Glossary of Nautical Terms
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Above Water Hull - The hull section of a vessel above the waterline, the visible part of a ship. Also called topsides.
Act of Pardon, Act of Grace - A letter from a nation or legal representative authorizing action by a privateer. AKA "Letter of marque".
Abaft - Toward the stern, relative to some object ("abaft the fore hatch").
Abaft the Beam - Further aft than the beam: a relative bearing of greater than 90 degrees from the bow: "two points abaft the port beam".
Abandon Ship! - An order to leave the vessel immediately, usually in the face of some imminent danger. It is an order issued by the Master or a delegated person in command. It is usually the last resort after all other mitigating actions have failed.
Abeam - On the beam, a relative bearing at right angles to the centerline of the ship's keel.
Aboard - On or in a vessel
Absentee Pennant - Special naval pennant flown to indicate absence of commanding officer, admiral, his chief of staff, or officer whose flag is flying (division, squadron, or flotilla commander).
Absolute Bearing - The bearing of an object in relation to north. Either true bearing, using the geographical or true north, or magnetic bearing, using magnetic north.
Accommodation Ladder - A portable flight of steps down a ship's side.
Admiral - Highly senior naval officer of Flag rank.
Admiralty - A high naval authority in charge of a state's Navy or a major territorial component. In the Royal Navy UK the Board of Admiralty, executing the office of the Lord High Admiral, promulgates Naval law in the form of Queen's (or King's) Regulations and Admiralty Instructions.
Admiralty Law - Body of law that deals with maritime cases.
Adrift - Afloat and unattached in any way to the shore or seafloor, but not under way. It implies that a vessel is not under control and therefore goes where the wind and current take her, loose from moorings, or out of place.
Advance Note - A note for one month's wages issued to sailors on their signing a ship's articles.
Aft - The portion of the boat behind the middle area of the boat. Towards the stern of the vessel.
Afloat - Of a vessel which is floating freely (not aground or sunk). More generally of vessels in service ("the convoy has 10 ships afloat").
Afternoon Watch - The 1200–1600 watch.
Aground - Resting on or touching the ground or sea bottom ,usually involuntarily.
Ahead - Forward of the bow.
Ahoy - A cry to draw attention. Term used to hail a boat or a ship.
Ahull - Ship lying broadside to the sea, to ride out a storm with no sails and helm held to leeward.
Aid to Navigation - (ATON) Any device external to a vessel or aircraft specifically intended to assist navigators in determining their position or safe course, or to warn them of dangers or obstructions to navigation.
All Hands - Entire ship's company, both officers and enlisted personnel.
All Night In - Having no night watches.
Aloft - In the rigging of a sailing ship. Above the ship's uppermost solid structure; overhead or high above.
Alongside - By the side of a ship or pier.
Amidships (or Midships)- In the middle portion of ship, along the line of the keel.
Anchor - An object designed to prevent or slow the drift of a ship, attached to the ship by a line or chain; typically a metal, hook-like or plough-like object designed to grip the bottom under the body of water.
Anchorage - A suitable place for a ship to anchor. Area of a port or harbor.
Anchor's Aweigh - Said of an anchor when just clear of the bottom.
Anchor Ball - Round black shape hoisted in the forepart of a vessel to show that it is anchored.
Anchor Buoy - A small buoy secured by a light line to anchor to indicate position of anchor on bottom.
Anchor Chain or Cable - Line connecting the ship to the anchor.
Anchor Detail - Group of men who handle ground tackle duties when the ship is anchoring or getting underway.
Anchor Home - The term for when the anchor is secured for sea. Typically rests just outside the hawse pipe on the outer side of the hull, at the bow of a vessel.
Anchor light - White light displayed by a ship at anchor. Two such lights are displayed by a ship over 150 feet in length.
Anchor Rode - The anchor line, rope or cable connecting the anchor chain to the vessel.
Anchor Sentinel - A separate weight on a separate line which is loosely attached to the anchor rode so that it can slide down it easily. It is made fast at a distance slightly longer than the draft of the boat. It is used to prevent the anchor rode from becoming fouled on the keel or other underwater structures when the boat is resting at anchor and moving randomly during slack tide.
Anchor Watch - The crewmen assigned to take care of the ship while anchored or moored, charged with such duties as making sure that the anchor is holding and the vessel is not drifting. Most modern marine GPS units have an Anchor Watch alarm capability.
Anti-Rolling Tanks - A pair of fluid-filled, usually water, tanks mounted on opposite sides of a ship below the waterline. Fluid would be pumped between them in an attempt to dampen the amount of roll.
Apparent Wind - The combination of the true wind and the headwind caused by the boat's forward motion. For example, it causes a light side wind to appear to come from well ahead of the beam.
Arc of Visibility - The portion of the horizon over which a lighted aid to navigation is visible from seaward.
Archboard - The plank along the stern where the name of the ship is commonly painted.
Articles - Contract signed by pirates when joining a ship. It stated the rules as well as shares of profits.
Armament - A ship's weapons.
Ashore - On the beach, shore or land.
Astern - towards the stern (rear) of a vessel, behind a vessel.
Asylum Harbour - A harbour used to provide shelter from a storm.
Avast - Stop, cease or desist from whatever is being done.
Awash - So low in the water that the water is constantly washing across the surface.
Axial Fire - Fire oriented towards the ends of the ship; the opposite of broadside fire. Aye, aye - Reply to an order or command to indicate that it, firstly, is heard; and, secondly, is understood and will be carried out. ("Aye, aye, sir" to officers).
Azimuth Compass - An instrument employed for ascertaining position of the sun with respect to magnetic north. The azimuth of an object is its bearing from the observer measured as an angle clockwise from true north.
Azimuth Circle - Instrument used to take bearings of celestial objects.
Bailer - A device for removing water that has entered the boat.
Ballast - Heavy materials at the bottom of a ship used to keep the ship upright.
Ballast Tank - A device used on ships and submarines and other submersibles to control buoyancy and stability
Bank - A large area of elevated sea floor.
Banyan - Traditional Royal Navy term for a day or shorter period of rest and relaxation.
Bar - Large mass of sand or earth, formed by the surge of the sea. They are mostly found at the entrances of great rivers or havens, and often render navigation extremely dangerous, but confer tranquility once inside.
Barnacle - A small shellfish which sticks to the bottoms of ships.
Bar Pilot - A bar pilot guides ships over the dangerous sandbars at the mouth of rivers and bays.
Barque or Bark) - A sailing ship with three to five masts, all of them square-rigged except the after mast, which is fore-and-aft rigged.
Barquentine - Sailing vessel with three or more masts. Square rigged on foremast, fore and aft rigged on all others.
Barrelman - A sailor that was stationed in the crow's nest.
Batten - A stiff strip used to support the roach of a sail, enabling increased sail area. Or any thin strip of material (wood, plastic etc) which can be used any number of ways
Batten down the Hatches - To prepare for inclement weather by securing the closed hatch covers with wooden battens so as to prevent water from entering from any angle.
Bay - An indentation of the coastline between two headlands.
Beachcomber - Originally a seaman who, not wanting to work, preferred to exist by hanging around ports and harbors and living on the charity of others. Now more generally describing any loafer around the waterfront who prefers not to work.
Beaching - Deliberately running a vessel aground to load and unload, as with landing craft, or sometimes to prevent a damaged vessel sinking.
Beacon - A lighted or unlighted fixed aid to navigation attached directly to the earth’s surface.
Beam - The width of a vessel at the widest point, or a point alongside the ship at the mid-point of its length.
Beam Ends - The sides of a ship. "On her beam ends" may mean the vessel is literally on her side and possibly about to capsize; more often, the phrase means the vessel is listing 45 degrees or more.
Bear - Large squared off stone used with sand for scraping clean wooden decks.
Bear Down or Bear Away - Turn away from the wind, often with reference to a transit.
Bearing - A compass direction, in compass points or degrees, from one point to another. Relative bearing is the direction relative to the heading of the boat with the bow 0 degrees and the stern 180 degrees. True bearing is the direction from the ship relating to true north with north being 0 degrees and south 180 degrees. Also, a device for supporting a rotating shaft with minimum friction, which may take the form of a metal sleeve (a bushing), a set of ball bearings (a roller ball), or a set of pins around a shaft (a needle bearing).
Beating or Beat To - Sailing as close as possible towards the wind (perhaps only about 60°) in a zig-zag course to attain an upwind direction to which it is impossible to sail directly. AKA tacking
Beat to Quarters - Prepare for battle, as in beat the drum to signal the need for battle preparation.
Beaufort Scale - The scale describing wind force devised by Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort in 1808, in which winds are graded by the effect of their force (originally, the amount of sail that a fully rigged frigate could carry). Scale now reads up to Force 17.
Becalmed - The state of a sailing ship when it cannot move because there is no wind.
Before the Mast - Literally, the area of a ship before the foremast or forecastle.
Belay - To make fast a line around a fitting, usually a cleat or belaying pin. Or to secure a climbing person in a similar manner. It could also be an order to halt a current activity or countermand an order prior to execution.
Belaying Pins - Short movable bars of iron or hardwood to which running rigging may be secured, or belayed.
Bend - A knot used to join two ropes or lines.
Bermudan Rig - A triangular mainsail, without any upper spar, which is hoisted up the mast by a single halyard attached to the head of the sail. This configuration, introduced to Europe about 1920, allows the use of a tall mast, enabling sails to be set higher where wind speed is greater.
Berth (moorings) - A location in a port or harbour used specifically for mooring vessels while not at sea.
Berth (navigation) - Safety margin of distance to be kept by a vessel from another vessel or from an obstruction, hence the phrase, "to give a wide berth."
Berth (sleeping) - A bed or sleeping accommodation on a boat or ship.
Bight – A loop in rope or line—a hitch or knot tied on the bight is one tied in the middle of a rope, without access to the ends. Also an indentation in a coastline.
Bilge - The compartment at the bottom of the hull of a ship or boat where water collects and must be pumped out of the vessel.
Bilge Keels - A pair of keels on either side of the hull, usually slanted outwards. In yachts, they allow the use of a drying mooring, the boat standing upright on the keels (and often a skeg) when the tide is out.
Bilged on her Anchor - A ship that has run upon her own anchor, so the anchor cable runs under the hull.
Bimini Top - Open-front canvas top for the cockpit of a boat, usually supported by a metal frame.
Binnacle - The stand on which the ship's compass is mounted.
Binnacle List - A ship's sick list. The list of men unable to report for duty was given to the officer or mate of the watch by the ship's surgeon. The list was kept at the binnacle.
Bitt or Bitts - A post or pair mounted on the ship's bow, for fastening ropes or cables.
Black Jack - A leather tankard made stiff with a coating of tar. Used by dockside pubs and taverns to serve wine and beer. Also another name for a pirate's flag.
Black Squall - A sudden squall of wind accompanied by lightning.
Block - A pulley or set of pulleys.
Blow - Short, intense gale or storm.
Blue Peter - A blue and white flag (the flag for the letter "P") hoisted at the foretrucks of ships about to sail. Formerly a white ship on a blue ground, but later a white square on a blue ground.
Boat - A small craft or vessel designed to float on, and provide transport over, or underwater.
Boat-Hook - A pole with a hook on the end, used to reach into the water to catch buoys or other floating objects.
Boatswain or Bosun - A non-commissioned officer responsible for the sails, ropes, rigging and boats on a ship who issues "piped" commands to seamen.
Bobstay - A stay which holds the bowsprit downwards, counteracting the effect of the forestay. Usually made of wire or chain to eliminate stretch.
Bombay Runner - Large cockroach.
Bonded Jacky - A type of tobacco or sweet cake.
Bonnet - A strip of canvas secured to the foot of the course (square sail) to increase sail area in light airs.
Booby - A type of bird that has little fear and therefore is particularly easy to catch.
Boom - A spar attached to the foot of a fore-and-aft sail.
Boom Gallows - A raised crossmember that supports a boom when the sail is lowered.
Booms - Masts or yards, lying on board in reserve.
Boom Vang or Vang - A sail control that lets one apply downward tension on a boom, countering the upward tension provided by the sail. The boom vang adds an element of control to sail shape when the sheet is let out enough that it no longer pulls the boom down. Boom vang tension helps control leech twist, a primary component of sail power.
Booty - Term for profits taken from plunder.
Bore - as in Bore up or Bore away. To assume a position to engage, or disengage, the enemy ship.
Bo'suns Call, Pipe, or Whistle - Once the only method, other than human voice, of passing orders to men on board ship; the instructions to perform certain tasks were conveyed by different notes and pitches on the high-pitched whistle.
Bottlescrew - A device for adjusting tension in stays, shrouds and similar lines.
Boucan - French word for a grill used to smoke meat. The word buccaneer came from boucan. Smoking meat for sale to passing ships was common from about 1620 to 1670. Men were illegally hunting and smoking the meat until the Spanish cracked down on them. Many took up pirating since their livelihood was over. These men at the time were known as Boucaniers.
Bow - The front of a ship.
Bowline - A type of knot, producing a strong loop of a fixed size, topologically similar to a sheet bend. Also a rope attached to the side of a sail to pull it towards the bow (for keeping the windward edge of the sail steady).
Bowse - To pull or hoist.
Bowsprit - A spar projecting from the bow used as an anchor for the forestay and other rigging.
Bow Thruster - A small propeller or water-jet at the bow, used for manoeuvring larger vessels at slow speed. May be mounted externally, or in a tunnel running through the bow from side to side.
Boxing the Compass - To state all 32 points of the compass, starting at north, proceeding clockwise. Sometimes applied to a wind that is constantly shifting.
Brail - To furl or truss a sail by pulling it in towards the mast, or the ropes used to do so.
Brake - The handle of the pump, by which it is worked.
Breakers - Waves breaking over rocks or shoals. A wave that approaches shallow water, causing the wave height to exceed the depth of the water it is in, in effect tripping it. The wave changes from a smooth surge in the water to a cresting wave with water tumbling down the front of it. They serve as a warning that there is danger there.
Breakwater - A structure built on the forecastle of a ship intended to divert water away from the forward superstructure or gun mounts.
Brethren of the Coast - The Caribbean buccaneers called themselves by this name around the 1640-1680 time period.
Bridge - A structure above the weather deck, extending the full width of the vessel, which houses a command centre, itself called by association, the bridge.
Brig - (historically) A vessel with two square-rigged masts. (in the US) An interior area of the ship used to detain prisoners & stowaways, and to punish delinquent crew members. This usually resembles a prison-cell with bars and a locked, hinged door.
Brightwork - Exposed varnished wood or polished metal on a boat.
Bring To - Cause a ship to be stationary by arranging the sails.
Broach - When a sailing vessel loses control of its motion and is forced into a sudden sharp turn, often heeling heavily and in smaller vessels sometimes leading to a capsize. The change in direction is called broaching-to. Occurs when too much sail is set for a strong gust of wind, or in circumstances where the sails are unstable.
Broadside - The simultaneous firing of all the guns on one side of a ship.
Buccaneer - The Term originally applied to the hunters of wild oxen and pigs on the island of Hispaniola, but later it was used to describe the pirates and pirateers who plundered the shipping and coastal towns in the West Indies and on the coasts of South and Central America in the second half of the seventeenth century.
Buffer - The chief bosun's mate (in the Royal Navy), responsible for discipline.
Bulkhead - An upright wall within the hull of a ship. Particularly a watertight, load-bearing wall.
Bulwark or Bulward - The extension of the ship's side above the level of the weather deck.
Bumboat - A private boat selling goods.
Bumboo - A mixture of rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg. Favoured among West Indians as well as buccaneers and pirates.
Bumpkin or Boomkin - A spar, similar to a bowsprit, but which projects from the stern. May be used to attach the backstay or mizzen sheets. Also an iron bar (projecting out-board from a ship's side) to which the lower and topsail brace blocks are sometimes hooked.
