a-cock bill or cock bill - An anchor hanging from the cat head ready to let go. The situation of yards when one arm is topped up as a sign of mourning.
a-hull - A ship under bare poles, with her helm lashed a-lee. An abandoned ship.
a-trip - When the anchor is broken out of the ground or is a-weigh. A topmast is said to be a-trip when it has been launched and unfidded.
a-peek - An anchor is said to be a-peak, or a-stay, when the cable has been so much hove in as to form a line with the forestay; "hove short" so that the vessel is over her anchor. Yards are a-peak when topped by opposite lifts.
a-weather - The situation of the helm when it is hauled to windward. To haul a sail a-weather is to haul the sheet in to windward instead of to leeward, to form a back sail, to box a vessel's head off the wind or put stern way on her. Generally to windward.
abaft - Toward the stern; Behind.
abeam - Located at a right angle to the fore-and-aft line; To one side of a vessel.
aboard - On or within the boat. Inside a ship or on the deck of a ship. "Come aboard, sir," is a sailor's way of reporting himself on board after leave of absence. To run or fall aboard a vessel is for one vessel to come into collision with another. A sail is said to fall aboard when, from the lightness of the wind or other causes, it ceases to blow out. To haul the boom aboard is to haul the boom in by the mainsheet from off the lee quarter.
about - Having tacked. "She's about!" she is going to tack or has tacked. "Ready about" is the signal given for the men to prepare to tack the ship. "About ship!" or "'Bout ship !" is the order given to tack, that is to put the vessel on the opposite tack to the one she is on when the order is given to tack. To go about is to tack.
above deck - On the deck (not over it - see ALOFT)
abreast - Side by side; Even with; By the side of.
Absence Flag - A rectangular blue flag hoisted below the starboard crosstree to denote that the owner is not on board the yacht. When the owner steps on board the flag is lowered. This is an American custom which is gradually being adopted in Europe. It is a most useful regulation.
ABYC - American Boat & Yacht Club; An organization that determines voluntary safety and construction standards for small crafts (U.S. only).
accommodation - The cabins of a vessel.
accommodation ladder - A side ladder, with platform, for boarding vessels. In the case of yachts, they are usually made to fold up on the bulwarks when the yacht is under way.
acker - A tide coming on the top of another tide.
across tide - Crossing the stream of the tide so that it comes broadside on. If a vessel in beating to windward crosses a tide fairly at right angles on one tack, she will stem it on the next or have it stern on, according to whether the tide be lee-going or weathergoing.
admeasure - To measure a vessel, for the purpose of documentation.
admeasurement - An expression for the builder's tonnage of a ship calculated by length and breadth, and abbreviated O.M. (old measurement) and B.M. (Builder's Measurement), which see. Still used in measuring ships for passage of the Suez and Panama Canals and is done by the Admeasures Office
adrift - Not moored; Aground; Not fastened to the shore; Free floating without propulsion.
admiralty law - A term for marine law, originating from the British Admiralty department (which administers naval affairs); Law of the sea.
afloat - The state of being waterborne after being aground. To be on board ship.
afore - The contrary of abaft. Towards the forward end of anything.
aft - At or near the stern.
after - The state of being aft, as after-sail, after-leech, after-side.
after body - The part of a vessel abaft her midship section.
after bow spring line - A mooring line; a line designated to control the motion of a vessel in its berth; a line connected near (or at) the bow to shore.
after end - The stern end of a vessel or anything else, or the end of anything nearest the stern of a vessel.
after-guard - Men stationed aft to work sheets, &c. In racing yachts, if there be any amateurs on board, they are generally made use of as an after-guard. In merchant ships the ordinary seamen or landsmen enjoy the distinction.
after-most - A thing or point situated the most aft of all.
afternoon watch - The watch between noon and four o'clock.
after part - The stern extremities of a vessel or anything else.
after peak - The hold of a vessel near the run. A small cuddy or locker made in the run of a boat aft.
after rake - Contrary to fore rake. The rake or overhang the stern post has abaft the heel of the keel. To incline sternwards.
aftward - Towards the stern ; contrary to forward.
against the Sun - An expression used to show how a rope is coiled: from right to left is against the sun, from left to right is with the sun. The wind is said to blow against the sun when it comes from the westward, and to back when it changes from west to east by the south.
agonic line - An imaginary line (on the earth's surface) along which there is no magnetic variation.
aground - When the boat's keel or bottom is resting on the sea bottom.
ahead - In a forward direction; in advance of.
ahoy - An interjection used to attract attention . In hailing a vessel, as "Cetonia Ahoy!"
aids to navigation - Artificial objects such as beacons, buoys, daybeacons, lights or radiobeacons with known charted positions; Established land or sea markers that enable navigators to avoid danger.
airtight - A compartment of a vessel that has no openings, and is primarily used for bouyancy. If access hatches or ports are provided, they will be gasketed for tight sealing.
alee - Away from the direction of the wind. Opposite of windward. The helm is a-lee when it is put down to leeward. Hard a-lee means that the helm must be put as far to leeward as it can be got. (See "Helm's a-lee.")
all - A prefix put to many words to show that the whole is included, as "all aback," meaning all the sails are aback; "all-ataunto," meaning that the ship is fully rigged and fitted out, with everything in its place; "all hands," the whole ship's company; "all standing," with everything in its place, nothing being shifted.
"All aback for'ard" - A cry raised when a vessel is sailed so near to wind that the head sails lift or shake.
alley - The channel made in the after part of a steamship for the propeller shaft is termed the shaft alley. The passage under the bridge deck of a steamer is an alley, or alleyway. (See "Lane.")
aloft - Above the deck; Usually a location in the rigging.
along shore - Close to the shore, by the shore, or on the shore.
along the land - To lay along the land is when a vessel can hug or keep close to the land without tacking.
along the wind - Sailing along the wind means to sail with the wind from a point to four points free, or with the wind abeam.
alongside - By the side of the ship. "The gig is alongside, sir," is a common way of informing the owner, master, or other officers that the boat is manned and by the gangway, in readiness to take people off; also said when a boat is brought to the gangway so that passengers can embark.
amidships - Center portion of the ship; In the center, between the bow and stern. Generally the word has reference to the middle fore-and-aft line of the ship, and to a middle athwartship part of a ship.
anchor - A heavy metal device, attached to chain or line, to hold a vessel in position; an object used to dig in the bottom that serves as a temporary mooring.
anchor, mushroom - This is a kind of moorings or anchor shaped like a mushroom, which holds well for moorings in mud or sand.
anchor shackle.-- A shackle which connects the chain with the anchor.
anchor, tripping - If an anchor is let go on very firm holding-ground, or on ground where the anchor is likely to get foul, a tripping line is made fast to the crown of the anchor; to the other end of the line a buoy is made fast, and when the anchor is "wanted" it can be broken out of the ground by hauling on the tripping line if it cannot be got by hauling on the cable.
Another plan is to "scow" the anchor by bending the end of the cable to the crown instead of to the ring or shackle. The cable is then "stopped" to the ring by a yarn. When the cable is hauled upon the stop breaks, and, of course, the cable being fast to the crown, the anchor is readily broken out of the ground. A boat should not be left moored with her anchor "scowed," as, if any unusual strain came upon the cable, the stop would break, and the boat would probably go adrift. The trip line should be used in such cases. (See "Scowing.")
anchor watch - A watch kept constantly on deck when a ship is at anchor, to be ready to veer out or take in chain, or to slip, make sail, give warning to the hands below, etc., if the vessel be in danger of collision or other mishaps. One hand may keep an anchor watch, and call up the officers and crew if necessary.
anchorage - A suitable and customary harbor area in which vessels may anchor; a designated harbor mooring area.
anchor bend - A specific knot used to fasten an anchor line to an anchor.
anchor light - An all-round white light (required by the Navigation Rules) when a vessel is moored; Also known as a "Riding Light."
anchor rode - A line (chain, nylon or steel cable) used to hold a vessel fast to the anchor.
anchor watch - Person(s) kept alert on deck of a moored vessel; people designated to cope with unexpected situations while the boat is at anchor.
anemometer - An instrument used to measure wind velocity (or wind speed).
aneroid barometer - An instrument that measures and indicates air pressure; A mechanical device (rather than liquid, such as mercury). Air pressure is measured in millibars.
answer - To repeat an order after an officer; thus, if the order be to the helmsman "No more away," he will repeat, "No more away, sir" ; or to the jib-sheetman, "Check the jibsheet," he will answer, "Check the jib-sheet, sir." Thus the crew should always "answer every order to show that they comprehend."
