A1 – The first class of excellence of merchant ships, listed by vowel and numeral.  e.g. A1, A2, E1, E2, I1, etc.
A – Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘in’ or ‘on’.  A’back, abaft, etc.
A.B. – The name used for the rating of able seaman, an abbreviation comprising the first two letters of ‘able’.
Aak - A ketch rigged cargo ship, used for river or coastal transport, mainly on the Maas and Rhine, for wine shipping.
Abab - A Turkish coastal sailor.
Ab-Goozar - Ganges river ferry boat.
Aback – A ship is ‘laid aback’ when her way is accidentally, or sometimes purposely, deadened and ‘taken aback’ when the wind suddenly shifts onto the fore side of the sails, blowing her in a different direction to that intended, often dangerously.  Hence the use of that phrase for being surprised.  Also ‘all aback’.
Abaft – To the rear of the ship.
Abaka – A vegetable fibre from which fine ropes and rigging could be made.  It floated and did not need tarring, due to its resistance to rot.
Abandon - A maritime legal term for the release of control of a ship.
Abandonment - Abandoning an interest or claim, in maritime law.
Abase – To lower a flag or sail.

Abatement – When a merchantman has been delayed or otherwise hindered, there may be a case for abatement, or reduction, of freight charges.

Abblast – Crossbow.

Abblaster – Crossbowman; often carried on early ships.
Abeam - Alongside the ship.
Abeam Arm – See Fork Beam.

Abel Brown - An unquotable sea-song.
Aberration – An apparent change of place of fixed stars, caused by the earth’s orbital movement.
Abited – Infected with mildew.

Abjuration – An oath taken by officers on receipt of their commission.
– 1. Able-bodied: fit and strong.  2. Able seaman: A senior deckhand, capable of carrying out all the various tasks required to keep the ship afloat and working, including fighting with the guns and enemy crews.  Able seamen constituted about one third of crew.
Able Whackets - 1. A popular card game with seamen, in which the loser’s hand gets beaten with a rope.  2. A good share.
Aboard – On board ship.
Aboard main tack - The order given when close-hauling, instructing the hands to haul the tack of the mainsail down to the chess-tree.

Abode – Waited for.
Abord – Across, such as from shore to shore of a river, etc.
About – Go, come, put, etc., – change direction, through 180°.  ‘About-ship!’ was the order to the ship’s crew to prepare for tacking.
Above board – Above the deck and visible.  Hence the term came to mean honest and fair.
A-box, Abox - Said of a square-rigged ship when the yards are braced in opposite directions or laid square to the foremast, in order to heave-to.  Yards braced abox were braced flat aback to the wind.
Abraham men – Nickname for vagrants, from Abraham ward in Bedlam, which was reserved for mentally disadvantaged patients.  Malingerers trying to enter the ship’s doctors list were said to ‘sham Abraham’.
Abrase – To smooth planks, etc.

Abreast - 1. Opposite to, or parallel with.  cf Afore and abaft.  2. When inboard, parallel with the ship’s beams.  3. Positioned off a place that lay directly abeam.  ‘Line abreast’ described a fleet moving in a line side-by-side.
Abrid – A pintle plate.
Abroach – Broached or pierced, as in a barrel in use.
Abroad – 1. Foreign, such as being posted to a foreign station.  2. At sea.  About.  In the vicinity.  3. Spread out, said of a flag or sail.

Absciss – A part of the diameter or transverse axis of a cone; used in navigation.
Absence – A formal permission issued to officers to temporarily quit their duties, usually on an urgent mission.
Absorbtion – The subsidence of islands.

Abstract – A short register of a warrant officer’s stores.  An ‘abstract log’ has brief important features copied from the ship’s log.
A-burton – The stowage of casks laid athwartships or sideways across the ship’s hold.  The usual way is in a fore-and-aft position.

Abut – See Butt.
Abyme – The site of a permanent whirlpool.
Abyss – A place of deep water.
Academite – A graduate of the Royal Navy Academy at Portsmouth, which was later called Royal Naval College.
Acair-Phuill – A safe anchorage.

Acast – Lost or cast away.
Acater – A name for a purveyor of victuals, hence, eventually, ‘caterer’.

Acates – Victuals; especially nice ones.
Access – Means of entry on board.
Access space - Space left in cargo, stores, or ship structure to afford access.
Accident boat – A boat kept clear and with a well-stocked boat bag, ready for immediate lowering at sea in case of emergency such as assisting another ship or a man overboard.  Also sea-boat.
Acclivity – The slope of a cliff.
Accoil – See Coil.

Accommodation – 1. The living space of a vessel, where the officers and crew ate, slept and generally looked after themselves.  Cabins on board.
Accommodation ladder - A light staircase with hand-ropes or rails, fixed at a ship’s sides to a convenient entrance.
Accommodation ship – One used to house the crew, perhaps while their own ship was being refitted with cannon, which was done in an arsenal.
Accompany – To sail together in company, or convoy.

Accost – To pass within hail of a ship, or to come near.
Account – Buccaneers were said to ‘go on the account’ when they turned pirate, presumably because it sounded better, but maybe because they would be held to account if caught.  Also see Quarterly Accounts.
Accountant-General of the Navy – The superintendent of pay and general accounts in the navy.
Accounts – The ship’s books and registers.
Accoutrement – The equipment of a marine, and other soldier.
Accul – The end of a deep bay.
Accumulated rate – The total number of seconds or minutes by which a chronometer has gained or lost over a given period, or epoch.

Achatour – An old word for the caterer of a mess.
– A term applied to telescopes in which aberrations of colours had been corrected.
Achronical – An old term for the rising of heavenly bodies at dusk, and their setting at dawn.
Achterhung - Dutch name for a Bock.
– A tide swelling above another, in a river.
Ackers - Foreign cash.

Ack-men, ack-pirates – Fresh water, or river, thieves.
Aclinic Line – Magnetic equator, where the magnetic needle lies horizontal.
A-cockbill, a-cockbell – 1. The term for an anchor hanging by its ring at the cathead and held only by the cat-head stopper, ready to be let go, or from the hawsehole.  2. Said of a yard that has been topped by one lift, thus leaving it tilting and not a right angles to the mast.

Acon – A flat-bottomed Mediterranean boat used to carry goods over shoals.
Acorn – Ornamental top to the spindle, carrying the vane at the masthead, to prevent the vane being blown off.
Acquittance – See Quittance.
Acrostolium – The Greek or Roman forerunner of the figurehead, usually comprising the symbolic fixing of a helmet or shield at the prow of a ship.
Acte – A peninsular.

Acting commission – Carrying out the duties, without the promotion confirmed.
Action – Battle.
Action stations – Modern expression for ‘At Quarters’.  The places and duties on board detailed to all the sections of a crew for battle.

Active List – The list of naval officers on active service.  See also Retired List.
Active service – Serving on full pay, ready to carry out duties against an enemy.
Act of court – The decision of a court.
Act of god – A sudden accident from non-human causes, for which ship owners are not held responsible, in maritime law.
Act of grace – An act of parliament giving free pardon to deserters, etc.
Actuarlae - Ancient long light oared sailing vessel.
Actuaire - French open troop transport propelled by oars and sails.
- French open troop transport propelled by oars only.
– Oakum.
Adamant – The loadstone.  Used to arm the early compass needle.
Adamas – The moon in nautical horoscopes.
Adam’s ale - Drinking water.

Adams, William – Early 17c English navigator who played an important role in the formation of oriental trade in the Far East.
Adapter – A fitting into which the eye-piece of a telescope is screwed.
Addel, addle, addled – Stale and putrid water in a cask.
Addice – 1. An adze.  2. Addled eggs.
Addlings – Accumulated pay.
Adelantado - A lieutenant of the king of Spain.  The word often used by early English historians for admiral.
Adhesion – Temporary cohesion of two vessels, caused by tide action on the beam.
Adit – Entry port in ancient ships.
Adjust – 1. To set an instrument or device.  2. To set the frame of a ship.
Adjustment – The final settlement of indemnity in a claim of marine insurance.
Adjustment of the Compass – Swinging a vessel from point to point to check the compass variation on each bearing, due to iron in the vessel.

Adjutant – A military assistant to an officer, performed in the navy by the first lieutenant, but sometimes applied to an assistant captain of a fleet.
Admeasurement – The calculation of a ship’s proportions according to assumed rules.
Admiral – 1. In Elizabethan times, the chief ship of a fleet, later more often referred to as ‘the flag’.  2. A senior officer of the navy, of various ranks.  The highest was the Lord High Admiral; the second highest, Admiral of the Fleet (Fleet Admiral); the third highest, Admiral; the fourth highest, Vice Admiral and the fifth, Rear Admiral.  Until 1865, these ranks were further divided into red, white and blue squadrons, making nine levels of rank below ‘Admiral’.  A Yellow Admiral was a Captain put on the Admiral’s List without posting, i.e. retired.  There were a total of thirty Admirals in mid 18c: one Admiral of the Fleet; six Admirals; eight Vice-Admirals and fifteen Rear-Admirals.  3. The senior skipper of a trawler fleet.  4. A shell of the genus Conus.

Admiral Brown - Seamen’s name for floating excrement, usually around a becalmed ship.
Admiral’s day cabin - What it says.  This was usually the principal cabin under the quarterdeck.
Admiral’s Flip – Half champagne half brandy.

Admiral’s lantern – Placed on the main top, for identification of the flagship at night.
Admiral’s Midshipman – A time-served midshipman who had passed for lieutenant and been appointed to a ship by the Admiralty, and not by the Captain, thus having precedence for promotion.

Admiral’s retinue – His general staff.
Admiralty – The generic term, used internationally, for jurisdiction over maritime matters.  A judge of Admiralty would preside over a court with authority to rule on local issues, the court being established at various locations around the relevant area from time to time.
Admiralty! – Reply to Watchman’s Challenge if an approaching boat contained a member of the Board of Admiralty.  See Boat Calls.
Admiralty Black Book – The English version of the Laws of Oleron.
Admiralty Board - The ruling body of the Royal Navy.  Variously instituted as Commissioners for Executing the Office of The Lord High Admiral, or Lords Commissioners, or The Board of the Admiralty, also The Secretary of the Admiralty, also Admiralty Office.  The High Court of the Admiralty dealt with prize money, piracy, &c, and was a source of income for the Lord High Admiral.
Admiralty Commission - Incorporated in 1645.  It ran the Navy under the Parliament of the Civil War.
Admiralty Court – The constitution of a court with jurisdiction, on behalf of the king, over navy matters.
Admiralty hitch
– A turn of line around a marline spike, which is then lifted and its tip slipped under the bight on the right of the standing part, used to get a strong grip for heavy hauling or when making splices, seizings or servings.  Also marline spike hitch.

Admiralty midshipman – The term for a time-served midshipman who had passed examination and was then appointed to a ship by the Admiralty, as compared to the usual practice of them being rated by the captain and appointed by an admiral.
Admiralty Pattern anchor - The most familiar type of anchor and the standard type of anchor used before stockless anchors were introduced, given this name after 1840.  Wooden stocked and with two triangular flukes on arms opposing the stock.  See Anchor.
Admiralty sweep - A wide turn taken by a ship’s boat to come alongside.  Hence used to describe anything overdone.
Admiralty yacht – Fast 17c sailing warship used for fleet command duties.
Adornings – Carvings on the stern and quarter galleries of a ship.
Adown! – The demand of boarders to the crew of a captured ship to go below.
Adreamt - Dozing.  A not uncommon state of a crewman off watch, when first roused to duty.
Adrent – Drowned.
Adriatic oak - Best in world, now called Yugoslavian.

Adrift – Not under control.  Also ‘gone adrift’ from leave or late for watch or duty, i.e. not reported back on time – although not necessarily desertion.
Ad valorem - Duties levied on goods.
Advance - 1. Wages paid to a seaman when he signs on, equivalent to two month’s wages in the Royal Navy.  The clearing of this debt was known as ‘working off the dead horse’.  Also, Advance Money.  2. To raise or promote.
Advanced – 1. ‘Advanced post’ is an outpost.  2. An ‘Advanced squadron’ was one sent ahead, on lookout, or to attack an enemy first, the latter usually being called the vanguard, or just van.
Advance list – The register of advance pay given on enlistment to crewmen and officers.
Advancement – Promotion in rank.
Advance Money – When a seaman enlisted he was paid two months wages in advance, prior to going to sea.  Clearing off this debt was known as ‘working up the dead horse’.
Advance Note - A note for one or two month’s wages issued to sailors on their signing the ship’s articles.  Received in advance of sailing and often used to indebt a sailor to a crimp.
Advantage – 1. The term for reeving a tackle in order to get the maximum power, or advantage, from it.  2. Some element giving superiority over an enemy.
Adventure – Share in the enterprise, i.e. the trade upon which the ship is engaged, or speculation in foreign merchandise, often by seamen.
Adventurer – Speculator or investor.
Advice Boat – Small fast craft used to carry information.
Adviso – In Elizabethan times, an announcement.

Advocate General – An officer whose duty was to represent the Lord High Admiral in the High Court of Admiralty, or in courts-martial.
Adze, addes, addice – Principal tool of old-time wooden shipbuilders, and coopers, used to smooth or, ‘dub’, a plank.
- An ancient brass-prowed ship.
Aerology – The science of the air.
Aeromancy – An early name for meteorology.
– The science of measuring the air and its properties.
Afer - Latin name for the south west wind.
Affair – 1. An indecisive engagement.  2. A duel.
Affectionate Friend – The subscription to a letter signed by a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Navy when writing to officers that were not of noble birth.  Snobs!

Affleck – The name of two brother admirals in the Royal Navy during the 18c.
Affreightment – A contract for letting a ship for freight.
Afloat – 1. Floating, as distinct from aground.  2. At sea.
Afore – In front.
Afoul – Tangled.
Afoundrit – Sunk or foundered.
Afraid – One of the worst descriptions that could be applied to a sea officer, implying cowardice.
Aft – Behind.
Aft-castle – A raised part at the rear of a ship, for fighting.  cf Forecastle.
After – Applied to any object in the rear part of a ship.
Afterbody – The term for that part of a ship’s hull that is aft of the midship section.
– An occurrence which takes place after the consequences of the cause were thought to have ceased.
After cockpit - Midshipmen’s mess on Orlop Deck, used as Surgeon’s Operating Theatre.
After-end – The stern end of a ship, or, of any object, its end towards the stern.
Afterguard - Nicknamed ‘Sea Dandies’ and ‘Silk Sock Gentry’.  Seamen of the mainmast division who were too inexperienced or otherwise unable to go aloft, so who stayed on deck and worked the after sails and after gear from there.

After-hold - The part of the main hold aft of the main mast.

After-ladder – A ladder leading to officers’ or captain’s quarters, and used only by them.
After leech – The lee or aftermost edge of a fore-and-aft sail.

Aftermost, aftmost – The last object on a ship, from forwards.
Afternoon watch – The men on deck from noon until 4 o’clock.  See Watches.
After-orders – Daily orders were generally given at a regular time.  After-orders were irregular, and given later on.
After-part – The part, of any location, towards the stern.
After-peak – The aftermost part of the hold.

After-rake – The part of the hull that overhangs the after-end of the keel.
After sails - The sails rigged on the after masts or on the stays running aft from the mainmast.  cf Head-sails.
After side fish - The aft piece of a made mast.
Aft through the hawse pipe - Promoted from the lower deck.

After-timbers – Timbers abaft the midship section of a ship.

Afterturn – A twist in a rope, where strands are laid up, in the opposite direction to the twist of the strands.
Aft hatch, after hatch - A hatch at the rear.
Aft hold – The after-hold.
Aft peak, after peak - That part at the rear of the hold, in the run, or tapering part. cf Forepeak.
Aft powder room – Gunpowder store.
Aftward – Towards the stern.
Aga – A senior Turkish officer.

Against the sun - The anti-clockwise circular motion employed when coiling down left-handed rope.
’HMS Agamemnon’ – Called affectionately ‘Eggs and Bacon’ by those serving in her.

Agate – A hard, semiprecious stone, used for the bearing, or pivot, of a compass card.
Age (Of Seamen) – Typically 22-24 years old, with 7 years experience at sea, many started 10-12 years old, some 5-6 years old.  It was commonplace for ‘young gentlemen’ to be entered on ships’ books before they served, thereby apparently gaining sea time on their records.  This was common, but illegal.
Agency – A rate, usually of 5%, paid for handling the matters related to prizes.
Agency, Naval – One who carries out the financial affairs of naval officers, for which the usual fee was 2½%.

Agent – 1. A Prize Agent advanced money for prizes before they were confirmed, and looked after absent clients’ claims.  2. An Agent For Sick & Wounded organised such peoples’ accommodation and pay.  3. A Navy Agent prepared the accounts etc of officers and crew.  4. Agent Victuallers would be responsible for obtaining provisions on a foreign station.
Age of the Moon – The tidal prediction term meaning the mean period in days between the new or Full Moon and the next spring tide.

Age of a ship – A necessary disclosure for a contract with Lloyd’s.
Age of the tide –
The tidal prediction term meaning the elapsed time in days since the last New Moon.

Aggie Weston’s - Sailors’ rest homes, first established in 1876.

Aggub – Flat bottomed Nile sailing ship used for carrying stone.
Agistment – A sea or river embankment.
Agitaki – East Indian fishing canoe in 18c.
Agonist – A prize-fighter.
Agreeing with a climate – An expression in Elizabethan times used for becoming acclimatised.

Agreement – A contract between the captain and each member of the crew of a merchantman.
Aground – A ship resting on the bottom.  If the result of an accident, a ship ‘runs aground’, or is ‘stranded’.  If intentionally set aground, a ship is said to have ‘taken the ground’.
Aguadiente - The adulterated brandy of Spain that was supplied to her ships.
Aguada - A Spanish or Portuguese watering-place.
Aguglia - Sharp-pointed rocks, from the Italian for needles.
Ague – A malarial, or other, acute fever.
Ahead, A-head - In front.  Opposite to astern.
Ahold – An early term for bringing a ship close to the wind.
Ahoo – Crooked or lopsided.  Usually ‘all ahoo’.
Ahoy! – Normal hail to attract attention. Usually pronounced “oy-oy”.
A-hull – Riding out heavy weather under bare poles and with the helm a-lee.

Aid – To supply with stores.
Aide-de-camp - A flag lieutenant to an admiral, or a midshipman to a captain, when in action.
Aiglet – Metal tips on reeflines, etc.
Aiguades - French watering-places
Aigulets – Tagged points on the cords of a uniform.  cf Aiglets.
Air – A gentle breeze.

Air-Braving – Sailing against the wind.

Air-Funnel – A type of ventilator comprising an opening in the deck to allow air to lower parts.

Airing-stage – A wooden airing/drying platform for gunpowder.
Air-Jacket – A leather garment fitted with inflatable bladders, to give buoyancy to the wearer.

Air-pipes – Ventilator funnels used to rd the hold of foul air.

Air-ports – Scuttles in the ship’s sides to let in air when the other ports are closed.
Air-pump - Various systems used to pump fresh air into stuffy parts of the ship.
Airs – Miasmas.  Often blamed for tropical ailments, though without scientific basis.
Air-Scuttle – See air-ports.

Air-Shaft – A wooden shaft on a vessel used to ventilate the lower parts.

Airy – Breezy.

Aland – To, or on, land.
Alarm – The drum or signal summoning men to take guard in time of danger.
Alarm vessel - Early light ship/vessel
Albacore – A large shallow-water ocean fish.
Albany Beef – Slang name for sturgeon caught in the Hudson River during the War of American Independence.
- Large seabird.  Said by some to be Pursers’ souls seeking savings or leavings.  More commonly, albatrosses were believed to have been the souls of dead sailors, from where came the superstition of it being bad luck to kill one.
Prince Alberts - Ad hoc leggings of tightly bound burlap on feet and legs.

AlbionBritish Isles.  Apparently so named after the white cliffs of the south coast.
Alcaide - A governor.

Alcatraz – The pelican.
Alcohol – On ship, the most common forms of alcohol were rum and brandy, with wine and small beer for more frequent regular consumption, one of which was issued daily, in excessive quantities by today’s standards.
Alee, A-lee – 1. Said of the helm when it was pushed down to the lee side of the vessel in order to put the ship about.  2. Said of anything on the lee side.

A-lee the helm – A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm pushed down to the lee side to put the vessel about.  The helmsman would answer ‘helm’s a-lee’.  Also down with the helm, or luff round.

Alfred the Great – (848-900) Often said to be the founder of the English Navy.  Although he built up the ship stock his navy did not fight significant sea-battles with the Danes, those having been fought before he came along, and after his death the English Navy lapsed into practical non-existence.
Algae – Seaweeds.
Algiers Duty – A particular duty levied on goods, by the Long Parliament, used to release captives in the Mediterranean.
– The science of sea plants.
Alidade – The sight rule of an astrolabe.
Alien – Foreign, not British.
Alignment – The imaginary line supposed to be kept to maintain a squadron in order.
All – Wholly.  ‘All aback’ was when the sails were blown from the front.   ‘All ahoo’ meant disordered or crooked.  ‘All-a-taunt-o’ was the term for a ship that has all its rigging hauled tight and belayed and all yards crossed on the masts.  See taunt.  ‘All hands’ was the order for all seamen to muster on deck immediately. ‘All hands ahoy’ was the order for all hands to assemble on deck, and not just the watch on duty. ‘All hands make sail’ was a order usually immediately preceding a chase. ‘All hands to quarters’ was an order in an armed merchantman which was the equivalent to ‘Beat to quarters’ used in a man-of-war.  ‘All in the wind’ was the point at which, when a ship is gradually steered into the wind, the sails start to lose the wind.  ‘All Night In’ was an expression used to describe the duties of crew members who were not members of watches, and who did not therefore turn out at night – except on the call “All Hands Ahoy!”  See Idlers.  ‘All over’ denotes resemblance to an object, e.g. ‘she’s a king’s ship all over’.  ‘All overish’ listlessness and disinterest in food, usually signifying an approaching disease.  ‘All ready’ was the answer from the tops when the sails had been loosened and were ready to be dropped.  ‘All standing’ meant fully clothed, or was the term for a ship brought suddenly to a halt by its anchor biting, when its anchor has been let go whilst the ship had too much way on, thus bringing her up ‘all standing’.  ‘All’s well’ was the sentry’s call on each bell during the middle and morning watches.  ‘All to pieces’ meant out-and-out, e.g. ‘she beat us all to pieces’, meaning the other ship out-sailed her.  ‘All weathers’ meant at any time or season.
All above board – This referred to everything being visible when stored on deck and has come to mean all being open and honest.

All-a-taut – Seamen’s term for a fully rigged ship with everything correctly in place.

Allege - A French ballast-boat.
Alleyway – That passage-way between lower decks of merchant ships, giving access.
All hands aft! - Call to crew to assemble.
Alligator – North American timber raftsmen’s boat, equipped with tackles, ropes, winches, etc.
Alligator water – Brackish tropical river estuaries.
All in the wind - Said of a vessel’s sails when going from one tack to the other and the luffs are shaking, or when bad steering sailing too close to the wind.
Allision – An expression in maritime law indicating the collision of one ship striking another, as distinct from using the word ‘collision’, which signified two vessels striking each other.
All my eye and Betty Martin - Nonsense.
All of one company - Traditional sentiment of equality in the RN.

Allotment – The part of seamen’s pay apportioned each month to their wives, etc.  The ‘allotment list’ was a record of such apportionments that was sent to the Navy Office for implementation.
Alloting – The allocation, by a disinterested person, of shares in a ship’s cargo.

Allowance – The ration allotted to each crew member.
All parts bearing equal strain - Everything under control.  Sometimes used to mean, going to have a sleep.

All standing - Fully clothed, as in going to bed ‘all standing’.

All’s well! - Call given by the sentinel when every half-hour bell is struck during the night watches, to affirm safety of the ship, and that he is awake.
All together! - A pipe call, giving an officer’s order to be obeyed ‘all together’.  See Pipe calls.
Alluvium, alluvion – Silt, such as found in river deltas, etc.
Ally – Friendly nation.
Almacantars - Arabic name for parallels of latitude.
Almadia - African canoe, or larger square-sterned Negro boats.
Almagest - Ptolemy’s work on geometry and astronomy.
Almanac - Annual book of tables, or a single table, with calendar and astronomical data, used for navigation.
Almirante - A Spanish sea officer of senior rank.
Almirantesa - A wife of a Spanish sea officer of senior rank.
Almury – The upright part of an astrolabe.
Alnus caver – Early English transport ship, so named after its constituent wood.
Aloft –
Above the top deck.  In the rigging.
’Aloft’ – The order given to hands to go aloft.

Along – Lengthwise.  ‘Alongside’ meant by the side of the ship, or side-by-side.  ‘Lying along’ was when the ship inclined towards leeward due to the press of wind on the sails, or, lying alongside the land.
Alongshore – Nautical term for the coast, or a course in sight of it.
Alongst – 1. In the middle of a stream.  2. Moored head and stern.
Aloof, a-loof – A-weather.  Specifically a point between abeam and on the bow, with that part of the ship being called the loof.  To ‘keep aloof’ is to keep distant, or apart.
Alow – In or on the hull.  As ‘alow & aloft’, meaning below and above.
Alphabetical list – The list of the names and numbers of the people on the pay-book.

