker than
(1) The ‘sheet’ is the rope used for trimming sail : if the sheet
if free, it is said to be ‘in the wind’, making the progress of
the ship difficult. To have all three sheets of the sail ‘in the wind’
makes progress impossible.,
(2) ‘Three sheets in the wind’ is to be very drunk.
(1) The sheet anchor is the heaviest anchor carried, a spare used for emergencies
only, when disaster threatened.
(2) If somebody is a ‘sheet anchor’, that person in one’s
last refuge for comfort or assistance.
A hitch used to join two ropes. It can be used between lines of different diameters.
Pull the sail in by pulling on the sheet.
Sheet Out :
Let the sail out by easing the sheet.
Land ice, either afloat or on ground, that is composed of layers of sow that
have become firm but have not turned to glacier ice.
(1) The outside plating of a ship from stem to stern.
(2) The outer casing of a block inside which the sheave revolves.
An old and experienced seaman.
A change in the wind direction.
Navy term meaning to change the arrangement of the colors (the national flag)
upon getting under way or coming to moorings.
This refers to movements or changing positions of cargo from one place to another.
This can easily endanger the seaworthiness or cargo:worthiness of the ship.
slang term used by sailing crews to refer to the passengers onboard.
Temporarily placed longitudinal bulkheads used to prevent bulk cargo from shifting.
(1) Generic name for a large sea:going vessel.
(2) To take an object aboard, such as cargo, or water.
(3) To put items such as oars on the boat when not in use.
Ship's Agent or Broker:
A person or firm who transacts all business in a port on behalf of shipowners
or charterers. Also called shipping agent; agent.
A written agreement between the master of a ship and the crew concerning the
terms of their employment.
The watches aboard ship change at 4, 8, and 12 around the clock. A watch lasts
four hours and at each half hour during the watch, a bell is struck. For instance,
at 12:30 a.m. there is one bell for the first half hour after midnight; at 1:00
a.m. there are two bells for the two half hours, and at 4:00 a.m. eight bells
for the eight half hours passed. This sequence is repeated for each new watch.
Ship's Chairman (Shop Steward):
In charge of union business for unlicensed personnel. Handles grievances.
All those employed to work on board the vessel.
A book with a record of every occurrence and incident concerning the ship.
Ship's Port Agent:
A business firm which sells its services to organizations which operate vessels
This is a term we use today to mean neat, tidy or organized. The expression
originated from the inspections that were started during the 1800's to ensure
the the ships were clean enough so as to not bring anything such as disease
into a port. When inspected and approved for port entry, they were said to be
The seaworthiness of a ship regarding the centrifugal force which enables her
to remain upright.
A person in command of a ship. A person certified as competent to command a
ship. A master mariner.
Path through open water used for commercial vessel passage and so noted on chart
A ship builder, or one who works about a ship. Does wood carpentry on the ship
and keeps ships faired. Builds launching ways and launches ship.
Shiver My Timbers!:
An expression of surprise or unbelief, as when a ship strikes a rock or shoal
so hard that her timbers shiver.
(1) Shallow water.
(2) An underwater sand bar or hill that has its top near the surface.
(1) A false keel.
(2) The projection of the keel abaft the stern frame where the spindle of the
(1) A navigator shoots the sun by using a sextant to measure its altitude.
(2) A sailing vessel shoots when she forges ahead to windward with her sails
To move ahead swiftly. To move ahead of another vessel quickly when underway.
(1) The land in general, but usually refers to that part adjacent to the water.
(2) A timber used in damage control to brace bulkheads and decks.
(3) One of the many wooden props by which the ribs or frames of a vessel are
externally supported while building, or by which the vessel is held upright
on the ways.
The act of supporting anything by propping or shoring it up.
When the distance between the wave crests is less than normal.
Said of a vessel's anchor, or cable when the amount of cable out is not more
than one:and:a:half times the depth of water.
To permanently join two pieces of rope. It will not pass through a block since
it increases the diameter
To leave; to push a boat away from a pier or vessel's side.
Part of the standing rigging that helps to support the mast laterally by running
from the top of the mast to the side of the boat. Sailboats usually have one
or more shrouds on each side of the mast. Some people call them side stays
Showing your true colors:
This is an expression which originated from the old warship custom of having
flags from many places available onboard to deceive a potential enemy. Showing
your true colors meant to use the ship's correct flag. The expression now means
much the same-- to reveal one's true intentions.
Green and red lights on the starboard and port sides of the boat required for
navigation at night. Each light is supposed to be visible through an arc of
112.5°, beginning from directly ahead of the boat to a point 22.5° aft
of the beam.
Sidereal Hour Angle:
The westerly distance in an arc from Aries, measured as an angle at the pole
or as the intercepted arc of the equinoctial between the hour angle of Aries
and the hour angle of the body.
The tendency of a boat to move sideways in the water instead of along its heading
due to the motion of currents or currents.
A nautical astronomical observation of the sun, moon, or a star, by which means
a vessel's position can be determined. The sight was taken with a sextant at
a specific time, determined by a chronometer.
Observing with the eye. Applied to a document, means examining and signing as
evidence of satisfaction as to its authenticity.
Sighting the Bottom:
Drydocking, beaching, or careening a vessel and carefully examining the bottom
with a view to ascertaining any damage it may have.
Signed Under Protest:
Words incorporated when signing under duress and not concurring entirely with
import of document signed, and after stating grounds of non:concurrence.
A type of radio carried on a boat to transmit long distances.
To cast off all but one remaining line.
Mythical sea nymphs who charmed men with their melodious voices. Enchanted,
the men would stop all work to listen and they would ultimately die of starvation
because of their inability to sail any further.
Ships built on the same design.
Eight double strokes on ship's bell; customarily struck at midnight when new
An extension of the keel for protection of propeller and rudder.
Skeleton (Of a vessel):
The hull without the outside and inside plating.
Technically, a flat:bottomed boat, but often used to name any small boat for
rowing, sculling, or fitted with an outboard motor
The plating of a ship.
The word skipper is synonymous with boat Captain and originates from the Dutch
word 'schipper' that means the master of a trading vessel.
An old name for high waves when they break with a white crest.
to run up and down the rigging of a ship in sport .
A framing of metal fitted over an opening in a deck, with glass or plexiglass
inserted for the admission of light into a cabin, engine room, etc.
On a square:rigged ship, a light weather sail set next above the royal in fair
On a square:rigged ship, small, triangular shaped sail that was set above the
other sails on the old square-rigged vessels. They were so tall they seemed
to scrape the sky. A square version is called a Moonraker.
Reduces the area of the mainsail by partially lowering the sail and re:securing
the new foot by tying it to the boom with points, or light lines attached to
the sail. Also called points reefing and jiffy reefing.
Not fastened; loose. Also, to loosen or ease off.
To let out a line
Slack Tide or Slack Water:
A short period at the turn of the tide. The time between flood and ebb tides
when there is no current flow.
In sailboat racing, a tactical maneuver to lock in a competitor by tacking on
them in close proximity so they can not tack from under your boat and they start
to lose speed due to your sails blocking their sails.
