Glossary of Seamanship Terms

Seamanship is the art of operating a ship or boat.

  It involves a knowledge of a variety of topics and development of specialized skills including: navigation and international maritime law; weather, meteorology and forecasting; watchstanding; ship-handling and small boat handling; operation of deck equipment, anchors and cables; ropework and line handling; communications; sailing; engines; execution of evolutions such as towing; cargo handling equipment, dangerous cargoes and cargo storage; dealing with emergencies; survival at sea and search and rescue; fire fighting.

  The degree of knowledge needed within these areas is dependent upon the nature of the work and the type of vessel employed by a mariner. However, the practice of good seamanship should be the goal of all.

ABAFT THE BEAM: Any direction between the beam and the stern.

ABEAM: Bearing 90˚ or 270˚ relative from own ship.

ADRIFT: Loose; not secured to a stationary object.

AGROUND: When any part of a vessel is resting on the bottom. A ship runs aground or goes aground.

ALL STANDING: To bring up ALL STANDING is to bring to a sudden stop. To turn in ALL STANDING is to retire fully clothed.

ALOFT: Above the decks. On the mast or in the rigging.

ANEMOMETER: Instrument for measuring wind velocity.

ANEROID BAROMETER: A no-fluid or “dry” barometer, as distinguished from a mercurial barometer.

ANNUAL VARIATION: An inconsistent change in the earth’s magnetic lines of force, varying in different localities.

ARM: That part of an anchor located between the crown and the fluke. Upright or nearly upright strength member of a davit. The act of plastering tallow into a recess in the bottom of a sounding lead; called arming the lead, and done for the purpose of bringing up a specimen of the bottom.

ATHWART THE HAWSE: Across the stem.

AVAST: Stop; cease; as Avast heaving.

BACKING AND FILLING: The act of sailing craft in repeatedly catching and losing the wind from her sails, so as to be unable to make headway. Extended to cover the “fits and starts” of a person who cannot make up his mind. Also the backing and going ahead of a ship in casting or turning in confined waters.

BACKSTAY: Piece of standing rigging leading aft.

BATTEN: Long strip of steel wedged against the edges of hatch tarpaulins to secure them. Strips of light wood inserted in the leech of a sail to prevent the leech from curling. Long removable wooden or steel members extending from the deck to the overhead, used in storerooms to keep equipment and stores from shifting. In cargo holds, long planks along the ship’s sides that protect cargo from rust and sweat.

BATTEN DOWN: The act of making a hatch watertight by wedging the battens against the tarpaulins, or of wedging shut or dogging down any watertight opening.

BEAM: The overall width of a vessel.

BEAM ENDS: A vessel lying on her side is said to be on her BEAM ENDS. Often used to indicate that a vessel has taken an unusually large roll and was almost on her side.

BECKET: The fitting on a block to which the dead end of the fall is attached.

BELAY: The act of securing a line to a cleat, set of bitts, or any other fixed point. In connection with an order or announcement, expresses the idea of “to disregard,” as “Belay that last order.”

BETWIXT WIND AND WATER: That portion of the vessel along the waterline which, when the vessel rolls, is alternately above and below water.

BOLLARD: Strong cylindrical upright on a pier, around which the eye or bight of a ship’s mooring line  is thrown.

BOLTROPE: Line sewed around the edge of a sail, awning, or other canvas.

BREAKER: A long, broken sea rolling in on a beach.

BREAKER LINE: The outermost boundary of a breaker area; also called the surf line.

BREAK OFF: When walking away with a line or running a line in, to let go, return to the point from which the line is being hauled, take a new hold, and walk or run away again. (SEE Walk away and Run away.)

BROACH: The act of breaking through the surface and jumping out of the water. Sometimes called porpoising.

BROACH TO: The act of a vessel being thrown broadside to the course by some force acting on the stern. A boat thrown broadside on the beach is said to be BROACHED TO or, simply, broached.

BULL’S-EYE: A round piece of lignum vitae, with a hole in the center and scored around the edges to take the eye of’ a line. Frequently used in guesswarps.

BULWARK: Solid fencelike barrier along the edges of weather decks.

CANTILEVER: A projecting beam supported only at one end.

CAP: Piece across the top of a lower mast that steadies the butt of the topmast.

CARLING: A fore-and-aft hatch beam.

CARRY AWAY: The act of breaking loose.

CARRY RUDDER: When a vessel requires a constant amount of rudder on one side in order to maintain a steady course, she is said to be CARRYING RUDDER.

CASTING: The act of turning a ship through 360˚ without appreciably changing her position; done by alternately backing and going ahead on her engines and repeatedly shifting the rudder.