Altar – A platform in the upper part of a dock.
Altazimuth - A navigation instrument, used to find altitudes and azimuths.
Altemetrie, altimetry - Early name for trigonometry, among navigators.
Alternating sides - The practice of leading the falls of halliards to alternate sides of the ship sail-by- sail.
Alternating winds – All land and sea breezes are alternating winds, blowing onto the land during the day, when the land is warmer, and blowing to sea at night, when the sea is warmer, because of convection currents.  However, this term was usually used to refer to exceptional instances of sudden alterations in a wind.
Altimetry – Trigonometry, used to calculate heights or depressions.
Altitude – The measured angular height of a heavenly body above the horizon.  ‘Apparent altitude’ is as it appears from the earth’s surface.  ‘True altitude’ is that produced after correcting the apparent altitude for parallax and refraction.
Altmiklec - A Turkish silver coin, worth a little under three shillings sterling.
Altocumulus – High small fluffy clouds.  A common early sign of an approaching depression.
Altostratus – High elongated flat clouds.  The second sign of an approaching depression.
Aluff – See Aloof.
Amain – An old term meaning ‘yield’ and ‘immediately’.  ‘Let go amain’ meant let the anchor go at once.  When a warship encountered a merchant ship in the warship’s sovereign waters, it insisted that the merchantman struck its topsail in salute by ‘waving amain’, done by the warship crew waving swords or pikes. The merchantman is then said to ‘strike amain’, if they do salute as required.
Amalphitan Code – Early code of sea-laws, compiled by the Amalfi, when they were an important maritime power, at about the time of the first Crusade.
Amaye - Sea markings on the French coast.

Ambassador – A prank in which the victims are ducked in the wash-deck tub, in warm climates.
Ambergris – A valuable waxy substance, used in the manufacture of perfumes, harvested from the intestines of whales, and sometimes found floating free in tropical seas.
Amelioration – Recompense to the purchaser of a condemned ship, for repairs he has necessarily implemented.
American grommet
- A brass eyelet fixed into a sail or any piece of canvas.
American War – The war between Britain and America of 1812 to 1815, caused by the rigorous exercise, by the British, of their rights of search over neutral, i.e. American, shipping, during the war with France.  It was common for British deserters to serve on American ships, and also common for them to be taken off by the British when found during such a search.  This was not popular with the Americans, who lost some good seamen in this way, and who sometimes lost their own liberty, the British being not too fussy about whether or not the seamen had protections.
American whipping - A method of whipping a rope’s end in which the ends of the whip are pulled out at the centre and reef knotted before trimming.  Commonly used on hawsers.  Also Sailor’s whipping.
Amidships – About the middle section of the deck.
Amidward – Towards the midship section.
Ammunition – Warlike stores, including ordnance. An ‘ammunition chest’ was located near the stern and in the tops of a man-of-war, holding ammunition and weapons in readiness for action. ‘Ammunition shoes’ were soft slippers worn by those entering the magazine. An ‘ammunition wife’ was a woman of dubious character.
Amphibian, Amphibious - Applied to boats that could mount the shore, and to land operations mounted from the sea.
Amphidrome – 18c sailing ships with hull and rigging designed to permit them to sail in both directions without having to go about.
Amphitrite – A Greek sea goddess; the wife of Poseidon and the mother of Triton.  A lewd version ‘comes aboard’ with ‘Badger Bag’, or Neptune, at the equator.
Amphora – Clay bottles used to transport oil, wine, etc., in ancient times.
Amplitude – The angle between the point at which the sun rises and sets and the true east and west points on the horizon.
Ampotis – The ebb of the tide.
– A small swivel gun.
Amy – A friendly foreigner, serving on board.
Analem – An instrument used to in navigation to find the course and elevation of the sun.
Anan! – What? Eh?  An affected colloquialism of the times.
Anaumachion – Archaic term for the crime of refusing to serve in the navy, punishable by ‘infamy’.
Anchiromachus - Middle age fast sailing ship used to carry anchors and other such equipment to larger vessels.
Anchor – A heavy hook implement used to hold the ship by being embedded in the sea bed and being tethered to the ship by means of a cable.  The term was also used figuratively to signify security.  Each ship had, in theory, three principal anchors; the sheet, the best bower and the second bower, but most had many more.  As a rule of thumb, the largest anchor weighed approximately one twentieth of the weight of the ship.  On a typical 70 gun ship of the early 18c the sheet anchor weighed 52cwt (although it could weigh up to 71cwt), the best bower was about 1cwt lighter, the small bower was the same as the best bower, but on the port bow (the best bower anchor being on the starboard bow), and the spare anchor about 1cwt lighter than that.  Smaller stream and kedge anchors were often carried, the stream weighing about a third of the best bower and the kedge about a third of the stream.  Proportions of anchors changed over the ages, so figures should be used with caution.  A grapnel was carried in each ship’s boat.  A 32ft longboat carried an 80lb grapnel, but a 31ft pinnace would have one of just 56lbs, due to the latter boat being used only in sheltered waters.  See Anchor Use Expressions.
Anchorable – Suitable for anchoring.
AnchorageSuitable location for an anchor to grip, thus keeping the ship safely moored in position.
Anchor-ball – A grenade attached to a grapnel, for attaching to, and setting fire to, an enemy ship.
Anchor bed – The support structure on the side of a vessel’s forecastle on which the anchor was stowed when at sea.

Anchor bell - A bell at the stem of a ship, struck during fog in accordance with the Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea.  Also used to indicate the number of cable shackles still out as an anchor is being hauled in.
Anchor buoy – A small buoy attached to the crown of a ship’s anchor when it is on the bottom, to show its position.
Anchor chain cables - In general use after about 1820.

Anchor-chocks – Indentations caused by wear in the anchor stock, and small blocks of wood or iron on which the stowed anchor rests.
Anchor clinch - The bend formed at the end of the anchor cable, through the anchor ring, forming a clinch or bight which is seized by spun yarn.
Anchor components - Anchors usually consist of the following components: arm, bill, blade, bolt, crown, flukes, hoops, nut, palm, ring, snape, stock, throat, treenails.
Anchored – Held by the anchor.
Anchor-hold – The grip of the anchor on the ground.
Anchor hook – Hook on the end of the fish tackle, used to lift the anchor.
Anchor hoops – Hoops binding the stock of an anchor to the end of the shank.

Anchor ice – See Ice.
Anchoring – The act of casting anchor.  ‘Anchoring ground’ is that where the anchor will be effective.
Anchor light – A riding light.
Anchor-lining – Protecting pieces of plank, fastened onto the ship’s sides to prevent wear and tear from the anchor when being fished or drawn up.
Anchor orders – The various orders given when a vessel is coming to, or weighing, anchor.  They were given in the following order:  ‘pay out the cable’; ‘veer away the cable’; ‘come up the capstan’; ‘man the capstan’; ‘heave taut’; ‘unbitt’; ‘heave round’; ‘heave away’; ‘up and down’; ‘pawl the capstan’; ‘hook the cat’; ‘man the cat – haul taut’; ‘off nippers – surge the messenger’; ‘stoppers before all’; ‘hook the fish’; ‘bitt the cable’.

Anchor palm – Fluke of anchor.
Anchor palm block - A block on the side of the ship, where the anchor palm rested when stowed.
Anchor-Ring – The great ring on the anchor.

Anchor’s aweigh! - The cry indicating that the anchor has broken clear of the ground and is suspended from the ship.
Anchor- seat – An archaic name for the prow of a ship.
Anchor-shackle – A ‘Jew’s harp’ shackle used to fasten the anchor to its chain.
Anchor smith – One who forges anchors.
Anchor-stock – The bar at the top end of an anchor, transverse to the flukes.

Anchor-stock-fashion – A method of joining overlapping wale-planks.
Anchor-stocking – A method of securing and working planks with tapered butts.
Anchor-stock tackle – A small tackle used to hold the stock closer to the ship.
Anchor use expressions – To lay or lie ‘at anchor’ is to be held by the anchor.  ‘Anchor bearings’ were bearings taken while at anchor.  ‘Anchor cable ranging’ is that part of the anchor cable that lays flat on the bottom, before the part that rises to the ship, used to prevent heavy pressure immediately being applied to the bitts.  The ‘anchor came home’ when it dragged loose from the sea bottom.  An ‘anchor clinch’ was a type of half hitch used to secure the cable to the anchor.  To ‘anchor man-of-war fashion’ meant tidily and professionally.  An ‘anchor spring’ was an additional hawser laid out from the cable, to enable a ship to be slewed round.  A ship was said to ‘back an anchor’ when she carried a small anchor ahead of the main one in use, to stop it coming home.  A ship was said to ‘break the sheer’ when she turned beam-on to the wind or tide, thus being pushed at right angles to the anchor chain, which force dragged the anchor free of the bottom.  To ‘cast anchor’ is to drop anchor.  ‘1, 2, 3, Let Go!’ was the command to drop anchor.  ‘Cock-billing’ was used to describe when the cable was suspended vertically from the cat-head, with the anchor above water and ready to drop.  A ship would ‘come to anchor’ when she let go the anchor.  A ‘foul anchor’ is one around which the cable has become tangled.  ‘Seamen’s disgrace’ was a foul anchor.  A ‘Line of anchors’ was a method of anchoring when more than one anchor was dropped, with the ship moored to span between them.  This is considered less safe than if riding at one anchor with the wind at right angles to the line of anchors, due to the stress on the cables.  A ship would ‘ride at anchor’ whilst anchored.  To ‘sheer’ to the anchor was to move the ship’s bows in the direction at which the anchor lies, while heaving in the cable.  To ‘shoe anchor’ meant to cover the palms of an anchor with large triangular pieces of wood, to give the anchor more effectiveness in soft mud.  To ‘shoulder’ the anchor was when a ship was given too short an anchor cable, causing her to be thrown across the tide and lift, or shoulder, the anchor and drift off.  A ship that swung or turned with the wind and tide, when riding at a single anchor, was said to be ‘tending’.  A ship ‘tide-rode’ when it lay with its anchor up current.  To ‘trip anchor’ was to move and cause the anchor to lift from the bottom, when it was said to be ‘a-trip’ and no longer holding. To ‘weigh anchor’ was to raise the anchor from the bottom, at which point the weight of the anchor was taken on the cat-head.  A ship ‘wind-rode’ when it lay with its anchor to windward.
Anchor-watch – 1. The duty of keeping the deck when the vessel is at anchor.  An important duty usually performed by a watch of experienced seamen.  2. The officer and seamen detailed to see that the ship does not drag whilst at anchor.
Ancient – An archaic term for the colours, or flag, and their bearer.
Ancon – An angle of a knee timber.  Also a Spanish name for an anchorage.
Andrew Miller, The Andrew – 1. A legendary pressgang leader, who was reputed to have pressed so many seamen that he owned the navy.  2. US and UK seamen’s nickname for the Navy, and for any other unpopular form of authority, after Andrew Miller.  3. A colloquial American nickname for a Man-of-War, probably through the initial letters, and possibly borrowed from the British seamen’s habit of calling the navy The Andrew.
Anemometer - Wind gauge or wind speed measuring instrument.
Anemoscope – A wind direction indicator pointer.
An-end – 1. The position of any mast rigged above another.  2. The term used for a rope coiled down and clear for running.  3. Said of a yard rigged perpendicularly.
Aneroid – A portable barometer.
Angary, Right of – The claim by a warring country to seize ships of a neutral country that could benefit an enemy.  Valid in maritime law, but restoration is required, eventually.
Angel – Slang term for a coin of Elizabethan times.
Angel shot – Slang term for chain shot.
Angil – A fish-hook.
Angle bar - Steel or iron rolled bar, used in ship construction, with an L-shaped section.

Angle Crown – Anchor with straight arms meeting in a point, called Admiralty Pattern after 1840.
Angle of commutation – The difference between the heliocentric longitudes of the earth and a planet or comet, the latter being reduced to the ecliptic.
Angle of cut
- In navigation, the smaller angle at which a pair of position lines intersect.  Larger angles give a better fix.
Angle of eccentricity – An astronomical term meaning an angle whose sine is equal to the eccentricity of an orbit.
Angle of lee-way – The difference between the true and apparent course, when close-hauled.
Angle of the vertical – The difference between the geocentric and geographical latitudes of a place.
Angle stringer - A longitudinal frame member made from angle-bars, sometimes with added strength from a bulb bar, often fitted halfway between the deck and the bilge.

Angular distance – A term denoting heavenly bodies being within measurable distance for calculating the longitude from them.  The length of an arc of a great circle.

Angular motion – Motion in a circular direction, such as planets revolving around the sun.
Angular velocity – The speed of motion of binary stars around each other.
Angulated sail - A sail of triangular shape, with the cloths running differently at the top and bottom, meeting in a mitre joint.  Used to save cloth and to spread the load more evenly across the sail.  Also mitred sail.

Anigh – Close by.
Anilla – The commercial term for indigo.

Anker – A cask of about 8 gallons.
Anne, Queen – (1665-1714) The only woman to ever hold the office of Lord High Admiral of Britain, in 1708, for twenty-nine days, on the death of her husband, Prince George of Denmark, who had held that office since 1702.
Anniversary winds – Regular winds occurring at certain seasons, such as monsoons, trade winds, etc.
Annotinae – Ancient Roman victualling vessels.

Annual Accounts – A ship’s books for the year.

Annual returns – A navy ship was required to return three reports to the Admiralty each year, in addition to the general accounts; namely, on the sailing qualities, the men and the progress of the young gentlemen in their navigation lessons.
Annul – To cancel a flag signal.
Annular Eclipse
- An eclipse of the sun, in which a ring of sunlight shows all round the silhouette of the moon.
Annular scupper – An invention by Capt. Downes, in which scuppers were fitted with removable concentric rings, thus enabling a surcharge of water to be passed quickly.
Annulus Astronomicus - A 16c brass navigational instrument.
Anomalistic year – The actual period of the Earth’s orbit.
Anon – Directly, or immediately.
Anson, Lord George – (1697-1762) English admiral of the fleet who famously circumnavigated in the mid 18c, in the ship HMS Centurion, The ship in which he tested the first practical (if unwieldy) ship’s chronometer on an earlier trip to the West Indies, and returning with few of the original fleet company but with vast prize wealth.  He later became a very effective First Sea Lord of the Admiralty.
Answer, to – To reply or succeed.  When a ship was seen to follow the instructions given in signal, she was said to ‘answer’ the signal.  Also used in describing the suitability of a gun, boat, etc., e.g. ‘the gun will answer’ meaning it is ‘just the job’.
Answering pendant – A red and white striped pendant that was hoisted when answering a flag signal, to indicate that it was understood. It was hoisted ‘at the dip’, i.e. at half mast, until the message was fully understood.
Antarctic – The south polar region.  The Antarctic Circle is the latitude of 66° 33′ S.
Antarctic convergence – The boundary where the cold Antarctic surface water flowing north passes beneath the warmer sub-Antarctic waters flowing south, marking a change in sea temperature and chemical composition and significant biological differences.
Ante lucan - Before daylight.
Ante meridian - Before noon.
Anthelion – A luminous ring surrounding the viewer’s shadow, projected onto a cloud or fog bank.

Anticyclone - A weather pattern comprising the rotary outward flow of air from a high pressure area.
Anti Gallicans – Temporary additional backstays rigged to provide extra support when a ship was in the trade winds.
– The term for a criminal method of extracting the contents of a cask or bottle, by a straw or tube surreptitiously inserted.
Anti-Jacobin –
An opposer of the French Revolution.  The Jacobin political party in France in 1789 supported democratic principles, which caused their revolution.
Antipathes – A type of coral with a black horny stem.

AntipodesThe opposite side of the globe.  Came to popularly mean Australia and New Zealand.  Hence ‘antipodean’ applied to the peoples of those countries.
Antiscorbutic - An enriched vitamin source used in the treatment for scurvy.  The best form was fresh meat and vegetables, citrus fruit being often issued, but not often effective.
Antitrade – A wind blowing steadily in the opposite direction to a prevailing trade wind.
Antwerp Hell Burner - 16c explosive fire ship.

Anyhow – Doing ones duty by any means.

Apace – Quickly.
Apeak, apeek – Vertically.  “Oars apeak” was an order given in a ship’s boat, on approach to its destination.  Also said of an anchor when the ship has moved to be over its vertical cable while being hove in, and it is about to break free of the ground.
Aphelion – The point on a planets orbit farthest from the sun.
Aphlaston – Ship’s stern ornament.

Aplanatic – Refraction that corrects the aberration and chromaticity of light rays.
Aplustre – The ornamentation at the prow and the ensign on the stern of ancient vessels.
– Gang-boards on ancient ships, onto the quay.
Apocatastasis – The time taken by a planet to return to a heavenly position from whence it started.
Apogee – The point on the moon’s orbit farthest from the earth.  cf perigee.
– When a ship was well trimmed she was said to be a-poise.
- Towards the port side.
Apostles – Two large bollards near the bows, on the main deck, around which anchor cables were belayed.
Apparel - All the removable equipment and fittings of a ship, such as sails, rigging, boats, etc.
Apparatus – The equipment of war.

Apparel – The furniture or gear of a ship, for insurance purposes.

Apparelled – Fully equipped, of a ship.

Apparent Equinox – The position of the equinox, as it has been affected by nutation.

Apparent Noon – The moment when the centre of the sunis on the meridian.

Apparent solar day - The interval between two successive transits of the true sun across the observer’s meridian, at which times it is the apparent noon.  The length of the apparent day varies with the Earth’s orbit.
Apparent solar time – Time based on the hour angle of the true sun.  The time used on sundials.  Also true solar time or astronomical time.

Appearance – 1. The moment that land is first seen on lanf-fall.  2. The first arrival of an officer for duty upon a new appointment.

Apple-bowed - Bluff shaped ship’s bow.
Appledore Roller Boom - Worm operated reefing system.
Apple-Pie Order – In good order.

Apples - Pay, from the golden apples in mythology.

Appointed - Equipped or armed and commissioned for duty.

Appointment – 1. An officer’s commission.  2. The equipment of a vessel.

Appraisement – A legal requirement of the captors of a vessel, from their being responsible for its expenses henceforth.

Approval – A senior officer’s signature on an application.

Apron - 1. Curved timbers of uniform section, fixed below the stem and above the leading end of the keel.  Also Stomach-Piece.  2. In dock, the underwater masonry platform at the entrance to a dock, over which the gates close, if they exist.  3. The piece of sheet lead laid over the touch-hole of a gun, in an attempt to prevent the entry of dampness.

Apostis – Outrigger structure of a galley which allows the use of longer oar stroke.
Aquage – An old term for water-carriage tolls.

Arbalest – An ancient wooden instrument used to measure altitudes of heavenly bodies, comprising a cross, or transversary, sliding on a staff that had graduated degrees marked on it.  Also cross-staff, Jacob’s staff or fore-staff.

Ardent - Said of a vessel that tends to fly into the wind, needing an excess of weather-helm.
Argand light - An early type of lighthouse or alarm light vessel.
Arch-Board – Part of the stern above the counter.

Arch Of The Cove – The elliptical moulding installed over the cove of a vessel, at the lower part of the taffrail.

Arched Squall – A type of violent squall under which the clear sky is visible.

Arching – See hogging.

Arctic – The north polar region.  The Arctic Circle lies nearly 23º28’ from the north pole.

Arctic Ocean – The sea around the north polar regions.

Ardent – Said of a vessel that comes to the wind quickly, or gripes.

Arenaceous – Sandy.

Arenal – A cloud of dust.

Arenation – The burial of scorbutic patients up to their neck in sand, for cure, or the spreading of sand over unwell people.

Argonauts – The crew of the Argo, who sailed, in Greek mythology, to find the Golden Fleece.

Argosy - An early large merchant vessel.

Argozin – The attendant of the slaves’ shackles in a galley ship.

Aris – The sharp stone corners of jetties.

Aris pieces - The side pieces of a made mast, held by hoops.  Also called fish-sides, or side fishes.
Arisings - Materials left at the completion of a task.

Ark The imaginary vessel described in the Bible as having been built by Noah and used to preserve life during The Flood.  It is reported to have been 300 cubits in length, 50 in breadth and 30 in height.

Arloup – An early name for the Orlop deck.

Arm – A narrow inlet of the sea.

Armada – Usually a Spanish royal fleet of warships, although sometimes used in Elizabethan times to refer to a single warship.

Armadillo – A fleet of guarda-costas.

Armador – A Spanish privateer.

Armament – The arming of a vessel.

Armatae – Ancient fighting vessels that sailed, but fought only under oars.

Arm Chest – A locker holding small arms on the upper decks or tops.

Armed – Equipped ready for war.

Armed mast - Made from more than one piece of timber.  See Made mast.
Armillary Sphere – A model of the celestial sphere, primarily used for teaching astronomy.

Arming – The application of tallow to and around the cup of the sounding lead, to pick up material from the sea bottom.  The identification of sea-bed material was an important aid to navigation in known soundings.

Armings – 1.Decorative cloths once hung on holidays outside the upper works of a vessel.  2. A type of boarding net.

Armlet – A small inlet of the sea.

Armourer – The warrant-officer responsible for small arms, who was also the blacksmith.

Armoury – The place on a ship for the storage and maintenance of the small arms.

Arm-Rack – A ship’s fitting used for the stowage, and sometimes local transportation, of small arms.

Arms – 1. All the munitions of war of a ship, from large guns to small arms.  2. The arms of a great gun were its trunnions.

Armstrong - Arm in arm.
Armstrong patent - A pump-action windlass, worked by seesaw operation.  Also used to mean ‘handraulic’, or manual.
Arquebus, harquebus – An early portable firearm, that was fired from a tripod stand.  The name came to be generic for all early firearms.
Arquebusier, harquebusier - One who is skilled and qualified in using an arquebus.
Array – To dress, equip or arm for battle.

Arrest - The term for procurement, for the Crown, of merchantmen to be used as warships.  A ship was arrested and held under arrest whilst repairing for the venture of war for which she was arrested.  In medieval times it was unusual for the ship or its crew to be paid for, by the Crown.
Arse – 1. The choke end of a block, opposite the swallow.  The hole in a block through which the fall runs.  2. The bottom of a buoy, as eloquently described by the seamen of Trinity House.
Articles of Agreement - Contract between the ship owner and crew, detailing entitlements, penalties, code of conduct, etc.
Articles of War - The code of discipline used in the Royal Navy, detailing duties and penalties meted out for all offences, including failing one’s duty.  First incorporated into navy law in 1661.  The final article, to cover anything not covered elsewhere, was informally known as the Captain’s Cloak.
Artificer – A member of the crew who works with wood or metal.  Usually an idler.

Artificial – In Elizabethan times, used to refer to something done skilfully or artfully.

Artificial eye - An eye formed into a rope-end by hitching the unlaid strands over a piece of rope or wood the size of the intended eye, the ends being then scraped down, marled, parcelled and served.
Artificial horizon - An instrument attached to the sextant, such as a bubble or pendulum level, used to obtain altitudes when the horizon was not visible.
Artists – Early term used for some navigators.

Ascend - What the bow does during a ‘scend.

As Deaf As The Mainmast – Nautical equivalent of the proverbial doorpost used to describe those of apparently challenged hearing ability.

A-shake - Stopped.

Ashlar – The random stonework of a dock or pier, etc.

Ashore – On land.

Asiento, Treaty of – The concession obtained by Britain from Spain in 1714, to supply slaves to the Spanish Caribbean.  This was the first contract of the British South Sea Company.

Askew – Crooked or awry.

Aslant – Located or placed obliquely.

Asleep – Said of a sail only just filling.

Aspect – The loom of land over the horizon.

Aspic – An ancient cannon, of about 12 pounds calibre.

Aspirant de Marine – The equivalent to a midshipman, but in the French navy.

Asportation – The illegal carrying of goods or vessels.

Assay - Early expression of an assault.  Also used as ‘at all assays’, meaning in any danger.

Asses’ tails - Long strands of seaweed.
A-Starboard – The opposite of a-port.

A-stay - Said of an anchor cable when in line with the forestay.
Astern – Behind, or in the after parts of, a vessel.

Astragal – A half-round on flat moulding at the breech and near the muzzle of a cannon.

Astronomical day - In the Royal Navy, until 1925, the day started at noon, and was therefore 12 hours behind the civil day and 24 hours behind the ship’s day.

Astronomical time – Time based on the hour angle of the true sun.  The time used on sundials.  Also true solar time, or apparent solar time.

Aswim – Afloat.

At Anchor – Said of a vessel riding by her anchor.

Athwart - Across.  When used in navigation, across the line of a ship’s course.