Bunting Tosser - A signalman who prepares and flies flag hoists. Also known in the American Navy as a skivvy waver.
Buntline - One of the lines tied to the bottom of a square sail and used to haul it up to the yard when furling.
Buoy - A floating object of defined shape and color, which is anchored at a given position and serves as an aid to navigation.
Caboose - A small ship's kitchen, or galley on deck.
Camel - Hollow vessel of iron, steel or wood, that is filled with water and sunk under a vessel. When water is pumped out, the buoyancy of the camel lifts the ship. Very valuable aid to salvage operations.
Canister - A type of antipersonnel cannon load in which lead balls or other loose metallic items were enclosed in a tin or iron shell. On firing, the shell would disintegrate, releasing the smaller metal objects with a shotgun-like effect.
Canoe Stern - A design for the stern of a yacht which is pointed, like a bow, rather than squared off as a transom.
Capsize - When a ship or boat lists too far and rolls over, exposing the keel. On large vessels, this often results in the sinking of the ship.
Capstan A large winch with a vertical axis. A full-sized human-powered capstan is a waist-high cylindrical machine, operated by a number of hands who each insert a horizontal capstan bar in holes in the capstan and walk in a circle. Used to wind in anchors or other heavy objects; and sometimes was used to administer flogging over.
Captain's Daughter - A slang term for "The cat o' nine tails".
Caravel - Small trading vessel also used for exploration. Three-masted, being square-rigged on the two forward masts, and having a lateen rigged mizzen mast. Christopher Colmbus' small squadron, the Santa Maria, Pinta, and Nina, were all Caravels, as were Magellan's ships in his famous circumnavigation.
Cardinal - Referring to the four main points of the compass: north, south, east and west.
Careen or careening - Tilting a ship on its side, usually when beached, to clean or repair the hull below the water line.
Carrack - Old three-masted trading vessel which was square-rigged on the fore and main masts, and lateen rigged on the mizzen mast. Similar to the Caravel, but larger and more robust.
Castaway - A shipwrecked sailor as compared with one who has been marooned or deliberately put ashore.
Castles - These were raised sections of ships. They came from earlier times when archers would use the raised platforms to gain an advantage over their foe. Those ships had extremely high castles. Castles were either fore ( forward ) or aft ( rear ).
Cast Off - To let go or release.
Cat — To prepare an anchor, after raising it by lifting it with a tackle to the cat head, prior to securing it alongside for sea. Or the cat o' nine tails.
Catamaran - A vessel with two hulls.
Catboat - A cat-rigged vessel with a single mast mounted close to the bow, and only one sail, usually on a gaff.
Catharpin - A short rope or iron clamp used to brace in the shrouds toward the masts so as to give a freer sweep to the yards.
Cat O' Nine Tails - A short nine-tailed whip made from knotted ropes, kept by the bosun's mate to flog sailors as punishment. When not in use, the cat was kept in a baize bag, hence the term "cat out of the bag".
Cathead - A beam extending out from the hull used to support an anchor when raised in order to secure or 'fish' it.
Cats Paws - Light variable winds on calm waters producing scattered areas of small waves.
Catwalk - On a ship, a raised bridge running fore and aft from the midship, and also called "walkway". It affords safe passage over the pipelines and other deck obstructions.
Celestial Navigation - To calculate your position using time, the position of celestial bodies, and mathematical tables. Position is determined by measuring the apparent altitude of one of these objects above the horizon using a sextant and recording the times of these sightings with an accurate clock. That information is then used with tables in the Nautical Almanac to determine one's position.
Centreboard - A board or plate lowered through the hull of a dinghy on the centreline to resist leeway.
Chafing - Wear on line or sail caused by constant rubbing against another surface.
Chain-Shot - Cannon balls linked with chain used to damage rigging and masts.
Chain Locker - A space in the forward part of the ship, typically beneath the bow in front of the foremost collision bulkhead, that contains the anchor chain when the anchor is secured for sea.
Chain-Wale or Channel - A broad, thick plank that projects horizontally from each of a ship's sides abreast a mast, distinguished as the fore, main, or mizzen channel accordingly, serving to extend the base for the shrouds, which supports the mast.
Chanty or Shanty - 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.
Chase Gun, Chase Piece or Chaser - A cannon pointing forward or aft, often of longer range than other guns. Those on the bow (bow chaser) were used to fire upon a ship ahead, while those on the rear (stern chaser) were used to ward off pursuing vessels.
Cheeks - Wooden blocks at the side of a spar. Or the sides of a block or gun-carriage.
Chine - An angle in the hull. Or a line formed where the sides of a boat meet the bottom. Soft chine is when the two sides join at a shallow angle, and hard chine is when they join at a steep angle.
Chock - Hole or ring attached to the hull to guide a line via that point
Chock-A-Block - Rigging blocks that are so tight against one another that they cannot be further tightened.
Chronometer - A timekeeper accurate enough to be used to determine longitude by means of celestial navigation.
Circumnavigation - A voyage around the world.
Clean Slate - At the helm, the watch keeper would record details of speed, distances, headings, etc. on a slate. At the beginning of a new watch the slate would be wiped clean.
Cleat - A stationary device used to secure a rope aboard a vessel.
Clench - A method of fixing together two pieces of wood, usually overlapping planks, by driving a nail through both planks as well as a washer-like rove. The nail is then burred or riveted over to complete the fastening.
Clew - The lower corners of square sails or the corner of a triangular sail at the end of the boom.
Clew-Lines - Used to truss up the clews, the lower corners of square sails.
Coal Trimmer, or Trimmer - Person responsible for ensuring that a coal-fired vessel remains in 'trim' or evenly balanced as coal is consumed on a voyage.
Coaming - The raised edge of a hatch, cockpit or skylight to help keep out water.
Cockpit - The seating area (not to be confused with Deck). The area towards the stern of a small decked vessel that houses the rudder controls.
Cog - A type of sailing ship developed to withstand pirate attacks. It had very high sides and a raised bow and stern.
Colors - The flag flown by a vessal to show her nationality.
Companionway - A raised and windowed hatchway in the ship's deck, with a ladder leading below and the hooded entrance-hatch to the main cabins.
Commissions - Governments would issue these licenses to privateers. They authorized raids on foreign shipping.
Communication Tube, Speaking Tube or Voice Tube - An air-filled tube, usually armored, allowing speech between the conning tower with the below-decks control spaces in a warship.
Compass - Navigational instrument showing the direction of the vessel in relation to the Earth's geographical poles or magnetic poles. Commonly consists of a magnet aligned with the Earth's magnetic field, but other technologies have also been developed, such as the gyrocompass.
Consort - Unpowered Great Lakes vessels, usually a fully loaded schooner, barge, or steamer barge, towed by a larger steamer that would often tow more than one barge. The consort system was used in the Great Lakes from the 1860s to around 1920.
Contraband - Goods which have been prohibited from entering a belligerent state by the declaration of a blockade.
Corsairs - A Pirate or Privateer operating in the Mediterranean. The most famous corsairs were those based on the Barbary Coast of North Africa who were authorized by their governments to attack the merchant shipping of the Christian countries.
Corrector: -A device to correct the ship's compass, for example counteracting errors due to the magnetic effects of a steel hull.
Counter - The part of the stern above the waterline that extends beyond the rudder stock culminating in a small transom. A long counter increases the waterline length when the boat is heeled, so increasing hull speed.
Counterflood - To deliberately flood compartments on the opposite side from already flooded ones. Usually done to reduce a list.
Coxswain or Cockswain - The helmsman or crew member in command of a boat.
Crimp - a person who is tricked or press ganged into serving on a crew.
Cringle - A rope loop, usually at the corners of a sail, for fixing the sail to a spar. They are often reinforced with a metal eye.
Cro'jack or Crossjack - a square yard used to spread the foot of a topsail where no course is set, e.g. on the foremast of a topsail schooner or above the driver on the mizzen mast of a ship rigged vessel.
Crosstrees - two horizontal struts at the upper ends of the topmasts of sailboats, used to anchor the shrouds from the topgallant mast.
Crow's Nest - Specifically a masthead constructed with sides and sometimes a roof to shelter the lookouts from the weather, generally by whaling vessels, this term has become a generic term for what is properly called masthead.
Crutches - Metal Y shaped pins to hold oars whilst rowing.
Cuddy - A small cabin in a boat.
Current - The horizontal movement of water.
Cut Splice - A join between two lines, similar to an eye-splice, where each rope end is joined to the other a short distance along, making an opening which closes under tension.
Cut and Run - When wanting to make a quick escape, a ship might cut lashings to sails or cables for anchors, causing damage to the rigging, or losing an anchor, but shortening the time needed to make ready by bypassing the proper procedures.
Cutlass - A short, curved, thick sword. The prefered weapon of many a buccaneer. Possibly a carry over weapon from the days of making boucan.
Cut of his Jib - The "cut" of a sail refers to its shape. Since this would vary between ships, it could be used both to identify a familiar vessel at a distance, and to judge the possible sailing qualities of an unknown one. Also used figuratively of people.
Davy Jones' Locker - According to sailor's lore, Davy Jones is an evil spirit in the sea. His locker was the ocean where he received dead sailors. An idiom for the bottom of the sea.
Day-Blink - Moment at dawn where, from some point on the mast, a lookout can see above low lying mist which envelops the ship.
Day Beacon - An unlighted fixed structure which is equipped with a dayboard for daytime identification.
Dayboard - The daytime identifier of an aid to navigation presenting one of several standard shapes (square, triangle, rectangle) and colors (red, green, white, orange, yellow, or black).
Dead Ahead - Exactly ahead, directly ahead, directly in front.
Deadeye - A wooden block with holes (but no pulleys) which is spliced to a shroud. It is used to adjust the tension in the standing rigging of large sailing vessels, by lacing through the holes with a lanyard to the deck. Performs the same job as a turnbuckle.
Dead Man's Chest - A true location now called Dead Chest Island in the Virgin Islands. Robert Louis Stevenson ran across the reference while reading "At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies", a travel book by Charles Kingsley. Stevenson used the phrase in his book "Treasure Island", combining it with a little sea-ditty as thus:
Fifteen men on the dead man's chest
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest.
Dead Reckoning - The process of plotting a theoretical position or future position based on advancing from a known position using speed, time, and course, without aid of objects on land, of sights, etc. Term comes from deduced reckoning.
Deadrise - The design angle between the keel and horizontal.
Deadweight - A common measure of ship carrying capacity. The number of tons (2240 lbs.) of cargo, stores and bunkers that a vessel can transport. It is the difference between the number of tons of water a vessel displaces "light" and the number of tons it displaces "when submerged to the 'deep load line'." A vessel's cargo capacity is less than its total deadweight tonnage. The difference in weight between a vessel when it is fully loaded and when it is empty (in general transportation terms, the net) measured by the water it displaces. This is the most common, and useful, measurement for shipping as it measures cargo capacity.
Deadwood - A wooden part of the centerline structure of a boat, usually between the sternpost and amidships.
Decks - The top of the boat; the surface is removed to accommodate the seating area. The structures forming the approximately horizontal surfaces in the ship's general structure. Unlike flats, they are a structural part of the ship.
Deck Hand, Decky - A person whose job involves aiding the deck supervisor in mooring, anchoring, maintenance, and general functions on deck.
Deck Supervisor - The person in charge of all evolutions and maintenance on deck; sometimes split into two groups: forward deck supervisor, aft deck supervisor.
Deckhead - The under-side of the deck above. Sometimes paneled over to hide the pipe work. This paneling, like that lining the bottom and sides of the holds, is the ceiling.
Deck Prism - A prism inserted into the deck which provides light down below.
Derrick - A lifting device composed of one mast or pole and a boom or jib which is hinged freely at the bottom.
Dingy - A small open boat. A dinghy is often used as a tender for a larger craft.
Directional light - A light illuminating a sector or very narrow angle and intended to mark a direction to be followed.
Dirk - A long thin knife. It was used for fighting in close quarters, as well as cutting rope.
Disembark or Debark - Leave the vessel.
Displacement - The weight of water displaced by the immersed volume of a ship's hull, exactly equivalent to the weight of the whole ship.
Displacement hull - A hull designed to travel through the water, rather than planing over it.
Disrate - To reduce in rank or rating; demote.
Dodger - A hood forward of a hatch or cockpit to protect the crew from wind and spray. Can be soft or hard material.
Dogvane - A small weather vane, sometimes improvised with a scrap of cloth, yarn or other light material mounted within sight of the helmsman.
Dog watch - A short watch period, generally half the usual time (e.g. a two hour watch rather than a four hour one). Such watches might be included in order to rotate the system over different days for fairness, or to allow both watches to eat their meals at approximately normal times.
Dolphin - A structure consisting of a number of piles driven into the seabed or riverbed as a marker.
Double-Shot - The practice of loading smooth-bore cannons with two cannon-balls.
Doubloon - A gold coin minted by Spain or Spanish colonies. Worth about seven weeks pay for an average sailor
Downbound - Adjective describing a vessel traveling downstream. Or eastward-traveling vessels in the Great Lakes region of the US.
Downhaul - A line used to control either a mobile spar, or the shape of a sail. A downhaul can also be used to retrieve a sail back on deck.
Drabbler - An extra strip of canvas secured below a bonnet.
Draft or Draught - The depth of a ship's keel below the waterline.
Draft Marks - On ships, the stern and stem are marked in feet to show the draft or depth of the vessel.
Dressing Down - Treating old sails with oil or wax to renew them. Also a verbal reprimand.
Driver - The large sail flown from the mizzen gaff.
Driver-Mast - The fifth mast of a six-masted barquentine or gaff schooner. It is preceded by the jigger mast and followed by the spanker mast.
Drogue - a device to slow a boat down in a storm so that it does not speed excessively down the slope of a wave and crash into the next one. It is generally constructed of heavy flexible material in the shape of a cone.
Dry Cargo - Merchandise other than liquid carried in bulk.
Dry Dock - A dock into which a vessel is floated, which when raised lifts the boat out of the water. Can also be a watertight basin with one end open to the sea that can be closed and sealed with a gate, thus allowing the basin to be pumped out. This facility allows inspections, painting and repairs to be made on the hull and any underwater machinery.
Dry Storage - Storing on land. Many small boats are placed in dry storage over the winter.
Dunnage - Loose packing material used to protect a ship's cargo from damage during transport. Also a term for personal baggage.
Earrings - Small lines, by which the uppermost corners of the largest sails are secured to the yardarms.
Embargo - A temporary injunction against ships or cargo to prevent their arrival or departure in time of war.
Embayed - The condition where a sailing vessel (especially one which sails poorly to windward) is confined between two capes or headlands by a wind blowing directly onshore.
Even Keel - When a boat is floating on its designed waterline, upright without any list to either side, it is said to be floating on an even keel.
Extremis - (also known as “in extremis”) the point under International Rules of the Road (Navigation Rules) at which the privileged (or stand-on) vessel on collision course with a burdened (or give-way) vessel determines it must maneuver to avoid a collision. Prior to extremis, the privileged vessel must maintain course and speed and the burdened vessel must maneuver to avoid collision.
Eye Splice - A closed loop or eye at the end a line, rope, cable etc. It is made by unraveling its end and joining it to itself by intertwining it into the lay of the line. Eye splices are very strong and compact and are employed in moorings and docking lines among other uses.
Fall - The part of the tackle that is hauled upon.
Fairlead - A ring, hook or other device used to keep a line or chain running in the correct direction or to prevent it rubbing or fouling.
Fall Off - To change the direction of sail so as to point in a direction that is more down wind. To bring the bow leeward. Also bear away, bear off or head down. This is the opposite of pointing up or heading up.
