SAILING ADVENTURES IN MAINE
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Glossary of Sailing Terms
Backstay: A wire support for the mast, usually running from the stern to the head of the mast.
Bale A fitting on the end of a spar, such as the boom, to which a line may be led.
Ballast Weight: Usually lead, placed low in a boat to provide stability.
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.
Battens Flexible strips of wood or plastic, most commonly used in the mainsail to support the aft portion, or roach, so that it will not curl.
Bilge 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. Bilgeboards are located on either side of the centerline at the bilges.
Binnacle A support for the compass, raising it to a convenient position.
Board boat A small boat, usually mono rig. May have a shallow cockpit well. Typically has almost no freeboard.
Bobstay Wire The stay underneath the bowsprit; helps to counteract the upward pull exerted by the forestay.
Boom crutch Support for the boom, holding it up and out of the way when the boat is anchored or moored. Unlike a gallows frame, a crutch is stowed when boat is sailing.
Boom Vang A system used to hold the boom down, particularly when boat is sailing downwind, so that the mainsail area facing the wind is kept to a maximum. Frequently extends from the boom to a location near the base of the mast. Usually tackle- or lever operated.
Boomkin (bumpkin) Short spar extending aft from the transom. Used to anchor the backstay or the sheets from the mizzen on a yawl or ketch.
Boot top A stripe near the waterline.
Bowsprit A short spar extending forward from the bow. Normally used to anchor the forestay.
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.
Bulkhead An interior partition commonly used to stiffen the hull. May be watertight.
Bullseye A round eye through which a line is led, usually in order to change the direction of pull.
Bulwark A vertical extension above the deck designed to keep water out and to assist in keeping people in.
Cap A piece of trim, usually wood, used to cover and often decorate a portion of the boat, i.e., caprail.
Centerboard A board lowered through a slot in the centerline of he 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.
Chain plate The fitting used to attach stays to the hull.
Chine A line, running along the side of the boat, where the bottom forms an angle to the side. Not found on round bottom boats.
Clew For a triangular sail, the aftmost corner.
Coach roof Also trunk. The cabin roof, raised above the deck to provide headroom in the cabin.
Coaming A vertical extension above the deck to prevent water from entering the cockpit. May be broadened to provide a base for winches.
Companionway The main entrance to the cabin, usually including the steps down into the cabin.
Counter At the stern of the boat, that portion of the hull emerging from below the water, and extending to the transom. Apr to be long in older designs, and short in more recent boats.
Cunningham A mainsail control device, using a line to pull down the mainsail a short distance from the luff to the tack. Flattens the sail.
Daggerboard A board dropped vertically through the hull to prevent leeway. May be completely removed for beaching or for sailing downwind.
Deadlight Either a cover clamped over a porthole to protect it in heavy weather or a fixed light set into the deck or cabin roof to provide light below.
Dodger A screen, usually fabric, erected to protect the cockpit from spray and wind.
Downhaul A line used to pull a spar, such as the spinnaker pole, or a sail, particularly the mainsail, down.
Dry sailing When boats, especially smaller racers, are kept on
shore instead of being left anchored or moored, they are dry sailed. The practice prevents marine growth on the hull and the absorption of moisture into it.
Fairlead A fitting used to alter the direction of a working line, such as a bullseye, turning block, or anchor chock.
Fo'c'sle An abbreviation of forecastle. Refers to that portion of the cabin which is farthest forward. In square-riggers often used as quarters for the crew.
Foot For a triangular sail, the bottom edge.
Forepeak The compartment farthest forward in the bow of the boat. Often used for anchor or sail stowage.
Forestay Wire, sometimes rod, support for the mast, running from the bowsprit or foredeck to a point at or near the top of the mast.
Foretriangle The triangle formed by the forestay, mast, and fore deck.
Fractional rig A design in which the forestay does not go to the very top of the mast, but instead to a point 3/4~ 7s, etc., of the way up the mast.
