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  Nautical Terms Glossary

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

A.B. (Ableseaman) Rating a man able to hand, reef and steer.
Aback - (backwinded)
The sail filling on the wrong side in the case of a square rigged ship may cause the ship to go astern.(See All-Aback)
Abaft Towards the stern of a vessel.
Abaft the Beam Aft a line which extends out from amidships.
Abandon Ship An order given to leave a ship when it is in danger.

A marine insurance term indicating that the cost of repairs to a vessel is more than the cost of the vessel and cargo.

Abeam At right angle to the middle of the ship’s side.
Aboard Within a vessel.
Fall Aboard One vessel falls foul of another.
To Lay Aboard To sail alongside an enemy vessel with the intention of boarding.
Tacks Aboard To brace the yards around for sailing close hauled.
About On the other tack. To pass through the eye of the wind.
Above Board Above the deck.
Abreast Along side or at right to.
Accommodation (See LADDER)
A-Cock-Bill The situation of the yards when they are topped up at an angle with the deck. The situation of an anchor when it hangs to the cathead by the ring only.
Adrift Broken from moorings or fasts. Without Fasts.
Afloat Resting on the surface of the water.
Afore Forward. The opposite of abaft.
Aft -After At, near, or towards the stern. To move aft is to move to the back of the boat.

"Leading" - A line that lead from its point of attachment toward the stern.

Aground Touching the bottom.
Ahead In the direction of the vessel's head. Wind ahead is from the direction toward which the vessel's head points (opposite to A-stern).
Ahoy Seaman's call to attract attention.
A-Hull The situation of a vessel when she lies with all her sails furled and her helm lashed a-lee.
A-Lee The situation of the helm when it is put in the opposite direction from that in, which the wind blows.
All-Aback When all the sails are aback.
All Hands The whole crew.
All In The Wind When all the sails are shaking.
Aloft Up above, up the mast or in the rigging.
Aloof At a distance.
Amain Suddenly. At once.
Amidships In the middle of the ship, either to the length or breadth.
Anchor A hook which digs in to the bottom to keep the ship from drifting.
Anchorage A sheltered place or area where a boat can anchor.
Anchor Ball A black ball visible in all direction display in the forward part of a vessel at anchor.
Anchor Watch (see Watch) A member or members of the crew that keep watch and check the drift of ship.
Anchor Light A white light visible in all direction display in the forward part of a vessel at anchor.
An-End When a mast is perpendicular to the deck.
A-Peek When the cable is hove taut so as to bring the vessel nearly over her anchor. The yards are a-peek when they are topped up by contrary lifts.
Apparent Wind Wind felt on a vessel underway.
Apron A piece of timber fixed behind the lower part of the stern [sic], just above the fore end of the keel. A covering to the vent or lock of a cannon.
Arm - Yard-Arm The extremity of a yard. Also, the lower part of an anchor crossing the shank and terminating in the flukes.
Arming A piece of tallow put in the cavity and over the bottom of a lead-line.
A-Stern In the direction of the stern. The opposite of ahead.
A-Taunt (See TAUNT.)
Athwart Across.
Athwart-Ships Across the line of the vessel's keel.
Athwart-Hawse Across the direction of a vessel's head. Across her cable.

The situation of the anchor when it is raised clear of the ground. The same as a-weigh.

Avast! or Vast The command to stop, or cease, in any operation.
A-Weather The situation of the helm when it is put in the direction from which the wind blows.
A-Weigh The same as a-trip.
Awning A covering of canvass over a vessel's deck or over a boat, to keep off sun or rain.

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To back an anchor is to carry out a smaller one ahead of the one by which the vessel rides, to take off some of the strain.
To back a sail is throw it aback.
To back and fill is alternately to back and fill the sails.

Backstay Mast support running to aft deck or another mast. (Stays).

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.

Backwinded When the wind hits the leeward side of the sails.
Baggywrinkle Chafing gear made from old ropes.
Bagpipe To bagpipe the mizzen is to lay it aback by bringing the sheet to the weather mizzen rigging.
Bail Ironrod partially circling the boom to which sheet block is attached. (See Bale).
To remove water from the boat.
Bailers Openings in the bottom or transom to drain water when sailing (See Self Bailers.
Balance-Reef A reef in a spanker or fore-and-aft mainsail which runs from the outer head-earing, diagonally, to the tack. It is the closest reef and makes the sail triangular, or nearly so.

To bale a boat is to throw water out of her.
A fitting on the end of a spar to which a line may be led.

Ballast Is either pigs of iron, stones, or gravel, which last is called single ballast; and their use is to bring the ship down to her bearings in the water which her provisions and stores will not do.
Trim the ballast
is to spread it about and lay it even, or runs over one side of the hold to the other.
To freshen ballast is to shift it.
Coarse gravel is called shingle ballast.
Bank A boat is double banked when men seated on the same thwart pull two oars, one opposite the other.
Bar A bank or shoal at the entrance of a harbor.
Barber Hauler A line attached to the jib or jib sheet used to adjust the angle of sheeting by pulling the sheet towards the centre line of the boat.
Bare-Poles The condition of a ship when she has no sail set.
Barge A large double-banked boat used by the commander of a vessel in the navy.
Bark A 3-Masted Sailing Vessel with Sq. rigged on fore and main mast.
Barkentine A 3-Masted Sailing Vessel with Sq. rigged on fore mast only.
Barnacle A shellfish often found on a vessel's bottom.
Barratry An unlawful or fraudulent act or very gross and culpable negligence by the master or mariners of a vessel in violation of their duty as such, directly prejudicial to the owner or cargo, and without his consent.  Smuggling, trading with an enemy, casting away the ship, and plundering or destroying cargo are considered barratry."      Rene de Kerchove, International Maritime Dictionary, 2nd. Ed., p.44.

An alternate slant is contained in: (Sec. 296) of part XLII- Crimes, of Department of Commerce, Navigation Laws of the United States 1923, p. 397.

"Whoever, on the high seas, or within the United States, willfully and corruptly conspires, combines, and confederates with any other person, such other person being either within or without the United States, to cast away or otherwise destroy any vessel, with intent to injure any person that may have underwritten or may thereafter underwrite any policy insurance thereon or on goods on board thereof, or with intent to injure any person that has lent or advanced, or may lend or advance, any money on such vessel on bottomry or respondentia; or whoever, within the        United States, builds, fits, out, or aids in building or fitting out, any vessel with intent that the same be cast away or destroyed, with the intent herinbefore mentioned, shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars and imprisoned not more than ten years. (Sec. 296.)"

British maritime writer AC Hardy, Wreck - SOS, 1944, p.33.

"Insurance companies are wise in their generation. They employ technical experts to help them, and he would be a bold or resourceful man who is able to-day to sink his ship without detection."


Thin strips of wood put around the hatches to keep the tarpaulin down. Also, put upon rigging to keep it from chafing. A large batten widened at the end and put upon rigging, is called a Scotchman.
A post or buoy placed over a shoal or bank to warn vessels off. Also as a signal-mark on land.
Beam The widest part of the boat.

Strong pieces of timber stretching across the vessel to support the decks.
On the weather or lee beam is in a direction to windward or leeward at right angles with the keel.
On Beam Ends - The situation of a vessel when turned over so that her beams are inclined toward the vertical.

Beam Reach A point of sail where the boat is sailing at a right angle to the apparent wind.

The direction of an object expressed either as a true bearing as shown on the chart or as a bearing relative to the heading of the boat.
The bearings of a vessel is the widest part of her below the plank-shear. That part of her hull which is on the waterline when she is at anchor and in her proper trim.


An object bears so and so when it is in such a direction from the person looking. To bear down upon a vessel is to approach her from the windward.
To bear up is to put the helm up, keep a vessel off from her course, and move her to leeward.
To bear away is the same as to bear up; being applied to the vessel instead of to the tiller.
To bear-a-hand.
To make haste.

Beating Going toward the direction of the wind by alternate tacks.
Beaufort Scale Is a system for estimating wind strengths.
Becalm To intercept the wind. A vessel or highland to windward is said to becalm another. So one sail becalms another.
A piece of rope placed so as to confines a spar or another rope. A handle made of rope in the form of a circle, (as the handle of a chest.) Is called a becket.
Bees Pieces of plank bolted to the outer end of the bowsprit to reeve the foretopmast stays through.
Belay Change order.  To make a line secure to a pin, cleat or bitt.
Belay pin Iron or wood pin fitted into railing to secure lines to.

To make fast.
To bend a sail is to make it fast to the yard. 
To bend a cable
is to make it fast to the anchor.
A bend is a knot by which one rope is made fast to another.

Bends The strongest part of a vessel's side to which the beams, knees, and foot-hooks are bolted. The part between the water's edge and the bulwarks.
Beneaped (See NEAPED)
Bentick Shrouds Formerly used and extending from the futtock-staves to the opposite channels.
Berth The place where a vessel lies. The place in which a man sleeps.
Between-Decks The space between any two decks of a ship.
Bibbs Pieces of timber bolted to the hounds of a mast to support the trestle-trees.
Bight The double part of a rope when it is folded; in contradistinction from the ends. Any part of a rope may be called the bight except the ends. Also, a bend in the shore making a small bay or inlet.

The lowest part of the interior hull below the waterline.
Bilge-Ways - Pieces of timber bolted together and placed under the bilge, in launching.
Bilge Water - Water which settles in the bilge.
Bilge - The largest circumference of a cask

Bilged When the bilge is broken in.
Bilge Pump A mechanical, electrical, or manually operated pump used to remove water from the bilge.
Bill The point at the extremity of the fluke of an anchor.
Billet-Head (See HEAD.)
Binnacle A box near the helm containing the compass.

Bread intended for naval or military expeditions is now simply flour well kneaded with the least possible quantity of water into flat cakes and slowly baked."

It has been around for a long time - Pliny(c. AD 100) calls it 'panis nauticus' ".

Hard tack was another name for ship's biscuit and became a common term in the 1830s and 1840s.

Good biscuit was supposed to be one third heavier than the flour from which it was made. It was normally kept in cloth bags and rapidly became a home to weevils - no doubt increasing the protein content. It would keep for many years and was a major staple in ships until the advent of shipboard bakeries in the early years of the 20th Century.

Bitt A vertically posted above deck used to secure line. The cables are fastened to them, if there is no windlass. There are also bitts to secure the windlass, and on each side of the heel of the bowsprit.
Bitter Or Bitter-End. That part of the cable, which is abaft the bitts.
Blade The flat part of an oar which goes into the water.
Blanketing A tactical maneuver whereby a boat uses its sails to cover another competitor's wind so causing him to slow down.
Block A pulley used to gain mechanical advantage.
Bluewater Sailing Open ocean sailing, as opposed to sailing in protected waters e.g.. Lakes, bays.
Bluff A bluff-bowed or bluff-headed vessel is one which is full and square forward.
Board The stretch a vessel makes upon one tack when she is beating.
Stern-Board - When a vessel goes stern foremost.
By the Board - Said of masts, when they fall over the side.
Boarders Sailors used to make attack on other ships by boarding or used to repel boarders. Once the ship was captured they used to repair the ship and act as prize crew.
Boat-Hook An iron hook with a long staff held in the hand by which a boat is kept fast to a wharf, or vessel.
Boatswain (Pronounced bo-s'n.)  A warrant officer in the navy who has charge of the rigging and calls the crew to duty.
Bobstays Used to confine the bowsprit down to the stem or cutwater.
Bolsters Pieces of soft wood covered with canvass placed on the trestle-trees for the eyes of the rigging to rest upon.
Bolts Long cylindrical bars of iron or copper used to secure or unite the different parts of a vessel.
Bolt-Rope The rope which goes round a sail and to which the canvass is sewed.
Bonnet An additional piece of canvass attached to the foot of a jib, or a schooner's foresail by lacing. Taken off in bad weather.

A spar used to extend the foot of a fore-and-aft sail or studding-sail.
Boom-irons - Iron rings on the yards, through which the studding-sail booms traverse.
Boom Crutch - Support for the boom holding it up out of the way when the boat is at anchor or moored. Unlike a gallows frame, a crutch is stowed when sailing.
Boom Vang - A system used to hold the boom down when sailing downwind.

Boot Stripe A different color strip of paint at the waterline.
Boot Top A stripe near the waterline.
Boot-Topping Scraping off the grass, or other matter, that may be on a vessel's bottom, and daubing it over with tallow, or some mixture.
Bound Wind-bound. When a vessel is kept in port by a head wind.
Bow The forward part of the vessel.
Bowline A knot use to form an eye or loop at the end of a rope.

A working anchor, the cable of which is bent and reeved through the hawse-hole.
Best Bower - is the larger of the two bowers.

Bow-Grace A frame of old ropes or junk placed round the bows and sides of a vessel, to prevent the ice from injuring her.
Bowline (Pronounced bo-lin.)  A rope leading forward from the leech of a square sail, to keep the leech well out when sailing close-hauled. A vessel is said to be on a bowline, or on a taut bowline, when she is close-hauled.
Bowline-Bridle The span on the leech of the sail to which the bowline is toggled.
Bowse To pull upon a tackle.
Bowsies Are essentially long thin deadeyes used to tension the rig.
Bowsprit A long spar attached to the Jib boom in the bow; used to secure headsails.
Box-Hauling Wearing a vessel by backing the head sails.
Box To box the compass is to repeat the thirty-two points of the compass in order.

A rope by which a yard is turned about.
To brace a yard is to turn it about horizontally.
To brace up is to lay the yard fore fore-and-aft.
To brace in is to lay it nearer square.
To brace aback. (See ABACK.)
To brace to is to brace the head yards a little aback, in tacking or wearing.

Brails Ropes by which the foot or lower corners of fore-and-aft sails are hauled up.
Brake The handle of a ship's pump.

The sudden rise or fall of the deck when not flush.
To break bulk is to begin to unload.
break ground is to lift the anchor from the bottom.
break shear is when a vessel at anchor in tending is forced the wrong way by the wind or current so that she does not lie so well for keeping herself clear of her anchor.

Break of the Poop Forward end of the poop deck.
Breaker A small cask containing water.
Breaming Cleaning a ship's bottom by burning.
Breast-Fast A rope used to confine a vessel sideways to a wharf or to some other vessel.
Breast-Hooks Knees placed in the forward part of a vessel across the stem to unite the bows on each side.
Breast Line A docking line going at a right angle from the boat to the dock.
Breast-Rope A rope passed round a man in the chains while sounding.
Breech The outside angle of a knee-timber. The after end of a gun.
Breeching A strong rope used to secure the breech of a gun to the ship's side.
Bridge Deck A partition between the cockpit and the cabin.
Bridle Spans of rope attached to the leeches of square sails to which the bowlines are made fast.
Bridle-Port The foremost port used for stowing the anchors.