Athwart hawse - 1. Said of a ship that has crossed its anchor cable due to the effects of wind and tide, when only riding at a single anchor.  2. Said of a ship anchored across the bows of another vessel.
Athwartships - Reaching from one side of the ship to the other.
Atlantic – Ocean bounded by the Americas to the west, Europe and Africa to the east, the Arctic to the north and the Antarctic to the south.  The scene of most early exploration voyages and international naval conflicts.
Atlantic Neptune – A book of maps of the eastern North American coast, issued in 1777 for the Royal Navy.
Atlantis – A legendary island of mid Atlantic that was said to have disappeared under the sea.
Atlas – A book of maps.  cf Neptune, which name is given to a book of sea-maps.
Atmospherical Tides – Tides caused by the combined effects of the sun and moon, and the movements of the earth in orbit.
Atoll – An island with an inner lagoon.  Usually formed by sequential coral growth and collapse.
Atop – On top of.
At Quarters - The state of a ship ready for armed action, with armaments prepared and with the crew in their allotted positions for fighting the ship, or navigating it whilst in action.
Atrie, A-try – 1. Of a ship at sea, at a standstill, with reduced sails, due to bad weather.  2. To bring-to in a gale.
Atrip, A-trip – Of ships, said of an anchor hanging vertically on its cable while being hove in, after it has broken free of the ground. Of yards, when they were swayed up ready.  Of sails, when they were hoisted and sheeted home, ready for trimming.
Attack – An assault.
Attempt – To venture.
Attend - Prefix to many orders, when the hands are required to ensure smooth operation of the order.  Often shortened to ‘tend.
Attendant Master – A dock-yard official.
Atterrage – A land-fall.
Attestation – Testifying to the signing of a deed in Admiralty courts.  Hence ‘attested’ meant legally certified.
Attile – Old legal term for the equipment of a ship.
Attraction – The force between masses that draw each other.  In the case of ships, the fact that a ship will stand inshore faster then she can stand off.

Atween – Between.
Auditors of the Imprest – Those responsible for the accounts of the Royal Customs and Naval expenses.
Auger, augre – Boring carpentry tool.  That is, a carpentry tool used to bore holes, not an uninteresting tool.  A wimble.
Auk – A seabird, e.g. a razorbill.
Aulin – An arctic gull.
Aurora - The Greek goddess of dawn, hence her name given to the faint light glow preceding sunrise.
Aurora Australis, Aurora Borealis - Coloured lights in the skies at high latitudes, caused by the refraction of light by air borne ice crystals.  AA in the south, AB in the north.
Auster - Latin name for the south wind.
Austin, Sir Horatio Thomas – (1801-65) British vice admiral who took part in the American War and in subsequent voyages of exploration.
Authority – The legal right to command, or written instruction or orders.
Avalon – Welsh mythological paradise in the western seas.
Avast! – 1. Stop immediately, please.  Urgent order to stop, or hold fast.  ‘Avast heaving!’ (sometimes ‘vast heaving’) was the cry to halt the capstan when nippers were jammed, or something similar. 2. A pipe call meaning: stop.  Also called ‘high enough’.

Avenue – The inlet of a port.
Average – Apportionment of damages incurred for the ship or goods.  See General or Particular Average.  An ‘Average Adjuster’ was the person engaged to assess damages.  An ‘Average Agreement’ was a legal document signed by the consignees of a cargo, committing them to a proportion of the general average.
Avery, John
– (1665-97) Alias Long Ben.  A Devonshire pirate of notable success, operating from Madagascar.
Avviso – An Italian advice-boat.
Awaft – Displaying a stopped flag.
– The judgement in a maritime case, or in a court-martial.
Awash – 1. Deluged with water expected to run off.  2. Reefs or rocks level with the surface of the sea.  3. The anchor at sea level when being heaved up.  4. Used to describe one’s back teeth when eating/drinking to say one has had enough, for the moment.

Away – Under way, moving.  Originally ‘a-way’.  ‘Away aloft!’ was the order given to the hands to climb aloft in preparation for being ordered to handle the sails and rigging.  ‘Away she goes!’ was the order to step out with the tackle fall, when a ship fills and makes sail after weighing and the call when a ship starts on the slipways on launching.  ‘Away there!’ was the call for a boat’s crew.  ‘Away with it!’ was the order to walk swiftly with a tackle fall.
Away … – A short pipe call followed by the name of the boat as it leaves the side, such as ‘Away gig’.

Away Galley – A piping-the-side call followed by the words ‘away galley’ as the galley was leaving the ship’s side.

A-weather – Towards the weather or windward side, from where the wind blows, short for ‘a-weather of’.  cf Alee.
Aweigh – 1. A-trip, of an anchor. The point of time when the anchor lifts off the bottom, thus transferring its weight onto the hawser.  2. The vessel is under way.

Awkward squad – Nickname for a division formed of men to whom the skills of seamanship seem impossible to master.
Awning – 1. Temporary covering rigged above the deck on stanchions and suspended from a crowfoot, as protection from the sun or rain.  2. The part of the poop deck that projected beyond the doors of the poop cabins, to shelter the wheel and the binnacle.  3. Piecrust, particularly one made by the mess cook.
Axe – A commonly used heavy sharp-edged tool or weapon.
Axes - Centres of action of rolling, pitching and yawing motions.  The plural of axis.
Axial pin – Pin through the centre of blocks and sheaves.
Axiometer – Helm indicator showing how much helm was being applied – usually expressed as how much helm was ‘on’.
Axis – Centre of action of rolling, pitching and/or yawing motions.
Axle-trees – 1. The cross pieces of a gun carriage, particularly prone to rot away.  2. The spindle of a chain-pump.
Ay – Yes.
Aye-aye! - General reply or acknowledgement to order, etc., followed by “Sir” in the Royal Navy, or else!  Reply to Watchman’s or Boat Challenge if boat contained officers below post rank.
Aylet – The sea swallow.
Aylon, Lucas Vasquez de – (1475-1526) Spanish adventurer, credited with the dubious distinction of being the man who introduced African slaves on to mainland North America.
Ayont – Beyond.
Ayr – A bank of sand.
Ayscue, Sir George – (c.1610-71) English admiral who served both King Charles I and the Commonwealth.
Azimuth – The horizontal angle, or direction; i.e. the point of compass.  The bearing of a celestial body.

Azimuth Compass - Mariner’s compass with vertical sights, used for taking magnetic azimuth of a heavenly body.  An improved version was invented by Adams in 1795.
Azimuth Ring – Attachment for binnacle compass, or similar, through which the observer looked, to line up on heavenly bodies.
Azogue - Spanish for quicksilver.  Hence, Azogues were Spanish ships fitted out for carrying quick-silver.
Azores – A group of islands in the north Atlantic, approximately 900 miles west of Portugal, the scene of frequent conflict between neighbouring nations at war.
Azure – The usual term for the deep blue colour of a cloudless sky.

­­Baartze – Early Dutch sailing ship with oars, similar to early cog.

Baas – Old term for a Dutch merchant skipper.
Babbing – Catching crabs with a baited line.
Baboon watch – The man detailed to stand watch whilst the other crewmen were off duty.  From the name ‘baboon’ often given to one of the apprentices.

Bacallao – Spanish name for the Newfoundland area, that gave rise to the name used for salted cod-fish from there.
Bace - Canister shot or Langrel.
Bachot – Small French river ferry, operated by the bachoteur (ferryman).
Back – 1. Keel. e.g. ‘broke her back’ meant a broken keel.  2. To ‘back an anchor’ was to set a small anchor to help the main anchor and prevent its coming home.  3. To ‘back a ship at anchor’ was to use the mizzen topsail to hold her head whilst at anchor.  4. To ‘back and fill’ was the action of the sails being alternately filled and emptied of wind, often to get ahead against the wind and in narrow channels. 5. To ‘back a sail’ was to let the wind blow into the front of the sail, to slow or stop the ship. 6. To ‘back astern’ was to row a boat backwards.  7. To ‘back a rope or chain’ was to assist it with a preventer, to stop it breaking.  8. To ‘back water’ was to proceed backwards in the water.  9. To ‘back a worming’ meant to attach a small line in the crevasses of a worming, to prevent the ingress of water, and to make the wormed surface smooth.  10. When the wind changes, contrary to its usual course, it is said to ‘back’.  11. The convex part of a compass-timber.
Back astern – To push on a boat’s oars to give her stern way.

Back a strand – To fill a gap made between strands, when making a long splice.
Back board – 1. The board across the back of a boat, just in front of a boat’s transom, against which the coxswain leans when steering, or supporting the passengers’ backs.  2. Early name for larboard, so named because the helmsman’s back was to it.
Back cloths – Triangular pieces of canvas fixed to each quarter of a topsail yard, for stowing the bunt of a topsail.
Backer-in – The crew member of a line-smack who stood in a small boat at the stern, coiling the fishing lines back after the boardsman has removed the fish.

Back-frame – The driving wheel of a small rope machine.
Back in – To take a boat in through surf backwards to prevent it broaching-to and capsizing.

Backing – 1. The action of taking the wind from the front, thus stopping the ship, by losing motive power.  2. Endorsement of Impress Warrant by local Magistrates.  3. The wind altering direction anti-clockwise.  4. The wood behind the armour-plating of iron-clad ships.

Back off – To retreat from danger.  When a harpoonist had thrown his harpoon into a whale, the order was given “back off all”, and smart compliance was favourable.
Back rope – A rope or chain used for staying the dolphin striker, leading inboard of the martingale.
Back sailing – Box-hauling, by hauling the mainsail or mizzen boom to windward and so forcing the vessel’s head onto a new tack.

Backshore – The area of shore above the normal high tide level, that gets wet only in extreme conditions.

Back, Sir George – (1796-1878) British admiral and Arctic explorer.
Back splice – A splice used to finish off a rope end.
– A mooring line attached to the forward part of a vessel and to a buoy or mooring point astern, to prevent her turning at anchor.

Backstaff – Davis’s quadrant (late 16c), used to take altitudes at sea, with the observer’s back to the sun.
Backstay - Rope rigged from mastheads to ship’s sides, used in helping shrouds in support of masts against the thrust of the sails, rigged from the mast heads to the sides of the ship aft of the mast.

Backstay channel – Channel on ship’s side, onto which backstays are fixed.
Backstay plates – Metal plates on the hull, to which the deadeyes and lanyards at the lower ends of the backstays are attached.
Backstay stools – Separate small channels, fixed abaft the main channels, used to avoid extending the latter.
Back strapped – Said of a ship held back by adverse winds and tides, particularly when trying to enter the Straits of Gibraltar.
Back sweep – Forms the hollow of the top-timber.
Backwash – The backward current of a receding wave and downward movement of water under surf.
Backwater – 1. Water flowing from behind or the swell of sea thrown back by the motion of the ship.  2. The motion of a ship moving backwards.  3. An arm of the sea, or a creek, separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land.

Bad-Berth – A poor anchorage.
Badge – The decorative ornament particular to a ship, usually in the form of a carved and painted frame to a window, or the ornamental stern framing the cabin window of smaller sailing ships.  Sometimes used to create the imitation of a frigate-built ship.
Badger Bag – The name given to Neptune, who traditionally visits the ship on her crossing the line.
Bad name – Something to be avoided by a ship, not always easily.
Bad relief – One who reluctantly, and slowly, turns out to relieve the watch on deck.
Baessy – Early name for the Base gun.
Baffin, William – (1584-1622) English navigator and explorer, famous for his expeditions in search of the North West passage, and for Baffin Bay, which is named after him as the discoverer.
Baffling – Said of a constantly changing wind.
Baft-mast - Opposite to fore-mast.
Bag – 1. A term of quantity of merchandise.  2. To ‘bag on a bowline’ was to drop leeward from a course.
Bag and baggage – The whole removable property.
Baggage – 1. Passengers’ belongings.  2. Female companion, usually of the less respectable kind.
Baggala – Two-masted lateen rigged dhow.
Baggywrinkle – A protective serving used to prevent chafing of sails, etc., made from off cuts of old manila ropes tied and bunched tightly together onto two lengths of marline, or a wrapping of sennit around a rope to protect it from chafing. Sometimes seen as ‘bag-o’-wrinkle’.
Baghla – A large dhow.
Bag piping the mizzen – Hauling forward of the mizzen sheet, to weather, to make a back sail out of it, when moored with a wind or tide athwart or to bring the vessel to a stop.

Bag reef - The fourth or fifth reef, used to prevent sails from bagging when on the wind.  Probably sometimes called bog reefs.
Bag shanty – Red light district bar.

Baguio – A tropical revolving storm originating in the Philippine Islands.

Bag wig – An 18c wig with the back-hair enclosed in a bag.
Bahar – A measure of weight used in various parts of the Far East.
Baikak – Inland wooden cargo barge used on the River Dniepr (now in Ukraine) in the 19c.
Bail, Bale – 1. Bulwarks of a boat.  2. A bucket or similar utensil for bailing water from a boat.  3. To use a bailer, i.e. to remove water by lading. 4. A surety.
Bailer – A wooden handled scoop used to empty water from a boat.  Or anything used for this purpose.

Bail-bond – An obligation by one representing another to be responsible for the latter.  In prize matters it was an assurance that the courts adjudgement would be accepted.
Baily, Edward Hodges – (1788-1867)  British sculptor of the statue of Lord Nelson which stands atop Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.
Bainbridge, William – (1774-1833) American naval officer, most famous as captain of the USS Constitution, when she duelled with, and beat, HMS Java, in 1812.
Bait – The charge of a fishing hook.
Baitland – Cant word for a port where refreshments would be available.
Bakhuysen, Ludolph – (1631-1708) Dutch marine painter.
Bakker – Dutch inventor of the camel, use to raise sunken vessels.
Balance – 1. Gather the slack at the peak or clew of a fore-and-aft sail and lash it to the yard or boom, to reduce sail.  2. To reduce a lateen sail by lowering the yard and rolling some of the sail onto it.

Balance frames – A ship’s wooden frames of equal area, about the centre of gravity of the ship.

Balanced lug – A lug sail with the lower edge attached to a boom that stays on the same side of the mast when tacking, despite the yard dipping around it.  Also French lug.

Balanced rudder - A rudder supported partway aft of the forward edge, thus not self-centring and easier to turn and hold.
Balanced rudder - A rudder configured with its stock away from the leading edge, so as to balance the pressure between the forward and after areas and so reducing the power needed to turn the rudder.

Balance reef – A reef used in the spanker, from the nock to the after end of the top horizontal reef.
Balancing band – A band with a shackle, fixed to the shank at the centre of gravity of an anchor, so that it will hang horizontally when suspended on a cable attached to it.

Balancing point – The centre of gravity.
Balboa, Vasco Nuñez de – (c.1475-1517) Spanish explorer and adventurer, most widely known as the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean.
Balcony – The open stern gallery of old line-of-battle ships.
Bald headed – A ship that had no sails above topgallants, with a spike bowsprit, a square sail set on the crossjack and no fore-and-aft mizzen.
Bald-header – A ship carrying no sails above topgallants, etc.
Baldrick – A sword belt.
Bale – A package of soft goods or stores wrapped in burlap and secured by ropes or straps.  Hence, bale goods, to denote merchandise so packed.
Baleen – Springy bone taken from the mouth of a Baleen Whale.
Bale Goods – Cargo packed in bundles as distinct from crates or casks.

Bale sling – A rope loop joined with a short splice then served with spun yarn over the splice.

Bale space – The volume of a vessel’s cargo hold.

Balestilha – An early Portuguese cross-staff used for navigation.
Balinger - 1. 14-15c clinker-built galley of 50ish tons, used for cargo.  Originally based on Basque whalers.  Probably amongst the first to use stern rudders.  2. A sloop used as a whaler or coaster.
Balister – Crossbowman.
Balk – A rough-hewn beam of Baltic timber.
Balker – 1. A temperance man, or non-drinker who declined his daily grog or beer issue. 2. A man who stood on cliff or promontory and directed the fishing fleet by semaphore to where he could see the shoals.  Sometimes spelt ‘balkar’.

Ball – A missile fired from cannon.
Ballahou – A Caribbean fast-sailing schooner.  Also ballyhoo.
Ballarag – To bully.
Ballast - Weight added to a vessel to achieve stability by keeping the centre of gravity low and to give a good firm base to barrels when stowed.  Sailing ships usually ballasted with shingle, or iron ingots, or both (shingle:iron, 4:1), tightly packed into the bottom of a ship, brought into dockyards by a local contractor. Usually removed from ship prior to entering dry-dock and reballasted after being refloated.  Thus ‘in ballast’ usually meant sailing with ballast only, and no cargo.  Also, “He can’t half carry some ballast” means he can hold his booze well.
Ballastage - Dues charged for ballast, surrendered to Trinity House in 1594, by Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral at the time.
Ballast Basket – A basket used to carry shingle ballast, but also often used by the gunner to carry loose ammunitions.

Ballast Lighter – A barge used for heaving up and carrying ballast.

Ballast mark – The horizontal line marked by the water on a ship’s side, when immersed with her normal weight of ballast aboard.

Ballast Master – The port official responsible for administrating ballast.
Ballast Ports – Holes low in the sides of a merchant vessel for loading ballast.  It was important that these ports were securely sealed before the vessel went to sea.

Ballast Shooting – The jettisoning of ballast into the sea before loading a cargo.  Bad practice later made illegal in home waters, and in many others.

Ballast trim – The trim of a vessel when only carrying ballast.
Ball clay – A sticky mass brought up by the anchor.  Sometimes used to make clay pipes.  The latter used also by marines to whiten their uniform cross-straps, etc., to the great amusement of the seamen.
Balleny, John – (mid 19c) British sealing captain who discovered the Balleny Islands, in 1839, the first proof of land inside the Antarctic Circle.
Ball off – To twist rope yarns into a ball with a running end which was used to make spun-yarn.
Ballooning - The action of a course or sail catching the wind and pulling loose, possibly through hauling up a weather clew first.
Ballow – The deep water inside a bar or shoal.
Ball, Sir Alexander John – (1757-1809) British rear admiral.  One of Nelson’s ‘band of brothers’.
Balluster, baluster – External uprights supporting the rails of galleries, quarterdecks, etc.
Ballyhoo - A two-masted vessel with masts raked in opposite directions, formerly occurred in the West Indies, thus also any slovenly craft.
Balsa – The Spanish word for “float”, first applied to South American rafts and then to the wood from which they were built.
Baltic – The northern sea bounded by Scandinavia and Europe.
Baltic Merchant - Elizabethan queen’s agent who negotiated with Hansa merchants for naval stores (masts, cordage, etc.).
Baltimore Clipper – Fast American topsail schooner.
Band – 1. Generic term for a strap around a mast or spar used to hold it together and to fasten various tackles.  2. A strip of canvas sewn across the vulnerable parts of a sail for added strength.  3. The musicians of a ship.
Banderole –
A long narrow flag or streamer, often on a pike.
Band of Brothers – The popular name given by Nelson to the captains serving under him in the Mediterranean Fleet of 1798.
Bang – A narcotic concoction of opium, hemp and tobacco enjoyed by Malays, to their behavioural detriment.

Bange – Light rain.
Bangles – The hoops of a spar.
Banian – 1. See Banyan Days.  2. A sailor’s coloured shirt.  3. The Banian Tree  ficus indica grows in India and Polynesia.
Bank – 1. Shelving of the sea bed near the coast.  2. The manned oars along one side of a boat.

Banker - A cod-fishing ship working on the Bank of Newfoundland.
Bank Harbour – A harbour protected from violent seas by banks of shingle or mud or similar.

Banking – Working a Banker.
Banks, Sir Joseph – (1743-1820) Wealthy amateur scientist who accompanied Captain Cook on his Pacific expedition in 1768-76, and later became President of the Royal Society.
Bankshall – Office of a harbour master.
Bank weather - Fog.  From the outer banks off north America, where fog is normal.

Banner – A small square-edged fringed flag.
Banneret - The officer commanding a squadron of knights.
Banner of the King Death – The correct name for the pirates’ flag usually known as the ‘skull and crossbones’.  It comprised a black flag with skulls, skeletons, crossbones, hour glasses and bleeding hearts in various designs.

Bannock – A type of hard ship’s biscuit.
Banquet - Early use of the word included desserts, such as sweetmeats and wine.

Bantling – A bastard.

Banyan – Loose shirt of Indian origin.
Banyan Days – The name for days on which no meat was served to the crew, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from an East Indian sect who would not kill or eat flesh and whose robes were made of Banian.  Fast days that later came to mean feast days, due to the sailors’ habit of saving up a few treats to compensate for the lack of meat, and so any day when a crew are given some sort of treat, or a surprise day’s shore leave.  Abolished 1825.
Baptism – A riotous ceremony inflicted on those first crossing the line of the equator.
Bar – 1. A natural barrier of sand or mud causing shallows, often shifting, across a harbour entrance or river mouth.  2. A piece of wood or iron used in various applications, as an aid to leverage.
Barbarising – Cleaning a deck by swabbing it with sand and cleansing powder.

Barbadoes tar – A mineral fluid bitumen.
Barbados Water – An alternative name for rum.
Barbarossa – The name of a series of various 16c Mediterranean sea-rovers who became a nuisance through their attacks on Christian ships.
Barbary – The Mediterranean north west coast of Africa, particularly Algiers, noted for its pirates or corsairs.
Barbers – Hair cutters.  Usually a rating on board ship.
Barber, The – The low fog off Halifax, North America, which, coupled with northern winds, cuts one to the bone.

Barbette – A platform for guns in an ironclad ship, to enable them to fire over the parapet.
Barbican - The outwork defending the gates of a castle.
Barbotin – Capstan with recesses in the base, designed to accept the links of the cable, named after its French inventor.
Bar buoy – A buoy marking a harbour bar.
Barca – A Spanish or Italian bark.
Barca longa – A Spanish fishing boat with three masts, each with a lugsail.  Also Barque Longue.
Barcaruolo – An Italian boatman.
Barces – Early large bore short guns used on ships.
Bareca, bareka – See barrico or breaker.
Bare Boat Charter – A charter of a ship without her crew and with few restrictions as to her use by the charterer.  Also sometimes Bare Pole Charter.
Bare Navy – A poorly victualled ship, in which there were no little extras.
Bare poles – The state of a ship when all sails have been taken in, due to heavy winds.
Barents, Willem – (c.1550-97) Dutch navigator and explorer, known mostly for his Arctic exploration, in seeking a northern route to India, or the north east passage.
Barfleur – Famous sea battle of 1692, between an Anglo-Dutch and a French fleet, to the great disadvantage of the latter.
Barge – 1. The second of a ship’s boats, usually reserved for the Captain’s use.  2. A ceremonial state vessel, propelled by rowers.  3. A form of large coastal merchant sailing vessel.  4. A flat wooden mess table dish for bread or biscuit.
Bargee – One who mans a trading barge.  Those who rowed the captain’s or the state barges were usually picked men and known as rowers.
Barge mate – The officer of a barge, when it carries an important passenger.
Bargemen – Sailor’s slang for weevils, found in the bread barge.

Barge pole – A long ironclad heavy pole used on a barge to fend off other vessels or to push off from an obstruction, hence ‘would not touch with a barge pole’.

Bargue sterer – Burgoo stirrer (dialect).
Bark, Barque – Three masted sailing ship, square-rigged on fore and main masts, lateen rigged on mizzen mast.  In early times this name was given to any ship of reasonable size.
Bar keel – A keel made up from flat iron bars, joined end-to-end and overlapping, onto which the garboard strake flanges were fixed.
Barkentine, Barquentine – A ship with the foremast square-rigged and the main and mizzen masts fore-and-aft rigged.
Barkers – Lower deck guns and pistols.
Barkey – The generic name given by a seaman to his ship.

Barking – The treatment given to the sails of fishing and other vessels, as a preservative, giving them their red, brown or yellow appearance.  See Cutch.
Barking irons – Large duelling pistols.
Barking Smack – Early fishing trawler.
Barm skin – An oilskin apron worn by fishermen.

Barnacle – Shelled sea creature that sticks itself to ships’ hulls, and anything else usually under water.  The cause of serious drag to ships if not cleaned off regularly.
Barnacle paint - Early anti-fouling paint, used to discourage the growth of barnacles.
Barn door rudder – A tall narrow rudder.
Barney’s Bull – A figure in marine proverbs, very popular in marine repartee, but not usually in polite company.
Barometer – An instrument used to find the atmospheric pressure, on which weather predictions could be based, invented in 1643 by Torricelli.
Barque – See Bark.
Barque Longue – Original name for a corvette, from a Spanish fishing boat.  Also Barca Longa.
Barquentine – See Barkentine.
Barrack Stanchion – The term used for an officer or rating who spends long periods in the shore barracks.
Barracoon – Enclosure for slaves prior to selling on to slave trader.
Barratry – Theft from cargo by captain or crew.
Barrel – 1. Cylindrical wooden container used for most cargo or stores on board.  See casks, kegs, etc.  2. A commercial measure of 31½ gallons. 3. The main cylindrical body of a capstan, mounted on a vertical spindle, with sockets in the top rim into which the capstan bars are inserted and pawls in a rim at the base.  4. The barrel of the wheel was the cylinder around which the tiller ropes were wound.  5. The tube of small arms through which the projectiles are fired.

Barrel Builder – A cooper.

Barrel-bulk – A measure of bulk, equal to five cubic feet, used to judge the carrying capacity of a ship.
Barrel, to be over – When a sailor was flogged he was either seized up, or tied, to a grating or a mast or the barrel of a cannon.

Barricade – 1. A stout rail fence across quarterdeck  Sometimes also called the barricado.  2. Fenders.
Barricado – A ship’s tender, or odd job boat, in harbour.
Barrico, barricoe – Pronounced, and sometimes spelt, “breaker”.  An 8 gallon keg or container into which rum is poured and conveyed from the Spirit Room, for the grog issue, or used as a small water cask carried in a boat.

