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labor, or labour - A ship is said to labor when she pitches and rolls heavily, causing her frame to work.
lacing - To pass a rope through the eyelets of a sail and round a spar.
laid - The make of a rope, as cable laid, hawser laid, single laid, laid with the sun.
laid up - A vessel that is ready for use, but has not yet been commissioned.
land - To go from a vessel to the shore; also to place anything. The outer edge of the plank of a clincher-built boat. The term "land" is used to mean the coast.
land fall - The point or part of a coast a vessel first sights after being at sea. To make a good landfall is to sight the laud at the point calculated, "under the bowsprit end," as it is termed.
land lubber - A person living on land and unacquainted with the duties of a seaman; also an awkward loutish country sort of person who on board ship cannot get used to the ways of a seaman.
landsman - Men who have just joined a ship to train as seamen.
lane - A lane of wind is a current of air that travels in a narrow space and does not spread. Also ocean tracks for steamships. On board ship the order to "Make a lane there," when a lot of men are standing together in passages or gangways, is an order for them to stand on one side so that others can pass.
lanyards or laniards - Hopes rove through dead eyes, by which shrouds and stays are setup.
lapper - A foresail which extends back of and overlapping the mast, such as a 110% genoa jib.
lapstrake - Hull construction where planks (strakes) overlies the adjacent one (below it); also called clinker-built.
larboard - The left side. In consequence of frequent blunders occurring through "larboard" being misunderstood for "starboard" or vice versa', "port," as a distinctive sound, was introduced instead of larboard.
larbolins - The men composing the port watch. (See "Starbolins.")
large - With the wind abeam or abaft the beam. "She is sailing along large" means that the ship has the wind abeam or between the beam and the quarter.
lash - To lace, to bind together with a rope.
lashing - A lacing or rope to bind two spars together, or sails to a spar.
lateen sail - A large triangular sail, with the luff bent to a yard. It has no gaff.
lateral resistance - The resistance a vessel offers to being pressed broadside on through the water. also known as "side slip." This resistance is assumed to be governed by the area of the plane bounded by the waterline, stem, keel, and rudder.
latitude - Geographic distances north or south of the equator; measurements are given in a combination of degrees, minutes and seconds.
launch - The movement (insertion) of a vessel into water; a boat used to ferry people from shore to a moored ship, also called a "shore boat."
lay - Twist of a stranded rope; usually twisted to the right.
lazarette - Small storage compartment, located at or near the stern.
lazy guy - The guy used to prevent the main boom falling aboard when a vessel is rolling, with the wind astern.
lazy jack - Light lines from the topping lift to the boom, forming a cradle into which the mainsail may be lowered.
lazy tack - A running bight put on the tack cringle of a topsail, and round a stay to keep the sail from blowing away whilst it is hoisted,
leach - The after up and down edge of a sail.
lead (pronounced with a long e) - Refers to the direction in which a line goes. A boom vang, for example, may "lead to the cockpit."
lead (pronounced with a short e) - A weight on a marked rope, that is used to measure water depth; a weight used to collect bottom samples of clay, mud and/or sand.
lead ballast - Bricks of lead cast from moulds to fit inside the frames of a vessel without resting on the plank.
lead line - A weight (attached to a line) lowered into the water to determine depth; aka "hand lead"
lead-water-line - The line of flotation when a vessel is properly laden or ballasted.
lee - The direction in which the wind is blowing to; the direction toward which the wind blows. The side sheltered from the wind.
lee boards - Anti-drift boards, usually attached to the gunwale. When sailing to windward it is dropped on the lee side to prevent lee way, hence the term "lee board."
lee, by the - In running nearly before the wind, when a vessel runs off her helm so much as to bring the wind on the opposite quarter to which the boom is; a very dangerous proceeding, as if there be no boom guy a sudden gybe, or a gybe "all standing," may be the result. For safety, the helm should be put down the instant a vessel begins to run off. In match sailing, in running for a mark, yachts are often brought by the lee through a shift of wind, and frequently they are kept so, if a spinnaker or squaresail be set, and if near the mark, to save a gybe, every precaution being of course taken to prevent the main boom coming over, by hauling on the guy or pressing against the boom; this risk, however, should only be hazarded in very light winds.
leech - The aft edge of a triangular sail.
leech line - A line running through the leech of the sail, used to tighten it.
lee helm - A sailboat's tendency for its bow to turn leeward, or turn away from the wind. The helm put to leeward to luff, or to keep a vessel to or by the wind. Also synonymous with slack helm. If the centre of effort of the sails is much forward of the centre of lateral resistance, the vessel will have a tendency to fall off, and will require the helm to be put to leeward to keep her close to wind. The tendency can be checked by reducing the head sail, or by hardening in the sheets of the after sail and easing the sheets of the head sail. A vessel that requires lee helm will be an awkward one, and in a heavy sea a dangerous one to work to windward. See also "Weather Helm."
lee scuppers - Inside the lee bulwarks by the scupper holes. To be "always in the lee scuppers" is to be always in disgrace.
leeward - Toward the lee or away from the wind. Opposite of Windward.
leeway - A ship's sideways drift from the intended heading due to wind or current; to allow a another vessel room to pass.
left-hand lay - Stranded rope where the twist is to the left.
length overall (LOA) - The distance between the tip of the bow and the end of the stern; the maximum length of the hull, excluding rudder or projecting spars.