answer her helm - A vessel is said to answer her helm when she moves quickly in obedience to a movement of the rudder. Long, deep vessels, and full quartered vessels which have not a long clean run to the rudder, are slow to answer their helm. A vessel cannot "answer her helm" it she has not way on through the water, hence "steerage way."
anti-fouling - A type of paint, used on boat bottoms, that repels undesirable adhesions, such as marine grass and barnacles.
apostles - Seaman's slang for knightheads, bollards, etc., for belaying warps to. They formerly had carved heads to represent the upper part of the human body.
apparent wind - The force and direction of the wind relative to a moving vessel, differing from the true wind. The motion, of an underway vessel, makes an effective wind. When moored, a weathervane shows the true wind, but shows the apparent wind when moving.
apron - A piece of timber fitted at the fore end of the keel at its intersection with the stem and up the stem.
arch board - The formation of the counter across its extreme aft end, being a continuation of the covering board, and covers the heads of the counter frames.
ardent - A vessel is said to be ardent when she gripes or shows a tendency to come to against a weather helm.
areas of circles - The area of a circle is found by multiplying the square of the diameter by the fraction 0.7854.
arms - The extremities of anything, as yard arms.
ashore - A vessel is said to be ashore when she is aground. To go ashore is to leave the ship for the land.
astern - Beyond the stern; The direction toward the stern of a vessel. To move astern; to launch astern ; to drop astern. An object or vessel which is abaft another vessel or object.
astrolabe - An ancient instrument for measuring the altitude of the sun, superseded by the quadrant and sextant.
a-taunto - With all the masts on end, and rigging completely fitted. (See "All a-taunto" under the all- heading)
athwart - Transversely, at right angles to fore and aft ; across the keel. Athwartship is thus across the ship from one side to the other. Athwart hawse is when one vessel gets across the stem of another.
athwartships - At right angles (90 degrees) to the centerline boat.
autopilot - An automatic steering device. Methods include GPS-controlled motors, windvanes, and rigging the steering tiller to the jib or main sails.
auxiliary - A sailboat that has an engine.
avast - Stop, cease, hold, discontinue. As avast heaving (stop heaving), avast hauling (stop hauling).
awash - Level with the surface of the water
aweigh - Off the bottom; usually in reference to the anchor.Back to the index.
back -To back a sail, is to haul the sheet to windward.
back and fill - To luff up in the wind, and then fill off again. Often a vessel is worked up a narrow channel with a weather tide by backing and filling: that is, the helm is put down slowly, and the vessel kept moving until she is nearly head to wind; the helm is then put smartly up, and the vessel filled again. Care must be always taken to fill before the vessel loses way. Figuratively, to back and fill is to blow hot and cold, or assent and dissent, or to go backwards and forwards with opinions.
backing - Timber fitted at the back of other timbers.
backing (wind) - Wind changing its direction; opposite of veering.
backsplice - A splice in which the strands are interwoven and reversed (to make a rope end).
backstay - A wire support for the mast, usually running from the stern to the head of the mast.The stays that support the topmast with a beam or stern wind. The topmast shrouds or rigging. (See "Shifting Backstay" and "Preventer.")
backwater - The water thrown back when waves strike a wall or other solid object. The water that appears to follow under the stern of a ship. To back water is to move the oars of a boat so that the boat moves astern instead of ahead.
baffling wind - A wind that is continually shifting its direction, so that it is difficult to keep the sails full or steady; more frequently used when the vessel is close or nearly close hauled.
bag - Sails are said to bag when they do not sit flat.
baggywrinkle - Clumps of frayed rope that protect the sails from charing against the lines.
bagpipe - To bring the sheet of an after-sail, such as the mizen, forward to the weather rigging, so that the sail forms a bag, or back sail: when head to wind useful to put stern way on a vessel.
balancelug - A lug sail with a boom and yard. About one-twelfth of the sail is on the fore side of the mast, and thus "balances" on the mast, requiring no dipping when going about; apparently adapted from the Chinese lug sail.
balance reef - In gaff sails a hand with reef points or eyelet holes for lacing, sewn from the throat to the clew. The reef is taken in by lowering the jaws down to the boom and lacing the sail along the reef band to the boom. Sometimes the gaff end is lowered down to the boom end; in which case the reef band is laced along the gaff.
bail - To throw water out of a vessel or boat by buckets or balers.
bailer - A small basin-like vessel, used for throwing water out of a boat.
bale - A fitting on the end of a spar, such as the boom, to which a line may be led.
ballast - An additional weight placed low in the hull (usually for stability); ballast may be external or internal. A ship is said to be in ballast when she has no merchandise on board, but only sand, gravel, mud, or rubbish as ballast. A yacht in marine parlance is always "in ballast."
ballast, shifting - To move ballast to the weather side of a vessel during sailing.
balloon sails - Balloon canvas is a term applied to sails of large dimensions, made of light cotton canvas. The chief balloon sail is the spinnaker used for sailing when the wind is aft. A balloon jib used to fill up the whole space from the bowsprit end, masthead, and mast at deck; a balloon foresail is hanked to the forestay, but the clew extends some distance abaft the mast; in a schooner a balloon maintopmast staysail has an up and down weather leech extending below the lower corner of the sail, which is hanked to the maintopmast stay. It is sheeted on to the end of the main boom. A balloon jib topsail or "Yankee" jib topsail is a useful sail ; all modern balloon head sails are cut very high in the clew, so that the lead of the sheet nearly makes a right angle with the luff of the sail. Balloon jibs have long gone out of fashion. They were succeeded by "bowsprit spinnakers," whilst the bowsprit spinnaker, a low-footed sail, has in turn given place to the higher clewed balloon jib topsail A balloon topsail is another name for a jackyard topsail, or a topsail set with two yards. The upper or "topsail yard" is a vertical continuation of the topmast. The "lower" yard or jackyard is parallel with the gaff and should act as a direct continuation or extension of it. In setting a jackyard topsail a certain amount of "drift" or "space" should be left between the gaff and the lower yard so that there may be play to take up the slack of the sheet.
A jackyard topsail should set as flat as a card. Formerly, the foot yard was short and the head yard was of great length -- as long as could be stowed on the deck of a yacht -- and the sail, very heavy to hoist, was quite unfit for close-hauled work. As the hoisting of these heavy yards was an operation of so much labor, they fell into disuse for some years between 1873 and 1888. After that date the sail was reintroduced with a comparatively short head yard and longer foot yard, after a pattern designed in American waters. The sail had consequently as much area as the old fashioned "balloon topsail," and the combined weight of head yard and foot yard was about half that of the old yard; beyond this, as the sail was well peaked, it sits and stands well on a wind in moderate breezes. In the present century with the introduction of hollow yards the area of the sail has been further increased, and the extreme lightness of yards has enabled the balloon topsail to be carried efficiently in fresh and even strong winds.
bamboo spars - In small boats these are often used on account of their lightness. They vary much in strength, and should be from 10 to 20 percent greater diameter than solid wood spars.
bar - A debris, mud or sand shoal; may be a shoal across the mouth of a river or harbor.
barber hauler - A line attached to the jib or jib sheet, used to adjust the angle of sheeting by pulling the sheet toward the centerline of the boat.
bare poles - With no sail set. With all the sails furled or stowed at sea for scudding before a heavy gale, or sometimes for lying to.
bargee - A slang term for the crew of a barge.
bar harbour - A harbor that has a bank or bar of sand or gravel at its mouth, so that it can only be entered at certain hours of the tide.
barograph - A weather device that records atmospheric (barometric) pressure continuously.
barometer - An instrument that displays and measures atmospheric pressure.
Barque or Bark - usually a three masted vessel, the fore and main masts square rigged and the mizzen mast or after mast rigged fore and aft.
Barquentine - a vessel with the foremast rigged square, and the other masts rigged fore and aft.