Freeboard: The distance between the deck and the waterline. Most often it will vary along the length of the boat.
Garboard Used in conjunction with strake. Refers to the planks, or strakes, on either side of and adjacent to the keel.
Gollywobbler A full, quadrilateral sail used in light air on schooners. It is flown high, between the fore and main mast, and is also known as a fisherman's staysail.
Gooseneck The fitting that connects the boom to the mast.
Gunter rig Similar to a gaff rig, except that the spar forming the "gaff" is hoisted to an almost vertical position, extending well above the mast.
Gunwale Most generally, the upper edge of the side of a boat.
Guy A line used to control the end of a spar. A spinnaker pole, for example, has one end attached to the mast, while the free end is moved back and forth with a guy.
Halyard Line that is used to pull up or raise a sail.
Head For a triangular sail, the top corner. Also a marine toilet. Head knocker A block with a jam cleat, located on the boom and used to control the main sheet on small boats.
Headfoil A grooved, streamline rod, often aluminum, fitted over the forestay. The primary purpose is to provide continuous support of the luff of the sail, but it may also help support the forestay.
Hiking stick An extension of the tiller that enables the helms man to sir at a distance from it.
Inspection port A watertight covering, usually small, that may be removed so the interior of the hull can be inspected or water removed.
IOR International Offshore Rating
Jiffy reefing A fast method of reefing. Lines pull down the luff and the leech of the sail, reducing its area.
Jumper 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.
Keelson A structural member above and parallel to the keel. Kick-up describes a rudder or centerboard that rotates back and up when an obstacle is encountered. Useful when a boat is to be beached.
Lapper A foresail which extends back of and overlapping the mast, such as a 110% genoa jib.
Lazarette A stowage compartment at the stern.
Lazy jack: Light lines from the topping lift to the boom, forming a cradle into which the mainsail may be lowered.
Lead refers to the direction in which a line goes. A boom vang, for example, may "lead to the cockpit."
Lee boards Pivoting boards on either side of a boat which serve the same function as a centerboard. The board to leeward is dropped, the board to windward is kept up.
Leech The aft edge of a triangular sail.
Leech line A line running through the leech of the sail, used to tighten it.
Loose-footed Describes a mainsail attached to the boom at the tack and clew, but not along the foot.
Luff The forward edge of a triangular sail. In a mainsail the luff is that portion that is closest to the mast.
Mast step Fitting or construction into which the base of the mast is placed.
Masthead rig A design in which the forestay runs to the peak of the mast.
Mechanical advantage (or purchase) A mechanical method of increasing an applied force. Disregarding the effects of friction, if a force of 100 pounds applied to a tackle is magnified to a force of 400 pounds, the purchase or mechanical advantage is said to be four to one, or 4: 1.
Mizzen A fore and aft sail flown on the mizzenmast.
MORC Midget Ocean Racing Fleet
150 percent genoa For rating purposes, the length of a line drawn perpendicular to the luff and intersecting the clew is divided by the length of the base of the Foretriangle. For instance, if the former is 30 feet and the latter 20 feet, the genoa is rated at 30/20 = 1.5, or 150 percent.
Outhaul Usually a line or tackle, an outhaul is used to pull the clew of the mainsail towards the end of the boom, thus tightening the foot of the sail.
Pedestal A vertical post in the cockpit used to elevate the steering wheel into a convenient position.
PHRF Performance Handicap Racing Fleet
Pulpit A metal framework on deck at the bow or stern. Provides a safety railing and serves as an attachment for the lifelines.
Pushpit Colloquial, a pulpit located on the stern.
Rake The fore or aft angle of the mast. Can be deliberately induced (by adjustment of the standing rigging) to flatten sails, balance steering, etc. Normally slightly aft.
Reef points: A horizontal line of light lines on a sail which may be tied to the boom, reducing the area of the sail during heavy winds.
Roach The curved portion of a sail extending past a straight line drawn between two corners. In a mainsail, the roach extends past the line of the leech between the head and the clew and is often supported by battens.
