Labour – (v) To pitch and roll heavily.

Labourer -

Labours – Of Ship’s Timbers.

Laced mainsail – A fore-and-aft mainsail attached to the mast by a continuous lacing spiralling around the mast and through eyelets in the luff of the sail.

Lacing – Fastening a sail to its mast, yard or gaff, by spiralling through eyelet holes in the sail and around the mast or spar.

Lacing a bonnet - SMS

Ladder -

Ladder Lane – To take a walk up Ladder Lane and down Hemp Street was seamen’s slang for to hang.

Laden – An old term for a fully loaded ship.

Lade-net – A net attached to a hoop on a long handle, with which fish that have fallen out of the fishing net are picked up.  Also called a dydle.

Laden in bulk – Said of a ship loaded with a bulk cargo in all holds.

Lading Charges -

Ladle - (tge)

Ladrones - Chinese pirates.

Lady of the gunroom – 1. The night watchman of the gunroom.  In the Royal Navy it became the slang term for the crewman in charge of the gunner’s stores.  2. The youngest Inferior Officer, whose duty it was to look after the children.

Lady’s hole - A small store room or compartment.

Lady’s ladder - Said of shrouds in which the ratlines are too closely rigged.

Lagan – 1. Any article thrown overboard with a buoy fastened to it, to enable it to be found and recovered later, from the French word lagand for lying.  2. An article lying inside a sunken ship or on the sea bottom.

Lagoon -

Laid back – When the sails on the mainmast are laid back against the mast, whilst the sails on the foremast are drawing, with the wind abeam, the vessel will heave to.

Laid by the heels - Put in leg-irons, eventually came to mean arrested.

Laid up – The state of a vessel that has been unrigged and her gear removed.

Laid up for us - Chased

Lamb’s wool sky - NTUS 1705

Lamp-glass - Magnifying lens used to concentrate light.

Lamps - 1 Eyes.  2 To lamp someone was to hit them.

Lamp trimmer – The petty officer under the boatswain who duty it was to maintain all the oil lamps on board.

Lance - Whaler’s spear.  Used to finish off the whale after it had tired itself out.

Landboard – The side of a ship that was moored to the land for loading and unloading.  Led to ‘larboard’, which became ‘port’, from the same tradition and which was less liable to confusion with ‘starboard’ during orders for evolutions.

Land breeze - NTUS 1701

Landfall – The first sight of land after a seagoing voyage.

Land Ho! - The lookout’s call under obvious circumstances.

Landing - The overlapping parts of strakes or planks in a boat.

Landing strake - The second strake down from the gunwale.

Landlocked – Said of a harbour from which the sea is not visible.

Landlubber - Seamen’s derogatory name for a landsman, sometimes also applied to an unhandy sailor.

Landmark - NTUS 1802, 2002

Landmen - See Landsmen.

Land mile - NTUS 1504

Land-Rat - Dockside criminal or tradesman seeking to relieve Seamen of some or all of their earnings.

Lands - The planking overlaps in clinker built boats.

Land-Shark - 1. Lawyers.  Considered unlucky to have them aboard.  2. Similar to Land-Rat, but worse.  cf Crimp.

Landskip - Dialect term for a landscape picture.

Landsman - A crewmember who had volunteered without training as a seaman.  ‘Volunteered’ was a somewhat elastic term in this context.  Approximately one third of a crew started a voyage as a landsman.  For a landsmen to become Ordinary usually took about a year, and to become Able usually took at least two years.

Landward – Towards the land.  Also shoreward.

Lanes - Open tracks of water through ice. Also Leads.

Langridge -

Languet, languette - The small ear of a sword handle that overhangs the scabbard.

Laniard, lanierd - See lanyard.

Lanyard - 1 The short lines securing the shrouds and stays.  2 Any short line fastened to something to secure it or to help with handling it, such as a line tied to flintlock on a cannon.  Also sometimes called laniard, or lanierd.

Lanyard-thimble - Thimbles used in place of a heart on small stays or hand lines, etc., which are set up with lanyards.

Lap joint - A joint between plates in which their edges overlap.

Lapstrake – Clinker built.

Larboard - The left side of ship looking forward.  Its name was changed to ‘Port side’, in the British Navy, by Admiralty Order on 22 November 1844. From the fact that the larboard side of the gun-deck was traditionally kept clear for officers’ promenade while in port, and at other times.

Larboard Watch -

Larbowlines, larbolins - Seamen of the larboard watch.  See starbolins.

Large – Sailing with the wind abaft the beam but not dead aft.

Large wind - See Large.

Lascar - Indian native seamen.

Lash and Carry - (Am)

Lash Up - 1. A temporary or bad job.  2. To stand treat.



Lashed into his Hammock – Dead.  From the practice of a dead seaman being lashed into his weighted hammock for burial at sea.  In battle, time was rarely wasted on such niceties, the dead being shoved unceremoniously overboard if they were in the way of continued fighting.

Lashers - ERR

Lashing – Any rope or line used to tie two items together or secure an object in place.

Lashing fore & aft - SMS

Lash-up - 1 Originally the term used to describe the process of running the gauntlet, but now generally applies to something badly done.  2 The process of securing hammocks and stowing them, on the call “Lash up and stow!”

Lask – (v) To sail well with a quarterly wind, with the yards braced up and the sheets eased out.

Laskets – Small hooplike lines sewn into the top of bonnets and drablers to attach them to the sail above.

Lasking, or lasking off – Going large, i.e. sailing neither before nor against the wind but with a quartering wind.

Last – 1. A 32 gallon barrel – old Dutch measure, used as a quantity of gunpowder.  2. A measure of ten thousand herring.  3.  2400 pounds.

Lastage – 1. Any cargo in a ship.  2. A duty levied on a cargo ship.

Last Dog - The Dog Watch of 1800 to 2000.  See First Dog, for obvious reasons.

Last dog and all night in - Under the normal watch system, a sailor would stand the last dog and then not be required to report again until 0800, having slept long.

Last in, first out - The etiquette to be observed in the carrying of officers in boats.

Last square frame - NTUS 0300

Latchet line - SMS

Latching a bonnet - SMS

Lateen sail – A large triangular sail attached to a lateen yard by its foremost edge.  Used as the mizzen rig on early square-rigged ships, before the spanker came into general use.  They originated in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, where they are still found.  Sometimes called ‘latene’, from  ‘Latin’ sail.

Lateen yard - A long spar hoisted on the mizen mast of early square-riggers, with the shorter and lower ‘half’ before the mast, forming the leading edge of a lateen sail.  Commonly used, still, on foreign smaller vessels, most notably Arabic.

Latitude – The angular distance of a location north or south of the equator.

Latitude by Polaris, or by North Star – The action of determining the latitude by measuring the elevation of Polaris.

Latitude by single (or double) altitude – The action of determining the latitude by solving spherical triangles.

Latitude Sailing -

Launch (vb) - 1. To place a boat in the water.  2. To cause a vessel to travel down its launching ways and enter the water for the first time, or after a refit that has entailed the vessel to be taken out of the water.

Launch - 1. A broad ship’s boat that was the main workboat of a warship, replacing the longboat, used for carrying heavy loads such as anchors, drinking water, etc. As a landing boat a Launch could carry up to a hundred men, with their kit.  (hgv)

Launch 2

Launch ho! - Job done.

Launching ways - Heavy timbers laid on the slipway, on which the cradle slides as a vessel is launched.

Lave -

Laveering – SMS

Law – When a drifter is blown back onto its nets the wind is said to be blowing against the law.

Law of the Navy - The order of those in the Navy List, from which seniority was/is decided.

Lawful occasion - Ships going about their business correctly and legally.

Laws of Oleron – An early maritime code enacted by Eleanor of Aquitane for the seafarers of the Island of Oleron and later adopted by nearly all seafaring nations.  It was introduced into England in 1190, by Richard I.

Laxsan - Currency unit.

Lay - 1. Aim guns, etc.  2. Whaleman’s share of the profits.    3. The direction in which the strands of a rope are laid.  Hawser-laid and shroud-laid are right-handed; cable-laid ropes are left-handed.

Lay aboard – To take a warship alongside an enemy vessel.

Lay a hold – Come closer to the wind by putting the helm down.

Lay along – 1. To list.  2. A ship in harbour or a time when hands are not required on deck.

Lay alongside - To position a ship by the side of another.

Lay back – When the sails on the mainmast are laid back against the mast, whilst the sails on the foremast are drawing, with the wind abeam, the vessel will heave to.

Lay Down From Above -

Layer - The member of a gun’s crew responsible for deciding the necessary elevation.

Lay in – The order given to hands on the yards to move in towards the mast.

Laying out anchor – SMS

Laying out marks - SMS

Laying out on the yard - SMS

Laying the yard - SMS

Lay of rope - Ordinary-lay is when the lay runs downwards from left to right, like a right-handed screw thread.  Cable-lay is the opposite way, or left-handed.  Wire ropes are always ordinary-lay.

Lay out – The order given to hands to spread out along the yard.

Lay the course – Maintain a course.

Lay the land – To sail away from the land, so that it drops below the horizon.

Lay to – Come to a temporary stop. cf Bring to and Come to.

Lay up – To make rope by applying the torsion to strands that forms them into a rope.  See hard-laid and soft-laid.

Lazarette, lazaretto - 1. A store room for a ship’s provisions, usually located in the after part of the hold.  2. An area used to quarantine anyone with an infectious disease.  3. A room used to confine a felon.

Lazy - The term given to an article in temporary disuse.  Hence, a lazy tack is the unfixed end of a tack and a lazy sheet is the unfixed end of a sheet.

Lazy guy – A single-rope guy, used to steady something that would not cause much strain on the guy.  See Bottom guy.

Lazy leadsman - NTUS 1901

Lazy painterA small light rope attached to the stem of a boat and used to tether her when conditions are benign.  Naval boats used to be fitted with two painters. The painter was secured to into the boat. The lazy painter, a much smaller, lighter rope was secured to the jacob’s ladder on the boom. Being lazy it had a lot of slack and at no time did it hold the weight of the boat. The first crewman down the Jacob’s ladder would use the lazy painter to haul the boat up to the ladder so that the boat could be manned.