Is a 2-Masted vessel with both masts square rigged. On the sternmost mast, the main mast, there is also a gaff sail.

An hermaphrodite brig has a brig's foremast and a schooner's mainmast.

Brigantine Is a 2-Masted vessel with the fore mast being square rigged.
Bright Work Varnished woodwork.
Broach The boat swings and puts the beam against the waves.
Broach - To To fall off so much when going free as to bring the wind round on the other quarter and take the sails aback.
Broad Reach A point of sailing where the boat is moving away from the wind, but not directly downwind.
Broadside The whole side of a vessel.
Broken-Backed The state of a vessel when she is so loosened as to droop at each end.
Bucklers Blocks of wood made to fit in the hawse-holes or holes in the half-ports when at sea. Those in the hawse-holes are sometimes called hawse-blocks.
Bulge (See BILGE)

The whole cargo when stowed.
Stowed in Bulk is when goods are stowed loose instead of being stowed in casks or bags. (See BREAK BULK.)

Bulkhead The vertical partitions that divide the hull into separate compartments are called bulkheads. Some are watertight. These watertight bulkheads are so arranged that in case of accident at sea, water would be confined to one compartment only. The collision bulkhead in the front end is constructed to withstand heavy strain and shock in case the bow be staved in.
Bulkward, Bulwark Solid rail along ship side above deck to prevent men and gear from going overboard.
Bull A sailor's term for a small keg, holding a gallon or two.
Bull's Eye A small piece of stout wood with a hole in the centre for a stay or rope to reeve through, without any sheave, and with a groove round it for the strap which is usually of iron. In addition, a piece of thick glass inserted in the deck to let light below.
Bung A round wood plug inserted in hole to cover a nail screw or bolt.
Bunk A sleeping berth.
Buoy A floating navigation aid.
Burdened Vessel That vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rules, must give way to the privileged vessel.
Bulwarks The wood work round a vessel above her deck consisting of boards fastened to stanchions and timber-heads.
Bum-Boats Boats which lie alongside a vessel in port with provisions and fruit to sell.
Bumpkin Pieces of timber projecting from the vessel to board the fore tack to; and from each quarter, for the main brace-blocks.
Bunt The middle of a sail.
Buntine (Pronounced buntin.) Thin woolen stuff of which a ship's colors are made.
Buntlines Ropes used for hauling up the body of a sail.

A floating cask or piece of wood attached by a rope to an anchor to show its position. Also, floated over a shoal or other dangerous place as a beacon.
To stream a buoy is to drop it into the water before letting go the anchor.
buoy is said to watch when it floats upon the surface of the water.


A tackle, rove in a particular manner.
A single Spanish burton has three single blocks or two single blocks and a hook in the bight of one of the running parts.
double Spanish burton has three double blocks.

Butt The end of a plank where it unites with the end of another.

Scuttlebutt  - A cask with a hole cut in its bilge and kept on deck to hold water for daily use.

Buttock That part of the convexity of a vessel abaft under the stern contained between the counter above and the after part of the bilge below and between the quarter on the side and the stern-post.
By - By the Head Said of a vessel when her head is lower in the water than her stern. If her stern is lower, she is by the stern.
By the lee (See LEE. See RUN.)

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Cabin The after part of a vessel in which the officers live.
Cabin Sole The bottom space of the enclosed space under the deck of a boat.
Cable The rope or chain made fast to the anchor. It is usually 120 fathoms in length.
Cable-Tier (See TIER.)
Caboose A house on deck where the cooking is done. Commonly called the Galley.
Calk (See CAULK.)
Cambered When the floor of a vessel is higher at the middle than towards the stem and stern.

A machine used for lifting vessels over a shoal or bar.

Camfering Taking off an angle or edge of a timber.
Canister Musket balls put into thin tin or wooden containers designed to break apart on firing and langrage as old chain links, scrap metal, horseshoe nails, stones, pottery pieces, etc., put into similar containers designed to break apart on firing. Langrage (Langrel Langrace) was considered barbaric, because it was almost certain to cause Tetanus. They didn't know about bacteria, but their clinical observations of causality were excellent.
Can-Hooks Slings with flat hooks at each end used for hoisting barrels or light casks, the hooks being placed round the chimes and the purchase hooked to the centre of the slings. Small ones are usually wholly of iron.
Cant-Pieces Pieces of timber fastened to the angles of fishes and side-trees to supply any part that may prove rotten.

Timbers at the two ends of a vessel raised obliquely from the keel.
Lower Half Cants [reads "cints"] - Those parts of frames situated forward and abaft the square frames or the floor timbers which cross the keel.

Canvass The cloth of which sails are made. No. 1 is the coarsest and strongest.
Cap A thick, strong block of wood with two holes through it, one square and the other round, used to confine together the head of one mast and the lower art of the mast next above it.

The drum-like part of the windlass which is a machine used for winding in rope, cables, or chain connected to an anchor cargo.

Capstan-Bars Are heavy pieces of wood by which the capstan is hove round.
Carline Wood stringer support for hatches and cabins.
Capsize To overturn.
Careen To heave a vessel down upon her side by purchases upon the masts. To lie over when sailing on the wind.
Carlings Short and small pieces of timber running between the beams.
Carrick-Bend A kind of knot.
Carrick-Bitts Are the windless bitts.
Carry-Away To break a spar or part a rope.
Cascabel Is the other term for the knob on a cannon and comes from Spanish, Catalan, etc. Cascabellus = Little bell.

To pay a vessel's head off in getting under way; on the tack, she is to sail upon.

Cat The tackle used to hoist the anchor up to the cat-head.
Cat-block The block of this tackle.
Cat-Harpin An iron leg used to confine the upper part of the rigging to the mast.
Cat-Head Large timbers projecting from the vessel's side to which the anchor is raised and secured.

A kind of hitch made in a rope.

A light current of air seen on the surface of the water during a calm.

Caulk To fill wooden vessel seams with oakum and cotton using caulking irons and hammer.
Cavil (See KEVEL.)
Ceiling The inside planking of a vessel.
Chafe To rub the surface of a rope or spar.

Is the stuff put upon the rigging and spars to prevent their chafing.

Chains Strong links or plates of iron, the lower ends of which are bolted through the ship's side to the timbers. Their upper ends are secured to the bottom of the dead-eyes in the channels, in addition, used familiarly for the CHANNELS which see. The chain cable of a vessel is called familiarly her chain.
Rudder-Chains Lead from the outer and upper end of the rudder to the quarters. They are hung slack.
Chain Boat A boat fitted up for recovering lost cables, anchors, etc.
Chain Bolt The bolt at the lower end of the chain plate which fastens it to the vessel's side.
Chain-Plates Plates of iron bolted to the side of a ship to which the chains and dead-eyes of the lower rigging are connected. Also used to support the standing rigging.
Chain Shot Two cannon balls connected together with either chain or an iron bar, was used to destroy the rigging other other ships.

Chain shot was first used in the 30 Years War. It was introduced by Gustavus Adolfus to be shot at a low, flat trajectory for breaking cavalry charges (and horses' legs). The naval use comes later.
Channels Broad pieces of plank bolted edgewise to the outside of a vessel. Used for spreading the lower rigging. (See CHAINS.)
Chanty Shanties are the work songs that were used on the square-rigged ships of the Age of Sail. Their rhythms coordinated the efforts of many sailors hauling on lines.

Wearing a ship round when taken aback without bracing the head yards.

Charley Noble Galley stovepipe.
Check A term sometime used for slacking off a little on a brace and then belaying it.
Cheeks The projections on each side of a mast upon which the trestle-trees rest. The sides of the shell of a block.
Cheerly Quickly, with a will.
Chess-Trees Pieces of oak fitted to the sides of a vessel abaft the fore chains with a sheave in them to board the main tack to.
Chimes The ends of the staves of a cask where they come out beyond the head of the cask.
Chinse To thrust oakum into seams with a small iron.
Chips Small pieces of timber offcuts left over from shipbuilding, Traditionally available to shipwrights and carpenters was much abused during the 17th cenury when whole house and furniture were buit.
Clamps Thick planks on the inside of vessels to support the ends of beams. In addition, crooked plates of iron fore-locked upon the trunnions of cannon. Any plate of iron made to turn, open and shut to confine a spar or boom as a studdingsail boom or a boat's mast.
Clasp-Hook (See CLOVE-HOOK.)
Cleat A piece of wood with two horns used in different parts of a vessel to belay ropes to.

The lower corner of square sails, and the after corner of a fore-and-aft sail.

To clew up is to haul up the clew of a sail.

Clew-Garnet A rope that hauls up the clew of a foresail or mainsail in a square-rigged vessel.

A rope that hauls up the clew of a square sail. The clew-garnet is the clewline of a course.

Clinch A half-hitch stopped to its own part.
Close-Hauled Applied to a vessel which is sailing with her yards braced up to get as much possible to windward? The same as on a taut bowline, full and by, on the wind.
Clove Hitch A knot. Two half hitches around a spar, post, or rope.
Clove-Hook An iron clasp, in two parts, moving upon the same pivot and overlapping one another. Used for bending chain sheets to the clews of sails.
Club-Haul To bring a vessel's head round on the other tack by letting go the lee anchor and cutting or slipping the cable.
Clubbing Drifting down a current with an anchor out.
Coaking Uniting pieces of spar by means of tabular projections formed by cutting away the solid of one piece into a hollow so as to make a projection in the other in such a manner that they may correctly fit the butts preventing the pieces from drawing asunder.
Coaks Are fitted into the beams and knees of vessels to prevent their drawing.
Coal Tar Tar made from bituminous coal.
Coamings Raised work round the hatches to prevent water going down into the hold.

Mast-Coat is a piece of canvass tarred or painted placed round a mast or bowsprit where it enters the deck.

Cock-Bill To cock-bill a yard or anchor. (See A-COCK-BILL.)
Cock-Pit An apartment in a vessel of war used by the surgeon during an action.
Codline An eighteen thread line.
Coil To lay a rope down in circular turns. A coil is a quantity of rope laid up in that manner.
Collar An eye in the end or bight of a shroud or stay to go over the mast-head.

Come home said of an anchor when it is broken from the ground and drags.

To come up a rope or tackle is to slack it off.

Companion A wooden covering over the staircase to a cabin.
Companion-Way The staircase to the cabin.
Companion-Ladder The ladder leading from the poop to the main deck.
Compass The instrument which tells the course of a vessel.

Are such as are curved or arched.

Concluding-Line A small line leading through the centre of the steps of a rope or Jacob's ladder.
Conning, Or Cunning Directing the helmsman in steering a vessel.
Counter That part of a vessel between the bottom of the stern and the wing-transom and buttock.

Are short timbers put in to strengthen the counter.

To counter-brace yards is to brace the head-yards one way and the after-yards another.


The common term for the sails that hang from a ship's lower yards. The foresail is called the fore course and the mainsail the main course.

Coxswain (Pronounced cox'n.) The person who steers a boat and has charge of her.
Cranes Pieces of iron or timber at the vessel's sides, used to stow boats or spars upon. A machine used at a wharf for hoisting.
Crank The condition of a vessel when she is inclined to lean over a great deal and cannot bear much sail. This may be owing to her construction or to her stowage.
Creeper An iron instrument, like a grapnell, with four claws used for dragging the bottom of a harbor or river to find anything lost.
Cringle A short piece of rope with each end spliced into the bolt-rope of a sail confining an iron ring or thimble.
Cross-Bars Round bars of iron bent at each end used as levers to turn the shank of an anchor.
Cross-Chocks Pieces of timber fayed across the dead-wood amidships, to make good the deficiency at the heels of the lower futtocks.
Cross-Jack (Pronounced croj-jack.) The sail cross-jack yard is the lower crossed yard on the mizzen mast.
Cross-Pawls Pieces of timber that keeps a vessel together while in her frames.
Cross-Piece A piece of timber connecting two bitts.

Pieces of timber placed across a vessel and nailed to the frames to keep the sides together until the knees are bolted.

Cross-Trees Pieces of oak supported by the cheeks and trestle-trees at the mast-heads to sustain the tops on the lower mast and to spread the topgallant rigging at the topmast-head.
Crow-Foot A number of small lines rove through the uvrou [sic] to suspend an awning by.
Crown of an Anchor Is the place where the arms are joined to the shank.
Crow's Nest Protected look-out position high on the foremast.
Crutch A knee or piece of knee-timber placed inside of a vessel to secure the heels of the cant-timbers abaft. Also, the chock upon which the spanker-boom rests when the sail is not set.
Cuckold's Neck A knot, by which a rope is secured to a spar, the two parts of the rope crossing each other and seized together.
Cuddy A cabin in the fore part of a boat.
Cuntline The space between the bilges of two casks stowed side by side. Where one cask is set upon the cuntline between two others; they are stowed bilge and cuntline.
Cut-Water The foremost part of a vessel's prow which projects forward of the bows.

A small boat. Also, a kind of sloop.


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Dagger A piece of timber crossing all the puppets of the bilge-ways to keep them together.
Dagger-Knees Knees placed obliquely, to avoid a port.
Davits Small cranes, usually located astern that are used to raise and lower smaller boats from the deck to the water. Also, a spar with a roller or sheave at its end used for fishing the anchor called a fish-davit.
Ditty Bag A small bag for carrying or stowing all personal articles.
Deadeye  A circular block of wood with three holes through it for the lanyards of rigging to reeve through without sheaves and with a groove round it for an iron strap
Dead-Flat One of the bends, amidships.
Dead-Lights Ports placed in the cabin windows in bad weather.
Dead Reckoning A calculation of determining position by using course speed last known position
Dinghy A small boat, usually carried on hauled behind a bigger boat.
Dead-Rising (Or Rising-Line) Those parts of a vessel's floor throughout her whole length where the floor-timber is terminated upon the lower futtock.
Dead-Water The eddy under a vessel's counter.
Dead-Wood Blocks of timber laid upon each end of the keel where the vessel narrows.

The planked floor of a vessel resting upon her beams.

Deck-Stopper A stopper used for securing the cable forward of the windlass or capstan while it is overhauled. (See STOPPER.)
Deep-Sea-Lead (Pronounced dipsey.) The lead used in sounding at great depths.