CATHEAD: See Gypsy.

CHAIN PIPE: Pipe leading from the forecastle deck to the chain locker.

CHECK: Expresses the general idea of “to slow.” To check a line running out under a strain means to allow only enough of it to render around the bitts to prevent the line from parting.

CHOCKABLOCK: Full; filled to the extreme limit.

CLEAT: A device for belaying a line or wire, consisting essentially of a pair of projecting horns.

CLOSE UP. The act of hoisting a flag to, or in, its highest position.

COCKLE: Kink in an inner yarn of rope, forcing the yarn to the surface.

COLLAR: Metal ring that steadies the base of a mast, or supports the upper end of a boom that is stowed upright.

CONSTANT TENSION WINCH: A winch that keeps a set constant tension on a wire, by automatically paying out and recovering slack.

CROWN: Rounded part of an anchor below the shank. A knot in the end of a line made by interlacing the strands. In plaited line, the highest part of a pair of strands.

DEAD RECKONING: Determining position by direction and distance traveled from a known position.

DECK LOAD: Cargo stowed on the weather decks.

DEEP SIX: Throw an article overboard.

DEVIATION: Magnetic compass error caused by the magnetic properties of a vessel. It is expressed in degrees east or west.

DINGHY: A square-sterned pulling boat that can be rigged for sail.

DOCK: The water space between adjacent piers or the space in a drydock.

DOCKING KEEL: Keel-like projection between the main keel and the turn of the bilge; used to support the ship on blocks in a drydock.

DODGER: Wood, metal, or canvas upward extension of the forward bulwark on a bridge; serves as a windbreaker.

DOG WATCH: One of the two 2-hour watches in a dogged 1600 to 2000 watch.

DOLPHIN: A piling or a nest of piles off a pier or beach or off the entrance to a dock used for mooring.

DORY: Seaworthy pulling boat similar to a whaleboat, developed in the fishing trade. The thwarts may be removed for nesting on deck.

DOUSE: To lower quickly, as a sail. To put out quickly, as a fire or cigarette.

DOWN BY THE HEAD (properly, BY THE HEAD): Said of a vessel when her draft for ward is deeper than her draft aft.

DOWN BY THE STERN (properly, BY THE STERN): Said of a vessel when her draft aft is deeper than her draft forward.

DOWNHAUL: Any line, wire, or tackle that applies a downward pull.

DRAFT: The vertical distance from keel to water line.

DROGUE: A sea anchor.

DRUM HOOKS: A sling containing a pair of movable hooks; used for hoisting a drum, cask, or barrel by its chines. Also called chine hooks.

DUKW BOARD: Square platform placed in a cargo net to protect cargo against crushing effect.

DUNNAGE: Any material used to separate layers of cargo, create space for cargo ventilation, or insulate cargo against chafing. Usually refers, however, to cheap wood boarding used for those purposes.

EARING: Length of line spliced into a cringle on a sail, awning, canvas dodger, etc. Used to bend corners to booms, masts, stanchions, or the like, or to bend down the ends of a reef band in reefing.

EASE: Relax the strain.

EBB: That period when the tidal current is flowing from the land.

ELDRIDGE METHOD: Method of mooring with anchors in which one anchor’s chain is dipped ‘through the other’s hawsepipe before either anchor is let go.

FAKE: The act of disposing a line, wire, or chain by laying it out in long, flat bights laid one alongside the other. One of the bights.

FIFE RAIL: Rail containing belaying pins. FISH HOOK: A broken end of wire protruding from a wire rope.

FLASH PLATE: Line of plates between the anchor windlass and the chain pipes and hawsepipes over which the anchor cable runs.

FLEMISH: Method of disposing a line by coiling it tightly flat on deck with the second coil inside the first, and so on.

FLOOD: That period when a tidal current is flowing landward.

FLOTSAM: General term for articles that will float if jettisoned. Floating debris left on the surface by a sunken ship.

FOOT LINE: SEE Foot rope and Lifeline.

FOOT ROPE: Line by means of which the foot of a hammock is secured to a billet hook. The lowermost line of a set of lifelines (also called footline). The line hanging in a bight beneath a yard, bowsprit, and jib boom.

FORESTAY: Piece of standing rigging leading forward.

FOUL ANCHOR: Anchor with chain wrapped about a fluke or the stock, or with some other encumbrance entangled about it.

FOUNDER: To sink as a result of filling or flooding.

FOUR-IN-HAND: The act of preventing a tackle from overhauling by gripping in both hands the parts of the fall between the blocks.

FREEBOARD: That portion of a vessel between the waterline and the main deck.