Barrier reef – Offshore reef formed by coral growth, separated from land by a deep channel.
Barron, James – (1768-1851) American naval officer, most widely known as the captain of USS Chesapeake, who tried to surrender to HMS Leopard when the latter stopped her to search for deserters.  One of the incidents that eventually led to the war of 1812, between Britain and America.
Barrow, Sir John – (1764-1848) British statesman who, for forty years, from 1801, was a greatly trusted second secretary to the Admiralty, and a biographer of some acclaim.
Barry, John – (c.1745-1803) American naval officer, born in Ireland, who was the senior officer of the US Navy from its inception in 1794, until his death.
Bar-shot – Ammunition used to inflict damage on spars and rigging, comprising two hemispheres joined by a bar that would spin in flight.
Bart, Jean – (1650-1702) French naval officer who became a famous commerce raider and privateer.
Base – 1. Lowly.  2. Rear part of a cannon between the knob and the base ring.  3. A small 16-17c cannon that fired a six ounce shot.
Basilicon – An ointment considered to be a supreme curative.

Basilisk – A long 48 pound cannon.
Basin – An enclosed area of water with constant depth that could be used as a safe anchorage.  Most often applied to such areas equipped to serve ships with goods and repairs.

Basket Hilt – The protective whole-hand guard of a cutlass.

Basking Shark – The largest fish, named for its habit of lying on the surface of the water.
Basque Roads, Battle of – Famous battle of 1809, between British and French squadrons.  It was a victory to the British, but the leader of the attacking British ships, Captain Lord Cochrane, complained afterwards about the excessive caution of his commanding admiral, Lord Gambier, which he claimed prevented destruction of the French squadron.  His continuing stand on this matter contributed to the ruin of Cochrane’s naval career in the Royal Navy.
Bass - A type of sedge or rush used to make rough rope and matting.
Bass, George – (1771-1802) English naval surgeon, naturalist and explorer, known for his surveys of the Australian coast, including the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Australia, named after him.
Bassos – Old name for shoals or rocks awash.
Bastard – A piece of ordnance of non-standard proportions.

Bat – Anglo-Saxon term for boat.

Batavia - Original name for Djakarta, named for its Dutch rulers, who were called Batavian, after the island Batawe, between the Rhine and the Waal.  Hence also, Batavian, for a product of Batavia.
Batchelor’s Delight – Famous 17c Caribbean pirate ship, named by John Cook from his band having earlier swapped a ship for sixty slave girls, who sailed with them in this ship.
Bateau – A long French river boat.
Bateau Cannonier – French name for a ship’s gunnery officer.
Bateloe – A Brazilian river boat, used to transport latex.
Batillage – An old term for boat-hire.

Bat-Swain – The original Anglo-Saxon for boatswain.

Battard – An early small cannon.
Batten down – To securely close hatches against bad weather, by covering their gratings with tarpaulin and firmly fixing them all round by battens wedged into the coamings.

Battened sail – A sail, more usually found on smaller yachts, fitted with batten or splines of wood, running horizontally, to keep the sail taut and to help with its handling on heavy weather.

Batten observations – A way of determining the extent by which a vessel rolls by means of reading where the sea horizon cuts across a vertical batten fixed near the ship’s side.

Battens – 1. Wooden strips nailed to masts and spars to prevent chafing.  2. A bar from which hammocks are slung.  3. Thin wooden or iron bars used to tightly secure hatch covers.
Battery – An onshore emplacement of cannon.
Battle – 1. A big fight, between fleets or single ships.  2. The central squadron of a fleet.
Battledore – A fitting installed through the cable bitts and projecting at the sides, used to keep the cable in place.

Battledored – Knocked back and forth by the sea and winds, from the racquet game of ‘Battledore and Shuttlecock’.

Battle lantern – Lantern kept in a fire-bucket, for use in night action.  Usually one for each gun.  Also Fighting Lanterns.
Battle honours – The names of battles in which the ship has taken part.
Battle ship – Modern name for a Line-of-Battle Ship, which was usually called a Ship of the Line.
Battle royal – A right noisy affair.
Battle the watch - To cope with a difficulty as well as possible by ones own efforts.
Baulk – A large timber beam used in ship construction.
Bawley – A small Kentish or Essex coastal fishing vessel.
Baw-burd – An old expression meaning larboard.
Bay – 1. Indentation of the sea into the land.  2. ‘The Bay’ usually referred to the Bay of Biscay.  3. The area between decks, in front of the bitts, usually referred to as the starboard and larboard bays.
Bayamo – A violent squall off the southern coast of Cuba.
Bay ice – New sea ice.  See Ice.
Bayle – A bucket.
Baymen - Men from the Bay of Campeche, in the Gulf of Mexico, renowned for their usefulness as seamen.
Bayonet – Small flat bladed weapon attached to long barrelled firearms, as they would originally fire just once and then be useless until they could be recharged and reloaded.  The bayonet consequently converted  a    club into a stabbing weapon.
Bayou – Swampy flatland and streams near the coast of southern US.
Bay-salt - Salt from Baye in France, used by some fishermen to preserve their catch.
Bay, Sick - Place of work of the ship’s surgeon, usually located in the orlop or main deck, in a dark unventilated space.
Bazaros – A Ganges pleasure-boat.
Beach – The shore.  To ‘beach’ a boat meant to run it up the beach with sufficient force for it to stay there.  To ‘beach’ a man was to land and desert him, a form of punishment ‘enjoyed’ by pirates.  ‘On the beach’ referred to a sea officer or seaman out of work.
Beachcombers – Harbour loiterers and main-chancers.
Beach-head – A land attack from the sea, having landed and holding position.
Beach-master – The officer in charge of the landing of an attacking force.
Beach men – Boatmen who ferried passengers through the heavy surf of a beach, where no more convenient landing place occurred.
Beach-rangers – Beach-combers who have been turned out of ships for bad behaviour.
Beach-trampers – A slang name for the coast-guard.
Beachy Head – Sea battle of 1690, between an Anglo-Dutch and a French fleet, in which great damage was sustained by both sides, mostly to the English.
Beacon – 1. A post erected to warn of a bank or shoal.  2. A bonfire, often raised in a byre, used to signal.  A chain of fire beacons was usually prepared and manned along stretches of coast threatened by invasion or attack.
Beaconage – Payments for the maintenance of beacons.
Beagle, HMS – The famous brig sent to survey the Magellan Strait in 1825 and later used by Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery.  Keel laid 1818, 1825 1st commission as survey ship, 1828 2nd ditto, 1831 3rd ditto, Darwin unpaid naturalist.  1840 4th ditto, 1841 5th ditto, 1845 decommissioned, 1870 broken up.
Beak – Originally a projection at the prow of early galleys, but later came to mean a small platform at the fore     part of the upper deck.  More correctly called beakhead.
Beaked – Pointed or hooked.
Beakhead – Small platform at fore part of upper deck, in front of the forecastle.  In early vessels of war this was shaped into a threatening pointed shape.  See also Boarding platform, and Heads.
Beakhead Beam – See Cat-Beam.

Beakhead bulkhead – Separation of the beakhead from the hull interior.
Beam – 1. Large horizontal transverse timber holding the ship’s sides together and supporting the decks above.  2. The width of the ship.  3. Sideward direction: lee or weather beam; starboard beam, etc.  4. ‘On her beam ends’ means the ship referred to is over on her side. 5. ‘Land on Port Beam’ means land has been seen on the port side.  6. ‘Beam On’ means at the side.  7. ‘Before the beam’ refers to any object ahead of an imaginary line drawn at right angles to the midship-beam.
Beam arm – See crow-foot.
Beam ends – The position of a vessel that is listing to the point where its deck beams are nearly vertical and it is unlikely to recover.

Beam fillings – 1. Small items of cargo stowed in the spaces between the beams and just under the deck.  2. Loose boards between the beams to prevent the surface movement of a bulk grain cargo.

Beam knee – A heavy timber, shaped in a right-angle, forming the connection between a beam and the vessel’s side.
Beam hooks – Heavy hooks used to raise hatch covers.

Beam line – The line visible on a ship’s side, indicating the upper sides of her beams.
Beam of the anchor – Anchor stock.
Beam reach – Modern term replacing ‘sailing with the wind abeam’.
Beam sea - See head sea
Beam shelf – Large horizontal timber onto which deck beams sit.
Beam trawl – A trawl net that was dragged along the sea bed, with a heavy beam at its mouth, to keep it down.

Beam wind – A wind coming directly from abeam.
Beamy – Wide; broad beamed.
Bean-cod – A Mulletta, a type of small sailing vessel.  An English seaman’s name for it, in jest, after its shape resembling a bean.
Bear – 1. To ‘lie off’ or head in a certain direction. 2. ‘Bear up’: let the ship sail to leeward.  Also, applied to a seaman who has served for a commission without success and consequently leaves the service  3. To ‘bear up round’ was to put a ship right before the wind.  4. ‘Bear down’ is to approach from windward.  5. ’Bear away’: to head off with the wind, usually in a squall, in order to reduce relative wind speed.  Similar to ‘bear up’.  6. ‘Bring to bear’: aim and range guns.  7. ‘Bear a Hand’: quickly join in on the task at hand.  8. To ‘bear of from’ or ‘in with’ meant standing off or going towards the land.  9. A large block of stone covered with matting and weighted with shot, pulled to-and-fro by means of ropes, to scrape the decks clean.  Sometimes just a coir mat filled with wet sand was similarly used and so named.
Bear a bob – Lend a hand.
Bear a hand – To assist of give help.

Bear away – 1. To change a ship’s course to make her run before the wind.  Also bear up.  2. A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm pulled so that the vessel may go large before the wind.  Also ‘bear up the helm’, or ‘up with the helm’.

Beard – Lower facial hair, usually worn as a sartorial statement, originally not allowed by The Admiralty, but after being copied from the Army in the Crimean War, and after pressure on The Admiralty from Queen Victoria, they were allowed after 1869, if kept tidy. Chief popularity did not occur until the Second World War.
Bearding – The fore-part of the rudder and the corresponding bevel of the stern post.  Also the process of removing timbers from a vessel’s hull to modify it.
Bearding line – The brim of a vessel.
Bear down – 1. To approach another vessel, usually threateningly, from windward.  2. To keep closer to the wind.

Bearers – 1. Thwartship timbers immediately above the keelson of a ship or in the stern sheets of a boat.  2. Supports for the carpenters stages.
Bearing – 1. The direction of ship’s travel, or compass point. 2. The direction of one fixed object from another measured from a reference direction in degrees.

Bearing Binnacle – A small secondary binnacle with just one compass.

Bearing out – Crutching of the weather breast backstay to outrig it from the channel, to give better lateral pull.
Bearing plate – A plate used to take relative bearings.
Bearings – 1. The line on the ship’s side marked by the water level when she is fully loaded and manned and correctly trimmed.  2. One was ‘brought to his bearings’ if he was persuaded to see reason.
Bear off – The order given to a boat’s bowman to cast off the painter and push the bow off from the ship or wharf.  Also shove off.

Bear’s hole – Swedish name for the Lubbers’ hole, in the tops.
Bear up – To change a ship’s course to make her run before the wind.  Also bear away.

Bear up the helm – A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm pulled so that the vessel may go large before the wind.  Also up with the helm, or bear away.

Beat – (v) To make a series of tacks or legs to windward to make progress.

Beaten back – Forced to return to port in foul weather.
Beating the booby – Beating hands in cold weather, to increase the blood circulation.
Beating the Retreat
– Ceremony at the end of the day to note cessation of hostilities until morning reveille.      Also ‘Setting the Watch’.
Beating wind – A contrary wind that forces the ship to make her way by tacking.
Beat to Quarters“Hearts of Oak” played as a drum call to the crew to stop work and attend at their assigned positions for fighting the ship, i.e. ‘At Quarters’.  Also ‘beat to arms’.
Beaufort, Sir Francis – (1774-1857) British rear admiral who served as Hydrographer of the Navy from 1829 to 1855.
Beaufort Scale – Scale devised in 1806 by Francis Beaufort, when he was Captain (he later became a rear admiral) of HMS Woolwich, to describe wind speed, as shown in the table below.

Scale Wind Speed (Knots) Wind Sail Carried (Typically) State of Sea
0 0-1 Calm None useful Smooth
1 1-3 Light Air Just sufficient to give steerage way Ripple
2 3-5 Light Breeze For speed of 1-2 Knots Wavelets
3 5-10 Gentle Breeze For speed of 3-4 Knots Crests begin to break
4 10-15 Moderate Breeze For speed of 5-6 Knots Crests break frequently
5 15-20 Fresh Breeze All plain sail to royals Moderate waves
6 20-25 Strong Breeze Topgallants over single reefed topsails Large waves
7 25-35 Moderate Gale Double reefed topsails Waves streaked with foam
8 35-40 Fresh Gale Treble reefed topsails and courses Spindrift and much foam
9 40-45 Strong Gale Close reefed topsails and fore course Overhanging crests
10 45-55 Whole Gale (Storm) Close reefed main topsail and reefed fore course Sea completely covered with foam
11 55-65 Storm (Great Storm) Storm staysails Air filled with flying spray
12 over 65 Hurricane Can show no canvas

Becalm – To prevent the wind on a sail, usually by a high cliff to windward, or the sails on each other.
Becalmed – Condition of a ship having lost all wind, due to its dropping below Force One. Unable to make way due to a lack of sailing wind.

Bêche-de-Mer – The Holothuria, or sea-slug.  For some incomprehensible reason it is considered a great delicacy in the Far East.
Becket – 1. A loop of rope with an eye at one end and a walnut knot at the other, used to fasten.  2. A short length of rope with its ends spliced together.  3. A short rope with an eye splice at each end, used to fasten.  4. The eye at the base of a block, to which the standing end of a fall is fastened.  5. Short cordage loops attached to yard jack-stays, for a man to pass his arms through as a safety measure. 6. A short rope or a large iron hook, used to hold larger ropes.

Becket rowlock – A short length of rope holding an oar within its thole pins.  These are more common in surf boats where the oars can more often be forced out of place by the waves.

Becue – To make a rope fast to an anchor by first fastening it to the flukes and then lightly seizing it to the ring.  If the anchor gets caught on rocks, a jerk on the rope breaks the seizing and brings the anchor home by the flukes.
Becueing – A method of securing the anchor for use in hard ground, by taking the cable round a fluke or the crown and tying it to the ring with light seizing.  If the anchor fails to break ground normally the seizing can be broken by a sharp tug and the anchor hove up by its fluke.

Bed – 1. Timber supports placed under casks stowed in the hold to keep their bilges off the floor.  2. The base of any heavy object.

Bed block – Block of wood seating the fish davit.
Bed bolt – A bolt that passed horizontally through a gun carriage, on which the stool-bed rests.
Bedding a cask – Securing a cask in place by packing it with dunnage.
Bedlam – Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in London, for the insane.
Bed-of-Guns – Seamen’s term for a ship’s ordnance being considered too heavy for the scantlings to take.

Bed screws – Heavy equipment placed against the side of a ship to be launched, for starting her.  Also barrel screws.
Be-Dundered – Stupified with noise.

Bee – A hoop of metal.  ‘Bees of the bowsprit’ were pieces of hard wood fixed to the outside of the bowsprit, through which the foretopmast stays are rove before they are brought in to the bows to be secured.
Bee Block – A rectangular elm block with a sheave on the fore end and mortise in the aft end.  Two bee blocks would be bolted onto the sides of the bowsprit, with the bolts acting as the sheave pins.  The foretopmast stay and the spring stay would be reeved through the starboard and port sides respectively.

Beechey, Frederick William – (1796-1856) British rear admiral, noted for his good work in surveying and geography.
Beef – Salt beef was one of the staple foods for seamen.  Roast fresh beef was very popular when available.  It was also used as a term for strength.
Beef boat – Small craft used to deliver fresh meat to the fleet, usually when on blockade duty, recognised by a large bullock painted on the main sail.
Beef kid – A mess utensil, for carrying meat from the galley to the mess table.
Beer stowage – What it says.  See Cargo.
Beer – Small beer was a light beer or ale, often preferred by seamen to the rum ration, as they got eight pints a day and it was healthier for them, by providing some vital vitamins.  Beer ration was stopped in 1831.

Beer Tickets – Seamen’s term for money, especially when on a run ashore.
Beetle – 1. A heavy mallet used to drive reeming irons between deck seams when caulking.  2. Overhanging cliff.  Hence ‘beetle browed’, denoting a projecting forehead.
Before – In front of.  ‘Before the mast’ referred to a common seaman’s or petty officer’s position in life, originally from the fact that his accommodation on board was in the forecastle, or, at least, not in the cabins, which were situated aft. cf ‘made the quarterdeck’.  ‘Before the wind’ referred to fine sailing, with the wind behind one of the quarters.

Befoul – Make foul, or tangle with rope.
Beggar bolts – Seamen’s’ term for missiles thrown at attacking ships by galley-slaves.
Behaviour – Handling characteristics of the ship.
Behest – Request or command.
Behoveful - Elizabethan for advantageous.

Beitass – The luff spar on an old Viking ship.
Belay – 1. (v) To fasten a rope by turning it a few times round two timber-heads, or some similar fitting.  Tie off, came to mean ‘stop’.  “Belay there!” was the order to stop or desist.  Or just ”Belay!” – Stop right now, please. 2. A pipe call meaning: cease hauling and make fast.

Belaying pin – A short brass, iron or wood bar or pin, thickened at one end, that would be set vertically into a socket in a pinrail and about which a line would be secured.  The line could be quickly released by removing the pin from the socket.

Belaying-pin hash, A dose of - Beating to ‘cure’ slackness or insolence.
Belcher, Sir Edward – (1799-1877) British admiral, the subject of a turbulent career of action and       surveying.
Belee – Place a ship so as to cut her off from the wind.
Belfast rig – Late rig on a four master, with split topgallants on the front three masts.
Belfry – Ship’s bell housing, usually ornamental, positioned at the rail of the forecastle.  Larger ships sometimes had two belfries and bells, one forward and one aft.
Bell – At half hours of the Watch the ship’s bell was rung a set number of times, as scheduled below, to inform crew of the time, particularly for Watch changes, etc.  See Watches.

Bell rope - Short length of hand-rope attached to the clapper of a bell, by the pulling of which it is rung.

Bella Stella – Old name for the cross-staff.
Bell bow – A particular bow shape on some clippers.
Bell-buoy – An audible warning device, moored in a waterway to show the route of the navigable channel.  There was a famous one on the River Mersey.
Bell crank – Handle fixed to bell, to cause it to ring manually.
Belle Isle – Action in Quiberon Bay on 7 June 1761 at which the marines shone, and of which they remain proud.
Bellerophon, HMS – A famous Royal Naval ship in which Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland in 1815.  The ship was fondly known as ‘Billy Ruffian’ to British seamen.
Bell, Henry – (1767-1830) Scottish engineer who was a pioneer of steam engines in ships.
Bellin, Jacques Nicholas – (1703-72) French engineer who for 50 years was first engineer of the Depôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine, established in 1720.
Bellingshausen, Thaddeus Fabian von – (1779-1852) Russian naval officer, known for his explorations of Antarctic areas.

Bellows – An affectionate term for a seaman who knew his stuff and applied it well.

Bell-Rope – A short rope spliced onto the bell-crank, with a double wall-knot crowned at the end.

Bells – The number of times the ships’ bells were rung signified the times given below.

No. of Bells Times
1 00:30 04:30 08:30 12:30 16:30 18:30 20:30
2 01:00 05:00 09:00 13:00 17:00 19:00 21:00
3 01:30 05:30 09:30 13:30 17:30 19:30 21:30
4 02:00 06:00 10:00 14:00 18:00 20:00 22:00
5 02:30 06:30 10:30 14:30 22:30
6 03:00 07:00 11:00 15:00 23:00
7 03:30 07:30 11:30 15:30 23:30
8 04:00 08:00 12:00 16:00 24:00

Belly – 1. The swollen part of a sail, that is full of wind.  2. The main body of a fishing net.

Belly band – A reinforced band of canvas running horizontally across a square sail, halfway between the close reef and the foot.  Named after the belly of a sail, where it swells out in the wind.  Also middle band.

Belly halyard - An additional halyard rove through a block at the middle of a gaff, to give extra support.
Belly-guy – Extra support given to a warp put in a crippled mast. Bellying – 1. ‘Bellying canvas’ applied to a ship going free, when the belly and foot reefs are shaken out.  2. ‘Bellying to the breeze’ meant the sails were filling.  3. ‘Bellying to leeward’ meant too much sail was being carried.
– A lashing midway between the bowsprit-cap and the jib-boom band, to secure it in position.
Belly mat – See paunch mat.
Belly out – Of sails, to swell out.
Belly-Stay – A stay used half-mast down.
Belly timber - Food
– Not on deck.  ‘Go Below’ means to leave the deck.  ‘The Watch Below’ referred to the watch that was off duty.
Below!” – A warning called to those below when something is on the move gravitationally.
BelugaDelphinapterus leucas. The white whale.  In fact a member of the dolphin family, found in Northern Seas.
Benbow, John – (1635-1702) British admiral, known for his fiery attitude to his captains, they in turn getting into trouble for not being able to accept it.
Bench – 1. The seat across the rear of the Great Cabin or a boat. 2. The curved seat in a boat’s stern where the officer or guest sat in transit.

Bend – 1. The generic naval term for a knot.  2. The chock of the bowsprit.  3. (v) To tie or make fast.  4. To ‘bend to your oars’ was the order given to rowers to row a longer stroke. 5. To temporarily tie a rope to another.

“Bend” – The order given to attach parts of the rigging together.

Bending – Tying.
Bending shackle – The heavy shackle used to attach the anchor to its chain cable.

Bending slab - A heavy cast-iron plate with holes into which iron pegs, called dogs, would be placed in a pattern forming the shape of the frame member to be formed. The red-hot frame piece would be worked against the dogs, by means of mauls and squeegees, until it stays in the correct shape.
Bending the cable – Securing the cable to the anchor, by taking it through the anchor ring and round the bight, where it is seized into a clinch.

Bend on the tack – The distant line, that piece of rope used when hoisting signals to keep the flags the required distance apart.
Bend roll – A musket rest.
Bends – 1. Knots.  2. Wales; the thickest planks on a ship’s sides.  3. Disease of divers, caused by rapid decompression (uncommon in the days of sailing ships).
Bend sail – Attach a sail to its yard, spar or stay.

Beneaped – Said of a vessel that has run aground during periods of neap tides, or has been prevented from leaving a barred harbour until a corresponding period of higher tides occurs.  Also neaped.

Bengal lights – Blue lights, used to indicate the ship’s position to a boat.
Benjy – A low-crowned, wide-brimmed straw hat
Bent – 1 A signal flag is bent onto its halyard before hoisting.  2 A rope is bent onto another before being spliced to it.  3 Bent on a splice means about to get married.  4 Also slang term for being worn in with usage, particularly applied to sails.
Bentinck - A triangular, or narrow-footed course, with its foot extended by a boom that pivots about its centre, to help when going about, used as trysails, but superseded by storm staysails, except in the US where they were retained.
Bentinck-boom -.A boom stretching from the foot of a foresail, used to stretch the foresail foot and to help with adjustment of the sail.
Bentinck-foresail - A course with its foot extended by a bentinck-boom stretched between clews.
Bentinck shrouds – Additional shrouds rigged to support the mast when the vessel rolls, rigged from the weather futtock shrouds to the lee channels, up to mid 19c.
Bent on a splice – A seaman’s term for intending to get married.
Bent timbers – The shaped frames or ribs of a boat.

Benzoin – Incense from Sumatra.
Berg – An iceberg, or ice mountain, usually afloat.
Bergantina – A small Mediterranean rowing and sailing vessel, similar to a pinnace.
Beriberi – A disease often contracted by seamen, but confused with scurvy until the early 19c, when scurvy was under control, if not yet fully understood.  Beriberi was eventually ascribed to a deficiency of vitamin B1 and caused inflammation of the nerves and eventual heart failure.

Bering, Vitus – (1681-1741) Danish explorer of Arctic seas.
Bermuda rig – A small boat or yacht rig with raked mast short gaff long boom and bowsprit and a high tapering sail called Bermudian Mainsail.  Also called Bermudoes or Bermudian rig.
Bermuda Squall – A sudden violent storm from the Gulf Stream near Bermuda, preceded by heavy clouds, thunder and lightning.

Bermudians – Three-masted schooners built in Bermuda.

Bernouilli’s Principle – The modern understanding of how a ship can sail to windward, by the negative pressure generated by air flow on the leeward, forward aspect of the sail, thus sucking the ship forwards.
Berry, Sir Edward – (1768-1831) English rear admiral, one of Nelson’s ‘band of brothers’.
Bersis – An early sea cannon.
Berth – 1. A mooring against a dockside.  2. Convenient sea room when ships were swinging at anchor, as in ‘give a wide berth’ which meant to moor far enough apart.  3. Place where a ship is at anchor.  4. Place on board ship where a mess put their chests, etc., and hence where they sleep, mess and reside.  5. Sleeping place in a ship.  6. A job or position on board ship.

Berth deck – The ‘tween decks.
Berther – The person responsible for allocating places for hammocks to hang in.
Berthing – The action of applying the planks to the ship’s sides.
Berthings – The upright planking of the ship’s sides, especially outside the sheer strakes.
Berton – A ship-rigged round ship of the Mediterranean.

Berwick Smacks – Old seaworthy packets.
Beset – Immovably surrounded by ice.
Best bower anchor – The starboard and of the two principal anchors used every day. In fact the port bower, or small bower, was the same size.  See Anchor for details.
Bete – (v) Mend nets.