Flapping (of sails)
A structure of heavy timbers placed between ground ways and cradle to support
the ship during launching.
In general the line, web straps, cable or chains attached to a heavy object
to lift it.
(1) To let go purposely.
(2) Where a vessel ties up, as the space between piers.
A bend or hitch used to attach a line to a ring or spar so that by pulling the
end of the line, the hitch will come free. This is done by passing a bight of
the line under the other part so that when strain is applied the bight is jammed.
A pull on the end of the bight clears it.
Loose and broken ice in bays, or along exposed edges of floes.
A single masted vessel with fore and aft rigged sails.
Chest, or compartment, in which is stowed clothing for issue to crew.
Sloop of War:
In the 18th and the earlier part of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a
small sailing warship with a single gun deck that carried between ten and eighteen
cannons. A brig sloop had two masts and a ship sloop had three (since a brig
is a two masted square-rigged vessel and a ship a three- or more-masted square-rigger,
though invariably of 3 only in that period). A ship sloop was generally the
equivalent of a corvette (the French term for the same type, a name subsequently
also applied to British vessels). A sloop-of-war was smaller than a sailing
frigate and outside the rating system.
Compartment in which clothing for issue to crew is stowed.
Crew store managed by crew members offering everything from snacks to toiletries.
Originally the name given to clothing that was issued to seamen.
The opening between the jib and the mainsail. Wind passing through this opening
increases the pressure difference across the sides of the mainsail, helping
to move the boat forward.
The practice of the ship's cook putting the fat from the bottom of the food
barrel into a "slush fund" where it was stored until they reached
the port where it would be sold to tanneries or candle makers.
A single-masted sailing-vessel, fore-and-aft rigged like a sloop or cutter.
They are usually of light burden, chiefly used as a coaster or for fishing.
They can aslo be used as tenders to a ship of war.
A rate of action. In this case, quickly. "Hurry up!"
Smelling the Ground :
Said of a vessel when her keel is close to the bottom and all but touching it.
The exact date and origin of the smoking lamp has been lost. However, it probably
came into use during the 16th Century when seamen began smoking on board vessels.
The smoking lamp was a safety measure. It was devised mainly to keep the fire
hazard away from highly combustible woodwork and gunpowder. Most navies established
regulations restricting smoking to certain areas. Usually, the lamp was located
in the forecastle or the area directly surrounding the galley indicting that
smoking was permitted in this area. Even after the invention of matches in the
1830s, the lamp was an item of convenience to the smoker. When particularly
hazardous operations or work required that smoking be curtailed, the unlighted
lamp relayed the message. "The smoking lamp is lighted" or "the
smoking lamp is out' were the expressions indicating that smoking was permitted
The smoking lamp has survived only as a figure of speech. When the officer of
the deck says "the smoking lamp is out" before drills, refueling or
taking ammunition, that is the Navy's way of saying "cease smoking."
The operation of secretly bringing goods into a country to avoid paying duty
on the goods. Also applies to illicit goods.
A metal fitting with an arm that uses a spring to close automatically when connected
to another object.
Snatch Block :
A block with a single sheave which is hinged and opens on the side so that the
bight of a line can be led into the block and closed without running the whole
A very high wind. Also called "Snotter"
To stop the running out of a line by taking a turn around a cleat, piling, etc.;
to suddenly stop or secure a line. A ship with too much way can be snubbed by
letting an anchor go.
A spring line tied from the boat to chain rode, usually near the water's surface.
It helps disperse tension forces. It also prevents damage to the boat by ground
tackle and can help in the retrieval of the ground tackle in heavy weather.
Line used for checking a vessel's way when warping her into a dock or basin.
Speed Over Ground, speed relative to bottom.
Safety of Life at Sea Convention
(1) A wind which blows on the beam thus requiring no tacking or trimming of
the sails. It will take a sailing vessel somewhere without requiring much nautical
(2) "soldier’s wind” was a fair wind both going out and returning
Cabin or salon deck or floor; the inside deck of the ship
Son of a Gun:
(1) Born aboard a warship. Derived from the days when women were allowed to
live in naval ships. The ‘son-of-a-gun’ was one born on a warship,
often in the greater space near the midship gun, behind a canvas screen. If
paternity was uncertain, the child was entered in the ship’s log as a
(2) This expression comes from the term for children conceived on the gun decks
of a ship. When in port, women were often brought on board. Since the sailors
had no private quarters, they would sling hammocks between the guns or cannons
for their liaasons.
Sonar Navigation and Ranging : A device which emits pulses of high frequency
sound which are reflected by any solid object they encounter. The time from
the emission of the pulse and the arrival of its returning echo is measured,
giving a range to the object. This is the basis of all depth sounders, measuring
the depth of water under the ship.
This expression comes from the practice of sailors 'sounding off' or shouting
the number of fathoms as noted when sounding the depth in unknown water. Modern
day electronics we call a "Sounder or Depth Sounder"
A distress call made by a vessel requiring assistance. These three letters were
chosen because they were easy to make and read using Morse Code. Some believe
the letters meant "Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls".
A wind coming from the southwest
(1) To measure water depth or the depth of liquid in a tank
(2) Signals required by navigation rules describing the type of vessels and
their activities during times of fog.
Depth measured; the number indicating depth on a chart; the process of measuring
fuel or water in ships' tanks. A ship is thought to be "in soundings"
when she is inside the 100 fathom line, and "off soundings" when she
is outside that line.
One of the 4 cardinal compass points. South is the direction toward the South
Pole and is at 180° on a compass card.
South Wind, Southerly Wind:
Wind coming from the south.
A constellation in the Southern Hemisphere that is used to aid navigation. The
Southern Cross is used in place of the Polaris in the Southern Hemisphere. Five
stars comprise the Southern Cross.
The Spanish Main was the mainland coast of the Spanish Empire around the Caribbean,
a region initially called "Spanish America." It included Florida,
Mexico, Central America and the north coast of South America. In time it became
a general term for the seaways around the Spanish possessions in the Caribbean.
To “Ride the Spanish mare” was an old nautical punishment. The victim
was put astride a boom, with the stay slackened-off, when the ship was at sea.
If the culprit could successfully ride the wildly-swinging boom for an allotted
period of time, then he was released - if he fell off, he drowned.
An additional sail hoisted on the mizzen mast to take advantage of a following
Applied to a wind, or movement of a vessel, to denote brisk and lively.
A pole used as part of the sailboat rigging, such as masts, booms, gaffs, yards,
etc. A vertical spar is a mast.
A tall buoy used as a navigational aid.
A ball shaped buoy marking safe water. no numbers may be lettered, (Do not cunfuse
with spherical topmarks)
Found on buoys for both isolated danger with 2 topmarks, or safe water buoys
with 1 topmark
An outrigger used to hold a block clear of a mast or of the ship's side.
Small hole bored in cask or barrel to allow air to enter when emptying.
To spill the sails is to take the wind out of the sails, either by heading up
into the wind, or by easing the sheets to the point where the sails can hold
An overflow pipe.