Lazy sheet - See Lazy.

Lazy-tack - See Lazy. SMS

Lead – The direction in which a rope is led through blocks, cleats or fairleads.

Lead and line - NTUS 1901

Lead ballast – Lead used to lower the centre of gravity, usually only in small vessel’s.

Lead-cleat-block -

Lead hole - ERR

Leading block – A fixed block at the leading part of a tackle, through which the direction of a rope could be altered.

Leading Hand, or Rate - The next stage up from Able Rate.

Leading line – In pilotage, a transit line chosen to lead safely down a safe track.

Leading part – The parts of a rope forming the fall and moving parts of a tackle.

Leading wind – 1. A wind from abeam or from a quarter.  2. A wind blowing straight up or down a channel.

Lead Line – See Common Log.  A line marked with knots to determine depth. Lead-line Marks – Page 129

Lead of the tacks - SMS

Leads - 1. The routes of running rigging.  2. Open tracks of water through ice. Also Lanes.

Leadsman - NTUS 1901

League - A measure of distance of one twentieth of a degree of latitude, or 3.18 miles, usually reckoned as about three nautical miles.  In early accounts, a Roman League was 4 Roman miles.

League of Armed Neutrality – Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia.

Leaguer – Half#, Third#, etc

Leak - The ingress of water into a vessel, through a breach in her bottom or side, where she is said to have ‘sprung a leak’.

Leaks - SMS

Leather dodger - A screen behind which carcasses were fused.

Leathering - Leather was used wherever standing rigging could be chafed, over the worming, parcelling and serving.

Leatherneck - The US Marines, from the leather patch on their collars, and from a lively inclination to disparage them.

Leave - General #, Short #

Leddy - Scottish name for the figurehead, even if not a ‘lady’, or even a human.

Ledge - Athwartship timbers, between beams, used as additional deck supports.

Lee - The side of a vessel opposite to that from which the wind blows, namely the weather side, and so used to refer to any sheltered place out of the wind.

Lee board - A heavy composite board mounted at the sides of a flat-bottomed vessel that could be lowered to reduce leeway when tacking, in a similar way to a drop keel.

Lee brails, etc - SMS

Leech – The side edges of a square sail and the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail.

Leeches -

Leech line - NTUS 0409 ERR

Leechline & spritsail brace blocks - (hgv)

Leechline block - SMS

Leech line cloths - Additional cloths sewn on the fore side of a sail, where the leech lines would chafe, to prevent it.

Leech rope - NTUS 0409

Lee current – A current that sets with the wind.

Lee fange – An iron rail rigged athwartships along which the traveller of a fore-and-aft sail could run freely when tacking.

Lee gage – The position to leeward of another vessel.

Lee helm – Bring the rudder and wheel to windward in order to bring the vessel into the wind.

Lee helmsmen - Helmsmen who followed the movements of the weather helmsman, as he could not see the compass, sails, etc., whereas the weather helmsman could.  When not at the wheel he was required to stand at the lee side of the wheel, ready for when he was needed.

Lee lurch – A heavy and unexpected roll to leeward.

Leese - Lose.

Lee shore – Said of the shore when it is downwind of a vessel.

Lee side - The side sheltered from the wind.  See Lee.

Lee tide – A tide flowing in the same direction as the wind.

Leeward, to – NTUS 1503

Leeward - (pronounced “loo’ard”) – Direction towards which the wind is blowing at sea. In other words, on the side sheltered from the wind.  Opposite of Windward or Weatherside.

Leewardly - Said of a vessel inclined to fall away.  SMS

Leeward service - SMS

Leeway – The sideways drift of a vessel, from the effect of the wind.  If a ship was too close to a lee shore, onto which it might be blown, it had insufficient leeway.

Left-handed – The direction of lay of cable-laid ropes, where the strands lay from upper left to lower right.

Leg – 1. The distance travelled on a single tack.  Also board, or a trip.  2. A short rope that branches into three or more parts.

Leg of mutton sail – A triangular sail with its fore edge attached to the mast, as in Bermudan sail.  Also shoulder of mutton sail.  NTUS 1208

Leg & fall block – ERR

Leg of mutton mizzen – SMS

Leg of mutton sail - NTUS 0414

Legger - SMS

Leste - NTUS 1703

Let draw – The order given to release the weather fore-sheet of a head sail when tacking.

Let fall – 1. The order given to let a sail drop.  2. The order given to a boat’s crew to place the oars in the rowlocks and to level them.  At this order, any fenders are taken in.  Also out oars.

Let fly – The order given in an emergency to release the sheets as quickly as possible.

Let fly (or go) topgallant sheets - Salute.

Let go – The order given to release a mooring line or other rope.

Let in - To fit one timber into another.

Letters of Marque (P200?) – A Letter of Reprisal, originally called Letter of Marque in 16c, was different from the L of M of the 17 and 18c.  The latter was a licence issued by an Admiralty Court in time of war, empowering a private ship to cruise against a named enemy and to sell her prizes after they had been condemned by that court.  A L of R was authorisation by an Admiralty Court for a merchant or traveller who had been robbed, in time of peace, in the territory or by the subjects of a foreign power, who had been unable to obtain justice in that country’s courts, to recoup his losses, up to a specified sum, by seizing property of persons belonging to the town or country concerned.  Deriving from medieval Marcher Law (Lettre de Mark).  Latter was classic form of privateering.

Letter of Marque, (sometimes mart) - A modern expression.  Originally, royal licences, called letters of reprisal, were granted to shipowners who had suffered from the actions of foreign pirates and had failed to get recompense from foreign courts, to get equal retribution from other ships of that country.  The rules were soon forgotten, so letters of reprisal were often seen as licences to carry out acts of piracy.

Letter of Reprisal - 16c Royal licences granted to shipowners who had suffered from foreign pirates and had failed to get recompense from foreign courts, to get equal retribution from other ships of that country.  See also Letter of Marque.

Let the Cat Out of the Bag - Doing a deed that results in the Cat-O-Nine Tails being taken out of its baize bag.

Levache, Levante – NTUS 1703

Levant Company, The – Formed from Venice and Turkey Cos, formed 1592. Trading with eastern Mediterranean countries.

Levanter - NTUS 1703

Levanter Wind -

Level lines - Lines drawn on a ship’s plans, parallel to the keel, delineating the horizontal sections.

Leviathan -

Lewd - In Elizabethan times, said of anyone who was foolish, unprincipled, evil, vulgar, etc.

Ley - Scourer, sometimes made from burnt Fritters.

Liar - The punishment for a liar was to clean the heads.  The first crewman caught in a lie on Monday morning would then keep the heads clean for the week.

Libeccio - Wind ??  NTUS 1703

Liberty boat - The ship’s boat used to take those privileged few seamen entitled to a run ashore, and which they sometimes ‘missed the boat’ on returning late, missing which would lead to their missing a quiet life for a while, as a defaulter.

Liberty men, man – Passengers of a liberty boat.  A Royal Navy seaman on a run ashore.

Library -

Lie – (v) To keep a ship secure in an anchorage.

Lie a-hull – Heave to in heavy weather.  Also lie to.

Lie along – To heel over in the wind.  Also lie over.

Lie alongside - NTUS 2001

Lie along the land – To sail as close to the coast as possible, on a roughly parallel course with the coastline.

Lie by – To stay close by another vessel.

Lien -

Lie off – To stay well clear of another vessel or of the land.

Lie over – To heel over in the wind.  Also lie along.

Lie to – Heave to in heavy weather.  Also lie a-hull.

Lieutenant’s store -

Lieutenant - 1st to 6th.

Lifebelt – A buoyant jacket or belt used to keep a person in the water afloat.

Lifeboat - Boat used as rescue craft.  Up to the eighteenth century this usually meant the normal ship’s boats.  The first specialised Lifeboat was built by L. Lukin in the Tyne estuary in 1786 and had cork inserts and buoyancy chambers.

Life-buoy, lifebuoy – 1. Old caulked cask suspended over stern, usually two.  2. Any buoyant object thrown overboard to support a person in the water until they can be rescued.

Lifeline, life-line – 1. A rope rigged as a handhold or similar for the security of the crew in heavy weather.  2. A buoyed rope or rope’s end thrown into the water to rescue a crewmember that had fallen overboard.  3. A rope attached to life-buoys or lifeboats, with Turks heads at the ends to help stop weakening fingers from slipping off.

Lift -

Lift & send - Words used to describe the pitch of sea-wave action.

Lift block - SMS (ecr)

Lift jiggers - SMS

Lifting gear – The term for all the cranes, derricks and similar equipment used for handling the cargo.

Lifting sails – SMS

Lifting Ship – A vessel designed for salvaging sunken ships, first known in the fifteenth century BC used by Egyptians.

Lifts - SMS

Ligan – Items thrown overboard and buoyed for later recovery.

Light – 1. (v) To help bear a rope in the desired direction. 2. An opening in a vessel’s side or deck, used to let in light.  3. Said of a ship not fully loaded with cargo.

Light along – 1. To pass a rope along in the required direction.  2. Used as a slang expression to mean carry anything along, from 1.

Light box -

Light buoy - NTUS 1803

Light Dues - Revenue raised by lighthouse authority, deducted now by customs officials from port dues, paid by all ships using British ports. CTC

Light draught - Said of a ship carrying no load and so having the minimum draught.

Lightening the ship - SMS

Lighter - Originally a boat used to lighten the load of a ship, thus enabling it to go further upstream in shallow waters. Now often applied to barges, etc.

Light hand – A young bright seaman who would often suffer banter from older crew members.

Light handed – Said of a ship without her full complement.

Light house - NTUS 1802  First flashing light installed at Walney in 1820, by Robert Stevenson.