Betester – A person who does bete-ing.

Bethel- Seamen’s’ church or nonconformist chapel.
Better end - Bitter end
– Fishing nets that have been mended.

Between decks – The space between any two decks of a vessel, often called the ‘tween decks.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea – The devil was the outermost deck seam, up against the ship’s side (next to the sea).  If a seaman slipped on deck he could fall into the junction between the deck and the side and so be between the devil and the deep blue sea.  The expression evolved into that for a precarious choice between two evils.  See devil.
Between, or betwixt, wind & water – The point on a ship’s side which is just above the waterline.
Bevel (vb) - To hew a timber with the correct curve, as determined by the mould being laid along the working edge.
Bevelling – An alteration of an edge, away from square.  Also applied to the forming of a timber to a mould.
Bevelling board – A piece of board on which bevellings were described.
Beverage – A drink made of sugar-cane juice and water, in the West Indies.

Beverage wine – Watered-down wine.

Bewpers – High quality woollen material used to make sails and flags in 17c.  Sometimes called bewpars.
Bezan or Bizan rig – Small yacht rig, usually ketch rigged.
Bezan – Single-mast short gaff boom rig
Bezant – Small gold coin.
Bibbs – A bracket under the trestle-tree of a mast.  Also called cheeks.
Bible – 1. A hand axe.  2. Holystone used to scrub the decks.  So called through its resemblance in size and shape to a bible, in the religious sense.
Bible-leaves - A horse-piece of whale blubber, sliced repeatedly nearly through, to facilitate the trying out or boiling out of the whale oil.

Bible-Press – A hand rolloing board for preparing cartridge cases and similar.

Bidding – Solemn litany between Captain and crew at the commissioning ceremony.
Biddle, Nicholas – (1750-78) An American naval officer of great promise, who threw it all away by getting himself blown up with his ship Randolph whilst fighting the British ship HMS Yarmouth near Barbados.
Bicker – A flat bowl or basin used for carrying liquids.  Sometimes beaker.
Bid hook – A small boat-hook.
Biel brief – A Danish, Swedish or German bottomry contract.
Bight – 1. A turn or loop of rope.  2. The central part of a rope.  3. An area of sea between two promontories.

Big topsail – A type of square topsail rigged on yachts with a square yard above a gaff mainsail.
Big wigs – A disrespectful term for high officers.
Bilander – Two masted merchantman hoy used for Dutch coastal and canal traffic.
Bilbo – An old term for a flexible cutlass, from Bilbao where the best were made.
Bilbo Baggins – Fictional hero of ‘The Hobbit’, by J R R Tolkein.  He has no connections with the sea.
Bilboes – Heavy iron fetters used to restrain a felon under arrest, to the floor, just abaft the mainmast.

Bilge, bulge – 1. That part of a ship’s floor either side of the keel, where it starts to slope upwards, upon which a ship sits if grounded.  Hence: 2. The cavity between the ship’s sides and the keel, where water collects, and from which it is pumped out periodically.  3. The largest circumference of a cask.
Bilge blocks – Short heavy timbers used to support the bilges of a vessel in dry dock.
Bilge boards - Timber coverings over the bilges, used to stop bilge water getting out of and rubbish getting into the bilges.
Bilge coads – Sliding planks used when launching a ship.
Bilged, bulged – Said of a ship that has been holed in her bilge.
Bilge fever – Sickness caused by breathing vapours from a foul hold.
Bilge free – 1 Some cargo had to be stowed away from the bilge to avoid water damage.  See also ‘Bungs up and bilge free’. 2 Full of booze but not quite drunk enough to get caught.
Bilge keel – Horizontal length of plate and angle-bars fixed at right angles externally to the hull, at the turn of the bilge.  These reduced roll and added strength to the hull.  Sometimes called docking keels.
Bilge piece, or bilge rail – Wooden hand grips fixed to the outside of a boat’s bilge, to be used by the crew to hold on if the boat has capsized.

Bilge planks - Timber pieces used to reinforce the inside or outside of the bilges, to prevent damage.
Bilge pump – The main pump of a sailing ship, comprising a wooden tube extending from the bilge to the deck, where it was operated by the pump brake and two attached pistons.  Often simply called the pump.  Cf chain pump.

Bilge rail – See bilge piece.
Bilge rat – An unloved shipmate, usually because of his personal habits.
Bilge strake – The continuous horizontal row of plating at the turn of the bilge, extended the entire length of the vessel.
Bilge water – Water in the bilge, usually stagnant, so also anything that tastes unpleasant in the extreme.
Bilge trees – Bilge coads.
Bilge Water – Water that has entered the ship from rainfall or penetration and collected in the bilges, awaiting pumping out, and has usually become dirty and smelly.

Bilge water alarm – A clockwork bell located in the bilges that rings when the water level rises above a comfortable level.

Bilgeway - A timber laid longitudinally beneath the bilges of a ship under construction, as part of the cradle built to support the hull.
Bilious Fever – Yellow fever, or derangement of the bile.
Bill – 1. The fluke or triangular plate on anchor arms.  Also pea or peak.  2. An Elizabethan halberd or pike. (Cross ref with Halberd).  3. A point of land.
Billabillian – Crooked dealing, particularly amongst those in authority.
Bill block – Block on a ship’s side, onto which the anchor bill rested.
Billboard – A metal plate supporting the bill block attached to the cat-head to hold the anchor flukes when stowed.

Billet-figure - The figurehead of a whaler.  Also billet-head.
Billet-head – 1. A block of wood at the bow of a whale-boat, round which the harpoon line runs.  2. A simple figurehead usually in the shape of the end of a violin.  Sometimes called fiddlehead, or scrollhead.
Billet wood – Small pieces of wood used for dunnage or as fuel.
Billiboys - Goole?
Bill of Exchange – A document used to transfer money from one country to another.
Bill of Freedom – A pass for a neutral at time of war.
Bill of Health - A certificate issued at the port of departure, signifying no contagious disease on the ship, if ‘clean’.  Required by port authorities before berthing was permitted at port of arrival.
Bill of Lading
- A list of the cargo.
Bill of Sale - A document used to transfer ownership of a vessel.
Bill of Sight – A custom house officer’s warrant to examine goods.
Bill of Store
- A certificate issued by a custom house licensing a ship to carry stores for a voyage, custom-free.
Billow – An elevated and airy expression describing a swelling wave of the sea.
Bills – The ends of a compass or knee timber.
Billy Blue’ – Seamen’s nickname for Admiral Sir William Cornwallis.

Billy-Boy, Billyboy, – An east coast small barge type trading boat.  Also, Billy-boat.
Billy go tight’ – One of many nicknames for Admiral Sir William Cornwallis.
Billy Pitt’s men – See Lord Mayor’s men.
‘Billy Ruffian’ - HMS Bellerophon.
Billy-tackle – Portable tackle for tightening braces, etc.
Binding – A connecting timber.
Binding strake - A length of uniform width deck plank running front to back of the ship, into which the ends of parallel planking terminate.
Binge – To rinse out, or ‘bull’, a cask to prepare it for use.
Bingid – A locker.
Binn – A large locker.
Binnacle – Housing for the compass and other navigational instruments, fixed in front of the ship’s wheel.  It usually had an internal light.  Previously called the Bittacle.
Binocle – Binocular.
Bird’s nest – A small round top placed at the masthead, most often on whalers, from which the widest field of view was achieved.  Also crow’s nest.
Bireme – Early oared galley, with two tiers of oars.
Birlins - Small Highland oared galleys from medieval times to 16-17c.
Birth-marks – Marks above which a ship should not be loaded.
Biscay shallop rig –
Biscuit – Ship’s Biscuit was the staple starch food and was hard baked bread that did not go off.  It was usually broken up and soaked in soft foods, to stretch the meal and make it more edible.  Weevils liked Ship’s Biscuit and often infested them, resulting in the reflective habit of rapping the biscuit on the mess table before eating it, to make the weevil grubs fall out.
Bisection Theorem - Ship handling theory, in which the angle of the sail bisects the angle between the wind and the ship’s head.
Bit – A silver coin formed in Spanish colonies from ‘cut-money’ (coins cut into pieces), which had a value of one eighth of a dollar, or 12½ cents, as it still does in the US today.

Bite – (v) To dig into the holding-ground, or seabed, said of an anchor.

Bitt, bitts – Large baulks or posts arranged in pairs, fastened into the deck, for belaying anchor cables, halliards, ropes, etc.  See also Carrick bitts, Riding bitts, Topsail sheet bitts, Windlass bitts, etc.
Bitt – (v) To turn a cable or rope round the bitts to fasten it or to slacking it off slowly.  See also veering away.

Bittacle – The binnacle.  Originally its Latin name was habitaculum.
Bitter – The turn of cable around the bitts.  Hence, ‘the bitter end’, which referred to that part of the chain or rope inboard of the bitts, usually just a short length.
Bitter end – The inboard length of an anchor cable was secured to strong timbers called riding bitts and lashed fast to the bottom of the cable locker.  If the cable was run out all the way it was said to be at the bitter end, which has come to mean anything at its limit.

Bitt head – The upper end of a heavy timber set vertically through the deck and used to make a cable fast.

Bitting cable – The evolution of passing a turn of cable round a bitt.

Bitt-men – Older, experienced but less active seamen who did not go aloft.  So named as they expertly handled the ropes.  Also stoppermen or mast party.
Bitt-pin – A large iron pin inserted into a hole in the bitt, around which the hawser or rope was tied off, for a quick release. Also Norman.
– Heavy timber uprights used for securing anchor cables or other heavy ropes.

Bitt stopper – Approximately a fathom of rope about half the size of the cable, lashed round the turns of an anchor cable securing it to the bitts, to keep it taut and prevent slipping.

Bitt the cable – When weighing anchor, the order given once the anchor is fished to remove the stoppers and attach the anchor cable to the bitts to prevent it running out accidentally.

Bize – A wind off the coast of southern France.
Blackamoor – A very black negro.
Black Bag – A small bag sewn out of an old piece of sailcloth, painted black, in which a sailor kept his most treasured belongings. If offered to a ‘lady’ it was said to represent a proposal of marriage. Replaced in 1870 by the Ditty Box or Ditty Bag.
Blackball – To exclude a seaman from peer society, due to a misdemeanour.
Blackbird – A slave.
Blackbirder – A slave ship.
Blackbirding – Catching slaves.  Also ‘black bird catching’.

Black Book of the Admiralty – A list of the laws and customs of the sea, including the English version of the laws of Oleron that dated from the thirteenth century to Tudor times.
Black Day – Modern name for 31 July 1970, when the last tot was issued; so called because of the tradition being lamented, not for the rum, of course.
Black Dick – Nickname for Admiral Lord Howe.
Black down – To tar and black the rigging, using a mixture of coal tar, vegetable tar and sea water boiled up and laid on hot, as a preservative.
Black Fish – Common seamen’s term for whales and other cetaceans.

Black Indies – North east ports of England, particularly Newcastle, Shields and Sunderland.
Blacking the rigging – Applying black stuff, or blacking down, for preservation.
Black Ivory - Slaves.
Black Jack – 1. A flag traditionally flown by pirate ships.  2. Sailors’ name for bubonic plague.  3. Leather beer mug or leather jerkin.
Black List – Forbidden private record of misdemeanours, kept by some captains for their own use against crew      members.
Black Powder - A coarse, unstable, early form of gunpowder.  See serpentine and corned powder.
Black Pudding – The horse whip used at the Naval Academy, Gosport.

Blacks, as seamen – There was no discrimination at all, but they were neither common nor rare.
Black Ship – A ship built in India, from the colour of the builders, not their light-coloured teak timbers.
Black silk handkerchief – Became popular with sailors, worn as a protection of the coat from greased pigtail, and as a sweat band when in action, to keep the eyes clear of sooty sweat.
Blacksmith’s shop – All the gear of the patent reefing systems on the yard.
Black south-easter – A wind off the Cape of Good Hope.
Black squall – West Indian sudden squall of wind, usually accompanied by lightning.
Black’s the white of my eye – Seamen’s’ denial of a charge.
Black strakes – Wide strakes just above the wales, made of blackwood, or painted with a mixture of tar and lamp-black to preserve them and to show them up in contrast to lighter parts of the side.
Black Strap – A drink usually concocted from rum + molasses + a dash of vinegar.  But also an unpopular Spanish red wine, from which, being posted to the Mediterranean was known as ‘being Black Strapped’.
Black stuff – Slang term for an antifouling compound made of coal or vegetable tar and seawater boiled together, laid hot onto hulls and rigging.
Black vomit – Yellow fever or Yellow Jack.
Blackwallers – Large flat-decked merchant sailing ships of mid-19th century, originally designed and built at Blackwall on the Thames.  Also, the name applied to some later merchantmen painted black.
Blackwall hitch – A tackle hook guy in which the bight of the rope is held by it being jammed against the standing part.
Blackwall ratline - A ratline seized to the foremost shroud, to confine the running rigging.
Black Whale – The Right Whale.

Blackwood, Sir Henry – (1779-1832) The best known of Nelson’s captain’s after Hardy.  Became vice admiral in 1819 and finished his active service as c-in-c at the Nore.
Blade – 1. The part of an anchor that receives the palm.  2. The flattened end of an oar that enters the water and applies force to it.  Also called the ‘wash of an oar’.
Blaeu, William Janszoon – (c1608) Dutch map publisher.
Blake – Yellow, in English north-eastern dialect.  Hence, if someone looks sickly they may be said to ‘blake’.

Blake, Robert – (1599-1657) British admiral and colonel.  Introduced the Articles of War and the Fighting Instructions to the British Navy.
Blake slip
– Cable stopper.
Blane, Dr Sir Gilbert – (1749-1834) Influential naval physician, made physician of the fleet in the West Indies, in 1779, by Lord Rodney.  Was Commissioner for Sick and Wounded from 1795 to 1802.  Fellow of the Royal Society.  Advocate of the benefits of lemon juice as an antiscorbutic.  Author of Observations on the Diseases Incident to Seamen in 1785 and Select Dissertations in 1822, both of which proved very helpful in treating seamen’s’ maladies.
Blank – The level line mark of a cannon, usually 800 yards.  Also point-blank.
Blanket – 1. (v) To sail to windward of another vessel, when both are tacking, and rob the wind from the other vessel.  2. A strip of blubber flensed or peeled off a whale’s carcass.  Also called a blanket piece.

Blanket piece – A strip of blubber peeled off a whale’s carcass.

Blanketting – More particularly the action of some sails preventing useful wind onto other sails, if the ship is not well trimmed.
Blare – 1. To bellow.  2. A paste of hair and tar used to caulk a ship’s decks or a boat.
Blashy – Wet and dirty weather.
– 1. A sudden gust of wind.  2. An explosion.
Blasted whale – An inflated whale, floating alongside the whaler until it could be tried out, or processed.
Blast-engine – A machine for pumping fresh air into a hold and stale air out.
Blaze – To ‘blaze away’ was a common term for firing the guns briskly and continuously.
Blazer – 1. In 1845, HMS Blazer’s gig crew were required, by their captain, to wear particularly smart blue and white striped jerseys, before blue jackets became standard uniform issue.  Where RN leads, Henley still follows.  2 A mortar or bomb vessel, from its phenomenal blast when firing.
Bleed – 1. To draw or let blood surgically.  2. To drain a water logged buoy.  3. To remove grog whilst it was in transit from the grog-tub to the mess where it was due, by means of taking a sip from the ‘monkey’, or wooden grog kid.  Hence ‘bleeding the monkey’.  4. To drain a buoy.
Bleus - Those French seamen and officers who were not aristocrats.  cf Rouges.
Bligh, William – (1754-1817) British vice admiral.  A skilled navigator who first proved himself on Captain Cook’s last circumnavigation in 1775-79.  Famous as the captain against whom the crew of HMS Bounty mutinied in 1789, and who navigated a 3,600 miles voyage in an open boat as a result.  Went on to show courage at the battles of Camperdown and Copenhagen and appointed as governor of New South Wales, where he fell out with those operating the rum traffic and was sent home in 1808.

Blinder – A hidden, uncharted reef.

Blindmen – Dutch name for lee helmsmen, who followed the movements of the weather helmsman, watching only him, as only the weather helmsman could see the compass, sails, etc.
Blind buckler – A large wooden plug used as a cover for the hawse hole, without a hole for the cable, used when at sea to prevent ingress of water.  Cf buckler
Blinder – A hidden uncharted reef.
Blind harbour – One in which the entrance is not readily visible from sea.
Blind rock – One lying just submerged and not visible.
Blind Shell – A shell that has failed to explode.

Blind stakes – A weir or fish kettle just submerged and not visible.
Blink – A bright reflection of ice in the sky, seen from afar.
Blirt – A gust of wind and rain.
Blizzard – A snow squall.
Blocco – A concoction of hair and paper used to pay a vessel’s bottom.

Block – 1. An enclosed pulley, usually with one, two, three or more sheaves, used for purchase, particularly when working sails.  The many types of blocks include the following: bee, brace, bullseye, buntline, cheek, cleat, clewgarnet, clewline, closed heart, continental lift, D-block, deadeye, double sheet, euphroe, fiddle, gin, iron-bound, jeer, lead-cleat, leechline, leg and fall, lift, long tackle, monkey, ninepin, open heart, quarter, rack, ramshead, sheet, shoe, shoulder, sister, snatch, spritsail sheet, strop, thimble, tie, topsail sheet and lift, truck, etc.  2. The large piece of timber from which the figurehead is carved.
Blockade - To cruise off an enemy’s port, stopping ship movements and thus, usually, trade.
Block and block – A tackle in which two blocks have been drawn together, thereby seizing it up and making the purchase useless until released and redrawn.  Also ‘chock-a-block’.
Blockmaker, Blockmill – Manufactory of blocks.
Blocks – Solid oak timbers laid across the ground-ways, on which a ship is built or repaired.  Usually called fixed blocks.
Blockship – A ship used to block a harbour entrance, a strategy commonly used in modern times by French fishermen when they feel aggrieved about the EC Common Fisheries Policy, but a tradition of historical longevity.  Sometimes, an unrigged ship used as floating battery.
Block span – A length of wire used to keep the lower blocks of a boat’s falls from getting tangled when the boat has been released.

Blood and guts – Seamen’s slang for the Union Jack.
Blood boat - Name for the small ship’s cutter used to bring off fresh meat.
Blooding and Sweating – The common pirates’ punishment of captured captains who were reluctant to cooperate with their captors.  It comprised the offender having to run the gauntlet of all crew members, who were armed with spiked or nailed strops that drew blood at every stroke.  The victim would then be covered with a blanket and fastened inside an empty sugar cask infested with of cockroaches, where the heat, blood and sugar would encourage the vermin to feed.

Bloodletting – Popular (with ships’ surgeons) cure-all.
Blood money – Money paid to an innkeeper, or similar, for the illicit procurement of seamen for a ship.

Bloodsuckers – An unfriendly name for those friendless crewmembers who avoided their share of the labours.
Bloody Flag – Seamen’s’ name for the large red flag hoisted at the mastheads of British ships to indicate that they were about to go into battle.
Bloody Flux – Dysentery.
Blore – A stiff gale.

Blout – A northern dialect expression for the break up of a storm.

Blow, a – 1. A storm.  2. The exhalation or spouting of a whale.
Blowfish – Fishermen’s name for whale.

Blowhole – A whale’s breathing nostril, or double nostrils, in the top of its head, through which it spouts when surfacing.
Blow home – A wind is said to blow home if it blows at equal strength across land and sea.
Blowing great guns and small arms – Old term describing a heavy gale or hurricane.
Blowing the Grampus
– Sailor’s term for waking a crewmember asleep on watch by throwing a bucket of water over him.  A grampus whale would blow in a similar way to the waking sailor.
Blowing up - See freshening.
Blowing weather – Continuous strong gales.
Blown into her courses – Said of a ship with a increasing wind from astern.
Blown itself out – Said of a finishing gale.
Blow over – What is said to be about to happen to a gale expected to soon finish.
Blow the gaff – Expose a secret or inform against someone.
Blow the horns off a bull – Said of a strong wind.
Blow-Out – An excessive feast.  The usual second wish of a seaman on a run ashore.

Blow Over – Said of a gale expected not to last too long.

Blow The Gaff – Expose or inform against someone.

Blubber – Oil rich under-flesh layer on a whale, seal, walrus, etc. A whale carcass, during flensing, would have ‘tears’ of fat running down its sides, like weeping tears on a face – hence the verbal link with common language.
Blubber chopper, fork and hook – Implements used to flense a whale by carving and pulling strips of blubber off the carcass and then chopping it up for storage.
Blubber guy – A rope between the fore and mainmast heads, used to rig the speck-falls when flensing.
Blubber room – The area below decks where the blanket pieces was placed before being cut into horse pieces.

Blue – The proverbial colour of deep sea.  ‘Till all’s blue’ was a term meaning carried out fully, from the action of leaving harbour.  ‘To look blue’ was to look surprised and displeased.
Bluebacks – Privately published English sea charts, from the stiff blue backing paper.

‘Blue Billy’ – One of many nicknames for Admiral Sir William Cornwallis.
Blue Devils - Naval officers’ depression.
Blue ensign – Originally denoted the squadron of the fleet.
Bluejacket, Blue jacket –.Another name for Jack, or a sailor of the Royal Navy, after 1858, when the blue uniform became standard.
Blue light – 1 Night pyrotechnic signal on an approaching ship, to summon a pilot or boat, or to indicate a ship’s position to a remote ship’s boat.  Also Bengal Lights.  2 Nickname for a captain who ordered prayers every day and twice on Sunday, i.e. sanctimonious.

Blue moon – An indefinable period.
Blue nose
– A native of Nova Scotia.
Blue Peter – Blue flag with white square in middle, originally used to recall officers and men to ship, prior to her sailing.
Blue pigeon – Seamen’s’ nickname for the sounding lead.
Blues – French naval professional commoners.  See Bleus.
Blue water – Deep sea.
Blue water navy – Deep-sea craft, as distinct from brown water craft.

Blue whaleSibaldus musculus. The world’s largest whale, and the largest animal ever on earth, reaching over 100 ft long and weighing over 100 tons.
Bluff – Vertical, of ship’s bows, cliffs, etc.
Blunk – A sudden squall.
Blunt – A slang term for ready money.

Blunt end – The technical term for the stern of a vessel.  Compare with its opposite number, sharp end.

Blusterous – Stormy weather, or said of a bombastic person.
Boanga – A Malay oared pirate ship.

Board - 1. A ship’s side, hence ‘go by the board’, ‘on board’, ‘over board’, ‘weather board’, etc.  ‘To run a ship on board’ meaning to run foul into the side of another ship, and ‘to lay a ship on board’ meaning to place one’s own ship alongside of it.  2. Sideways direction of ship’s course, especially when tacking, hence ‘make short boards’ meaning to tack frequently.  The distance travelled on a tack when beating.  Also leg.  3. Attack, hence ‘board and carry’ meaning to take another ship by occupation.  4. To come alongside.  5. ‘Above board’ referred to anything on deck, in plain view.  6.  ‘Gone by the board’ meant swept overboard and lost.

Board and board – Said of vessels sailing together on the same tack, or board.

Board & half board – When a ship is turned up into the wind, as if about to tack, but falls off again on the same tack, the manoeuvre was called ‘half board’ or ‘pilot’s luff’.  A succession of these was called ‘board and half board’.
Board a tack – To haul on the tack of a sail to sail closer to the wind.

Boarder – Seaman or officer boarding an enemy ship in an attack.
Board Him – To assail a male opponent with unfriendly intention.

Board Her – To assail a female opponent with friendly intention.

Board him in the smoke – To take someone by surprise.
Boarding – Placing one’s vessel alongside another.

Boarding and entering – A phrase commonly used to describe taking an enemy’s vessel.  In fact ‘boarding’ means placing one’s vessel alongside the opponent and ‘entering’ means going onto/into that vessel to take it.

Boarding book – A book in which details of ships boarded were returned to the commanding admiral.
Boarding netting – Netting rigged outboard at the ship’s sides, etc., to hamper boarding by others.
Boarding pikes – Pikes, long handled bladed weapons used when boarding.
Boarding platform – Platform forming part of the beakhead area, upon which boarders could most easily assemble and then cross onto the ship under attack.
Boarding rope – Hand ropes rigged down ships’ sides, usually near entry ports, to assist those climbing aboard.
Boarding sword – 1. Small, bladed, hand weapon used when boarding. 2. A sword-like tool used to dismember a whale and to make a hole in the carcass for the blubber hook.

Boardlings – Recently appointed members of the Admiralty or Navy Boards who have not yet earned the respect of their subordinates, as named by the latter, and who are usually not expected to.
Board of the Admiralty – The agency that managed the day-to-day running of the Navy.  Also the Admiralty Board, the Board of Commissioners of the Navy, etc.  cf Navy Board, Ordnance Board, etc.
Board of Customs & Excise – That government agency set up to control Customs & Excise matters.
Board of Longitude – The name by which the Commissioners for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea were generally known, comprising scientists, naval officers and government officials.  It’s role was to judge           the entrants to the competition to find a means of accurately determining longitude at sea, for which they offered a prize of up to £20,000.00, in the 1714 Act of Longitude, the extent of the prize being subject to the accuracy of the method. The Board ceased to exist in 1828, by which time it had disbursed more than £100,000.00 in prizes.  See also John Harrison.
Board of Trade - The ministry created to encourage commerce.
Boardsman – The crew member of a line-smack who baits and shoots the lines.