The easting or westing made by a vessel. The bearing of an object on the coast from which a vessel commences her dead reckoning.

Derrick A single spar supported by stays and guys to which a purchase is attached, used to unload vessels and for hoisting.
Displacement The weight of the water displaced by the vessel.
Displacement Speed Hull Speed The theoretical speed that a boat can travel without planing. This speed is 1.34 times the length of a boat at its waterline.
Dog A short iron bar with a fang or teeth at one end and a ring at the other. Used for a purchase, the fang being placed against a beam or knee, and the block of a tackle hooked to the ring.
Dog-Vane A small vane made of feathers or buntin to show the direction of the wind.
Dog-Watches Half watches of two hours each, from 4 to 6 and from 6 to 8, P.M. (See WATCH.)
Dolphin A rope or strap round a mast to support the puddening where the lower yards rest in the slings. In addition, a spar or buoy with a large ring in it secured to an anchor to which vessels may bend their cables.
Dolphin-Striker The martingale
Dorade A horn type of vent designed to let air into a cabin and keep water out.
Double Bottom The double bottom extends from the flat keel to the tank top. It is strongly constructed and is water tight so that in case of accident causing an inrush of water into the double bottom, the ship would still be able to keep afloat. The principal parts of the double bottom are the flat keel, vertical keel, floors, intercostal girders, bilge, brackets, tank top, longitudinals, bounding bars and angle clips.
Double Sheetbend Join small to medium size rope.
Douse To drop a sail quickly.

A method of coaking by letting pieces into the solid or uniting two pieces together by tenoning.

Downhaul A rope used to haul down jibs, staysails, and studdingsails.
Drabler A piece of canvass laced to the bonnet of a sail to give it more drop.
Draft The depth of water required to float a vessel.
Drag A machine with a bag net used for dragging on the bottom for anything lost.
Draught The depth of water which a vessel requires to float her.
Draw A sail draws when it is filled by the wind.
To draw a jib is to shift it over the stay to leeward when it is aback.
Dreadnoughts A uniform main battery of 10-12 inch guns in number at least twice as many as on Predreadnoughts and semi-dreadnought.
Drift A vessels leeway.
Drifts Those pieces in the sheer-draught where the rails are cut off.
Drive To scud before a gale or to drift in a current.
Driver A spanker.
Drop The depth of a sail from head to foot amidships.
Drum-Head The top of the capstan.

To reduce the end of a timber.

Duck A kind of cloth, lighter and finer than canvass; used for small sails.
Dunnage Loose wood or other matters placed on the bottom of the hold above the ballast to stow cargo upon.
Dyce Keeping the attitude toward the wind as it is and no higher. In other words, if the wind changes direction, change course to match. E.g.: if on the starboard tack (wind coming from the starboard) and the wind backs (anti-clockwise shift) fall off the wind (turn to port) as necessary to maintain the wind coming from the same direction with regard to the vessel.

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Earing A rope attached to the cringle of a sail by which it is bent or reefed.
Ease Sheet To let the sheet out slowly loosen a line while maintaining control,
Eiking A piece of wood fitted to make good a deficiency in length.
Elbow Two crosses in a hawse.
EPIRB Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. An emergency device that uses a radio signal to alert satellites or passing airplanes to a vessel's position.
Escutcheon  The part of a vessels stern where her name is written.

A piece of wood by which the legs of the crow-foot to an awning are extended. (See UVROU.)

Even-Keel The situation of a vessel when she is so trimmed that she sits evenly upon the water, neither end being down more than the other.
Eye   The circular part of a shroud or stay, where it goes over a mast.
Eye-Bolt A long iron bar having an eye at one end driven through a vessel's deck or side into a timber or beam with the eye remaining out to hook a tackle to. If there is a ring through eye, it is called a ring-bolt.
Eye of the Wind The direction that the wind is blowing from.
Eyes of a Vessel A familiar phrase for the forward part.
Eye-Splice A certain kind of splice made with the end of a rope into a loop.
Eyelet-Hole A hole made in a sail for a cringle or roband to go through.

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Fall The hauling part of the tackle to which power is applied.
Fathom Measurement of six feet.
Face-Pieces   Pieces of wood wrought on the fore part of the knee of the head.
Facing  Letting one piece of timber into another with a rabbet.
Fag  A rope is fagged when the end is untwisted.

A strip of board or plank, with holes in it for running rigging to lead through. Also, a block or thimble used for the same purpose.

Fake One of the circles or rings made in coiling a rope.
Fall That part of a tackle to which the power is applied in hoisting.
False-Fire A tube when lit burnt with a blue flame, used for signalling.
False-Keel Pieces of timber secured under the main keel of vessels.
Fancy-Line A line rove through a block at the jaws of a gaff used as a downhaul. Also, a line used for cross-hauling the lee topping-lift.
Fashion-Pieces The aftermost timbers terminating the breadth and forming the shape of the stern.
Fast A rope by which a vessel is secured to a wharf. There are bow or head, breast, quarter, and stern fasts.
Fathom Six feet.
Feather To feather an oar in rowing is to turn the blade horizontally with the top aft as it comes out of the water.
Feather-Edged Planks which have one side thicker than another.
Fender Pieces of wood or rope hung over the side to protect a vessel from chafing when alongside another vessel or dock.
Fid A block of wood or iron, placed through the hole in the heel of a mast, and resting on the trestletrees of the mast below. This supports the mast. Also, a wooden pin, tapered, used in splicing large ropes, in opening eyes.

Block - A long shell having one sheave over the other, and the lower smaller than the upper.

Fiddlehead (See HEAD.)
Fife Rail A rail around the mast with hole for belaying pins.
Figure Eight Knot  A stopper knot for the end of the rope.
Figurehead Carved figure on the front of the ship over the cutwater.
Fillings Pieces of timber used to make the curve fair for the mouldings between the edges of the fish-front and the sides of the mast.
Filler (See MADE MAST.)
Finishing Carved ornaments of the quarter-galley below the second counter and above the upper lights.
Fish To raise the flukes of an anchor upon the gunwale. Also, to strengthen a spar when sprung or weakened by putting in or fastening on another piece.
Fish-Front Fishes sides. (See MADE MAST.)
Fish-Davit The davit used for fishing an anchor.
Fishhook A hook with a pennant to the end of which the fish-tackle is hooked.

The tackle used for fishing an anchor.

Flare When the vessel's sides go out from the perpendicular. In opposition to falling-home or tumbling-in.
Flat  A sheet is said to be hauled flat when it is hauled down close.
Flat-Aback When a sail is blown with it's after surface against the mast.
Fleet To come up a tackle and draw the blocks apart for another pull after they have been hauled two-blocks.
Fleet ho! The order given at such times. Also, to shift the position of a block or fall so as to haul to more advantage.
Flemish Coil (See FRENCH-FAKE.)
Flemish-Eye A kind of eye-splice.
Flemish Horse The Flemish Horse was made fast on the extreme outer end of the yard-arm, the inner end lapping in past the outer foot-rope and was seized to a jack-stay eye-bolt about three feet in from where the main foot-rope was made fast at the shoulder on the yard.  This had no stirrup as it was only a short loop.

The Flemish Horse was for the man who straddled the yardarm facing inward, whose duty it was to pass the reef-earring when a sail was being reefed.


"I'd rather of a kicking mule be undisputed boss than passing this 'ere earing out on this 'ere flemish hoss"

---From an old seaman's ditty----

Floor The bottom of a vessel,on each side of the keelson.
Floor Timbers Those timbers of a vessel which are placed across the keel.
Flowing Sheet When a vessel has the wind free and the lee clews eased off.
Flukes The broad triangular plates at the extremity of the arms of an anchor terminating in a point called the bill.

That part of a flag which extends from the Union to the extreme end. (See UNION.)

Flying Jib Sets outside of the jib; and the jib-o'-jib outside of that.
Fo’c’sle / Fore Castle The extreme forward compartment of the vessel.  That part of the upper deck forward of the fore mast; or, as some say, forward of the after part of the fore channels.
Foot The lower end of a mast or sail. (See FORE-FOOT.)
Foot-Rope The rope stretching along a yard upon which men stand when reefing or furling, formerly called horses.
Foot-Waling The inside planks or lining of a vessel over the floor-timbers.
Fore The forward part of the vessel.  Used to distinguish the forward part of a vessel, or things in that direction as fore mast, fore hatch; in opposition to aft or after.
Foremast The mast in the forepart of a vessel nearest the bow.
Foresail Is set on the foremast of a schooner or the lowest square sail on the foremast of Sq. riggers.

Lengthwise with the vessel. In opposition to athwart-ships. (See SAILS.)

Forefoot A piece of timber at the forward extremity of the keel upon which the lower end of the stem rests.
Fore-Ganger   A short piece of rope grafted on a harpoon to which the line is bent.
Forelock A flat piece of iron driven through the end of a bolt to prevent its drawing.
Fore Mast The forward mast of all vessels.
Forereach To shoot ahead, especially when going in stays.
Fore-Runner A piece of rag terminating the stray-line of the log-line.
Forge To forge ahead, to shoot ahead as in coming to anchor after the sails are furled. (See FOREREACH.)
Formers Pieces of wood used for shaping cartridges or wads.
Fother, Or Fodder   To draw a sail filled with oakum under a vessel's bottom in order to stop a leak.
Foul The term for the opposite of clear.
Foul Anchor When the cable has a turn round the anchor.
Foul Hawse When the two cables are crossed or twisted outside the stem.

A vessel founders when she fills with water and sinks.

Fox Made by twisting together two or more rope-yarns.

A Spanish fox is made by untwisting a single yarn and laying it up the contrary way.

Frames The wooden ribs that form the shape of the hull.
Frap To pass ropes round a sail to keep it from blowing loose. Also, to draw ropes round a vessel which is weakened to keep her together.

A vessel is going free when she has a fair wind and her yards braced in. A vessel is said to be free when the water has been pumped out of her.

Freshen To relieve a rope by moving its place; as, to freshen the nip of a stay is to shift it so as to prevent it’s chafing through.

To freshen ballast is to alter its position.

French-Fake To coil a rope with each fake outside of the other beginning in the middle. If there are to be riding fakes, they begin outside and go in and so on. This is called a Flemish coil.
Full-And-By Sailing close-hauled on a wind.

The order given to the man at the helm to keep the sails full and at the same time close to the wind.

Furl To roll a sail up snugly on a yard or boom, and secure it.
Futtock-Plates   Iron plates crossing the sides of the top-rim perpendicularly. The dead-eyes of the topmast rigging are fitted to their upper ends and the futtock-shrouds to their lower ends.
Futtock-Shrouds Short shrouds leading from the lower ends of the futtock-plates to a bend round the lower mast, just below the top.
Futtock-Staff A short piece of wood or iron seized across the upper part of the rigging to which the catharpin legs are secured.
Futtock-Timbers  Those timbers between the floor and naval timbers and the top-timbers. There are two - the lower, which is over the floor, and the middle, which is over the naval timber. The naval timber is sometimes called the ground futtock.

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Gaff A free-swinging spar attached to the top of a fore-and-aft  sail.
Gaff-Topsail A light sail set over a gaff, the foot being spread by it.
Gage The depth of water of a vessel. Also, her position as to another vessel, as having the weather.
Galley The kitchen of a ship.
Gallows A frame used to rest the boom when the sail is down.
Gammoning The lashing by which the bowsprit is secured to the cutwater.
Gang-Casks Small casks, used for bring water on board in boats.
Gangway That part of a vessel's side, amidships, where people pass in and out of the vessel.
Gantline (See GIRTLINE.)
Garboard-Strake The range of planks next the keel on each side.
Garland A large rope, strap or grommet, lashed to a spar when hoisting it inboard.
Garnet A purchase on the main stay for hoisting cargo.
Gaskets Ropes, or pieces of plated stuff used to secure a sail to the yard or boom when it is furled. They are called a bunt, quarter, or yardarm gasket, according to their position on the yard.

Line used to secure a furled sail to the boom or yards.

Genoa Largest jib on a sailboat, also known as a genny.
Gimblet To turn an anchor round by its stock. To turn anything round on its end.
Girt The situation of a vessel when her cables are too taut.
Girtline A rope rove through a single block aloft making a whip purchase. Commonly used to hoist rigging by in fitting it.
Give Way!   An order to men in a boat to pull with fore force or to begin pulling. The same as "Lay out on your oars! Or, Lay out!"
Glut A piece of canvass sewed into the center of a sail near the head. It has an eyelet-hole in the middle for the bunt-jigger or becket to go through.
GMT  Greenwich Meridian Time, also known as Universal Time or Zulu time.
GPS Global positioning system is a satellite-based radio navigation used to determine position.
Gob-Line, Or GAUB-LINE A rope leading from the martingale inboard. The same as back-rope.
Goodgeon (See GUDGEON.)
Gooseneck The fitting which secures the boom to the mast.
Goose-Winged The situation of a course when the buntlines and lee clew are hauled up and the weather clew down.

The angles at one or both ends of such cloths as increase the breadth or depth of a sail.

Goring-Cloths Pieces cut obliquely and put in to add to the breadth of a sail.
Grafting A manner of covering a rope by weaving together yarns.
Grains An iron with four or more barbed points to it used for striking small fish.
Grapnel A small anchor with several claws used to secure boats.
Grappling Irons Crooked irons used to seize and hold fast another vessel.
Grating Open latticework of wood. Used principally to cover hatches in good weather.
Greave To clean a ship's bottom by burning.
Gripe The outside timber of the forefoot, under water, fastened to the lower stem-piece.  A vessel gripes when she tends to come up into the wind.
Gripes Bars of iron with lanyards, rings and clews by which a large boat is lashed to the ringbolts of the deck. Those for a quarter-boat are made of long strips of matting, going round her and set taut by a lanyard.
Grommet A ring formed of rope by laying round a single strand.
Ground Tackle A collective term for the anchor and anchor gear and everything used in securing a vessel at anchor.
Guess-Warp Or Guess-Rope   A rope fastened to a vessel or wharf and used to tow a boat by; or to haul it out to the swing-boom-end, when in port.
Gun-Tackle Purchase A purchase made by two single blocks.
Gunwale (gunnel) The upper railing of a boat's side.
Guy A rope attaching to anything to steady it and bear it one way and another in hoisting.
Gybe (Pronounced jibe.)  To shift over the boom of a fore-and-aft sail.