"Let her feel the weight of it" - An order to keep a vessel more off the wind, and not allow her sails to shake.
life buoy -Usually a painted canvas ring stuffed with solid cork.
lifelines - Rope lines, located at the sides, designed to keep passengers from falling overboard.
life preserver - A personal flotation device (PFD); May be a cushion, vest , coat or ring.
life raft - A small survival craft, which may be inflatable.
light eye - A bright white look in the sky above the horizon, sometimes suggesting that a breeze may be expected from such a quarter.
lights - The lights which all vessels must exhibit between sundown and sunrise. Beacons; lighthouses; navigational aides that are equipped with light source(s).
limber boards - Plank covering the floors of a vessel near the keelson. In yachts built with iron knee floors it is a common practice to fill up all cavities along the keel or hogging piece, fore deadwood and apron, and deadwood aft, with cement, after coating the wood with.
limber clearer - A small chain which is kept rove through the limber holes in the floors at the side of the keelson, to allow the bilge water to flow freely to the pumps; occasionally the chain is worked backwards and forwards to clear the holes. This contrivance is seldom met with in yachts.
limber holes - Drainage holes; holes in the bilge timbers of a boat.
line - A rope in use aboard a vessel.
line-of-sight distance - The distance between an object and the horizon, or between two objects. VHF radio signals do not follow the curvature of the earth (very much), so they are limited in distance. The distance is calculated in miles by multiplying 1.414 times the square root of the object's height. If the distance is between two objects, add the height of the second before taking the square root.
liner - An old line of battle ship. Now used to describe a large passenger ship.
linestoppers - A jamcleat; a rigging that keeps tension on a line.
list - A continuous lean (heel) to one side, from some cause such as shifting of ballast, cargo, or weights.
listing - A narrow strip of plank, usually 4in. in width, cut out of the plank of a ship throughout her whole length, in order that the condition of her frames or timbers may be examined.
lizard - A piece of rope with a thimble eye spliced in one end, used in setting square sails; sometimes the lizard is of two or more parts with a thimble in each, the whole being spliced into one tail.
Lloyd's (of London) - an association of marine underwriters in the City of London.
LOA - See definition of "length overall."
load waterline - The vessel's expected waterline when it is fully equipped and loaded with gear. See also "waterline."
locker - A closet; A storage place or container.
lob sided - Larger or heavier on one side than on the other.
log - A written record of a vessel's travels; a device that measures the distance run through the water.
log board or log slate - The slate on which the hourly occurrences in navigating a ship-her speed, canvas, courses, the strength of wind, direction of wind, and general condition of weather-are set down.
log line and ship - An ancient contrivance for testing the speed of a ship. The line is attached to a board (termed the ship), and is marked for knots every 47ft. 3in. but an allowance is made for the following wake). According as the number of knots which run out in 28sec by the sand glass, so is the speed of the vessel. There is a drift of some feet between the log ship and the first knot, the glass being turned as the first knot takes the water. The number of knots run out in the 28sec marks the speed of the vessel.
longitude - The distance east or west of the Prime Meridian measured from the North-South line through Greenwich Observatory in England.
long leg and a short one - In beating to windward, when a vessel can sail nearer her course she sails the intended course on one tack than another. Thus, say her course is E and the wind S.E. by E. she would lie E. by N. one tack, which would he the long leg and S. by E. on the other, which would be the short leg.
long splice - A splice that joins two rope ends.
long shore - A contraction of along shore.
long tackle blocks - A double block with one sheave above the other, as a fiddle block, which see. Used for the runner tackle.
look - The direction a vessel points when sailing by the wind. As, she "looks high," "looks up well," "looks a high course."
lookout, the - The sailor stationed on the bow or aloft to watch the approach of other ships or to seek the land.
loose - Adrift; to unloose, to unfurl; to loose of a sail ties or gaskets.
loose-footed - Describes a mainsail attached to the boom at the tack and clew, but not along the length of it's foot.
lose her way - Said of a vessel when she loses motion or gradually comes to a stop.
lower masts - The masts that are next to the deck.
lubber's hole - The opening in the top of a square rigged vessel, by which seamen get into the top instead of by the futtock shrouds.
lubber's line - A compass' index mark parallel to the keel when properly installed; the compass line that indicates the direction that the vessel is steering.
lucky puff - A puff that "frees" a vessel in close hauled sailing.
luff - The forward edge of a triangular sail. In a mainsail the luff is that portion that is closest to the mast. To come nearer the wind. To "spring your luff" is to luff all the ship is capable of, without making her sails shake.
luff of a sail - The weather, or front, edge of a sail.
luffing, or luff and touch her- when the vessel is brought too far into the wind the trailing edge or Leech of the sail begins to shiver or shake.
luff tackle - A tackle composed of a single and double block, the standing part of the rope being fast to the single block.
luff upon luff - One luff tackle hitched to the fall of another so as to make a double purchase.
lugger - A vessel rigged with lug sails like the fishing boats of Western Europe
lug-sail boat - A boat with a lug sail.
lug-sheet -Term used in a racing schooner for the sheet attached to the clew of the foresail. In a modern racing schooner the foresail sheet is on the boom of the foresail in the usual way and the foresail sheet runs on a horse on deck forward of the mainmast, but the clew and leech of the foresail extend beyond the fore boom end, abaft the mainmast, and an extra sheet called the " log. sheet" is attached to the clew of the sail and is bowsed down or hauled well aft, being run through a fair lead on deck on the lee quarter. It is sheeted home by means of a double tackle.
lurch - When a vessel is left unsupported at the bow, stern, or amidships, so that she makes a sudden dive forward, or by the stern, or a heavy weather or lee roll.
lutings - Stoppings of white lead, putty, tar, varnish, for seams and joins in tanks; sometimes used with a strip of canvas as a kind of caulking.
(LWL) length on the waterline - The vessel's length, including the rudder post.Back to the index.M
Mackerel sky - A sky streaked with fine clouds, something in the manner of the stripes on the back of a mackerel.