Fantail - Aft end of the ship, also known as the Poop Deck.
Fardage - Wood placed in bottom of ship to keep cargo dry.
Fast - Fastened or held firmly.
Fast Aground - stuck on the seabed.
Fathom - A unit of length equal to 6 feet, roughly measured as the distance between a man's outstretched hands. Mostly used to measure depth.
Feathering - Sailing upwind so close to the wind that the forward edge of the sail is stalling or luffing, reducing the power generated by the sail and the angle of heel. Also known as pinching.
Feathering Oars - The turning of the blade of an oar from the vertical to the horizontal while it is being taken aback for the next stroke. This reduces the windage on the blade thus reducing the effort expended.
Feathering Prop - A propeller that can have the pitch of its blade changed to reduce drag when not in use.
Fend Off - To prevent contact with an object while bringing the ship alongside.
Fender - An air or foam filled bumper used in boating to keep boats from banging into docks or each other.
Fetch - The distance across water which a wind or waves have traveled.
Fid - A tapered wooden tool used for separating the strands of rope for splicing. Also a bar used to fix an upper mast in place.
Fiddler's Green - A slang term for a sailor's paradise where amusements were plentiful, and the women were accommodating.
Fife Rail: A freestanding pinrail surrounding the base of a mast and used for securing that mast's sails' halyards with a series of belaying pins.
Figure Eight Knot - A knot in the form of a figure eight, placed in the end of a line to prevent the line from passing through a grommet or a block.
Figurehead - A carved figure mounted on the front or bow of sailing vessels and early steamers, which helped establish a ship's identiy. This term also refers to the captain when the spouse is on board.
Fireroom - The compartment in which the ship's boilers or furnaces are stoked and fired.
Fire Ship - A ship loaded with flammable materials and explosives and sailed into an enemy port or fleet either already burning or ready to be set alight by its crew (who would then abandon it) in order to collide with and set fire to enemy ships.
First-Rate: The classification for the largest sailing warships of the 17th through 19th centuries. They had 3 masts, 850+ crew and 100+ guns.
Fish - To repair a mast or spar with a fillet of wood.
Fixed Propeller - A propeller mounted on a rigid shaft protruding from the hull of a vessel, usually driven by an inboard motor; steering must be done using a rudder.
Flag Hoist: A number of signal flags strung together to convey a message.
Flank - The maximum speed of a ship. Faster than "full speed".
Flare - A curvature of the topsides outward towards the gunwale. Also a pyrotechnic signalling device, usually used to indicate distress.
Flemish - To coil a line that is not in use so that it lies flat on the deck.
Flibustier - French term for pirates during the golden age of piracy.
Flogging - Punishment in which a man was whipped on his naked back, often used enforce discipline and punish minor or major infractions by ordinary sailers.
Flotilla - A squadron of small ships.
Flotsam - Debris floating on the water surface; Any part of the wreckage of a ship or her cargo which is found floating on the surface of the sea.
Fluke - The wedge-shaped part of an anchor's arms that digs into the bottom, holding the boat in place. Also refers to any occasion when this occurs on the first try.
Flying Dutchman - Old legend of a Dutch skipper who, in a strong gale, swore by Donner and Blitzen that he would beat into Table Bay in spite of God's wrath. His ship foundered and he was condemned to go on sailing eternally in his attempt to reach Table Bay. There was a superstition among sailors that anyone who set eyes upon this "ghost ship" would die by shipwreck.
Following Sea - Wave or tidal movement going in the same direction as a ship.
Foot - The lower edge of any sail. The bottom of a mast.
Footrope - Each yard on a square rigged sailing ship is equipped with a footrope for sailors to stand on while setting or stowing the sails.
Forecastle - A partial deck, above the upper deck and at the head of the vessel; traditionally the sailors' living quarters. The name is derived from the castle fitted to bear archers in time of war.
Forefoot - The lower part of the stem of a ship.
Forepeak - A compartment in the bow of a small boat.
Forestays - Long lines or cables, reaching from the bow of the vessel to the mast heads, used to support the mast.
Foul - The opposite of clear. For instance, a rope is foul when it does nor run straight or smoothly, and an anchor is foul when it is caught on an obstruction. An area of water treacherous to navigation due to many shallow obstructions such as reefs, sandbars, or many rocks, etc.
Foulies - A slang term for oilskins, the foul-weather clothing worn by sailors.
Founder - To fill with water and sink .
Fourth Rate: In the British Royal Navy, a fourth rate was, during the first half of the 18th century, a ship of the line mounting from 46 up to 60 guns.
Frame - A transverse structural member which gives the hull strength and shape. Wooden frames may be sawn, bent or laminated into shape. Planking is then fastened to the frames. A bent frame is called a timber.
Freeboard - The height of a ship's hull (excluding superstructure) above the waterline. The vertical distance from the current waterline to the lowest point on the highest continuous watertight deck. This usually varies from one part to another.
Freebooter - Another term for pirate.
Full and By: Sailing into the wind (by), but not as close-hauled as might be possible, so as to make sure the sails are kept full. This provides a margin for error to avoid being taken aback (a serious risk for square-rigged vessels) in a tricky sea. Figuratively it implies getting on with the job but in a steady, relaxed way, without undue urgency or strain.
Furl - To roll or gather a sail against its mast or spar.
Futtocks - Pieces of timber that make up a large transverse frame.
Gaff Rigged - A boat rigged with a four-sided fore-and-aft sail with its upper edge supported by a spar or gaff which extends aft from the mast.
Gaff Vang - A line rigged to the end of a gaff and used to adjust a gaff sail's trim.
Gale - An unusually strong wind. In storm-warning terminology, a wind of 34 to 47 knots (39 to 54 miles per hour or 62-87 kilometers per hour).
Galleon - A development of the carrack ship, with the high forecastle eliminated.
Galley - The kitchen of the ship.
Gammon Iron - The bow fitting which clamps the bowsprit to the stem.
Gangplank - A movable bridge used in boarding or leaving a ship at a pier; also known as a "brow".
Gangway - An opening in the bulwark of the ship to allow passengers to board or leave the ship.
Gash - Any refuse or rubbish which is discarded into a refuse container or dustbin which is known as "gash fanny".
Gennaker - A large, lightweight sail used for sailing a fore-and-aft rig down or across the wind, intermediate between a genoa and a spinnaker.
Genoa or Genny - A large jib, strongly overlapping the mainmast.
Ghost - To sail slowly when there is apparently no wind.
Gibbet - A wooden frame from which dead pirates were hung, often in a metal cage especially fitted for the dead man. This was done as a warning to others who would think of taking up a career in piracy.
Gin-Pole - A pole that is attached perpendicular to the mast, to be used as a lever for raising the mast.
Gingerbread - Gilded carving and scroll work decorating the hulls of ships.
Gird - To haul in or bind something together in order to create more space.
Girdle - Additional thickness of planking on a wooden ship about her waterline to give the vessel more stability.
Girth - The measurement around the body of a ship. The half girth is taken from the center line of the keel to the upper deck beam end.
Give-Way (Vessel)- Where two vessels are approaching one another so as to involve a risk of collision, this is the vessel which is directed to keep out of the way of the other.
Glass - A marine barometer. Older barometers used mercury-filled glass tubes to measure and indicate barometric pressure.
Global Positioning System(GPS) - A satellite based radionavigation system providing continuous worldwide coverage. It provides navigation, position, and timing information to air, marine, and land users.
Going About or Tacking: Changing from one tack to another by going through the wind.
Go on the Account - To embark on a career in piracy.
Gooseneck - Fitting that attaches the boom to the mast, allowing it to move freely.
Goosewinged - Of a fore-and-aft rigged vessel sailing directly away from the wind, with the sails set on opposite sides of the vessel—for example with the mainsail to port and the jib to starboard, to maximize the amount of canvas exposed to the wind.
Grapeshot - Small balls of lead fired from a cannon, analogous to shotgun shot but on a larger scale. Similar to canister shot but with larger individual shot. Used to injure personnel and damage rigging more than to cause structural damage.
Gripe - Temporary eye in a ropeline.
Grog - British naval seamen received a portion of liquor every day. In 1740, Admiral Edward Vernon ordered the rum to be diluted with water. Vernon's nickname was Old Grogram, and the beverage was given the name grog in their disdain for Vernon.
Groggy - Drunk from having consumed a lot of grog.
Grommet - A name British seamen gave to an apprentice sailor, or ship's boy. The word comes from the Spanish word grumete, which has the same meaning.
Grounding: When a ship (while afloat) touches the bed of the sea, or goes "aground".
Gunport - The opening in the side of the ship or in a turret through which the gun fires or protrudes.
Gunwale - Upper edge of the hull.
Halyard or Halliard - Originally, ropes used for hoisting a spar with a sail attached; today, a line used to raise the head of any sail.
Hammock - Canvas sheets, slung from the deckhead in messdecks, in which seamen slept.
Handy Billy - A loose block and tackle with a hook or tail on each end, which can be used wherever it is needed. Usually made up of one single and one double block.
Hand Bomber - A ship using coal-fired boilers shoveled in by hand.
Hank - A fastener attached to the luff of the headsail that attaches the headsail to the forestay. Typical designs include a bronze or plastic hook with a spring-operated gate, or a strip of cloth webbing with a snap fastener.
Harbor - A harbor or harbour, or haven, is a place where ships may shelter from the weather or are stored. Harbours can be man-made or natural.
Harden Up - Turn towards the wind; sail closer to the wind.
Harness Cask - A large usually round tub lashed to a vessel's deck and containing dried and salted provisions for daily use.
Hardtack - A hard and long-lasting dry biscuit, used as food on long journeys.
Hatchway, Hatch - A covered opening in a ship's deck through which cargo can be loaded or access made to a lower deck; the cover to the opening is called a hatch.
Hauling Wind - Pointing the ship towards the direction of the wind; generally not the fastest point of travel on a sailing vessel.
Hawse Pipe, Hawse-hole or Hawse - The shaft or hole in the side of a vessel's bow through which the anchor chain passes.
Hawser - Large rope used for mooring or towing a vessel.
Head - The toilet or latrine of a vessel, which in sailing ships projected from the bows. Also the top edge of a sail.
Header - A change in the wind direction which forces the helmsman of a close hauled sailboat to steer away from its current course to a less favorable one. This is the opposite of a lift.
Heading - The direction in which a vessel's bow points at any given time.
Head of Navigation - A term used to describe the farthest point above the mouth of a river that can be navigated by ships.
Head Sea: A sea where waves are directly opposing the motion of the ship.
Headsail - Any sail flown in front of the most forward mast.
Heave - A vessel's transient, vertical, up-and-down motion.
Heave down - Turn a ship on its side (for cleaning). Also known as Careening.
Heaving To - Stopping a sailing vessel by lashing the helm in opposition to the sails. The vessel will gradually drift to leeward, the speed of the drift depending on the vessel's design.
Heeling - Heeling is the lean caused by the wind's force on the sails of a sailing vessel.
Helm - The steering wheel. The wheel and/or wheelhouse area.
Helmsman - A person who steers a ship.
Hemisphere - Half of a sphere. On the globe hemispheres are used to describe the halves of the earth north or south of the equator.
Highfield Lever - A particular type of tensioning lever, usually for running backstays. Their use allows the leeward backstay to be completely slackened so that the boom can be let fully out.
High Seas - The area of the sea not under the sovereignty of nations with a seaboard.
High Tide - The point of a tide when the water is the highest.
Hitch - A knot used to tie a rope or line to a fixed object.
Hog - A fore-and-aft structural member of the hull fitted over the keel to provide a fixing for the garboard planks. Also a rough flat scrubbing brush for cleaning a ship’s bottom underwater.
Hogging - When the peak of a wave is amidships, causing the hull to bend so the ends of the keel are lower than the middle. The opposite of sagging. Also refers to a permanent distortion of the hull in the same manner caused, over time, by the bow and stern of a ship being less buoyant than the midships section. During the Age of Sail, shipwrights employed a number of different designs of braces to stiffen ships' hulls against this type of warping.
Hold - The lower part of the interior of a ship's hull, especially when considered as storage space, as for cargo. In later merchant vessels it extended up through the decks to the underside of the weather deck.
Holiday - A gap in the coverage of newly applied paint, slush, tar or other preservative.
Holystone - A chunk of sandstone used to scrub the decks. The name comes from both the kneeling position sailors adopt to scrub, and the stone itself (which resembled a Bible in shape and size).
Horn - A sound signal which uses electricity or compressed air to vibrate a disc diaphragm.
Horn Timber: A fore-and-aft structural member of the hull sloping up and backwards from the keel to support the counter.
Horse - Attachment of sheets to deck of vessel (main-sheet horse). To move or adjust sail by brute hand force rather than using running rigging.
Hotel Load - The base amount of electricity needed to work the ship.
Hounds - Attachments of stays to masts.
Hull - The shell and framework of the basic flotation-oriented part of a ship.
Hull-Down - Of a vessel when only its upper parts are visible over the horizon.
Hull Speed - The maximum efficient speed of a displacement-hulled vessel.
Hurricane - A strong tropical revolving storm of force 12 or higher. In the northern hemisphere hurricanes revolve in a clockwise direction. In the southern hemisphere these storms revolve counterclockwise and are known as typhoons.
Hydrography - The study of the earth's waters.
Hydrofoil - A boat with wing-like foils mounted on struts below the hull, lifting the hull entirely out of the water at speed and allowing water resistance to be greatly reduced.
Hypothermia - A life-threatening condition where there is loss of body heat; the greatest danger for anyone in the water. As the body loses its heat, body functions slow down, and this can quickly lead to death.
Iceberg - A floating island of ice. Only about one-ninth of the total mass of an iceberg is visible above water level.
Jack Dusty - A naval stores clerk.
Jackass Barque - Four-masted sailing ship square-rigged on the two foremost masts and fore-and-aft rigged on the two after masts.
Jacklines or Jack Stays - Lines, often steel wire with a plastic jacket, from the bow to the stern on both port and starboard. The Jack Lines are used to clip on the safety harness to secure the crew to the vessel while giving them the freedom to walk on the deck.
Jackstaff - A short vertically erected pole at the bow on which the national flag is hoisted on naval ships while at anchor.
Jack Tar - A sailor dressed in 'square rig' with square collar. Formerly with a tarred pigtail.
Jacobs Ladder - A rope ladder, lowered from the deck, as when pilots or passengers come aboard.
Jenny - A genoa jib. A large jib that overlaps the mast.
Jetty - A man-made wall in open water rising several feet above high tide made of rubble and rocks used to create a breakwater, shelter, erosion control, a channel, or other such purpose.
Jib - A triangular staysail at the front of a ship.
Jibboom - A spar used to extend the bowsprit.
Jigger-Mast - The fourth mast, although ships with four or more masts were uncommon, or the aft most mast where it is smallest on vessels of less than four masts.
Jollies - Traditional Royal Navy nickname for the Royal Marines.
Jolly Roger - The Jolly Roger was the pirate's flag. It had a black background and a symbol (usually white) symbolizing death. The jolly roger came into use about 1700. Before then pirates used the colors of their nationality. Only Edward England flew a flag with the skull and crossbones motif, but all those flying the Jolly roger had symbols signifying either death, violence or limited time. The variations were unlimited.
Joggle - a slender triangular recess cut into the faying surface of a frame or steamed timber to fit over the land of clinker planking, or cut into the faying edge of a plank or rebate to avoid feather ends on a strake of planking. The feather end is cut off to produce a nib. The joggle and nib in this case is made wide enough to allow a caulking iron to enter the seam.
Junk - Old cordage past its useful service life as lines aboard ship. The strands of old junk were teased apart in the process called picking oakum. Also a sailing ship of classic Chinese design with characteristic full batten sails that span the masts usually on unstayed rigs.