Boat - Small open vessel.  A boat is not a ship. Types of boat include: Accident boat; Cock; Dinghy; Dory; Galley; Jolly boat; Lifeboat; Pram; Pulling boat; Quarter boat; Row boat, or rowing boat; Sea boat; Surf boat; Whaleboat.

Boat – (v) To bring oars inboard and stow them.

Boatable – Waters navigable by boat.
“Boat Ahoy!” - Watchman’s challenge to an approaching boat.  See Boat Calls.
Boat boom – Spar, in pairs mounted across the waist, upon which the ship’s boats were stored.
Boat Buoys – Buoyancy aids for lifeboats, etc.

Boat Calls- Challenges and responses to boats approaching a moored ship at night, initiated by Watchmen of the Gangway, as follows: “Boat Ahoy!”, pronounced “Oy-y”, first challenge by watcher; “Standard”, reply if a Royal on boat; “Admiralty”, reply if member of Admiralty Board on boat; “Flag”, reply if Admiral on boat; “Staff”, reply if Admiral’s staff officer on boat; “Ship Name”, reply if Captain of named ship on boat; “Aye-aye”, reply if officer on boat; “No-no”, reply if no officer on boat; “Coming here?”, secondary challenge to boat; “Passing”, alternative response; “Guard Boat”, reply if relevant.
Boat chocks – Blocks used on boat booms to secure the boats.
Boat cloak – Large cloak worn at sea by officers.
Boat cover – The canvas cover used to protect a boat stowed in the davits.

Boat davit – A curved sheaved timber projecting over a boat’s stern, for use in weighing anchor.
Boat-deck – Top deck, on which the ship’s boats were stored.
Boat drill – 1. The regular mustering of crewmembers and passengers at their allotted lifeboats stations to familiarise them with what to do in the case of an emergency.  2. Practice in hoisting out the ship’s boats.

Boat fast – The painter or boat rope.
Boat-gear, Boat-geer – The rigging and furniture of a boat.

Boat grapnel – Triple hook bent onto a rope, used to hook onto a makeshift dock, jetty, etc.
Boat header – An American term for the experienced whaleman who steered the whaleboat as it approached its quarry and who killed it with lances after the harpooner had caught it.

Boat hire – The use of non-naval boats when in harbour.

Boat hook – An iron or brass hook and spike on a long wooden pole, used to pull in a boat, or push off again from a dock or from a ship’s side or for picking up thrown lines.
Boat keeper – That crew member left in charge of a boat when the others are away.
Boat leadlines, or Boat lead and line – A tapered 7 lb lead attached to 10 to 12 fathoms of 2½ lb (light) line marked with depths, as with a ship’s lead line, used to precisely establish the depth of an area in soundings, or being chosen as an anchorage, from a boat.  See also leadline.

Boat pulling – Seamen’s term for rowing.

Boat rope – A rope connecting a boat to its ship, attached to the front of both to keep it pulling alongside.

Boat’s badge – The insignia on a boat, to show what ship she belongs to.

Boat’s bag – A bag of tools and materials often needed in an emergency, kept stocked and ready in an accident boat.

Boatschip - 18c Dutch three mast ship with flat transom stern, used primarily as coaster or in herring fishing.
Boat’s compass – A boat’s compass.

Boat’s Crew – The regular men appointed as the crew of a particular boat.

Boat’s gripes - Lashings used to secure boats when stowed.
Boat skids – Hardwood chocks on which a ship’s boats are stored.

Boat’s recall – The flag hoists used by a ship to summon her boats back.  Early ship’s recalled their boats by firing cannon.

Boats, The – Seamen’s slang for small ships.  In modern times refers to destroyers.
Boat steerer-harpooner – The American title for the crew member assigned to man the harpooner oar.

Boatswain – Boat husband, literally.  Pronounced ‘Bosun’.  The Warrant officer responsible for keeping the general maintenance of the ship, and the crew, in order, and who carries out punishments.  His badge of office was his pipe or whistle worn on a chain round his neck and his cherriliccum.

Boatswain Captain – The cheeky name given to a captain who knows all the various duties on board.

Boatswain’s cabin – What it says.
Boatswain’s Call – Traditional pipe or whistle used by the boatswain to make various whistled signals to crew.  The pipe comprised a white metal tube mouthpiece, known as the ‘gun’, joined to a chamber, the ‘buoy’, with an orifice on top and a ‘keel’ under, which had a ‘shackle’ attached on to which a chain was fixed.  Now only used ceremonially, when greeting naval dignitaries to a ship.
Boatswain’s calls – Calls made by the boatswain with the Boatswain’s Call, or Pipe. Originally there were over 22 calls in the Royal Navy, but the main ones were as follows: ‘Piping the side’, a purely Naval salute             accorded to Royal or Naval visitors of appropriate rank, and never to others. The only known exception to this was the honour accorded to Sir Winston Churchill. This salute was only for daytime visitors, except foreign naval visitors who were so saluted at any time; ‘Hoist’, first pipe call; ‘Lower’, second pipe call; these two calls often used to hoist an officer from one ship to another in heavy weather.
Boatswain’s cane – Made from rattan and used to encourage the men in their work, by striking them with it.  Known as ‘starting’, hence his cane also known as his starter.
Boatswain’s chair – A board,
Boatswain’s chair – A two-foot long board suspended on a bridle from each corner, forming a mobile seat used to sway a man aloft or over the side, for scraping, painting, etc., where there is no safe foothold.

Boatswain’s driver – Boatswain’s mate.
Boatswain’s mate – A Petty officer assisting the boatswain, often used as ship’s police, but, or consequently, not popular with the seamen.
Boatswain’s pipe - See Boatswain’s Call.
Boatswain’s plait – A plait made from three strands of rope, with two strands hitched alternately over a single strand foundation strand.

Boatswain’s pride – The forward inclination rake of a ship’s masts.
Boatswain’s store – Store room for sails, rigging, etc.
Boatswain’s whistle – See Boatswain’s Call.
Boat the anchor – Bring the anchor onto a boat.
Boat the oars – Stow the oars fore and aft at the thwarts, ready for use.
Bobble – The action of directionless waves, as in cross currents.
Bobstay – The rope or chain rigged from the end of the bowsprit to the stem, to hold it down against the upward pull of the foremast stays.

Bobstay collar – Collar on the bowsprit onto which bobstays are attached.
Bobstay hole – Hole in the bobstay piece at stem, through which bobstays pass.
Bobstay piece – The part of the knee of the head timber attached below the figure block at the stem, with bobstay holes, to which the bobstay was attached.
Bobstay plate – An iron plate at the lower end of the bobstay, where it attaches to the stem.

Bobstay purchase – The tackle in the upper end of the bobstay and used for setting it up, comprising a double running block, a single fixed block attached to the selvagee strop and another double block through which the fall is rove.

Bob-wig – Wig with a bobbed tail, i.e. with the ends turned up short.
Bock - Largest type of 19c Weser barge, up to 80 tons load. See also achterhang and bullen.
Bodkin – A dirk.
Body hoops – Hoops securing the aris pieces of a made mast, so holding a made mast together.
Body plan – Design drawings of a ship, showing sectional view(s) at right angles to the sheer plan.  RHS looking at bows from aft and LHS looking at stern from forward.
Bogey-Stove – US stove used by mess.
Bog reefs – Maybe a corruption of bag reefs.

Bogue – To fall off from the wind, used to describe poor handling craft.
Boguing – Making bogus.
Bogus – A liquor made of rum and molasses.
Boier, boeier - A small Dutch shallow-draught ship, usually a single masted sloop.
Boiler – A ship’s cooking utensil, or copper.
Boiling – “The whole boiling lot” was a disparaging remark applied to anything, but alluding to the fact that cooking on a ship was unsophisticated, in the extreme.

Bojort - Baltic version of Dutch Boier.

Bold Bow – A broad bluff bow.

Boldering, or boldering weather – Cloudy, thundery weather.

Bold shore – A steep or abrupt coast with deep water near inshore.

Bollard – 1. A strong wooden post on ships or quaysides, sometimes iron on shore, onto which ropes can be secured, to fasten vessels alongside.  On later, iron, ships these were often hollow, to double as ventilators.            2. On a whale-boat, the bollard was a sturdy timber at the front, round which the harpooner’s line was turned.
Bollard-timbers – Two large timbers bolted to each side of the stem, supporting the bowsprit.  Also called knight-heads.
Bolling away – Going with the wind free.  Also bowling along.
Bollocks – Two blocks at the centre of the topsail, through which the topsail ties are rove to increase lift.  The term has come to apply to a similar arrangement of male body parts, in impolite society.

Bolme – An old name for a boatman’s pole.
Bolster – 1. Small cushion of tarred canvas or timber, used to prevent chafing between ropes and hard surfaces.  2. Canvas covered soft-wood or smoothly rounded cushions of hardwood on top of the trestle-trees, for the eye of the rigging, saving the rigging from chafing on otherwise sharp edges. in the trestle-trees.  3. Shaped pieces of oak under the hawse-holes, to stop the cable chafing the cheeks.  4. Any shaped and rounded pieces of wood used to prevent chafing, eponymously identified.

Bolt – 1. A metal pin used to join parts of a vessel, of various types appropriate to their jobs, including ‘bay bolts’ with barbs; ‘drift’ or ‘drive bolts’ used to drive out others; ‘clench bolts’ that have their ends clenched, or turned over; ‘fend’ or ‘fender bolts’ with thick heads to protect the ships’ sides; ‘forelock bolts’ which have forelocks to prevent them drawing out; ‘set bolts’ that forced planks tightly together; ‘ring bolts’ onto which the breeches and tackle of guns, etc. could be fastened; ‘scarp’ and ‘keel bolts’ used temporarily and ‘bringing-to bolts’ with the usual screw and nut at one end but an eye at the other.  2. The standard length of a roll of canvas; 39 yards of usually 22 to 30 inches wide material.  3. ‘To bolt’ is to run off.
Bolt boat – A boat that makes good in rough seas.
Bolt rope – Rope sewn to the edge of a sail, to stop it ripping.  At the top it is called the head-rope, at the sides the leech-ropes and at the foot the foot-rope.  The stay or weather rope of fore-and-aft sails was called the luff.
Boltrope needle – A large strong needle used to stitch the sail to the bolt ropes.
Boltsprit – Bowsprit.
Bolt strake – The strakes, or hull planks, through which the beam fastenings pass.
Bolt toe – The gun-lock cock.
Bomb – 1. A bomb vessel.  2. The missile thrown by a bomb vessel, usually a mortar.
Bombard, Bombarde – 1. Type of early cannon that used stone balls.  2. Mortar vessel.
Bombay – The principle seaport of western India.  First came into prominence when passed from Portugal to the British on the marriage of Charles II and Princess Catherine of Braganza, in 1661, and his transferral of it to the East India Company in 1668.
Bombay runner – Cockroach.  Also Cockie.

Bombay sweat – If a seaman was too drunk to leave his hammock to pump ship, this was the name of the resultant dampness.

Bomb bed – The bed of a mortar.
Bomb bed beams – Large beams supporting the bomb-bed in a bomb vessel.
Bomb gun – A relatively modern device that fires an explosive harpoon into a whale.

Bomb ketch – A small ketch rigged vessel carrying one or more mortars for bombarding.
Bomb-lance - Early rifle-fired explosive weapon for killing whales.

Bombora or Bombo – A weak cold punch.
Bomb shell – A large hollow cast-iron ball thrown from mortars, which had a fused hole connecting to the internal charge and ears by which it was lifted by shell hooks into the mortar.  The explosion on ignition became synonymous with a great shock, hence ‘dropping a bomb-shell’ entered civilian parlance.
Bomb vessel – As a bomb ketch, but other rigged.  Also mortar vessel.
Bome spar – A large spar, from a corruption of ‘boom spar’.
Bomkin – Bumkin.
Bonaventure - A lateen shaped mizen sail used before the 17c.
Bonaventure mizen – Fourth after-mast used during Elizabethan era.  Later known as the jigger mast.
Bonding Pond – An enclosed tidal water where timber is stored.

Bond man – A crewman kept bound for the good behaviour of another on leave.  Not common practice, not popular and not often necessary under a good captain.
Bond of bottomry – An authority to borrow money, by pledging the bottom of the ship.  See bottomry.
Bone – 1. To scrounge or pilfer, after a boatswain so named, in the Revolutionary War, whose flair for such things was legendary.  2. The foam crest at the bow wave of a moving ship, said to be ‘a bone in her teeth’ or in her ‘nose’.  Also see ‘cut a feather’.

Bone mine – Slang for a naval store yard, from its being a suitable place to practice boning.

Bone orchard – Cemetery.

Boneyard – Royal Naval Hospitals at Haslar and Stonehouse.

Bonded Jacky - Negro-head tobacco or sweet cake.
Bonding - The practice of locking items in warehouses, without their having been taxed, in readiness for onward shipping or exportation.
Bonding pond – An enclosed tidal water basin in which timber was kept.
Bongrace – Junk fenders.  See bowgrace.
Bonhomme Richard – The frigate made famous when used in privateering by John Paul Jones around Britain’s coasts in 1779.

BonitasThynnus pelamys. Striped tunny fish.
Bonnet - 1. A canvas cover strip to a vertical break in sail, or an additional piece of canvas laced to the foot of a sail, to increase the sails area and so catch more wind during fine weather.  The expression fell out of use during the late nineteenth century, after when it was only used on fore-and-aft sails on small craft.  2. A covering used to prevent water entering the cable locker via the navel pipe.
Bonnet-link - The arm attaching the central boss of a self-reefing yard to the bonnet of the sail.
Bonny, Anne – An early 18c Irish female pirate of the West Indies.  The secret wife of John Rackham.
Booby – A dim-witted bird that could too easily be caught, making its sporting value low – hence ‘booby-prize’.

Booby-hatch – A small sliding hatch cover that lifts off in one piece.  ‘Booby’ comes from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, meaning silly, from the antics of the booby seabird, which has come to be used to refer to anyone silly.
Book - 1. Official ship’s document.  2. A term for the method of packing muslins, bastas, etc.  Also see ‘Brought to book’, Muster and Log.
Booking – A reprimand.
Boom – 1. Long spar run out to extend foot of sail, or from which stunsails are rigged.  2. A floating barrier across a river or harbour.  3. ‘To boom’ is to sail with a boom.  4. ‘Boom-off’ is to push off.  5. To ‘top one’s boom’ is to start off.
Boomage – A levy covering harbour dues, anchorage and soundage.
Boom boat – Ship’s boat that is sufficiently large to need the use of booms for hoisting inboard.
Boom brace – A brace used to ‘brace in’ booms along the yards.
Boom brace flying forward – A yard was braced forward, requiring the bracing further forward.
Boom brace guy – Tackle used to steady the boom guy forward.
Boom brace pendant – A rope bracing the pressure of a studding-sail on its boom.
Boom brace tricers – Crewmembers who triced up booms to provide working space for topmen.
Boom brackets – Iron hoops around yards and booms to hold stunsail booms.
Boom cleats -  Cleats fixed to booms.
Boom cover – A painted or tarpaulin cover on a spar.

Boom cradle - A deck fitting used to hold a boom in place when it has been lowered.

Boom crutch – A receptacle on the counter or the deck of small ships, used to secure the boom when not in use, such as when at anchor.
Boom foresail – A triangular sail whose foot is extended by a boom.

Boom guy, or lazy guy – The rope used to hold the spanker boom steady when running free.

Boom hoop – Wooden hoop joining boom to mast, allowing it to lift or lower.
Boomie – A type of ketch-rigged east coast sailing barge, on which the main sail has only a boom.  cf sprittie or spritsail barge.
Boom iron – An iron band on a yard-arm, through which the studding-sail boom would be run in and out and fitted to hold its heel, when rigged.  Also withe.
Boom jigger – Tackle for rigging the topmast studding sail booms out or in, comprising double and single blocks stropped with tails.

Boomkin, bumkin, bumpkin – 1. A short boom extending from the bows of a vessel and used to stretch the lower windward corner of a foresail.  2 A similar boom on a vessel’s quarters and used to take the main brace blocks.
Booms – The space on larger ships, between the fore and mainmasts, where spare spars are stowed.  Ships’ boats were carried on the booms when at sea.  See also Boom.
Boom sail – A sail set to a boom instead of to a yard.
Boom sheet – A sheet fastened to a boom.
Boom spar – A larger spar.
Boom square sail – A square sail set on the lower foremast of a schooner, or on the lower mast of a cutter.

Boom stays - The fittings joining a boom to its mast.

Boom-topping span - The span from the top aft end of a fore-and-aft boom to the peak of the spar above.

Boot camp – A tough military prison.
Boote – An Old English name for a boat.
Boot-hose-top – Heel over ship, scrape or burn off grass, slime, shells, barnacles, etc. and daub with tallow, sulphur or lime & resin, as temporary protection against shipworm.  Also boot topping.
Bootneck – A Royal Marine, whose 19c uniform had a leather strip at the nape, to hold the collar shut tight and for protection against his greased pigtail.  Also Leatherneck.

Boot-topping - See boot-hose-top.
Booty – Those parts of a prize which, when captured at sea, were allowed to be distributed amongst the captors at once, usually at the capstan-head.  Usually anything that could be picked up by hand that was above the main deck, a definition that often lead to interesting interpretations by prospective beneficiaries.  This form of prize taking was abolished during the Napoleonic War.  Sometimes called pickings, from the requirement that the subject matter was to be pick-upable.
Booze - A carouse, from which ‘boozy’ means intoxicated by liquor.
Bora – A violent Adriatic storm.
Borasca - A storm with thunder and lightning.
Bordeaux - In early 14c the largest and richest city of the English empire, due to the duty from wine exports.  In 1324 Gascony contributed £13,000 to the English exchequer.
Bords – An old term for sea coasts, from board, meaning edge.
Bordels – Houses built along a strand.
Bore – 1. The pitch motion of a ship.  2. The sudden surge of tide in certain rivers, usually caused by the meeting of two tides or a narrowing of the channel.  Also eagre.  3. The interior cavity of a gun barrel.
Boreas – An old name for the north wind.
Bore Down – Sailed down from to windward.
Boreing – The pitching motion of a ship.
– The action of forcing the ship through loose ice in Arctic regions, under press of sail, or trying to.

Born with a silver spoon – Old navy expression, of the ‘young gentlemen’ of privilege and advantage, who were said to have been so born with one in their mouth, and to have entered the navy through the cabin windows, as distinct from those who worked they way up through the ranks by merit, who were said to have been born with a wooden ladle and to have entered the navy through the hawseholes.
Borne – Said of someone placed in the ship’s books for victuals and wages, also of a supernumerary.
Borough, Steven
– (1525-84) British navigator who was one of those seeking the North East Passage to China.  He had an active navy life that included commanding a ship in the battles against the Spanish Armada in 1588, but badly fell out with Drake by questioning him in the Cadiz campaign, and hence fell out of favour with the Court.
Borrow, to – 1. To hug the coast and so avoid an adverse tide.  2. A euphemism for acquiring a thing permanently and dishonestly.
Boscawen, The Hon. Edward – (1711-61) Famous British admiral.  “Wry Neck Dick”.
Bosom piece - A short length of angle-bar fixed inside the angle of another angle-bar, to strengthen it, or between two angle-bars, to join them.
Boss – A head, or reservoir, of water.
Boss buntline – Midship reef tackle.
Bo’sun – See Boatswain.
Botany Bay – The centre of early settlement in Australia.
Botargo – Dried fish sometimes issued to crews instead of meat on Banyan Days
Botch – To make a mess of the job in hand.
Bote - Early spelling for boat.
Botelho - Long strands of seaweed.
Botelier, Nathaniel – (1577-1643) British seaman and administrator whose writings give insight into the early 17c British Navy.
– An old term for a boat’s coxswain.
– Said of a ship falling amongst adverse currents and with shifting winds.
Both oars in the water – What a person with mental problems was said not to have.
Both Sheets Aft – 1. Said of a ship with the wind right astern.  2. Said of a drunken sailor staggering along with his hands in his pockets and his elbows out square.
Both watches – The muster of all hands.
Botijo - A Spanish earthenware jar.
Botter – Dutch fishing boat.
Bottle – A dressing down, from ‘a dose from the Foretopman’s bottle’, meaning a ticking off from a taut hand.
Bottle Charts – Charts on which surface currents are marked, derived from the records of bottles containing notes, thrown overboard for that purpose and collected and recorded over the years.
Bottlescrew – A later replacement for dead eyes, comprising a cylindrical threaded sleeve into which two screws fitted, one into each end, used to set up the rigging by turning and thereby tightening it.
Bottom – 1. The seabed.  2. The keel.  3. That part of a ship below the waterline.  4. The end of a cask.  5. ‘Go to the bottom’ means sink.  6. ‘Send to the bottom’ means sink someone else.  7. ‘Bottom clean’ refers to a ship that has been thoroughly cleaned and is free of weeds, etc.  8 A ‘bottom plank’ is one placed between the garboard strake and the lower back strake.
Bottom boards – Floor planks laid over a boat’s frames to keep the weight of the crew off its plankings and timbers.

Bottomry, Bottomree, Bummery – Ship mortgage.
Bottomry Premium – A higher rate of interest charged on the safety of a ship, usually meaning the lender losing all his money on the loss of the ship.
Bottoms – Nickname for freight-carrying ships.
‘Bottoms Up’ – Seamen’s preferred position for a glass of liquor or beer in order that it may soon be refilled.

Boucan – A type of food enjoyed by buccaneers, from which their name derives.
Bouche – A metal plug which is drilled to form the vent of a cannon.
Bougainville, Comte Louis Antoine de – (1729-1811) French naval officer and navigator who was a soldier until he was 37 years old, but then learnt to improve himself.  Known for his explorations of the South Seas and for his subsequent services to, and honouring by, Napoleon.
Bouge – 1. Largest diameter of a cask.  2. An old term for the bilge. Also bowge.
Bougee, burgee – A small tapering flag, swallow tailed.
Bouguer’s theorem – Pierre Bouguer published a mathematical book, in 1757, dealing with manoeuvrability and optimisation of wind on sails.
Bouilli – What seamen termed ‘bully beef’, which was as unpopular as it was unpalatable, having had all its goodness boiled away.  Later the term was applied to canned beef, which may not have been much of an improvement.

Bouilli Tin - A tin containing preserved meat.
Boulder Head – A rampart built against the action of the sea, comprising wooden stakes.
Bouleponges – A strong drink made of arrack, lemon-juice, sugar and muscadine.

Bounce – Admiral Collingwood’s dog.  Bounce was a constant companion and consolation to the admiral, who was kept interminably at sea towards the end of his life.
Bouncer – The term given to a gun that kicks violently when fired.
Bound – 1. Intended destiny of service, or voyage to a place.  2. Held.  Such as ‘Ice-bound’ surrounded by ice; ‘Tide-bound’ beneaped; ‘Wind-bound’ prevented from sailing by contrary winds, &c.  3. ‘Bound on a cruise’ meant get ready to sail.
Bounty – Money paid at recruiting centres, to encourage sailors to enlist.  In the early 18c it was 40/- in London for prime seamen, while the government offered 30/-, in Bristol it was 20/-, etc.  The system was very much abused by dishonest seamen, who would sign on in one town and then desert, signing on again under a different name in another town, thus receiving multiple bounties.
Bounty, HMS – The famous ship from which Captain Bligh and others were cast adrift after the mutiny under the leadership of Fletcher Christian, in 1789, and from where Bligh navigated a 3600 mile open boat voyage to safety in Timor.  The Bounty was burnt by the mutineers when they arrived at Pitcairn Islands, to settle in exile, to avoid it being spotted and to avoid the temptation of returning to justice.
Bounty List – A register of all who had received the bounty, to which they were only entitled after they had passed three musters in the service.
Boure – A gathering place for merchants.
Bourne, William - Wrote the first accurately written account of the actions of ocean currents, written in 1578.
Bouse – 1. (v) To pull down on a rope or a tackle fall. 2. The order given to the hands working a rope to haul downwards.

Bouse Away – Drink, for pleasure.
” ‘Bout Ship” – The order for ‘about ship’.
Bouvet, Francois Joseph – (1753-1832) French admiral.
Bow – 1. The front of the ship, or sharp end.  Hence, ‘on the bow’ means close hauled.  ‘A shot across the bow’ was used to ‘invite’ an enemy, or suspect ship to stop, ignoring which usually resulting in an attack upon the target ship.  2. A hand weapon of early fleets.  3. A ship is said to ‘bow to the wind’ when sailing with sails belly out full, when she will go pitching and bowing over the waves.  4. To bend.
Bow-bye – The lubberly situation when a ship is in stays, falls back off the wind and gets into irons, requiring skilled seamanship to recover.
Bow chaser – Light long cannon mounted on the forecastle, usually one of a pair used to fire on ships under pursuit.  Also bow piece or bow chase.
Bowd-eaten – Eaten by weevils.
Bowditch. Nathaniel – (1773-1838) American Navigator and author, whose works on navigation were authoritative for many years, amongst Americans.
Bower anchor – One of two principle everyday of a ship, carried at the bows and permanently attached to the anchor cable, ready for immediate use.  There was usually a Best Bower Anchor and a Small Bower Anchor, which weighed the same, but were so named for the bow on which they were placed, that on the starboard bow being ‘best’ and that on the larboard, or port, being ‘small’.  See anchors.
Bower anchor cable, or bower cable – What it says: the cable fixed to the bower anchor.  ‘Best’ and ‘small’ nomenclature applies also to the cables serving their respective anchors.
Bow-fast – A mooring rope leading from the bow of a vessel to a dockside.

