CSS – The prefix to ships’ names used for the warships of the States of the Confederacy (the South) during the American Civil War, standing for Confederate States Ship. cf USS.
Cabin – 1. A room or space on a ship, particularly allocated to an individual.  See also great cabin and coach. cf steerage.  2. Any single room in Navy accommodation ashore.  3. The Cabin, on board, was the Captain’s Cabin.

Cabin boy – A junior rating assigned to attend to the needs of the officers.

Cabin Passenger – A passenger entitled to a private cabin, usually through having paid for it.
Cabin sole – Floor.  More usually used in yachts.
Cable – 1. Strictly, a heavy chain or hemp rope of about 120 fathoms length, to which the anchor is attached, made from nine strands laid in three threes and then the three into one, it came to refer to any large hemp or wire rope, or, occasionally, chain that attached to the anchor.  Originally, in the Royal Navy, the term applied only to a 20 inch cable of hemp made in Bridport, but later came to be more loosely used to refer to other heavy ropes.  The size of anchor cable of a ship was determined roughly as half an inch of circumference for every foot of beam of the ship.  The standard rope cable length was between 100 and 115 fathoms, with hawser-laid cable being 130 fathoms.  2. A measure of distance at sea of 100 fathoms or 200 yards.  Approximately one tenth of a nautical mile.  Also cable’s length.
Cable expressions – Look up open hawse, foul hawse, flying moor, cross in the hawse, elbow round turn, round turn & elbow.
Cable holders – Capstans on the forecastle deck of larger ships set on either side of ship’s centreline, by which the bower anchors are weighed or veered.  Cable-holders are geared into the main capstan engine so that the cable is hove in mechanically, and are freed from the clutch when letting go so the anchor and cable run free.
Cable-laid – A term used to describe the heaviest ropes, made by laying or twisting three ordinary ropes, each themselves made from three strands laid together.  The three final strands, or hawsers, are twisted from right to left; otherwise the cable would become untwisted and lose its strength.  Also cablet and water-laid.  cf hawser-laid.
Cable locker – The compartment in the bow of a vessel where the anchor cable is stowed, with its inboard end secured.

Cable nipper – A short length of spun-yarn used to temporarily fasten the cable to the messenger.  Chain cables would be similarly attached by using hinged iron nippers.

Cable party – Those crewmembers detailed to work the anchor cable.

Cable shackle – A shackle with a pin flush in its side, used to join lengths of cable in such a way that the cable’s passage through the hawse holes would not be obstructed.

Cable’s length – A measure of length of 120 fathoms.  Approximately one tenth of a nautical mile.  Also cable.

Cable stoppers – A short length of spun-yarn used to make a light rope or messenger fast to a cable when heaving it in.  An iron nipper would be used on a chain cable.  Many devices were used to hold the chain cable when a ship lies at anchor.  These were either used as standbys when the cable was held on a brake, or used to hold the cable temporarily whilst the inboard part of the cable was handled.  The four most common types of stopper were: 1. Brake slip, which comprised a tongue gripping the cable, attached in turn to a short length of chain cable fastened to a deck bolt.  2. Riding slip, which was a Blake slip, but attached in the cable tier, between the cable-holder and the navel pipe.  This was used as a preventer when the ship was lying at anchor, in case the brake renders.  3. Screw slip, which was another Blake slip, but with a bottle-screw in the chain.  This was used at sea to draw up the anchor to the hawse.  4. Senhouse slip, which was attached to the last link at the end of a chain hawser, to prevent its being drawn out.  See also Devil’s Claw.
Cablet – An alternative name for cable-laid rope.
Cable tier – The hold into which the anchor hawser drops in folds when the anchor is raised, and in which it is coiled up and stowed.  The name comes from the tiers onto which the cable is laid, to assist its drying out.
Cable tier pinch – A pinch bar or crowbar for manipulating lengths of cable in the stowage tiers or racks.
Caboose – The housing for the galley chimney.  Came to be applied to the galley or cook-house, when built as a small deck-house, or any other enclosed space on deck, usually on smaller vessels.