Jury Rig: Both the act of rigging a temporary mast and sails and the name of the resulting rig. A jury rig would be built at sea when the original rig was damaged, then it would be used to sail to a harbor or other safe place for permanent repairs.
Kedge - A technique for moving or turning a ship by using a relatively light anchor known as a kedge. The kedge anchor may be droped while in motion to create a pivot and thus perform a sharp turn. The kedge anchor may also be carried away from the ship in a smaller boat, dropped, and then weighed, pulling the ship forward.
Keel - The central structural basis of the hull. Lowest lengthwise running timber of a ship.
Keelhauling - This was a severe maritime punishment. Performed by dragging a person under the keel of a ship with ropes. The victim rarely survived; he would either be cut to ribbons by the shellfish on the ship's bottom or drown.
Kelson - The timber immediately above the keel of a wooden ship.
Ketch - A two-masted fore-and-aft rigged sailboat with the aft mast (the mizzen) mounted (stepped) afore (in front of) the rudder.
Killick - A small anchor.
King plank - The centerline plank of a laid deck. Its sides are often recessed, or nibbed, to take the ends of their parallel curved deck planks.
Kissing the Gunner's Daughter - To bend over the barrel of a gun for punitive beating with a cane or cat.
Kitchen Rudder - Hinged cowling around a fixed propeller, allowing the drive to be directed to the side or forwards to control the movement of the vessel.
Kite - A light sail, such as a spinnaker, used to make the most of light following winds.
Knee - Connects two parts roughly at right angles, like deck beams to frames. It also refers to a vertical rubber fender used on pushboats or piers, sometimes shaped like a human leg bent slightly at the knee.
Knighthead - A bollard or bitt. Also either of two timbers rising from the keel of a sailing ship and supporting the inner end of the bowsprit.
Knockabout - A type of schooner without a bowsprit.
Knockdown - The condition of a sailboat being pushed abruptly to horizontal, with the mast parallel to the water surface.
Knot - A unit of speed: 1 nautical mile (1.8520 km; 1.1508 mi) per hour. Originally speed was measured by paying out a line from the stern of a moving boat. The line had a knot every 47 feet 3 inches (14.40 m), and the number of knots passed out in 30 seconds gave the speed through the water in nautical miles per hour.
Know the Ropes: A sailor who 'knows the ropes' is familiar with the miles of cordage and ropes involved in running a ship.
Kraken - Enormous sea monster supposed to have been seen off the coasts of America and Norway.
Lading - That which is loaded into a ship. The act of loading.
Lagan - Jettisoned goods that cast overboard and are buoyed for subsequent recovery.
Lagoon - An area of water totally or partially enclosed by coral islands, atolls, and reefs.
Laid Up - To be placed in reserve or mothballed. The latter usage is used in modern times and can refer to a specific set of procedures used by the US Navy to preserve ships in good condition.
Land Ho! - Traditional calling when a sailor sights land.
Land Lubber - Lubber is an old slang word for someone who is stupid and lazy. Sailors added land to it to describe someone unfamiliar about the ways of life aboard a ship.
Landfall - Arrival at land
Landlocked - Surrounded by land.
Landmark - A distinctive fixed reference point that can be used for navigation.
Lanyard - A rope that ties something off.
Larboard - Obsolete term for the left side of a ship. Derived from "lay-board" providing access between a ship and a quay, when ships normally docked with the left side to the wharf. Replaced by port side or port, to avoid confusion with starboard.
Lash - To tie something with a line; to secure.
Lashing - A rope used for securing any movable object in place.
Lask - To sail large, with wind about four points abaft beam.
Lateen - Narrow triangular sail set on a long yard or spar, the forward end of which is hauled down so that it sets obliquely on the mast with a high peak.
Lateral Resistance - The ability of a boat to keep from being moved sideways by the wind. Keels, daggerboards, centerboards, and leeboards are all used to improve a boat's lateral resistance.
Lateral System - A system of aids to navigation in which characteristics of buoys and beacons indicate the sides of the channel or route relative to a conventional direction of buoyage.
Latitude - The distance north or south of the equator measured and expressed in degrees. The equator is 0° and the north and south poles are 90°.
Launch - To float a vessel off the ways in a building yard after it is completed. A small boat used to ferry people to and from a larger vessel.
Lay - To come and go, used in giving orders to the crew, such as "lay forward" or "lay aloft". To direct the course of vessel. Also, to twist the strands of a rope together.
Lay Day - An unexpected delay time during a voyage often spent at anchor or in a harbor. It is usually caused by bad weather, equipment failure or needed maintenance.
Lazarette - A small stowage locker at the aft end of a boat.
Lazy Jacks, Lazyjacks - A network of cordage rigged to a point on the mast and to a series of points on either side of the boom that cradles and guides the sail onto the boom when the sail is lowered.
League - A unit of length, normally equal to three nautical miles.
Leech - The aft or trailing edge of a fore-and-aft sail; the leeward edge of a spinnaker; a vertical edge of a square sail. The leech is susceptible to twist, which is controlled by the boom vang, mainsheet and, if rigged with one, the gaff vang.
Lee Side - The side of a ship sheltered from the wind.
Lee Shore - A shore downwind of a ship. A ship which cannot sail well to windward risks being blown onto a lee shore and grounded.
Leeboard - A fin mounted on the side of a boat (usually in pairs) that can be lowered on the lee side of the ship to reduce leeway.
Leeway - The amount that a ship is blown leeward by the wind.
Lee-Oh or Hard-a-Lee: The command given to come about (tack through the wind) on a sailing boat.
Leeward - In the direction that the wind is blowing towards.
Let Go and Haul - An order indicating that the ship is now on the desired course relative to the wind and that the sails should be trimmed ('hauled') to suit.
Letters of Marque - A commission or license issued by a government authorizing seizure of enemy property and or condoning piracy against it's enemys. In Britain and her colonies the letter was usually issued by the sovereign, the Lord High Admiral, or a Colonial Governor.
Leviathan - A gigantic sea animal.
Liberty - Term for a seaman's short leave from his ship, permitting him to go ashore for the day or night.
Lifebelt, Lifejacket, Life Preserver or Mae West - A device such as a buoyant ring or inflatable jacket which is designed to keep a person afloat in the water.
Lifeboat - Shipboard lifeboat, kept on board a vessel and used to take crew and passengers to safety in the event of the ship being abandoned. Also rescue lifeboats usually launched from shore, to rescue people from the water or from vessels in difficulty.
Liferaft - An inflatable, covered raft, used similar to a lifeboat in the event of an emergency at sea.
Lift - An enabling wind shift that allows a close hauled sailboat to point up from its current course to a more favorable one. This is the opposite of a header.
Lighthouse - A structure erected to display a characteristic light as a warning of danger at sea and as an aid to navigation.
Lightship - A stationary vessel carrying a light used for navigation, serving the same purpose as a lighthouse.
Line - The correct nautical term for the majority of the cordage or "ropes" used on a vessel. A line will always have a more specific name, such as mizzen topsail halyard, which describes its use.
Line Astern - In naval warfare, a line of battle formed behind a flagship.
Liner - A major sized passenger vessel. Modern term for prestigious passenger vessels.. ocean liner.
List - A vessel's angle of lean or tilt to one side, in the direction called roll. Typically refers to a lean caused by flooding or improperly loaded or shifted cargo.
Loaded to the Gunwales - Literally, having cargo loaded as high as the ship's rail; also means extremely drunk.
Lofting - The technique used to convert a scaled drawing to full size used in boat construction.
Loggerhead - An iron ball attached to a long handle, used for driving caulking into seams and (occasionally) in a fight.
Long Stay - A description for the relative slackness of an anchor chain; this term means taught and extended.
Longitude - Imaginary lines drawn through the north and south poles on the globe used to measure distance east and west of the prime meridian at Greenwich, England (designated as 0°).
Longitudinal - A bulkhead, frame, or longitudinal stiffener, running fore and aft.
Longsplice - Sailor slang for marriage.
Lookout - A person designated to watch for other vessels and hazards.
Loose Cannon - An irresponsible and reckless individual whose behavior (either intended or unintended) endangers the group he or she belongs to. A loose cannon, weighing thousands of pounds, would crush anything and anyone in its path, and possibly even break a hole in the hull, thus endangering the seaworthiness of the whole ship.
Loose Footed - A mainsail that is not connected to a boom along its foot.
Lubber's Hole - A port cut into the bottom of the mizzentop (crow's-nest) allowing easy entry and exit. It was considered "un-seamanlike" to use this easier method rather than going over the side from the shrouds, and few sailors would risk the scorn of their shipmates by doing so (at least if there were witnesses).
Lubber's Line - A vertical line inside a compass case indicating the direction of the ship's head.
Luff - The forward edge of a sail.
Luff Up - To steer a sailing vessel more towards the direction of the wind until the pressure is eased on the sail.
Luffing - When a sailing vessel is steered far enough to windward that the sail is no longer completely filled with wind. To loosening a sheet so far past optimal trim that the sail is no longer completely filled with wind. The flapping of the sails which results from having no wind in the sail at all.
Lying Ahull: Waiting out a storm by dousing all sails and simply letting the boat drift.
Lugger - A sailing vessel rigged with lugsails.
Lugsail - A four-sided fore-and-aft sail supported by a spar along the top that is fixed to the mast at a point some distance from the center of the spar.
Magnetic Bearing - An absolute bearing using magnetic north.
Magnetic North - The direction towards the North Magnetic Pole. Varies slowly over time.
Mainbrace - One of the braces attached to the mainmast.
Making Way - When a vessel is moving under its own power.
Mainmast or Main - The tallest mast on a ship.
Mainsheet - Sail control line that allows the most obvious effect on mainsail trim. Primarily used to control the angle of the boom, and thereby the mainsail, this control can also increase or decrease downward tension on the boom while sailing upwind, significantly affecting sail shape. For more control over downward tension on the boom, use a boom vang.
Man of War or Man o'War - A powerful naval warship from the Age of Sail, some carried over 100 cannon at the peak of their development.
Man Overboard! - A cry let out when a seaman has fallen from the ship into the water.
Man the Yards - On square-rigged ships, a form of ceremonial salute to honor the visit of a high official. The yards were lined by men standing upon them, and there was also a man standing on the truck of each topgallant mast.
Manhole - A hole in a tank, boiler or compartment on a ship, designed to allow the passage of a man for examination, cleaning, and repairs.
Manifest - A document containing the ship's name and port of registry, a full list of the ship's crew, passengers, full details of her cargo, and other relevant information.
Marconi Rig - Another term for Bermudan rig. The mainsail is triangular, rigged fore-and-aft with the lead edge fixed to the mast. Refers to the similarity of the tall mast to a radio aerial.
Marina - Docking facility for small ships and yachts.
Mariner - In general, a person employed in a sea-going vessel. In some cases, applied to a seaman who works on deck.
Mark - An object used as a reference point while navigating.
Marlinspike - A tool used in ropework for tasks such as unlaying rope for splicing, untying knots, or forming a makeshift handle.
Maroon - Pirates used marooning as an act of punishment. A transgressor of their codes would be stripped and left upon an isolated island with only a few supplies, if any at all. Most transgressors preferred a quick death to marooning, for it could mean starvation or worse, isolation for years, until rescue or death.
Mast - These were upright beams which sails were suspended from. The number of mast varied. Their names were, mainmast ( largest mast centrally located ), fore-mast ( front of ship ), aft-mast ( rear of mainmast ), mizzenmast ( usually lateen-rigged, rear and sometimes front of ship, used to improve steering ), bowsprit ( extended out at an angle over the bow ).
Mast Stepping - The process of raising the mast.
Masthead - A small platform partway up the mast, just above the height of the mast's main yard. A lookout is stationed here, and men who are working on the main yard will embark from here.
Master - Either the commander of commercial vessel, or a senior officer of a naval sailing ship in charge of routine seamanship and navigation but not in command during combat.
Master at Arms - A non-commissioned officer responsible for discipline on a naval ship. Standing between the officers and the crew, commonly known in the Royal Navy as 'the Buffer'.
Master Gunner - On a sailing warship, he was responsible for the ship's guns and ammunition. This included sifting the powder to keep it dry and prevent it from separating, insuring the cannon balls were kept free of rust, and all weapons were kept in good repair.
Mate - The word mate comes from the word meat, and originally meant people who shared food. Later it came to be known as a companion. Mate was also the title of an officer aboard naval and merchant ships. The mate oversaw the sailors, ensuring that the captain's orders were carried out. He also was responsible for stowing cargo and organizing the crew's work.
Matelot - A traditional Royal Navy term for an ordinary sailor.
Mayday - An internationally recognized distress signal used on a radio to indicate a life threatening situation. Mayday calls have priority over any other radio transmission and should only be used if there is an immediate threat to life or vessel.
Mediterranean Berth - A method of docking with a boat's stern to the dock.
Mercator Projection - Method of producing a chart in which the parallels of latitude and the meridians of longitude intersect each other at right angles.
Merchant Navy - The merchant ships on the official registers of any nation.
Meridian - A semi great circle joining the north and south poles. Known as lines of longitude, they cross the equator and all parallels of latitude at right angles.
Mermaid - A mythological aquatic creature with a female human head, arms, and torso and the tail of a fish. A male version of a mermaid is known as a "merman" and in general both males and females are known as "merfolk" or "merpeople". Mermaids have been represented in the folklore, literature and popular culture of many countries worldwide for centuries.
Mess - Dining room facilities and kitchen for crew separate from the passenger dining room and kitchen.
Mess Deck - Where meals are eaten
Midshipman - A non-commissioned officer below the rank of Lieutenant. Usually regarded as being "in training" to some degree. Also known as 'Snotty'.
Military Mast - Hollow tubular masts used in warships in the last third of the Nineteenth Century, often equipped with a fighting top armed with light-caliber guns.
Mizzenmast or Mizzen - The third mast, or mast aft of the mainmast, on a ship.
Mizzen Staysail - Sail on a ketch or yawl, usually lightweight, set from, and forward of, the mizzen mast while reaching in light to moderate air.
Monkey's Fist - A ball woven out of line used to provide heft to heave the line to another location. The monkey fist and other heaving-line knots were sometimes weighted with lead.
Moor - To attach a boat to a mooring buoy or post. Also, to a dock a ship.
Mooring Line - A line used to secure a boat to an anchor, dock, or mooring.
Morse Code - A language of "dots" and "dashes" used to send messages, either sound using radio waves, or light using a searchlight or Aldis lamp.
Motor - An engine. Or the act of using an engine to move a boat.
Motor Sailing - Sailing with the motor on and in gear.
Mould - A template of the shape of the hull in transverse section. Several moulds are used to form a temporary framework around which a hull is built.
Mount - An attachment point for another object.
Mouse - Any small collar made with spunyarn or light line to hold something in place.
Mouse a Hook - The passing of several turns of line across the jaw of a hook to prevent something on the hook, such as an eye or a line, from jumping clear.
Mudhook - Sailor's slang for anchor.
Multi-Hull - A vessel formed of two or more hulls. A catamaran has two hulls, and a trimaran has three hulls.
Mushroom Anchor - A type of anchor with a heavy inverted mushroom shaped head. Mushroom anchors are used to anchor in mud and other soft ground.
Muster - To assemble passengers and/or crew.
Mutiny - A forceful resistance to recognized authority. A refusal to obey a legal order of a superior officer is also considered mutiny.
Narrows - Small passages
Oar - A pole with a blade at the end used to row a rowboat. Oars are different than paddles because they have a provision to be secured to the rowboat for rowing, such as an oarlock. The three parts to an oar are: the blade, the part which enters the water; the shaft, the main body of the oar: and the loom, the inboard end on which the rower pulls.
Oarlock - A device to attach oars to a rowboat, allowing the operator to row rather than paddle the boat.