FRESHEN THE NIP: To set up again. To veer on a cable or pull upon a backstay to shift the chafe from a particular spot.

FULCRUM: A prop or support. The point about which a lever turns.

FURL: To roll up snugly and secure, as a sail or awning.

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GANGWAY: Actually means the opening in a bulwark or liferail that gives access to a gangplank or accommodation ladder. Familiarly extended, however, to include the accommodation ladder and its rigging. Also, any pedestrian right-of -way or thoroughfare. When given as an order, means “Clear the way.”

GANTLINE: Line used as a single whip for hoisting or lowering a boatswain’s chair or one end of a stage.

GATE: That part of a collar that opens on a hinge.

GOOSENECK: Universal joint at the heel of a boom that allows the boom to be swung in any direction. Method used by a nozzleman to bend a fire hose in such a way that the hose does not kink, and the stream of water can be directed to otherwise inaccessible spots such as inside doors or under floor plates.

GUDGEONS: Eyes set in the stern or the rudder post to receive the pintles of the rudder.

GUY: Any line, wire, or tackle that provides athwartships support, or motion for a boom head or the head of a gin pole. (SEE Shroud.)

GYPSY (GYPSY HEAD): Cylindrical device at the end of the shaft on a winch or horizontal shaft windlass, on which the turns of a line or wire are taken for heaving. Also called cathead.

HAND -OVER-HAND: Expresses the idea of “one hand after the other,” as when a line is hauled in rapidly by hand or when a man climbs a line without using his legs and feet.

HANDSOMELY: Slowly; deliberately; carefully.

HATCH BOOM: Cargo boom plumbed over the cargo hatch. (Yard-and-stay rig.)

HAUL OUT: Order given to a boat coxswain to take his boat from the ship’s side and secure it at the boat boom.

HAULING PART: That part of a fall to which power is applied.

HEAD: The stem. The upper end of a lower mast, boom, or gin pole. The upper edge of a four-sided fore-and-aft sail. A compartment containing toilet facilities.

HEAVE: To throw, as to heave the lead or a heaving line. To haul in, especially by some power heaving engine.

HEAVE RIGHT UP: Order given to heave the anchor up into the hawse. May be given as “Heave right in.”

HEAVE ROUND: Haul in on a line, wire, or chain by means of a power-heaving engine. The call on a boatswain’s pipe, which is the signal to start heaving around.

HEAVE SHORT: The act of heaving in the cable until the anchor is at short stay. The order usually is given as “Heave round to short stay.”

HEAVE TO: The act of stopping the headway of a vessel or reducing headway to just enough to maintain steerageway.

HITCH: A knot used to bend the end of a line to a ring or to a cylindrical object usually, but not always, is designated as some form of hitch.

HOCKLE: See Cockle.

HOGGING LINE: Line temporarily used to hold stage or other object close to side of ship.

HOIST: To move an article vertically upward by means of some hoisting rig.

HOIST AWAY: Go right on hoisting until stopped by another order.

HOIST IN: Hoist an object to a required height and swing it in.

HOIST OUT: Swing out and lower away.

HORSE LATITUDES: Either of two belts or regions about 30˚N or 30˚S latitude, characterized by high pressure, calms, and light baffling winds. Thought to be so named because in the days of sailing vessels, many ships lost all or part of their cargos of horses while becalmed in those areas.

HOUSE: Heave an anchor into the hawsepipe.


HULL DOWN: Said of a vessel when, because of distance and the curvature of the earth, only the superstructure is visible.

INBOARD LIFELINES: Temporary lifelines erected inboard of the permanent lifelines during heavy weather. Many smaller vessels such as destroyers are provided with regular sets of these lines and the stanchions to support them.

INHAUL: In general, a line used to recover any piece of gear such as a paravane or a trolley block. When replenishing at sea, the vessel providing the gear retains the inhaul and sends the “outhaul” to the other ship.

IN STEP: Said of a towing ‘vessel and her tow when both meet and ride over seas at the same time.

IRISH PENNANT: A loose end of line carelessly left dangling.

IRON MIKE: Term applied to a gyroscopic robot steering mechanism.

JACKSTAFF: Upright spar at the stem to which the jack is hoisted.

JACKSTAY: Horizontal support to which articles such as sea bags, tackles, coils of line, etc., can be lashed.

JIGGER: Light luff tackle for general use about the deck.

JUMBO BOOM: Regularly installed heavy-duty swinging derrick for handling extra heavy lifts.

JUMPING ON A LINE: The act of endeavoring to start a stranded vessel with a sudden pull on the tow line. Slack is provided in the towline and the assisting vessel runs ahead under full power, fetching up short when the slack is taken out.