Mackerel yailed - A boat with a very sharp or fine after body. "Cod's bead and mackerel's tail" or "full forward and fine aft," once supposed to represent the form of least resistance.
made - Built, as a made mast, meaning the mast is not made of one piece of timber, but by several pieces bound together like a cask. A term of reproach to a boat builder when applied to his work, as opposed to the regular term "built." Used interchangable in modern times, such as "Who made that Coronado 27?"
magnetic course - The direction of a ship's course in respect to true (magnetic) north.
magnetic meridian - A line of horizontal magnetic force of the earth to which a compass aligns itself (no deviations).
magnetic north - The direction a compass needle points, provided there are no deviation (from local disturbing influences).
main - The open ocean. The principal, as mainmast, main boom, main stay, main sail.
main breadth - The extreme breadth of a vessel.
main course - The main sail of a square rigged ship.
main keel - The keel proper, and not the keelson or false keel.
mainmast - the tallest mast or vertical spar of the ship; on a schooner, the mast furthest aft; on a brig, ketch or yawl the furthest foreward.
mainsail - The sail hoisted on the "after" side of the mainmast; also called "mains'l" (pronounced "Mainsul")..
mainsheet - The rope or tackle which holds the aft clew of the main sail, or main boom.
mainsheet traveler or horse - A mainsheet traveler is frequently used in small boats, and for racing craft in large yachts as well. Less mainsheet is required on a wind when the lower block travels on a traveler, and therefore the boom cannot lift so much and assist in throwing the sail in a bag. In a seaway, however, there is some advantage in having more drift between the blocks than would be very likely given if a traveler were used. For small boats, to obviate the shifting of the mainsheet from side to side in tacking, the traveler is of advantage. The foresheet can travel on a traveler if the boat is decked or half decked. See also "Traveler."
maintopman - The mainmast headman of a schooner to pass the lacing of a topsail, to keep the topsail yard clear.
make fast - Attaching a line; action of attaching a rope.
"Make ready there" - An order sometimes given to prepare to tack or lower a sail, as "Make ready for going about there!."
make sail - To set sails. To add to sails already set. To shake out reefs. To commence sailing after laying to.
make stern way - To drive astern as a vessel sometimes will in tacking by getting in irons or through the head sails being thrown aback.
making the land - After losing sight of the land, to approach and sight it.
making water - Leaking. A vessel is said to make no water if she is so tight that none ever gets through into the hull.
man - To apply manual power to anything, as "Man the capstan," "Man the boat."
manila - A natural, fiber rope.
"Man overboard!" - A shout of alarm made on board ship when a man gets overboard by accident. In such cases it is not usual to wait for orders, everyone joins in if he sees he can be of service in throwing a life. buoy, helping to launch a boat, jumping over board with a safety line.
mansard - An architectural term, but used in America for a booby hatch or raised deck. A mansard roof to a house is a light structure above the masonry.
man ship - An old-fashioned custom in the Navy of mustering the crew along the bulwarks to cheer upon parting company or meeting another ship after racing. Losing yachts man the weather deck or bulwarks and cheer a victorious yacht, a custom probably derived from the practice in "fighting days" of one war ship cheering another which was an enemy.
marina - A location, essentially a dock area, where recreational watercrafts are kept; usually piers, floats or service facilities are available. See definition of "Naples Marina."
mariner - A sailor. Two hundred years ago it was spelled "maryner," and appears to have only been applied to men who were perfect as seamen. Thus, from a muster roll made in the seventeenth century, we find so many men set down as maryners" and so many as "seafaring men."
marine railway - A boat yard or marina railway, used to haul out vessels.
marks - The pieces of leather, on a lead-line (see "Lead.") In sounding it is usual to say, "By the mark" if the depth of water accords to a mark; if there be no "mark," as between three and five fathoms, the leadsman says, "By the deep four." The marks on the side of a ship which determine how much load or tonnage she can carry under different conditions. Also the designed waterline
marle - To hitch spun yarn round a rope to secure its parts, or round a hank of yarn to secure it.
marline - A light (two-stranded) rope, used for lacings, seizings, servings and whippings. A light twine which has been tarred.
marlinespike - A pointed steel tool, used to open the strands of rope, for splicing line.
martingale - A strut or spreader for the bobstay, formerly termed a dolphin striker on big ships.
mast - A vertical spar used to support sails and their running rigging and in turn is supported by standing rigging.
mast carlines or carlings - Pieces of timber fitted fore and aft between the beams to support the mast.
Master - The captain of a ship.
masthead light - A white-colored light, near/at the masthead; this light indicates a powered, underway vessel at night.
masthead man - In yacht parlance, the man who goes aloft to lace a topsail.
masthead pendants - The pendants and runners which help support the mast.
masthead rig - A design in which the forestay runs to the peak of the mast. See also "Fractional Rig."
mast hoops - The hoops to which the luff of fore and aft sails are seized to keep the sail to the mast.
mast rope - The heel rope by which a topmast is sent up and lowered; sometimes termed heel rope.
mast step - Fitting or construction into which the base of the mast is placed.
Mate - An officer next in command to a master.
Mathew Walker Knot - used for the standing part of the lanyards of lower rigging, and many other purposes. BOY'S MANUAL OF SEAMANSHIP AND GUNNERY shows how this knot is tied.
maul - A heavy hammer, sometimes made of leather, used by shipwrights.
MAYDAY - A distress call, usually radio or telephone; Term originates from the French m'aidez, meaning "Help Me."
meaking iron - An implement used to extract old caulking from seams.
measurement - Formerly written admeasurement. The computation of a vessel's tonnage by certain rules.
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. It is easily determined with ropes and pulleys by simply counting the ropes between the pulley blocks and adding one for the rope you are pulling on.
meet her - When a vessel begins to fly to or run off the wind, to stop her doing so by the helm. Generally to check a vessel's tendency to yaw by using the helm.
meet, to - To meet a vessel with the helm is after the helm has been put one way to alter her course to put it the other way to stop the course being altered any further. This is also called "checking with the helm."
meridian - A line of longitude; a line perpendicular to the equator and passing through both (earth) poles.
mess - The number of officers or men who eat together. Also used to mean the Mess Hall where food is eaten but not prepared. See also "Galley."
messenger - A light line used to pass a heavier line (hawser or halyard) to shore or another ship
Meter or Metre - 1 Metre =3.281 feet, 1 Square Metre = 10.764 square feet. To convert linear feet into metres multiply by 0.305; to convert linear metres into feet multiply by 3.281 ; to convert square feet into square metres multiply by 0.093 ; to convert square metres into square feet multiply by 10.764.