Oceangoing - Describing a sturdy vessel of large enough size to withstand the extremes of wind and waves found on the open sea.
Oceanic - Relating to the ocean, especially the offshore deeps.
Oceanography - The scientific study and documentation of all aspects of the earth's oceans, including their measurements, chemistry, water temperature and movement, weather, biology and natural resources.
Offing - Seaward, a safe distance from shore; To keep an offing is to keep a safe distance away from the coast because of navigational dangers, fog, or other hazards.
Offshore - Away from land, toward the water.
Offshore Wind - Wind blowing from off the shore.
Offwind - Any point of sailing away from the wind.
Oiler - A member of a ship's engineering crew who assisted the chief engineer with lubricating and maintaining the engine.
Oilskins or Oilies - Foul-weather clothing worn by sailors.
Old Salt - A very experienced and/or old sailor.
On Station - A ship's destination, typically an area to be patrolled or guarded.
Orlop Deck - The lowest deck of a ship of the line. The deck covering in the hold.
Out of Trim - Sails that are not properly arranged for the point of sail that the boat is on. The sails may be luffing or have improper sail shape, or the boat may be heeling too much. These conditions will slow the boat down.
Out Point - To sail closer to the wind than another boat on the same tack.
Outboard Motor - A motor mounted externally on the transom of a small boat. The boat may be steered by twisting the whole motor, instead of or in addition to using a rudder.
Outdrive - The lower part of a sterndrive.
Outer Skin - The outside plating of a vessel.
Outhaul - A line used to control the shape of a sail.
Outrigger - A structure which extends outboard beyond the edge of the hull for some special purpose. Some Polynesian canoes use outriggers to support an "ama" or small secondary hull, while fishing boats may use outriggers to suspend lines or nets over the water.
Outward Bound - To leave the safety of port, heading for the open ocean.
Overbear - To sail downwind directly at another ship, stealing the wind from its sails.
Over-Canvassed - To have too great a sail area up to safely maneuver in the current wind conditions.
Overfalls - Dangerously steep and breaking seas due to opposing currents and wind in a shallow area, or strong currents over a shallow rocky bottom.
Overhaul - Hauling the buntline ropes over the sails to prevent them from chaffing.
Overhead - The "ceiling," or, essentially, the bottom of the deck above you.
Over-Reaching - When tacking, holding a course too long.
Overtaking - Passing another vessel.
Overwhelmed - Capsized or foundered.
Owner's Flag - A boat owner's private pennant.
Ox-eye - A cloud or other weather phenomenon that may be indicative of an upcoming storm.
Pad Eye - A loop shaped fitting attached to the deck, spar, boom, etc., used to secure a line or block to some part of the vessel.
Paddle - A stick with a blade in the end of it used to propel a small boat through the water; The act of using a paddle to propel a boat.
Painter - A line tied to the bow of a small boat for use in towing, securing or tying up.
Palm - A leather tool worn on the hand with a thimble shaped structure on it, and used when sewing canvas or sails.
Panting - The pulsation in and out of the bow and stern plating as the ship alternately rises and plunges deep into the water.
Parachute Flare - An emergency signal flare that will float down on a parachute after launch, hopefully improving its visibility.
Parallel Rule - Tool used for transferring course and bearing to and from the compass rose on a chart.
Parallels - Latitude lines.
Parbuckle - Method of lifting a roughly cylindrical object such as a spar. One end of a rope is made fast above the object, a loop of rope is lowered and passed around the object, which can be raised by hauling on the free end of rope.
Parley - Discussion or conference, especially between enemies, over terms of a truce or other matters.
Parrel - Movable loop or collar, used to fasten a yard or gaff to its respective mast. Parrel still allows the spar to be raised or lowered and swivel around the mast. Can be made of wire or rope and fitted with beads to reduce friction.
Part Brass Rags - Fall out with a friend. From the days when cleaning materials were shared between sailors.
Parting Strop - Strop inserted between two hawsers, and weaker than the hawsers, so that strop, and not hawsers, will part with any excessive strain.
Partners - A framework of supporting structures used to support areas where high loads come through openings in the deck, such as the opening in the deck through which the mast passes.
Passage - A journey from one place to another.
Passageway - Hallway of a ship.
Passenger Ship - A ship that is authorized to carry more than twelve passengers.
Patrimonial Sea - The waters adjacent to a country over which it claims jurisdiction; Territorial Waters.
Pay Off - To let a vessel's head fall off from the wind (to leeward.)
Paying - Filling a seam with caulking or pitch, lubricating the running rigging; paying with slush, protecting from the weather by covering with slush.
Paymaster - The officer responsible for all money matters in RN ships including the paying and provisioning of the crew, all stores, tools and spare parts.
Peg Leg - This was a nickname, given by pirates to those who had replaced a leg with a wooden prosthetic. The Spanish name is Pié de Palo, the Dutch is Houtebeen. Two of the best known peg-legged pirates were Francois le Clerc and Cornelis Jol.
Pendant - A length of wire or rope secured at one end to a mast or spar and having a block or other fitting at the lower end.
Pennant - A long, thin triangular flag flown from the masthead of a military ship (as opposed to a burgee, the flags thus flown on yachts).
Picaroon - Term meaning both pirate and slaver.
Piece of Eight or Peso - The peso was the main coin in the Spanish-American colonies. It was slightly larger than the 19th century U.S. silver dollar. It had a value of eight reales. Often the coin would be cut into 8 sections, each one representing 1 reale. Hence the name "piece of eight". The Spanish government minted an immense amount of these coins and they were widely circulated.
Pier - A loading/landing platform or structure extending at an angle from the shore.
Piling - Support, protection for wharves, piers etc.; constructed of piles.
Pillar - Any steel bar or column, fitted vertically, to support a deck, or any part of a ship's structure. Also called a stanchion.
Pillow - Block of timber mounted on the deck just inside the bow on which the inner end of the bowsprit was supported.
Piloting - Navigation by using visible references, the depth of the water, etc.
Pilot - Navigator. A specially knowledgeable person qualified to navigate a vessel through difficult waters.
Pilotage - The act carried out by a pilot of assisting the master of a ship in navigation when entering or leaving a port. Sometimes used to define the fee payable for the services of a pilot. Also, the act of navigating a vessel coastwise when land is near and the water is relatively shallow.
Pilothouse - A compartment on or near the bridge of a ship that contains the steering wheel and other controls, compass, charts, navigating equipment and means of communicating with the engine room and other parts of the ship. Also known as wheelhouse.
Pinnace - A small vessel used as a tender to larger vessels. Or a small "race built" galleon, squared rigged with either two or three masts.
Pintle - The pin or bolt on which a ships rudder pivots. The pintle rests in the gudgeon.
Pipe - Another name for the bo'sun's whistle. The whistle used by Boatswains (bosuns or bos'ns) to issue commands. Consisting of a metal tube which directs the breath over an aperture on the top of a hollow ball to produce high pitched notes. The pitch of the notes can be changed by partly covering the aperture with the finger of the hand in which the pipe is held. The shape of the instrument is similar to that of a smoking pipe.
Pipe Down - A signal on the bosun's pipe to signal the end of the day, requiring lights (and smoking pipes) to be extinguished and silence from the crew.
Piping the Side - A salute on the bos'n's pipe(s) performed in the company of the deck watch on the starboard side of the quarterdeck or at the head of the gangway, to welcome or bid farewell to the ship's Captain, senior officers and honoured visitors.
Piracy - The act of taking a ship on the high seas from those lawfully entitled to it.
Pitch - A vessel's motion, rotating about the beam/transverse axis, causing the fore and aft ends to rise and fall repetitively.
Pitchpole - To capsize a boat stern over bow, rather than by rolling over.
Planing - When a fast-moving vessel skims over the water instead of pushing through it.
Planking - Wood boards used to cover the ribs, frames, deck or hull of a wooden vessel.
Plating - Flat steel stock of various thicknesses used in the construction of a ship to form the sides and decks.
Play - The difference between the diameter of a shaft rod, etc., and that of the hole in which it works.
Plimsoll Line - The mark stencilled in and painted on a ship's side, designated by a circle and horizontal lines to mark the highest permissible load water lines under different conditions.
Plot - To mark a course on a chart.
Plug - A tapered device, usually made from wood or rubber, which can be forced into a hole to prevent water from flowing through it. Plugs should be available to fit every through hull fitting on the boat. Also the pattern on which the hulls of small craft are molded in fiberglass.
Pod - A group of whales.
Point Up - To change the direction of a sailboat so that it is more up wind. To bring the bow windward. Also called heading up. This is the opposite of falling off.
Polaris - The North Star; visible in the northern hemisphere and indicates the direction of north. In the southern hemisphere the Southern Cross is used to find the direction of south.
Pole - A spar. Such as a pole used to position a sail (e.g., spinnaker pole or whisker pole, which serves the same purpose for a jib).
Ponton - An English prison hulk, or converted ship hull where captured pirates were held.
Pontoon - A hollow, watertight tank used to give buoyancy. Also a flat-bottomed vessel used as a ferry, barge, car float or a float moored alongside a jetty or a ship to facilitate boarding.
Poop deck: A high deck on the aft superstructure of a ship.
Pooped - Swamped by a high, following sea. Or exhausted.
Port - The left side of the boat. Towards the left-hand side of the ship facing forward (formerly Larboard). Denoted with a red light at night.
Port of Call - Country, island or territory the vessel visits.
Porthole or Port: A round opening in a ship's side for admitting light and air, fitted with thick glass and, often, a hinged metal cover.
Port Tack - When sailing with the wind coming from the port side of the vessel. Must give way to boats on starboard tack.
Poseidon - The Greek god of the sea.
Powder Magazine - A small room/closet area in the hull of the ship used for storing gunpowder in barrels, or, "kegs", usually located centrally so as to have easy access to the grated loading area. Sometimes may be an enclosed closet with a door, so it can be locked and only the captain would have the key, similar to how rum is stored.
Pram - A flat bottomed, blunt nosed dinghy (or small boat).
Pratique - Certificate given to a ship arriving from a foreign port, by the port's health officer, indicating that there are no cases of disease aboard the ship and the health of all on board is good.
Press Gang - Formed body of personnel from a ship of the Royal Navy (either a ship seeking personnel for its own crew or from a 'press tender' seeking men for a number of ships) that would identify and force (press) men, usually merchant sailors into service on naval ships usually against their will.
Prevailing Winds - The typical winds for a particular region and time of year.
Preventer - A sail control line originating at some point on the boom leading to a fixed point on the boat's deck or rail (usually a cleat or pad eye) used to prevent or moderate the effects of an accidental jibe.
Prime Meridian - The meridian from which longitude is measured eastwards or westwards. The longitude of the prime meridian, passing through Greenwich, England, is 0°
Privateer - A privately owned ship authorised by a national power (by means of a Letter of marque) to conduct hostilities against an enemy.
Privileged Vessel - A vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rule, has right-of-way. Also known as the "stand on" vessel.
Prize - An enemy vessel captured at sea. The term is also applied to contraband cargo taken from a merchant ship.
Procuration - The acting of one person on behalf of another; a document authorizing one person to act on behalf of another.
Prop - Slang for propeller.
Propeller - A rotating device, with two or more blades, that acts as a screw in propelling a vessel. Sometimes called a screw.
Propeller (fixed) - A propeller mounted on a rigid shaft protruding from the hull of a vessel, usually driven by an inboard motor.
Propeller (folding) - A propeller with folding blades, furling to reduce drag on a sailing vessel when not in use.
Propeller Walk or Prop Walk - Tendency for a propeller to push the stern sideways. In theory a right hand propeller in reverse will walk the stern to port.
Prow - Poetical alternative term for bow and forward part of the vessel above the waterline.
Puddening - Fibres of old rope packed between spars, or used as a fender.
Puff - A sudden burst of wind stronger than the current wind conditions.
Pulpit - An elevated guardrail set up at the bow of a vessel. When erected at the stern, it is called a pushpit.
Pumpout - Removing waste from a holding tank.
Punt - A small flat bottomed boat square at either end.
Puoy - Spiked pole used for propelling a barge or boat by resting its outboard end on an unyielding object.
Pusser - Purser, the person who buys, stores and sells all stores on board ships, especially on a passenger ship. Originally a private merchant, latterly a warrant officer.
Put About - To change the course of a sailing vessel.
Put In - To enter a port or harbor.
Quarantine - A harbor restriction placed on a ship which has an infectious disease on board, or which has arrived from a country where such a disease is prevalent. The crew may not go ashore until the ship is granted pratique.
Quarantine Flag or Q Flag - The Quebec pennant is flown when first entering a country, indicating that the people on the ship are healthy and that the vessel wants permission to visit the country. The flag means "My vessel is healthy and I request free pratique.
Quarter - That portion of the vessel forward of the stern and abaft of the beam. "On the quarter" applies to a bearing 45º abaft the beam. Every boat has a starboard and a port quarter.
Quarter Berth - A bunk which runs under the cockpit.
Quarter Boat - Boat carried at davits on quarter of ship, and kept ready for immediate use when at sea.
Quarter Spring - Line led forward, from quarter of a vessel, to prevent her from moving astern.
Quarterdeck - The aftermost deck of a warship. In the age of sail, the quarterdeck was the preserve of the ship's officers. As the need for 'castles' on a sailing ship were diminished so too was their size. Fore and aft-castles were replaced with the terms quarter-deck and fore-deck.
Quartering Sea - Winds and waves on a boat's quarter.
Quartermaster - An able-bodied seamen entrusted with the steering of a vessel when entering or leaving a harbor. He is also involved with the use and upkeep of navigational equipment. On a pirate ship, the quartermaster had an almost equal amount of authority as the captain. He was elected and as such was the crew's voice. If a ship was captured, the quartermaster almost always took over the captured ship. He maintained order, settled arguments, and distributed supplies. The quartermaster was in charge of all booty gained and distributed it among the crew.
Quarters - Living space for the crew.
Quay - A solid wharf or structure built of stone along the edge of a harbor used for loading and offloading of cargo, and embarkation and disembarkation of passengers.
Quayside - Refers to the dock or platform used to fasten a vessel to.
Queen's (King's) Regulations - The standing orders governing the British Royal Navy issued in the name of the current Monarch.
Queen Topsail - Small staysail located between the foremast and mainmast.
Raft - A small flat boat, usually inflatable.
Rail - The edge where the deck joins the hull; top edge of bulwarks. Or the railing around the deck.
Rake - The inclination of a vessel's mast from its vertical position. The rake may be either forward or aft, and can be deliberately induced (by adjustment of the standing rigging) to flatten sails, balance steering, etc. Normally slightly aft. The term can also be used to describe the degree of overhang of a vessel's bow and stern.
Ram - A strengthened or armored projection from the bow of a warship for the purpose of disabling or sinking an enemy ship by ramming her.
Range - Sighting two objects in a line to indicate a course to be steered. Or the distance a boat can travel using the fuel stored aboard.
Ratlines - Rope ladders permanently rigged from bulwarks and tops to the mast to enable access to top masts and yards.
Rattle Down - The operation of securing the ratlines to the shrouds.
Reaching - Sailing across the wind; from about 60° to about 160° off the wind. Reaching consists of "close reaching" (about 60° to 80°), "beam reaching" (about 90°) and "broad reaching" (about 120° to 160°).
Ready About - An expression used to the crew to indicate that the boat is about to tack.
Receiver of Wreck - A government official whose duty is to give owners of shipwrecks the opportunity to retrieve their property and ensure that law-abiding finders of wreck receive an appropriate reward.
Reciprocal - A bearing 180° from the other. A direction directly opposite the original direction.
Reckoning - The record of courses steered and distances traveled since the time a ship's position was last fixed by shore or astronomical observations.