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Hail To speak or call to another vessel or to men in a different part of a ship.
Half Hitch Knot.
Halyards Lines used to haul up the sail and the wooden poles (boom and gaff) that hold the sails in place.
Hammock A piece of canvass, hung at each end in which seamen sleep.

To hand a sail is to furl it.

Bear-a-hand is to make haste.

Lend-a-hand is to assist.

Hand-over-hand is hauling rapidly on a rope by putting one hand before the other alternately.

Hand-Lead A small lead used for sounding in rivers and harbors.
Handsomely Slowly, carefully. Used for an order as "Lower handsomely!"
Handspike A long wooden bar used for heaving at the windlass.
Handy Billy A watch-tackle.
Hanks Rings or hoops of wood, rope, or iron, round a stay and seized to the luff of a fore-and-aft sail.
Harpings The fore part of the wales which encompass the bows of a vessel and are fastened to the stem.

A spear used for striking whales and other fish.

Hatch or Hatchway An opening in the deck for entering below. Covers for these openings.
Hatch-Bar An iron bar going across the hatches to keep them down.
Haul  Haul her wind said of a vessel when she comes up close upon the wind.
Hawse The situation of the cables before a vessel's stem when moored. Also, the distance upon the water a little in advance of the stem; as, a vessel sails athwart the hawse or anchors in the hawse of another.

Open Hawse - When a vessel rides by two anchors without any cross in her cables.

Hawse-Hole The hole in the bows through which the cable runs.
Hawse-Pieces Timbers through which the hawse-holes are cut.
Hawse-Block A block of wood fitted into a hawse-hole at sea.
Hawser A large rope used for various purposes as warping for a spring.
Hawser-Laid Or Cable-Laid Rope Is rope laid with nine strands against the sun.
Hawse Hole A hole in the hull for mooring lines to run through.
Haze A term for punishing a man by keeping him unnecessarily at work upon disagreeable or difficult duty.

The work at the prow of a vessel. If it is a carved figure, it is called a figure-head; if simple carved work, bending over and out, a billet-head; and if bending in, like the head of a violin, a fiddle-head. Also, the upper end of a mast, called a masthead. (See BY-THE-HEAD. See FAST.)

Head-Ledges Thwartship pieces that frame the hatchways.
Headsails Any sail forward of the foremast.
Head  Ship toilet
Heart A block of wood in the shape of a heart for stays to reeve through.
Heart-Yarns  The center yarns of a strand.
Heave Short To heave in on the cable until the vessel is nearly over her anchor.
Heave-To To put a vessel in the position of lying-to. (See LIE-TO.)
Heave In Stays

To go about in tacking.

Heaver A short wooden bar tapering at each end. Used as a purchase.
Heel The after part of the keel. Also, the lower end of a mast or boom. Also, the lower end of the sternpost.

To heel is to lie over on one side.

Heeling The square part of the lower end of a mast through which the fid-hole is made.
Helm The machinery by which a vessel is steered, including the rudder, tiller, wheel, etc.. Applied more particularly, perhaps, to the tiller steering apparatus.
Helm-Port The hole in the counter through which the rudder-head passes.
Helm-Port-Transom A piece of timber placed across the lower counter, inside, at the height of the helm-port, and bolted through every timber for the security of that port.
High And Dry The situation of a vessel when she is aground, above watermark.
Hitch  A peculiar manner of fastening ropes.
Hog A flat rough broom used for scrubbing the bottom of a vessel.

The state of a vessel when, by any strain, she is made to droop at each end, bringing her center up.

Hold The space for cargo below the deck of the ship
Hold Water To stop the progress of a boat by keeping the oar-blades in the water.
Holy-Stone  A large stone used for cleaning a ship's decks.
Home The sheets of a sail are said to be home when the clews are hauled chock out to the sheave-holes. An anchor comes home when it is loosened from the ground and is hove in toward the vessel.
Hood A covering for a companion hatch, skylight, etc.
Hood-Ends Or Hooding-Ends, Or Whooden-Ends.  Those ends of the planks which fit into the rabbets of the stem or sternpost.
Hook-And-Butt The scarfing, or laying the ends of timbers over each other.
Horns The jaws of booms. Also, the ends of crosstrees.
Horse (See FOOT-ROPE.)
Horse/Traveler Metal or rope traveler to sheet a sail.
Hounds Those projections at the masthead serving as shoulders for the top or trestle-trees to rest upon.
House To house a mast is to lower it almost half its length and secure it by lashing its heel to the mast below.
Housing, or House-Line (Pronounced houze-lin.) A small cord made of three small yarns and used for seizings.

The main body of the boat, not including the deck, mast or cabins.(see A-Hull)

Hurricane A strong tropical revolving storm of force 12 (65 mph) or higher in the Northern Hemisphere. Hurricanes revolve in a clockwise direction.
Hypothermia The loss of body heat -- is the greatest danger for anyone in the water. As the body loses its heat, body functions slow. This can quickly lead to death.

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In-And-Out A term sometimes used for the scantline [sic] of the timbers, the moulding way, and particularly for those bolts that are driven into the hanging and lodging knees, through the sides, which are called in-and-out bolts.
In Irons A sailboat with its bow pointed directly into the wind, preventing the sails from filling properly so that the boat can move.

A piece brought on at the fore side of the main-post and generally continued as high as the wing-transom to seat the other transoms upon.


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Jack  A common term for the jack-cross-trees. (See UNION.)
Jack-Block  A block used in sending topgallant masts up and down.
Jack-Cross-Trees Iron cross-trees at the head of long topgallant masts.
Jack Line A strong line, or a wire stay running fore and aft along the sides of a boat to which a safety harness can be attached.
Jack-Staff A short staff, raised at the bowsprit cap, upon which the Union Jack is hoisted.
Jack-Stays Ropes stretched taut along a yard to bend the head of the sail to. Also, long strips of wood or iron, used now for the same purpose.
Jack-Screw A purchase, used for stowing cotton.
Jacobs Ladder A rope ladder with wooden steps.
Jaws The inner ends of booms or gaffs, hollowed in.
Jeers Tackles for hoisting the lower yards.
Jettison To throw overboard.
Jetty A man made structure projecting from the shore. Breakwater protecting a harbor entrance.
Jewel-Blocks Single blocks at the yard-arms through which the studdingsail halyards lead.

A triangular foresail in front of the foremast.

Flying jib sets outside of the jib; and the jib-o'-jib outside of that.

Jibboom Spar forward of bowsprit  to which the the tack of the jib is lashed.
Jib Sheet The lines that lead from the clew of the jib.
Jigger Aft sail on the mizzenmast of a yawl or a ketch. After mast  (4th mast) on schooner or sailing ship carrying a spanker.

A small tackle, used about decks or aloft.

Jibe To go from one tack to the other when running with the wind coming over the stern.
Jolly-Boat  A small boat, usually hoisted at the stern.
Junk Condemned rope cut up and used for making mats, swabs, oakum, & etc.
Jury-Mast A temporary mast, rigged at sea, in place of one lost.

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Keckling Old rope wound round cables to keep them from chafing. (See ROUNDING.)
Kedge   A small anchor, with an iron stock, used for warping.

To kedge is to warp a vessel ahead by a kedge and hawser.

Keel The timber at the very bottom of the hull fore and aft to which frames are attached. It may be composed of several pieces scarfed and bolted together.(see False Keel)
Keel-Haul To pass a person backwards and forwards under a ship's keel, for certain offences.
Keelson A timber placed over the keel on the floor-timbers, and running parallel with it.
Kentledge Pig-iron ballast, laid each side of the keelson.

Two-masted boats, the after mast shorter, but with a ketch the after mast is forward of the rudder post .

Kevel or Cavil A strong piece of wood, bolted to some timber or stanchion, used for belaying large ropes to.
Kevel-Heads Timber-heads, used as kevels.
King Spoke Marked top spoke on a wheel when the rudder is centered.
Kink  A Twist In A Rope.
Knees Supporting braces used for strength when two parts are joined.
Knockabout A type of schooner without a bowsprit.
Knight-Heads Or Bollard-Timbers The timbers next the stem on each side, and continued high enough to form a support for the bowsprit.
Knees Crooked pieces of timber, having two arms, used to connect the beams of a vessel with her timbers. (See DAGGER.)

Lodging knees are placed horizontally, having one arm bolted to a beam and the other across two of the timbers.

Knee of the head is placed forward of the stem, and supports the figurehead.

Knittles, Or Nettles

The halves of two adjoining yarns in a rope, twisted up together, for pointing or grafting. Also, small line used for seizings and for hammock-clews.

Knock-Off! An order to leave off work.
Knot    A division on the log line, answering to a nautical mile of distance.

A speed of one nautical mile per hour.

Intertwining the parts of one or more ropes.

To crown a knot is to pass the strands over and under each other above the knot.

  Etymology: Middle English, from Old English cnotta; akin to Old High German knoto knot Date: before 12th century  

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Labor A vessel is said to labor when she rolls or pitches heavily.
Lacing Rope used to lash a sail to a gaff, or a bonnet to a sail. Also, a piece of compass or knee timber, fayed to the back of the figure-head and the knee of the head, and bolted to each.
Land-Fall The making land after being at sea.

A good land-fall is when a vessel makes the land as intended.

Land Ho!   The cry used when land is first seen.

See Canister

Langrel See Canister

See Canister

Lanyard  A shot line used for making anything fast or used as a handle.

Ropes rove through dead-eyes for setting up rigging.

Larboard The left side of a vessel, looking forward.
Larbowlines The familiar term for the men in the larboard watch.

A vessel is said to be going large when she has the wind free.

Latchings Loops on the head rope of a bonnet, by which it is laced to the foot of the sail.
Latitude The distance north or south of the equator measured and expressed in degrees.
Lazyjacks Lines from topping lifts to under boom, which act as a net to catch the sails when lowered.
Launch  Large. The Long Boat.
Launch-Ho High enough!
Lay  To come or to go; as, Lay aloft! Lay forward! Lay aft!  Also, the direction which the strands of a rope are twisted as, from left to right, or from right to left.
Lazarette A storage compartment in the stern.
Leach (See Leech.)
Leachline A rope used for hauling up the leach of a sail.
Lead  A piece of lead in the shape of a cone or pyramid with a small hole at the base, and a line attached to the upper end used for sounding. (See HAND-LEAD, DEEP-SEA-LEAD.)
Leading-Wind  A fair wind. More particularly applied to a wind abeam or quartering.
League Measure of distance three miles in length.
Leak A hole or breach in a vessel, at which the water comes in.

The side sheltered from the wind. If a vessel has the wind on her starboard side, that will be the weather, and the larboard will be the lee side.

Under the lee of anything is when you have that between you and the wind.

By the lee is the situation of a vessel going free when she has fallen off so much as to bring the wind round her stern and to take her sails aback on the other side.

Lee-Board  A board fitted to the lee side of flat-bottomed boats, to prevent their drifting to leeward.
Lee-Gage (See Gage.)
Leech After edge of a fore and aft sail.
Leefange  An iron bar, upon which the sheets of fore-and-aft sails traverse. Also, a rope rove through the cringle of a sail which has a bonnet to it, for hauling in, so as to lace on the bonnet. Not much used.
Leeward (Pronounced lu-ard.)The lee side. In a direction opposite to that from which the wind blows, which is called windward. The opposite of lee is weather, and of leeward is windward; the two first being adjectives.
Leeway  What a vessel loses by drifting to leeward. When sailing close-hauled with all sail set, a vessel should make no leeway. If the topgallant sails are furled, it is customary to allow one point; under close-reefed topsails, two points; when under one close-reefed sail, four or five points.
Ledges Small pieces of timber placed athwart-ships under the decks of a vessel, between the beams.
Lie-To Is to stop the progress of a vessel at sea, either by counterbracing the yards, or by reducing sail so that she will make little or no headway, but will merely come to and fall off by the counteraction of the sails and helm.
Life-Lines Ropes carried along yards, booms, &c., or at any part of the vessel, for men to hold on by.

A rope or tackle, going from the yardarms to the masthead, to support and move the yard. Also, a term applied to the sails when the wind strikes them on the leeches and raises them slightly.

Light To move or lift anything along; as, to "Light out to windward!" that is, haul the sail over to windward. The light sails are all above the topsails, also the studdingsails and flying jib.
Lighter  A large boat, used in loading and unloading vessels.
Limbers, or Limber-Holes Holes cut in the lower part of the floor-timbers next the keelson forming a passage for the water fore-and-aft.
Limber Boards are placed over the limbers, and are movable.
Limber-Rope A rope rove fore-and-aft through the limbers, to clear them if necessary.
Limber-Streak The streak of foot-waling nearest the keelson.
Lines Ropes used for various purposes aboard a boat.
Lines Drawing A plan showing, in three views, the moulded surface of the vessel.
List The inclination of a vessel to one side; as, a list to port, or a list to starboard.
Lizard A piece of rope, sometimes with two legs, and one or more iron thimbles spliced into it. It is used for various purposes. One with two legs, and a thimble to each, is often made fast to the topsail for the buntlines to reeve through. A single one is sometimes used on the swinging-boom topping-lift.
Locker A chest or box, to stow anything away in.

Chain-locker - Where the chain cable are kept.

Boatswain's locker - Where tools and small stuff for working upon rigging are kept.

Log A line with a piece of board called the log-chip attached to it, wound upon a reel, and used for ascertaining the ship's rate of sailing.
Log, or Logbook  A journal kept by the chief officer, in which the situation of the vessel, winds, weather, courses, distances, and everything of importance that occurs, is noted down.

The largest boat in a merchant vessel. When at sea, it is carried between the fore and main masts.

Longers The longest casks, stowed next the keelson.
Longitude The distance in degrees east or west of the meridian at Greenwich, England.
Longitudinals These run fore and aft from bulkhead to bulkhead, except in the shelter and upper decks, where some are broken by hatch interference. They give strength and rigidity to the framework and shell. They are connected and welded at the flange of the channel to the shell or deck.
Long-Timbers Timbers in the cant-bodies, reaching from the deadwood to the head of the second futtock.
Loof That part of a vessel where the planks begin to bend as they approach the stern.
Loom That part of an oar which is within the row-lock. Also, to appear above the surface of the water; to appear larger than nature, as in a fog.
Luff Up To steer the boat more into the wind, thereby causing the sails to flap or luff.
Luff-Tackle  A purchase composed of a double and single block.
Luff-upon-luff A luff tackle applied to the fall of another.
Lugger A small vessel carrying lug-sails.
Lug-Still A sail used in boats and small vessels, bent to a yard, which hangs obliquely to the mast.
Lurch The sudden rolling of a vessel to one side.