Lighting over - SMS

Lightning Conductor - A copper strip running from a mast-head to the sea, to conduct safely away any lightning strikes. Also see Sir Wm Snow Harris.

Lightning rod chain - (tge)

Lightning Rods - Often three pronged, with chains connected at the foot of the Masts, ready to be thrown into the sea in a thunderstorm.

Light port - A glazed port hole or scuttle.

Light-room - The small compartment where the gunner could fill powder cartridges.  It was separated from the magazine by double glazed windows, and contained the magazine light outside, so as to avoid the danger of explosion.

Light sails – SMS

Light sector - NTUS 1803

Lightship - See Lightvessel. NTUS 1802

Light space -

Light-to – 1. Move a ship into the wind.  2. A pipe call meaning: stop hauling.

Light vessel, lightvessel - A stationary anchored ship fitted with a warning light to alert mariners in dangerous areas of sea, where it would not be possible to erect a permanent Lighthouse.  In ancient times the light was emitted from open fires, torches, candles, lanterns etc, but in 1807 Robert Stevenson developed an optical device of concave mirrors around a column, which made the beacon more efficient. Frenchmen A J Fresnel and D F Arago invented the Fresnel lens in early 19c, which is now fitted to many navigation lights on ships. NTUS 1802

Light weather reacher - Triangular barge sail set from bowsprit to topmast head.

Light yards - SMS

Ligier - An ambassador or commercial representative.

Lignum Vitae - roller in tiller sweep – (hgv)

Lignum-Vitae Sheaves -

Limber boards - Planks fixed between the keelson and the futtock plank, to seal the junction and form part of the floor.  They were removable to facilitate cleaning.

Limber holes - Holes cut through the lower floor timbers, through which water could drain into the limbers, and then to the pump well.

Limber rope – A rope pulled through the limbers and pulled back and forth to clear them out.

Limbers - Channels running fore-and-aft either side of the keelson, through which water drains to the pump well.

Limber strake - The strake immediately adjacent to the keelson.

Lime juice – The compulsory ration introduced by the Royal Navy to combat the effects of scurvy.  So British sailors were the original ‘lime juicers’.

Limejuicers - British ships

Limers - Any soft drink, from the practice of issuing lime drinks to combat scurvy in tropical climates.

Limey, lime juicer - British seamen were called limeys by their American counterparts, from their habit of taking limes in the West Indies, as a cure for scurvy.  British ships were consequently lime juicers.

Limicole world - The world occupied by minor officials, who lived with one foot on shore and the other in the sea.

Lynch pin - of 12pdr gun (tge)

Line – Any cordage less than one inch in diameter.

Line, The - The equator.

Line abreast -

Line Ahead - See Line of Battle.

Lined Up - Paraded as defaulter.

Line of Battle -

Line of Battle Ship -

Line of bearing – The discovery by American Captain Thomas Sumner, in 1837, that an altitude observation yields a position line.  Also Sumner line.

Line of position – A line drawn on a chart (or imaginary) along which a vessel must lie.  Also position line.

Liners - 1. Fishing boats using lines.  2. Passenger or cargo ships regularly travelling a fixed route to a schedule.

Lines - SMS

Line, Toe the – When mustered on deck, the crew would form up with their toes touching a seam in the deck planking.  This term came ashore to refer to the practice of complying.

Line throwing appliance – A gun designed to fire out a line to or from a stranded vessel.

Lining - An additional cloth sewn on the fore side of a sail to strengthen it. (tge)

Lining piece - A filling piece between plates and frames, inserted to make joggling unnecessary.

Linings - ERR

Link worming – A method of worming hemp rope, with a small chain laid along the cantlines to reduce chafing.

Linstock - A pointed forked stick about a yard long, which was stuck into the deck and held the match.

Lint – The mesh of a herring net.

Linther - Type of small boat.

Lint stock - (tge)

Lipper – The disturbance caused on the surface of the sea by a shoal of fish.

Liquid compass - NTUS 1906

List - 1. The tilt of a vessel to either side.  2. Scraps of the seamed edge of fabric, used to make hard-wearing but soft slippers.  3. The Navy, or Captains’ List, the list of all RN Captains which recorded their seniority.

List Slippers - See List.

List, The - The Navy List.

Lithsmen - Seamen/officers (?) of Cnut and Edward the Confessor.

Little one bell – The signal of one stroke on the bell, for the night watch to muster and be checked.

Littoral -

Lit up - Drunk.

Lively - Seamen’s slang for doing something quickly and with enthusiasm.

Liverpool hook – A hook with an inward turned bill to prevent slipping, used at the end of a cargo runner.

Liverpool pantiles – Ship’s biscuits, from their hardness.

Living high off the hog - Eating well off salt pork, as a relief from salt horse (beef).

Living Six on Four - Six men living on the rations of four men.

Lizards – 1. Short strops, seized to hanks at intervals down the luff of a sail and used to guide the downhaul.  2. An iron thimble spliced into the main bowlines and pointed over one end so that a tackle could be attached to it.  3. A rope with a thimble at one end, attached to a boat boom to which a boat could be made fast.

Llevantades - NTUS 1703

Lloyds Coffee House – The centre of maritime finances…Started in 1692

Lloyds Presentation Sword – Given to Royal Navy captains who were judged, by Lloyds, to have done them a good service, usually by capturing or destroying enemy ships that had caused mischief to commerce, resulting in losses to Lloyds.

Lloyd’s Register (LR) - CTC

Load – 1. (v) To stow a cargo on a vessel. 2. A wagon load of timber.  Typically one load = one oak tree.  A single third rate ship of the line would take approximately 3400 loads.  3400 loads = approximately 64 acres of woodland.

Loaded and run out - Ready, originally of cannon, but, with the seaman’s’ habit of arcane language, it came to be applied to anything.  e.g. If someone’s jaw was ‘l and r o’ it meant they were ready for a chat, usually a long and unstoppable one.

Load draught - The distance from the water-line to the keel taken by a particular load.

Load lines – The marks made in a ship’s side at the waterline to show when she is fully loaded.  A ‘recent’ innovation.

Loafing stations - A shore establishment.

Lobby (to hanging magazine) - (tge)

Lobbyman - Pilot

Lobcock - Landsman.

Lob-Dominion - Seamen’s’ food.

Loblolly - The thin gruel served in the Sick Berth.

Loblolly Boy - Ship’s Surgeon’s young (usually) assistant or mate.  From the sound of boiling porridge and thick gruel often served to make sick men better, and often failing to.

Lobscouse - A sailor’s dish comprising minced salt beef, stewed vegetables, crushed ship’s biscuit and whatever else is available, layered and cooked.  ‘Scouse’ derives from this name.

Lobsters – A regular soldier’s name for the Royal Marines, because of their scarlet uniforms.

Lobtailing – A sperm whale at play by slapping its tail on the surface of the water.

Local mean time – Mean time kept at any place.

Lock – An enclosed basin interconnecting areas of lower and higher water level, through which vessels can pass to get from one to the other.

Locker - A cupboard or small, lockable, storage compartment, used for food, cleaning equipment, clothing, etc.

Lock gates – Water-gates located at the upper and lower ends of a lock, the sequential operation of which enables the lock to fill or empty as required.

Locking bars - Flat iron bars used to secure the tarpaulin covers to hatchway coamings in heavy weather.

Locking of yardarms - SMS

Locking pintle - A flanged pintle used to prevent the rudder from becoming unshipped accidentally.

Lock string - On gun.

Locust - Hardwood. CTC

Lodging knee - A heavy right-angled timber bracket fixed horizontally between a vessel’s beams and sides to give it strength.

Loft - To lay out a full scale working drawing of the lines of a vessel’s hull. See Mould Loft.

Lofting -

Lofty - A high tide.

Log – 1. Device used to measure speed of ship. Normally Common Log. Originally an actual log was used as the float.  2. Or log book – The official record of events on board ship and of her movements.

Log – The book into which the permanent record of the details of a vessel’s course and events were written up from the log board at noon each day.  Also log book, or day book.

Log board – Two hinged boards that were folded together, painted black and ruled, onto which the details of the courses, log distances, winds and other occurrences were temporarily chalked, before being written up into the log board.  On smaller vessels the same job was done by the traverse board.

Log book – The book into which the permanent record of the details of a vessel’s course and events were written up from the log board at noon each day.  Also log, or day book.

Log Chip – Actually Log-Ship.

Logged - The recording of a reprimand to an officer that was usually disregarded when that officer moved on to another ship.

Loggerheads - Hollow spheres of iron on a shaft that were heated in a fire and used to melt solid pitch in a bucket, and avoid ignition.  Seamen considered it fun to settle a dispute by attempting to beat each other with loggerheads whilst dodging their opponent’s swing.  It could hurt.  Ashore, to be ‘at loggerheads’ has come to be slang for any quarrelling. Also were used to fire guns by giving a hot touch to the priming. (Maybe only in the US Navy).

Log-Glass - 14, 28 or 30 second timer used with the Common Log.

Log-Line - Main Line of Common Log, marked in knots.

Log pump - (tge)

Log-reel - Onto which the Log-Line was wound.

Log-ship, logship - A contrivance by which a ship’s speed is measured, comprising a lead weighted wooden quadrant used as float of Common Log.

Loguy – A heavy and slow fishing vessel.

London Papers - For advertising recall etc –  Gazetteer, Daily Advertiser, Public Advertiser, Evening Advertiser, Whitehall Evening Post, and General Evening Post.

Longboat - ERR

Longboat - Originally the main ship’s boat until replaced by the Launch in mid 18c.

Long-boomer – Yawl-rigged fishing vessels from Aldeburgh, Suffolk, so named because of their long retractable bowsprits.

Long call - A Wardroom table call for something to be passed up from down the table.

Long clothes – Worn by landsmen on land.  Also Long Togs.

Long flaking of cable - SMS

Long-glass - Telescope.

Long gasket - NTUS 0409

Longitude - In navigational terms, a great circle that passes through the poles.  In other words, they run north to south, as distinct from latitudes that run east to west.  The angular distance of a location east or west of a prime meridian, usually Greenwich.