Barra Boats - Vessels of the Western Isles of Scotland, with almost perfect V section.
barrel or drums - The part of a capstan, windlass, or winch round which the cable or rope is wound whilst heaving. Sometimes termed the drum.
base line - In naval architecture a level line near the keel, from which all heights are measured perpendicularly to it. Generally in yacht designs the load waterline, as shown so a Sheer Plan, is made the base line, and all depths arid heights are measured perpendicularly or at right angles to it.
batten down - To close all openings, such as hatches; To fasten all loose gear in heavy or stormy weather. Wooden hatches used to be covered with a tarpaulin, and then fastened with battens and wedges.
battens - Thin flexible strips (plastic or wood) used in batten pockets of a sail to support [stiffen to keep flat] the roach; battens may be used in awnings. A long piece of wood need to lash to yards or booms to strengthen them. Thin pieces of hard wood fitted to spars to prevent their being chafed or cut.
beach - A shore. To beach is to lay ashore, or strand.
beach boats - Flat floored boats that can be readily beached.
beacon - A stake, boom, or post put on a sandbank or shoal as a warning for vessels.
beacon buoy - A buoy with a cross, ball, or triangle, &c., on the top.
beam - The vessel's width; A principle dimension; The direction at right angles to the centerline. A timber that crosses a vessel transversely to support the deck. The wind is said to be before the beam when the ship makes a less angle than 90° with the wind. A beam wind is a wind that blows at right angles to a vessel's keel.
beam and bength - The proportion a vessel's beam bears to her length varies according to her type. In sailing yachts it is found that for cruising a good proportion is about three and a-quarter to three and a half beams to waterline length.
beam ends - A vessel is said to be on her beam ends when she is hove down on her side by the wind or other force, so that the ends of her deck beams are on the water, or her deck beams perpendicular to the water. However, in sea parlance, a ship is said to be on her beam ends when knocked down by a squall to say 45°, so that when a ship is described as being on her "beam ends" the meaning need not be taken literally.
beam reach - A point of sailing with the apparent wind blowing at right angles to the vessel's fore-and-aft line.
beam trawl - A trawl whose mouth is extended by a long spar or beam, as distinct from the otter trawl, which is distended by boards.
bear, to - The direction an object takes from a ship expressed in compass points or by points in the vessel; as in reference to another vessel she bears S.E. or W.S.W., &c., or on the port bow, or weather bow, port beam or weather beam, port quarter or weather quarter; or two points on the weather bow or port bow.
bear away, or bear up - To put the helm to windward and keep the vessel more off the wind. Generally used in close-hauled sailing when a vessel begins to alter her course by sailing off the wind. (See "Wear.")
bearers - The beams which carry the cabin floor or platform of a yacht, termed platform bearers.
bearing - The direction of an object (buoy, lighthouse, another ship) expressed either as a true bearing as shown on the chart, or as a bearing relative to the heading of the boat. Bearings can be by radar, GPS, radio or visual.
bearings by compass - An object is said to bear, so many points on the port or starboard bow, or port or starboard quarter, or port or starboard beam as the case may be; or an object may be said to bear E.N.E. or E. or W., from the point of observation. The usual plan of taking a bearing is to stand directly over the binnacle, and notice which point on the compass card directly points to the object.
bear off - To turn leeward; To turn away from the wind; also known as "to bear away."
beat or beating - Sailing against the wind, in frequent and alternate tacks to create a zig-zag course.
Beaufort wind scale - A scale, created by Admiral Beaufort in 1808, that indicates the force of the wind; the original scale indicated the effect on a full-rigged frigate under sail; it has been extended to cover effects on shore as well as at sea, plus criteria that can now be measured, such as speed of the wind; the scale shows wind forces from 0 to 17 - each increase of force (number) means a doubling of the pressure (not velocity) of the wind.
becalm - To deprive a vessel of wind, as by one vessel passing to windward of another.
becalmed - In a calm; without wind.
becket - A rope handle; An eye or loop in the end of a rope. A piece of rope used to confine or secure spars, ropes, or tackles. Generally an eye is at one end ; sometimes an eye at either end; or a knot at one end and an eye at the other.
bedding compound - Caulking material used for mating two surfaces, for the purpose of rendering them watertight.
before the beam - Towards the bow or stem of a vessel.
before the mast - A term used to describe the station of seamen as distinguished from officers. Thus a man before the mast means a common sailor, and not an officer. The term owes its origin to the fact that the seamen were berthed in the forecastle, which is usually "before the mast."
before the wind - Running with the wind astern.
behaviour - The performance of a ship in a seaway or under canvas is generally termed by sailors her "behaviour."
belay that - An order given whilst men are hauling on a rope; to cease hauling and make fast to the last inch they have got in. Also slang for cease talking or fooling.
belay, to - To make fast a rope or fall of a tackle. When hauling in a rope, the signal means to stop, as in "Belay there!"
below - Beneath the deck.
bend - To fasten by means of a knot; One of several types of knots, used to fasten a line to a spar or another line.
bend on - To rig; To prepare a sail for hoisting.
berth - A margin of safety, as a "wide berth"; A place to sleep; A position in which a vessel may be made fast.
bight - An indentation in the shoreline; The middle area of a slack rope. The part of the rope or line, between the end and the standing part, on which a knot is formed.
bilge - The lowest point of a vessel's interior hull; Can be the part of the exterior between the bottom and the topsides; A rounding of the hull along the length of the boat where the bottom meets the side.
bilgeboards - Similar to centerboards, and used to prevent lee way. Usually located on either side of the centerline at the bilges.
binnacle - A box, case or stand that houses a compass (which is usually illuminated at night). It is commonly used to raise the compas to a convenient height.
binocular - A telescopic instrument, for the use of both eyes simultaneously, having two tubes - each furnished with lenses.
bitt - A strong post, may be made of iron or wood; similar to a "samson post"; a post to which anchor, mooring or towing lines are fastened. Bitts may be located in the bow or stern.
bitter end - The extreme end of any line; The inboard end of an anchor rode.
block - Complete assembly of sheaves or pulleys and shells (plates) on which ropes run. Blocks may be composed of metal, plastic or wood.
block & tackle - An arrangement of blocks (pulleys) and line to gain a mechanical advantage (leverage); used in moving heavy cargo or equipment.
boarding ladder - A temporary set of steps, usually lowered over the side of a vessel.
boat - Generic term for a small vessel; the vessel may be propelled by oars, power or sail; A vessel that can be carried on board a ship. A submarine is always a boat no matter what length.
boathook - A hook on a pole, usually used for retrieving objects and for "fending off."
board - In beating to windward a board is the time a vessel is on one tack and the distance she makes on that tack. Thus it may be a long board or a short board. Working to windward by a long board and a short board is when a vessel can more nearly lie her course on one tack than on another. Thus, suppose the wind be S.W., and the vessel's course from headland to headland S.S.W., and the vessel can lie four points from the wind; then on the starboard tack the vessel will head S., or two points off her course ; on the port tack she will lie W., or six points off her course. The long board will be the one on the starboard tack. A vessel is said to make a good board when the wind frees her on one tack; a bad board when it heads her. A stern board is to get stern way on whilst tacking.
board, to - To board a ship is to enter upon her deck, generally supposed to mean without invitation. See also "Aboard."
"By the board" - To fall close by the deck. A mast is said to go by the board when it breaks by the deck and falls overboard.
board and board - Vessels are said to work board and board when they keep in company (sail together) and tack simultaneously.
boat chocks or skills - Pieces of wood with a score in them to take the keel of boats when they are lifted in upon deck.
boat hook - A short shaft with a fitting at one end shaped to facilitate use in putting a line over a piling, recovering an object dropped overboard, or in pushing or fending off. A wood pole with a metal hook and prong at one end; sometimes with two hooks. A yacht's gig has two boat hooks-one for the use of the bowman, another for the stroke; by these means a boat is held alongside the stops of a jetty or by the gangway of a vessel
boat keeper - The man left in charge of a boat when the other part of her crew go on shore.
boat's crew - Men assigned to always man a particular boat, such as the gig, cutter, or dinghy of a yacht. Commonly referred to as the sailors of any marine vessel.
boatswain - An officer who takes charge of a yacht's gear, and it is his duty to supervise all work done upon the spars, rigging, or sails. He also takes charge of all spare gear and sails, and sees that everything on deck and above deck is neat, clear, and ship-shape. He must in every sense of the word be a thorough seaman, and must know how all work upon rigging and sails should be done. As he has constantly to handle the sails and rigging, he necessarily has a knowledge of their condition, and it is his duty to report all defects in the same.
boatswain's call - A whistle consisting of a hollow ball and a tube leading to a hole in it. By varying the sounds the men are "piped" to their work just the same as soldiers are ordered by the sound of a bugle. The pipe is seldom met with in English yachts, except in some of large size, and the boatswain has little to do with giving orders.
bobstay - Wire Stay underneath the bowsprit; helps to counteract the upward pull exerted by the forestay.
body - Part of a vessel's hull, as fore-body, middle-body, and after-body. A vessel is said to be long-bodied when the fullness is carried well towards the ends ; short-bodied when the fore-and-aft lines taper very suddenly; a long-body thus means a great parallel length of middle-body. (See "Straight of Breadth.")
body plan - A plan which contains the cross sections of a vessel. The midship section or largest section is generally shown on the right-hand side of the middle line of the body plan; sometimes on both sides.