Spin A Yarn:
To tell a story. Sailors whiled away time by telling stories whilst making spun-yarn
and other ropework.
A tall cone shaped navigational buoy.
Finely:divided water swept from crest of waves by strong winds.
A large balloon shaped lightweight sail used when running or reaching. Spinnakers
are made of cloth very similar to that used for parachutes, which is why you
may also hear them called chutes, or kites.
A halyard used to raise the spinnaker.
Spinnaker Pole Lift:
A line running from near the top of the mast, used to hold the spinnaker pole
A small projection of land.
A small storm jib made of very heavy cloth.
A raised portion of the hull forward of the cockpit intended to prevent water
To join two lines together by interweaving and tucking their strands over and
under each other in various manners. A strong way of joining lines without the
use of knots.
Splice the Main Brace:
A traditional term in the British Navy for serving out an additional tot of
rum or grog to a ship's crew. In sailing ship days the main brace was spliced
(in terms of drink) in very bad weather or after a period of severe exertion
by the crew.
To get spliced is slang for getting married. A splice joins two lines together
A flexible strip used for fairing lines.
To take the opposite tack when sailing to windward with another yacht.
In a wheel, such as a steering wheel, a spoke is a rod that extends from the
hub outwards to the rim.
The detention area for debtor's that was called the sponge. The word now refers
to someone who uses others by borrowing money with no intent to repay the debt.
(1) Any of several structures that project from the side of a boat or ship,
especially a gun platform.
(2) Appendages added to the side of a vessel, such as a canoe or kayak, to aid
(3) A pontoon:like hull, or portion of a hull, that provides lift. A three:point
hydroplane has two sponsons, one each side of the main hull.
Running directly before wind and sea.
Water blown, or thrown, into the air in particles.
Small struts or spars extending toward the sides from one or more places along
the mast. The shrouds cross the end of the spreaders, enabling the shrouds to
better support the mast. Also known as crosstrees in older vessels.
In a wooden vessel, a plank in the hull springs when one of its ends breaks
loose, and because of its shape bent to the curve of the hull, springs outwards
beyond that curve. Such a plank is said to be sprung.
Spring a Leak:
To develop a hole or break in the hull through which seawater could enter. Term
originated from a sprung plank.
A dock line leading forward or aft, to prevent a vessel from moving ahead or
astern. The after bow spring line is attached near the bow and runs aft, where
it is attached to the dock. The forward quarter spring line is attached to the
quarter of the boat, and runs forward, being attached to the dock near the bow
of the boat.
Spring tides are especially strong tides (they do not have anything to do with
the season Spring). They occur when the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon are in
a line. The gravitational forces of the Moon and the Sun both contribute to
(1) A spar that extends from the bow of the boat.
(2) A spar stretching diagonally across a four:sided fore:and:aft sail to support
A four:sided fore:and:aft sail set on a sprit.
Froth of sea foam.
Small line consisting of several loosely twisted yarns.
A sudden and violent gust of wind often accompanied by rain.
On a square:rigged ship, the yards are square by the braces when they are at
right angles to the fore:and:aft lines of the ship.
Square wooden trencher plates were used on-board ships as they didn't slide
around as easily as circular plates, for sailors & press-ganged men they
would have looked forward to a good square meal between their watches.
Large ships dating back to the 17th century typically with three masts carrying
rectangular sails mounted on horizontal spars called yards. A sailing:ship rig
with rectangular sails set approximately at right angles to the keel line from
Square Knot :
A knot consisting of two overhand knots used to join two lines of similar size.
Also called a reef knot.
Ship's intercom system
The tendency in a boat to keep an upright position or to return to it when careened
Wing:like retractable devices extending from the sides of the vessel to dampen
down rolling in seas and produce a steadier, smoother, and more comfortable
A bollard with horizontal arms, forming the shape of a cross, as a means of
Elevated structure from which coal and other cargoes can be loaded into a vessel.
Name is also given to a landing:place, or loading:place.
(1) To stop moving.
(2) Usually air travels smoothly along both sides of a sail, but if the sail
is not properly trimmed, the air can leave one of the sides of the sail and
begin to stall. Stalled sails are not operating efficiently.
The turbulent effect of air on the lee side of a sail when trimmed in too far.
Said of a vessel that is firm, strong, and unlikely to develop leaks.
A vertical support for guardrails and lifelines.
One that has the right:of:way and should maintain her course and speed during
a crossing or overtaking situation, unless a collision appears imminent. (Was
formerly called "the privileged vessel.")
That part of a line which is made fast. The main part of a line as distinguished
from the bight and the end.
The part of a ship's rigging which is permanently secured and immovable; e.g.
stays, shrouds, etc.
A sailboat sailing on a tack with the wind coming from starboard and the boom
on the port side. If two boats under sail are approaching, the one on port tack
must give way to the boat on starboard tack.
On a square:rigged ship, a small sail set in light weather above the moonraker.
Cabin; sleeping compartment.
A list showing the stations of all members of the crew during any maneuver.
To cause a break in the hull which may sink the vessel; the vessel is then called
To hold off a boat with a staff, boathook, long spar, etc., to prevent her from
coming along too heavily. also known as Fend Off.
A line or wire from the mast to the bow or stern of a ship, for support of the
mast; rigging used to support the mast from forward or aft.
During the operation of tacking, the moment when a sailing vessel is head to
the wind and hanging there, with her head not paying off on the opposite tack.
Such a vessel is said to be "in stays" or "in irons".
Staysail or Stays'l:
A triangular fore:and:aft sail carried on a stay. A sail that is set on a stay,
and not on a yard or a mast. On a cutter this is the sail located between the
jib and the main sail
Also stability sail or riding sail. Any small sail set to help the boat maintain
its direction without necessarily moving, as when at anchor or in heavy weather.
A steamship. A ship propelled by a steam engine.
A white navigation light carried by vessels under way at night to indicate their
presence and give an indication of their course.
Tall and short waves caused by water current and wave directions being opposite
to the direction of the wind.
The after part of a vessel having the poorest accommodations and occupied by
the steerage passengers, or those paying the lowest fare.
Sufficient movement through the water to allow the boat to be controlled and
steered by the rudder.
The forward edge of the bow. On a wooden boat the stem is a single timber.
A term indicating that a vessel is holding her own against a contrary current.
Maintaining position over the ground when underway in a river or tidal stream.
The principal vertical timber in a ship's bow.
A recess into the keel or a framework fixed to the keelson in which the mast
Step the Mast :
Erecting the mast on the boat. The Mast Step is a fitting which supports the
bottom end of the mast at the deck or keel.
A mast that is in place is stepped.
The back (aftermost) part of a boat.
A line running from the stern of the boat to a dock or pier when moored.
(1) A large casting shaped to allow the propeller blades to revolve. The rudder
is fitted on the after post.
(2) The principal vertical timber in a ship's stern, upon which the rudder is
Stern Pulpit or Stern Rail:
A sturdy railing or elevated guard rail around the deck at the stern. also known
The bearing which supports the propeller shaft where it emerges from the ship.