Red Duster - Traditional nickname for the Red Ensign, the civil ensign (flag) carried by United Kingdom civilian vessels.
Reduced Cat - A light version on the cat o'nine tails for use on boys.
Reef - Rock or coral, possibly only revealed at low tide, shallow enough that the vessel will at least touch if not go aground.
Reef Bands - Long pieces of rough canvas sewed across the sails to give them additional strength.
Reef Knot - Also known as the square knot, it is formed by two half hitches in which the ends always fall in line with the outer parts. This knot is used to loosely tie lines around the bundles of sail that are not in use after reefing.
Reef Points - Small flat lengths of braided cord attached by eyelets to a sail along the reef band, used to secure the excess fabric after reefing. Typically, a reef point consists of two lengths of cord which taper towards their ends-- the narrow end of each is threaded through an eye in the wide end of the other and then the pair are rove through the eyelet in the reef band such that one length hangs before and the other abaft the sail.
Reef Tackles - Ropes employed in the operation of reefing.
Reefer - A shipboard refrigerator or freezer.
Reeve - To thread a line through blocks in order to gain a mechanical advantage, such as in a block and tackle. (Past tense - rove)
Relative Bearing - A bearing relative to the direction of the ship; the clockwise angle between the ship's direction and an object.
Revenue Cutter - A single masted cutter built expressly for the prevention of smuggling and the enforcement of customs regulations.
Reverse Sheer - When the sheer curves down towards the bow and stern.
Rhumb Line - A straight line compass course between two points. A line on the earth's surface which intersects all meridians at the same angle.
Ribband - Strips of material temporarily holding parts of a ship in position.
Ribs - The frames or timbers of a ship as they rise from the keel to form the shape of the hull.
Ride To - Lie at anchor
Rigger - One whose occupation is to rig or unrig vessels.
Rigging - A general term applying to all the lines, stays and shrouds necessary for spars and sails. The standing rigging is the mast, shrouds and stays, while running rigging refers to halyards and sheets that control the sails.
Right of Way - The right to maintain a course according to the Rules of Navigation. When two boats are on intersecting courses, one is the "stand-on" vessel (has "right of way" and must hold its course steady) so the other "give-way" vessel may steer clear.
Righting Couple: The force which tends to restore a ship to equilibrium once a heel has altered the relationship between her centre of buoyancy and her centre of gravity.
Rigol - The rim or 'eyebrow' above a port-hole or scuttle.
Rip Tide - The rip tide is not a tide, it is a current. When waves hit the beach they hit at an angle and push water ahead of them. This water forms a current that flows parallel to the shore, called the longshore current. When the shape of the beach changes, or its direction (as in from North-South to Northeast-Southwest) the speed of the current changes. Locally this can cause more water to flow into an area than can flow out, and water will pile up. This is much like a traffic jam for the currents. However, the water, which is trapped next to the shore, cannot get out because of the longshore current. Eventually, so much water will pile up that it can break through the longshore current in a small area. The large amount of water rushing through a small break causes a strong current in a small area that flows perpendicular (away) from the shore. This is what is called the rip tide.
Rips - Short, steep waves caused by the meeting of currents.
Rivet - A metal pin by which the plating and other parts of iron and steel vessels are joined. Rivets are known by their heads, such as: Flush, pan, snap, plug, tap, countersunk, mushroom, and swollen neck.
Rode: -The anchor line, rope or cable connecting the anchor chain to the vessel.
Rogue Knot - Seaman's name for a reef knot tied upside down. also called a "granny" knot.
Roll - A vessel's motion rotating from side to side, about the fore-aft/longitudinal axis.
Rolling Tackle - A number of pulleys, engaged to confine the yard to the weather side of the mast. This tackle is much used in a rough sea.
Ropes - The lines in the rigging.
Rope's End - A summary punishment device.
Round - A verb with a variety of meanings. To round in is to haul in quickly; to round up is to bring a sailing vessel head into the wind; to round down a tackle is to overhaul it; to round a mark is to pass a racing mark.
Round Turn - One complete turn of the line around a cleat, spar or another line.
Round Turn and Two Half Hitches - [image] - A knot widely used when making a boat fast to a post or bollard.
Rouse Out - Turning out all hands on board ship in the morning, or calling the watch for duty on deck.
Row - A method of moving a boat with oars. The person rowing the boat faces backwards, bringing the blade of the oars out of the water and toward the bow of the boat. They then pull the oars through the water toward the stern of the boat, moving the boat forward.
Rowboat - A small boat designed to be rowed by use of its oars. Some dinghies are rowboats.
Rowlock - A bracket providing the fulcrum for an oar.
Rubbing Strake - An extra plank fitted to the outside of the hull, usually at deck level, to protect the topsides.
Rudder - A steering device which can be placed aft, externally relative to the keel or compounded into the keel either independently or as part of the centerboard.
Rummage - Originally meant "to stow cargo". Now, means "to search a ship carefully and thoroughly".
Run Aground - To take a boat into water that is too shallow for it to float in, so that the bottom of the boat is resting on the ground.
Run Out - To put out a mooring, hawser or line from a ship to a point of attachment outside her.
Running - Sailing in the same direction as the wind with the wind coming from the stern.
Running Backstay, Runners - Adjustable stays used to support and control tension on the mast when the wind is from abaft the beam; temporary backstays used to stabilize the mast and prevent undue flexing due to the pumping action of the sea.
Running Before the Wind - Sailing more than about 160° away from the wind. If directly away from the wind, it's a dead run.
Running Bowline - A type of knot that tightens under load. It is formed by running the standing line through the loop formed in a regular bowline, or by tying around a bight in the line.
Running Fix - A fix taken by taking bearings of a single object over a period of time. By using the vessel's known course and speed, the location of the vessel can be found.
Running Gear - The propellers, shafts, struts and related parts of a motorboat.
Running Lights - Lights required to be shown on boats underway between sunset and sunrise; they tell other vessels not only where you are, but what you are doing.
Running Rigging - Rigging used to manipulate sails, spars, etc. in order to control the movement of the ship.
Saddle - A block of wood or a bracket attached to a spar to support another spar attached to it.
Safe Harbour or Safe Haven - A harbour which provides safety from bad weather or attack.
Safety Harness - A device worn around a person's body that can be tethered to jack lines to help prevent a person from falling overboard.
Sagging - When the trough of a wave is amidships, causing the hull to deflect so the ends of the keel are higher than the middle. The opposite of hogging.
Sail - A large piece of fabric designed to be hoisted on the spars of a sailboat in such a manner as to catch the wind and propel the boat.
Sail Plan - A set of drawings showing various sail combinations recommended for use in various situations.
Sail Shape - The shape of a sail, with regard to its efficiency. Controls such as the cunningham, boom vang, outhaul, traveler, halyards, leech line, sheets, and the bend of the mainmast all can affect sail shape. Also sail trim.
Sail Track - A slot into which the bolt rope or lugs in the luff of the sail are inserted to attach the sail.
Sail Trim - The positioning and shape of the sails to the wind; To sheet in or out the sails for the most optimal performance and speed.
Sailboat - A boat which uses the wind as its primary means of propulsion.
Sailcloth - A fabric, usually synthetic, used to make sails.
Sailing - Is the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill, while slowly going nowhere at great expense.
Sailing By The Lee - Sailing on a run with the wind coming over the stern from the same side as the boom.
Sailing Ice - Small masses of drift ice with waterways in which a vessel can sail.
Sailing Rig - The equipment used to sail a boat, including sails, booms and gaffs, lines and blocks, etc.
Sailor - Man or boy employed in sailing deep-water craft. Word is sometimes loosely used to include men who go to sea. Used officially to denote a seaman serving on deck.
Saint Elmo's Fire - An electrical discharge caused by certain atmospheric conditions, which takes place around the rigging. Known by many other names, it was regarded by many superstitious seamen as a favorable omen, foretelling the end of stormy weather. And others believed they would die within 24 hours if light from this phenomenon fell upon their face.
Sallying - Rolling a vessel, that is slightly ice-bound, so as to break the surface ice around her. May sometimes be done when a vessel is lightly aground, but not ice-bound.
Salon or Saloon - The main social cabin of a boat.
Salvage - Recovery and reclamation of damaged, discarded or abandoned material, ships, craft and floating equipment for reuse, repair, re-fabrication or scrapping. Also the property which has been recovered from a wrecked vessel, or the recovery of the vessel herself.
Sampson Post - A strong vertical post used to support a ship's windlass and the heel of a ship's bowsprit.
Scandalize - To reduce the area and efficiency of a sail by expedient means (slacking the peak and tricing up the tack) without properly reefing, thus slowing boat speed. Also used in the past as a sign of mourning.
Scantlings - Dimensions of ships structural members, such as frame, beam, girder, etc.
Scarf or Scarph - The joining of two timbers by beveling the edges so the same thickness is maintained throughout the length of the joint.
Schooner - A fore-and-aft rigged sailboat with two or more masts. The aft mast is the same size or larger than the forward ones.
Scope - The ratio of the length of an anchor line, from a vessel's bow to the anchor, to the depth of the water.
Scow - A method of preparing an anchor for tripping by attaching an anchor cable to the crown and fixing to the ring by a light seizing. The seizing can be broken if the anchor becomes fouled. Also a type of boat with a flat bottom and square ends.
Screw - A boat or ship's propeller.
Scrimshaw - A sailor's carving or etching on bones, teeth, tusks or shells.
Scuba - Self Contained underwater Breathing Apparatus.
Scud - A name given by sailors to the lowest clouds, which are mostly observed in squally weather.
Scudding - A term applied to a vessel when carried furiously along by a tempest.
Sculling - On sailboats with transom mounted rudders, forward propulsion is made by a balanced side to side movement of the tiller.
Scuppers - Originally a series of pipes fitted through the ships side from inside the thicker deck waterway to the topside planking to drain water overboard, larger quantities drained through freeing ports, which were openings in the bulwarks.
Scurvy - A disease resulting from a vitamin C deficiency charactorized by weakness, anemia, and spongy gums. In the sense of 'scurvy dog' it meant low or mean, not angry but low in quality, an insult.
Scuttle - A small opening, or lid thereof, in a ship's deck or hull.
Scuttlebutt - A barrel with a hole in used to hold water that sailors would drink from. By extension (in modern naval usage), a shipboard drinking fountain or water cooler. Or slang for gossip.
Scuttling - Making a hole in the hull of a vessel or opening seacocks, especially in order to sink a vessel deliberately.
Sea - A body of salt water. A very large body of fresh water. The condition of the water around a boat. Heavy seas for example.
Sea Anchor -A stabilizer deployed in the water for heaving to in heavy weather. It acts as a brake and keeps the hull in line with the wind and perpendicular to waves. Often in the form of a large bag made of heavy canvas.
Sea Boat - Ship's boat kept ready for immediate lowering while at sea. When used for life-saving, it was called an accident boat or lifeboat.
Sea Boots - High waterproof boots for use at sea. In leisure sailing, known as sailing wellies.
Sea Breeze - Cool air pulled ashore by rising thermal air currents caused by the air inland rising as the land heats up.
Sea Buoy - The last buoy as a boat heads to sea.
Sea Captain - Master of a sea-going vessel. Certificated officer competent and qualified to be master of a sea-going vessel.
Sea Chest - A watertight box built against the hull of the ship communicating with the sea through a grillage, to which valves and piping are attached to allow water in for ballast, engine cooling, and firefighting purposes.
Sea Dog - Old and experienced seaman.
Sea Kindly - A boat that is comfortable in rough weather.
Sea Lawyer - Nautical name for an argumentative person.
Sea Level - The average level of the oceans, used when finding water depths or land elevations.
Sea Rover - A pirate or pirate's ship.
Sea Smoke - Vapour rising like steam or smoke from the sea caused by very cold air blowing over it.
Sea Trials - A series of trials conducted by the builders to determine if the vessel has met the specifications and is operating properly.
Seabag - A soft, cylindrical fabric bag for clothes and personal possessions.
Seacock - a valve in the hull of a boat.
Seafarer - One who earns his living by service at sea.
Seam - On vessels constructed of wood, the narrow gap between the planks which form the decks and sides and were caulked to make them watertight. Since wood swells when it's in contact with water, a narrow seam is necessary to allow for the expansion.
Seaman - Generic term for sailor, or of a low naval rank.
Seamanlike - In a manner, or fashion, befitting a seaman.
Seamanship - All the arts and skills of boat handling, ranging from maintenance and repairs to piloting, sail handling, marlinespike work, rigging, and all aspects of a boats operation.
Seaworthiness - Statement on the condition of the vessel. The sufficiency of a vessel in materials, construction, equipment, crew and outfit for the trade in which it is employed. Any sort of disrepair to the vessel by which the cargo may suffer, overloading, untrained officers, etc., may constitute a vessel unseaworthy.
Secondary Port - A port that is not directly listed in the tide tables but for which information is available as a difference from a nearby standard port.
Sector - An arc of a circle in which certain types of navigational lights known as sector lights are visible.
Secure - To make fast; to make safe and shipshape. To stow an object or tie it in place.
Sennet Whip - A summary punitive implement.
Set - To raise a sail. Term applied to sails in relation to their angle with the wind; like the set of the jib. A ship sets sail when she departs on a voyage, whether sails are used or not. An anchor is set when it has gripped the bottom and holds without dragging.
Sewed - Said of a vessel when water level has fallen from the level at which she would float, so she would be aground and need to wait for the next tide before re-floating. Also said of the water that has receded and caused a vessel to go aground.
Sextant - Navigational instrument used to measure a ship's latitude.
Shackle - A U-shaped fitting closed with a pin across the open ends, the pin sometimes being threaded at one end and sometimes held in place with a cotter pin, and used to secure sails to lines or fittings, lines to fittings, fittings to fittings, anchors to chain, etc.
Shaft - A cylinder used to carry rotating machine parts, such as pulleys and gears, to transmit power or motion; such as a propeller shaft.
Shaft Alley - Section of a ship that houses the propulsion shaft, running from the engine room to the stuffing box.
Shaft Log - A heavy longitudinal timber placed over the keel in a ship's stern through which the propeller shaft passes.
Shaft Strut - A term applied to a bracket supporting the after end of the propeller shaft and the propeller.
Shakes - Pieces of barrels or casks broken down to save space.
Shake Out - To remove a reef from a sail and hoist the sail aloft.
Shallop - Small boat for one or two rowers. Small fishing vessel with foresail, boom mainsail, and mizzen trysail.
Shank - The main shaft of an anchor which connects the arms to the anchor ring.
Sharp Up - Said of a square-rigged ship with her sails trimmed as close to the wind as possible.
Sharpen Up - To come up more into the wind.
She - All boats are referred to as female. She is at anchor. Her sails are set. etc.
Sheer - The upward curve of a vessel's longitudinal lines as viewed from the side.
Shear Pin - A safety device, used to fasten a propeller to its shaft; it breaks when the propeller hits a solid object, thus preventing further damage.
Sheathing - A covering to protect the bottom of a boat.
Sheave - The revolving wheel with grooved edge mounted in a block to guide the line or cable.
Sheepshank - A knot used to temporarily shorten a line.
Sheer - The straight or curved line of the deck line; curvature of the lines of a vessel toward the bow and stern.
Sheer Plan - In shipbuilding, a diagram showing an elevation of the ship's sheer viewed from the broadside.
Sheer Strake - The topmost planking in the sides, next below the gunwale, often thicker than other planking.
Sheet - A rope used to control the setting of a sail in relation to the direction of the wind.
Sheet In - Pull the sail in by pulling on the sheet.
Sheet Out - Let the sail out by easing the sheet.
Shelf-Ice - Land ice, either afloat or on ground, that is composed of layers of sow that have become firm but have not turned to glacier ice.