JURY RIG: Any makeshift device or apparatus rigged as a substitute for gear regularly designed for the desired purpose. The act of setting up a jury rig.

KEEL: The lowermost, central strength member of a ship that runs fore and aft and from which the frames and the plating rise.

KEEL BLOCK: One of a line of blocks along a drydock bed; used to support the keel or docking keel of a vessel in drydock.

KEEL STOP: Marker on a boat’s keel which indicates her proper fore-and-aft placement for lowering into the chocks.

KING POST: One of a pair of short, strong uprights used to support twin cargo booms on some cargo vessels. Short, strong upright supporting the boom of a crane.

KNOCK OFF: Expresses the idea of “to cease or desist.”

LABEL PLATE: Plate in a boat that contains, among other data, the maximum number of men the boat may carry under good weather conditions.

LABOR: The act of a vessel in plunging and bucking heavily in a seaway.

LANDFALL: First sight of land after a voyage.

LANYARD: Any short line used as a handle or as a means for operating some piece of equipment, as a firing lanyard on a gun. Also, any line used to attach an article of equipment to the person, as a knife lanyard, pistol lanyard, or a call (boatswain’s pipe) lanyard.

LASH: To secure by turns of line, wire, or chain.

LASH UP: Term applied to a rig, device, or system; usually uncomplimentary, as “What kind of a lash up is that?”

LATITUDE: Distance north (N) or south (S) of the equator, expressed in degrees and minutes.

LAY: Expresses the idea of “to move one-self,” as “Lay (yourself) up on the main deck, ” or “Lay (yourself) aft.” As a noun, refers to the direction of twist of the strands in a line or wire, as right lay or left lay.

LAZY GUY: SEE Midship guy.

LEE: Sheltered area to leeward (pronounced loo-ard) of a ship or other large wind Breaker. As adjective, expresses the idea ‘of “in the direction toward which the wind is blowing. “

LEFT-HANDED: Counterclockwise. Extended to mean “not the right way” or “backwards.” LEFT-LAID: Refers to line or wire in which the strands spiral along in a counterclockwise direction as one looks along the line.

LEG: One of the two or more sections in a span or bridle, boat sling, set of beam hooks, or similar hoisting attachment. One of the sides of a triangle.

LIE OFF: Heave to at some distance away.

LIFELINE: In general, the lines erected around the edges of decks. Specifically, the top line. From top to bottom, the lines are named: lifeline, housing line, and foot rope.

LIFT: Standing rigging supporting a yard. Term applied to any load to be hoisted.

LIMBER HOLE: Fore-and-aft hole through frame in a boat’s bilges, permitting water to flow toward the bilge pump suction point.

LINE: In general, sailors refer to fiber rope as line; wire rope is referred to as rope, wire rope, or just wire. More exactly, line refers to a piece of rope, either fiber or wire, which is in use, or has been cut for a specific purpose, such as lifeline, heaving line, lead line, etc.

LIZARD: A piece of rope with a thimble or a bull’s-eye spliced into the end used as a fairlead. The line used to retrieve the end of a sea painter and lines used to lash objects to the side of a ship (such as the lower accommodation ladder platform) sometimes are called lizards, even though they are not used as fair leads.

LONGITUDE: Distance east (E) or west (W) of the prime meridian, which runs through Greenwich, England.

LONGITUDINALS: Fore-and-aft strength members, running the entire length of the ship, serve to stiffen and strengthen the frames.

LOOK ALIVE: Admonishment meaning “be alert” or “move faster.”

LOOM: The glow made in the sky by a light that has not yet raised above the horizon. The shaft of an oar.

LOWER AWAY: Lower right on down. For example, to lower away a boat from the davit heads down into the water.

LUFF ON LUFF: Combined purchases consisting of a luff tackle with another luff tackle clapped on its hauling part.

LUFF TACKLE: Purchase containing one single and one double block.

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MANGER: That portion of the forecastle deck enclosed by the apron and the parts of the bulwarks between the apron and the stem.

MARLINE: Two-strand, left-laid tarred hemp small stuff.

MARRY: To bring two ropes together, either side by side or end to end, and holding or seizing them. An LST marries to the end of a causeway.

MAST TABLE: Refers to a small compartment or locker on the main deck, built around the base of one of the masts.

MEAN HIGH WATER: In regard to tide, the average height of high water measured over a period.

MEAN LOW WATER: In regard to tide, the average height of low water, measured over a period.

MEAN SEA LEVEL: The level midway between mean high and mean low water.

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: The number of times (excluding loss due to friction) that the applied power is multiplied by a purchase or other machine.

MEET HER: Check the swing of a vessel by putting on opposite rudder.