Rocker The upward curvature of the keel towards the bow and stern.
Roller reefing: Reduces the area of a sail by rolling it around a stay, the mast, or the boom. Most common on headsails.
Rub-rail: Also rubbing strake or rub strake. An applied or thickened member at the rail, running the length of the boat; serves to protect the hull when alongside a pier or another boat.
Running backstay: Also runner, or preventive backstay. A stay that supports the mast from aft, usually from the quarter rather than the stern. When the boat is sailing downwind, the runner on the leeward side of the mainsail must be released so as not to interfere with the sail.
Running rigging The adjustable portion of the rigging, used to control sails and equipment.
Sandwich construction Layered materials such as FRP-foamFRP. Usually adhesively bonded. Typically strong and light. Often used in hulls; very widely used in decks.
Scupper Drain in cockpit, Coaming, or toe-rail allowing water to drain out and overboard.
Scuttle A round window in the side or deck of a boat that may be opened to admit light and air, and closed tightly when required.
Seat locker A storage locker located under a cockpit seat.
Self-bailing cockpit A watertight cockpit with scuppers, drains, or bailers that remove water.
Self-tacking Normally applied to a sail that requires no adjustment other than sheeting when the boat is tacked.
Sheer The line of the upper deck when viewed from the side. Normal sheer curves up towards the bow and stern,
Reverse sheer curves down towards the bow and stern.
Compound sheer: Curving up at the front of the boat and down at the stern, and straight sheer are uncommon.
Sheer strake The topmost planking in the sides, often thicker than other planking.
Sheets: Lines used to control the position of a sail.
Shrouds: Lateral supports for the mast, usually of wire or metal rod.
Skeg: For sailboats, usually refers to a structural support to which the rudder is fastened.
Slab reefing Also points reefing, and sometimes jiffy reefing. Reduces the area of the mainsail by partially lowering the sail and resecuring the new foot by tying it to the boom with points, or light lines attached to the sail.
Sole The floor of the cockpit or cabin.
Spar Poles: most often of wood, aluminum or carbon fiber, used as supports, such as the mast, boom, or spinnaker pole.
Spinnaker: A large, triangular sail, most often symmetrical, flown from the mast in front of all other sails and the forestay. Used sailing downwind.
Spirit: The spar that supports the peak of a spritsail.
Splashboard A raised portion of the hull forward of the cockpit intended to prevent water entering.
Spreaders: Also crosstrees. Short horizontal struts extending from the mast to the sides of the boat, changing the upward angle of the shrouds.
Spritsail A four-sided fore and aft sail set on the mast, and supported by a spar from the mast diagonally to the peak of the sail.
Standing rigging Permanent rigging used to support the spars. May be adjusted during racing, in some classes.
Staysail A sail that is set on a stay, and not on a yard or a mast.
Stem The most forward structural member in the bow.
Strake: On wooden boats, a line of planking running from the bow to the stern along the hull.
TabernacleA hinged mast step located on deck. Since it is hinged, the mast may be lowered easily.
Tack On a triangular sail, the bottom forward corner. Also, to turn the boat so that the wind exerts pressure on the opposite side of the sail.
Taffrail The rail at the stern of the boat.
Tang A fitting, often of sheet metal, used to attach standing rigging to a spar, or to the hull.
Thwart A transverse structural member in the cockpit. In small boats, often used as a seat.
Toe-rail A low rail, often slotted, along the side of the boat. Slots allow drainage and the attachment of blocks.
Topping lift A line or wire rope used to support the boom when a boat is anchored or moored.
Trampoline The fabric support that serves for searing between the hulls of a catamaran.
Transom The flat, or sometimes curved terminating structure of the hull at the stern of a boat.
Trapeze Wire gear enabling a crewmember to place all of his weight outboard of the hull, thus helping to keep the boat level.
Traveler A fitting across the boat to which sheets are led. In many boats the traveler may be adjusted from side to side so that the angle of the sheets can be changed to suit conditions.