Shell - The outside plating of a ship from stem to stern.
Shellback - An old and experienced seaman.
Shift - A change in the wind direction.
Shift Colors - Changing the flag and pennant display when a moored vessel becomes underweigh, and vice versa. A highly coordinated display that ships take pride in; the desired effect is that of one set of flags vanishing while another set flashes out at precisely the same time. Also, slang for changing out of one's Navy uniform into civilian clothes to go ashore.
Shift Tides - Sighting the positions of the sun and moon using a sextant and using a nautical almanac to determine the location and phase of the moon and calculating the relative effect of the tides on the navigation of the ship.
Shifting - This refers to movements or changing positions of cargo from one place to another. This can easily endanger the seaworthiness or cargo-worthiness of the ship.
Shifting Boards - Temporarily placed longitudinal bulkheads used to prevent bulk cargo from shifting.
Ship - Strictly, a three-masted vessel square-rigged on all three masts, or on three masts of a vessel with more than three. Hence a ship-rigged barque would be a four master, square-rigged on fore, main and mizzen, with spanker and gaff topsail only on the Jigger-mast. Generally now used to describe most medium or large vessels outfitted with smaller boats. As a consequence of this submarines may be larger than small ships, but are called boats because they do not carry boats of their own.
Ship of the line - A major warship capable of taking its place in the main (battle) line of fighting ships. The godfather of the battleship.
Ship's Agent or Broker - A person or firm who transacts all business in a port on behalf of owners or charterers. Also called shipping agent or just agent.
Ship's Articles - A written agreement between the master of a ship and the crew concerning the terms of their employment.
Ship's Bell - Striking the ship's bell is the traditional method of marking time and regulating the crew's watches.
Ship's Company - The crew of a ship.
Ship's Log - A book with a record of every occurrence and incident concerning the ship.
Ship's Stability - The seaworthiness of a ship regarding the centrifugal force which enables her to remain upright.
Shipmaster - A person in command of a ship. A person certified as competent to command a ship. A master mariner.
Shipping Lane - Path through open water used for commercial vessel passage and so noted on charts.
Shipwright - A ship builder, or one who works about a ship. Does wood carpentry on the ship and keeps ships faired. Builds launching ways and launches ship.
Shiver My Timbers! - An expression of surprise or disbelief, as when a ship strikes a rock or shoal so hard that her timbers shiver.
Shoal - Shallow water that is a hazard to navigation.
Shoal Draught - Shallow draught, making the vessel capable of sailing in unusually shallow water.
Shore - The land in general, but usually refers to that part adjacent to the water. Also timber used in damage control to brace bulkheads and decks. One of the many wooden props by which the ribs or frames of a vessel are externally supported while building, or by which the vessel is held upright on the ways.
Shoring - The act of supporting anything by propping or shoring it up.
Short Sea - When the distance between the wave crests is less than normal.
Short Stay - Said of a vessel's anchor, or cable when the amount of cable out is not more than one-and-a-half times the depth of water.
Short Ton - 2,000 pounds.
Shove Off - To leave; to push a boat away from a pier or vessel's side.
Shroud - Part of the standing rigging that helps to support the mast laterally by running from the top of the mast to the side of the boat. Sailboats usually have one or more shrouds on each side of the mast. Some people call them side stays.
Sick Bay - The compartment aboard ship reserved for medical purposes.
Side Lights - Green and red lights on the starboard and port sides of the boat required for navigation at night. Each light is supposed to be visible through an arc of 112.5°, beginning from directly ahead of the boat to a point 22.5° aft of the beam.
Sideslip - The tendency of a boat to move sideways in the water instead of along its heading due to the motion of currents or currents.
Sight - A nautical astronomical observation of the sun, moon, or a star, by which means a vessel's position can be determined. The sight was taken with a sextant at a specific time, determined by a chronometer.
Sighting - Observing with the eye. Applied to a document, means examining and signing as evidence of satisfaction as to its authenticity.
Single Up - To cast off all but one remaining line.
Siren - A sound signal which uses electricity or compressed air to actuate either a disc or a cup shaped rotor.
Sister Ships - Ships built on the same design.
Sixteen Bells - Eight double strokes on ship's bell; customarily struck at midnight when new year commences.
Skeg - An extension of the keel for protection of propeller and rudder.
Skiff - Technically, a flat-bottomed boat, but often used to name any small boat for rowing or sculling.
Skin - The plating of a ship.
Skipper - The captain or master of a ship.
Skipper's Daughters - An old name for high waves when they break with a white crest.
Skysail - On a square-rigged ship, a light weather sail set next above the royal in fair weather.
Skyscraper - On a square-rigged ship, a small triangular sail set above the skysail in fair weather. A square version is called a Moonraker.
Slab Reefing - Reduces the area of the mainsail by partially lowering the sail and re-securing the new foot by tying it to the boom with points, or light lines attached to the sail. Also called points reefing and jiffy reefing.
Slack - Not fastened; loose. Also, to loosen or ease off.
Slack Away - To let out a line.
Slack Tide or Slack Water - A short period at the turn of the tide. The time between flood and ebb tides when there is no current flow.
Slatting - The flapping of sails.
Sloop: A small to mid-sized sailboat larger than a dinghy, with one mast main sail and head sail.
Slop Chest - A ship's store of merchandise, such as clothing, tobacco, etc., maintained aboard merchant ships for sale to the crew.
Slop Room - Compartment in which clothing for issue to crew is stowed.
Slops - Crew store managed by crew members offering everything from snacks to toiletries. Originally the name given to clothing that was issued to seamen.
Slot - The opening between the jib and the mainsail. Wind passing through this opening increases the pressure difference across the sides of the mainsail, helping to move the boat forward.
Slush - Greasy substance obtained by boiling or scraping the fat from empty salted meat storage barrels, or the floating fat residue after boiling the crew's meal. In the Royal Navy the perquisite of the cook who could sell it or exchange it (usually for alcohol) with other members of the crew. Used for greasing parts of the running rigging of the ship and therefore valuable to the master and bosun.
Slush Fund - The money obtained by the cook selling slush ashore. Used for the benefit of the crew (or the cook).
Small Bower (anchor) - The smaller of two anchors carried in the bow.
Smartly - A rate of action. In this case, quickly.
Smelling the Ground - Said of a vessel when her keel is close to the bottom and all but touching it.
Smuggle - The operation of secretly bringing goods into a country to avoid paying duty on the goods. Also applies to illicit goods.
Snap Hook - A metal fitting with an arm that uses a spring to close automatically when connected to another object.
Snatch Block - A block with a single sheave which is hinged and opens on the side so that the bight of a line can be led into the block and closed without running the whole length through.
Snorter - A very high wind. Also called "Snotter".
Snow - A form of brig where the gaff spanker or driver is rigged on a "snow mast" a lighter spar supported in chocks close behind the main-mast.
Snub - To stop the running out of a line by taking a turn around a cleat, piling, etc.; to suddenly stop or secure a line. A ship with too much way can be snubbed by letting an anchor go.
Snubber - A spring line tied from the boat to chain rode, usually near the water's surface. It helps disperse tension forces. It also prevents damage to the boat by ground tackle and can help in the retrieval of the ground tackle in heavy weather.
Snubber Line - Line used for checking a vessel's way when warping her into a dock or basin.
Sonar - A method of using sound pulses to detect, range and sometime image underwater targets and obstacles, or the bed of the sea.
SOS - A distress call made by a vessel requiring assistance. These three letters were chosen because they were easy to make and read using Morse Code. Some believe the letters meant "Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls".
Sou'wester - A storm from the southwest. A type of waterproof hat with a wide brim over the neck, worn in storms.
Sounding - Measuring the depth of the water. Traditionally done by swinging the lead, now commonly by echo sounding.
Spanker - A fore-and-aft or gaff-rigged sail on the aft-most mast of a square-rigged vessel and the main fore-and-aft sail (spanker sail) on the aft-most mast of a (partially) fore-and-aft rigged vessel such as a schooner, a barquentine, and a barque.
Spanker Mast - The aft-most mast of a fore-and-aft or gaff-rigged vessel such as schooners, barquentines, and barques. A full-rigged ship has a spanker sail but not a spanker-mast.
Spar - A wooden, in later years also iron or steel pole used to support various pieces of rigging and sails.
Speaking Tube - A communication tube.
Spider Band or Hoop - An iron band around the base of a mast which holds a set of iron belaying pins.
Spindrift - Finely divided water swept from crest of waves by strong winds.
Spinnaker - A large sail flown in front of the vessel while heading downwind.
Spinnaker Pole - A spar used to help control a spinnaker or other headsail.
Spring - A line used parallel to that of the length of a craft, to prevent fore-aft motion of a boat, when moored or docked.
Splice - To join lines (ropes, cables etc.) by unravelling their ends and intertwining them to form a continuous line. To form an eye or a knot by splicing.
Splice the Mainbrace - A euphemism, it is an order given aboard naval vessels to issue the crew with a drink, traditionally grog. The phrase splice the mainbrace is used idiomatically meaning to go ashore on liberty, intending to go out for an evening of drinking.
Spreader - A spar on a sailboat used to deflect the shrouds to allow them to better support the mast.
Spurling Pipe - A pipe that connects to the chain locker, from which the anchor chain emerges onto the deck at the bow of a ship.
Squall - A sudden and violent gust of wind often accompanied by rain.
Square Knot - A knot consisting of two overhand knots used to join two lines of similar size. Also called a reef knot.
Square Meal - A sufficient quantity of food. Meals on board ship were served to the crew on a square wooden plate in harbor or at sea in good weather. Food in the Royal Navy was invariably better or at least in greater quantity than that available to the average landsman.
Square Rigger - Large ships dating back to the 17th century typically with three masts carrying rectangular sails mounted on horizontal spars called yards. A sailing-ship rig with rectangular sails set approximately at right angles to the keel line from horizontal yards.
Squared Away - Yards held rigidly perpendicular to their masts and parallel to the deck. This was rarely the best trim of the yards for efficiency but made a pretty sight for inspections and in harbor. The term is applied to situations and to people figuratively to mean that all difficulties have been resolved or that the person is performing well and is mentally and physically prepared.
Squat Effect - The phenomenon by which a vessel moving quickly through shallow water creates an area of lowered pressure under its keel that reduces the ship's buoyancy, particularly at the bow. The reduced buoyancy causes the ship to "squat" lower in the water than would ordinarily be expected, and thus its effective draught is increased.
Squawk Box - A ship's intercom system.
Stability - The tendency in a boat to keep an upright position or to return to it when careened over.
Stabilizers - Wing-like retractable devices extending from the sides of the vessel to dampen down rolling in seas and produce a steadier, smoother, and more comfortable motion.
Staghorn - A bollard with horizontal arms, forming the shape of a cross, as a means of belaying lines.
Stall - To stop moving. Usually air travels smoothly along both sides of a sail, but if the sail is not properly trimmed, the air can leave one of the sides of the sail and begin to stall. Stalled sails are not operating efficiently.
Stalling - The turbulent effect of air on the lee side of a sail when trimmed in too far.
Stanch - Said of a vessel that is firm, strong, and unlikely to develop leaks
Stanchion - Vertical post near a deck's edge that supports life-lines. A timber fitted in between the frame heads on a wooden hull or a bracket on a steel vessel, approx one meter high, to support the bulwark plank or plating and the rail.
Standing Rigging - Rigging which is used to support masts and spars, and is not normally manipulated during normal operations.
Stand On (vessel) - A vessel directed to keep her course and speed where two vessels are approaching one another so as to involve a risk of collision.
Starboard - The right side of the boat. Towards the right-hand side of a vessel facing forward. Denoted with a green light at night. Derived from the old steering oar or steerboard which preceded the invention of the rudder.
Starboard Tack - When sailing with the wind coming from the starboard side of the vessel. Has right of way over boats on port tack.
Starter - A rope used as a punitive device.
Stateroom - Cabin; sleeping compartment.
Station Bill - A list showing the stations of all members of the crew during any maneuver.
Stave Off - To hold off a boat with a staff, boathook, long spar, etc., to prevent her from coming along too heavily. also known as Fend Off.
Stay - A line or wire from the mast to the bow or stern of a ship, for support of the mast; rigging used to support the mast from forward or aft.
Stays - During the operation of tacking, the moment when a sailing vessel is head to the wind and hanging there, with her head not paying off on the opposite tack. Such a vessel is said to be "in stays" or "in irons".
Staysail - A triangular fore-and-aft sail carried on a stay. A sail that is set on a stay, and not on a yard or a mast. On a cutter this is the sail located between the jib and the main sail.
Steadying Sail - Also stability sail or riding sail. Any small sail set to help the boat maintain its direction without necessarily moving, as when at anchor or in heavy weather.
Steamer - A steamship. A ship propelled by a steam engine.
Steaming Light - A white navigation light carried by vessels under way at night to indicate their presence and give an indication of their course.
Steerage - The after part of a vessel having the poorest accommodations and occupied by the steerage passengers, or those paying the lowest fare.
Steerageway - Sufficient movement through the water to allow the boat to be controlled and steered by the rudder.
Steering Flat - In a vessel, the compartment containing the steering gear.
Steering Oar or Board - A long, flat board or oar that went from the stern to well underwater, used to steer vessels before the invention of the rudder. Traditionally on the starboard side of a ship.
Steeve - A spar or derrick with a block at one end, used for stowing cargo.
Stem - The forward edge of the bow. On a wooden boat the stem is a single timber.
Stemming - Maintaining position over the ground when underway in a river or tidal stream.
Stem - The extension of keel at the forward end of a ship.
Stempost - The principal vertical timber in a ship's bow.
Step the Mast - Erecting the mast on the boat. The Mast Step is a fitting which supports the bottom end of the mast at the deck or keel.
Stepped - A mast that is in place is stepped.
Stern - The rear part of a ship, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter to the taffrail.
Stern Chaser - A stern mounted chase gun.
Stern Line - A line running from the stern of the boat to a dock or pier when moored.
Stern Post - A large casting shaped to allow the propeller blades to revolve. The rudder is fitted on the after post. The principal vertical timber in a ship's stern, upon which the rudder is fastened.
Stern Pulpit or Stern Rail - A sturdy railing or elevated guard rail around the deck at the stern. also known as Pushpit.
Stern Tube - The bearing which supports the propeller shaft where it emerges from the ship.
Sterndrive - A propeller drive system similar to the lower part of an outboard motor extending below the hull of a larger power boat or yacht, but driven by an engine mounted within the hull. Unlike a fixed propeller (but like an outboard), the boat may be steered by twisting the drive.
Sternway - The reverse movement of a boat or watercraft through the water.
Stopper Knot - A knot tied in the end of a rope, usually to stop it passing through a hole; most commonly a figure-eight knot.
Stores - A general term for provisions, materials and supplies used aboard ship for the maintenance of the crew, and for the navigation, propulsion and upkeep of the vessel and its equipment.
Storm Bound - Confined to an anchorage or haven through being unable to proceed because of stormy weather.
Storm Trysail - A very strong sail used in stormy weather. It is loose footed, being attached to the mast, but not the boom. This helps prevent boarding waves from damaging the sail or the rigging.
Stow - To store, or to put away, such as personal effects, tackle, or cargo.
Stowage - The amount of room for storing materials on board a ship.
Stowaway - A trespasser on a ship; a person aboard a ship without permission and/or without payment, and usually boards undetected, remains hidden aboard, and jumps ship just before making port or reaching a port's dock; sometimes found aboard and imprisoned in the brig until the ship makes port.
Strake - One of the overlapping boards in a clinker built hull.
Stretcher - An inclined foot rest, attached to the boat, to which a rower may place and in some instances (usually in competition) attach his feet.
Strike Down - On a square-rigged ship, the act of lowering a spar or yard to the deck.