MERCURIAL BAROMETER: Barometer which indicates atmospheric pressure by the height of a column of mercury.

MIDSHIP GUY: Guy between boom heads in a yard-and-stag rig. Also called a schooner guy or lazy guy.

MOORING STAPLE: Metal fitting on a ship’s side, to which a chain may be attached for added security in mooring alongside.

MOVABLE BLOCK: Block in a purchase that is not a fixed block. Block to which the load is applied.

NAVY ANCHOR: Old-fashioned anchor. Anchor with a stock.

NEAP TIDE: A tide of less than average range, caused by the gravitational forces of the moon and the sun opposing each other.

NOTHING TO THE RIGHT (LEFT): Order given to the helmsman not to allow the ship to’ come to right (left) of the course because of some danger lying on that side of the course.

OILSKINS: Originally, cotton clothing water­proofed by several coats of linseed oil. Now applied to any wet weather or waterproof clothing.

ORDINARY MOOR: Method of mooring with anchors in which the up-stream anchor is dropped first.

OTC: Officer in tactical command.

OUTER BIGHT LINE: Line sometimes used in the close in method of fueling. It extends from the receiving ship to the outboard saddle.

OUTHAUL: In general, a line used to haul a piece of gear from a ship. (SEE Inhaul.)

OVERHAUL: The act of drawing apart the blocks of a tackle. One vessel overtaking another. In firefighting, break up and rake over debris caused by the fire, to make sure there are no smoldering embers.

PAINTER: Line used to make fast a boat’s bow.

PARBUCKLE: The act of hauling in an object in the bight of a line. One end of the line is fixed and the other end is used as the hauling part. The object acts as a runner, thus the mechanical advantage is 2. (SEE Mechanical advantage.)

PARCEL: The act of wrapping a line or splice in strips of canvasor cotton to build up a symmetrical surface for serving.

PATENT ANCHOR: A stockless anchor.

PAULIN: Short form for tarpaulin.

PAY: After a seam in a wooden deck or hull is caulked, it is payed by pouring pitch or other caulking compound into the remaining unfilled space.

PAY OUT: Expresses the idea of “to feed out.” Past tense is “payed out.”

PELICAN HOOK: A hook used to provide an instantaneous release. It can be opened while under strain by knocking away a locking ring that holds it closed.

PELORUS: Device for taking bearings; consisting of a movable ring, graduated like a compass card, and a pair of sighting vanes.

PENDANT: A single part of line or wire used to extend the distance spanned by a purchase. A single part of line or wire whose purpose is to provide a means for connecting or disconnecting, as an anchor buoy pendant or a hauling pendant.

PIC: In plaited line, the distance between adjacent crowns.

PIER: A structure, usually built on piles, extending out into the water and providing a means for vessels to moor alongside.

PIER HEAD: The outboard end of a pier.

PIGSTICK: Familiar term for a small staff bent to the truck halyards to which the commission pennant is attached.

PINTLE: A pin fastened to the rudder that fits into the gudgeon on the stern.

PITCH: Vertical rise and fall of a vessel’s bow and stern caused by a head sea or a following sea.

POSITION BUOY: A towing spar used to mark the location of an object towing astern, as the end of a magnetic sweep cable.

PREVENTER: Any line, wire, or chain whose general purpose is to act as a safeguard if something else carries away.

PUDDING: A bulky fender attached to a strongback or to the stem or gunwales of a boat.

PUT AWAY: Expresses the idea of “to leave by water,” as “The boat put away from the ship.”

PUT OFF: Same as put away, but usually re­stricted to putting off from the shore.

PUT OUT: Expresses the idea of “putting off and heading for sea.”

QUARTER DECK: That portion of the weather deck designated by the commanding officer for official ceremonies.

QUAY: (Pronounced, key) A loading and discharging place, usually, paralleling the shore. Usual construction consists of a masonry wall in the water, with fill between the wall and the natural shore; the fill is paved over.

RADIAL DAVIT: One of a set of davits of the type that swings out a boat one end at a time by rotation of the davits. Also called a round bar davit.

RANGE: The distance an object is from the observer. A navigational range consists of two markers, some distance apart, located on a known line of true bearing. An area designated for f’. particular purpose, such as a target range or a degaussing range. In re­gard to tide, the total rise or fall from low water to high, or vice versa.

RAT GUARD: A hinged metal disk that can be secured to a mooring line to prevent rats from using the line to gain access to the ship.

RATLINE: Three-strand, right -laid, tarred hemp used chiefly nowadays for snaking on destroyer -type vessels.

RAT-TAILED STOPPER: A braided tapering stopper used on boat falls, mooring lines, etc.