bollard - A strong vertical fitting to which mooring lines may be fastened; usually made of iron or stout timber, found on decks, piers or wharves.
bollock blocks - Two blocks in the middle of a topsail yard of square rigged vessel, used in hoisting.
bolsters - Pieces of hard wood bolted to the yoke or lower cap on the mast for the rigging to rest upon. They are sometimes covered with leather or sheepskin with the hair on, or raw hide, to prevent the rigging chafing. (See "Rigging Plans.")
bolt - A fastening of metal. An eye bolt is a bolt with an eye in it used to hook blocks to. A ring bolt is a bolt with an eye and a ring in the eye. An ear bolt or lug bolt is a bolt with a kind of slot in it to receive the part of another bolt, a pin keeping the two together and forming a kind of joint. Bay bolts are bolts with jagged edges to prevent their drawing. A bolt also applies to a roll of canvas or material.
bolt rope - The rope sewn round the edges of sails. Originally made of the very best quality hemp, steel wire is now used for the luff ropes of all racing sails.
booby hatch - A hatch on coamings used to give greater height in the cabin of small yachts, and which can be removed. It is also called a "coach roof."
boom - A free-swinging spar, used to extend the foot of a sail. To top the boom is to make sail and away. To boom off is to shove off a wharf, bank, etc., by the aid of spars. Stakes of wood used to denote a channel through shoal water are termed booms.
boom crutch - Support for the boom, holding it up and out of the way when the boat is anchored or moored. It is very often found with small sailboats, that can be moved by automobile and trailer, to support the mast after it is lowered. Unlike a gallows frame, a crutch is stowed when boat is sailing.
boom irons - Iron bands on square yards, with eyes, in which studding sail booms travel.
boomkin - A short boom of great strength, usually written "bumpkin."
boom vang - A system used to hold the boom down. The boom vang keeps the boom from lifting as the boom swings out from the centerline and the main sheet exerts less vertical pull on the boom. the intent is to maintain the mainsail flatness. It frequently extends from the boom to a location near the base of the mastand is usually tackle- or lever-operated.
boot top - A painted stripe that indicates the vessel's waterline.
bore - A sudden tide wave, which rolls along rapidly at certain times on some rivers, and makes a great noise.
boreas - The north wind. An old sailor's saying is, "as cold as Boreas with an iceberg in each pocket." Popularly the god that rules the wind, as Aeolus is supposed to do.
bore away - Did bear away. Said of a vessel that alters her course in a leewardly direction, as "she bore away."
bore by the head - A vessel is said to bore by the head when she, while passing through the water, is depressed by the bead.
boring - Forcing a vessel through loose ice in the Arctic seas.
Boss - A slang American term for sailing master, or chief in command.
bosun - A boatswain; a petty officer in charge of deck operations, hull, rigging and sail maintenance.
bosun's chair - A seat used to hoist a person aloft (for the purpose of rigging repair); may be made of canvas or wood.
bosun's locker - A shipboard storage locker; used to keep tools, rigging materials, paint and other deck supplies.
both sheets aft - When a square-rigged ship has the wind dead aft, so that the sheets lead aft alike, with the yards square.
bottom - Usually understood as the part of a vessel below the water line or bilge.
bottomry - The hull or bottom of a ship pledged as security for a loan. If the ship is lost, the money is lost, unless the lender has insured himself by other means.
bound - Encased with metal bands. Also referring to the destination of a vessel. Wind-bound means that a vessel is in a port or at an anchorage because the wind is unfavourable for her to proceed. Formerly square-rigged ships were everlastingly windbound, i.e., waiting in port because the wind was adverse; now they go out and look for a fair wind, and generally can sail so well on a wind that waiting for a fair wind would be considered an unpardonable piece of folly.
bouy - Floating marker in the water, used as an aid to navigating hazardous areas. View this link to an image of the typical channel marker bouys.
bow - The forward section of a vessel; the front part. In taking bearings an object is said to be on the bow if its direction does not make more than an angle of 45° with the line of the keel.
bow & beam bearings - Used to determine the distance off, it is a set of bearing ashore; a navigational aid from a known place.
bowditch - Named after the original author (Nathaniel Bowditch), it is a standard reference text on navigation.
bower anchor - The anchor in constant use.
bow fast - A warp for holding the vessel by the bow.
bowing the sea - Meeting the sea bow on or end on, or nearly end on, as in close-hauled sailing. When the sea runs the with the wind.
bowline - A knot used to make a loop in a line; it is simple, strong and virtually slip-proof. The very first knot every sailor should learn.
bow line - A docking line leading from the bow.
bow-lines - Continuation of buttock lines, showing the outline of vertical fore-and-aft sections in the forebody. Generally the whole line is termed a buttock line.
bowsing - Hauling with a will upon a rope.
bowsprit - A fixed spar; useful for anchor handling; spar projecting from the bow, to which forestay(s) or the headstay are fastened. A running bowsprit is one that can easily be reefed in like a cutter's. Sometimes when a bowsprit is reefed in by the fids it is wrongly said to be housed; a bowsprit is housed when run close in to the cranse iron. A standing bowsprit is one fitted in a shoe.
bowsprit bitts - Timbers fitted into carlines on the deck to take the bowsprit.
bowsprit cranse - The metal cap at the bowsprit end, to which the gear is spliced or shackled.
bowsprit shrouds - The horizontal stays from the bowsprit to the sides of the vessel.
boxhauling - In tacking a ship to make her turn on her heel by hauling the head sheets aweather, and getting sternway on. Practised by square-rigged ships, sometimes in working narrow channels.
bowing off - Assisting to pay a vessel's head off the wind by hauling the bead sheets a-weather.
bow Scarf - A method of joining two pieces of timber by letting each into the other one-half its own thickness; sometimes termed a butt scarf.
box the compass - To call over all the points of a compass in regular order. To understand the compass points and subdivisions. (See "Compass.")
braced sharp up - Said of a square-rigged ship when the weather braces are slacked up and the lee ones hauled in taut so as to trim the sails as close to wind as possible.
braces - Metal straps fitted round the main piece of rudder or rudder-post and fastened to the sternpost. -- Strengthening pieces of iron or wood to bind together weak places in a vessel. -- Ropes need in working the yards of a ship.
"Brace-up and haul aft!" - The order to trim sails after a vessel has been hove to with sails slack.
braided line - A modern configuration of rope; may be single or double braided.
brails - Ropes fast to the leeches of fore-and-aft sails and leading through blocks on the mast hoops. ; need to haul or truss the sail up to the mast instead of lowering it and stowing it. Partially furling sails to lessen wind resistance or partially unfurling sails to make them ready for instant use. On a square sail this is accomplished with leech and clew lines. See "Scandalize"
breach - A breaking in of the sea. A clean breach is when a wave boards a vessel in solid form, and sometimes makes a clean sweep of the deck, taking crew, boats, and everything else overboard. To make a clean breach over a vessel is when the sea enters one side and pours out the other.
break aboard - When the crest of a wave falls aboard on the deck of a vessel.
breakers - Cresting waves; may be as a result of waves that build up (crest) as they reach shallow water. Sometimes refered to as "Surf's up!"
break off - In close-hauled sailing, when the wind comes more from ahead so as to cause the vessel's head to break to leeward of the course she had been sailing. Not to be confused with "fall off," which means that the vessel's head goes off farther away from the wind.
break tacks - When a vessel goes from one tack to the other.
breakwater - A (stone or concrete) structure built to improve/create a harbor.
breaming - Cleaning off a ship's bottom by burning the excrescences thereon. Sometimes when a vessel is not coppered small worms will eat into the plank. It is usual then to scrape her bottom, coal tar her, and then bream her off by fire in basket breaming irons.
breast fast - A warp fastened to a vessel amidships to hold her.
breasthook - A strong hook shaped wood knee used forward to bind the stem, shelf, and frame of a vessel together. Breasthooks are also used in other parts of a vessel. They are now usually made of wrought iron.
breast line - A lateral mooring/dock line from a boat to a pier; as distinguished from a spring line.
breeze - In sailor's parlance, a strong blow of wind; but generally a wind of no particular strength, as light breeze, gentle breeze, moderate breeze, strong breeze. (See "Wind.")
breeze of wind - A strong wind.
breeze-up - The wind is said to "breeze-up" when it increases fast in strength from a light wind.
breezy side - The windward side of an object.
bridge - The person(s) in charge of a vessel; the location from which a vessel is steered and its speed controlled. "Control Station" is really a more appropriate term for small craft.
bridge deck - The transverse partition between the cockpit and the cabin.
bridle - A short length of wire with a line attached at the midpoint. A bridle is used to distribute the load of the attached line. Often used as boom travelers and for spinnaker down hauls. or The parts of moorings to hold on by; many ropes gathered into one.
brig - A two-masted vessel, square-rigged on both masts; the "jail" on a marine vessel.