MIDAS Number - Maine Information Display & Analysis System Number; a number assigned to each body of water for tracking purposes.
midships - Any location near the center of the vessel; may be measured either from fore-and-aft or side-to-side.
mile - A nautical mile is 1852 meters (6076.12 feet); a statute mile is 5280 feet. Five (5) knots is about 5.76 MPH. See also "Knot."
missing stays - To fail in an attempt to tack, or to go from one tack to the other.
mizzen bumpkin - A short spar that extends from the taffrail aft for the lower block of the mizen sheet to be hooked to. Most modern yachts have this bumpkin generally crooked downwards, the reason given being that the downward crook shows up the sheer of the yacht. A more practical reason, however, can be given, and that is, if a bobstay is used, a more effective purchase is obtained for it.
mizzen mast - Spar on which the mizzen sail is hoisted; the aftermost (vertical) spar in a ketch or yawl.
mizzen staysail - A sail set "flying" from a yawl's mizenmast head to an eye bolt on deck forward of the mizenmast. Generally set with a quarterly wind.
moment - A weight or force multiplied by the length of the lever upon which it acts. Sail moment generally means the area of sails and the pressure of wind upon them, multiplied by the distance the centre of effort is above the centre of lateral resistance, which represents the length of a lever.
momentum - A force represented by a weight and the velocity with which it is moved.
monkey deck - A false deck built over a permanent deck. Often used in the bow of larger sailing ships, foreward of the anchor windlass and provides a working platform arond the portion of the bowsprit as it attaches to the ship.
monkey fist - A special knot typically used to weight the end of a heaving line.
moon - Sailors say there will be a moon at such and such a date, meaning that there will be a new moon or full moon, from which the time of high water is calculated.
moor - To anchor by two cables.
moored - Anchored; vessel may be in its berth or made fast to a dock/pier/wharf.
mooring - Any place where ships are kept at anchor; (permanent) ground tackle.
mooring rings - The rings by which the chain is attached to large stones or other weights and used for moorings.
morning watch - The watch from 4 AM to 8 AM
Morse Code - Named after its inventor (Samuel Morse), it is a communication code using dots and dashes, or long and short pulses called dits and dahs respectively, to represent letters, numbers, and punctuation. The code was originally used for the telegraph, but has since been modified for radio use. This link opens a Morse Code chart in a new window.
motorboat - A vessel that is propelled by an internal combustion engine.
motor sailers - An auxiliary sailboat, usually having spacious accommodations and a large motor.
moulded - The depth a timber is made between its curved surfaces as distinct from its siding, which is the thickness between its flat surfaces.
moulded breadth - The greatest breadth of a vessel without the plank.
moulds - Curves used by draftsmen. The skeleton frames made by shipwrights to cut the frames by.
mouse, mousing - Turns of twine, taken across a hook; wrapping twine around a hook to prevent unhooking..
Mudian rig - A contraction of "Bermudian rig," pronounced "Moodian."
multihull - Any ship design with more than one hull, such as catamaran or a trimaran.
mushroom anchor - A mushroom shaped mooring anchor, typically used with small fishing boats.
muslin - A slang term given to the sails: generally applied to balloon sails.
muzzle - To seize an unruly sail and press the wind out of it in lowering.
muzzler - A strong wind which blows directly down a vessel's intended course. Synonymous with "nose-ender."
Back to the index.N
nail-sick - On a clench-built boat, when the nail fastenings have become loose in a boat.
Napier diagram - A graphic plot of compass deviation values. This diagram provides a means of converting between magnetic and compass directions.
narrowing - The wind is said to "narrow" when it blows at a smaller angle from ahead, or "shorten."
Nautical Almanac - An annual publication that contains charts of celestial bodies and their movements. This text is issued jointly the H.M. Nautical Almanac Office (Greenwich, England) and the U.S. Naval Observatory.
nautical mile - An international distance of 1852 meters or 6076.12 feet. A nautical mile equals one minute of latitude. See also "Mile."
naval architect - An architect who specializes in marine design.
navigation - The science (or art) of determining a vessel's position and safely guiding it to another position. There are several methods of navigation: coastal (aka piloting), celestial, radionavigation, and GPS.
navigation lights - Lights on a vessel that indicate course, position and status (such as towing or fishing).
Navigation Regulations (or COLREGS) - The regulations governing the movement of vessels in relation to each other, generally called steering and sailing rules.
Navigation Rules - Official and recognized practices for navigation lights, meeting/passing vessels, sound signals and distress signals.
neaped - The situation of a vessel that gets ashore during high water at spring tides, and as the tides get shorter every day towards the neap tides she cannot be floated off till the next spring tides. Generally termed be-neaped.
neap tide - A tide of lowest range [rise and fall]; usually occurs when the sun and moon are farthest from being in line (quarter and three-quarter moons). See also "Spring Tide."
near the wind - Close to wind; generally used in a sense to convey the meaning that the vessel is too near the wind, as "She's near forward," meaning that the head sails are shaking or lifting. See also "Nip."
nettles - Small lines or ropes used to support hammocks when they are slung under the beams. Also reef points are sometimes termed nettles.
net tonnage - A vessel's capacity in cubic feet [volume]; Net tonnage = Total capacity - non-cargo space.
niggling - Sailing close to the wind or too close.
nip - A short bight in a rope, such as the part that goes round a sheave. To nip a vessel is to sail her very close, or too close, to the wind.
nippering - Joining a rope by cross turns.
neck - The weather corner of a gaff sail. The throat.
"No nearer" - An order given to a steersman not to luff any more, or not to bring the vessel any closer to wind. When sailing free a course, it is frequently given to the steersman thus, W.S.W. and no nearer; or S.E. and no nearer, which may be varied "Nothing to windward of W.S.W."
non-slip - Anti-skid walking surface. On a sailboat deck, the surface has a rough texture, compared to the smooth surface of the deck in general.
noose - A slip knot or running bight in a rope. A loop of rope that is tightened by pulling on the rope or loop.