REEVE: To pass or thread a rope through a block or hole. Past tense is rove.

RELEASING HOOK: Hook on the lower block of a boat fall, which remains closed as long as there is weight on it, but tumbles and rejects the hoisting eye as soon as the weight is taken off. Usually called an automatic releasing hook.

RIG: The act of setting up any device or equipment containing rigging. Extended to cover setting up any device or equipment, as to rig for divine services or movies.

RIGGING: A term for the lines and/or wires that support a ship’s masts, stack(s), yards, etc. (called standing rigging), and the lines, wires, and tackles that hoist, lower, and otherwise control the motion of her movable deck gear (called running rigging. )

RIGHT-LAID: Refers to line or wire in which the strands spiral along in a clockwise direction as one looks along the line.

RODDLE: That part of a wire rope clip into which the U-bolt is inserted.

ROLLER CHOCK: A chock fitted with one or more rollers to reduce friction on mooring lines. On minesweepers, such a chock provided for the magnetic sweep cable is called an A-frame.

ROPE YARN SUNDAY: In the days of sailing ships, deckhands often spent Sundays unlaying rope into yarns and making oakum, hence “rope yarn Sunday.” Later the term was applied to periods during which sailors were allowed to spend making their personal effects shipshape. Now the term is applied to an otherwise workday that has been granted as a holiday for the purpose of taking Care of personal business.

RUN AWAY: Run a line in as fast as possible by taking hold and running down the deck with it. (SEE Walk away.)

RUNNER: A purchase in which a single block is free to move or “run” in the bight of the line.

RUNNING LIGHT: Anyone of the lights required by law to be shown by a vessel underway. Not restricted to the side lights, as many sailors believe.

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SALLY: The act of a party of men running in a body fore and aft or athwart ships to create a desired shift in weight. This might be done during an attempt to free a grounded vessel or in order to time the period of roll for purposes of computing stability factors.

SAMSON POST: Same as kingpost. Also the single bitts in small boats.

SCHOONER GUY: Same as Midship guy. SCOPE: Expresses the idea of “the number of fathoms out” with regard to an anchor cable or a towing hawser.

SCULL: The act of propelling a pulling boat by manipulating a single oar set in a notch in the stern.

SCUPPER: The waterway along the gunwales. Opening in the side through which waste water from a head or galley is discharged. Extended to cover any type of drain opening.

SCUTTLE: Small openings in hatch covers that allow access through the deck without undogging the hatch. They usually are provided with quick opening and closing covers. A sliding cover that closes the opening over a certain style of companionway. The act of deliberately sinking a vessel.

SEA ANCHOR: Any device streamed from the bow or stern of a vessel for the purpose of creating a drag to hold her end-on to the sea.

SEA LADDER: Permanent ladder secured to the ship’s hull

SEA ROOM: A vessel with sea room is well offshore or has plenty of room to maneuver.

SEIZING STUFF: 3-strand, right-hand, rope laid stuff made in 6, 9, or 12 threads of American hemp.

SERVING: A smooth finish on a line or wire, made by winding on close turns of mar line or seizing stuff with a serving mallet.

SET: The direction toward which the resultant of the forces of wind and current is acting. Is tending to set the ship, in other words.

SET DOWN: Set to shoreward.

SET TAUT: Take out all the slack. This order is given before “Hoist away.”

SET UP: Tighten up. For example, set up on dogs, gripes, turnbuckles, and so on.

SH: Line made from a mixture of sisal and hemp.

SHAKE A LEG: An admonishment to move faster.

SHEARS (SHEAR LEGS): Support used in a hoisting rig consisting of two spars lashed together at the head and set up so as to resemble an inverted V.

SHELL: Vessel’s hull from the keel to the main deck.

SHIP: The act of setting a stowed or detached piece of apparatus in operating position, as to ship a steering oar. A large, seagoing surface vessel having a crew quartered on board and capable of extended independent operation.

SHORE: The land in general, but usually refers to that part adjacent to the water. A timber or metal member used as a prop. The act of setting up shores to support or steady an article is called shoring up that article.

SHORT STAY: The situation when the anchor cable has been hove in just short of causing the anchor to break ground.

SHOT: One of the lengths of chain which, when joined together, make up the anchor cable. A standard shot is 15 fathoms long.

SHROUD: Piece of standing rigging providing athwart ships support for a mast.

SIDE LIGHT: One of the colored lights required by law to be shown by a vessel underway. The starboard side light is green and the port side light is red.

SIGHT: An accurately timed measurement of the altitude of a celestial body.

SIGHT THE ANCHOR: Heave the anchor up to where it can be seen and then drop it again. This is done to determine if the anchor is clear.