Brigantine - a two masted vessel square rigged on the foremast, with fore-and-aft sails on the mainmast
brightwork - Varnished woodwork and/or polished metals, such as brass, bronze or stainless steel.
bring to, or bring her to - To luff or to come close to wind.
bring to wind - To luff a vessel close to the wind after she has been sailing off the wind.
bring up - To come to anchor.
bring up all standing - To come to anchor, or to a stop suddenly without notice, or without any sail being lowered. To anchor without lowering sail.
Bristol fashion - Conforming to high standards of seamanship; shipshape; neat, clean and orderly; in the best manner possible. Refers to Bristol shipbuilding and seamen formerly having a great reputation for excellence.
broaching / broach to - An unplanned and uncontrolled turning of a vessel so that the hull is broadside to the seas or to the wind.
broad on the beam - At a right angle (90 degrees) to a vessel.
broad pennant - The swallowtail flag of a commodore. See also "Burgee."
broad reach - A point of sailing with the apparent wind broad on the beam.
broadside on - When a vessel moves sideways, or when she is approached by an object at right angles to her broadside.
broken water - When waves lose their form by breaking over reefs, rocks, or shallows, or by meeting waves from another direction, termed a cross sea.
broom at the masthead - A signal that a boat or vessel is for sale. The origin of the custom appears to be unknown; but it is ingeniously argued that brooms were hoisted as a signal that a man wanted to make a clean sweep of his vessel; or the custom may have arisen from the common practice of selling brooms in the streets.
brought to - After a vessel has been sailing off a wind when she is brought to wind, or close to wind.
brought up with a round turn - Figuratively, suddenly stopped: as for instance, when a rope is being payed out rapidly, if a turn or bight catches round some object and checks the paying out of the rope.
buckler - Blocks of wood used to stop the hawse pipes.
bulkhead - An interior partition commonly used to stiffen the hull. May be watertight.The athwartship partitions which separate a vessel into compartments, cabins, &c. Fore and aft partitions are also termed bulkheads.
bull's eye - A block without a sheave, and with one hole in it. They are usually metal bound.
bullseye - A round eye through which a line is led, usually in order to change the direction of pull.
bulwark - A vertical extension above deck level designed to keep water out of and sailors in the boat
bumbo - The larger of the headsails.
bumboat - A boat used by shore people to carry provisions on sale to ships.
bumpers - The main stays of schooners when they lead forward to the fore deck.
bumper stay - A short stay supporting the top forward portion of the mast. The stay runs from the top of the mast forward over a short jumper strut, then down to the mast, usually at the level of the spreaders.
bumpkin - See "Boomkin."
Bungee - Trade name for elastic cord, usually round but now available as flat. Often has hooks on each end and used to secure tarps and bundles of items, and tie things down. Sometimes mispelled "bungie" or "bunjee", but always pronounced "bun-gee". Crazy people tie it to their ankles and jump off bridges, kind of like sky-diving on a round-trip ticket.
bunk - A Chinese ship. Also old rope. Also old salt beef as tough and hard as old rope.
bury - A makeshift or temporary contrivance, as jury mast, jury rudder, jury bowsprit. which may be fitted when either has been lost or carried away.
bunk - Sleeping berth, bed or area.
bunt - The middle part of a sail. To gather up the bunt is take hold of the middle part of a sail and gather it up.
buntline hitch - A simple hitch for attaching a halyard to a shackle.
bunting - Woollen stuff of which flags are made.
bunter - A kind of tackle.
bunt lines - Ropes attached to sails to haul them up by.
buoy - A floating navigational aid; used to indicate channel configurations, hidden obstacles and prohibited areas; markers to indicate turning points in boat races; may serve as a temporary anchoring marker.
buoyancy - The quality of floating or being supported or borne up by a fluid. A vessel is buoyant in proportion as she is bulk for bulk lighter than the fluid that supports her.
burden or burthen - Supposed to mean the quantity in tons of dead weight that a vessel will carry. The quantity would be the difference between the weight or displacement of the ship when light and the weight or displacement of the ship when she was laden as deeply as prudent.
burdened vessel - The ship that must "give right" to another vessel in a crossing/overtaking situation, as outlined in standard navigational rules. The term has been superseded by the term "give-way."
burgee - A special flag; flag used to indicate vessel ownership or affiliation, such as a yacht club.
burton - A tackle composed of two single blocks; a double Spanish burton consists of two single and one double block.
butt - The joining or meeting of two pieces of wood endways. Butt and butt means that two planks meet end to end, but do not overlap.
butt end - The biggest end of a spar.
buttock - The after-part of a vessel from her run upwards.
buttock lines - Planes in a fore-and-aft direction, showing the outline of vertical fore-and-aft sections in the after-body.
by and large - Backing and filling, or sailing with a tailwind. (See also "Large.")
by the board - To fall overboard; as when a mast breaks short off at the deck.
by the head - When the vessel is trimmed or depressed by the head so that her proper line of flotation is departed from.
by the lee - To bring a vessel by the lee is when nearly before the wind she falls off so much as to bring the wind on the other quarter ; or the wind may shift from one quarter of the vessel to the other without the vessel altering her course (See "Lee").
by the stern - The opposite of being down By The Head.
by the wind - Close hauled; hauled by the wind.
Back to the index.
cabin - A compartment for passengers or crew.
cable - A rope or chain by which a vessel is held at anchor.
cable's length - A measure of one-tenth of a sea mile, 600 feet, 101 fathoms, or 203 yards.
caboose - The cooking room or kitchen of a merchantman. Also the "galley fire" or cooking stove of a yacht or ether vessel.
cage buoy - A buoy with an iron framework upon the top. Formerly "cages" were put on poles in intricate channels, and for two hours about the time of high water at night fires were lighted in them.
call - See "Boatswain."
callipers - An instrument consisting of a "straight edge" beam with two legs, used for measuring the breadth of yachts, packages of merchandise. Metal bowlegged compasses called callipers are used for measuring the diameter of spars.
calm - Stillness of the air. Stillness or smoothness of the sea. An unrippled sea. Dead calm, stark calm, flat calm, clock calm, glass calm, glass smooth sea.
camber - Curvature of either the keel or sail; the deck's curve, usually higher in the center, allowing water runoff. See also "Rocker."
can - A cylindrical buoys; generally red or green.
Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons - A private membership organization; it specializes in safe boating and boating education.
cant frames - The frame in the bow and quarter of a vessel that are not square to the keel.
canvas - Woven cloth (made of cotton, linen or hemp) used for awnings and sails; A set of sails.
canvas back - A term applied to boats covered with canvas to keep out the seas; also applied to yacht sailors who are fond of a salting.
cap - A piece of trim, usually wood, used to cover and often decorate a portion of the boat, i.e., caprail.
capful of wind - A puff of wind soon passing away.
capsize - To overturn the vessel; to turn the vessel's bottom side up. A vessel can capsize without sinking.
capstan - A (vertical) winch on deck; which is used for hauling the anchor line. A mechanical contrivance for raising the anchor.
capstan bar - Bars of wood by which the capstan is turned, and so made to wind up the anchor or raise any weight.
carbon fiber - Modern fiber composed of epoxies (for strength).
cardinal points - The primary compass points - North, South, East and West.
card - See "Compas Card.".
careen - To heel, to list, to haul over for cleaning the bottom.
carlins or carlenes - Aft and fore members of the deck frame; boat feature that supports the cabin trunk, the hatch coamings and the cockpit coamings.
carrick bend - A knot used to fasten multiple lines together.
carry away - To break loose; said of gear that is stressed beyond the strength of its fastenings. The breaking of a spar.
carry canvas - A vessel is said to carry her canvas well if she does not heel much in strong breezes.
carvel - Planking, usually smooth skinned.
carvel built - Built with the plank flush edge to edge, and the seams caulked and payed.
cast - Said of a ship when she fills on one tack or the other after being head to wind. Used generally on getting under way, as cast to port. The word is variously used, as to cast anchor, to cast off a rope.
cast off - To unfasten or loosen; the untying of mooring lines (in preparation for departure).
catalyst - A chemical that activates a chemical reaction.
catamaran - A twin-hulled vessel; may be either power or sail.
catboat - A simple sailboat rig; sailboat with one mast/one sail.