Longitude Act – 1714 Prizes of £20,000, £15,000 and £10,000 offered for practical sea-going methods of finding the longitude, of accuracies of half a degree, two-thirds and one respectively.

Longitude by chronometer – A method of determining Greenwich time by carrying an accurate timekeeping device on board, set at Greenwich time, taking an altitude observation and solving the navigational triangle.  The longitude was established by adding local mean time to Greenwich Mean Time.

Longitude by lunar distance – A method of determining Greenwich time by measuring the angular distance of the Moon from a nearby predicted star and looking it up in an almanac to establish the longitude.  The calculations necessary were called ‘clearing the distance’ and they were very laborious and the sights of Moon and stars had to be done during twilight, when they could be done simultaneously.

Longitude by Time Keeper - NTUS 1511

Longitudinal stability - SMS

Longitudinal stress - The strain on any longitudinal member of a vessel’s structure that can cause distortion.

Long jaw – The term for a rope laid with its strands forming an angle of less than 45° from the run of the rope.

Long leg and thimble - to spritsail yard parrel, to allow its being easily lowered and raised.

Long line – A fishing line worked from a boat or set at low tide, with from 20 to 4,000 hooks attached to the main line by light lines called snoods.

Long Pennant - All ships used long pennants. Also known as Coach Whip.

Long Pig - Southsea term for white man, usually thought to refer to his meat rather than his manners.

Long pole head – (ecr)

Longship – 1. Generic term for long narrow Viking ships of 9c onwards.  2. Originally, seamen’s term for a ship with poor rations, or poor quality victuals.  It came to mean, not being offered hospitality.

Longshore current – A current running parallel to the shore.

Long shot – The expression for a chancy try at something, from the practice of trying a cannon shot at extreme range, without much hope of a hit.

Longsplice - NTUS 0512

Long stay – Said of an anchor cable that extends away from the bows more than four times the depth of the water.

Long tackle - SMS

Long tackle block – A single-shelled block in which two sheaves turn on separate pins, a larger one above a smaller, thus permitting two ropes to be worked at the same time.  Similar to a fiddle block.

Long timber - A timber among the cant frames, forming a floor by stretching from the deadwood to the second futtock.  Sometimes called the long top-timber.

Long Togs -

Long Tom - A paintbrush on a pole.

Long top-timber - See Long timber.

Longwaisted - NTUS 0311

Loo’ard – Leeward

Loof – 1. An early spar that was replaced by the bowline and tack that did the same job of hauling the leach of a sail forward or down respectively.  2. The after part of the bow, where the planks start to curve in towards the stem.

Loof hooks - SMS

Look on – To haul part of a fishing net out of the sea to check whether or not the fish were in the net.

Look-out – The crewmember assigned to keep a visual watch from high on the foremast, or sometimes in the bow, or both when conditions were bad.

Look out for - Seamen’s slang for being a substitute on duty.

Lookouts – SMS

Loom – 1. The handgrip part of an oar.  2. The sense of nearness of a coast, even when not in sight.  3. To seem unnaturally large or close in a fog or mist.

Loom gale – An easy gale.

Loop holes - Small holes cut through a ship’s bulkheads, or elsewhere, through which a boarding enemy could be fired at with small arms.

Loops – (hgv)

Loose – (v) To let go the gaskets of a furled sail, ready to set it.

Loose fish – A whale that is fair game for anyone to harpoon.

Loose footed – Said of a sail that had an unattached foot, as distinct from those on which the foot is attached to a boom.

Loose points, reefing – SMS

Looseness – Diarrhoea.

Loosers - SMS

Loosing sail - SMS

Loosing to a bowline, buntline - SMS

Lop – Short quick-running seas.

Loppy – Said of a sea with lop.

Lorcha – A small Chinese pirate sailing vessel with a European style hull but Chinese junk rig; usually armed.

Lord High Admiral - Now, the Sovereign, but in the past, a high office of state in the gift of the Sovereign.  Known to have been abused.

Lord Mayor’s Men - Delinquents who were sent to sea rather than to prison.

Lord of the Heads -

Lose Ground -

Losing way - SMS

Lost the number of his mess – Died, of a seaman.

Lotion - Alcohol.

Lowbell – A small bell, usually used in fowling.

Low bunts - SMS

Lowdies or lowders - Woodlice, the curse of ship’s timbers

Lower! - Second Pipe Call.

Lower and dip – The order given to dip a lugsail round to the other side of its mast.

Lower away – The order given to lower a yard or sail.

Lower boom - Earlier name for a guess warp boom, usually arranged by the rigging of a studding-sail boom from the lower yard-arm.

Lower cheerily – The order to lower something rapidly.

Lower counter timber -

Lower deck - The deck immediately above the orlop deck.

Lower deck, On the - Not an Officer.  Generic term denoting non-commissioned ranks and ratings.

Lowerer – One of the crew members who assisted on the lowering and raising of a ship’s boats.

Lower handsomely – The order to lower something carefully and slowly.

Lowering gear - SMS

Lower mast - The bottom part of the mast, erected directly onto the keel and carrying the lowest sails and the upper parts of the mast.

Lower rail - NTUS 0300

Low tide – The lowest water level reached during one tidal oscillation.  Also low water.  cf high tide, or high water, or full sea.

Low water – The lowest water level reached during one tidal oscillation.  Also low tide.  cf high tide, or high water, or full sea.

Loxodrome – A rhumb line.

Loxodromes – Lines radiating from the wind rose on ancient charts.

Loxodromic Charts

Lubber - A lazy and inexperienced seaman, or any disappointing person.  Landlubber is such a person ashore.

Lubberland - Seamen’s slang for an imaginary paradise where even lubbers can be tolerated.

Lubberly - Unseamanlike.

Lubber’s hole - A gap in the top, next to the mast, through which nervous climbers gained the top, to the disdain of seamen.

Lubber’s line – The line drawn across the bowl of the ship’s compass, indicating the fore-and-aft line of the ship.  The coincidence of the lubber’s line and a point on the compass card indicated the course being steered.

Lubber’s point – Similar to Lubber’s line, but a single pointer.

Luck -

Lucky bee - A bee that accidentally turns up on a vessel at sea.

Luff - 1. To bring a ship closer to the wind is known as ‘to spring a luff’.  2. A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel to come closer to the wind.  Also ‘keep your luff’, or ‘keep your wind’, or ‘spring the luff’.

Luff, and lie & touch her - SMS

Luff and touch her – A helm order given when the conner wanted to see how close to the wind the vessel will sail.

Luffed - NTUS 1011

Luffed - Caught to do an unpleasant task.

Luffed up - Staggered, said of a drunk.

Luff hooks - NTUS 0409

Luffing - SMS

Luff-jack-lines - A method of joining staysails to stays where booms are used, that loosen on lowering, preventing jamming.

Luff round – 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 a-lee the helm, or down with the helm.

Luff tackle – A heavy tackle comprising a single and a double block, used for various purposes.

Luff-up -

Luff upon luff – A tackle formed by attaching the block of one luff tackle to the fall of another, to increase their mechanical power.

Lug or lug sail – A four-sided sail with a shorter fore edge and the yard set obliquely to the mast.

Lugger - A small fast 18c sailing ship carrying three short masts all carrying lugsails.  Favourite of French privateers.

Lug out - To draw sword.

Lug piece - Short lengths of angle-bars, used throughout a vessel, for uniting and strengthening structural components.

Lug sail – See Lug. NTUS 0414

Lug topsail – A square sail set above a gaff sail, with its head attached to a small spar angled across the mast, like a lugsail.  Also jackyard topsail or jackyarder.

Lull - NTUS 1701

Lum - To handle oars

Lumper – A port worker, paid by the lump to load or unload a ship.

Lunar day – The tidal prediction term meaning the interval between successive Moon transits across the meridian.  The average lunar day is 24 hours and 50 minutes.  Also tidal day.

Lunar tides -

Lunar month – The tidal prediction term meaning the interval between one New Moon and the next.  The average lunar month is 29½ days.  Also lunation, or synodical month.

Lunar Tables – Meyer’s -1755

Lunation – The tidal prediction term meaning the interval between one New Moon and the next.  The average lunar month is 29½ days.  Also lunar month, or synodical month.

Lunitidal interval – The tidal prediction term meaning the period between the Moon’s southing and the next high water.  Also interval.

Lunsforthe - An early navigation instrument.

Luny, Thomas - SMS

Lute heads – The frames at each end of a trawl net from which the net is dragged.

Luzons - The Philippines (Elizabethan).

Lying a hull - SMS

Lying heavy on the helm - SMS

Lying to - SMS

Lymphads - Small Highland oared galleys from medieval times to 16-17c.

Macaroni - A fore-and-aft schooner.

Machine Vessel – An explosive vessel; similar to a fire ship but packed with explosives.  Also Infernal Vessel.

Mackerel sky - NTUS 1705

Mackerel tail - SMS

Macklantan, maclantan – A scanty outfit of cloths brought on board by an enlistee.  From this, anything poor or scanty.

Made block – A built block.

Made mast - Large mast made from several shaped timbers slotted together.  Masts made from a single piece of timber were superior, but suitable large timbers were rare.  The components included: Bolsters, Cheeks, Trestletree.

Made the quarterdeck -

Made up - Promoted.

Maelstrom -

Maestro - NTUS 1703

Magazine - The storeroom of a man-of-war in which gunpowder and other explosives were kept safely.

Magnetic compass - NTUS 1906

Magnetic declination – See Variation. NTUS 1905

Magnetic equator - NTUS 1905

Magnetic inclination – See Dip NTUS 1905

Magnetic north – The direction indicated by a north-seeking needle affected by the earth’s magnetic field.  The magnetic variation is the difference between magnetic and true north.

Maiden voyage - The first true voyage of a ship for the purpose for which she had been built, as distinct from trials and shakedowns.

Mailies – Seamen’s term for post, or letters.