Strike the Colors - To haul down a ship's flag as a signal of surrender.
Studding Sails - Long and narrow sails, used only in fine weather, on the outside of the large square sails.
Sundowner - A slang name for a bullying officer on a ship.
Superstructure - The parts of the ship or a boat, including sailboats, fishing boats, passenger ships, and submarines, that project above her main deck. This does not usually include its masts or any armament turrets.
Surge - Rising and falling of the sea, usually due to wave action. A vessel's transient motion in a fore and aft direction.
Swab - A swab is a mop made from rope used to clean the deck. It is also an insult intended to show contempt for a crude, ignorant person.
Swallow the Anchor - To retire from a life at sea and settle ashore.
Sway - A vessel's lateral motion from side to side. Or to hoist.
Sweet Trade - The career of piracy.
Swell - Succession of long and unbroken waves that are not due to meteorological conditions in the vicinity. Generally due to wind or storms at a distance from the position.
Swigging - To take up the last bit of slack on a line such as a halyard, anchor line or dockline by taking a single turn round a cleat and alternately heaving on the rope above and below the cleat while keeping the tension on the tail.
Swinging the Compass - Measuring the accuracy in a ship's magnetic compass so its readings can be adjusted—often by turning the ship and taking bearings on reference points.
Swinging the Lamp - Telling sea stories. Referring to lamps slung from the deckhead which swing while at sea. Often used to indicate that the story teller is exaggerating.
Swinging the Lead - Measuring the depth of water beneath a ship using a lead-weighted sounding line.
Tack - A leg of the route of a sailing vessel, particularly in relation to tacking.
Tacking - Zig-zagging so as to sail directly towards the wind, and for some rigs also away from it.
Taffrail - A rail at the stern of the boat that covers the head of the counter timbers.
Tailshaft - A metallic shaft that holds the propeller and is connected to the power engine. When the tailshaft is moved, the propeller may also be moved for propulsion.
Taken Aback - An inattentive helmsmen might allow the dangerous situation to arise where the wind is blowing into the sails 'backwards', causing a sudden shift in the position of the sails.
Tally - The operation of hauling aft the sheets, or drawing them in the direction of the ship's stern.
Tally Book - Book in which is kept a reckoning of items of cargo received or discharged from a hatch or vessel.
Tang - A metal fitting on the mast that the stays attached to the mast; a fitting on the mast for securing rigging.
Tanker - A tanker is a bulk carrier designed to transport liquid cargo, most often petroleum products.
Tanks - Are of two kinds: First, those built in permanently and part of the ship's structure, used for the reception of water ballast, fuel, oil, or liquid cargo; second, those constructed specially and removable if necessary. These vary greatly in size and shape and the purpose for which used.
Tar - Old nickname for a sailor, who would treat his canvas coats and hats with tar as a protection against the weather.
Tattle Tale - Light cord attached to a mooring line at two points a few inches apart with a slack section in between to indicate when the line is stretching from the ship’s rising with the tide. Obviously only used when moored to a fixed dock or pier and only on watches with a flood tide.
Taut - Stretched tight with no slack.
Tenon - The bottom of the mast, with a shape designed to fit into the mast step.
Territorial Waters - That portion of the sea up to a limited instance which is immediately adjacent to the shores of a country and over which the sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction of that country extend.
Thole - Vertical wooden peg or pin inserted through the gunwale to form a fulcrum for oars when rowing. Used in place of a rowlock.
Thwart - A bench seat across the width of an open boat.
Tidal Current - The horizontal movement of the water due to tide.
Tidal Range - The difference in depth between high and low tide.
Tide - The predictable, periodic regular rising and lowering of water in some areas due to the pull of the sun and the moon. Tidal changes can happen approximately every 6 or 12 hours depending on the region.
Tide Rip - Short waves or ripples made by a tide as it ebbs or flows over an uneven bottom, or where two currents meet at sea.
Tide Table - A publication predicting the time and height of high tide and low tide.
Tingle: -A thin temporary patch.
Tiller - A bar or handle for turning a boat's rudder or an outboard motor, thereby steering the boat.
Tiller Extension - Hinged extension of the tiller which allows the skipper to control the tiller while hiking or sitting forward.
Timbers - On wooden vessels, the frames or ribs of a ship, connected to the keel, which give shape and strength to the ship's hull.
Toe Rail - A low strip running around the edge of the deck like a low bulwark. It may be shortened or have gaps in it to allow water to flow off the deck.
Tompion - A block of wood inserted into the barrel of a gun on a 19th century warship to keep out the sea spray.
Ton - A measure of weight ashore and a measure of capacity on a vessel. Tonnage - A measure of a vessel's interior volume; The weight or displacement of a ship.
Tonnage - A measure of a vessel's interior volume; The weight or displacement of a ship.
Top - on square-rigged ships, a platform at the masthead resting on the trestletrees and crosstrees. In addition to being a work platform, it extended the topmast shrouds to give additional support to the topmast.
Topgallant - The mast section next above the topmast and and below the royal mast. The yard supported by that mast. Or the third lowest square sail. It is stretched between the topgallant yard and the top yard.
Topmast - The second section of the mast above the deck; formerly the upper mast, later surmounted by the topgallant mast; carrying the topsails.
Topmen - Seamen who worked on the masts and yards of square-rigged ships.
Topsail - The second sail going up a mast. These may be either square sails or fore-and-aft ones, in which case they often "fill in" between the mast and the gaff of the sail below.
Topsail Schooner - A schooner with a square rigged sail on the forward mast.
Topsides - Part of the hull between the waterline and the deck.
Trade Winds - Steady regular winds in a belt approximately 30° North and 30° South of the equator.
Trailboard - A decorative board at the bow of a vessel, sometimes bearing the vessel's name.
Transom - The aft “wall” of the stern; often the part to which an outboard unit or the drive portion of a sterndrive is attached. A more or less flat surface across the stern of a vessel. Dinghies tend to have almost vertical transoms, whereas yachts’ transoms may be raked forward or aft.
Travellers - Small fittings that slide on a rod or line. The most common use is for the inboard end of the mainsheet; a more esoteric form of traveller consists of "slight iron rings, encircling the backstays, which are used for hoisting the top-gallant yards, and confining them to the backstays".
Trawl - A large net with its mouth held open, towed by a trawler along the bottom to catch bottom fish.
Trawler - A fishing vessel designed to tow a trawl for catching bottom fish.
Treasure Map - This is a fictional device dreamed up by authors. Pirates did not bury their loot. It probably came about after Captain Kidd's capture as he was purported to have seized more booty than was found with him. The populace found that the burial rumour was a plausible explanation for the lack of booty and the burial theory has been with us ever since.
Trice - To haul and tie up by means of a rope.
Trim - Adjustments made to sails to maximize their efficiency. Or relationship of ship's hull to waterline.
Trimmer - Person responsible for ensuring that a vessel remains in 'trim' (that the cargo and fuel are evenly balanced). An important task on a coal-fired vessel, as it could get 'out-of-trim' as coal is consumed.
Trolling - To fish by trailing a baited line from behind a slowly moving boat.
Tropics - The region around the equator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The tropics are known for their warm weather.
True Bearing - An absolute bearing using true north.
True North - The direction of the geographical North Pole.
Tug or Tugboat - A powerful, strongly built boat designed to tow or push other vessels, and to assist in maneuvering a ship in a confined area.
Turn - A knot passing behind or around an object.
Turtling - The condition of a sailboat's (in particular a dinghy's) capsizing to a point where the mast is pointed straight down and the hull is on the surface resembling a turtle shell.
Tye - A chain or rope used for hoisting or lowering a yard. A tye runs from the horizontal center of a given yard to a corresponding mast and from there down to a tackle. Sometimes specifically called a chain tye or a rope tye.
Typhoon - In the southern hemisphere, this is a strong tropical counterclockwise revolving storm. In the northern hemisphere these storms revolve clockwise and are known as hurricanes.
Under Bare Poles - Having no sails up. In heavy weather the windage of the mast and other spars can still be enough to move the boat.
Under the Lee - On the lee side of an object, protected from the wind.
Under the Weather: Serving a watch on the weather side of the ship, exposed to wind and spray.
Underway - A vessel that has departed from shore and is operating under control.
Undertow - Strong offshore current extending to the shore.
Unfurl - To unfold or unroll a sail. The opposite of furl.
Unmoor - To cast off hawsers by which a vessel is attached to a buoy or wharf.
Unrig - To remove or disassemble gear after it is used.
Unseaworthiness - The general condition or state of a vessel in respect to it's equipment, maintenance or crew's readyness for safe use.
Up and Down - Said of cable when it extends vertically and taut from anchor to hawsepipe.
Upbound - A vessel traveling upstream.
Upper Deck - The highest continuous deck which runs the full length of the ship without a fall or interruption.
Upwind - To windward, in the direction of the eye of the wind; toward the wind; in the direction from which the wind is coming
Vane - A small flag placed at the mast head to show wind direction.
Vang - A ropeline leading from gaff to either side of the deck, used to prevent the gaff from sagging.
Vector - A line drawn to indicate both the direction and magnitude of a force, such as leeway or a current.
Veer - A shifting of the wind direction, opposite of backing. Clockwise in the northern hemisphere, counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere.
Ventilator - A device for furnishing fresh air to compartments below deck or exhausting foul air. Construction designed to lead air below decks. May have a cowl, which can be angled into or away from the wind; and may be constructed with baffles, to prevent water from entering the inside of the vessel.
Venture - An enterprise in which there is a risk of loss.
Vertical Clearance - The distance between the water level at chart datum and an overhead obstacle such as a bridge or power line.
Vessel - A general term for a floating craft that carries passengers, cargo or both.
VHF Radio - An electronic communications or direction finding system which uses Very High Frequency radio waves. VHF radios are the most common communications radio carried on boats, but their range is usually limited to line of sight between the transmitting and receiving stations.
Vigia - Uncharted navigational danger that has been reported but has not been verified by survey.
Visual Fix - A fix taken by visually observing the location of known landmarks.
Voice Pipe or Tube - A type of internal communication device on a vessel. See communication tube.
Voyage - A journey made at sea by a vessel, usually including both the outbound and homebound passages.
Waist - Central deck of a ship between the forecastle and the quarterdeck.
Waister - An old term to describe an untrained or incompetent seaman, or one who was worn out after many years of work.
Wake - Moving waves, track or path that a boat leaves behind it, when moving through the water; the track of disturbed water a boat leaves as it moves.
Wales - A number of strong and thick planks running length-wise along the ship, covering the lower part of the ship's side.
Walk the Plank - Referrred to blindfolding a prisoner, tying his hands to his sides, and forcing him to walk a plank that was suspended from the side of the ship out over the sea. This vivid description of pirate's torture and entertainment sparks the imagination, and well that it should, for that is where it sprang from. It is fictional, the work of 19th century artists.
Wash - Broken water at bow of a vessel making way. Disturbed water made by a propeller or paddle wheel.
Washboards - Boards used to close the companionway.
Watch - A period of time during which a part of the crew is on duty. Changes of watch are marked by strokes on the ship's bell.
Watch Bell - Bell used for striking the half hours of each watch.
Water Ballast - Sea water used for ballast, let into the double bottom, or into a water-ballast tank, or trimming tanks.
Water Breaker - Small cask used for carrying drinking water in a boat.
Watercraft - Water transport vessels. Ships, boats, personal water craft etc.
Waterline - The line where the water comes to on the hull of a boat.
Waterlogged - Completely filled with water.
Watersail - A sail hung below the boom on gaff rig boats for extra downwind performance when racing.
Watertight Bulkhead - A bulkhead that will not let water pass from one side of it to the other.
Watertight Compartment - A compartment having a watertight bulkhead at each end.
Waterway - A river, canal or other body of water that boats can travel on.
Wave - Oscillations of the sea caused by wind blowing along the surface and moving in the direction from which the wind blows.
Way - A vessel's movement through the water; such as headway, sternway, or leeway.
Way Landing - An intermediate stop along the route of a steamboat.
Waypoint - A location defined by navigational coordinates, especially as part of a planned route.
Wearing Ship - Tacking away from the wind in a square-rigged vessel.
Weather Gauge or Beam - Favorable position over another sailing vessel with respect to the wind.
Weather Deck - Whichever deck is that exposed to the weather—usually either the main deck or, in larger vessels, the upper deck.
Weather Side - The side of a ship exposed to the wind.
Weatherly - A ship that is easily sailed and maneuvered; makes little leeway when sailing to windward.
Weigh - To haul up; as, weigh the anchor.
Weigh Anchor - To heave up the anchor in preparing to get underway.
Well - Place in the ship's hold for pumps.
Well Found - Said of a vessel that is adequately fitted, stored, and furnished.
Wet Dock - Repairs made without removing the vessel from the water.
Wet Locker - A locker equipped with a drain so that wet clothes can be stored in it without damaging other objects in the boat.
Whack - An old term for a seaman's daily rations.
Whaler - A ship engaged in the whale fishery.
Wharf - Man-made structure of wood or stone parallel to the shoreline, used for loading and offloading of cargo, embarkation and disembarkation of passengers, or making fast. Virtually the same as a quay, except a quay is generally built only of stone.
Wharfage - Charge to a ship for using a wharf.
Whitecaps - Foam or spray on wave tops caused by stronger winds.
Wheel or Ship's Wheel - The normal steering device on larger vessels, usually connected by cables to the rudder.
Wheelhouse - Location on a ship where the wheel is located; also called a pilothouse or bridge.
Wide Berth - To leave room between two ships moored to allow for maneuver space.
Widow Maker - A term for the bowsprit; as many sailors lost their lives falling off the bowsprit while tending to the sails.
Winch - A metal drum shaped device used to increase hauling power when raising or trimming sails, loading and discharging cargo, or for hauling in lines. A machine that has a drum on which to coil a rope, cable or chain for hauling, pulling or hoisting.
Winch Head - A drum, usually of small diameter and concave, on a winch. Designed for taking and holding the turns of a rope.
Whipstaff - A vertical lever connected to a tiller, used for steering on larger ships before the development of the ship's wheel.
Windage - Wind resistance of the boat.
Windbound - A condition wherein the ship is detained in one particular station by contrary winds.
Windward - In the direction that the wind is coming from.
Windlass - A winch mechanism, usually with a horizontal axis. Used where mechanical advantage greater than that obtainable by block and tackle was needed.
Working Up - Training, usually including gunnery practice.
Wreck - The hull of a ship which is a total loss through weather stress, collision, fire, sinking, stranding or any other cause.
Xebec - An old three-masted vessel used in the Mediterranean.
Yankee - A fore-sail flying above and forward of the jib, usually seen on bowsprit vessels. Also a foresail used on yachts similar to a genoa, but cut narrower, with its leech not overlapping the mainsail, and a higher clew.
Yard - The horizontal spar from which a square sail is suspended.
Yardarm - That part of yard that lies between the lift and the outboard end of the yard.
Yarn - A tall tale sea story.
Yarr - Acknowledgement of an order, or agreement.
Yaw - Swinging off course, usually in heavy seas. The bow moves toward one side or the other of the intended course.
Yawl - A two masted sailboat with the shorter mizzen mast placed aft of the rudder post. A ketch is similar, but the mizzen mast is forward of the rudder post.
Yawl Boat - A rowboat on davits at the stern of the boat. Or a small powered boat.
Yellow Jack - Slang name for the Q Flag. Also an old term for yellow fever.
Zenith Angle - The angle between the zenith and a heavenly body.
Zephyr - A gentle breeze; the slightest movement of air.
Zulu - Used to indicated times measured in Coordinated Universal Time, a successor to Greenwich Mean Time. A time standard that is not affected by time zones or seasons. Also the phonetic term used on radio transmissions to represent the letter Z.
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