catch a turn - To take a turn quickly with a rope round a belaying pin, or bitt, or cavel.
catenary - A "gravity induced" rope sag between two points.
cathead - Timber or iron projection from the how of a vessel by which the anchor is hoisted up to the rail, after it has been weighed to the hawse pipe.
catspaws - In calms, when the water is rippled here and there with passing airs of wind, it is said to be scratched by catspaws. A "catspaw" is also a bight doubled in a rope.
caulking - Driving oakum into the seams of a vessel. Modern caulking is made of synthetic plastics.
caulking iron - A kind of blunt chisel used for driving oakum into the seams.
cavel - Stout pieces of timber fixed horizontally to the stanchions on bitts for belaying ropes to. Sometimes spelled "kavel" or "kevel."
cavitation - Water turbulence generated the propeller's rotation.
ceiling - A hull's inner lining.
celestial navigation - The use of heavenly bodies for the determination of a vessel's position.
centerboard - A metal plate (or board), moving vertically (or pivoting up & down) in the centerline slot of the keel; the purpose is to add lateral resistance to a sailboat's hull to reduce sideways skidding or leeway. Unlike a daggerboard, which lifts vertically, a centerboard pivots around a pin, usually located in the forward top corner, and swings up and aft.
certificate - A government paper; a government issued license, such as boat/master/seaman license(s).
chafe - The wear of an object; abrasion; wearing away prior to the failure of the object.
chafing gear - Tape, tubing, cloth or other material fastened around an object, used to protect a line from chafing on a rough surface.
chain - Interlocking links (made of steel or iron); may be used for rigging and anchor lines.
chain locker - Stowage space reserved for the anchor line/chain.
chainplates - Fittings located on the outer deck edges (or on the hull sides) to which riggings are fastened.
chain Pipe - Iron pipe on the deck through which the cables pass into the lockers.
chandlery - Location where nautical gear is sold; items of nautical gears.
channel - The area of a waterway that is navigable; this area is typically marked by red and green buoys, where the water depth is known.
channels - Strong pieces of timber fixed on the side of a ship inside the chain plates to give greater spread to the rigging.
channel deep - Said of a yacht when she is heeled over until her lee channels are under water.
channel plates - Braces secured to the sides of vessels and extended by pieces of timber termed channels. The rigging screws are shackled to the channel plates.
charlie noble - A stovepipe fitting through which the vessel's stove metal chimney is contained; it is usually equipped with a cap to exclude rain and to control smoke.
chart - Any sea-going map; most charts are issued by government sources, which usually provide information such as channel markings, water depths, land surveys, etc.
chart table - Where charts and maps are handled during the navigation of a vessel; also known as the navigation table.
check, to - Generally means "to hold or cancel a little bit." To check a sheet is to ease it a little. To check a vessel's way as by a warp, or by backing a sail. To check a tide is to keep a vessel from her course, in order to allow for the influence or drift of a tide. A vessel is said to check the tide when it throws her to windward. To check a vessel with the helm is to prevent her altering her course. See also "To Meet."
cheek blocks - A sheave fitted on a spar inside a sort of cleat, as the cheek block for topsail sheet on the end of a gaff.
cheeks of the mast - The mast projections known as the hounds.
chill - In very light winds, if a cloud passes overhead and a puff comes out of it, it is called a chill-probably due to its coldness.
chine - The intersection of the bottom and sides of a flat or v-bottomed boat. A line, running along the side of the boat, where the bottom forms an angle to the side. Can also be strips of protected wood (usually), not including the keel, on the bottom of a boat running along the centerline. Not normally found on round-bottom boats.The part of a waterway on the deck of a ship which joins the spirketting.
Chinese lug - A lug sail with battens.
chips - A nickname for a ship's carpenter
chock - A rigging fitting; A mounted "u" or "o" shaped fitting that controls a rigging or mooring line.
chockablock - The line between two blocks in a tackle are "closed up" (drawn as far as possible) so that no more line movement is possible. Generally when two things are brought so close together that they cannot be got closer.
chock full - Full to the brim. Frequently used in close-hauled sailing to let the helmsman know that the sails are full enough, and he need use no more weather helm. See also "Ramping Full."
chock home - Close up.
chop - Waves that are short and steep.
choppy sea - A short, steep sea, which makes a vessel continuously pitch and roll.
chuck - To throw.
chuckle-headed - Full or bluff in the bow; thickheaded.
chuck to windward - A weather-going tide is said to chuck a vessel to windward, and the contrary a lee-going tide.
circumference of a circle - The diameter multiplied by 3.14159; in algebra denoted by the Greek letter pi or perimeter.
clamcleat - A cleat for sheets that pinches, jambs. or wedges the rope to hold it, but can be released with a jerk.
clamp - A wooden vessel's inner plank (longitudinal timber under the shelf) that acts as the bearer of joints or beams.
clamps - A kind of wedge vice, used in boat building to hold the plank together. Various contrivances of wood or metal used in fitting up a vessel or in fixing parts in her construction.
clap on canvas - To put on more canvas, or sail.
classes - Organized groups of boats; a grouping of vessels based on a pre-defined set of specifications. Usually this is done for racing - to put a premium on skill and tactics once boat performance has been equalized.
claw - To hang well to windward, as to "claw off a lee shore."
claw to windward - To beat to windward under difficulties. To claw off a lee shore is to boat off and avoid getting stranded.
clean full - Barely close-hauled when all the sails are full.
clear for going afloat - A question often asked when work is being done on deck, and the vessel has to be put about.
cleat - A rigging fitting to which lines are made fast; a fitting to which halyards, mooring lines, sail control lines and other miscellaneous lines are attached temporarily.
cleat hitch - A "figure-eight" hitch; the distinctive criss-cross hitch used to belay (fasten) a line to the cleat.
clevis pin - A large pin; the pin used to secure one fitting to another.
clew - The sail's aftmost corner, to which the sheet is attached.
clew lines - Clew garnets. Ropes used for hauling up the clews of sails.
clew up - To haul up a sail by the clew lines for furling, etc. Also used as a slang term for shut up or cease.
clinch, or clincher work - To fasten a rope by a half hitch, and seize the end hack to the other part; a method adopted with very large ropes or hawsers after they have to be bent to rings, etc. in a hurry. To clinch is also to beat the end of a bolt or rivet until it forms a head; or to turn the end of a nail in so that it will not draw.
clinker - The hard cinder which forms on furnace bars. Sometimes wrongly used for clincher work in boat building.
clinometer - See "Inclinometer."
clip hook - A double hook (hinged below the eye) whose parts overlap when attached to a ring or other loop. It is not much in favour because it frequently breaks or gets half detached.
clipper - A fine ship ; first applied to the sharp bowed ships that sailed out of Baltimore, U.S.
clipper stem or bow - An overhanging stem or prow.
clock calm - So calm and still that the ticking of a clock could be heard.
close aboard - Near to, as the land is said to be close aboard when a vessel has approached it very closely.
close-hauled - The boat has been enabled to sail "against the wind"; "hard on the wind"; a point of sailing in which the sheets are hauled tight.
close-hauled (sailing) - With all the sheets trimmed flat aft, and every rope that helps extend the sails hauled taut. Hauled as close to the wind as the sails will admit without shaking their luffs. A traingular sailed craft, with everything nicely trimmed for racing, will lie within four and a half points of the wind ; a cutter within four and a quarter points. This, of course, supposes the water to be smooth and the wind of what is known as "whole sail strength." In rough water a vessel cannot be sailed so close.
close reefed - When the last reef is taken in, generally the fourth reef; but some modern yachts with laced mainsails have only three reef hands, and it is thought that when the fourth reef is wanted that it is time to set the trysail.
close to wind - Close hauled. As close to heading into the wind as the sails will bear without lifting.
clothes lines - A sail is said to be across a clothes lines when it is girted by a rope.
cloth in the sind, a - When the foremost cloth or luff of a sail is shaking through the vessel being brought too near the wind. A man is said to be three cloths in the wind, or three sheets to the wind, when intoxicated.
clove hitch - A double-loop hitch; generally used around a bollard or piling.
club-footed - The foot of a jib (or foresail) which is supported by a small boom.
coach roof - Also trunk. The cabin roof, raised above the deck to provide headroom in the cabin.
coaming - A raised edge surrounding a cockpit that prevents water from entering the vessel. May be broadened to provide a base for winches. A raised frame fitted to and above the deck for the hatches, skylights, to rest upon. Sometimes wrongly spelt combings.