Main, to - To lower a sail or sails, usually as a salute.  Also Amain.

Main - 1. The principal item, such as the mainmast, mainsail, etc.  2. The open sea.  3. The mainland.  Usually then called The Main.

Main bilge pumps -

Main boom - A spar used to spread the foot of the main sail in a fore-and-aft rigged vessel.

Main brace, parting - SMS

Main breadth - The greatest distance between parts of any pair of opposite frames in a vessel’s structure.

Main bridle - The main tackle used on a trawl beam.

Main-chains -

Main course – The mainsail.   The principle sail on the lower mainmast.

Main deck - The principal deck.  On a three-decker the main deck was the one immediately below the upper deck.

Main drift hance - (tge)

Main geers – The assemblage of tackles on deck at the main mast, used to hoist and lower the main yard.

Main halyard - The rope used to hoist the mainsail.

Main hatch - The largest hatchway.

Main hold - The main cargo space of a vessel.

Main jeer capstan - NTUS 0300

Main magazine -

Mainmast - The principal mast.  In a two-masted ship it was the chief mast;  the centre mast in a three-masted ship and the second mast in all others.

Main piece - The timber component of the stem, shaped to take the bobstay piece.

Main rigging - The rigging of the mainmast, sometimes used to refer only to its shrouds.

Main Royal -

Main royal staysail - ERR

Mainsail haul – The order given to tack a square-rigged ship, when the foremast yards are braced aback, the after yards are braced round and the mainsail is set for the new tack.

Main sheer strake - The plating strake that runs alongside the line of the main deck.

Main stay - (ecr)

Main tack - The rope holding the weather clew of the mainsail.

Main tackle – A large heavy-duty tackle comprising fixed single and double blocks with a moving double block, rigged on the main pendant, used to secure the masts or to set up rigging and stays.

Main top - The platform at the head of the main mast.  It’s purposes were to spread the width of the upper shrouds, to provide a place from which the upper sails were controlled and to be used as a battle station.

Maintopsail schooner - A schooner rig with square-rigged topsail and mainsail.

Main wale - NTUS 0101, 0305

Make a board – Sail a short tack.

Make a good board – Sail to windward without making much leeway.

Make a Carrick Bend -

Make a dead man chew - Reference to the alleged practice of Pursers drawing a tobacco allowance for dead sailors.

Make a leg - Bow or curtsy.

Make and mend - A half day rest period aboard, during which the seamen’s’ personal belongings and clothing were repaired.  Came to mean a half day off for anything and is still used to mean time off.

Make a signal - Send a message.

Make it so! - The formal response from the officer of the watch, upon receipt of notification that a ceremonial was due, such as “Noon, Sir..” “Make it so!”

Make leeway -

Make one’s number - Introduce oneself to the captain on arriving for duty at a new posting, or to a new mess.  From the fact that a warship would make her number when joining the Fleet.

Make sail – 1. To set sails ready for sailing.  2. To increase sail.

Make sternway – To move stern first through the water.

Make the land – To come within sight of the land.

Make up – To settle up the finances at the end of a fishing trip.

Make water – Have water leak into the ship’s hull through the side or bottom.

Making off – On a whaler, chopping blubber blanket pieces into small bits to fit into kettles.

Makings - The ingredients or materials for making something, such as a cup of tea or a rolled cigarette.

Making way - Making headway.  This is often mistaken for ‘Under way’.

Mallet - A wooden hammer used by caulkers, riggers, shipwrights and sailmakers.  Also called a beetle.

Malouins - Seamen from St Malo.

Malta Dog - Severe diarrhoea and sickness.

Malta, The Knights of – An order formed from the younger sons of aristocratic European Catholic families to fight the ‘Eternal War’ against Islam.

Maltese lace - Threadbare material with holes worn in it, or the frayed edges of clothing.

Maltese pound - Weighed thirteen ounces.

Malversation -

Mammee - A large tropical fruit tree.

Man – The order to hands to stand by at their station, or some other place where they would be needed.

Manavalins – Leftovers from the officer’s table, of great value to the ship’s youngsters.  It came to mean any scraps or odds and ends.

Man-brokers -

Mand – 1. A measure of about 1,000 sprats or herring.  2. The basket used to hold a mand of sprats.  Also maund and cade.

Man, E & F – Also James Man.  Exclusive rum broker from 1784 for about 200 years.

Manfare net - A net to hold a mand of herring.

Manger - The compartment between the hawse-holes, on the lower deck, formed with a bulkhead at its after part, known as the manger-board, which prevented water from the hawse-holes flowing aft, by diverting it into the scuppers.

Manger boards - A bulkhead across the after part of the manger, to stop water from the hawse-holes from flowing aft, redirecting it through the scuppers.

Man harness hitch – A loop made into the bight of a rope to make a hand or shoulder hold, to give better purchase to the man hauling on it.

Manilla cordage – 3 Strand Shroud Laid.

Mankey - Filthy.

Manning the ropes - SMS

Manning the ship - Originally a form of salute to a foreign ship with the whole crew lining the bulwarks, to signify the guns not being manned.

Manning the yards - SMS

Manoeuvre – A vessel’s movement evolution of speed, position or direction change.

Man-of-war -

Man-of-war fashion anchoring - SMS

Man overboard - NTUS 1101

Manrope, man ropes - ERR NTUS 0508

Manrope knot – A knot made as a hand hold in a rope.

Man ropes – A rope rigged as a handhold alongside a ladder or at some other hazardous situation.

Man ship – To provide a crew.

Man the capstan – The order given to stand by to work the capstan.

Man the cat – haul taut – When weighing anchor, the order given to man the cat tackle and to then haul to take the weight of the anchor.

Man the fore shrouds - In heavy weather men stood in for sails

Man the yards – In the Royal Navy, the ceremonial positioning of the crew along all yards as a salute.

Marc St Hilaire method – The basis of all modern navigation introduced in 1874 by Marc St. Hilaire of the French Navy.  Also intercept method, or the new navigation.

Mardle – (v) Gossip, particularly between the crews of two fishing vessels that meet at sea.

Mareage - Private cargo of a seaman’s choice BDD

Mare’s tail – NTUS 1705 SMS

Margin plank - CTC

Marin - NTUS 1703

Marines - First raised in 1664 under Order of Council, for the Lord Admiral’s Regiment of Sea Soldiers.  In 1755 it became a permanent force under the Admiralty, mostly used to maintain discipline aboard, provide sentries, etc.

Marine chronometer - NTUS 1904

Marine Office - Department of the Board of Trade which supervised the signing-on and paying-off and treatment of merchant seamen.

Mariner’s compass - NTUS 1906 SMS

Mariner’s Mirror, The - First appeared in English in 1588, it was a translation of a combined sailing directory and sea atlas by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer, entitled Spieghel der Zeervaert, in 1584.

Mariner’s splice - NTUS 0512

Marine Society, The

Marine surveying - NTUS 1804

Marine’s walk -

Marine telescope - See Spy glass. NTUS 1906

Marine timekeeper - See Marine chronometer. NTUS 1904

Mark - A sum of money of the value 13s. 8d.  There were no mark coins.

Mark - The fathom markings on a sounding line.  Came to be used as ‘mark my words’ ashore.  See Lead.

Marker yarn – A white or coloured yarn laid into each strand of any rope issued by one of HM Dockyards or those of the East India Company, or similar, to identify the owner of the rope.  Also rogue’s yarn.

Market Day – When the cat wailed (was used to flog)     BDD

Mark of Cain – White patches on the uniform collar of a midshipman.  Also called quarterly accounts.

Marl – (v) 1. To wind a small line around a rope, with each turn secured by a hitch, so that if either was cut the other would hold.  2. To wind a small yarn or twine around a splice before serving.

Marline – A line comprising two threads laid together, used to seize a strop onto a block.

Marline hitch – A series of single overhand knots used to lash a bundle or hammock or similar loose load.  Also used to make up selvagees.

Marline spike – An iron tool in the shape of a large tapered pin with a sharp or a wedge-shaped end point, used to separate the strands of s rope when being spliced.

Marline spike hitch – A turn of line taken 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.  Also Admiralty hitch.

Maroon – An unofficial punishment in which the offender was left on an island, or similar isolated place, without the means to escape.

Marooners – As pirates so frequently punished there own by marooning them, some proudly called themselves “Marooners”.

Marooning – Orig. the abandonment of an unwanted crewmember to live amongst the ‘Maroons’, short for Cimaroons, who were escaped black slaves of the Caribbean.

Maroons - Seamen purposely marooned as a punishment or to avoid paying them.  Also Cimaroons.

Marry (vb) - NTUS 0512

Marrying the falls - SMS

Marry the gunner’s daughter - A Royal Navy punishment involving the thrashing of a miscreant, over the breech of a gun.  Said to be usually done to a midshipman when having his seat spanked whilst bent over a gun.  A not uncommon punishment.

Marry-up - Work two lines together to form one, or to generally bring things into line.

Marshalsea (The) – Grub Street? “Cruise the Marshalsea”- Pretend to be a seaman.

Marthambles – Seamen’s name for what landsmen called griping of the gut.

Martingale - A rope or chain passing down from the jib-boom end to the dolphin striker, staying the former against the upward tensions of the jib and the jib-stay.  Sometimes also used as an alternative name for the dolphin striker.

Martingale backrope - See Gob rope. NTUS 0408

Martnet - The leech line of any sail.

Maryatt’s signal code flags - NTUS 1304

Mast - A vertical or raked spar stepped on a vessel’s keel and carrying sails, yards, rigging and other gear.  See also made mast.  The foremast was 1/9 down length of lower gundeck, from bow; the mainmast was at the centre or slightly aft centre of lower gundeck;  the mizzenmast was 17/20 down lower gundeck, all measured from the bow.

Mast band - Any metal band around a mast, with lugs used to fasten blocks.

Mast battens - (ecr)

Mast cap - (ecr) (tge)

Mast carlings - Heavy fore-and-aft timbers fixed on the underside of the deck beams, where masts pierce the decks, to give added strength.  Also called mast partners.