The backward motion of the ship.
One who is employed in the working of cargo when a ship is being loaded or unloaded
Stick in the mud:
Someone of no consequence, such as a pirate or mutineer, which came from the
old English practice of burying executed criminal seamen in the mud of the Thames
Said of a boat that resists heeling, or returns quickly to the vertical when
rolling in a heavy seaway.
On a square:rigged ship, the short pieces of line which hang from the yards
and support the footropes on which the topmen stand while working aloft on the
A crossbeam at the upper part of an anchor.
Sailor’s name for a shore establishment.
A knot used to form a knob in the end of a line to prevent the end from running
through a block or other narrow space.
Small lines used to tie the sails when they are flaked or furled.
A general term for provisions, materials and supplies used aboard ship for the
maintenance of the crew, and for the navigation, propulsion and upkeep of the
vessel and its equipment.
Confined to an anchorage or haven through being unable to proceed because of
A very strong sail used in stormy weather. It is loose footed, being attached
to the mast, but not the boom. This helps prevent boarding waves from damaging
the sail or the rigging.
To pack or store away; especially, to pack in an orderly, compact, safe manner.
The placing of goods in a ship in such a way as to ensure the safety and stability
of the ship not only on a sea or ocean passage but also in between ports when
parts of the cargo have been loaded or discharged.
Illegal passenger who hides himself on board a ship in order to gain free passage
or to escape from a country.
Filtering device used to remove the solid debris from the cooling water.
On wooden boats, a line of planking running from the bow to the stern along
(1) A number of fibers twisted together ready to be laid up into a rope with
(2) A vessel is stranded when she is driven ashore or onto a shoal by the force
of the weather.
Stretch Off the Land:
Old sailing ship term for taking a nap.
To lower, as in "Strike the sails", or "Strike the colors".
On a square:rigged ship, the act of lowering a spar or yard to the deck.
A longitudinal stiffener for the side of a ship, made of angle bar, bulb angle
channel or plates, etc. Depending upon their locations, stringers are known
as bilge stringers, side stringers, hole stringers, etc.
Metal fitting attached to the hull that supports and aligns the aft portion
of the propeller shaft.
Studding Out a Sail:
Extending a sail using a whisker pole
On square:rigged ships, an additional sail set in good weather outside the square
sails when the wind was abaft the beam. Pronounced "Stun:s'l"
A stuffing box, or packing gland, is used around a propeller shaft at the point
it exits a boat's hull underwater. It is the most common method for preventing
water from entering the hull while still allowing the propeller shaft to turn.
Suck the Monkey:
is to suck liquor from a cask through a straw. This is done to avoid broaching
the cask, yet still get a drink from the cargo without the Captain knowing.
Also, when the milk has been taken from a coconut and rum substituted, drinking
this is called ‘Sucking the monkey.’
Small pump for shower drainage
Sun Over the Yardarm:
(time for happy hour to begin). A phrase indicating that it's late enough to
begin drinking. A naval saying, originally "the sun is over the foreyard."
Theoretically, the sun appeared over the top of the highest sail shortly before
noon, when naval officers were given their first break of the day.
A slang name for a bullying officer on a ship.
Any structure built above the top full deck, such as a deck house, bridge, etc.
Here are a few old superstitions of seamen:
(1) When a ship was launched or about to sail on a long voyage, a libation was
offered to the gods of the sea by pouring wine upon the deck so that good fortune
would accompany the ship.
(2) Flowers carried on board were destined to form a wreath, indicating death.
(3) To hear bells at sea is a sign of oncoming death.
(4) It is bad luck for a ship to begin a voyage on a Friday.
(5) Women on board were considered to be a sign of bad luck
(6) Gales and high winds would subside if a naked woman appeared before them
(hence many figureheads depicted a woman with a naked breast). (7) In a calm,
whistling will bring wind, but whistling while the wind is blowing will bring
Rising and falling of the sea, usually due to wave action.
(1) (noun) A disrespectful term for a seaman. "Man that gun, ye cowardly
(2) (verb) To clean something. Being put to "swabbing the decks"
would be a low-level punishment for a disobedient pirate.
(3) A mop made of rope-yarn, etc. used for cleaning and drying the deck on board
ship. Thus, when a person is referred to as a swab, swabber or swabbie, it is
a term of contempt or an insult. He is the one who is only fit for swabbing
Stolen property, goods or money obtained illegally.; loot.
The space between the two sides of the shell of a block in which the sheave
Swallow the Anchor:
To retire from a life at sea and settle ashore.
To fill with water, but not settle to the bottom.
or swasher is a term that developed in the 16th century to describe rough, noisy
and boastful swordsmen. It is based on a fighting style using a side-sword with
a buckler in the off-hand, which was filled with much "swashing and making
a noise on the buckler".
Sweat, Sweat Up:
To haul on a rope, to haul up tight, to hoist the last possible inch or so.
Succession of long and unbroken waves that are not due to meteorological conditions
in the vicinity. Generally due to wind or storms at a distance from the position.
A bridge that swings away from the waterway so that boats may pass beside it.
Swinging Circle, Swinging Room:
The distance a boat can move around its anchor. Swinging room is important because
if other boats or objects are within a boat's swinging circle they may collide.
The process of checking the accuracy of and adjusting the ship's magnetic compass.
A rotating fitting used to keep a line from tangling. Symbols
Marks of identification.
A hinged mast step located on deck. Since it is hinged, the mast may be raised
and lowered easily.
Extra fabric sewn around the edges of sails to reinforce the bolt rope sections.
A gauge that measures engine revolutions per minute.
(1) The lower forward corner of a triangular sail
(2) The direction that a boat is sailing with respect to the wind. A sailboat
cannot sail directly into the wind, and must therefore sail a zig zag course
to windward, at about a 45 degree angle to the wind.
(3) To change a boat's direction, bringing the bow through the eye of the wind.
To change a boat's direction, bringing the bow through the eye of the wind.
A purchase where two or more blocks are used to increase mechanical advantage,
or the power exerted on a line. (pronounced "taykle").
The after rail at the stern of a ship. Also called a Pushpit
A propeller drawn through the water that operates a meter on the boat registering
the speed and distance sailed
The end of a line.
To remove a sail.
A float with a flag at the top of a pole. Used to mark a position such as for
a mooring, a race or a man overboard.
Board, bearing instructions, that comes to a wrecked ship with a life:saving
Book in which is kept a reckoning of items of cargo received or discharged from
a hatch or vessel.
A disk-shaped or cylindrical piece of wood made to fit the bore of a muzzle-loading
gun, and rammed home between the charge and the missile, to act as a wad.
A metal fitting on the mast that the stays attached to the mast; a fitting on
the mast for securing rigging.
A tanker is a bulk carrier designed to transport liquid cargo, most often petroleum
Are of two kinds: First, those built in permanently and part of the ship's structure,
used for the reception of water ballast, fuel, oil, or liquid cargo; second,
those constructed specially and removable if necessary. These vary greatly in
size and shape and the purpose for which used.