(See Lie-To.)


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Made   A made mast or block is one composed of different pieces. A ship's lower mast is a made spar, her topmast is a whole spar.
Mainmast The tallest mast of the ship; on a schooner, the mast furthest aft.
Mainsail The sail set on the mainmast.-the lowest square sail on the mainmast.
Marlinespike  A tool for opening the strands of a rope while splicing.
Mall, or Maul (Pronounced mawl.)  A heavy iron hammer used in driving bolts. (See TOP-MAUL.)
Mallet A small maul, made of wood; as, caulking-mallet; also, serving-mallet, used in putting service on a rope.
Manger   A coaming just within the hawsehole.
Man-of War A warship intended for comba, usually carrying between 20 and 120 guns.
Manropes Ropes used in going up and down a vessel's side.
Mare Clausum  A navigable body of water. such as a sea, that is under the jurisdication of one nation and closed to all others.
Mare Liberum  A navigable body of water, such as sea, that is open to navigation by vessels of all nations.
Marl To wind or twist a small line or rope round another.
Marline (Pronounced mar-lin.)  Small two-stranded stuff, used for marling. A finer kind of spunyarn.

A kind of hitch used in marling.

Marlinspike An iron pin, sharpened at one end and having a hole in the other for a lanyard. Used both as a fid and a heaver.
Marry To join ropes together by a worming over both.
Martingale  A short perpendicular spar, under the bowsprit-end, used for guying down the head-stays. (See DOLPHIN STRIKER.)
Mast A spar set upright from the deck, to support rigging, yards and sails. Masts are whole or made.
Mat Made of strands of old rope, and used to prevent chafing.
Mate  An officer under the master.
Maul (See MALL.)
Mend To mend service, is to add more to it.
Meshes The places between the lines of netting.
Mess Any number of men who eat or lodge together.
Messenger  A rope used for heaving in a cable by the capstan.

The timbers at the broadest part of the vessel. (See AMID-SHIPS.)

Miss-Stays  To fail of going about from one tack to another. 
Mizzenmast  The aftermost mast of a ship. The spanker is sometimes called the mizzen.
Monkey Block A small single block strapped with a swivel. Also the blocks fasterned to the yard through which buntlines are roved.
Monkey Jacket Close fitting serge jacket. also known as Jackanaapes coat.
Monkey Rail In older wooden vessels, a topgallant rail above the quarter-deck or poop bulwarks (quarter boards). In modern vessels, a small rail above ship's stern enclosing standing-room for an officer supervising handling of mooring-lines in docking.
Moon-Sail  A small sail sometimes carried in light winds, above a skysail.
Moor To secure by two anchors.

The act of confining and securing a ship in a particular station by chains or cables, which are either fastened to the adjacent shore or to anchors on the bottom. A ship may be either moored by the head or by the head and stern; that is to lay, she may be secured by anchors before her, without any behind or she may have anchors out, both before and behind her; or her cables may be attached to polls, rings, or moorings which answer the same purpose. When a ship is moored by the head with her own anchors, they are disposed according to the circumstances of the place where the lies and the time she is to continue therein. Thus, wherever a tide ebbs and flows, it is usual to carry one anchor out towards the flood, and another towards the ebb, particularly where there is little room to range about, and the anchors are laid in the same manner, if the vessel is moored head and-stern in the same place. The situation of the anchors in a road or bay is usually opposed to the reigning winds or those which are most dangerous so that the ship rides therein with the effort of both her cables. Thus if she rides in a bay or road, which is exposed to a northerly wind and heavy sea from the same quarter, the anchors passing from the opposite bows ought to lie east and west from each other: hence, both the cables will retain the ship in her station with equal effort against the action of the wind and sea.

Moorings Usually an assemblage of anchors, chains, and bridles laid athwart the bottom of the river or haven to ride the shipping contained therein. The anchors employed on this occasion have rarely more than one fluke which is sunk in the river near low-water mark. Two anchors being fixed in this manner on the opposite sides of the river are furnished with a chain extending across from one to the other. In the middle of the chain is a large square link whose lower end terminates in a swivel which turns round in the chain as about an axis whenever the ship veers about with the change of the tide. To this swivel-link are attached the bridles, which are short pieces of cable, well served, whose upper ends are drawn into the ship at the mooring-ports and afterwards fastened to the masts or cable-bits. A great number of moorings of this sort are fixed in the royal ports or the harbours adjacent to the king's dock-yards,
Mortice  A morticed block is one made out of a whole block of wood with a hole cut in it for the sheave; in distinction from a made block.
Moulds The patterns by which the frames of a vessel are worked out.
Mouse To put turns of rope yarn or spunyarn round the end of a hook and its standing part when it is hooked to anything so as to prevent it slipping out.
Mousing A knot or puddening, made of yarns, and placed on the outside of a rope.
Muffle Putting mats or canvass round their looms in the rowlocks muffles oars.
Munions  The pieces that separate the lights in the galleries.

Small iron or brass hand gun used for anti-personnel defence (agains boarders)aboard ship. A spike was provided to allow the weapon to be used at various places around the ship.


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Naval Hoods, or Hawse Bolsters Plank above and below the hawse-holes.
Navigable An area with sufficient depth of water to permit vessel passage.
Navigation The art of getting vessel from one port to the next port.
Nautical Mile

1 nm = 1853 meters = 2000 yards = 6080 feet.  Contrary to some earlier replies, a nautical mile is (or was) the length of a minute of latitude at the latitude in question, not at the equator. (Since the Earth isn't a perfect sphere, the length on the surface that is subtended by a degree or a minute of latitude decreases slightly towards the poles and the length of a nautical mile decreases with it.) The confusion may have arisen because a "geographic mile", a rarely used unit, is the length of a minute of longitude on the equator. As someone has already noted, a nautical mile is approximately 6080 English feet and that is often useful as a working measurement. Noted above is that the definition of "nautical mile" might no longer be the same because, approximately 25 years ago, it was admitted as a metric unit under the System Internationale (SI). Since the original designers of the metric system, about 1780, got their calculations wrong, Distances in kilometres cannot readily be related to the spherical geometry used in navigation. Maybe the idea was that one-kilometer should have been the distance subtended by one centigrade or 1/100 or 1/100 of a right angle, meaning that 10,000 km would have equaled 3,600 nautical miles, though that implies an unbelievably large error. So, in the 1970s, the committees, which control SI, were persuaded to accept the nautical mile as a valid unit.

While there are 3600 seconds in a degree, there are (of course!) 5400 minutes in a right angle. Thus, 10,000 km should be equal to 5400 nautical miles, if the former was defined correctly and the world was a perfect sphere. That makes 1.85185... (the three figures go on recurring into infinity), which suggests that the people who marked the metal bar to define the metre had their dimension very close indeed.

The nautical mile was originally defined as one minute of angle of the Earth's meridian. Since the meter originally was defined as a 10.000.000 part of the distance from Equator to the pole, it follows that a nautical mile is 10000000/5400 = 1851,851851 meters.

Neap Tides Low tides coming at the middle of the moon's second and fourth quarters. (See SPRING TIDES.)
NEAPED, or BENEAPED  The situation of a vessel when she is aground at the height of the spring tides.
Near Close to wind. "Near!" the order to the helmsman when he is too near the wind.
Net Tonnage Vessel's measurement of cargo carrying capacity.
Netting Network of rope or small lines used for stowing away sails or hammocks.
Nettles (See KNITTLES.)
Ninepin Block A block in the form of a ninepin used for a fair-leader in the rail.
Nip  A short turn in a rope.
Nippers   A number of yarns marled together used to secure a cable to the messenger.
Nock The forward upper end of a sail that sets with a boom.
Nun Buoy Red tapered navigation buoy.

Projections on each side of the shank of an anchor, to secure the stock to its place.


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Oakum Tarred hemp or manila fibers made from old and condemned ropes which have been picked apart. They were used for caulking the seams of decks and sides of a wooden ship in order to make them watertight.
Oar A long wooden instrument with a flat blade at one end, used for propelling boats.
Off-And-On To stand on different tacks towards and from the land.
Offing  Distance from the shore.
Orlop The lower deck of a ship of the line or that on which the cables are stowed.
Out-Haul  A rope used for hauling out the clew of a boom sail.
Out-Rigger A spar rigged out to windward from the tops or cross-trees to spread the breast-backstays.
Overhaul  To overhaul a tackle is to let go the fall and pull on the leading parts so as to separate the blocks.

To overhaul a rope is generally to pull a part through a block so as to make slack.

To overhaul rigging is to examine it.

Over-Rake  Said of heavy seas which come over a vessel's head when she is at anchor head to the sea.

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Painter  A rope attached to the bows of a boat, used for making her fast.
Palm   A piece of leather fitted over the hand, with an iron for the head of a needle to press against in sewing upon canvass. Also, the fluke of an anchor.
Panch (See PAUNCH.)
Parbuckle To hoist or lower a spar or cask by single ropes passed round it.
Parcel a Rope  To put a narrow piece of canvass (called parceling) round it before the service is put on.
Parcelling (See PARCEL.)
Parliament-Heel The situation of a vessel when she is careened.
Parral The rope by which a yard is confined to a mast at its center.
Part  To break a rope.
Partners A frame-work of short timber fitted to the hole in a deck, to receive the heel of a mast or pump, & etc.
Paunch Mat

A thick mat placed at the slings of a yard or elsewhere.

Pawl  A short bar of iron which prevents the capstan or windlass from turning back.

To pawl is to drop a pawl and secure the windlass or capstan.

Pay To cover over with tar or pitch.
Pay-Off  When a vessel's head falls off from the wind.
Pay Out To feed line over the side of the boat, hand over hand.
Pazaree  A rope attached to the clew of the foresail and rove through a block on the swinging boom. Used for guying the clews out when before the wind.

Outer end of the gaff of upper aft corner of a gaff sail. (See A-PEAK.)

A stay-peak is when the cable and fore stay form a line.

A short stay-peak is when the cable is too much in to form this line.


A long narrow piece of bunting carried at the masthead.

Broad pennant is a square piece, carried in the same way, in a commodore's vessel.

A rope to which a purchase is hooked. A long strap fitted at one end to a yard or masthead with a hook or block at the other end for a brace to reeve through, or to hook a tackle to.

PFD  Personal Flotation Devices (PFD), better known as life jackets.
Pillar of the Hold  A main stanchion with notches for descent and ascent.
Pillow  A block, which supports the inner end of the bowsprit.
Pilothouse A small cabin on the deck of the ship that protects the steering wheel and the crewman steering.
Pin The axis on which a sheave turns. Also, a short piece of wood or iron to belay ropes to.
Pink-Stern  A high, narrow stern.
Pinky  New England fishing and trading vessel usually 50 to 70' generally schooner rigged with or without a foresail. Built with pointed stern same shape as the bow.
Pinnace A boat, in size between the launch and a cutter.
Pintle A metal bolt, used for hanging a rudder.
Pitch  A resin taken from pine and used for filling up the seams of a vessel.
Pitching The movement of a ship, by which she plunges her head and after-part alternately into the hollow of the sea.
Planking Wood boards that cover the frames outside the hull.

Thick, strong boards used for covering the sides and decks of vessels.

Plat  A braid of foxes. (See FOX.)
Plate (See CHAIN-PLATE.)
Plug A piece of wood fitted into a hole in a vessel or boat so as to let in or keep out water.
Point    To take the end of a rope and work it over with knittles. (See REEF-POINTS.)
Pole  Applied to the highest mast of a ship, usually painted; as, skysail pole.
Pommelion A name given by seamen to the cascable or hindmost knob on the breech of a cannon." The pomelions were used to keep damp out of cannons during non-fighting periods -- and keep rust (and/or salt) from building up inside the barrel. This was probably 99 and 44/100th percent of the time.

It is related to 'Pommel', the knob terminating the hilt of a sword; also used for the saddlebow. Pommellum: diminutive of Latin 'Pomum' 'Fruit', or 'Apple' [French 'Pomme], etc.]

Poop A deck raised over the after part of the spar deck.

 A vessel is pooped when the sea breaks over her stern.


Perpendicular pieces of timber fixed to the fore-and-aft part of the bilge-ways in launching.

Port Used instead of larboard.

To port the helm is to put it to the larboard.


Holes in the side of a vessel to point cannon out of. (See BRIDLE.)

Portage To carry goods or boat between two navigatible points.
Portoise The gunwale. The yards are a-portoise when they rest on the gunwale.
Port-Sills (See SILLS.)
Predreadnoughts A main battery of 10-12 inch guns and a secondary battery of 5-6 inch guns.

Semi-dreadnoughts included an intermediate battery of 8-10 inch guns.

Dreadnoughts had a uniform main battery of 10-12 inch guns, in number at least twice as many as on Predreadnoughts and semidreadnoughts. The intermediate guns gave the ships additional hitting power above and beyond “true” Predreadnoughts, but the multiple calibers caused great difficulties in fire control (a splash from a 9.2 inch shell is indistinguishable from that of a 12 inch). This was one of the motivators for the design of the all-big-gun battleship, AKA dreadnought.

Preventer Line and/or tackle which limits the movement of the boom, usually for the purpose of preventing accidents or an extra rope to assist another.
Price  A quantity of spunyarn or rope laid close up together.
Prize An enemy vessel captured.

Cargo from captured ship

Prize Money  The proceeds from the sale of captured vessels allowed by the Admiralty.

Pricker. A small marlinspike, used in sail-making. It generally has a wooden handle.

Puddening   A quantity of yarns, matting or oakum, used to prevent chafing.
Pump-Brake The handle to the pump.
Purchase Any sort of mechanical power employed in raising or removing heavy bodies.

To purchase the anchor is to loosen it out of the ground.

To purchase is to raise by a purchase.


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Q Flag All yellow signal flag meaning "My vessel is healthy and I request free pratique".

The part of a vessel's side between the after part of the main chains and the stern. The quarter of a yard is between the slings and the yard-arm.

The wind is said to be quartering when it blows in a line between that of the keel and the beam and abaft the latter.

Quarter-Block  A block fitted under the quarters of a yard on each side the slings for the clewlines and sheets to reeve through.
Quarter-Deck That part of the upper deck abaft the main-mast.
Quarter-Master  A petty officer in a man-of-war who attends the helm and binnacle at sea and watches for signals, &etc. when in port.
Quartering Sea Winds and waves on a boat's quarter.
Quay Wharf used to discharge cargo
Queen Topsail

Small stay sail located between the foremast and mainmast.