Bowge – An old term for the bilge. Also bouge.
Bow-grace – Old junk or chain fenders, rigged over the side in cold rivers, to protect the ship’s sides from damage by ice.
Bow-head – A certain shape of bow on clippers.
Bowing – 1. Damage done to yards or masts by overloading them or by setting the rigging too taut.  2. ‘Bowing the wind’ was the term given to meeting a heavy swell when coming to the wind.  3. The 16c practice of contriving the broadside great guns to fire as far forwards as they could.  cf Quartering.
Bowing and Scraping – Doffing a hat and causing a scraper to scrape on the ground.
Bowline - A line attached to the leech rope of a close-hauled square sail and used to hold its weather side forward and steady, enabling the ship to sail as close to the wind as possible.  To ‘check or come up’ a bowline is to slacken it to suit a wind going large or free, and to ‘sharp or set taut’ a bowline is to pull it as taut as possible.
Bowline bend – A method of bending warps or hawsers together.  Now known as a ‘bowline knot’ in everyday language.
Bowline bitts – Heavy timbers onto which bowlines were fastened.
Bowline bridle – Subdivision of the bowline on the weather side of square sails that connects the bowline to two places to spread the load..
Bowline cringle – The eye worked into the leech-rope of a square sail to take the bowline brindle.  By the number fitted seamen could identify the sail to hand in the dark.
Bowline haul – A strong pull by a group of seamen on the bowline.
Bowline knot - Knot in the bowline, used to fasten it to the cringles.
Bowline on a bight – Two parallel rigid loops knotted on a bight.

Bow-lines – The longitudinal curves cut in vertical sections to represent a ship’s fore-body, in shipbuilding.
Bowling along – Going free.
Bow locker – The small store compartment in a boat’s bow, in which the boat’s bag is kept, together with other essential items.

Bowls – Small black tubs attached to the headlines of a drift net to keep it afloat.

Bowman – The boat’s crewmember whose normal work station was to pull the bow oar and to man the boathook when coming alongside.  In an accident, boat the bowman would release the boat rope.  Sailing boats would have two bowmen, who were also responsible for the tack of the foresail.  Also called bow oar.

Bow man - Seaman in the bow.
Bow oar – 1. The foremost and consequently the most difficult to operate oar.  2. The oarsman who wields the bow oar, also known as the bowman.

Bow piece – Bow chaser.
Bow rail – The rail around the bows.
Bow rudder – A rudder mounted at the front.  This was largely ineffectual and therefore un-common, which follows.
Bows – 1. Beer.  2. The order given to a boat’s crew, when approaching the landing point, to raise the oars to the vertical, boat them and take hold of boathooks.  Also ‘in bows’.

Bowse Down – 1. To tie and secure firmly, having tightened with a tackle.  2. To ‘bowse up the jib’ was to             drink oneself insensible, probably from the Dutch verb buyzen, to booze.
Bow sheets – The small platform or grating in a boat’s bow.  Also head sheets.

Bow-shot - In Elizabethan times, about 240 yards.
Bowsprit, boltsprit – Large spar projecting from the stem of the ship.
Bowsprit-bitts – Strong timbers secured to the below deck beams, between which the inner end of the bowsprit is stepped.
Bowsprit-cap – The cap or crance on the end of a bowsprit, through the hoop of which the jib-boom is fixed.
Bowsprit collar - One of several metal bands fitted around the bowsprit to prevent it splitting.
Bowsprit-gear – The name for the whole set of ropes, blocks, &c. of the bowsprit.
Bowsprit-heart – The block of wood to which the lower end of the fore-stay is secured and the inner end of the jib-boom is inserted.
Bowsprit-horse –
Foot-ropes on the bowsprit.
Bowsprit horse netting – Safety netting rigged under the bowsprit, to supplement the foot-ropes.
Bowsprit ladder - Skids on the bowsprit of some ships, to allow the crew to run along it.
Bowsprit netting – The netting placed above the bowsprit, in which the fore-topmast staysail is stored.
Bowsprit shrouds – Strong rope or chain shrouds rigged from the end of the bowsprit to the sides of the bow, to give it lateral support and prevent lateral movement of the bowsprit.
Bows under – Overworked.
Bow timbers – Timbers forming the bow of a ship.
Bow wave – The wave formed under the stem by the forward motion of the ship.  A ship with a bow wave was often referred to as having ‘a bone in or under her nose’, or such similar expressions.
Box – 1. The space between the stern-post and the back-board of a boat, on which the coxswain sits. 2. Pumps had a lower and upper box, permanently fixed, joined by pipe.
Box beam - A beam formed from four long plates riveted together by means of angle-bars, to form a hollow box section.
Box Chronometer – Marine clock on gimbals in a box, like the ship’s compass.
Box haul – To veer a ship round on her heel, when she could not tack.
Box-hauling – A method of wearing in a confined space, by judicious use of sails and helm to turn the head at the moment of making sternway.

Box keelson – A box-beam formed to be used as the keelson, with its foundation plate riveted to the centreline of the top of the floors.  Not to be confused with hollow iron keels.
Boxing – 1. Small dry pieces of hardwood, used to connect the frame timbers.  2. An area around the hawse holes where the planks fail to meet.  3. If the stem is joined to the fore end of the keel by a side scarph it is said to be boxed. 4. Box hauling.  5. A type of scarf joint.
Boxing off – To pay the ship’s head out of the wind when tacking, by hauling the head sheets to windward and laying the head yards flat aback, when the helm alone would not answer.
Box off – To make a vessel’s head pay off by hauling the jib sheets aft and bracing back the foremast yards, usually in an emergency.

Box the compass – 1. Repeat the names of 32 compass points, in order and then backwards, and then answer random questions about its divisions, an exercise learnt by those seeking to master navigation, or just be allowed to con a ship, the efforts to which would be the cause of great hilarity amongst those ‘superior’ beings who could do it, having usually ‘forgotten’ how difficult it really is and the trauma of being laughed at themselves.  2. Turn a ship through sixteen points, stern to wind, then gradually turning again into the wind.
Boy - Ship’s boy, who slaved as directed.
Boyart – A hoy.
Boy Captain – Whoever was the current youngest captain on the Navy List.
BP – Between Perpendiculars.  Modern designers measure of length, roughly equal to length on the lower deck as used in 18c.
Brace – 1. A rope or wire attached by a block or pendant to a yard-arm and used to adjust the yard horizontally.  2. See gudgeon.

Brace – (v) To swing round the yards by means of braces, to improve sail efficiency to suit the wind conditions. ‘Brace aback’ was to brace the yards in and thereby bring the wind onto the front of the sails, to take the way off the ship.  ‘Brace about’ was turn yards round for the contrary tack. ‘Brace abox’ was to brace the headyards flat and stop the ship.  ‘Brace by’ was to brace yards in contrary directions on different masts.  ‘Brace in’ was to trim the sail angle, to suit the wind direction, into a square position.  ‘Brace sharp’ was to brace the yards round to the smallest angle with the fore-and-aft line, when close hauled.  ‘Brace to’ was to ease off the lee braces.  ‘Brace up’ was to brace the yards into a more oblique position.
Brace aback – To arrange a yard by means of braces so that the wind strikes the fore side of the sails.

Brace block - A block for a brace attached to a yard.
Brace in – To bring a yard more athwartships by using the braces.

Brace of shakes – Naval term that found its way into everyday language, meaning the time it takes for a sail to shake twice, i.e. not long.
Brace pendants – A short length of rope or chain suspended from a yard-arm, fixing brace blocks to foot-ropes, etc.
Brace round – Same as brace about.
Braces – Ropes attached or reeved to the end of all yards, used to turn the angle of yard relevant to the ship’s centreline, and to firmly fasten them in position.  Hence, ‘splice the main brace’ was a usually fictional command resulting in a double issue of rum.  The actual main brace was rarely spliced as it rarely parted, demonstrating the rarity of the command being given, either to actual or metaphoric ends.  In Dutch, the order ‘Bezaans-schoot aan‘, or ‘Haul the mizzen sheet’, served the same purpose, regarding the rum issue.
Brace spreader
- Spreader used to keep aft blocks away from the ship, thereby giving more force to the braces.  Also spider.
Brace to – To ease the lee braces and draw in the weather braces to bring a yard round when tacking so that the sail is taken slightly aback.

Brace up – To bring a yard to more of a fore-and-aft direction by using the braces.

‘Brace up and haul aft!’ – The order given after being hove-to, with sails aback and jib-sheet flowing, for the purpose of heaving to.
Brace winch – An invention of Jarvis, comprising a winch with pairs of conical drums, first used in mid 19c merchant ships to brace yards simultaneously, and hence to reduce labour .
Bracket – Aim to hit a gun target each side, leaving the third shot to land right in the middle, and spot on – with luck.
Bracket knee plate - A flat, usually triangular, plate that is fixed at the join of a beam and frame member, to form and strengthen the join.
Brackets – 1. Generic name for various shaped timbers or steel members used to connect two parts of the ship.  See knees.  2. The side pieces of a gun carriage.  Usually the cheeks.
Brackish – 1. Partly contaminated by a salty taste.  2. Nautical.
Brail – One of the ropes attached to the leech of a fore-and-aft sail and used to truss up sails before furling them to a spar or boom, originally used for shaping sails.  The run from points on the leech of the sail down to the deck, via leading blocks on the mast bands.
’Brail’ – The order given to gather a fore-and-aft sail to its mast.

Brail block – Block through which brails were hauled.
Brailed Up – Sails hauled up by brails.
Brail thimble – Thimble in sail for fastening a brail.
Brail up, or in – Gather a fore-and-aft sail into the mast by hauling on the brails.

Brake – The lever or handle, used by up to six men, to operate the ship’s pump.
Bran – To lie to in arctic waters, usually in the lee of an ice floe, to watch for whales.
Branch – The pilot’s certificate issued by Trinity House to one qualified to navigate in particular places.  Hence a Branch Pilot was one holding a branch.
Branded Ticket – A discharge given to one who was discharged from the Navy, on which the reason for his discharge is written.  The corner was then cut off, to distinguish it from a regular discharge.
Branding – A sometime punishment of branding “Mutiny” on forehead of such a recalcitrant.
Brandy – Ardent spirit distilled from wine or grapes.
Brandy-pawnee – A slang term for brandy and water, in India.
Bran-new – New and unused, as applied to sails that had not previously been bent on.
Bransfield, Edward – (1783-1852) Royal Navy officer who surveyed the South Shetland Islands in 1820 and who then was the first to chart a part of the Antarctic mainland.
Brash – A mass of ice fragments.
Brasil, Brazil, or Hy Brazil – A legendary island in the Atlantic Ocean.
Brass – 1. Bronze zinc alloy used as decorative metalwork.  2. Impudence.
Brassbound apprentices, Brassbounders – Merchant ship apprentices, from the twin files of bright yellow buttons on their monkey jackets.

Brassey, Thomas, Earl – (1836-1918) Naval expert who started Brassey’s Naval Annual, in 1886.
Brass hat – An officer has gold wire braided around their hat, which has come to refer to any elevated person.

Brass monkeys – Abbreviation of ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’, used to mean seriously cold.  Iron cannon balls would contract in freezing temperatures and drop through the holes in their brass storage racks, known as monkeys.  And you always thought . . . well, never mind what you thought.
Brave – 1. Said of a strong wind.  2. Elizabethan expression for fine and well decorated.
Bray – To waterproof a vessel with resin.
Brayl – Obsolete spelling for what became a brail.
Brazil - A wood used to in dyeing cloth, after which the country of Brazil was named, because good dyewood was found to be plentiful there.
Brazil beds - Hammocks, introduced in 1590s.
Brazzera - Fishing vessel used by Venetians and Dalmations in the Adriatic.
Breach – 1. A whale’s leap out of the water.  2. The breaking in of the sea, in a ship or a sea defence.  ‘Clear-breach’ referred to waves rolling over without breaking.  A ‘Clean-breach’ was when masts and all objects on deck were swept away.  cf breech.
Breaching – The action of a whale surfacing from great depth at such a speed that leapt from the water.

Breachy – Brackish.
Bread – Ship’s biscuit, named ironically.  Fresh bread was a rare treat, and called ‘fresh bread’.
Bread barge – Container used on the mess table, for bread or ship’s biscuits.
Bread fruitArtocarpus incisa. A useful fruit grown for its nutritional value.  Its importance will not be lost on those who have read of the voyage of Captain Bligh’s HMS Bounty in 1787.
Bread room – Store room for bread or ship’s biscuits.
Bread room Jack – The purser’s assistant whose duties included the issue of the daily bread ration.  Also Jack of the Dust, or similar such names.
Breadth – The width of a ship, at whatever designated place.
Breadth Extreme - The maximum width of the ship.
Breadth line – An imaginary line drawn around the ship, touching the timbers at their greatest extent from the centreline of the ship.
Breadth moulded - See Moulded Breadth.
Breadth riders – Diagonal timbers fixed at about the widest parts of a ship, to strengthen the other timbers.
Break – 1. An interruption of continuity, such as a change of deck level at the break of the poop, etc.  2. To remove an officer’s commission or warrant, or a seaman’s rating.
Breakage – 1. Empty spaces in a stowed hold.  2. Damage to goods, in an insurance claim.
Break beams – Beams installed to support any break in the deck, or similar.
Break Bulk - Remove the first part of the cargo and the start of unloading.  In some merchantmen this was a contractual event that triggered the first payment of wages to the crew.
Breaker -  1. A rolling topped ocean wave, usually as it hits rocks, the shore, etc., and usually plural.  The cry “Breakers ahead!” was the common call, from the lookout, to warn of approaching broken water, usually signifying rocks and usually terrifying all who heard it.  2. A small keg, originally called barrico, mostly known as the vessel used to carry rum to the grog barrel, or fresh water in a lifeboat.
Breakfast – Was traditionally taken at 8am(or eight bells of the first watch) and it took thirty minutes.
Break ground – The act of breaking the anchor out of the ground into which it was holding, when weighing.
Breaking – The act of removing stores or cargo from the hold.
Breaking liberty – Failing to return to the ship when due to.
Breaking of a gale – Signs of a gale passing.
Breaking plate distance – A measure of the strength of steel or iron plates used in ironclad ships, to withstand concentrated fire.

Breaking Strain – The maximum load that can be put into a rope.  Sometimes the term ‘working strain’ was incorrectly used, and may be encountered in fiction.
Breaking the trumpet - Dutch expression for making the first fold in the leech when reefing.
Breaking off – 1. When the wind direction just prevents a ship from holding her course.  2. The moment of changing duties from one to another.
Breaking-up of the monsoon – Seamen’s’ term for the violent storms that come with the seasonal wind changes in tropical areas.
Break of the poop – The forward end of the high structure at the aft end of a ship.
Break out – The order to open a storage container of any type.
Break sheer - 1. Describes a ship that has run cross its anchor cable due to the effects of wind and tide, when only riding at a single anchor.  2. To figuratively break a ship’s back by marring the gradual sweep lengthways.
Break up – to dismantle a ship at the end of her useful life.
Breakwater – 1. An artificial defence against the force of the sea, protecting ships lying behind it.  2. A low bulkhead across the forecastle, used to channel water into the scuppers and to prevent it washing over the decks.
Bream – 1. Freshwater and sea fishes.  2. To clear a ship’s bottom of shells, weeds, barnacles, etc., by singeing it with burning faggots, etc.

Breaming – Burning of a ship’s bottom fouling and reapplying tar.
Breast – 1. To run abeam of an object.  2. To cut through a sea.  3. To heave at something, such as a capstan bar, etc.  4. The opposite end of block to that through which the fall runs.

Breast anchor – An anchor laid at right angles to the fore-and-aft line of a vessel, either at the head or the stern.

Breast backstay – A rope backstay rigged from the weather or windward side of an upper mast, through an outrigger to the channels.
Breast band – A rope or canvas band passed around the chest of the leadsman, to help him avoid falling overboard.

Breast beam – A beam at the fore-part of the quarterdeck and at the after-part of the forecastle.
Breast board – Loaded carriage onto which yarns were fixed at the foot of the ropewalk.
Breast-fast – A large mooring rope arranged at right-angles to a vessel’s fore-and-aft line used to secure a ship’s broadside to a quay or another ship.  Also breast rope.  The ship was usually similarly secured with a head-fast and a stern-fast.
Breast gaskets – The longest gaskets, in the slings, or in the middle of a yard.  Sometimes called bunt gaskets.
Breast hook – Large compass timber fixed within and athwart the bow of a ship.
Breasting-off spars – Long timbers used to breast off a vessel from a quayside.

Breast knee – Timber fixed in the forward part of the ship to unite both sides of the bow.
Breast off – To keep a vessel away from a harbour wall, usually in order to enable lighters to get all round her.

Breast plate - A horizontal plate used to join the side plates at the stem.
Breast rail – The upper rail of the balcony.
Breast rope – 1. The rope securing yard-parrels.  2. The rope securing the leadsman when sounding, from the channels.  3. A mooring rope arranged at right-angles to a vessel’s fore-and-aft line.  Also breast-fast.
Breastwork – The balustrade at the forward edges of the quarterdeck and the poop and at both ends of the forecastle.
Breather – A tropical storm.
Breath of wind – An expression used for conditions all but dead calm.
Bred-up - It took several voyages before a merchant seaman knew how to supplement his earnings with clandestine trading.  When he had learnt how, he was said to be ‘bred-up’.
Breech – 1. The part of a cannon behind the bore.  2. The outside angle formed by the knee timber.  3. To secure a cannon by breeching.  4. That part of a block that lies opposite the swallow.
Breech block – Removable steel block used to seal the muzzle of a gun.  Also breech plug.
Breech bolt – Bolt in the ship’s side, onto which the breech rope is secured.
Breeches buoy – A life-buoy with suspended canvas support resembling breeches.
Breeches mat – ‘Y’ shaped protective mat at the collar of the mainstay, resembling breeches with legs upward.
Breechings – Ropes used to secure the carriages of cannons and to raise masts.  Also Double Breeching.
Breeching bolt – Used to secure breechings.
Breech loader - Cannon  loaded from the rear.
Breech loop – Loop on the breech rope.
Breech of a block – That part of a block opposite the swallow, where the rope enters.
Breech of a cannon – The massive after-end of a cannon.
Breech plug – Breech block.
Breech rope – Stout rope attached to the cascabel of a gun, securing it to the ship’s side.
Breech screw – Iron screwed cylinder used to press the vent piece into its place when the gun is loaded.
Breech sight – The notch in the base ring of a cannon, used to aim it.
Breed – (v) To make a fishing net.

Breeze – A gentle or light wind, originally from the north or north-east.  See Beaufort Scale.
Breeze, to kick up – To cause a disturbance, or a row.
Breeze up, to – Of the wind, to freshen.
Breezing up – Freshening.
Breezo - A toast given at a mess table, from the French brisée générale.
Brenner - A sharp gust of wind.
Brewing – Of a storm, seen to be developing.
Brick – A French brig.
Brick-Aviso – French Advice Boat.
Brick de Guerre – French brig-of-war.
Brick Dust – Powdered brick, used to burnish brass and bright metalwork.
Brickfielder – A hot, dry and dusty Australian wind.
Bricklayer’s Clerk – Term used to describe seamen or, more often, lubbers who claimed to be at sea through having fallen on hard times or to have ‘known better times’ and whose slightly better education impressed some of those less fortunate.
– 1. A gangway or pier or jetty.  2. A raised platform from side-to-side of a ship, on which officers stand. 3. A narrow gangway between two hatchways. 4. A narrow ridge across the bottom of a channel, creating a shoal.  Very dangerous if not spotted.
Bridge islet – A piece of land that becomes cut off at high tide, such as Linisfarne.
Bridle – 1. A rope or chain attached at both ends.  2. A mooring cable resembling a horse’s bridle.  3. Yoke for yards.  See fore, main and dandy bridle.
Bridle cable – A cable leading from a vessel to a rope or chain that is fastened at both ends, to hold the vessel at her moorings.

Bridle port – The port in a ship’s bow, through which bridles could be run, or chase guns fired.  Also called main-deck chase-ports.
Bridles – The ropes attached to the lute heads, to which the main towing warp of a trawl net is attached.

Brig – 1. Brigantine, also called a snow, when the main mast was rigged with a trysail mast abaft it.  A vessel with two masts, square-rigged, as a ship’s fore and main mast, but with a gaff and boom fore-and-aft sail on the lower main mast.  2. A modern name for a ship’s jail.
Brigantin, Brigantine – 1. A brig. ‘Brigantin’ was the  southern expression and ‘brigantine’ was northern.  2. An English, oared tug, of c1690, 48′ long with 13′ beam.
Bright Lookout – Term for an alert lookout.
Bright-side – Polished streak on side of US ships.
Brightwork – Fancy brass and/or metalwork and/or painting to the stern, or any brass or copper fittings that needed to be kept shiny clean.
Brig-Schooner – A brig with square-rigged foremast and schooner-rig on the mainmast.
– 1. The edge of the bank of a stream, river or lake.  2. The circular outer edge of the top of a container.  Sometimes called the rim.
Brimmer - Full glass or goblet.
Brimstone – Sulphur.
Brine – 1. Water saturated with salt.  2. The sea.
Brine Gauge – See salinometer.
Bring about – To reverse ship.
Bring by the lee – With the wind on the quarter, if by careless steering the stern swung round to bring the wind onto the other quarter, throwing the main topsail aback, the ship was said to have been ‘brought by the lee’.  In heavy weather this could result in the ship broaching to; undesirable.
‘Bring ‘em near’ – Colloquial term for a telescope.
Bringers up – The last members of a boarding party, or landing force.
Bring her all up – To stop the ship.
Bring home – 1. To ‘bring home the anchor’ means to weigh it. 2. A ship ‘brings home its anchor’ when it drags and causes the anchor flukes to slip and not hold.  3. To ‘bring home the log’ is to cause the pin to slip out of the log, thereby letting it slide easily through the water.
Bring in – To detain a suspect vessel on the high seas and bring her into port for adjudication.
Bring to – 1. To tie or bend a rope.  2. Stop a vessel by bringing her head to the wind.  3. To cause a vessel to come to a standstill, so the evolution of anchoring a vessel. cf Come to and Lay to. 4. The order shouted from one ship to another instructing her to make herself ready to be boarded.  This order is sometimes forcibly given by firing a shot across the target ship’s bow.  5. To apply a rope to the capstan, such as ‘bring to the messenger’.  More often used in the past tense as brought to, after the event.
Bring to anchor – To let go the anchor at the chosen mooring.
Bring to the wind – Steer into the wind.
Bring to the yard – Hoist up a sail and bend it onto its yard.
Bring up – 1. To cast anchor.  2. To ‘bring up with a round turn’ is to stop a running rope by quickly taking a turn round a bollard or similar device.  3. Used to express the sudden, effective, completion of a task.  4. To ‘bring up with a round turn’ is also to put someone in the right, sharply.
Bring up to the mast – Informal trial.  It was permitted for seamen to talk to officers ‘at the mast’, and for officers to question seamen about a transgression, without resorting to a court martial, or formal trial. The attraction for seamen was that they had more freedom to speak up, and for officers was the lack of fuss and the speedy resolution of a developing problem.
Briny – The sea.
Brisas, Briza – A South American off-shore north east wind.
Bristol – West country seaport, the principal English port after London, at some times, known for its very large tide height, at 50 feet the second highest in the world, that resulted in ships spending up to two thirds of their time in dock drying out on the mud flats.  This required ships to be well made and kept in good condition, so they became known for their smartness and the habit of ship’s captains to require their ship to be among the best in port.  Hence the phrase ‘shipshape & Bristol fashion’.
Brit –
1. Young herring and sprat.  2. A Briton.
Britanniaware – A non-rusting alloy of copper, tin, antimony and bismuth.  Used for tableware.

Britannic – Relating to Great Britain.  e.g. ‘His Britannic  Majesty’, meaning the British king.
British Seas – See Quatuor Maria.
Brixham Trawler – English ketch-rigged trawler. Very good to handle, they were and still are, often used for training.
Broach – 1. To open a cask or bottle. 2. To broach a subject is to begin it.
Broach-to – 1. To veer suddenly so as to turn the ship’s broadside to windward, or to meet the oncoming seas, and be turned over onto her beam ends, or to cause the ship to go down stern foremost.  2. To be brought broadside on to the wind and sea in heavy weather.