Coastal Schooner - A work horse sailing ship, used for coastal trade, that remained close to the ainland or nearby islands. She was probably not much more than a hundred tons, and carried everything from timber and coal to bricks, general cargo, and a load of hay to offshore island communities. The schooner could have either one or two topmasts.
Coast Pilots - Reference books; a set of books, issued by the US National Ocean Service, listing navigation aids and other coastal piloting information.
coats - Painted canvas used to cover sails when they are stowed.
cockpit - A space for the crew; an area lower than the deck; usually water-tight or self-draining.
cockpit sole - The cockpit's floor.
code - In signaling, any one of several methods to transmit messages; messages may be sent visually (flags), electronically (Morse Code) or by sound (radio).
coil - To lay a line down in circular turns. This gives the rope a low flat profile on the deck, rather than a tangled mess.
cold front - The forward edge of a cold air mass meeting warmer air; a meteorological term for describing weather.
cold molding - The process of bending multiple thin layers of wood (in sequence with glue) to achieve a desired thickness (as opposed to sawing or forming by steam bending).
collar - An eye or bight of a shroud, stay, or rope to go over the masthead as the collar of the forestay. Also a ring on a bolt.
collision - When one vessel comes into contact with another.
colors - The flags denoting nationality, ownership, or other identity; the national ensign.
COLREGS - The "navigational rules of the road"; US Coast Guard term for international regulations for preventing collisions at sea. See also "Navigation Regulations."
comb - The crest part of a wave.
comber - A big surf-like wave.
come about - To tack; to change the vessel's direction, relative to the wind.
"Come no nearer" - An order to the helmsman not to bring the vessel nearer the wind.
come to - To fly up in the wind; to come nearer or closer to the wind; to luff. Generally used when a vessel comes nearer the wind after having falling off the wind.
come up - Generally to slacken up. While hauling on the fall of a tackle and the order comes, "Avast hauling there!" the hand that has to belay sings out, "Come up behind!"; all hands instantly release the fall, so that the one who has to belay may catch the turn round the belaying pin or cavel without "losing any."
come up, to - A vessel is said to come up when the wind frees her so that she can head nearer her course, or look, or point her course. In beating, a helmsman in reporting the progress made by the vessel may say, "She has come up two points this tack, sir," according to the extent of the wind freeing; if the wind came more ahead, he might say she has broken off or fallen off two points
come up with - To overtake.
companion - The structure with sliding hath which forms the entrance from the deck to the cabins below
companionway - The main entrance (or hatch) from deck to the cabin similar to a hall or corridor in land terms
compass - A navigational device; boating instrument that provides 360 degrees of direction; also a plotting tool for drawing circular arcs and circles.
compass bowl - The bowl within the binnacle containing the compass.
compass card - A circle divided into 32 parts, called points; and each part is again divided into 4 parts, and the whole is divided into 360 degrees.
compass point - The 32nd part of 360 degrees, or 11-1/4 degrees.
complement - The full number aboard; the whole ship's crew.
composite construction - An item composed of multiple components of different natures, such as wood and fiberglass.
compressor - A contrivance to prevent the chain cable being veered too quickly, or to stop its veering altogether.
conning - Directing a steersman in the use or management of the helm, telling him how to steer. Usually done from a remote location when the steersman can not see the water.
contrary wind - A wind that blows adversely down a vessel's course.
cordage - A classification encompassing all small lines (ropes); may be for natural or synthetic fibers.
cored construction - The material between an inner and an outer layer.
corky - Light, buoyant, easily set in motion by the waves ; floating with a high side out of the water.
Corinthian - An amateur yachtsman; Novice.
cornette - A swallowtailed flag. See also "Burgee."
cotter pin - A (small) pin used to keep turnbuckles (nuts) from unwinding.
counter - The stern-end portion of the hull that is above the waterline and extending aftwards.
course - The direction in which a boat is steered. When racing, it is the direction that a vessel must follow.
covering board - The outside dock plank fitted over the timber heads. See "Plank Sheer."
cowls - Directing the flow of air (and vapors) through ducts.
Coxswain - Sailor in charge of and steering a small boat
crabbing - When a vessel tumbles down under a heavy press of canvas, or when she sags to leeward badly.
cracking on - Carrying a large quantity of sail.
cradle - A "berthing" framework used to support a vessel on land.
craft - A vessel; also used in the plural, thus a number of craft, or a lot of craft, means a number of vessels.
crank - Not stiff under canvas; a boat that can be heeled or listed very easily ; generally a dangerous boat. See also "Cripple" and "Tender."
cranse - An iron hoop baud with eyes, fitted to bowsprit ends or the ends of other spars.
creek - An inlet of the sea; a very small stream that often dries up.
crest - The top of a wave.
crew - A ship's complement, and including every man employed on board in any capacity whatsoever, distinct from passengers.
cringle - A circular eye, sometimes called a thimble or eyelet, that is used to fasten the corner of an awning, sail or any canvas item.
cripple - A vessel that does not carry her canvas stiffly. See also "Crank."
cross chocks - Pieces of wood used for filling in between lower futtocks where their heels do not meet on the top of the keel.
crossing situation - The meeting of two vessels, which is not head-on, but having 22.5 degrees aft the beam.
cross-jack -The Cross-jack-yard is the lowest yard on the mizzen mast. Pronounced "cro'-jack."
cross sea - Waves that come from diverse directions, usually caused by sudden shifts of wind when it is blowing heavily.
crosstrees - Horizontal members attaced to the mast acting as spreaders for the shrouds
Crow-foot - A number of lines attached to one line, and spreading out to support an awning.
crown of an anchor - The part of an anchor where the arms are joined to the shank.
Crow's Nest - A place of shelter at the topgallant masthead for a look out man, used by whalers in northern latitudes.
crutch - The support for a boom when the sail is stowed
CTE (Crosstrack Error) - See XTK.
CTS (Course to Steer) - the bearing which will give you the most efficient way to stay on course to your destination.
cubic measure of water - One gallon contains 277.274 cubic inches, or 0.16 of a cubic foot. One cubic foot contains 1728 cubic inches, or 6.233 gallons. One ton of salt water contains 35 cubic feet. One ton of fresh water contains 35.9 cubic feet. A ton weight is equal to 2240lb. Note: These are Imperial gallons and British tons.
Cuddleback - An accomplished sailor that writes foibles about the mishaps of other sailors. Sometimes known as Dale's Foible.
cuddy - A small shelter cabin in a boat.
cunningham - Invented by Briggs Cunningham, it is the line controlling tension along a sail's luff by using a line to pull down the mainsail a short distance from the luff to the tack. Flattens the sail. Not the same as the Boom Vang.
current - The normal water flow; the movement of water in an horizontal direction.
cutter - A ship's boat heavier than a gig, and used in bad weather when the lighter boat might get swamped. Also, a vessel with one mast rigged with mainsail, jib and staysail.
Back to the index.
Dacron - Polyester; a registered polyester trademark.
daggerboard - A board dropped vertically through the hull to prevent leeway. May be completely removed for beaching or for sailing downwind.
dagger knee - A piece of timber crossing the frames diagonally.
dandy - A cutter rigged vessel with lug mizzen aft set on a jigger-mast.
danger angle - A piloting angle; a measured angle between the directions between two points, such as rocks, buoys or landmarks.
danger zone - The area encompassed from dead ahead of your boat to just abaft your starboard beam. You must stand clear of any boat in the "danger zone."
davit - A hoisting device; a swing-out crane; usually on a vessel; may be used for dinghy or anchor.
dayboard - A navigational aid; a sign atop a piling or dolphin, which may be unlit (daybeacon) or lit (light).
daysailer - A cabin-less vessel; typically used for racing and/or short excursions.
dayshape - A geometrical marker (black ball, cylinder or cone) hung aloft to show a vessel's occupation, state or type. For example, one black ball is "at anchor", three black balls is "aground."
dead ahead - Directions exactly ahead of the vessel; opposite direction of dead astern.
dead astern - Directions exactly behind the vessel; opposite direction of dead ahead.
dead calm - Without a breath of wind.
deaden-her-way - To stop a vessel's way by backing and filling, or by hauling a sail aback, or by yawing her about with the helm,
dead eyes - Blocks in the shroud rigging used to adjust tension. A circular block, with three holes in it (crow-foot fashion) without sheaves, formerly used to reeve the lanyards through for setting up the rigging.
dead flat - The midship section. The term is applied to the middle flat of a ship, where she gets no broader and no narrower ; that is, where the cross sections for some distance amidships are of the same size and form thus the side will present a "dead flat" for some distance; unusual in yachts.
deadlight - A non-opening port or skylight; a small porthole in a cabin top or deck; a cover clamped over a porthole to protect it in heavy weather; a fixed light set into the deck or cabin roof to provide light below.