Nor'-easter - A storm description common to the Northeast United States.
Nor'-wester - A stiff glass of grog, usually rum.
nosebag -A name given to a jib, generally meaning a jib that is too big for the after sail; or a jib that bellies out into a bag.
nose-ender - Dead on end. A wind which blows directly down a vessel's intended course, involving a dead beat. See also "Muzzler."
Notice to Mariners - Information for updating charts and technical publications; A publication, produced by the Defense Mapping Agency, USCG, and National Ocean Service, about navigational safety items, such as modifications to navigational aids.
number - The number of a ship; hence when a ship "makes her number" she hoists the signal flag denoting her number so that her name may be read. Also the number of a seaman on a ship's book. "To lose the number of the mess" is to fail to appear at mess through desertion, drowning, or sudden death.
numbering - The official "licensing" of vessels; Federal mandate for identifying watercrafts in the USA, except Alaska where it is monitored by the USCG.
nun - A cylindrical buoy, tapering toward the top; Usually are red (colored) and marked with an "even" number; A buoy used in the lateral system of aids to navigation.
nylon - A polyamide synthetic material; Material used for rope and sailcloth, when elasticity is desired; Hard nylon is used sheaves and other rigging parts.Back to the index.O
oar - A stick with a flat paddle on one or bothe ends. Used to propel small boats.
oarlock - A pivoting device for oars; may be U-shaped or O-shaped.
off - The opposite to near (which see), as "Off the wind." "Nothing off" is an order given to a helmsman to steer nothing to leeward of a particular course, or to sail nothing off the wind, but to keep the vessel full and bye. See also "No Nearer."
off and on - Beating along a shore by a board off and then a board on.
offing - Away from the land, seaward. To make an offing is to sail away clear of the land.
offshore - Toward the water from the land; out of sight of land.
oil on troubled waters - Placing an amount of oil on the water to smooth the surface and prevent wave crests from breaking. See the footnote at the bottom of this page for greater detail.
oilskins (also foulies or foul weather gear) - Waterproof clothing worn by sailors.
Omega Navigation System - An obsolete global radio navigation system.
on a bow line - Close-hauled. Generally applied to the square rig when a ship has her bowlines hauled taut to keep the leeches of the sails from shaking when she is close-hauled.
on an easy bow line - Not quite close-hauled; a good full.
on a wind - Close-hauled; not off the wind.
on end - A mast is said to be on end when in its place; literally, standing on its end after being raised. Generally applied to topmasts.
open - Upon sailing round a point or headland when an object comes into view.
opposite tacks - When of two vessels one is on the port tack and the other on starboard tack.
ordinary seaman - A young sailor not yet efficient in his duties so as to entitle him to the rank of A.B. or Able Bodied Seaman
outboard - Opposite of inboard; an exterior engine, attached at the transom; away or outside from a boat's hull.
outdrive - A boat propulsion system; an inboard engine with an exterior driveshaft; also called a stern drive; also called an inboard/outboard motor.
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. A rope or tackle by which a sail is hauled out on a spar, as distinct from an inhaul by which it is hauled inboard.
0utrigger - A contrivance of some sort for extending a sail or stay outboard. A name for a kind of rowboat which has the rowlocks extended beyond the boat's side by iron rod brackets. A smaller hull attached to a narrow boat to improve stability.
overall length - The extreme length of a ship, excluding any spars or fittings.
overboard - Over the side or out of the boat.
over-canvassed - Too much canvas, or sail.
overfalls - The rough water caused by the tide pouring over a rough or precipitous bottom.
overhang - The portions of the hull which project beyond the waterline fore and aft.
overhaul - To overtake another vessel; to loosen the parts of a tackle; to ease up, to slacken, or free the fall of a tackle; to slacken or "lighten up" a rope.
overlay - When any part, spars and sails included, of one vessel covers or overlaps any pert of another vessel.
over-masted - Masts that are too large or long for a vessel.
over-rigged - Generally more rigging, spars, and canvas than a vessel will properly bear.
over-set - To cause a capsize.
over-reach or overstand - To stand so long on a reach that upon tacking the vessel can fetch much farther to windward of a mark than was necessary or desirable.
overtake - To approach a vessel that is sailing ahead. The "rule of the road" is that an overtaking vessel must keep clear of the vessel she overtakes; the vessel so overtaken must, however, keep her course steadily. In competitive yacht sailing this rule is somewhat different, as it allows the vessel that is overtaken to alter her course to windward to prevent the other passing her to windward; she must not, however, alter her course to leeward to prevent the overtaking
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Paddy's Hurricane - Sailor's lingo for a dead calm, or no breeze at all.
painter - A towing or tie-up line for a small boat. A rope spliced to a ring bolt in the bow of a boat to make fast by at wharves, steps, or other landing places. "To let go the painter" is figuratively to depart.
palm - The broad tip of an anchor fluke; a leather hand thimble, worn during canvas repairs.
paltry - A wind is said to be paltry which is light and intermittent, or varying a great deal in direction and force; baffling.
parallax error - The error of reading the compas from the side, thus distorting the distance between the needle and the numerical scale. As you move your head from side to side, the apparent position of a pointer will move along a scale. On a mirrored scale, you align the pointer with the reflection, thus eliminating parallax error.
parallel rulers - A navigational device used in charting; a device made of two equi-length and parallel rulers that are connected by a cross-piece.
parbuckle - To roll a spar, cask, etc., by placing it in the bight of a rope, one end of which is fast, the other hauled upon.
parcel - Wraping tape (or other material) around a line (or wire) to prevent chafing.
parrel or parral - Ropes or irons used to secure yards at the slings to the mast; rope parrels are commonly rove through balls of wood, so that they hoist easily on the mast. Parrels are used on the jaws of a gaff. An eye is usually spliced in either end of a parrel.