Twing Similar to a Barber hauler, a twing adjusts the angle of sheeting.
Vang A device, usually with mechanical advantage, used to pull the boom down, flattening the sail.
Ventilator Construction designed to lead air below decks. May have a cowl, which can be angled into or away from the wind; and may be constructed with baffles, so that water is not allowed below, as in a Dorade ventilator.
Warp Heavier lines (rope or wire) used for mooring, anchoring and towing. May also be used to indicate moving (warping) a boat into position by pulling on a warp.
Whisker pole A short spar, normally kept stowed, which may be used to push the clew of a jib away from the boat when the boat is running downwind.
Window A transparent portion of a jib or mainsail.
Wishbone A boom composed of two separate curved pieces, one on either side of the sail. With this rig, sails are usually self tending and loose-footed.
Sailing vessels cannot sail directly into wind and those that point up towards the wind will eventually lose their way (headway is forward motion of the vessel regardless of wind; leeway is sideways motion of the vessel away from the wind). Upwind is always the direction facing towards where the wind is blowing from; to look downwind is to look in the direction to which the wind is blowing. To pass above a mark is to pass on its windward or weather side; to pass below a mark is to pass on its lee side (to leeward - pronounced loo'wud) or downwind side.
Many nautical terms are pronounced with a West Country accent (many of Britain's first sailors came from Devon and Cornwall) such as bowline pronounced bo'lin, gunwale pronounced gunnel, forward pronounced forrud and main sail pronounced mains'l. Sailors will always keep a weather eye open as trouble will always come from that side of the ship. If a sailor's station is at the weather bow, he may become tired of the pitching of the boat and the constant spray blown into his face. He will most certainly be under the weather. The weather is the wind and to make heavy weather is to make unnecessary work.
A vessel which is sailing a bit too close to the wind will sail slower, and runs the risk of being put about (turned) on the wrong tack (in the wrong direction) by the slightest wind shift. A sailing vessel can only sail to windward by tacking through ninety degrees (forty five degrees either side of the direction from which the wind blows), and coming up close hauled to wind (pulling all sails in tight) with all blocks hard up and chock-a-block (pulleys hauled together as close as possible). A vessel can take short tacks up towards the wind (zig-zagging frequently) or take one long tack out on either port (wind blows into the sails from the left side of the vessel) or starboard (wind blows into the sails from the right side of the vessel - as you look forward). Once a vessel that is out on one tack, becomes beam-on to her windward destination (her sides are at right angles to her intended destination), she can tack through the wind at ninety degrees to point directly at her destination. If the vessel stands on (holds course) to over-reach her turning point, she will have increased her distance to sail when she does eventually tack. However, once tacked, the vessel will be able to fetch her original windward mark without further tacking (alteration of course).
Port is a four letter word - and so is left. Port wine is red. So when standing at the back of a vessel (aft) looking forward (for'ud), the left side of your vessel is the port side and should show a red light at night. To port arms is to carry weapons in the left hand. Port (larboard) or left side, is an abbreviation of porta il timone (carry the helm). Buoys which mark the port side of a channel are red. Starboard marks are green with sharp. Steor is the Anglo-Saxon word for star and bord is a rudder or oar, always fitted on the right side of ships as most Saxon and Viking sailors were right handed. The steering bord side (starboard) is the right side of a ship (looking forwards).
A vessel might sail too close to the wind so that her sails may not draw wind efficiently. Such a vessel will point nearer towards her windward destination, but she will sail slower. A vessel, in this situation, is said to be pinching wind which isn't there for her. Such a vessel would sail faster and more efficiently if she were freed a little from pointing up. She would then remain full sailed and bye the wind sailing full and bye or by and large. A vessel which pointed up to wind too far could easily get stuck head to wind in irons with the wind passing from stem to stern (front to back) down each beam (side).