Dead Reckoning - Abbreviation of Deduced Reckoning. A navigational method of determining a vessel's location. The calculation of a ship's position by the log, the courses she has made, lee way, set of currents, wave patterns, speed an direction of wind, depth soundings and other close observations such as wave patterns or wildlife activity all without sighting known land or buoys or lights, celestial (sextant), or electronic information (GPS, Loran, Radar, Direction Finding.)
deadrise - Expressed as an angle, it is height between the vessel's bottom and its widest beam.
dead water - The water in a vessel's wake, close to her sternpost, that follows the ship.
dead weight - Concentrated weight in a vessel's pattern, such as a heavy cargo of ore or ballast.
dead wood - The solid wood worked on top of the keel forward and aft.
deck - A permanent covering over a compartment, hull or any part thereof. The platforms supported on the beams of ships. Yachts usually are said to have only one deck, i.e. the upper deck open to the sky
deep sea lead (pronounced "dipsey lead") - A lead of 28-lb. weight attached to a line of 200 fathoms.
delivery - The quarter wash of a vessel. A yacht is said to have a good delivery if on passing through the water no large waves are raised at and about the quarters; she is then said to leave the water clean, to have a clean wake, clean delivery, or to run the water very clean aft; to have a sweet run.
demurrage - Compensation paid to the owner of a ship when she has been detained longer than reasonable by a freighter or other person at a port.
departure, point of - The vessel's last obtained position.
depth of hold -In a single-deck vessel, the height between the kelson and deck.
depth sounder - An electronic device for measuring water depth; it measures the time lapse from sending a sound wave to the bottom and its return back; the results may be displayed in fathoms, feet or meters.
derelict - A vessel abandoned at sea. It is said that an owner's rights are not also abandoned if any live animal be left and found on board.
derrick -A kind of crane.
deviation - The difference between a compass' reading of North against the true magnet North. See also "Variation."
Dhow - A large Arab vessel, usually lateen-rigged.
diagonal braces - Strengthening straps of metal that cross the frames of a vessel diagonally.
diagonal lines -Lines which cross the sections of a vessel shown in the body plan, in a diagonal direction with the middle vertical line.
diameter of circle - Circumference multiplied by 0.31831; the radius squared times Pi (3.14159).
diminishing strakes -The strakes immediately above and below wales being the thickness of the wale on one edge, and diminishing to the thickness of the plank at the other.
dinghy - A small boat; a boat used as a tender (as in "attend her"); a small racing sailboat. Orignally a small boat of Bombay, with a settee sail.
dip -The inclination the compass needle makes towards the earth in high latitudes.
dip the ensign, to -To lower the ensign as a salute, or token of respect.
dipping lug sail - A sail hoisted by a halyard and mast hoop traveler. The sail is set to leeward of the mast, and the tack is usually fast to the stem or on the weather bow. In tacking or gybing the sail has to be lowered and the yard shifted to the other side of the mast. A plan has been proposed to perform this dipping by the aid of a topping and tripping line instead of by lowering the sail; but the balance lug, which requires no dipping whatsoever in tacking, is to be preferred to the best dipping arrangement.
Discharge Ticket - A formal document given to seamen when they are discharged.
dismantled - Unrigged: without sails or spars.
dismasted - When a vessel loses one or more vertical spars
displacement - The weight of water displaced by a floating hull, with everything on board; a vessel's displacement varies from fresh water to seawater due to the difference in water density.
displacement hull - A vessel that supported by its own buoyancy, while in motion. The hull could be fabricated from concrete, as long as you keep the water out.
distress signals - An improvised or standard signal that is used to indicate an emergency situation. The signals may be audible, electronic or visual.
ditty bag - A small bag for personal items.
dock - An enclosed or protected water area where boats can be moored; the planking surrounding a boat's slip; a pier, or wharf.
dockyards - Places where ships are built ; usually, however, confined to Government yards.
documentation - A vessel's registration; a special federal license.
dodger - A screen, usually fabric, erected to protect the cockpit from spray and wind.
dog shores - Pieces of timber used in launching ships.
dog vane - A light vane made of bunting, silk, or feathers, to show the direction of the wind, and sometimes put on the weather rail or topsail yard.
dog watches - The divided watch between four and eight in the evening ; thus the first dog watch is from four to six, and the second from six to eight. (See "Watches.'')
doldrums - The state of being becalmed. Parts of the ocean where calms are prevalent. Most often found around the equator between the trade wind belts.
dolphin - A small grouping of piles (usually three); the piles are normally tied together to form a single structure. May be used for mooring or as a navigational aid.
dolphin striker - The perpendicular spar under the bowsprit end by which more spread is given to the stay of the jib-boom. In a modern yacht the dolphin striker is a steel strut or spreader fitting into a socket in the stem, and it acts as a spreader to the bobstay. (See "Spreader" and "Strut.")
dorade vent - A vent designed to allow air flow into the lower deck while keeping water out.
double-banked - When men sit on the same thwart to row oars from different sides of a boat. Double-banked frigates were two deckers, with the upper deck ports disguised.
double block - A block with twin sheaves, or pulleys.
double gimbals - See "Gimbals."
double-braid - A rope made with braided core and a (braided) cover.
double-ender - A boat whose stern resembles its bow configuration; a boat designed with a sharp stern.
doubling plank - To put one thickness of plank over the other.
douse or dowse - To snuff out a fire or light; to lower (drop) a sail quickly.
Dove-tail plates - Plates in form like a dove's tail.
dowel - A hard wood or metal pin used for connecting timber or the edges of plank.
downhaul - A rigging line used to hold down (or haul down) a sail or spar. On the mainsail, it is attached just above the boom and tied off to a cleat on the mast, with the purpose of tensioning the leading edge of the sail.
down helm - An order to put the helm to leeward and cause the vessel to luff.
down oars - The order given for the crew of a boat to let fall their oars after having them on end in the boat.
downwind - A leeward direction; a direction to leeward with the wind.
down wind down sea - The sea will subside when the wind does; or the sea will go down when the wind Is blowing the same direction as a tidal current.
draft or draught - The vertical distance between the vessel's waterline and its lowest point; the lowest point may be the hull itself or an attachment (such as a rudder or propeller). The minimum water depth in which a boat will float.
drag - The increased draught of water aft compared with the draught forward.
Drag, to - To scrape the bottom; to search the bottom with grapnels.
draw - A sail is said to draw when it is filled by the wind. To let draw is to ease up the weather sheet of a sail after it has been hauled to windward, and trim the lee sheet aft.
"Draw her to" - In sailing, to bring a vessel closer to the wind.
dress - To dress ship is to hoist flags from deck to truck; or from bowsprit end to truck and taffrail. Sometimes referred to as dressed "rainbow fashion."
drift - The velocity of a water current; to float with the tide or current. The distance between two blocks of a tackle or the two parts of one thing.
drive - To move to leeward by the force of the wind, or drive without control.
drogue - An opened-ended cone; a conic device serving to slow down a vessel in heavy weather.
DRS - A sail referred as a (D)rifter / (R)eacher / (S)pinnaker.
drydock - An enclosed dock; a dock used in the repairing or cleaning of a vessel; a raised dock from which a boat can be raised so that water can be pumped out.
dry rot - Decay of wood timbers; a result of moist conditions leading to decay.
drysail - After each sail outing, dry out the vessel by removing it from the water. The practice prevents marine growth on the hull and the absorption of moisture into it.
dry storage - Storing the boat on land, away from the water.
duck - Light canvas of which boat sails and balloon sails used to be made. To duck is to dive under water
ducks - A sailor's white suit of duck. "They are all black ducks" is an expression of ridicule used by yacht hands on the East coast towards their mates if they sit on deck with their heads up when racing, instead of lying flat on the weather rail in the classic fashion.
ducts - Openings to channel the movement of air for the purpose of ventilation. Usually used for freshening the cabin air or the displacement of dangerous fumes.
duff - A sailor's facetious way of pronouncing dough, hence plum duff for plum pudding. Duff is sometimes applied to "soft tack" or fresh bread as distinct from biscuits.
dumb cleat - A thumb cleat.
dump - A nail used in fastening plank to the timbers, as distinguished from a through-bolt.
dungaree or dongaree - A blue linen or cotton. Originating from India, it is now much used for rough. or working suits given to yacht sailors and cowboys.
dunnage - Loose material such as cork. bamboo, shavings, ferns, or various size timbers used to jam in between a heavy cargo and hold them in place. Sort of like packing material, only larger.
Back to the index.