Quick-Work That part of a vessel's side which is above the chain-wales and decks. So called in ship-building.
Quilting   A coating about a vessel, outside, formed of ropes woven together.
Quoin  A wooden wedge for the breech of a gun to rest upon.

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Rabbet  An incission in a piece of timber to receive the planks or timbers secured to it; e.g., the garboard and the keel.
Race  A strong, rippling tide.
Rack To seize two ropes together, with cross-turns. Also, a fair-leader for running rigging.
Rack-Block  A course of blocks made from one piece of wood, for fair-leaders.
Raddle Used to describe material used to make flat gaskets for securing boats when hoisted on to the davits.
Rake The inclination of a mast from the perpendicular.
Ramline A line used in mast-making to get a straight middle line on a spar.
Range of Cable A quantity of cable, more or less, placed in order for letting go the anchor or paying out.
Rating   The status of a seaman in officers it is their rank.
Ratlines (Pronounced rat-lins.)  Lines running across the shrouds horizontally like the rounds of a ladder and used to step upon in going aloft.
Rattle Down Rigging To put ratlines upon rigging. It is still called rattling down, though they are now rattled up beginning at the lowest.
Razee  A vessel of war, which has had one deck, cut down.
Red Jack 

Red flag used by pirates prior to 1700 replace by black flag.

Under the Red - Jack Pirates

Reef To reduce a sail by taking in upon its head, if a square sail, and its foot, if a fore-and-aft sail.

A reef is all of the sail that is comprehended between the head of the sail and the first reef-band, or between two reef-bands.

Reefing The operation of reducing a sail by taking in one or more of the reefs.
Reef-Bands Pieces of canvass, about six inches wide, sewed on the fore part of sails, where the points are fixed for reefing the sail.
Reef Points Short Line for the reef band to secure the foot of the sail.
Reef-Tackle  A tackle used to haul the middle of each leech up toward the yard so that the sail may be easily reefed.
Reeve To pass the end of a rope through a block, or any aperture.
Relieving Tackle   A tackle hooked to the tiller in a gale of wind, to steer by in case anything should happen to the wheel or tiller-ropes.
Render To pass a rope through a place. A rope is said to render or not, according as it goes freely through any place.
Rib-Bands Long, narrow, flexible pieces of timber nailed to the outside of the ribs, so as to encompass the vessel lengthwise.

A figurative term for a vessel's timbers.

Ride At Anchor   To lie at anchor. Also, to bend or bear down by main strength and weight; as, to ride down the main tack.
Riders Interior timbers placed occasionally opposite the principal ones to which they are bolted reaching from the keelson to the beams of the lower deck.

Also, casks forming the second tier in a vessel's hold.

Rigging The lines that hold up the masts and move the sails (standing and running rigging).
Right To right the helm is to put it amidships.
Rim    The edge of a top.

The iron ring at the upper end of an anchor, to which the cable is bent

Ring-Bolt  An eye-bolt with a ring through the eye. (See EYE-BOLT.)
Ring-Tail  A small sail, shaped like a jib, set abaft the spanker in light winds.
Roach  A curve in the foot of a square sail, by which the clews are brought below the middle of the foot. The roach of a fore-and-aft sail is in its forward leech.
Road, Or Roadstead    An anchorage at some distance from the shore.
Robands (See ROPE-BANDS.)
Rode The anchor line and/or chain.
Rolling Tackle  Tackles used to steady the yards in a heavy sea.
Rombowline Condemned canvass, rope, & etc.
Rope-Bands, Or Robands  Small pieces of two or three yarn, spunyarn, or marline used to confine the head of the sail to the yard or gaff.
Rope-Yarn A thread of hemp or other material of which a rope is made.
Rough-Tree  An unfinished spar.
Round In To haul in on a rope, especially a weather-brace.
Round Up To haul up on a tackle.

A service of rope hove round a spar or larger rope.

Roundhouse   The officers' head. At the front of the ship, it was a small round cubicle that provided privacy and protection from the elements.

A name given in East Indiamen and other large merchant ships to square cabins built on the after-part of the quarterdeck and having the poop for its roof; such an apartment is frequently called the "coach" in ships of war. Round, because one can walk around it. In some trading vessels the round house is built on the deck, generally abaft the main mast.

Rowlocks, Or Rollocks   Places cut in the gunwale of a boat for the oar to rest in while pulling.
Royal  A light sail next above a topgallant sail.
Royal Yard The yard from which the royal is set. The fourth from the deck.
Rubber A small instrument used to rub or flatten down the seams of a sail in sail making.
Rudder A fin or blade attached under the hull’s stern used for steering.
Run The after part of a vessel's bottom which rises and narrows in approaching the sternpost.

By the run is to let go altogether, instead of slacking off.

Rung-Heads The upper ends of the floor-timbers.
Runner  A rope used to increase the power of a tackle. It is rove through a single block which you wish to bring down and a tackle is hooked to each end, or to one end, the other being made fast.
Running Lights Navigation lights tell other vessels not only where you are, but what you are doing.
Running Rigging Lines which run through pulleys and block and tackle that are used to adjust the sails and yards.

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Saddles Pieces of wood hollowed out to fit on the yards to which they are nailed, having a hollow in the upper part for the boom to rest in.
Sag To sag to leeward, is to drift off bodily to leeward.
Sail A piece of cloth that catches the wind and so powers a vessel. They are of two kinds: square sails, which hang from yards, their foot lying across the line of the keel, as the courses, topsails, & etc., and fore-and-aft sails, which set upon gaffs, or on stays, their foot running with the line of the keel, as jib, spanker, & etc.
Sail Ho!   The cry used when a sail is first discovered at sea.
Sailing Rig The equipment used to sail a boat, including sails, booms and gaffs, lines and blocks.
Salon, also Saloon Main social cabin of a boat.
Save-All  A small sail sometimes set under the foot of a lower studdingsail. (See WATER SAIL.)
Scandalize A method of reducing sail by taking up the tack and lowering the peak on fore and aft sails. On a square rig ship the yards are not set square to the masts when the ship is at anchor, used as a sign for mourning or a death on board. Mid 19th cent.; alteration of obsolete scantelize, from scantle 'make small.
Scantling A term applied to any piece of timber with regard to its breadth and thickness when reduced to the standard size.
Scarf To join two pieces of timber at their ends by shaving them down and placing them over-lapping.

Sailing ships with at least 2 masts (foremast and mainmast) with the mainmast being the taller. Word derives from the term "schoon/scoon" meaning to move smoothly and quickly. ( a 3-masted vessel is called a "tern").

A fore-and-aft schooner has only fore-and-aft sails.

A topsail schooner carries a square fore topsail, and frequently, also, topgallant sail and royal. There are some schooners with three masts. They also  have no tops.

A main-topsail schooner is one that carries square topsails, fore and aft.

Score  A groove in a block or dead-eye.
Scotchman  A large batten placed over the turnings-in of rigging. (See BATTEN.)
Scraper  A small, triangular iron instrument with a handle fitted to its center and used for scraping decks and masts.
Scrowl  A piece of timber bolted to the knees of the head in place of a figure-head.
Scud To drive before a gale with no sail or only enough to keep the vessel ahead of the sea. Also, low, thin clouds that fly swiftly before the wind.
Scull  A short oar.

To sculll  is to impel a boat by one oar at the stern.

Scuppers Holes cut in the water-ways for the water to run from the decks.

Holes through the shipsides, which drain water at deck level over the side.

Scuttle  A hole cut in a vessel's deck, as, a hatchway. Also, a hole cut in any part of a vessel.

To scuttle is to cut or bore holes in a vessel to make her sink.

Scuttlebutt (See BUTT.)
Scrimshaw  A sailors carving or etching on bones, teeth, tusks or shells
Scurvy Disease historically common to seaman caused by lack of Vitamin "C".
Sea Cock  A through hull valve, a shut off on a plumbing or drain pipe between the vessel's interior and the sea boat.

The intervals between planks in a vessel's deck or side.

Semi-dreadnoughts Included an intermediate battery of 8-10 inch guns.
Secure To make fast.
Seize To fasten ropes together by turns of small stuff.
Seizings The fastenings of ropes that are seized together.
Selvagee  A skein of rope-yarns or spunyarn marled together. Used as a neat strap.
Send When a ship's head or stern pitches suddenly and violently into the trough of the sea.
Sennit, Or Sinnit  A braid, formed by plaiting rope-yarns or spunyarn together. Straw, plaited in the same way for hats, is called sennit.
Serve To wind small stuff, as rope-yarns, spunyarn, & etc., round a rope, to keep it from chafing. It is wound and hove round taut by a serving-board or mallet.
Service To wind around.
Set To set up rigging is to tauten it by tackles. The seizings are then put on afresh.
Shackles  Links in a chain cable which are fitted with a movable bolt so that the chain can be separated.
Shakes The staves of hogsheads taken apart.

The main piece in an anchor, at one end of which the stock is made fast, and at the other the arms.

Shank-Painter  A strong rope by which the lower part of the shank of an anchor is secured to the ship's side.
Sharp Up  Said of yards when braced as near fore-and-aft as possible.
Sheathing A casing or covering on a vessel's bottom.
Shears Two or more spars raised at angles and lashed together near their upper ends, used for taking in masts.
Shear Hulk An old vessel fitted with shears, & etc., and used for taking out and putting in the masts of other vessels.
Sheave The wheel in a block upon which the rope works.
Sheave-Hole The place cut in a block for the ropes to reeve through.
Sheep-Shank  A kind of hitch or bend, used to shorten a rope temporarily.
Sheer, Or Sheer-Strake The line of plank on a vessel's side running fore-and-aft under the gunwale. Also, a vessel's position when riding by a single anchor.
Sheet  A rope used in setting a sail to keep the clew down to its place. With square sails, the sheets run through each yard-arm. With boom sails, they haul the boom over one way and another. They keep down the inner clew of a studdingsail and the after clew of a jib. (See HOME.)
Sheet-Anchor  A vessel's largest anchor; not carried at the bow.
Sheetbend A knot used to tie two ropes of unequal thickness together

The principal function of the shell is to act as a watertight skin. It also gives strength to the construction of intermediate parts.

The outer part or body of a block in which the sheave revolves.


An old sailor who has a vast knowledge of seamanship and who is able to pass on their knowledge. The name come from being at sea for so long seashells grew on his back. Can also be used to identify an old fashion seaman.

Shingle (See BALLAST.)
Ship  A vessel with three masts with tops and yards to each.

To enter on board a vessel.

To fix anything in its place.

Shiver To shake the wind out of a sail by bracing it so that the wind strikes upon the leech.
Shoe A piece of wood used for the bill of an anchor to rest upon to save the vessel's side. Also, for the heels of shears, & etc.
Shoe-Block A block with two sheaves, one above the other, the one horizontal and the other perpendicular.
Shore A prop or stanchion placed under a beam.

To shore is to prop up.

Shroud A line or wire running from the top of the mast to the spreaders, then attaching to the side of the vessel.
Shot Garlands

The function of the shot garlands was to house the ready-use stock of round shot. Garlands were usually made from a plank of oak of suitable length, fashioned with hollows or bowels in which the shot sat. The width and depth of the plank was governed by the size of the shot; therefore, it can be assumed that its width was generally twice that of the diameter of the shot and its depth no less than three quarters the diameter. The hollows had to be sufficiently deep to ensure that the shot would not roll out when the ship healed in heavy seas. Usually each garland was situated around hatches and other features along the centreline of the deck. They were also fitted to the ships side and to the bulwarks of the foc'sle and the quarter deck, but this practice was eliminated by the end of the eighteenth century. This abolition was ordered by the Navy Board in 1780.This ensured that most of the weight borne by the vessel was as close to the centreline as possible.

Lavery's book 'The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War

1600-1815' tends to agree with the above, late 1600's shot was stacked in piles held together by tarpaulins. Then in the early 1700's shot racks fitted to bulwarks between gun positions and abolition of same resulting in oak shot racks around coamings and hatchways near midline as possible.

Some ships were fitted with brass shot racks around the hatchways,  Another fond name for a shot rack was a monkey, like the powder monkey, and these were referred to as brass monkeys.

In winter when these brass shot racks got water into the hollows it didn't soak away like it would in a wooden rack, it just froze and expanded, then more water from scrubbing decks, etc. would add to it until the ball was pushed out of the rack, This was referred to as freezing the balls off a brass monkey and it has been part of English language ever since.

SIGNALS Certain alarms or notices used to communicate intelligence to a distant object at sea. Signals are made by firing artillery and displaying colours, lanthorns, or fire-works. These are combined by multiplication and repetition. Thus, like the words of a language, they become arbitrary expressions to which we have previously annexed particular ideas  Hence, they are the general sources of intelligence throughout a naval armament, & etc.


Signals ought to be distinct with simplicity. They are simple when every instruction is expressed by a particular token in order to avoid any mistakes arising from the double purport of one signal. They are distinct when issued without precipitation when sufficient time is allowed to observe and obey them, and when they are exposed in a conspicuous place so as to be readily percieved at a distance. All signals may be reduced into three different kinds, viz. Those which are made by the sound of particular instruments as the trumpet, horn, or fife to which may be added, striking the bell, or beating the drum. Those which are made by displaying pendents, ensigns, and flags of different colours, or by lowering or altering the position of the sails. And, finally, those which are executed by rockets of different kinds by firing cannon or small arms.  By artificial fire-works and by lanthorns. Firing of great guns will serve equally in the day or night, or in a fog to make or confirm signals or to raise the attention of the hearers to a future order. This method, however, is attended with some inconveniencies and should not be used indiscriminately. Too great a repetition of the cannon is apt to introduce mistakes and confusion, as well as, to discover the track of the squadron. The report and flight of the rockets is liable to the same objection when at a short distance from the enemy. It is then, by the combination of signals previously known, that the admiral conveys orders to his fleet, every squadron, every division, and every ship of which has its particular signal. The instruction may, therefore, occasionally be given to the whole fleet, or to any of its squadrons; to any division of those squadrons, or to any ship of those divisions. Hence the signal of command may at the same time be displayed for three divisions and for three ships of each division, or for three ships in each squadron and for only nine ships in the whole fleet. For, the general signal of the fleet being shown if a particular pendent be also thrown out from some remarkable place on the same mast with the general signal, it will communicate intelligence to nine ships that wear the same pendent.