The only time a mariner would pinch would be to deliberately slow his vessel and/or to gain a weather side advantage without tacking (to creep around an obstacle or to deliberately luff up a weather side vessel, which might otherwise take the wind out of your sails). The luff is the front edge of a sail, the first part of a sail which meets the wind. Loef is a Dutch word meaning windward. A-luff (or aloof) describes a vessel which may be sailing along a lee shore, bearing up, pinching her head high into wind to prevent her being set ashore. To luff up is to point the sail further in to wind - to pinch in fact. A vessel which can point higher to windward and hold speed better than another (deeper keeled perhaps) was said to stand apart or sail a-luff. A ship's navigator would often draw or shape a course around a dangerous lee shore. His ship, working off that shore, trying to avoid going downwind in the offing, would point up and shape up to his course. It is important to allow a little leeway (room downwind) to manouevre off a lee shore.
A vessel which carries too much sail aft, or has her keel balanced too far forward, is said to gripe upwind so that her sails flog, her speed falls off and she is a pig to hold off (keep away from) the wind, naggingly getting her own way. Her heavy weather helm is cured in the short term by shortening sail aft and in the long term by re stepping masts aft, creating more sail space forward and by trimming the keel. Care should be taken not to over-correct a tendency towards weather helm in a vessel (which is inherently safe). Following a long watch, a helmsman's attention would often wander. The ship would naturally point herself up to the wind and head sails would 'shake'. Sailors would measure short periods of time before watch changes with a 'couple of shakes'. A griping vessel and a tired helmsman are a dangerous combination, sometimes leading to a vessel being taken aback - with the wind blowing on the wrong side of the sails.
When sailing vessels on the same tack pass each other or are in close proximity to each other, it is the duty of the weather side vessel (the boat nearest the wind) to change course away from the leeward vessel. To bear down is to sail fast (usually downwind) towards an enemy, in an overbearing manner, taking the wind out of his sails. This action was usually preceded by a warning shot across the bows, to which an outgunned vessel might immediately drop anchor and be brought up short or brought up all standing.
The closest that a sailing boat can sail to the wind is close hauled. A few points off the wind and she is full and bye or by and large. A few more points off and she is probably not intending to tack to windward and is therefore content to hold her course near, but below the wind, as she fetches her destination in one tack. This point of sailing is a close fetch or fetch (depending on the narrowness of the angle remaining to the direction of the wind). A vessel which sails across the wind, with her beam (side of the vessel) at a right angle to the wind, is reaching across the wind or beam-reaching. This wind is often called a soldier's wind by sailors, as it requires no tacking and little nautical skill to use. A vessel which is reaching across the wind, but her bow is pointing slightly up towards the wind, is fine-reaching (her angle to the wind is narrower than beam-reaching). If that vessel were to turn away from the wind to sail at any angle between 110 degrees and 135 degrees away from the direction of the wind, she would widen or broaden her angle away from the wind, into a broad-reach.
The broad-reach is the fastest point of sailing for many Bermuda rigged (two sail) mono-hulls, especially flat bottomed, saucer shaped, mono-hulls which can skim on top of the water and plane on a three sail (spinnaker) downwind reach. However, downwind sails such as spinnakers should only be used across and down wind as they will broach a boat (capsize beam on to wind) which points too high. A boat flying a spinnaker that is luffed up into wind by a leeward vessel, will find that her sails will back and fill (like bubble-gum bursting in the face).
A downwind reach ceases to be a fast reach when the stern of the vessel comes around to face the wind, so that the angle on the bow of the boat is greater than 135 degrees away from the direction of the wind (the boat is almost running with the wind and with 45 more degrees would be sailing in the same direction as the wind - 180 degree angle to the wind from the bow). This 45 degree quadrant is the most dangerous point of sailing and the point of sailing which claims most lives at sea. Large sailing vessels have a poop deck aft. To be pooped is to be swamped by a high, following sea. A Bermuda rigged sailboat will always warn her crew when she is turning around 160 degrees away from the wind. Her jib or foresail (fors'l) will collapse as it becomes masked from the wind by the larger main sail (mains'l) aft.