Mast chock - (tge)

Mast clamp – A metal clamp that holds the mast to a boat’s thwart.

Mast cloths – Additional cloths sewn on the after side of a sail, where the mast would chafe, to prevent it.

Mast coat - A shaped canvas cover around a mast base, to seal it to the deck and prevent water penetrating below.

Master – 1. The navigating officer on a Royal Navy ship.  2. The officer in command of a merchant ship.  The name for both derives from the original term of master mariner.

Master and Commander -

Master at arms – The petty officer, under the boatswain, who was responsible fro disciplinary duties.

Master Attendant - Responsible for all ships in Ordinary in a port.

Master Corsair -

Master mariner – The original name of master.

Master’s cabin

Master Shipwright -

Master’s Mates -

Mast-head - The upper parts of a mast, above the rigging.  If a midshipman was caught in a misdemeanour he was likely to be ‘mast-headed’, which meant he was condemned to sit up there until recalled – not popular.

Mast-heading – The sending of a midshipman to the mast-head, for misbehaviour, which meant he was sentenced to sit up there for a, usually, undefined period.

Mast head pennant - Remains flying whilst a ship is in commission.  Also Commissioning Pennant.

Mast hoop – A sliding ring of wood, later metal, to which the edge of a fore-and-aft sail attaches to the mast.

Mast House -

Masting sheers - A type of crane on shore, or on a sheer hulk, comprising a pair of sheer-legs, used to hoist a mast into position on a ship.

Mast lining – A reinforcing piece of canvas sewn to the after side of a topsail to prevent chafing by the mast.

Mast Men – +95

Mast partners - The position on a mast where it passes through the deck.

Mast party - Bittmen SMS

Mast Pond – Vat of Pickle+13

Mast quarters - Positions along the mast at which bands were fitted.

Mast rope – A rope used to hoist an upper mast.

Mast ship – A ship specially designed to transport masts, or trees from which to make them, usually with rectangular ports at bow and stern to facilitate the stowing of long timbers below deck.

Mast step - A strong recessed wooden or steel framework mounted on the keelson, in the form of a socket that tightly holds the square heel, or butt, of a mast.

Mast tackle – 1. A heavy tackle used for lifting a mast, comprising fixed treble block attached to sheers and a moving double block onto which the mast is attached by means of a selvagee strop and toggle.  2. Any tackle attached to a mast.

Mast tenon - (tge)

Mast trunk - The wooden or metal sheath in which a small vessel’s mast is stepped.

Mast wedges - (tge)

Mat – A flat piece of protective fabric made up from woven ropes, yarn, straw or other fibres.

Match - A slow-burning fuse used for firing guns.  Small rope treated to make it inflammable.  Used to make slow- and quick-match.

Match bin - (tge)

Match Tub -

Mate – 1. On a merchant vessel, an officer serving below the master, with seniority denoted by the title First Mate, Second Mate, etc.  The First Mate was and still is usually called the Mate.  2. An assistant to a non-commissioned officer; hence: Bosun’s Mate, Carpenter’s Mate, etc.

Matelot - The marines’ and, eventually, seamen’s slang for a lower deck sailor, from the French word for sailor.

Matelotage – The practice of pairs of buccaneers sharing their lives, livings, etc, from the French for ‘bed companion’.

Mate’s log – A log kept by the ship’s mate, compiled from entries in the deck, or rough, log and prepared by the mate for the master’s signature.  Also called the smooth log.

Matey - Dockyard mateys were the artificers working in the dockyards.  They were very defensive of their roles, as is not unknown in some unions.

Mathematical principles - SMS

Matthew Walker – A knob knot formed in the separate strands at the end of a rope, to thicken it to prevent its slipping through a sheave or similar.

Matthew Walker Knots - ?

Matthew Walker’s Roses - A knot.

Maul - A heavy iron, or sometimes wooden, hammer.

Maund – 1. A measure of about 1,000 sprats.  2. The basket used to hold a maund of sprats.  Also mand and cade.

Mazy – Herrings in poor condition after spawning.

Mean draught - The average of the forward and after draughts of a vessel.

Mean sun – An imaginary sun that is considered to travel at a constant speed around the ecliptic, used in navigation when the inconstant real sun makes things difficult.

Measurage - Quay dues on goods.

Meat - +103

Mechanical sounding - NTUS 1901

Meckanicks Answer - The name given to the answer proposed in 1530 by Gemma Frisius to the question of how to find longitude at sea.  It was correct, in that it proposed the use of an accurate timekeeping machine, as turned out to be the successful method, by John Harrison, in the 18c, but it was ahead of the capabilities of 16c technology to realise it practically.

Meet her – A helm order given when the quartermaster or navigator wants the helm reversed to stop the vessel swinging any further round.  Because of the slowness with which a ship turns, when rudder is put over to alter course it is necessary to ‘meet her’ with opposite rudder before the required heading is reached, to prevent swinging too far.

Meets - Navigation beacons set up so that when they line up, or meet, when viewed from the sea, they indicate the direction of the deep water channel.

Meltemi (Etesians) - NTUS 1703

Mend – (v) To protect a rope with an extra serving.

Mercator, Gerard – Flemish  Cartographer.

Mercator chart - NTUS 1804

Mercator’s sailing – Sailing by using the principles of a Mercator chart.  Also rhumb line sailing, or Wright’s sailing.

Merchant’s Ship -

Merchantmen -

Mercury - Treatment for Pox or VD.

Meridian – A semi-great-circle on the world, from pole to pole and perpendicular to the equator.

Meridian altitude – The action of taking an observation of the sun’s altitude at noon, at its culmination, and deducting its declination, from which the latitude can be derived.  Also noon sight.

Meridional parts – The lengths of the arc of the meridian between the equator and a given parallel on a Mercator chart.  These were expressed in units of one minute of longitude on the equator.

Mermaid -

Merry Andrews - Gaily dressed sailors.  In the pre-late-twentieth century sense of the word gay.

Mess – 1. A group of crew members of the same rank who were berthed in the same quarters and who ate together.  2. The space allotted to a mess.

Mess Bills - For monthly orders from the Purser.

Mess Chest -

Mess Cloth -

Mess Cook – For the Week.

Messdeck, Mess deck – 1. The deck on a man-of-war, on which the crew lived and took their meals.  Home-from-home for a sailor.  2. The term would prefix many expressions, meaning they were of the lower deck, such as a messdeck lawyer, who was always complaining and quoting regulations and rights;  messdeck dodger, who did the cleaning; messdeck justice, informal and roughly administered by messmates, etc.

Messenger – 1. A long loop of endless rope passed round the capstan, used to heave the anchor cable when it is too heavy to be turned round the capstan itself.  The anchor cable would be temporarily attached to the messenger by means of nippers, which would be cast off and reattached as the cable is hauled in.  2. Any lighter rope used to haul in a heavier one.

Mess kit – The set of eating and drinking utensils used by a mess.

Messmate – A person who shares the same mess.

Mess room - The space on a merchantman, on which the crew took their meals.

Mess Traps - Mess utensils

Metacentric height - SMS

Mete stick – A measuring device comprising planks at right angles, used to measure the hold depth.

Metre - NTUS 1504

Mice – ??

Mick - One name for a hammock, or hammick.

Mid-channel buoy - See Channel buoy. NTUS 1803

Middies - Plural of Midshipman.

Middle - The middle watch, midnight to 0400;  not everyone’s favourite.

Middle 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 belly band.

Middle ground – Regions of shallow water located between navigable channels.

Middle-ground buoy - NTUS 1803

Middle latitude sailing – A combination of plane sailing and parallel sailing, from the average of the latitudes sailed.  Also tangent sailing.

Middle rail - NTUS 0300

Middle topsail – An extra square topsail used on some schooners and similar smaller boats.  It had a sharp outward curve from the foot to the middle and was set at the heel of the topmast.

Middle staysail - SMS

Middle Watch -12pm – 4am

Middling, Minor and Great Repairs – Three grades of repair and refit to ships in royal dockyards.

Middy, Middies - Singular and plural of Midshipman.

Midship - In the middle of the ship, measured in either direction.

Midship beam - The longest beam in a ship’s midship body.

Midship bend - See Midship section.

Midship body - The central part of a ship’s body where the thwartship sections are roughly continuously similar in shape and size.

Midship frame - The broadest and largest frame of a vessel.

Midshipman – Up to the early seventeenth century this referred to a Non-Commissioned Officer under the Boatswain, then it gradually came to mean ‘Young Gentlemen’ (all mids were ‘young’ however old they were), first termed ‘Volunteer’s’ then ‘King’s Letter Boys’ due to Charles II’s support.  They were the lowest ranking commissioned officers on a Royal Navy ship, and usually the youngest, who were training and accumulating sea-time before taking their lieutenant’s examination.

Midshipman’s nuts – Broken ship’s biscuits.

Midshipmen’s berth -

Midship reefing buntline - SMS

Midships – A contraction of the term ‘Amidships’.  See Helm amidships.  A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm brought back to amidships after it has been put to port or starboard.  Also ‘helm amidships’, or ‘right the helm’.

Midship section - The broadest part of a ship’s hull, formed by the midship frame and adjacent frames of the same breadth.

Milling - Hard fist-fighting for sport.  Fisticuffs.

Millio - Millet.

Mincer - Overseer of Trying Out on a whaler.

Minion – A four-pounder great gun.

Minor, Middling and Great Repairs – Three grades of repair and refit to ships in royal dockyards.

Missing stays – Failing to complete a tacking manoeuvre, usually because of insufficient wind.

Miss Taylor – Seamen’s name for mistela, Spanish white wine. Sometime substitute for grog in the Med.

Mistela - A fiery Spanish white wine used as a substitute for grog when it was not available, commonly known by sailors as ‘Miss Taylor’.

Mistic - A two- or three-masted Mediterranean coastal cargo ship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, often used by pirates.