Sills Pieces of timber put in horizontally between the frames to form and secure any opening; as, for ports.
Sister Block 

A long piece of wood with two sheaves in it, one above the other, with a score between them for a seizing, and a groove around the block, lengthwise.

Skids Pieces of timber placed up and down a vessel's side, to bear any articles off clear that are hoisted in.
Skin The part of a sail which is outside and covers the rest when it is furled. Also, familiarly, the sides of the hold as an article is said to be stowed next the skin.
Skysail  A light sail next above the royal.
Sky-Scraper   A name given to a skysail when it is triangular.
Slabline  A small line used to haul up the foot of a course.
Slack The part of a rope or sail that hangs down loose.

Slack in stays is said of a vessel when she works slowly in tacking.

Sleepers   The knees that connect the transoms to the after timbers on the ship's quarter.
Sling To set a cask, spar, gun, or other article, in ropes so as to put on a tackle and hoist or lower it.
Slings The ropes used for securing the center of a yard to the mast.

Yard-slings are now made of iron. Also a large rope fitted so as to go round any article, which is to be hoisted or lowered.

Slip   To let a cable go and stand out to sea.
Slip-Rope  A rope bent to the cable just outside the hawsehole and brought in on the weather quarter for slipping.
Loop A single-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailing vessel with a single headsail set from the forestay.
Sloop Of War  A vessel of any rig, mounting between 18 and 32 guns.

To turn anything round or over.

Small Stuff  The term for spunyarn, marline, and the smallest kinds of rope, such as ratline-stuff, & etc.
Snake To pass small stuff across a seizing, with marling hitches at the outer turns.
Snatch Block  A single block, with an opening in its side below the sheave, or at the bottom, to receive the bight of a rope.
Snotter  A rope going over a yard-arm, with an eye, used to bend a tripping-line to in sending down topgallant and royal yards in vessels of war.
Snow  A kind of brig, formerly used.
Snub  To check a rope suddenly.
Snying A term for a circular plank edgewise, to work in the bows of a vessel.
Spar A pole or a beam.
Spreaders Small spars between the mast and shrouds.
Spring Line A line tied between two opposing forces that has a neutralizing effect. At the dock with a bow line and stern line tied off, a spring line is often added to limit the movements of a vessel even more.
So! An order to 'vast hauling upon anything when it has come to its right position.

The inside deck of the ship.

A piece of timber fastened to the foot of the rudder to make it level with the false keel.

Sound  To get the depth of water by a lead and line.  An iron-sounding rod marked with a scale of feet and inches sounds the pumps.
Span  A rope with both ends made fast, for a purchase to be hooked to its bight.
Spanker The after sail of a ship or bark. It is a fore-and-aft sail setting with a boom and gaff.
Spar  The general term for all masts, yards, booms, gaffs, & etc.
Spell The common term for a portion of time given to any work.

To spell is to relieve another at his work.

Spell ho! An exclamation used as an order or request to be relieved at work by another.
Spencer A fore-and-aft sail set with a gaff and no boom and hoisting from a small mast called a spencer-mast just abaft the fore and main masts.
Spill To shake the wind out of a sail by bracing it so that the wind may strike its leech and shiver it.
Spilling Line A rope used for spilling a sail. Rove in bad weather.
Spindle   An iron pin upon which the capstan moves. Also, a piece of timber forming the diameter of a made mast. Also, any long pin or bar upon which anything revolves.
Spinnaker A large triangular sail carried forward of the main mast on modern sailing ships. Used when running before the wind. First introduced on the yatch Sphinx during the 1870's and origionally called a "Spinxer".
Spirketing   The planks from the waterways to the port-sills.

To join two ropes together by interweaving their strands.


To run before a gale (scud).

Spoondrift  Water swept from the tops of the waves by the violence of the wind in a tempest, and driven along before it, covering the surface of the sea.
Spray An occasional sprinkling dashed from the top of a wave by the wind, or by its striking an object.

To crack or split a mast.

To spring a leak is to begin to leak.

To spring a luff is to force a vessel close to the wind, in sailing.

Spring-Stay  A preventer; a stay to assist the regular one. (See STAY.)
Spring Tides The highest and lowest course of tides, occurring every new and full moon.
Sprit  A small boom or gaff, used with some sails in small boats.. The lower end rests in a becket or snotter by the foot of the mast and the other end spreads  and raises the outer upper corner of the sail crossing it diagonally. A sail so rigged in a boat is called a sprit-sail.
Sprit-Sail-Yard  A yard lashed across the bowsprit or knight-heads and used to spread the guys of the jib and flying jib-boom. There was formerly a sail bent to it called a sprit-sail.
Spunyarn  A cord formed by twisting together two or three rope-yarns.
Spurling Line  A line communicating between the tiller and tell-tale.
Spurs Pieces of timber fixed on the bilge-ways with their upper ends bolted to the vessel's sides above the water. Also, curved pieces of timber serving as half beams to support the decks where whole beams cannot be placed.

Large pieces of timber that come abaft the pump-well.

Square Yards are squared when they are horizontal and at right angles with the keel. Squaring by the lifts makes them horizontal, and by the braces, makes them at right angles with the vessel's line. Also, the proper term for the length of yards. A vessel has square yards when her yards are unusually long. A sail is said to be very square on the head when it is long on the head.

To square a yard in a working ship means to bring it in square by the braces.

Square Rig   A ship carrying square sails
Square-Sail  Is the oldest type of sail. Its is a square or rectangular sail held horizontal by a yard.

A temporary sail set at the fore-mast of a schooner or sloop when going before the wind. (See SAIL.)

Square Knot Used for tying two ropes together.
Squall A sudden violent blast of wind.
Stay A line or wire from the mast to the bow or stern of a ship for support of the mast (fore, back, running, and triadic stays).
Starboard Right side of the ship when facing forward.
Standing Rigging Shrouds and stays that secure the yards and mast in place.
Stay Sail Any sail attached to a stay.
Stem The timber at the very front of the bow.

After end of a vessel.

Stabber  A Pricker.
Staff A pole or mast used to hoist flags upon.
Stanchions Upright posts of wood or iron placed so as to support the beams of a vessel. Also, upright pieces of timber placed at intervals along the sides of a vessel to support the bulwarks and rail and reaching down to the bends by the side of the timbers to which they are bolted. Also, any fixed, upright support, as to an awning, or for the manropes.
Lifting Stanchion A stanchion made of iron and may be raised and fastened to the beam above.
Stand By An order to be prepared.

An inverted knee, placed above the deck instead of beneath it; as, bill-standard.

Standing The standing part of a rope is that part which is fast, in opposition to the part that is hauled upon or the main part in opposition to the end.

The standing part of a tackle is that part which is made fast to the blocks and between that and the next sheave, in opposition to the hauling and leading parts.

Standing Rigging That part of a vessel's rigging which is made fast and not hauled upon.


Starboard The right side of a vessel, looking forward.
Star bowlines The familiar term for the men in the starboard watch.
Start To start a cask is to open it.
Stay  To tack a vessel or put her about so that the wind on one side is brought upon the other round the vessel's head.


To stay a mast is to incline it forward or aft or to one side or the other by the stays and backstays. Thus, a mast is said to be stayed too much forward or aft or too much to port.

Stays Large ropes used to support masts and leading from the head of some mast down to some other mast or to some part of the vessel. Those which lead forward are called fore-and-aft stays and those which lead down to the vessel's sides, backstays. (See BACKSTAYS.)

In stays, or hore [sic][?? have?] in stays the situation of a vessel when she is staying or going about from one tack to the other.

Staysail A sail, which hoists upon a stay.
Steady An order to keep the helm as it is.

To control the direction of a vessel via the steering gear.

To Steer small is to keep a vessel on course with only small movements of the steering gear.

To Steer large is the opposite to steer small.

Steerage That part of the between-decks which is just forward of the cabin.
Steeve A bowsprit steeves more or less according as it is raised more or less from the horizontal.

The steeve is the angle it makes with the horizon. Also, a long, heavy spar with a place to fit a block at one end and used in stowing certain kinds of cargo which need be driven in close.

Stem   A piece of timber reaching from the forward end of the keel to which it is scarfed up to the bowsprit and to which the two sides of the vessel are united.
Stemson A piece of compass-timber fixed on the after part of the apron inside. The lower end is scarfed into the keelson and receives the scarf of the stem through which it is bolted.
Step A block of wood secured to the keel into which the heel of the mast is placed.

To step a mast is to put it in its step.

Stern The after end of a vessel. (See BY THE STERN.)
Stern-Board The motion of a vessel when going sternforemost.
Stern-Frame The frame composed of the sternpost transom and the fashion-pieces.
Sternpost The aftermost timber in a ship reaching from the after end of the keel to the deck. The stem and sternpost are the two extremes of a vessel's frame.

Inner sternpost is a post on the inside corresponding to the sternpost.

Stern Sheets The after part of a boat abaft the rowers where the passengers sit.

The movement by which a ship retreats, or falls backward, with her stern foremost.

Stiff The quality of a vessel which enables it to carry a great deal of sail without lying over-much on her side. The opposite to crank.
Stirrups Ropes with thimbles at their ends through which the footropes are rove and by which they are kept up toward the yards.
Stock  A beam of wood or a bar of iron secured to the upper end of the shank of an anchor at right angles with the arms. An iron stock usually goes with a key and unships.
Stocks The frame upon which a vessel is built.
Stools Small channels for the deadeyes of the backstays.
Stopper  A stout rope with a knot at one end and sometimes a hook at the other used for various purposes about decks as making fast a cable so as to overhaul.


Stopper Bolts Ringbolts to which the deck stoppers are secured.
Stop A fastening of small stuff. Also, small projections on the outside of the cheeks of a lower mast at the upper parts of the hounds.
Strand A number of rope-yarns twisted together. Three, four or nine strands twisted together form a rope.

A rope is stranded when one of its strands is parted or broken by chafing or by a strain.

A vessel is stranded when she is driven on shore.

Strap A piece of rope spliced rounds a block to keep its parts well together. Some blocks have iron straps, in which case they are called iron bound.
Streak, or Strake 

A range of planks running fore-and-aft on a vessel's side.

Stream The stream anchor is one used for warping, & etc., and sometimes as a lighter anchor to moor by with a hawser. It is smaller than the bowers and larger than the kedges.

To stream a buoy is to drop it into the water.

Stretchers Pieces of wood placed across a boat's bottom, inside, for the oarsmen to press their feet against in rowing. Also, cross pieces placed between a boat's sides to keep them apart when hoisted up and griped.
Strike To lower a sail or colors.
Studdingsails Light sails set outside the square sails on booms rigged out for that purpose. They are only carried with a fair wind and in moderate weather.
Sued, or Sewed The condition of a ship when she is high and dry on shore. If the water leaves her two feet, she sues, or is sued two feet.
Supporters The knee-timbers under the catheads.
Surf The breaking of the sea upon the shore.
Surge A large, swelling wave.

To surge a rope or cable is to slack it up suddenly where it renders round a pin or round the windlass or capstan.

Surge Ho! The notice given when a cable is to be surged.
Swab  A mop, formed of old rope used for cleaning and drying decks.
Sweep To drag the bottom for an anchor. Also, large oars used in small vessels to force them ahead.
Swift To bring two shrouds or stays close together by ropes.
Swifter The forward shroud to a lower-mast. Also, ropes used to confine the capstan bars to their places when shipped.
Swig  A term used by sailors for the mode of hauling off upon the bight of a rope when its lower end is fast.
Swivel A long link of iron used in chain cables made so as to turn upon an axis and keep the turns out of a chain.

Lapping the edges of planks over each other for a bulkhead.


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Tabling Letting one beam-piece into another. (See SCARFING.) Also, the broad hem on the borders of sails to which the bolt-rope is sewed.
Tack To put a ship about so that from having the wind on one side you bring it round on the other by the way of her head. The opposite of wearing.

A vessel is on the starboard tack, or has her starboard tacks on board, when she has the wind on her starboard side.

The rope or tackle by which the weather clew of a course is hauled forward and down to the deck.

The lower forward corner of the sail

The tack of a fore-and-aft sail is the rope that keeps down the lower forward clew; and of a studdingsail, the lower outer clew. The tack of the lower studdingsail is called the outhaul. Also, that part of a sail in which the tack is attached.

Tackle (Pronounced tay-cle.)  A purchase, formed by a rope rove through one or more blocks.
Taffrail, or Tafferel The rail round a ship's stern.
Taffrail Log A propeller drawn through the water that operates a meter on the boat registering the speed and distance sailed.
Tail  A rope spliced into the end of a block and used for making it fast to rigging or spars. Such a block is called a tail-block.

A ship is said to tail up or down stream when at anchor according as her stern swings up or down with the tide in opposition to heading one way or another which is said of a vessel when under way.


A watch-tackle.

Tail On! or Tally On An order given to take hold of a rope and pull.
Tampion (TOMPION) Meaning a plug for a gun-muzzle dates from about 1480. Originally, it referred to a piece of cloth used as a stopper.
Tank  An iron vessel placed in the hold to contain the vessel's water.
Tar A liquid gum taken from pine and fir trees and used for caulking and to put upon yarns in rope-making and upon standing rigging to protect it from the weather.
Tarpaulin A piece of canvass covered with tar used for covering hatches, boats, etc. Also, the name commonly given to a sailor's hat when made of tarred or painted cloth.
Taut  Tight.
Taunt High or tall. Commonly applied to a vessel's masts.

All-a-taunt-o - Said of a vessel when she has all her light and tall masts and spars aloft.

Tell Tale A compass hanging from the beams of the cabin which may know the heading of a vessel at any time. Also, an instrument connected with the barrel of the wheel and traversing so that the officer may see the position of the tiller.
Tend To watch a vessel at anchor at the turn of tides and cast her by the helm and some sail if necessary so as to keep turns out of her cables.
Tenon The heel of a mast made to fit into the step.
Thick-&Thin Block A block having one sheave larger than the other. Sometimes used for quarter-blocks.

An iron ring, having its rim concaves on the outside for a rope or strap to fit snugly round.

Thole Pins  Pins in the gunwale of a boat between which an oar rests when pulling instead of a rowlock.
Throat The inner end of a gaff where it widens and hollows in to fit the mast. (See JAWS.) Also, the hollow part of a knee.

The throat brails are the halyards & etc., that hoist or haul up the gaff or sail near the throat. Also, the angle where the arm of an anchor is joined to the shank.