SINGLE UP: Take in the extra parts of doubled up mooring lines, so that only a single part of each line remains on the dock. The act of returning a doubled-up cargo purchase to the status of a single whip.

SISTER HOOKS: Twin hooks in a thimble or on a hinge which, when combined, form an eye.

SLACK: . The opposite of taut; loose. Allow a rope or chain to run out, or feed it out.

SLACK AWAY: Go right on slacking.

SLING: A piece of line whose ends are spliced together, passed around an article to be hoisted. Also two or more legs spliced into a ring, manufactured to hoist a specific article or type of article, such as boat slings and beam slings.

SLIP: When at anchor, disconnecting the cable or letting the end of the cable run out (slipping the cable). Space between two piers.

SLUSH: The act of applying a protective coating to line or wire. The substance composing the protective coating so applied.

SMALL STUFF: A general term for any fiber line less than 1 3/4 inches in circumference.

SNAKING: Netting stretched between the deck and the housing line or the foot rope to prevent personnel and objects from being washed overboard.

SNATCH BLOCK: A single sheaved block with a hinged strap that can be opened and the bight of a rope inserted, making it unnecessary to reeve the end of the rope through the block.

SNUB: Check a line, wire, or chain quickly. A ship is snubbed by letting go the anchor, bringing the ship up quickly.

SOUND: Determine the depth of the water. The act of a whale or similar sea creature diving toward the bottom. A body of water between the mainland and a large coastal island.

SPAN: Reach, stretch, or spread between two limits. Also the item that spans the limits, such as the line or bar between davit heads, the cargo whips in a yard-and-stay rig, and the chain in an anchor moor.

SPANNER: Wrench for tightening couplings on a fire hose.

SPAR BUOY: Buoy consisting of a floating spar, or of metal shaped like a spar.

SPOT: Locate or place, as spotting boom heads for yard-and-stay transfer.

SPRING: Go ahead or astern on a spring line to force the bow or stern in or out when mooring or unmooring.

SPRING LAY: A rope in which each strand consists partly of wire and partly of fiber.

SPRING LINE: A mooring line leading forward or aft.

SPRING TIDE: Near the time of full moon and new moon, the gravitational forces of the moon and the sun act together, producing tides that are higher and lower than average.

STANDARD RUDDER: The amount of rudder angle required to cause a ship to make a turn within a certain (standard tactical) diameter.

STAND BY: Be prepared to execute· an order or a maneuver. Remain in the vicinity, prepared to render assistance. Assume another’s duties.

STAND IN (OUT): Head in or out of a harbor. START: To induce motion, as to start a grounded vessel.

STAY: A piece of standing rigging providing support fore and/or aft.

STEADY: Stop the swing.

STEERAGEWAY: Enough headway to provide steering effect. When a vessel no longer answers her rudder, she is said to have lost steerageway.

STEM: The foremost vertical extension of the keel to which the forward ends of the strakes are attached.

STEM BAND: A metal band attached to the stem of a wooden boat.

STEP: The act of erecting a mast. The socket or other recess that holds the foot of a mast.

STERN FAST: A line used to make a boat fast by the stern.

STERN SHEETS: After passenger space in a boat.

STICK: A familiar term for mast.

STICK OUT: Payout, as to payout the cable on a stern anchor winch.

STOP: One of a series of short lines attached to the edge of an awning, boat cover, etc.; used to lash the edge to a ridge rope, jack­stay, or other support.

STOP OFF: The act of attaching a stopper to a line, wire, or chain under a strain to hold the strain temporarily while the rope or chain is being belayed.

STOPPER: A line or chain or a patented device (such as a carpenter’s stopper) used for stopping off a rope or chain.

STOW: The act of packing articles into a storage space, or cargo into a cargo space.

STRAIN: Tension.

STRAP: Usually means a short line or wire having an eye in either end. However, a short piece of small stuff with the ends spliced together is sometimes called a strap. Also, that part of a block to which the hook or shackle is attached.

STREAM: The act of permitting a tow to run out the desired distance or to the end of the towline. Similar act with any towed device, as to stream sweep gear from a mine­sweeper.

STRIKE: To shorten or douse. To Lower.

STRINGER: Long timber between piles at the edge of a pier. Horizontal member attached to the side between frames and serving as a support for the end of a transverse (athwart­ships) frame.

STRONGBACK: Heavy spar spanning radial davits, against which a ready lifeboat is griped in. Heavy steel clamp bolted across the top of a cargo hatch.

STRUT: Brace supporting the propeller shaft.

STUD: Metal piece in a link of anchor chain that keeps the link from kinking.