Mistral - NTUS 1703

Mitchboard - A crutch type fitting used to hold a boom in place when not in use.

Mites -

Mitred sail – A triangular sail in which the cloth runs in a different direction at the top to the bottom, meeting in an angled joint somewhere in the middle.  Used to save cloth and to spread the load more evenly across the sail.  Also angulated sail.

Mixed tides – Combinations of diurnal and semi-diurnal tides.

Mizen-, mizzen-mast - The third mast from forward in a vessel with three or more masts.

Mizzen burton pendant - (tge)

Mizzen vangs - SMS

Mizzen-Chains -

Mizzentop -

Mob, The -

Mobby - A type of food.

Mockage - SMS

Moghool -

Mohurs - Currency unit.

Moidores - Currency unit.

Mole – A breakwater built to provide berths for loading and unloading on the landward side and, sometimes, to be used for military protection of an anchorage.

Molgogger – A portable roller fairlead through which a drift net warp was led.

Mollies - Molly-hawks, or Fulmar petrels.

Moment altering trim - SMS

Moment - SMS

Money for old rope - When old rope was condemned as worn and dangerous, it could not be sold because it was worthless – or could it?  The term became seamen’s slang for an easy or cheap job, or getting something for nothing.

Monkey - Brass Monkey used to hold cannon balls. In cold weather brass contracts more than iron and ball could fall out, hence “Freeze the balls off a brass monkey”

Monkey block – 1. A small block attached by means of a strap and swivel, enabling ropes to be lead in many directions.  2. A large iron block bolted to a chock on the deck.

Monkey chains - The small channels abaft the main channels on both sides of a hull, onto which the royal and topgallant backstays are held.

Monkey fist – A weighted knot made at a ropes end, around an iron or stone core, used to heave a line ashore or to another ship.

Monkey gaff - A small signal gaff rigged from the topmast cross-trees to give more elevation and so better visibility of signal flags than from the spanker gaff, which was the more usual arrangement.

Monkey in a ball of wool - Descriptive of a seaman’s face surrounded by whiskers.

Monkey jacket – A short heavy navy blue coat worn by petty officers and officers, sometimes known as a bum-freezer.  Short coats were preferred by seamen because they kept clear of their legs, but then the officers decided to wear short coats, too.

Monkey poop - A low poop deck.

Monkey rail - The light rail fixed above the quarterdeck bulwarks.  Also called the topgallant rail.

Monkey rope – A broad canvas belt used as a safety harness by whalemen working over the side of a whaleship on the carcass.

Monkey seam – The strengthened seam down the centre of a square sail, in which the inner selvages are overlapped, stitched and tabled.

Monkey’s fist - The fancy knot tied around a weight, on the end of a heaving line.

Monkey’s orphan - A young sailor, too inexperienced to be sent aloft.

Monkey tail – A rope attached to the end of a lever to allow more crewmembers to haul on it.

Monkey with a marlin spike - Affectionate name for the rampant lion and dagger crest of Trinity House.

Monmouth Cap - Thrum cap.

Monsoon - NTUS 1701

Monsoon Winds -

Moon Creature - Dugong.

Moonraker – A fine-weather sail set above a skysail.  Also moonsail.

Moonsail – A square fine-weather sail set above a skysail.  Also moonraker.

Moon’s bearing – The ancient tidal prediction method of reckoning the time of high water by the point of the compass at which the Moon was situated at the time.  Of more common use by those sailing inshore and pilots.

Moonsheered - An expression used to describe a vessel with more than the usual sheer, both forward and aft.

Moon’s southing – The tidal prediction term meaning the Moon’s transit across the meridian.

Moor – (v) To anchor a vessel, or attach her to a permanently installed point provided to secure her.

Mooring lighter - Used to lay out cables.

Mooring swivel – A heavy swivel shackled onto the cables forward of the stem, comprising two three-eyed forgings to which studless links are attached.  One eye would be used for the swivel and the other two for the inboard and outboard sections of cable, to prevent twists in the cable.

Moot – (v)  To make round pegs (trenels) by hand, from square sections.  Hence a mooter did so.

Mooter – A hand-maker of trenels.  Usually a home-worker on piece rate.

Mopus – The herring fisherman’s name for money.

More Weatherly -

Morion -

Morning watch – The watch between 0400 and 0800.

Mortar -

Morse - Walrus.

Moses - Seamen’s’ term for the youngest crew member.

Moses’ Boat - Seamen’s’ term for the smallest boat carried on a ship.

Moses’ Law – “Forty stripes lacking one.”  A frequent pirate punishment of thirty-nine lashes, for serious offences against fellow crew members.

Mothball fleet - Ships moored together and ready to be prepared for sea-duty and action at short notice.

Mother - A ship that earns her owner enough to enable him to buy a replacement or second ship.

Mother-bank - A place (in the W.I.?) where ships gather.

Mother Cary’s Hen -

Mould - Pattern used by shipwrights for the frames and curved pieces of a ship’s structure, made from flexible timber.  The bend-mould was used to determine the convexity and the hollow-mould the concavity of timbers, particularly where they curve in and down towards the keel.  See also bevelling.

Moulded depth - The vertical depth of a vessel measured between the keel and the uppermost deck beams

Moulding - The shaping of a ship’s frames and timber during construction.

Mould loft - The large room in a shipyard used as a ship designer’s studio in which the full size plans, elevations and moulds are prepared and laid out, or lofted.

Mount - Proper name for a sword handle.

Mouse - 1. A large pear-shaped knot formed around the eye of a stay to prevent it chafing against the mast.  2. To tie several turns of spunyarn tightly across the mouth of a hook to prevent the load jumping off.  3. An elongated knot made on a shroud or messenger to prevent the nippers from slipping.

Mousings - SMS

Mr Clerks Tactics, Proctor’s Bills – The creaming off of profits from the taking of privateers, by shore officials?

Mudholing - Whaling for grey whale in Baja California shallows.

Mudhook – Seamen’s slang for an anchor.

Mud-pilot - River pilot on the River Thames.

Muffled oars -

Mulatoes -

Mulct - A stoppage of pay as a punishment.

Mule-rigged sprittie -

Muleta - A Portuguese lateen-rigged fishing boat with characteristic long bowsprit, giving it a large sail area for its size.

Munjy - Seamen’s term for food. Probably a corruption of the French manger.

Munnions - The carved uprights between a ship’s stern windows.

Muntz Metal – 50/50 zinc and copper mix, used for “coppering” CTC

Murder -

Murderer – An iron bar fitted with a number of hooks that was dragged along the seabed to impale fish.  Also called a fluke bar.

Muscovy Company, The – Established ?, trading finished cloth with Russia, for timber and naval supplies. Sought NE & NW Passages to Asia.

Music, The - The Band

Muskein boats – Flat-bottom landing boats, built for the Commission des Cotes de la Manche flotilla, for use by Napoleonic invasion force in 1797.  Muskein was the name of the Antwerper who designed them.

Musketoon - Large calibre musket mounted on swivels.

Muslin, The – Occasional seamen’s name for the sails.

Mussel bow - A design of yacht in which the bow is formed into a shallow shape like a mussel shell.

Muster - 1 The formal gathering together of the crew.  2 A Kit Muster is the formal inspection of kit aboard.  3 Passed muster is what happened when the kit was in order.

Muster Book -

Mustering by the Open List - The men would walk up to the Captain in turn and declare their listing.

Mustering – Calling all the crew and/or passengers together for drill or discipline, or for a head count.

Mutiny - Collective insubordination. Includes striking an Officer, they were usually over pay and were considered to be in the tradition of the sea service. Sometimes “Mutiny” was branded onto the forehead of a mutineer, but see also Punishment.

Muzzle – (hgv)

Muzzler - SMS

My Lord Mayor’s Men – Quota Men.

Nadir – The point in the heavens directly opposite the zenith.

Nail-sick – When a vessel begins to complain

Nankeen -

Nantucket sleigh ride – The American term for the wild ride in a whaleboat being towed by a recently harpooned whale, before it tires out enough for the lances to be used to finish it off.

Nao - Early Portuguese/Spanish sailing ship.

Napeau - Handkerchief.

Napoleon - Mention The Continental System of trade embargo.

Narker -

Narrow Pendant -

Narrow Seas - The English Channel.

Natation -

Nau - Generic term in Latin navies for large ship.

Naus - Greek word for ship, from which we get the word nausea.  Very apt.

Nautical Almanac - First useful one by Maskelyne in 1767. Then revised editions published throughout 18c.

Nautical chart - See Sea-chart. NTUS 1804

Nautical day – Began at noon 12 hours before the civil day and so 24 hours before the astronomical day, until early in the nineteenth century.

Nautical mile – A measure of distance of one minute of arc on the meridian.  Because of the flattened shape of the earth the actual distance varied between 6,046 feet at the equator and 6,108 feet at the poles, with the standard sea mile being taken as 6,080 feet.  Also sea mile.

Nautilus -

Naval Architecture -

Naval cadet – Modern term for present day sea officer trainees.

Naval court – A court convened by a naval or consular officer to try a member of a crew or to enquire into the loss of a ship, comprising three to five naval officers or people of similar rank.

Naval futtock – NTUS 0305

Naval, or navel, line – A rope attached to the mast-head and passing round the yard truss, to help hold it up.

Naval Sabre - Mid 19c curved sword.

Naval stores - Any item issued by the purser, or pusser.

Nave - Generic term originating in Latin navies for large sailing ships in Middle Ages in the Mediterranean.

Navel-futtock – The lowest futtock in the midship frame of a vessel.

Nave line, naveline - A tackle rigged to the parrel, from the main and foremasts, to keep the former level and in line when raising or lowering it.

Navel line - See Naval line. NTUS 0412

Navigable semi-circle – NTUS 1704

Navigate -

Navigation – The art of locating the position of a vessel.

Navigational triangle – The basis of much maritime navigation, comprising a spherical triangle abounded by the pole, the observer and the heavenly body, joined by zeniths.  Also PZX triangle.