Tapping The Admiral:
To secretly broach a cask of liquor. It originates from the time when sailors
are supposed to have tapped the cask of spirit in
which Admiral Nelson’s body was being carried back to England.
(1) Old nickname for a sailor, who would treat his canvas coats and hats with
tar as a protection against the weather.
(2) The distilled residue of gum extracted from pine trees, used for preserving
Stretched tight with no slack.
Ribbon, yarn, or other lightweight material attached to rigging or sails to
indicate wind action or direction. Proper use of the telltales can help sailors
improve their sail trim.
(1) Describing a boat that lacks stability.
(2) A small dinghy or launch used to transport crew and equipment from shore
to a larger boat
(3) One who serves as a precautionary standby, such as a line tender
The bottom of the mast, with a shape designed to fit into the mast step.
That portion of the sea up to a limited instance which is immediately adjacent
to the shores of any country and over which the sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction
of that country extend.
A line attached between a safety harness and a secure part of the boat.
A pear:shaped, grooved metal fitting around which an eye splice is made
Third Assistant Engineer:
Maintains lighting fixtures. Repairs malfunctioning accessories in living quarters.
Assist other engineers as directed.
Makes sure emergency survival equipment (lifeboats, life rings, etc.) are in
order. Assists other officers as directed.
Thole, Thole Pin:
Metal or wooden peg inserted in gunwale of a boat for an oar to heave against
when rowing without crutch or rowlock.
Three Point Hydroplane:
A hydroplane that has two sponsons, one at each side of the hull. The sponsons
lift the hull so that, at high speeds, only they and the propeller are in contact
with the water, hence three points.
Three Sheets to the Wind:
A phrase with a nautical derivation, meaning a man under the influence of drink
or unsteadiness through drink.
The forward upper corner of a four:sided sail. Also refers to the jaws of a
A seat or brace running laterally across the width of a rowing boat.
Across the width of a boat. Also Athwartships.
A certificate issued as a result of an examination of competency and experience.
Some refer to their USCG license as their ticket
Tidal Atlas :
Small charts showing tidal stream directions and rate of flow.
The horizontal movement of the water due to tide
The difference in depth between high and low tide.
Term meaning smart or neat.
The predictable, periodic regular rising and lowering of water in some areas
due to the pull of the sun and the moon. Tidal changes can happen approximately
every 6 or 12 hours depending on the region.
Short waves or ripples made by a tide as it ebbs or flows over an uneven bottom,
or where two currents meet at sea.
Tide Table :
A publication predicting the time and height of high tide and low tide.
The word is derived from the tide hence the meaning of being well arranged and
methodical as associated with tides
A bar or handle for turning a boat's rudder or an outboard motor, thereby steering
Hinged extension of the tiller which allows the skipper to control the tiller
while hiking or sitting forward.
Method of securing a line around a spar by taking the standing part around the
spar, then a half hitch around itself and the end tucked three or four times
around its own part.
On wooden vessels, the frames or ribs of a ship, connected to the keel, which
give shape and strength to the ship's hull.Toe-rail:
A small low rail around the deck of a boat. The toe rail may have holes in it
to attach lines or blocks and to allow drainage. A larger wall is known as a
Toe the line:
The space between each pair of deck planks in a wooden ship was filled with
a packing material called "oakum" and then sealed with a mixture of
pitch and tar. The result, from afar, was a series of parallel lines a half-foot
or so apart, running the length of the deck. Once a week, as a rule, usually
on Sunday, a warship's crew was ordered to fall in at quarters -- that is, each
group of men into which the crew was divided would line up in formation in a
given area of the deck. To insure a neat alignment of each row, the Sailors
were directed to stand with their toes just touching a particular seam. Another
use for these seams was punitive. The youngsters in a ship, be they ship's boys
or student officers, might be required to stand with their toes just touching
a designated seam for a length of time as punishment for some minor infraction
of discipline, such as talking or fidgeting at the wrong time. A tough captain
might require the miscreant to stand there, not talking to anyone, in fair weather
or foul, for hours at a time. Hopefully, he would learn it was easier and more
pleasant to conduct himself in the required manner rather than suffer the punishment.
From these two uses of deck seams comes our cautionary word to obstreperous
youngsters to "toe the line."
A wastrel; someone beneath contempt.(Incorrectly spelled ‘toe-rag’
in modern English). A tow-rag was a rag made of ‘tow’, or hemp,
used to staunch wounds by naval surgeons and then thrown away.
Tom Cox's Traverse:
Work done by a man who bustles about doing nothing. Usually amplified by adding
"running twice round the scuttle butt and once round the longboat".
Ton : Tonnage LONG TON - the English ton of 2240 lbs; 2240 lbs was the average
weight of a tun of wine whose capacity was fixed by law in 1434 as 252 gallons.
SHORT TON - the American ton of 2000 lbs. METRIC TON - one thousand killogrammes
(2204.6 lbs). REGISTER TON - unit of internal capacity of a ship = 100 cu ft.
DISPLACEMENT TON - unit approximately equal to the volume of a long ton weight
of sea water (35 cu ft), used in reckoning the displacement of ships. MEASUREMENT
or FREIGHT TON - unit of volume for cargo, usually reckoned at 40 cu ft. MANIFEST
or REVENUE TON - unit at which cargo is manifested when the carrier has the
option to assess freight charges on the basis of a ton weight or a ton measurement,
whichever affords the greater revenue. GROSS(REGISTER)tonnage - measure of cubic
capacity of a ship; 100 cu ft of permanently enclosed space equals 1 gross tons.
NET(REGISTER) TONNAGE - gross tonnage less non-earning spaces such as crew space,
engine rooms, etc. DEADWEIGHT TONNAGE - the weight (in long tons) of cargo,
fuel and ballast that a ship carries when laden to her waterline. DISPLACEMENT
TONNAGE - the weight (in long tons) of a ship measured by the weight of the
amount of water she displaces. POWER TONNAGE - the sum of the gross register
tonnage and indicated horsepower of the engines, used as a basis for fixing
pay scales for merchant navy officers.
A measure of a vessel's interior volume; The weight or displacement of a ship.
(1) A grouse or complaint. The verb associated with this form of Toot is to
(2) A minor drinking party, in the expression "On the toot".
on square:rigged ships, a platform at the masthead resting on the trestletrees
and crosstrees. In addition to being a work platform, it extended the topmast
shrouds to give additional support to the topmast.
The upper masts, spars, and rigging of a sailing ship, usually kept aloft
rigging, spars, etc. not needed immediately and an encumbrance aloft or on deck
(1) The mast section next above the topmast and and below the royal mast.
(2) The yard supported by that mast.
(3) The third lowest square sail. It is stretched between the topgallant yard
and the top yard.
A second mast carried at the top of the fore or main mast, used to fly more
Seamen who worked on the masts and yards of square:rigged ships.
(1) A line by which the end of a spar is hoisted or lowered.
(2) A line that holds up the boom when it is not being used.
(3) A line from the upper mast which controls the height of the spinnaker pole.