SURGE: To slack off a line by allowing it to slip around the object to which it is secured. The act of holding turns of a line on a gypsy in such a manner as to allow the gypsy to rotate without heaving in on the line. Sudden strain on a towing hawser caused by the pitching, sheering, or yawing of the tow and/ or the towing vessel. The swell of the sea.

SWING: Progressive change of heading caused by an angle on the rudder, or by a ship circling around her anchor.

SWING OUT (IN): Swing a boat from its stowed position to its lowering position. Reverse procedure for swing in.

TAUT: Under tension; the opposite of slack. A taut ship is one which is in a high state of discipline and efficiency.

TENDER SHIP: A ship that heels over easily when underway.

TIDE: The vertical rise and fall of the ocean level caused by the gravitational force between the earth and the moon (and to a lesser extent, between the earth and the sun.

TOMMING, TOMMING DOWN: Securing cargo against vertical movement.

TOP HAMPER: General term for a ship’s masts, stacks, and other rigging aloft.

TOPPING LIFT: Line, wire, or tackle used to hoist, lower, and support the head of a cargo boom or the outboard end of a sailing boom or boat boom.

TOP UP: Raise a boom to a working angle by means of its topping lift.

TOWING SPAR: A spar or other wooden device towed astern by ships in formation when visibility is poor to assist in station keeping. (SEE Position buoy.)

TRANSVERSE: Part of the structure of a ship running athwartships.

TROUGH: The valley between two waves.

TUMBLE: The act of an automatic releasing hook in opening upon release of the weight.

TWEEN DECKS: Means BETWEEN decks and refers to cargo spaces located between the main deck and the bottom of the hold.

TWO-BLOCK: Round in a tackle all the way so that the blocks come together. Extended to mean hoist an article to the highest position possible. In relation to signal flags, this term has been replaced by “close up.”

U -BOLT: A U -shaped bolt with threads on each end. The bolt in a wire rope clip.

UNLAY: Untwist and separate the strands of a rope.

UNMOOR: The act of letting go a mooring buoy, letting go mooring lines, or if a ship is moored with anchors, reconnecting each anchor to its own chain and heaving in the anchors.

UNSHIP: The act of detaching or unrigging any piece of apparatus from its operating position.

UP AND DOWN: The situation where the anchor cable and the shank of the anchor lead up and down and the crown of the anchor still is on the bottom. “

UP BEHIND: Slack off quickly and run slack to belaying point. This order is given when a line or wire has been stopped off or falls have been four-in-handed and the hauling part is to be belayed.

VANG: A tackle fitted with one or two wire pendants.

VANG GUY: A vang used to guy a cargo or other boom.

VARIATION: Magnetic compass error caused by the difference between the magnetic pole and the geographic pole and certain local conditions. It is expressed in degrees east or west.

VEER: Allow a line, wire, or chain to run out by its own weight, as to veer cable by slacking the brake on a disconnected windlass.

WAIST: The amidships section of the main deck.

WALKAWAY: Haul on a line by taking hold and walking down the deck, rather than hand-over-hand.

WALK BACK: Keeping control of the load, walk toward the belaying point.

WALK OUT: Payout cable under power.

WARP: Move one end of a vessel broadside by heaving on a line secured on the dock.

WARPING WINCH: Winch on the main deck aft, used to warp in the stern when mooring alongside.


WEATHER: Expresses the idea of “the one that is to windward.” The act of surviving the onslaught of the elements, as to weather a gale.

WEIGH ANCHOR: Hoist the anchor clear of the bottom.

WET DOCK: Where the tidal range is great, basins with gates are provided as docking places. The ships enter at high tide and the gates are closed, keeping the water in the basin when the tide ebbs.

WHARF: Same as a pier.

WHERRY: A pulling boat similar to a dinghy, except that it cannot be rigged for sail.

WIND SHIP: To turn her end for end; at a pier, for instance. (Pronounced wined. )

WING AND WING: With sails out on opposite sides. This is done in sailing right before the wind.

WIRE DIAMETER: Refers to the diameter of a chain measured at the end of a link a little above the centerline.

WISHBONE: A V -shaped brace that supports the upper platform of an accommodation ladder or the platform in the chains.

WORM: Lay marline or other small stuff between the strands of a rope preparatory to parceling.

YARD-AND-STAY RIG: A method of transferring a load from one point to another by means of whips or tackles span the two points

YARD BOOM: Cargo boom plumbed over ship’s side. (Yard-and-stay rig.)

YAW: To veer suddenly and unintentionally off the course.

YOKE: Athwartships piece atop the rudder stock on a small craft; wheel ropes or tiller ropes are attached to its ends.

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