Broad Arrow – The traditional royal mark on government stores, introduced during the reign of Elizabeth I.
Broad axe – Originally a weapon of war, but subsequently a tool favoured by the ship’s carpenter, for making masts and for cutting away the detritus of conflict.
Broad cloth – Square sails.
Broadcloth (Blue) – Double width fine plain weave dressed cloth used to make officers’ uniforms.
Broad Pennant or Pendant – A tapering swallow-tailed bunting flag at the mast-head of a man-of war, being the mark of a Commodore and often used as the term for the officer himself.  See also Bougee. cf cornet.
Broad reach – Modern term replacing ‘going large’.
Broads – Fresh-water lakes.
Broadside - 1. The side of the ship above water, between the bow and the quarter.  2. The whole array of artillery on one side of a ship.  3. The simultaneous discharge of item 2.  4. An old folio sheet on which ballads or proclamations were printed and distributed on land, giving news or comment on events.
Broadside-on – The side of the vessel, as distinct from end-on.
Broadside weight of metal – The weight of shot fired from all the guns on one side, single-shotted.
Broad Street – Pay office of the Royal Navy.  This is where seamen officially had to attend to claim their pay, resulting in the practice of trading Pay Tickets with agents and money lenders, when remote from Broad Street, in the quest for cash-in-hand, often with a loss to the original owner of the Pay Ticket, due to bad exchange values set by unscrupulous agents.
Broadsword – See cutlass.
Broad water – A lake connecting with the sea.
Brocage – Brokerage.
Brocles – Strake-nails.
Brogues – Coarse seamen’s’ sandals of green hide.  As distinct from the well known strengthened shoes of a landsman.
Broke – The sentence of a court-martial, removing a guilty officer’s commission, resulting in the culprit being forced to leave the service.
Broken – 1. Reduced in rank.  2. A storm is said to have broken when it passes its worst.  3. Parole is broken by one who abuses the trust placed in him, and runs.
Broken backed – The state of a ship whose frame had loosened, causing droops at both ends. A ship in this condition is said to be hogged.
Broken off – 1. Fallen off course.  2. Men taken off one duty to perform another were said to have been ‘broken off’.
Broken squall – Term used to describe a squall that divides, the two halves passing either side or end of a ship and failing to seriously affect it.
Broken sproggins – Thrown overboard??
Broken water – Unsmooth water, at sea or in a channel.
Broker – One who carries out negotiations and transactions between tradesmen and shipowners, regarding cargoes and clearances.  He also arranged contracts and insurances with the undertakers. Originally a broken tradesman himself acting as go-between, for a commission, being unable to trade on his own account, but latterly developing into a respectable profession, if carried out honestly.
Broke up – 1. A ship that has come apart on a reef or on rocks.  2. Said of a gale that is passing away.
Brond – A sword.
Brook – 1. A stream of fresh or salt water.  2. Clouds are said to ‘brook up’ when they gather together and promise rain.
Brooking, Charles – (1723-1759) English maritime artist, considered by many to be possibly the greatest, certainly had he lived, although dying early was a bad habit of maritime artists.
Broom – When a ship was to be sold, a broom or besom was bent onto the mast-head as a signal to those interested.
Brooming – Breaming.
Broth – Thin soup made from boiled meat and vegetables.
Brothel creepers – White shoes with brown leather trims, said to be a sign of bad taste.
Brother-officer – One from the same ship.
Brot-tow - To collect scraps of rope to make coarse paper.
Brought by the lee – See Bring etc.
Brought-to – 1. Said of a ship that has been anchored.  2. A cable is ‘brought-to’ the messenger by nippers.  3. A messenger is ‘brought-to’ the capstan, etc.  4. A chase made to stop is ‘brought-to’.
‘Brought to his bearings’ – Made to obey.
‘Brought to book’ – When a transgression resulted in the need for formal punishment, such punishment was entered into the Punishment Log, in the presence of the transgressor, who was then said to have been ‘brought to book’.
‘Brought to the gangway’ – Punished.
Brought up – Of a vessel, stopped but not anchored.

Brought up all standing – Of a vessel, stopped suddenly and taken aback, by a sudden change of wind.

Brow – 1. Old name for the gangboard between ship and shore, particularly for loading horses or wheeled vehicles..  See gangplank.  2. Any inclined plane of planks used to communicate internally, or to accommodate shipwrights carrying materials on board during construction.
Brown Admirals – Floating faeces in harbour.  Also known as brown trout.
Brownbill - A burnished axe.
Brown - Faecal matter, used in many expressions, such as ‘Done brown’, which meant done the dirty on, or dropped upon, from a great height.
Brown Bess – An old government issue bronzed musket.
Brown George – A particularly hard and coarse biscuit.
Brownie – A whaler’s term for the Polar bear.
Brown Paper Warrant – See Warrant.
Brown stopper – A transverse bar used to retain the anchor cable, was known by the Dutch as a ‘brown stopper’.
Brown Stuff – Slang term for antifouling compound made of brimstone mixed with tar and pitch.
Brown water navy – Coastal fleet.
Browse – Light dunnage.
Bruise-water – Derogatory term for a ship with a bluff bow.
Bruising water – Pitching heavily to a head-sea, making little headway.
Brulot – French or Italian name for fireships.
Brunton’s anchor trigger – Patented mechanism for releasing the anchor chain in a safe way, to prevent it fouling the rigging, etc.
Brush – A skirmish.
Brushes – Nickname for Ship’s Painter.
Brush the salt off his shoulders! – Said of an old salt who is perceived to be telling exaggerated sea stories, or swinging the lamp, as they now say.
Brustle – A mix of bustle and rustle, used to describe a ship making a lot of fuss and spray.
Brutes – Dockside ‘ladies’.
Brydport – An early name for cable, from the fact that the best hemp cables were made in Bridport, Dorsetshire.  There was once a statutory requirement that all Royal Navy cables were to made in Bridport.
Bub – A drink.  To Bub and Grub meant to drink and eat.
Bubble – Slang term for a spirit level, as used in astronomical instruments.
Bubble, South SeaDelusive financial  and commercial adventure, which ‘burst’ in 1599.
Bubbly – Grog, and later, any rum.  When the rum was diluted three and one with water in the rum tub, the mixture foamed.  Not to be confused with the inferior French fizzy wine.
Bubbly bosun – The messdeck member assigned to collect the grog issue, in a rum fanny.
Buccaneer – 1. One who dries and smokes flesh on a boucan.  2. One of the piratical rovers who infested the Spanish coasts of America.
Bucantaur - State barge of the Doge of Venice. Also a large 17c ship.
Buchan Boilers – Heavy breakers onto the rocks on the extreme east coast of Scotland.
Buck – To wash a sail.
Bucker – A porpoise.
Bucket – 1. A canvas, leather or wood container principally used to fetch water to wash the decks, serving the purposes of pails.  2. A small globe of canvas-covered hoops, used as a recall signal for the boats of whalers.
Bucket-rope – A rope attached to the handle of a bucket for bringing up water from alongside.
Buckhorn – Dried, salted white fish.
Buckle – 1. The action of a mast under compression.  2. The action of sea ice piling up under an advancing ship’s bow.
Buckler – 1. A large wooden shield or shutter backing up the jackass, or hawse-hole plug, used to close the hawse hole whilst it was in use, so shaped to let through the hawser, to prevent water ingress. cf Blind buckler. 2. A small fighting shield.
Bucko – General name for a lively young sailor, from the corruption of ‘buckra’, the negro name for white man.  ‘Bucko mates’ was the nickname for hard mates in the American navies.
Buckra – A black West Indian’s or African’s name for a white man.
Buck-weel – A bow-net used to catch fish.
Bude – An old term for the biscuit weevil.
Budge-barrel – A small copper and wooden cask with one head forming a leather hose or bag, in which powder was safely carried, protected from sparks.
Budgerow – A passage-boat of the Ganges and the Hooghly rivers.
Buff - Elizabethan name for Buffalo.
Buffer – Chief boatswain’s mate, the buffer or go-between, to smooth contact for complaints, etc., between crew and officers.
Buffet a billow – To work against wind and tide.
Buffs – Leather or glass spheres filled with air used instead of bowls to keep a drift net afloat.

Buff up – Clean and polish something.
Bug – A ship regarded as large but not efficient.
Bugalilo, Buglo – A large Persian trading boat.
Bug anchor – Fourth bow anchor.
Bugazeens – Calicoes.
Bugger – Originally, one who commits buggery, but it came to be used as an expletive, or a derogatory name for someone generally considered unpleasant.
Buggery – Sodomy.
Buggins Turn – Let someone else do it.
Build – The form or construction of a ship.
‘Build a chapel’ – To turn a ship suddenly, by negligent steerage.
Builder’s Certificate – A document containing the ship’s denomination, tonnage, trim, etc. and details of who built it and where, required by the admiralty courts.
Builder’s Old Measure – The formula, adopted in 1773, for calculating the deadweight of a ship.  The formula was:  (Length – 3/5 breadth × (breadth × ½ breadth)) / 94
Builder’s Tonnage - The name, used up to 1836, for the deadweight of a ship.
Building – The action of constructing a ship, as distinct from designing it.
Building Slips – Inclined slipways onto which new keels were laid down and on which ships were then constructed.
Built – Used as a suffix to denote the style of construction of a ship, such as carvel-built, clinker-built, frigate-built, English-built, etc.
Built-block – A block made of several pieces of wood, usually elm.  The same as made-block.

Built-masts – Made masts.
Built-up guns – Early cannon made from bundles of metal rods, before accurate casting was mastered.  Succeeded by solid cast guns which were eventually themselves replaced by modern built-up guns assembled from many components.
Bulb plate - An iron or steel plate with one edge worked into a bulb, for extra strength.
Bulch – To bilge a ship.
Bulge – Bilge.  Hence ‘bulgeways’ were bilgeways.
Bulk – 1. The cargo of a ship, usually stowed without cases or packages.  2. The hold of a ship.  3. The gangway of a ship.
– One whose job it was to measure goods on board and determine the freight chargeable.
Bulk fleeting – The practice of trawlers staying at sea in company, for months on end, for mutual protection during times of hostility, sending their catches ashore on board cutters.

Bulkhead – 1. ‘The Bulkhead’ was the main partition between the forecastle and the head.  2. Upright partitions forming ship’s cabins or simply separating one area of ‘tween decks from another.  3. Any wall on board.  A drunken sailor would partake in ‘bulkhead bouncing’ as he made his merry way along, if capable.  Modern use includes watertight compartments.
Bulkhead stringer – A plate stringer with gussets connected to a bulkhead by angle-bars, for stiffening.
Bull – 1. An old male whale. 2. A small keg.
Bull Dance – A dance performed by men with men, when without women.  Also called a stag dance.
Bull Dog – The name given to the great gun in the ward-room cabin, and sometimes to all main-deck guns.
Bull earring – One of many earrings, used for first and second reefs.
Bullen - Bock.
Buller – A roaring sound from waves.
Bullet – Cannon or small firearm ball.
Bullet-block - Simple block with no sharp corners.
Bulletin – An official account of some public event.
Bullet-mould – A mould for casting musket balls and bullets.
Bullets – Leaden balls fired from small arms.
Bulling – To get a last, illicit amount of grog out of an empty rum cask by pouring in water and letting it stand, not always successfully!
Bullion – Gold or silver in the lump, or in coin, if the pure metal.
Bullock - Marines’ name for soldier.
Bullock blocks - Blocks fitting below centre of lower yards to lead topsail chain sheets down to the deck.
Bullock slings – Used to hoist live bullocks on board, or off again.
Bullock’s Liver – Ulcers caused by scurvy.
Bull rope – 1. A hawser let through the bowsprit end block to a buoy, to keep the buoy clear of the stem.  2. A rope used to haul an item of cargo from the wings of the hold into apposition under the hatch, ready for hoisting.

Bull’s eye – 1. Glass boss illuminator in a gun port-lid, scuttle-hatch or deck.  2. Small solid block in the form of a ring with rope around the edge and a hole in the middle, through which another rope could pass.  Also called trucks.  3. The centre of a target.
Bull’s eye cringle – A wooden ring used, rarely, to replace an iron thimble on the fore and main bowline bridles at the tack or leech of a sail.
Bullwanger, bull-whanger – 1. An eyed length of rope fastened to the back of the lower yard to keep the earring from slipping under the yard.  2. Wire strop with a thimble, used to reef merchant ship sails on steel yardarms.
Bully – 1. A swashbuckler, or blustering gallant.  2. In full, ‘bully beef’, the nickname of a tinned beef, actually Bouilli, first introduced 1813 and used in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, and subsequently in the British army.
Bullyrag – To bluster and abuse, often to cover for self-deficiencies.
– The raised side of a ship, above deck level.
Bumbard – A large cask or vessel containing liquids.
Bumbo – A drink made from rum, water, sugar and nutmeg.

Bumboat – 1. Scavenger’s boat used in the Thames.  2. A sort of sea costermonger or provision boat calling on ship’s in harbour to trade with them.  ‘Bumboat men’, or ‘women’ were the crew of bumboats.
Bumboat Pan - Soft bread sold by bumboat men.
Bum Freezer – Short naval jackets worn by crew men.
Bumpkin -
Bumkin, bumpkin – A short boom projecting from each bow of a ship to extend the lower edge of foresails to windward.  The same name was used for a similar device over the stern of a boat, to extend the mizen.  cf boomkin, although this name is more frequently given to the short boom extending from the mizen mast.
Bumkin block – A block at the end of the bumkin.
Bummaree, Bummery – Bottomry. Ship mortgage.
Bump – To pull astern of another boat and insultingly bump the stem into her.  Great fun when looking for a fight, and usually effective.
Bump ashore – To run a boat stem-on up the beach and let the waves bump her further up.
Bumper – 1. A glass or goblet filled to the brim.  2. A log of wood hung over the ship’s side to protect it against the action of pack ice.
Bumpkin – An iron or wooden bar projecting out-board from the ship’s side, to which the lower and topsail brace blocks are sometimes hooked.  Also Bumkin and boomkin.
Bum Ship – Mortar vessel.

Bunch of knitting – An entanglement of ropes.
Bund – Embanked dam to prevent flooding.
Bunder – Hindu name for a seaport or quay.
Bunder-Boat – A boat used on the Bombay coast, to ply between ship’s at anchor.
Bundle Men – Usually referred to married men on their way to leave, taking their bundle of dirty washing, or dhobey, and gifts to their wives.
‘Bundle-up!’ – The call to the men below to hurry onto deck.
Bundling – Arranging things in a sloppy way.
Bung – A stopper.
Bungle – To carry out a task badly.
Bung-starter – A bat-shaped tool used to start out a bung.  Hence also it was the term given to the captain of the hold, and to the master’s assistant serving his apprenticeship for hold duties.
Bung up & bilge free – The proper stowage of rum, varnish, sacramental wine casks, etc., in the Spirit Room, chocked with the bung uppermost and the bilges kept off the deck on beds so they would not move as the ship rolled.  Also used to describe anyone lying asleep during a ‘make and mend’.
Bung-hole – A hole in a cask, sealed by means of a bung.
Bungs – 1. Nickname for ship’s cooper.  2. The nickname for the master’s mate who superintended the serving of the grog.
Bunk – A bed built into a ship’s cabin serving as a sleeping berth for officers.  To ‘bunk with’ someone was to share a cabin or lodgings with them.
Bunker – An angular side space of the hold covered and allocated for the storage of sand, holystones, etc. and ultimately coal.
Bunker Hill – A famous battle on 17 June 1775 in the American War of Independence, of which the Marines are justifiably proud, for their predecessors’ valour.
Bunk up – To share ones bunk, and colloquially what can result.
Bunt - 1. Those cloths of a square sail which are nearest to the mast when the sail is set.  2. The central portion of a furled square sail.  3. The middle part of a yard, or the slings.  4. To ‘bunt a sail’ was to haul up the middle part and secure it by the bunt-gasket.
Bunters – Men on the yard who gather the bunt when furling sails.
Bunt fair – Before the wind.
Bunt gaskets
– The gaskets in the middle of a yard, used to tie a buntline to a sail.  Sometimes called breast gaskets.
Bunting – 1. Hauling up the middle part of a sail.  2. Worsted stuff used for making flags.
Bunting tosser – The signalman, usually a midshipman or junior lieutenant.
Bunt jigger – A small gin-tackle purchase, used on large sails to bowse up the bunt when furling.
Buntline – The rope attached to the footrope of a topsail, that passes up the front of the sail to a block on the yard, and used to pull up the bottom of the sail, to spill its wind.
Buntline-cloth – A lining sewn up the fore-part of a sail to prevent the buntline from chafing the sail.
Buntline cringle – A ring of rope at the foot of a sail.
Bunt-line fairleads - Circular thimbles on the fore side of a sail, to guide the bunt-lines.
Buntline hitch – Two half hitches, the second made inside the first.

Bunt Reefer – A sailor of limited ability.

Buntline spans – Short ropes with a thimble at one end and a whipping at the other, through which the bunt-lines are rove, attached to the tie blocks to keep the sail in bunt when hauled up.
Bunt Stow – The bulk of a sail dragged up to the centre, or bunt, of the yard and secured.

Buntline thimbles – Thimbles through which the buntline was guided up a sail.
Bunt slab-lines – Ropes used to lift the foot of a sail, to help see, or to prevent chafing, by reeving through a block on the slings and passing under the sail, making fast to its foot.
Bunt-straps - Arms encircling the yard to give it bearing, in self-reefing systems.
Buoy – 1. A floating marker fastened in position on the sea bottom or some other object on the bottom, to show where the things were under water, such as anchors, channels, shoals, rocks, etc.  The shapes of buoys evolved over the years to be more important than the colour, usually either can, cone, sphere or spar shaped, to denote different purposes. 2. A floating keg or block of wood attached to the anchor by rope, to show its location after casting, so that the ship could avoid tangling her cable.  To ‘buoy a cable’ was to attach a buoy to the cable to hold it off the bottom, in order to avoid it galling or rubbing the bottom.  A vessel intending to return to the same mooring will usually slip her cable after first attaching it to a buoy, for later recovery.  The anchor buoy is ‘streamed’, which means it is let fall over the ship’s side before the anchor is let go, to avoid fouling the buoy-rope as it sinks to the bottom.
Buoyage – The providing of buoys.
Buoyancy – The capacity to float, usually used to refer to vessels floating lightly.  ‘Centre of buoyancy’ is the naval architectural term for the mean centre of that part of a floating vessel that is immersed in the water.
Buoyancy tanks
– Sealed metal tanks of air in a lifeboat, that keep it afloat even when swamped.

Buoyant – Having the power of flotation.
Buoyed up – Using a buoy to support the bight of an anchor cable or chain to prevent it chafing on the seabed.

Buoy rope – A rope attaching an anchor-buoy to its anchor.
Buoy rope knot – A knot made by unlaying the strands of a cable-laid rope, and a small strand of each large strand, single and double walling them and worming the divisions and rounding the rope, where the end is lashed to the anchor shank.
Buoys & beacons – The earliest records show the first ever in the British Isles were laid in about 1520.
Burden – The tonnage of cargo that a ship can carry.  See Burthen.
Burgee – A small tapering swallow-tailed flag.  Also bougee.
Burgoo – A sailor’s dish of boiled thick oatmeal porridge, seasoned with salt, butter and sugar or cooked with vegetables and meat when available.  Also loblolly.
Burial Service – Religious, or pseudo, service accompanying sea burial funeral.
Burnetize – To treat canvas, timber, cordage, etc., with a solution of chloride of zinc, known as Sir William Burnet’s fluid.
Burnish – To make shiny by friction.
Burnisher – One who burnishes.
Burr – A hazy circle that appears around the moon before rain.
Burr, Burrel – Canister shot or case-shot or langrel or langrage, usually containing odd bits of iron, nails, etc. gathered together in a hurry.
Burr pump – The bilge pump.
Burser – The Purser.
Burst – The explosion of a shell, or a gun.
Bursted belly - Hernia.
Burthen, Burthern – The quantity of goods that a ship will carry, expressed in tons, when loaded to a proper sea trim, determined by certain strict rules of measurement, and usually referred to as the tonnage.  In fact a ship could carry about twice the tonnage, but would be deemed deeply laden, which is not advised. A ‘ship of burthen’ was a merchantman.
Burton – A tackle comprising two blocks arranged to bring the rope back on itself, thus increasing the mechanical advantage, used for heavy loads and to tighten shrouds.  To ‘up Burton and break out’ was to hoist a heavy item out of the hold.

Burton pendant - 1 A rope with an eye in the upper end, which is looped over the topmast head and has a tackle at the other end, used for lifting heavy weights.  Sometimes called just burtons.  See also fish-tackle burtons.  2 Tackles used for setting up topmasts.

Burton tackle – A small tackle containing three blocks, used to set up a tightening rigging, or to shift heavy bodies.
Bury – A sea funeral resulted in the deceased being ‘buried’ at sea.
Bush – The metal lining of a hole.
Bushed – Cased with harder to prevent wear.
Business, The Day’s - The name for a midshipman’s navigation calculation lesson.
Busk – 1. To beat about, or tack.  2. To cruise as a pirate.
Buskin - A boot reaching to the calf or knee.
Busking – Cruising an enemy coast looking for something to attack.  Not dissimilar to its modern usage, but with the theatre/cinema queue replacing the coast.
Buss – 1. A vessel of burden.  2. A two- or three-masted vessel used in the Dutch herring fishery.
Buss-sail -
Bust-head – See Head.
Busy – ‘Busy as the Devil in a gale of wind’ was an expression of fidgety restlessness, or double diligence in a bad cause.
Butcher – Provider of meat comestibles, or a dealer in meat.
Butcher’s bill – An ironic term for the list of those killed in a battle.  The butcher’s bill was often considered an important measure of the captain’s bravery.  For example, a successful battle with a small butcher’s bill may be considered inferior to a less successful one with a large butcher’s bill.  Certainly, to have failed, but with a large butcher’s bill, was more ‘honourable’ than with a small one, in the eyes of the establishment.  Seamen’s and officer’s lives were considered trivial and cheap, by the Senior Officers and the Admiralty, when glory was at stake.
Butescarli – The early name for officers in the British Navy.
Butcher !”– Called out to those falling into the scuppers.

Butcher’s bill – The count of dead and wounded after action.
Butt – 1. A cask for wine holding between 108 gallons, of ale, to 140 gallons of wine.  2. The thick end of an item.  3. The end of a ship’s plank.  4. To join two items end-to-end.  When they are said to ‘abut’.
Butt-and-butt – The term denoting that the two ends of planks are come together, but not overlapping.
Butt end – 1. The end of a plank or plate on a ship’s side, which joins onto the end of the next.  2. The shoulder part of a long firearm.
Butter Boxes – British seamen’s nickname for Dutchmen.
Butterfly block – A small snatch block, or hinged block, with a length equal to twice the circumference of the rope used, for hauling in a deep-sea line.

Butt joint – A joint between two planks, in which the ends meet flush together.  The joint is usually plated to strengthen it.

Buttock – The breadth of a ship astern, the convex part from the tuck upwards.
Buttock-lines – In naval architecture, the longitudinal curves at the rounding of the after body in a vertical section.
Button – 1. The ball fixed on the centreline of a cannon bore, at the rear of the breech.  2. Slang name for the circular wooden cap on an upper masthead, usually having sheaves for signal halyards.  Also called truck or top button.
Button boy – Relatively recent name for the boy detailed to stand on top of the mast-top truck, when manning a ship overall, for display purposes.  Not an enviable duty.
Buttons – To ‘make buttons’ is an expression for sudden apprehension or misgivings.
Button your flap! – Seamen’s’ trousers originally had a flap front instead of modern flies, resulting in this expression, meaning shut up!

Butt sling – A rope with a thimble or eye at one end and whipping at the other end, so that it can be passed through the eye to form a sling.

Butt strap – A metal strap spanning and covering the butt joint between two adjoining plates, for added strength.

Butt straps – Two timbers fixed to overlap end butts, holding the frame together.
Butty – Mate.
Buxsish – A gratuity necessary in oriental trading.
Buzzing – Booming.
Buzznacking - A word used by American whalers, meaning gossiping, or gathering news and information, from ship to ship.

By – One compass point (11¼°) further on in the direction of the last named compass point.  e.g. NbyE=11¼°, NEbyE=56¼°, etc.
By and by - In Elizabethan times this meant ‘at once’.

By and large – Both sailing close to the wind, which is ‘by’, and sailing with the wind wherever it is, which is ‘large’.  So, if a ship sailed well ‘by and large’ it would respond well to all circumstances.  This expression came ashore meaning ‘on the whole’.

By-boat – Newfoundland fishery boat.
Byrth – The old word for tonnage.  cf Burthen.
By the board – Deeper in the water on one side than the other.
By the deep – Leadsman’s call to indicate the depth as a quarter over the mark on his line.
By the head – Deeper in the water forward than aft.
By the lee
– The situation of the vessel going free.
By the mark – Leadsman’s call to indicate the depth as on the mark on his line, and consequently, a whole measure.
By the run – The order given to the hands working a rope to release it and let it run freely, or to run up a lighter halyard.

By the stern – Deeper in the water aft than forward.
By the wind - 1. The situation when the vessel sails as near to the wind as possible, or within six points of it.  As ‘full and by’.  2. Seamen’s slang for broke or penniless.
By the wind hitches – Rare expression for use by coastal ships of hitches on braces, to ensure correct trimming of yards when frequently tacking.
Bylander – Bilander.
Byng, George, Viscount Torrington - (1663-1733) Became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1727.
Byng, John - (1704-57) British admiral, fourth son of George Byng.  Rose rapidly through the navy, thanks to his father’s influence, and outreached his experience.  He was court-martialled for not doing his utmost to save Minorca, in 1756, and was shot as a result of being found guilty in 1757.  This incident is the source of Voltaire’s remark, in Candide, that in England it was sometimes necessary to shoot an admiral ‘pour encourager les autres‘.

By the book – In strict accord with Regulations.