The helmsman's response to this warning should be to push the tiller down to leeward, so that the vessel turns back up to re-open the slot between mast and foresail to the wind. Failure to respond frequently results in an uncontrolled gybe, when the boom (a heavy spar at the foot of the main sail) swings from one side of the boat to the other, as the vessel turns below the wind to present her opposite beam to weather. A controlled gybe, with all hands aware and the boat made ready, is nothing to fear, especially if the helmsman middles the helm as the boom swings over, thus steadying the vessel, preventing broaching (spin turning beam on to the wind, for a full-canvassed knock-down).
When the wind is directly astern (behind) a vessel, the boat is running away from the wind. An experienced crew would have watched the jib collapse and whisker-poled it out on the opposite side for the vessel to goose-wing (sails either side). The early warning collapse of the jib would have been acknowledged and the helmsman would take extra care not to gybe the boat without warning, adjusting the helm to keep the wind at one ear from over his shoulder. Many a seaman has been swept overboard or knocked senseless by a swinging boom whilst a vessel is running before the wind and the helmsman loses concentration or the wind flukes.
A vessel will sail away from the wind more easily when sails are freed. If sails are close hauled a ship will more naturally point up towards the wind. To turn downwind is to wear ship and gybe the stern through the wind. If sails are kept close hauled through this process, she won't wear it. Sheets have to be freed to the point where slack rope hangs from the blocks (pulleys). If however, a vessel held a downwind course for any length of time prior to gybing, it was customary to over haul the ropes to stop them chaffing the sails. Crews were sent aloft to overhaul buntlines and gradually the word has come to mean to maintain things in a working condition, not wear them out at their maximum extent.
Anything at sea that went by the board or was seen to go overboard was regarded as being as good as lost at sea with no hope. To take aboard was to take useful things above deck, ready to use. All above board referred to the fact that the boards of planking which make up the decks are in plain view to everyone. But sailors' problems were usually not above board. Bilge water is where deck water, cargo sweat, rubbish and other useless waste materials, gather in the waists (midship or centre) of the bottom of the boat, to make trouble for sailors. Wasters, older, unfit, disabled sailors or 'pressed' landsmen, who could not be trusted to work aloft in the rigging), were used for menial shipboard tasks such as swinging the lead, casting around and sounding out the depth, and were thus a target for derision. These wasters would repay the sailors jibes (unwelcome actions) when it was their turn to work in the galley.
In traditional wooden ships, sailors had to caulk or pay the seams between planks with hot tar to keep their ship from leaking to the bilges. The devil seam was topmost in the hull, next to the scuppers (waterways or gutters) at the edge of the deck. It was thus the longest seam on the vessel and, not being flush as with other hull seams, the seam that was most prone to spring a leak. A sailor knocked down by a wave would find himself scuppered and lying between the devil and the deep blue sea. Sailors were so weary of repairing this seam that should they find themselves all washed up and beached (ashore without means) they might lament that there was the devil to pay and no hot pitch (heading for disaster) or that they were nearly on their beam ends (laid over and about to sink). If a sailor were to reach the bitter end, then he would have payed out all this anchor warp (right up to the end which is tied to the bits at the bows) and if he continued dragging his anchor, his ship would very likely fetch up on the rocks.
A captain might turn a blind eye to warnings (as Admiral Nelson did at the Battle Of Copenhagen) but would have to brace up (tighten his rigging) and stave off (fend off) scuttlebutt (a small drinking ladle with scuttles or holes, to discourage sailors from idle chit chat whilst their tropical water ration dribbled back into the butt) in running a tight ship.