partners - A strong frame of timber fixed between the deck beams to receive and support the mast, termed mast partners, but some times termed carlines.
passage - A trip; a journey; one leg of a voyage. To carry a person from one place to another is to give a passage.
pawl or paul - An metal stop used to prevent the back recoil of the drum of a windlass. On a cable winch, it will make a clicking sound as the handle is turned.
pawl bitt - A long timber from the deck to the keelson forming one of the bowsprit bitts.
pay - To run hot pitch and tar, or marine glue, etc., into seams after they are caulked.
pay off - When a vessel's head goes off to leeward by virtue of the head sails being put aback or the helm being put up.
patent log - An instrument for measuring the distance run and speed.
pay out - Releasing a line in a controlled manner.
peak - See "A-Peak"
peak downhaul - A rope rove through a single block at the gaff end to haul upon when lowering the mainsail.
peak halyards - The halyards by which the peak of a sail is hoisted.
peak purchase - A tackle attached to one end of the peak halyards.
pedestal - The base of a mounted wheel or helm. For example, a vertical post in the cockpit used to elevate the steering wheel into a convenient position.
pelorus - A sighting device used to determine relative bearings.
pendant - A stout rope or wire to which tackles are attached. Also used to change the position of sails by lengthening the distance at tack or head
pennant - A signal flag; a small flag, usually triangular; a short length of cable between a vessel and a mooring chain.
personal flotation device (PFD) - See definition of "Life Preserver."
pier - A structure that extends into the water and is used as a landing for vessels.
pile, piling - A vertical pole driven into the water's bottom; may be used to support a pier or as a mooring site.
pile driving - Pitching heavily and frequently in a short steep sea.
Pilot - A person who takes charge of a ship in narrow or dangerous channels, and, who from his local knowledge of the same, can, or ought to, avoid the dangers of stranding.
pilothouse - a small cabin on the deck of the ship that protects the steering wheel and the crewman steering.
piloting - Navigating a vessel by using visual reference points.
pintles - The metal hooks by which rudders are attached to the gudgeon sockets.
Pipe - To summon men to duty by a whistle from the boatswain's call.
pipe up - The wind is said to pipe up when it increases in strength suddenly.
pitch - The caulking material (tar or resin) between the planks of a wooden boat; when underway, it is the rise and fall of the ship's bow; the (theoretical) distance a vessel advances from one propeller revolution.
pitching - The plunging motion of a vessel when she dives by the head; the opposite motion to ascending, which is rising by the head and sinking by the stern.
planing hull - A hull specifically designed to reduce friction and increase speed.
planking - The wooden boards that made up the surface of the ship's deck.
plank sheer - The outside plank at the deck edge which reaches the timber heads, and shows the sheer of the vessel. Also the same as covering board.
platform - The floor of a cabin.
Pleasure Vessel License - USCG documentation that prevents the commercial use of a vessel.
plumb bow - A hull having a vertical bow shape.
ply to windward - Plying to windward is synonymous with beating to windward.
points - See "Reef Points." See "Compass Points"
point the yards - To brace them up sharp when at anchor, so that they shall not feel the full force of the wind.
point, to - A vessel is said to point well when she lies very close to the wind. A term more used in America than in this country. Out point, to point higher.
pole - The part of a topmast about the shoulders.
pole mast - A long mast without a topmast, but with a long "pole" or piece above the hounds.
polyester - A synthetic material used in (rope) lines and sailcloth.
polypropylene - A (lightweight) synthetic material, typically used for cordage that floats, such as waterskiing towlines.
poop - The raised part of a vessel at her extreme after end. To be pooped is when running before the wind a sea breaks in over the stern.
port - The left side of a vessel; opposite of starboard; an (small) opening for ventilation or light; established facilities for maintaining ships.
port lights - Circular or square glass lights in the sides of a vessel.
port tack - A vessel sailing with the wind that is parallel and left to a
position finding - The process of determining the ship's position, in the water or on a chart.
pram - A dinghy with a squared shaped bow.
pram bow - A form of bow employed in sailing yachts reintroduced in modified form about 1892 and gradually exaggerated until 1900. A modified form of pram bow is the best form for lifting the head of the vessel over the seas and is suitable for cruising as well as racing yachts. In a pram bow the profile is a convex curve like the line of a mussel's shell and the transverse half sections are somewhat similar convex curves meeting at the stem. In a modified pram bow, or mussel bow, the angle of the curves of the transverse half sections at the stem is sharp or acute, and in the extreme pram bow, or spoon bow, the angle at the stem is obtuse or bluff or even obliterated until the transverse bow section is U shaped.
press of sail - All the sail a vessel dare carry.
prevailing winds - The usual direction the wind blows in a given location.
preventers - Additional ropes, stays, tackles used to prevent spars being carried away if their proper stays give out, as preventer backstays for the topmast, preventer bobstay. A preventer is also any rope or lashing used to prevent something giving way.
Privateer - An armed vessel, privately owned, carrying a licence or "letters-of-marque" from the Government empowering her to snake war on the enemy's ships. In no way to be confounded with a pirate, although in some instances such vessels may have degenerated into pirates. Privateering is not permitted under our present laws.
prime meridian - The longitude of zero degrees, which passes through Greenwich.
privileged vessel - The ship having the right of way, when meeting another vessel.
propeller - A rotating device with multiple blades, that acts as a screw in propelling a boat.
protest - A declaration that a yacht has net conformed to sailing rules; also a term used by the Commissioner of Wrecks in case of a wreck being reported.
protractor - A small instrument for measuring or drawing angles on a chart.
psychrometer - A weather instrument that measures the air moisture.
puddening - A sort of fender made of old rope, for a boat's stem.
puff - A gust of wind. A free puff is when it enables a vessel to luff; a foul puff when it breaks her off.
pulpit - A metal framework on deck at the bow. Provides a safety railing and serves as an attachment for the lifelines.
pump out - Emptying the waste tank.
puncheon - A certain sized cask.
puncheons - A part of the framework of a deckhouse. It is a kind of pilaster morticed into the coaming, and is the principal support of the deckhouse roof.
punt - A small boat or dinghy.
purchase - Block and tackle; a mechanical device for lifting and pulling.
pushpit - pulpit located on the stern.
put about - To tack. To put about another vessel is to cause her to tack.
put in - To call at a port or harbour.
put off - To leave, as to leave a ship's side or the shore
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quarter - The side of a ship, from the stern to amidships.