Navigation Acts - English trade restriction laws first passed in 1382 and 1463, reserving English trade to English ships.  Many foreign shippers found it to be irksome.  Strictly reimposed by England on foreign shipping in the seventeenth century, when we were seeking to irritate our foes, and finally repealed in 1849, when we wanted to encourage foreign trade after having taken over the world’s oceans and whilst leading the world in producing cheaply manufactured goods.

Navy Board - First formed in 1546 as the ‘Council of the Marine’ or ‘Chief Officers of the Admiralty’, it became the first permanent Royal Navy administration.  Members entitled the Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Navy.  The Controller (Chairman of the Board); Surveyor, responsible for ship design and construction; Clerk of the Acts, who supervised the Secretariat; and civilian Controllers.  The Principle Officers & Commissioners of the Navy – Navy Office – Responsible for the admin of Dockyards, Design & Construction & Repair of ships & the supply of naval stores. The ‘Principle Officers’ were  the Controller, Surveyor, Clerk of Acts & Controllers of Treasury A/Cs, and Victualling A/Cs & Storekeepers A/Cs-See Commissioners of the Navy Board WW33

Navy Club - Originally met in Will’s Coffee Shop in Scotland Yard in mid 18c.

Navy Commission - The body that replaced the Navy Board during 1618-28.

Navy List, The - The annual list of officers in the Royal Navy, on which their seniority was/is recorded.

Navy Office - Located in Crutched Friars, Seething Lane, near the Tower of London

Navy Royal - Incorporated by Henry VIII.

Neaped Said of a vessel that has run aground on the highest spring tide. Successive following tides are never high enough, until the next spring tides, to float float the vessel off. She is there all through the neap tides. Hence neaped.  Also said when a vessel has been prevented from leaving a barred harbour until a corresponding period of higher tides occurs.  Sometimes called beneaped.

Neap tides – Tides of reduced range occurring when the sun and Moon are not aligned, at the first and last quarters.

Neaters - Undiluted rum.  Popular, but rare.

Neat Harbour - Furl sail to make a “Neat Harbour Stow”

Neat’s - Leather shoes from early Slops.

Necessary Roll – A seaman’s or marine’s bedroll, in which other necessaries were contained.

Necessity - Seamen’s term for a tot of rum and water, or grog.

Neck - See Cuckold’s knot. NTUS 0501

Necking brace - (tge)

Necking transom - (tge)

Necklace – A chain round the lower mast, securing the lower ends of the futtock shrouds.

Needle’s Eye - Hoop through which tightly rolled hammock had to pass before being placed in the hammock netting.

Nef - French term for ships in general and for a single-masted freighter from 11 to 16c.

Neglect of Duty -

Nelson – Born 29 Sep 1758.

Nelson Chequer – Black/yellow bands with black port lids – black/white chequer became fashionable later in the Napoleonic Wars.

Nelson’s Blood - Navy rum.  This nickname was used after Trafalgar in the mistaken belief that Nelson’s body was transported back to England in a cask of rum.  In fact only brandy and spirit of wine were used, so no rum was spoiled.

Nelson’s signal flags (Trafalgar) - NTUS 1302

Neptune‘s sheep - White horses, or breaking wave tops.

Net eyes – Young herring that swim ashore in autumn.

Nether-loop – ? Deck

Net needle – A wooden needle used to make or mend fishing nets.

Nets - Were rigged over the gun deck whilst a ship was in action to prevent danger to crew from falling debris.

Netting -

Nettle – 1. A small line made of two or three rope yarns twisted hard together between thumb and finger, with the twist of the rope starting in the middle and the ends whipped.  Also knittle.  2. The cords by which a hammock was hung, known as the clews.  A knotted length of nettle would be used to sting shipmates who have been sentenced to run the gauntlet.  Nettled, ashore, means hurt, and derives from this usage, not from weeds.

Nettle stuff – Small spunyarn made with two or three strands, used to make gaskets or similar.


Neutral Bottoms

Newcombe, Johnny - Greenhorn.

Newel - A post holding one end of a rail.

New England Saint - Widely believed to be a rarity and so used as an example of something scarce. BDD

New Holland -

Newgate galley - Prison ship or boat used by press gangs to visit ships afloat in search of recruits.

New Measurement - CTC

New navigation – The basis of all modern navigation introduced in 1874 by Marc St. Hilaire of the French Navy.  Also, Marc St Hilaire method or the intercept method.

Next-hand guns -

Nibblers - Workers ashore who are late arrivers and early leavers, who complain about their travelling problems.

Nibcheese – Purser

Night Watch - The first watch, from 8pm to Midnight.

Ninepin block – A single block that looked like a flattened ninepin, fixed under the forecastle and quarterdeck bitts and used to lead running

rigging in a horizontal direction.

Nine thread stuff – A one inch diameter line made up of nine strands.

Nip – (v) To temporarily stop a rope or join it side-by-side to another, by making turns of yarn alternately round each rope.

Nip - Seamen’s slang for a small turn in a rope, used to hold it temporarily.

Nip the rope – Make a loop or twist.

Nip Cheeses – Pursers.

Nipped – 1. The expression used for a rope that has been jammed or caught up in some way. 2. Said of a vessel beset by ice.

Nipper – 1. A short length of light line used to temporarily bind and quickly release the hemp anchor cable to/from the messenger cable, a continuous loop of heavy rope that turned by the capstans, when weighing anchor.  2. The ship’s boy who was assigned to use a first definition nipper and who had to be nippy, so they were also called nippers.  3. On an American whaleboat, a piece of quilted cloth used to protect the whaleman’s hand when he handled the whale-line.  4. Squeegees made from whale’s tail.

Nock – The forward upper edge of a sail set on a boom.

Nock earing thimble – (tge)

Nock-staysail - A staysail with its luff laced to the mast.

Nocturnal – A device used for navigating by observing with it the hands of the great star clocks; Ursa Major and Minor, as they turned about the Pole Star.

Noddy – Seabird named for its somnambulistic character, being frequently caught by hand at sea.

No-man’s land - An indistinct space on the main deck, between the belfry and the boat booms, used to store tackle that is needed on the forecastle.  So-called through being neither to port nor starboard and neither in the waist nor on the forecastle.

No near, or no nearer – A helm order given when the conner wanted to warn the helmsman that he was too close to the wind.  Also ‘no nearer’, or ‘keep her away’, or ‘keep her full’.

No No! - In reply to the Watchman’s challenge, the formal response of an approaching ship’s boat, when it was not carrying anyone to whom a mark of respect was required.

Non-recoil - Early gunnery had guns secured to fire without recoil, as each one came to bear on the target.  After all guns had fired, the ship would withdraw to windward to reload.

Non-tidal currents – Non-tidal horizontal movements of water.  Often simply called currents.

Non-toppling block – A weighted block used at the lower end of a purchase when shortening the distance between two blocks.

Nooners - Time for the day’s first real drink, as the sun had passed over the yardarm at midday.

Noon sight – The action of taking an observation of the sun’s altitude at noon, at its culmination, and deducting its declination, from which the latitude can be derived.  Also meridian altitude.

No Peace Beyond the Line - Usually referred to marauding English seamen attacking the Spanish and Portuguese shipping after the ‘line’ drawn by Pope Alexander VI, in 1493, under the Treaty of Tordesillas.  This was a treaty imposed on the world, in which the spoils of the new world were divided between Spain and Portugal.  Spain got anything found west of a line of longitude 40° (or 370 leagues) west of the Cape Verde Islands, and Portugal got everything east of it.  England and others did not accept this ruling and so this phrase came to refer to their ignoring of the Spanish and Portuguese authority, anywhere.  BDD

Nor’easter - Seamen’s slang for no pay on pay day, after the term Not Entitled shown in the books.     NTUS 1011

Nore Mutiny – Unsuccessful mutiny at The Nore in 1797, led by Robert Parker, following the Spithead Mutiny.  The earlier mutiny, being reasonable and peaceful, succeeded where the later one, being unreasonable and threatening, resulted in the eventual hanging of the ringleaders.

Nore, The – The anchorage at the mouth of the River Thames.

Norfolk Wherry - Cargo sailing vessel used on the Broads.

Normal pole head - (ecr)

Norman – A short wooden bar inserted into the capstan or windlass, to which the anchor cable was temporarily secured when there was little pressure on the cable.

Norman heads - NTUS 0603

Norman Ship - A style of ship between the Viking Longship* and later, more full-bodied designs.

North East Passage -

North-Easter - See Not entitled!

Not Entitled! - The words said to a seaman whose pay account was not in credit when he stepped up to the pay table, usually as a result of having repeated mulcts.

Norther - Threatening wind on the South American west coast.

Northing -

Northing, More – Add more alcohol.  See Due North, Due West and North Wester.

North Sea/ South Sea – Those north and south of the Panama isthmus: NS = Caribbean, SS = Pacific.

North West Passage -

North Wester – The name given by seamen to a drink with an alcoholic content of 50%, i.e. half water half rum.  Also see Due North and Due West.

North-west monsoon - NTUS 1701, 1703

North wind, south wind, etc. – NTUS 1701

Nosebag - SMS

Nothing off – A helm order given when the conner wanted the helmsman not to let the ship fall off the wind.  Also ‘fall not off’.

Notice to mariners - NTUS 1807

No treating rule - The Wardroom custom in which junior officers do not buy senior officers drinks, thus preventing the seeking of favours in this way.

Now she’s talking - Seamen’s slang for the sound made by a boat as she gets under way.  NTUS 1011

Null Point -

Number - 1 A ship’s internationally recognised signal group.  2 A seaman’s personal identity.  3 A ‘nice little number’ was/is an easy job.  4 Someone who got his number hoisted had just been killed, or ‘lost the number of his mess’.

Number for the month - NTUS 1602

Number One punishment - Death by execution.  A more recent phrase.

Nun-buoy - SMS

Nut - on bower anchor.  (tge)

Nuts – Pegs on an anchor shank that located in matching notches in the stock to hold each other in place.