Thrum To stick short strands of yarn through a mat or piece of canvass to make a rough surface.
Thus (see dyce)
Thwarts The seats going across a boat, upon which the oarsmen sit.
Thwartships (See ATHWARTSHIPS.)
Tide To tide up or down a river or harbor is to work up or down with a fair tide and head wind or calm coming to anchor when the tide turns.
Tide-Rode The situation of a vessel at anchor, when she swings by the force of the tide. In opposition to wind-rode.
Tier A range of casks. Also, the range of the fakes of a cable or hawser.\

The cable tier is the place in a hold or between decks where the cables are stowed.


A bar of wood or iron put into the head of the rudder by which the rudder is moved.

Tiller-Ropes Ropes leading from the tiller-head round the barrel of the wheel by which a vessel is steered.
Timber A general term for all large pieces of wood used in shipbuilding. Also, more particularly, long pieces of wood in a curved form, bending outward, and running from the keel up, on each side forming the ribs of a vessel. The keel, stem, sternposts, and timbers form a vessel's outer frame.
Timber Heads The ends of the timbers that come above the decks. Used for belaying hawsers and large ropes.
Timenoguy  A rope carried taut between different parts of the vessel to prevent the sheet or tack of a course from getting foul in working ship.
Toggle  A pin placed through the bight or eye of a rope, block-strap, or bolt, to keep it in its place or to put the bight or eye of another rope upon and, thus, to secure them both together.
Top  A platform placed over the head of a lower mast resting on the trestletrees to spread the rigging and for the convenience of men aloft.

To top up a yard or boom is to raise up one end of it by hoisting on the lift.

Top-Block  A large ironbound block hooked into a bolt under the lower cap and used for the top-rope to reeve through in sending up and down topmasts.
Topgallant Mast The third mast above the deck.
Topgallantsail  The third sail above the deck.
Top-Light A signal lantern carried in the top.

A lining on the after part of sails to prevent them from chafing against the top-rim.

Topmast A second spar carried at the top of the fore or main mast used to fly more sail.
Topping Lift A line or wire for lifting the boom.
Top-Rope The rope used for sending topmasts up and down.
Topsail The second sail above the deck.

A sail set above the gaff.

Topsail Schooner A schooner with a square rigged sail on the forward mast.
Top Timbers The highest timbers on a vessel's side being above the futtocks.
Toss To throw an oar out of the rowlock and raise it perpendicularly on its end and lay it down in the boat with its blade forward.
Touch A sail is said to touch, when the wind strikes the leech so as to shake it a little.

Luff and touch her! The order to bring the vessel up and see how near she will go to the wind.

Tow  To draw a vessel along by means of a rope.
Train-Tackle The tackle used for running guns in and out.
Transom The planking that forms the stern and closes off the sides.
Transom-Knees  Knees bolted to the transoms and after timbers.

An iron ring fitted so as to slip up and down a rope.

Traverses These are the ribs or frames of the ship, and when placed in position, give the principal shape or contour, Transverses are not all the same distance apart; amidships, where there is the greatest strain, they are spaced more closely. The transverses are cut or notched where they connect on the shell to allow the longitudinals to pass through. Clips at these points strengthen them.
Treenails, or Trunnels Long wooden pins, used for nailing a plank to a timber.
Trend The lower end of the shank of an anchor being the same distance on the shank from the throat that the arm measures from the throat to the bill.
Trestle-Trees Two strong pieces of timber placed horizontally and fore-and-aft on opposite sides of a mast-head to support the cross-trees and top and for the fid of the mast above to rest upon.
Triatic Stay  A rope secured at each end to the heads of the fore and main masts with thimbles spliced into its bight to hook the stay tackles to.
Trice To haul up by means of a rope.
Trick The time allotted to a man to stand at the helm.
Trim  The condition of a vessel with reference to her cargo and ballast. A vessel is trimmed by the head or by the stern.

In ballast trim is when she has only ballast on board.

Also, to arrange the sails by the braces with reference to the wind.

Trip To raise an anchor clear of the bottom.
Tripping Line  A line used for tripping a topgallant or royal yard in sending it down.

A circular piece of wood, placed at the head of the highest mast on a ship. It has small holes or sheaves in it for signal halyards to be rove through. Also,  the wheel of a gun-carriage.

Trunnions  The arms on each side of a cannon by which it rests upon the carriage and on which, as an axis, it is elevated or depressed.
Truss The rope by which the centre of a lower yard is kept in toward the mast.
Trysail   A fore-and-aft sail set with a boom and gaff and hoisting on a small mast abaft the lower mast called a trysail-mast. This name is generally confined to the sail so carried at the mainmast of a full-rigged brig; those carried at the foremast and at the mainmast of a ship or bark being called spencers, and those that are at the mizzenmast of a ship or bark, spankers.
Tumbling Home  Said of a ship's sides when they fall in above the bends. The opposite of wall-sided.
Turn Passing a rope once or twice round a pin or kevel to keep it fast. Also, two crosses in a cable.

To turn in or turn out, nautical terms for going to rest in a berth or hammock and getting up from them.

Turn up!

The order given to send the men up from between decks.

Tye  A rope connected with a yard to the other end of which a tackle is attached for hoisting.

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Unbend  To cast off or untie. (See BEND.)
Underway Vessel in motion when not moored, at anchor, or aground.
Union The upper inner corner of an ensign. The rest of the flag is called the fly. The union of the U.S. ensign is a blue field with white stars, and the fly is composed of alternate white and red stripes.
Union-down The situation of a flag when it is hoisted upside down bringing the union down instead of up. Used as a signal of distress.
Union Jack A small flag containing only the union, without the fly, usually hoisted at the bowsprit-cap.

To heave up one anchor so that the vessel may ride at a single anchor. (See MOOR.)

Unship (See SHIP.)
Uvrou (See EUVROU.)

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V-Berth Usually the forward berth of the boat located in the bow.
Vane A small flag worn at each mast head to show wind direction.
VHF Very high frequency radio.
Vang  A rope leading from the peak of the gaff of a fore-and-aft sail to the rail on each side, and used for steadying the gaff.
Vast [written 'VAST; changed to alphabetize] (See AVAST.)
Veer  Said of the wind when it changes. Also, to slack a cable and let it run out. (See PAY.)

To veer and haul is to haul and slack alternately on a rope, as in warping, until the vessel or boat gets headway.

Viol, or Voyal

A larger messenger sometimes used in weighing an anchor by a capstan. Also, the block through which the messenger passes.


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Wad Quantity of old rope-yarns rolled firmly together into the form of a ball and used to confine the shot or shell together with its charge of powder in the breech of a piece of artillery.
Waft Signal displayed from the stern of a ship for some particular purpose by hoisting the ensign furled up together into a long roll to the head of its staff. It is particularly used to summon the boats off from the shore to the ship whereto they belong; or as a signal for a pilot to repair aboard. See SIGNALS.
Waist That part of the upper deck between the quarterdeck and forecastle.
Waisters Green hands or broken-down seamen placed in the waist of a man-of-war.
Wake  Moving waves, track or path that a boat leaves behind it when moving thru the water.
Wales  Strong planks in a vessel's sides running her whole length fore and aft.
Wale-Reared An obselete phrase implying wall-sided
Wall  A knot put on the end of a rope.
Wall-Sided  A vessel is wall-sided when her sides run up perpendicularly from the bends. In opposition to tumbling home or flaring out.
Walt An obsolete or spurious term signifying crank.
Ward-Room The room in a vessel of war in which the commissioned officers live.
Ware, or Wear To turn a vessel round so that, from having the wind on one side, you bring it upon the other, carrying her stern round by the wind. In tacking, the same result is produced by carrying a vessel's head round by the wind.

To move a vessel from one place to another by means of a rope made fast to some fixed object, or to a kedge.

A warp is a rope used for warping. If the warp is bent to a kedge which is let go and the vessel is hove ahead by the capstan or windlass, it would be called kedging.

Wash-Boards Light pieces of board placed above the gunwale of a boat.
Watch  A division of time on board ship. There are seven watches in a day reckoning from 12 Midnight round through the 24 hours, five of them being of four hours each, and the two others, called dog watches, of two hours each, viz., from 4 to 6, and from 6 to 8, P.M. (See DOG WATCH.) Also, a certain portion of a ship's company appointed to stand a given length of time. In the merchant service all hands are divided into two watches, larboard and starboard, with a mate to command each.

A buoy is said to watch when it floats on the surface

Watch-And-Watch - The arrangement by which the watches are alternated every other four hours. In distinction from keeping all hands during one or more watches.

Anchor watch, a small watch of one or two men kept while in port.

Watch Ho! Watch! The cry of the man that heaves the deep-sea-lead.
Watch-Tackle A small luff purchase with a short fall, the double block having a tail to it, and the single one a hook. Used for various purposes about decks.
Water - Boards Or weather-boards of a boat to keep out the waves or spray of the sea.
Water Boune The state of a ship with regard to the water surrounding her bottom when there is barely a sufficient depth of it to float her off from the ground, particularly when she had for some time rested thereon.
Water Line The line made by the water's edge when a ship has her full proportion of stores and crew on board.
Water Logged The state of a ship when by receiving a great quantity of water into her hold by leaking she has become heavy and inactive upon the sea so as to yield without resistance to the efforts of every wave rushing over her decks. As in this dangerous situation, the center of gravity is no longer fixed, but fluctuating from place to place, the stability of the ship is utterly lost; she is, therefore, almost totally deprived of the use of her sails which would operate to overset her or press the head under water. Hence there is no resource for the crew except to free her by the pumps or to abandon her by the boats as soon as possible.
Water Sail  A save-all set under the swinging-boom.
Water Shot See MOORING.
Water Spout An extraordinary and dangerous meteor consisting of a large mass of water collected into a sort of column by the force of a whirlwind and moved with rapidity along the surface of the sea.
Waterways Long pieces of timber running fore and aft on both sides connecting the deck with the vessel's sides. The scuppers are made through them to let the water off.

Of a ship, the course or progress which she makes on the water under sail. Thus, when she begins her motion, she is said to be under way and, when that motion increases, she is said to have fresh way through the water. Hence also she is said to have bead-way or stern-way.

Wear (See WARE.)
Weather Known to be the particular state of the air with regard to the degree of the wind, to heat or cold or to dryness and moisture.

Weather is also used as an adjective applied by mariners to every thing lying to windward of a particular situation. Thus, a ship is said to have the weather-gage of another when she is further to-windward. Also, when a ship under sail presents either of her sides to the wind, it is then called the weather-side and all the rigging and furniture situated thereon are distinguished by the same epithet; as, the weather-shrouds, the weather-lifts, the weather braces. [See LEE.]

A Weatherly ship is one that works well to windward, making but little leeway.

To Weather is to sail to windward of some ship, bank, or head-land.

Weather Beaten Shattered by a storm or disabled in battle.
Weather-Bitt To take an additional turn with a cable round the windlass-end.
Weather Gage A vessel has the weather gage of another when she is to windward of her.
Weather Roll The roll which a ship makes to windward.
Weigh  To haul up; as, weigh the anchor.
Wheel Device used for steering a boat.
Whip A purchase formed by a rope rove through a single block.

To whip is to hoist by a whip. Also, to secure the end of a rope from fagging by a seizing of twine.

Whip-Upon-Whip One whip applied to the fall of another.

A term for the bowsprit (many sailors lost their lives falling off the bowsprit while tending sails).

Winch  A purchase formed by a horizontal spindle or shaft with a wheel or crank at the end. A small one with a wheel is used for making ropes or spunyarn.
Windjammer A square-rigged commercial sailing ship. Used as an insulting term by steamboat sailors.
Windlass The machine used in merchant vessels to weigh the anchor by.
Wind-Rode The situation of a vessel at anchor when she swings and rides by the force of the wind, instead of the tide or current. (See TIDE-RODE.)
Wing    That part of the hold or between-decks which is next the side.
Wingers Casks stowed in the wings of a vessel.
Wing-And-Wing The situation of a fore-and-aft vessel when she is going dead before the wind, with her foresail hauled over on one side and her mainsail on the other.
Withe or Wythe   An iron instrument fitted on the end of a boom or mast with a ring to it through which another boom or mast is rigged out and secured.
Woold To wind a piece of rope round a spar or other item.
Work Up

To draw the yarns from old rigging and make them into spunyarn, foxes, sennit, &c. Also, a phrase for keeping a crew constantly at work upon needless matters, and in all weathers, and beyond their usual hours, for punishment.


"Worm and parcel with the lay, Turn and serve the other way. "Organic standing rigging was wormed, parcelled, and served in areas under great stress or potential friction: bobstays, stay and shroud eyes, pendants, and sometimes the entire forward shrouds. Worming wound pieces of marline into the contlines of the rope, leaving it smoother for the Parcelling, or wrapping with strips of tarred canvas, which left a good foundation for the Serving, a tight backwards wrapping of twine, with extra tar slobbered over all.  For a model, the serving is the only item to worry about.  The worming and parceling would be invisible and, if installed, lumpy.

Wring To bend or strain a mast by setting the rigging up too taut.
Wring-Bolts Bolts that secure the planks to the timbers.
Wring-Staves Strong pieces of plank used with the wring-bolts.
X Xebec - See Zebec

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Yacht   A vessel of pleasure or state.
Yankee A foresail flying above and forward of the jib, usually seen on bowsprit vessels.
Yard A long piece of timber or spar tapering slightly toward the ends and hung by the centre to a mast to spread the square sails upon.
Yardarm The extremities of a yard.
Yardarm and Yardarm The situation of two vessels lying alongside one another so near that their yardarms cross or touch.
Yarn (See ROPE-YARN.)
Yaw The motion of a vessel when she goes off from her course.
Yawl Boat Smaller powered boat used to provide steerageway when not under sail.
Yawing  The motion of a ship when she deviates from to the right or left.
Yellow Admiral A post captain is posted to rear admiral on retirement without serving in that rank.
Yellow Jack Term used for yellow fever.

Used for a quarantine flag which is coloured yellow.

Yeoman  A officer under the boatswain employed in a vessel of war to take charge of a storeroom; as, boatswain's yeoman, the man that has charge of the stores of rigging, & etc.
Yoke  A piece of wood placed across the head of a boat's rudder with a rope attached to each end by which the boat is steered.

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Zebeck A small 3-masted Mediterranean vessel with lanteen and some square sails.
Zenith In nautical astronomy a point immediately above an observer correspond to a straight line from the centre of the earth through the observer to the zenith.

A fishing vessel from the north-east of scotland.

Zulu Time

GMT- Greenwich Meridian Time, also known as Universal Time




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