Quarter Deck - The deck abaft the main mast where the crew are not allowed, unless duty calls them there.
quarter fast - A warp or rope made fast to the quarter; a quarter spring.
quartering sea - Seas coming from the side (quarter).
Quarter Master - A petty officer who steers on large vessels and sees that the orders of the officer of the watch are properly executed,
quarters - That part of a yacht or ship nearest the stern
quarter timbers - Large pieces of timber secured to the transom frame, to help form the counter.
quarter watch - When the two watches are subdivided into four watches, so that only one quarter of the crew is on deck at one time; sometimes observed in light weather.
quarter wind - The wind that blows on the quarter, or four or more points abaft the beam but not dead aft.
quay - Located at the water's edge, a (masonry) structure where ships can load/unload cargo.
queen topsail - small stay sail located between the foremast and mainmast.
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rabbet or rebate - An angular channel or groove cut in the keel, stem, or sternpost. to receive the edges or ends of the plank.
race - A competition between yachts. A strong current or tide running over an uneven bottom producing overfalls.
racking - A rope or seizing used to lash the parts of a tackle together, by taking several turns, so as to keep them from running through the blocks, whilst the fall is cast off for some purpose, or whilst one hand belays the fall made fast to some fixture by one end and then passed round and round a rope to hold the latter by.
RADAR - An electronic system that measures distance by reflecting radio waves on objects.
RADAR arch - Arch-shaped supporting structure for radar, usually found on large motoryachts.
radio beacon - A transmitter that is located at a fixed location, thus enabling vessels to determine their position.
radio bearing - A direction determined by radio.
radio direction finder - A receiver that accepts the transmission of a radiobeacon.
radio navigation - A method of determining a ship's position using radar; electronic piloting.
raffee - A square topsail set flying on the foretopmast of schooners, and formerly often set on cutters and ketches above the squaresail. Sometimes this topsail is triangular in shape, like a scraper.
rafted, rafting, raft-up - A mooring procedure for multiple vessels, tied up side-by-side. A single vessel moors or anchors and the others tie off starting with the anchor vessel.
rail - A solid bar on supports, similiar to a lifeline; a protective edge on deck fitted on to the heads of the bulwark stanchions. Also called the"top rail."
rainbow fashion - A ship dressed with flags from the jibboom end over the trucks to the taffrail.
raised deck - A deck above the actual gunwale.
raising iron - A sort of chisel for removing; the paying and caulking from seams.
raising tacks and sheets - To lift the clews of lower square sails before tacking or wearing.
rake - To lean forward or aft from the vertical, as raking masts, raking sternposts, raking stem. 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.
rakish - A vessel that has a look of speed about her, probably originating from the fast schooners of former days that had raking masts.
ramp - In close-hauled sailing, to sail a vessel along a heavy full without easing up the sheets.
ramping full - Every sail bellying, full of wind--not too close-hauled.
range - Scope. To range is to sheer about when at anchor; to range the cable, to place a lot on deck in fakes ready for veering out - To give a range of cable is to veer out enough in letting go the anchor to bring the vessel up without causing much strain to come on the bitts - To go near to, as to range up to windward, to range up alongside, etc.
rap full - The same as ramping full.
rate of a chronometer - The daily loss or gain of a chronometer in relation to mean time.
ratlines or ratlins - The small lines which cross the shrouds horizontally, and form the rungs of a ladder.
rattle down - To fix ratlines to the shrouds.
RDF - Radio Direction Finder; electronic radar instrument used to determine a ship's position.
reach - A channel located between an island and the mainland. A reach is also the distance from bend to bend in a river or channel.
reaching - Sailing by or along the wind. A "reach" is the distance sailed between tacks, and means the same as board. To "reach" another vessel is to pass her. A" reach" is a distance a yacht can sail from point to point without tacking, and may he sailed with sheets eased up. Broad reach is with the boom well off the quarter.
reciprocal - The opposite direction; difference of 180 degrees.
reef - Reducing the exposed area of a sail, by rolling the sail on a boom or by gathering the bottom of the sail and tying in reef points. To shorten a spar, as to take a reef in the bowsprit. An underwater barrier, comprised of coral or rock.
reef band - A strip of canvas sewn across the sail in which the eyelet holes are worked to receive the reef points.
reef cringles - The large cringles in the leeches of sails through which the reef pendants are rove and tacks or sheets hooked.
reef knot - Square knot; knot used to tie in a reef.
reef pendant (called also "reef earing") - A short and strong rope (with a Matthew Walker knot in one end). One end of the pendant is passed up through a hole in the cleat on one side of the boom and stopped by the knot in the end. The other end is then passed through the reef cringle in the sail and down through the sheave hole on the other side of the boom. Reef pendants are rove on opposite sides.
reef points - A horizontal line of light lines on a sail which may be tied loosely around the sail or in some cases to the boom, reducing the area of the sail during heavy winds.
reef tackle - The tackle hooked to the reef pendants.
reeve - To put a rope through a hole of any kind.
reeving - Rigging a halyard; leading a line gtrough a block and tackle.
registration - The boat numbering; the boat licensing.
relative bearing - Expressed in degrees, a direction in relation to the fore-and-aft line of a ship.
render - To slacken or ease up. A rope is said to render when it slackens up or slips from a belaying pin or cavel.
rhumb line - A straight line on a Mercator chart; a line intersecting all meridians at the same angle.
reverse sheer - Sheer the reverse of normal; the sheerline rises above the straight line from stem to stern instead of curving below.