At sea, a sheet is a rope which controls a sail. On a Bermuda rigged (two sailed) vessel there are three sheets (two for the jib/foresail and one for the main sail). If a yacht is three sheets to the wind then the sails are not drawing wind and the boat will not make headway (forward progress) but will drift downwind. Sheets might have been let fly, to thrash out of control beneath the flogging sails. On land,windmills have four sails. The sails are covered with sheets of fabric. The windmill turns at full speed with four 'sheets' (sails) exposed to the wind but will work more efficiently in brisk winds with only two 'sheets'. If you put up three sheets to the wind the windmill will be unstable, wobbling on its axis like a drunken sailor. At sea, sheets should never be confused with sails. When the yards which carry the sails are not properly braced to deflect the wind, they are said to be half slewed. They can falter and sway ineffectively.
Sails are attached at corners by cringles (brass rings) sewn into the clews. If a clew should come undone and a vessel hasn't got a clew, it's not going anywhere 'til it gets clewed up again.
Canvas (from the Greek Kannabis) was made from hemp (as is cannabis) but modern sails, although still called canvas, are made from terylene, polyester, dacron, kevlar and other man made fibres.
The bottom of a sail is called the foot. It is usually tied to a boom, but when it is footloose (or loose-footed) it often dances freely in the wind, as if with a mind of its own.
Sails do not flap - they flog. People and flags, however, do get into a flap - following the custom of signalling to warships with flags. At Scapa Flow in World War One for instance, when Jellicoe's fleet was ordered to intercept the German High Seas Fleet at Jutland, the signal was given, by flags, to hundreds of ships all at once, and everyone was aware 'there's a flap on'.
Dressing down the sails with heated preservative oils and waxes, whilst these sails were flicking and blowing, was a most unpleasant but necessary practise.
When sailing downwind at night a large fly-by-night would be used to do the job of several smaller, more intricate sails. It required less attention but could only be used downwind and therefore was seen infrequently by sailors.
When the sails were set correctly and the ship was balanced (with no weather or lee helm), sailors would commend the old girl with a "Now you're talking!" as she splashed rhythmically through the seas.
All sailboats have an optimum angle of heel - the angle at which it is better to reduce sail, rather than to have power spilling out of the rig as the boat is blown over. This angle is critical and a good sailor will always know when to put a new slant on things as conditions change.
Canons, Ports, Hammocks and Floozies
The Port Of Bristol was once famous for importing tobacco, sherry, chocolate and .....slaves. Slave ships smelled and could bring disease. They were not allowed into port until they were cleaned and made tidy (tides are predictable and ordered). Before entering Bristol, slave ships were rigorously inspected so as to be ship shape and Bristol fashion. Even once tied up at the quay, sailors would not be allowed ashore until the vessel had slewed her yards, swinging them inboard so as not to obstruct passing ships and quayside buildings. No cock up crew was allowed ashore until each had cleared his yardarm to a neatly braced order.
In Portsmouth, floozies would come aboard naval vessels to aid ship morale. Shore leave was often forbidden for fear that pressed men (landlubbers who were forced into service by press gangs) would desert. Each morning the petty officer would shout for the occupants of hammocks to show a leg. If the leg was smooth and shapely, the lady was allowed to sleep in; if the leg was hairy, the officer turned out the hammock for the sailor to swab the deck. Hammocks were not really suited to the activities of these ladies and most preferred to work in the spaces between the guns. The gun decks also offered convenient spaces (with suitable rings) for child-birth. Children born on the gun decks could never be certain of their father and were entered in the Deck Log as son of a gun. The gun deck and the four deck rings for each canon were also useful for tying men to be flogged over a barrel. Sailors referred to this predicament as being married to the gunner's daughter, from which there was no respite.
Between the guns, pyramids of cannon balls stood upon lipped edged trays called monkeys. In some ships these monkeys were made of brass (for ceremonial reasons). In cold weather, the different coefficient of expansion meant that the brass trays would contract faster than the iron canon balls. Sometimes it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.
In battle, hammocks were rolled tightly and lashed along the ship's rails to protect against musket fire and splinters. Bosun's mates checked the tightness of each rolled hammock every morning with a regulation sized hoop. There was trouble for the sailor whose hammock could not be put through the hoop. "Sling your hook" was the advice given to troublesome sailors required by shipmates to sling their hammock elsewhere.