The sail above the lowermost sail on a square:rigged ship; also, the sail set
above and sometimes on the gaff on a gaff rigged boat.
A schooner with a square rigged sail on the forward mast.
Above the main deck.
(1) The sides of a vessel between the waterline and the deck.
(2) Referring to on or above the deck; "I'm going topsides".
Touch and Go:
To touch the ground, with the keel, for a minute or so and then proceed again.
To pull a boat with another boat, such as a tugboat towing a barge. When used
as a noun, it refers to the vessel being towed.
(1) Prospective course over the ground for boat to follow.
(2) A strip of metal attached to a mast to take the slides affixed to the luff
of a sail.
Steady regular winds in a belt approximately 30° North and 30° South
of the equator.
Traffic Separation Zone :
The area between opposing shipping lanes, restricted to most navigation except
for crossing with caution
The aft edge of a sail, more commonly called the leech.
Vessels operating without a fixed itinerary or schedule or charter contract.
The distance traveled in right angles to direction of original course while
Two navigational aids separated in distance so that they can be aligned to determine
that a boat lies on a certain line. Transits can be used to determine a boat's
position or guide it through a channel. Also called a range.
The athwartship portion of a hull at the stern. The flat, vertical aft end of
Placed at right angles to the keel, such as a transverse frame, transverse bulkhead,
A bulkhead placed athwartships.
A belt and line or wire used to help a crew hike out beyond the edge of a boat
to counteract the boat's heel. Usually used on small vessels for racing.
A slide which travels on a track to which the mainsheet may be attached. The
sail shape can be subtly altered by changing the mainsheet position on the traveler.
A large net with its mouth held open, towed by a trawler along the bottom to
catch bottom fish.
A fishing boat that uses a trawl net or dragnet to catch fish
Heavy:duty wire used to lower heavy instruments overboard from the trawl winch.
In wooden ship construction, these were cylindrical pins of oak which were used
to secure the planks to her timbers. Pronounced "trennels".
Two short pieces of timber fixed horizontally fore and aft on each side of the
lower masthead of a square rigged vessel and used to support the topmast, the
lower crosstrees, and the top.
Triatic Stay :
A stay leading from one mast, such as the main mast to another, such as the
To haul up by pulling downwards on a rope that is led through a block or sheave.
(1) Hoist up or in and lash or secure with a small rope
(2)"Heave out and trice up" meant to pull up the bottom-most rack
in the compartment so sweepers could get to clean underneath it.(The order or
action of tying up hammocks in the morning)
A spell of duty connected with the navigation of a vessel; more particularly,
at the wheel or look:out.
A running light allowed on some sailboats instead of the normal bow and stern
lights. The tricolor light contains the red and green side lights and the white
stern light in a single fitting that is attached to the top of the mast.
(1) To adjust the sails for best advantage.
(2) Fore and aft balance of a boat. If either the bow or stern is depressed,
the vessel is said to be down by the bow or down by the stern.
An adjustable section of the rudder that allows the rudder to be corrected for
lee helm or weather helm.
A multihulled boat with three hulls.
Trip an Anchor:
The act of breaking out the flukes of an anchor if they are caught on some obstruction,
preventing it from being normally weighed.
A line attached to the crown of an anchor and used to help free it in the event
it becomes fouled.
To fish by trailing a baited line from behind a slowly moving boat.
The region around the equator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of
Capricorn. The tropics are known for their warm weather.
The bottom of a wave, the valley between the crests.
A cap for the top of the mast.
A course steered by the compass that has been corrected for variation and deviation
True North Pole:
The north end of the earth's axis and also called North Geographic Pole. The
direction indicated by 000° (or 360°) on the true compass rose, it is
the direction of the North Pole from any place on the earth's surface.
The speed and direction of the wind felt or measured when stationary. The motion
of a boat will cause the wind to appear to be coming at a different direction
and speed, which is known as apparent wind
The tall, narrow, waterproof box that houses a vessel's centerboard and allows
it to be retracted into the ship's hull.
A small, heavy triangular loose:footed sail fitted aft of the mast and used
primarily in very strong winds.
A powerful, strongly built boat designed to tow or push other vessels, and to
assist in maneuvering a ship in a confined area.
The distance the ship's side falls in towards the center line above the load
water line. Opposite of flare.
The adjustment of the standing rigging, the sails and the hull to balance the
boat for optimum performance.
An ornamental knot to provide a stopper on the end of a line.
Complete encirclement of a cleat, bollard, pin or winch by a line.
Turn of the Bilge:
The point where the bottom and the sides of a ship join.
To fasten a rope securely by taking turns around a cleat or bollard.
Naval command to begin work.
A threaded, adjustable fitting, used for stays, lifelines and sometimes other
rigging. It is used to to maintain correct tension on standing rigging. Can
also be used to pull objects together.
Horizontally mounted block used to re:direct a line on deck.
A buoy on the race course around which boats must turn.
(1) To tip the boat over so that the boat is upside down with the mast pointing
down to the sea bottom.
(2) A bag in which a spinnaker or other large sail can be stowed with the lines
attached so that it can be rapidly raised.
The top of a wheelhouse, forecastle, etc., having the form of a turtle's back.
The space between any decks.
Small line used for whipping other light duties.
Similar to a Barber hauler, a twing adjusts the angle of sheeting.
Two Half Hitches:
A knot with two half hitches loops : on the standing part of the line.
To reach the end; to bring one object hard up against another, as when two blocks
in a block and tackle arrangement are brought together.
A typhoon is a low-pressure area containing rising warm air. A typhoon is a
hurricane that forms over the western pacific ocean
(1) An old term to denote a lazy sailor who is of little use on the ship.
(2) That which remains in a cask (or box) when some of the contents have been
removed; i.e., an incomplete package.
(1) To cast adrift
(2) To untie a knot
Under Bare Poles:
Having no sails up. In heavy weather the windage of the mast and other spars
can still be enough to move the boat.
Under the Lee:
On the lee side of an object, protected from the wind.
Said of anchor when it is under ship's forefoot, and cable is nearly up and
Strong offshore current extending to the shore.
Not attached to the shore or the ground in any manner. Usually, but not necessarily,
moving through or making way through the water.With respect to a vessel, the
word "way" means" motion through the water."
(1) Underway Making Way:
When you are underway, you are said to be "proceeding from one place "toward"
another, whether actually in motion through the water or not." The key
phrase is "motion through the water."
(2) Underway Not Making Way:
When you are adrift, you are underway; that is, your vessel is not tied to the
dock, anchored or aground.
To unfold or unroll a sail. The opposite of furl.
To cast off hawsers by which a vessel is attached to a buoy or wharf.
To run a line completely through and out of a block, fairlead, etc.
To remove or disassemble gear after it is used.
The state or condition of a vessel when it is not in a proper state of maintenance,
or if the loading equipment or crew, or in any other respect is not ready to
encounter the ordinary perils of sea.
To remove from a ship. To remove an item from its place.
Up and Down:
Said of cable when it extends vertically and taut from anchor to hawsepipe.