RIB - See definition of "Rigid Inflatable."
ribbands - Long pieces of plank or timber, usually three-sided, and sometimes called harpings, secured to the frames of a vessel in a fore-and-aft direction, when she is building, and representing the dividing lines or geodetic lines.
ribs - See definition of "Frame."
ride - To rest at anchor or to be held by an anchor.
ridge ropes - The ropes rove through the eyes of metal stanchions fitted in the top rail.
riding down - When men go aloft and hang on the halyards and assist by their weight in hoisting sails.
riding light - The white globular lantern hung on the forestay of vessels when riding at anchor.
riding turn - When the last turn of a rope crosses or rides over the previous torn on a bollard etc. to jam it.
rig(s) - Spars; standing rigging and sails; to prepare a boat for use; to prepare a sail or gear for use. To rig is to fit the spars with rigging, etc. To rig out is to fit out.
rigging - The equipment (hardware, lines, rods, wire ropes) that support the masts and move the sails and spars.
right-hand lay - The standard twist of stranded rope; rope with strands twisting to the right or clockwise. Rope laid up or twisted with the sun.
right of way - Yielding to another vessel in a passing scenario.
right, to - To bring a vessel back to the upright position after she has been heeled.
rigid inflatable - An inflatable boat having a rigid bottom.
ring bolt - A bolt with an eye and a ring through the eye.
ring tail - The studding sail of a gaff sail.
rings - Brass or yellow metal rings used in place of rooves for bolt clinching.
rising floor - Distinct from flat floored or flat bottomed; sharp bottomed.
risings - Stringers fitted inside small heats to strengthen them and support the thwarts.
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; formerly the allowance made for the bellying of a sail.
roadstead - An open anchorage.
roaring calm - An Equatorial calm.
roaring forties - This term originated with the tearing winds which blow in the South Atlantic between latitudes 30 and 50 degrees South.
rocker, rockered keel - The upward curvature of the keel towards the bow and stern.
rode - The anchor line and/or chain.
roll - An alternating motion of side-to-side; leaning port to starboard and back.
roller furling - The method of furling a sail, by winding it on a stay.
roller reefing - Reduction of sail area, by rolling it around a stay, the mast, or winding the sail on a rotating boom.
rolling - The transverse, or sideways rocking, motions of a ship when amongst waves.
rolling hitch - A knot used to attach a line to a spar or another line.
rope - Any form of cordage; line; may be braided or twisted strands.
round, to - To bring by the wind. To come up head to wind.
round turn - Part of a knot; a turn of line around an object.
rove - The condition of a line that has been passed through a sheave hole or through any aperture.
rowed turn - To pass a rope twice round a pin or cleat so as to make a complete circle.
rowlock - See definition of "Oarlock."
royal - The sail next above the topgallant sail.
rub rail - A guard on the hull's side to absorb wear from contact with pilings and docks.
rudder - The control surface by which a vessel is steered.
rudder post - The shaft connecting the rudder to the wheel (or tiller).
rudder trunk - The trunk fitted in the counter to receive the rudder post into which the tiller is fitted.
ruff or roove - A small, slightly conical ring of copper placed over boat nails before clinching in boat building.
rules of the road - Navigational Rules; regulations used to prevent boating collisions, divided into Inland Rules and COLREGS which are the International agreements for offshore sailing.
run - To allow a line to feed freely. The under part of a vessel aft defined by the buttock lines and water lines. To sail before the wind. To come down by the run is to lower or overhaul without warning, or suddenly. To run away with a rope is to take hold of a fall and haul on it by running along the deck.
run down - To foul a vessel or other object wrongfully or by accident.
run foul of - To get into collision with a vessel or other object.
run out - To veer out a warp or cable.
runners - A rope passed through a single block on a pendant with a purchase at one end. Also seamen who sail by the run.
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 bowsprit - A bowsprit that is fitted to run in and out and "reef" like an old cutter's. Since 1900 most yachts have their bowsprits fitted in a shoe. Running Bowsprits also enable a boat to measure less length overall which is useful when berthing in marinas.
running by the lee - To run with the boom on one quarter when the wind is blowing on the other quarter. A dangerous proceeding, easily leading to an accidental gybe.
running lights - A ship's navigational lights, used at night or inclimate weather.
running off her helm - Said of a vessel if, when sailing, her stern flies up to windward (her head apparently going off to leeward) and lee helm is necessary to bring her to.
running rigging - Adjustable lines used for controlling sails and spars.
running lights - Lights required to be shown on boats underway between sundown and sunup.
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Oil On Troubled Waters - There is no doubt that the use of oil for smoothing down broken water or preventing wave crests breaking was known to the ancients. Aristotle supposed that the thin film of oil prevented wave formation, by reducing the friction of the wind on the water surface. There is no doubt that this friction is the primary cause of wave formation, and if the whole water surface were covered with oil, possibly the wave formation would be reduced ; but this in no way accounts for the fact that the spreading of oil on a small portion of a disturbed water surface will suddenly arrest the breaking of waves.
Actually what the oil does is to prevent the waves rising into cusps and then falling to pieces. Also, when these cusps are formed, waves rise to great or as it may be termed, unnatural heights. If the height of the waves much exceeds a certain proportion to the length, the wave crest becomes deformed, and finally breaks. It is the broken water that has actual motion, and not the undulations, which does the harm, and the oil, we suppose, owing to its greater viscousness, prevents waves rising into the deformed conditions which bring about their disruption.
It should be clearly understood that broken water, whether it is a wave tumbling to pieces in mid-ocean or on the shore in the form of surf, has actual motion relative to the earth and represents a great force. In the case of unbroken waves, the undulations only move; that is to say, the wave motion travels, but not the water. An unbroken wave will pass under a boat and leave her in exactly the same position relative to the earth; but if she be struck by a broken wave, she may be hurled a considerable distance, or, if she resists the force, she may be greatly damaged.
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