Before refrigeration, food was preserved in brine within wooden casks. In time, the salt-hardened fat on the meat, became stuck to the sides of the barrel. But the cook would not waste this and could often be seen scraping the barrel whilst the crew impatiently waited and chewed the fat. The hard fat was perfect for greasing masts and preserving leather fittings, so to prevent the crew from using it all, the cook would secrete it in his 'slush fund', selling the excess ashore to candle makers and fish and chip shops.
If sailors were lucky, they could go below to eat a square meal off the square wooden platters that cook stowed in a rack. If heavy weather required all hands on deck, sailors would eat what they could from out of their pockets, between one hard tack and another.
It was the custom in sailing ships to record courses, distances and tacks on a log slate. The new watch would always use a clean slate if things were going fine, disregarding what had gone before and starting anew.
The Bay of Biscay is notoriously stormy. French and Spanish ships which frequented this water, had their foresails cut thin, so that they should not be blown off the wind when pointing. Upon seeing an unexpected three decker crest the horizon, a smaller British frigate captain might not like the cut of his jib and decide to cut and run, the crew cutting the lashings on all sails to run off before the wind at speed. The crew would look around for the loose ends and lash up the sails with the cast offs once the enemy was left in the wake - which marked the ship's passing. Spare loose ends would be baggy-wrinkled or woven between several lines to form collision mats. Older rope would be sold to shoreside traders and this money for old rope shared out amongst the crew as a bonus.
There are only three ropes aboard a sailing vessel - the bolt rope, the boat rope and the manrope. However, the rigging in a large sailing ship could comprise upwards of ten miles of cordage, with hundreds of different names and functions. Ropes were, for the most part, the same thickness and colour, and could only be told apart from the precise position to which they were secured. Although the positioning of ropes became standardised in ships, only an old salt would really know the ropes.
It is customary to mark entry to a port with a line of leading lights to show the way.
In 1795 the issue of lime juice aboard British naval ships was regularised to prevent scurvy amongst sailors. British naval ships are still required to carry lime juice and American sailors persist in calling British sailors limeys.
In the days when the only way to India was by sea, it was customary for wealthy passengers to book cabins on the cool side of the ship - port out, starboard home, hence the acronym posh.
Anything small aboard a sailing vessel was known as monkey sized. Children who carried small buckets of black powder from the ships magazine to the gun deck were called powder monkeys. Coats which were cut shorter to allow the legs freedom to climb in the rigging were called monkey jackets. The smallest casks, pumps and blocks were all called monkeys.
British coastal vessels customarily carried a cage of crows. Crows detest large expanses of water and head, as straight as a crow flies, towards the nearest land if released at sea - very useful if you were unsure of the nearest land when sailing in foggy UK waters before the days of radar. The lookout perch on sailing vessels thus became known as the crow's nest.
The anchor warp in large sailing ships (cables) were too large to bend around a capstan. Smaller lines were used to heave the cables and these were nipped to the cable by small boys, who became known as nippers.
Roman sailors were paid a quantity of salt as part of their salarium (from the Latin sal meaning salt). These sailors did not take kindly to losing part of their salary when having to rub salt into wounds after battles.
Traditionally, when sailors hollystoned the decks, if they encountered an obstruction placed on deck (an officer's personal effects perhaps) they would scrub round it.
Sailors would sometimes bottle up their rum ration for a time when they considered it might be more suitable for a wild session, but the sailor found drunk on duty would be required to fashion a cat o' nine tails or make a rod for his own back which would then be kept in a leather sack. When sailors let the cat out of the bag, bad fortune befell them, usually on punishment day, which aboard ship was Blue Monday.
A boat is called "she" because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about; she has a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her looking good. It is not the initial expense that breaks you, it's the upkeep. She can be decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly, and without a man at the helm she is uncontrollable. She often shows her bottom and when coming into harbour always heads for the buoys.