The highest continuous deck which runs the full length of the ship without a
fall or interruption.
To windward, in the direction of the eye of the wind; toward the wind; in the
direction from which the wind is coming
Forward berth of the boat, located in the bow
A hull with the bottom section in the shape of a "V."
The leading ship, or ships, in a fleet or squadron.
A small flag placed at the mast head to show wind direction.
A control line, usually a multi:purchase tackle, secured to the boom to prevent
it from lifting. Can also apply to other spars, such as gaffs.
Magnetic variation. The difference, east or west, between magnetic north and
true north, measured as an angle. Magnetic variation varies in different geographic
A line drawn to indicate both the direction and magnitude of a force, such as
leeway or a current.
Winds changing in a clockwise direction.
Velocity Made Good:
Also VMG. Actual boat speed after adjusting for such factors as current and
A device for furnishing fresh air to compartments below deck or exhausting foul
air. Construction designed to lead air below decks. May have a cowl, which can
be angled into or away from the wind; and may be constructed with baffles, so
that water is not allowed below, as in a Dorade ventilator.
An enterprise in which there is a risk of loss.
The distance between the water level at chart datum and an overhead obstacle
such as a bridge or power line.
A general term for a floating craft that carries passengers, cargo or both
An electronic communications or direction finding system which uses Very High
Frequency radio waves. VHF radios are the most common communications radio carried
on boats, but their range is usually limited to line of sight between the transmitting
and receiving stations.
The Vicar A familiar name for the Chaplain on board.
A naval rank next below that of admiral.
Uncharted navigational danger that has been reported but has not been verified
A fix taken by visually observing the location of known landmarks.
A journey made at sea by a vessel, usually including both the outbound and homebound
That part of the upper deck of a ship between the forecastle and the quarterdeck,
or on sailing ships, between the fore and main masts.
An old term to describe an untrained or incompetent seaman, or one who was worn
out after many years of work.
Moving waves, track or path that a boat leaves behind it, when moving through
the water; the track of disturbed water a boat leaves as it moves.
A stopper not in the end of a line.
All the various sails carried on board a yacht.
(1) Officer's recreation area.
(2) A mess shared by a naval captain and his officers. Derives from the compartment
known as the "ward-robe" or "award-robe", which was a store
for valuables captured from prizes.
Warming the Bell:
"Warming the Bell" or "Flogging the Glass" Old Naval synonyms
for being early for an appointment or doing anything earlier than had been arranged.
The phrases originate from the days when watches at sea were measured by a half-hour
sand-glass; each time the glass was turned the bell was struck denoting the
time. In those more leisurely days, measurement of time to the nearest half-hour
was sufficiently accurate for much of life's affairs, in fact "near enough
for a sailing ship".
(1) To warp is to move a vessel by lines : move a boat by hauling on lines attached
to docks or anchors.
(2) The longitudinal threads in canvas and other textiles.
(3) Hawser used when warping.
(4) The line by which a boat rides to a sea anchor.
(5) Mooring ropes.
A range of ranks above enlisted men and below commissioned officers.
A word commonly used by officers when referring to Midshipmen - "the lowest
form of life, excrescences on the face of the earth".
(1) Broken water at bow of a vessel making way.
(2) Disturbed water made by a propeller or paddle wheel.
(3) The rush or sweeping of waves on a bank, shore, or vessel.
Boards used to close the companionway.
Said of a vessel when she is shipping water on deck and it is running off through
scuppers and freeing ports.
The day at sea is divided into six four hour periods. Three groups of watchstanders
are on duty for four hours and then off for eight, then back to duty; also refers
to those standing watch as an individual, pair, or group. In order to prevent
the same men from keeping the same watch each day, the watch between 1600 and
2000 is divided into two half watches, known as the first and last dog watches,
in order to produce an odd number of watches each day.
Bell used for striking the half hours of each watch.
A buoy moored near a Lightship from which she can check her position to make
sure that she has not moved by dragging.
Sea water used for ballast, let into the double bottom, or into a water:ballast
tank, or trimming tanks.
Small cask used for carrying drinking water in a boat.
A dowel driven through a hole that is drilled across a seam, to prevent leakage,
usually in structural members. 1
The line where the water comes to on the hull of a boat. Design waterline is
where the waterline was designed to be, load waterline is the waterline when
the boat is loaded, and the painted waterline is where the waterline was painted.
Actual waterline is where the waterline really is at any given time.
The length of the boat at the waterline.
Completely filled with water.
A bulkhead that will not let water pass from one side of it to the other.
A compartment having a watertight bulkhead at each end.
A river, canal or other body of water that boats can travel on.
Oscillations of the sea caused by wind blowing along the surface and moving
in the direction from which the wind blows.
Goods floating on surface of sea after a wreck.
A vessel's movement through the water; such as headway, sternway, or leeway.
Order given to a boat's crew when going alongside under oars. Denotes that boat
has sufficient way, and that oars are to be placed inside the boat.
A charted feature or chosen position on a chart
The framework of timber, etc., on which a vessel is built, from which she is
launched into the water.
(1) To wear a boat is the operation of bringing a sailing vessel onto the other
tack by bringing the wind around the stern, as opposed to tacking, where the
wind is brought around the bow.
(2) In respect to the flying of flags, a ship flies her national flag or ensign,
but wears a personal flag.
In the direction from which the wind blows, as in weather side of the ship,
the side from which the wind is blowing; to windward.
Windward side of a vessel.
A deck exposed to the wind and sea.
The natural tendency of a sailboat to come up into the wind. The helm must be
held over to keep the boat from coming up
The ability of a seaman to foretell weather by the appearance of the sky, change
of wind direction was handed down in the form of proverbs.
example: "Red sky at night, sailor's
delight: Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning".
The windward side.
(1) A weathercock is a weathervane, especially one in the form of a rooster.
(2) As a verb, it means to have a tendency to veer in the direction of the wind.
A sailing vessel is said to be weatherly when she can sail closer to the wind
than the average, thus gaining an advantage when the destination is to windward.
When water oozes through the seams of a vessel's shell, or a steam boiler, etc.,
they are said to weep.
To haul up; as, weigh the anchor.
To raise anchor in preparation for departure.
The two spaces on the main deck of an older type merchant ship, one between
the forecastle and the midships housing which supports the bridge, and the other
between this midships area and the poop deck. Most modern merchant vessels are
now built with the bridge aft and an uninterrupted flush deck from the bridge
to the bow of the ship.
Said of a vessel that is adequately fitted, stored, and furnished.
One of the 4 cardinal compass points. West is at 270° on a compass card.
West Wind, Westerly Wind:
Wind coming from west.
A maritime term meaning stupid.
Repairs made without removing the vessel from the water.
A locker equipped with a drain so that wet clothes can be stored in it without
damaging other objects in the boat.
The whole of the external surface of a vessel's hull that is in contact with
the water in which she is floating.
An old term for a seaman's daily rations.
A ship engaged in the whale fishery.
Man:made structure of wood or stone parallel to the shoreline, used for loading
and offloading of cargo, embarkation and disembarkation of passengers, or making
fast. Virtually the same as a quay, except a quay is generally built only of
Charge to a ship for using a wharf.
One who owns or manages a wharf.
(1) Device used for steering a boat.
(2) Slang for a ship's propeller.
The deckhouse of a vessel where the helm is located.
Another name for the helmsman; one who steers a ship via a wheel.
Inquiry addressed to a look:out man, demanding precise direction of an object
he has sighted and reported.
To bind the strands of a line with a small cord. Winding twine or heavy thread
around the end of a line to keep it from unraveling
A pole connected to the mast and the clew of the jib, to hold the jib out when
Ships had whistles first, and it is still customary to refer to the ship's primary
audible signalling device as the "ship's whistle".
A navigational buoy with a whistle.
Whistling in a warship has always been strongly discouraged and as late as 1910
was a punishable offence in Training Establishments. The reason is fairly obvious
- in the old days not only were all orders passed by means of a bosun's pipe
(or whistle) and so whistling could lead to confusion, but also was a superstition
that whistling brought wind which was not always welcome. Even nowadays, when
becalmed in a sailing boat, an old sailor will stick his knife in the mast and
whistle "for the wind". There was one occasion when whistling was
allowed, even encouraged: custom ruled that a cook of the mess should whistle
when stoning raisins or prunes when preparing a pudding, etc., to show that
he was not eating them, but with the disappearance of cooks-of-the-mess, this
too has lapsed.
Whistling for Wind:
“You can whistle for it” originated from a superstition that, if
a sailing ship was becalmed, a wind could be raised by whistling. However, whistling
when under way in a good breeze was frowned upon because of the chance that
the wind would increase to a storm.
Whistling Psalms to the Taffrail:
Nautical phrase that means giving good advice that will not be taken.
Fast:running waves with white foam crests.
Said of craft that behaves well in bad weather.
To avoid something by a large distance.
A term for the bowsprit (many sailors lost their lives falling off the bowsprit
while tending sails).
Naval slang for a non-existent seaman whose name was in the ship’s books,
his pay and prize-money going to the Greenwich Hospital or to a fund for naval
A special type of drum or sprocket on a windlass constructed to handle the anchor
chain links. Also referred to as a chain gypsy.
Williamson turn: The Williamson Turn is a maneuver used to bring a ship or boat under
power back to a point it previously passed through, often for the purpose of
recovering a man overboard. The Williamson Turn is most appropriate at night
or in reduced visibility, or if the point can be allowed to go (or already has
gone) out of sight, but is still relatively near.
A metal drum shaped device used to increase hauling power when raising or trimming
sails, loading and discharging cargo, or for hauling in lines. A machine that
has a drum on which to coil a rope, cable or chain for hauling, pulling or hoisting.
A drum (usually of small diameter and concave) on a winch. Designed for taking
and holding the turns of a rope.
An incomplete rainbow, or part of a rainbow. It is supposed to indicate approach
of a storm.
A diagram usually shown on pilot charts that indicates the frequency and intensity
of wind from different directions for a particular place
A funnel shaped device used to force wind in a hatch and ventilate the below
The wind being blocked by a land mass, obstruction, or sails from another boat.
This creates a windless area on boats downwind away from them.
Turning a vessel end for end between buoys, or along:side a wharf or pier.
A special form of winch used to hoist the anchors. It has two drums designed
to grab the links of the anchor chains and is fitted with ratchet and braking
device suitable for "paying out" chain. : A windlass revolves around
a horizontal axis, as opposed to a capstan, which rotates around a vertical
A transparent portion of a jib or mainsail.
Some English landowners were prevented to either fall or sell timber as this
was reserved for building ships for the Royal Navy . However, this did not apply
to trees which were blown down. Hence, a windfall became a financial blessing
The natural occurrence of the movement of the wind. Sailors use windshifts to
sail a shorter distance on a race course.
Towards the wind. Windward is an adjective meaning the direction from which
the wind is blowing. The windward side of a boat is the one which the wind hits
first. "Sailing to windward" means sailing towards the wind. Opposite
A racing mark or buoy that is set upwind.
Wing and Wing:
Sailing directly downwind with two sails set. Usually the mainsail on one side
and a headsail on the other, or one headsail on each side.
A boom composed of two separate curved pieces, one on either side of the sail.
With this rig, sails are usually self tending and loose footed.
Words used when a statement, comment, or action is not to be taken as implying
agreement or disagreement, or affecting in any way a matter in dispute, or under
The sheet that is currently taught and in use to control a sail. The opposite
of the lazy sheet.
The operation of passing a small line in a spiral between the lays of a rope,
in preparation for parcelling and serving. Rope is wormed, parcelled and served
to protect it from water which could rot it, or from chafing
(1) To destroy by wave action.
(2) Seaweed thrown ashore by sea.
The hull of a ship which is a total loss through weather stress, collision,
fire, sinking, stranding or any other cause.
Liquid flows through into the valve and flows out through one of two tubes which
is selected by changing the angle of a lever.
A sailboat or powerboat used for pleasure, not a working boat.
(1) A fore:sail flying above and forward of the jib, usually seen on bowsprit
(2) A foresail used on yachts similar to a genoa, but cut narrower, with its
leech not overlapping the mainsail, and a higher clew.
Fit and beautiful (describing a boat)
A spar from which a square sail is hung. A long spar, tapered at the ends, attached
at its middle to a mast and running athwartships at right angles to the mast;
used to support the top of a square sail. The yard can pivot (be braced) around
the mast. At rest (braced square) the yard runs athwartships. Each yard takes
its name from the section of mast that supports it, and the sails take their
names from the yards.
That part of yard that lies between the lift and the outboard end of the yard.
Yarmouth References to Yarmouth in Naval conversation usually implies mental
derangement; the Naval hospital for mental cases is at Great Yarmouth (Norfolk).
"To Yarn" or "To spin a Yard" Naval expression meaning to
tell a tale. The expression originates from the day when rope was made and re-made
on board ship; men repairing the rope-yarns could do this and chat at the same
time (and did).
Swinging off course, usually in heavy seas. The bow moves toward one side or
the other of the intended course.
A two masted sailboat with the shorter mizzen mast placed aft of the rudder
post. A ketch is similar, but the mizzen mast is forward of the rudder post.
Smaller powered boat used to provide steerage:way when not under sail.
Slang name for the Q Flag. Also an old term for yellow fever.
A small freshwater mollusk that was accidentally introduced to North American
waters via ballast water from a transoceanic vessel. The zebra mussel has had
significant negative economic and ecological effects: It clogs water intake
pipes and attaches to and fouls boat hulls, dock pilings and other objects.
The point of the celestial sphere which is directly overhead.
The angle between the zenith and a heavenly body.
A gentle breeze; the slightest movement of air.
Sacrificial anodes placed on a vessel to prevent electrolysis of vital metal
Used to indicated times measured in Coordinated Universal Time, a successor
to Greenwich Mean Time. A time standard that is not affected by time zones or