Cabot, John (Giovanni Caboto) – (c.1450-98) Italian navigator, born in Genoa, who is now credited as being the first European to find the north American landmass, for the King of England, Henry VII.  He moved to England in 1484, fired up with the idea of reaching Cathay (China) by voyaging west, probably after hearing of Columbus’s expeditions, which he seems to have been sceptical about, and certainly driven by the attraction of trade, not glory.  Well, not much glory.  He sailed from Bristol in May 1497 in the ship Matthew, manned by a crew of eighteen, and sighted Newfoundland on 24 June of the same year.  On this voyage he discovered the rich cod fields of the Grand Banks, when catching fish over the ship’s side by the basket load, which led to the development of the Newfoundland cod fishery.  Henry VII granted him a prize of £10 for finding the ‘new island’, which they all thought was off the coast of Cathay, after which a new expedition was proposed, to seek Cipango (Japan).  This second expedition comprised five ships and 300 men and it set off in February 1498, but was never heard from again.  If the expedition had survived, even if it had failed, it is now supposed that accounts of it, and the previous voyage, would have resulted in John Cabot, and not Christopher Columbus, being hailed down the centuries as the true discoverer of the New World, because Columbus only ever found the Caribbean and never knew about the American continent.
Cabot, Sebastian – (1476-1557) A son of John Cabot.  He came to fame as Pilot Major and chief navigator of Spain, in 1518.  He led an expedition westward to find the Orient, for Spain, but went south and was sidetracked by tales of vast riches, before he even reached the Magellan Strait, for which he was banished to Africa on his return to Spain.  He later tried to get a licence from Henry VIII of England to lead various expeditions, but by the time he succeeded he was too old to lead them.  He founded the Bristol company of Merchant Adventurers in 1551 and under his stewardship the first of the many expeditions to find the North-East Passage was sent out.  If he had been a more honest chronicler of events experienced with his father, the family name may have been enhanced, but, unfortunately, those stories he did relate led only to incredulity.
Cabotage – French coastal trading.
Caboteur – A small French coastal trading vessel.
Cabral, Pedro Alvarez de Gouvea – (c.1467-1530) Portuguese navigator who led an expedition to South America in 1500, following the voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1499.  Cabral is inaccurately credited with discovering Brazil, which had in fact been found three months earlier by the Spaniard Vicente Yañez Pinzon.  The expedition continued to India where it loaded a vast cargo of spices, and landed back in Lisbon in July 1501, after which Cabral retired wealthy.
Cabrito – A goat.

Cabuleur – Sperm whale
Cadamosto, Alvise da – (1432-77) Venetian Navigator who commanded the expeditions sent by Prince Henry the Navigator to explore the west cast of Africa, in 1455 and 1456.
– 1. A West Indian chieftain.  2. A local political chief in Latin countries.

Cade – An early term for a measure of sprats, of about 1,000.

Cadet – A modern sea trainee.

Cadiz – A major seaport on the west coast of southern Spain, from which the combined Napoleonic fleet, under Admiral Villeneuve, sailed to meet its destiny with Nelson’s fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Cag – Slang for wooden mess drinking utensil.
Cagger – An early type of kedge anchor.
Caique – 1. A light Turkish boat.  2. The Turkish Sultan’s ceremonial barge.  3. A lateen-rigged Levantine vessel.
Caisson – 1. From the French caisson, meaning a large chest, it was used to mean an enclosed underwater space with a method of pumping it out.  It therefore means an enclosure used in the construction of bridges, dams, etc., from which the works could be carried out.  2. The working part of dock gates.  3. A floating enclosure that can be submerged under a wreck and then pumped out, thereby raising the wreck by giving it buoyancy.  cf camel.
Caisson Disease – Slang name for the bends, or decompression disease.
Calashee watch
– A watch in which all hands were to stand by for a call, such as when the ship is making short boards or tacks.
Calavances – 1qt = 1qt Pease Equivalent.
Calcutta – A major seaport on the mouth of the Hugli River in India, founded in 1690 by the Honourable East India Company
Calder, Sir Robert – (1745-1818) Scottish admiral in the Royal Navy, knighted for his services in the Battle of Cape St Vincent.  Known for having let Villeneuve’s fleet slip past him in the fog after the latter having been chased from the West Indies in the summer of 1805, for which he was court-martialled.  He was severely reprimanded at the court-martial, which ended his naval career.
Cales –
The name for Cadiz prior to 1600.
Calf – 1. A ‘small’ piece of floe ice that has broken off the main body of pack ice, after calving.  2. A small island lying off a larger island.  3. A young sea mammal.
Calf in the reef – The English translation for the Swedish term used to describe an unsightly bulge in a reef.
Calibre – The modern term used to express the measurements of a gun, or sometimes just its bore.
California Banknotes – Hides.

Caliper (tge)
– Small arm.  A long, light musket.
Calk – See caulk
Call – 1. The special whistle blown by boatswain’s mates of the Royal Navy, to give orders or pay respects in a salute.  Also called boatswain’s call or boatswain’s whistle.  2. A signal sounded on the boatswain’s call.  Also called a pipe.

Call boatswain’s mates – A summons to the boatswain’s mates to muster for a long call that had to be sounded in unison.

Callbolus – Mixture of rum, sugar and small beer, after a similar N American drink. Also Kallebogas.
Call boy – The junior rating who duty it was to carry the boatswain’s pipes, to relay his orders and to take part in the ceremonial piping aboard of visiting dignitaries.

Callender, Sir Geoffrey Arthur – (1875-1946) The British naval historian who founded the National Maritime Museum and was the drive behind the successful appeal to restore HMS Victory.
Calling the soundings – ‘Marks’ were the fathom depths marked on the lead-line, at 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, 15, 17 and 20 fathoms.  ‘Deeps’ were the fathom depths not marked.  The sounding calls were as follows:

At 5 fathoms               ‘By the mark, five!’
At 5¼ fathoms     ‘And a quarter, five!’
At 5½ fathoms     ‘And a half, five!’
At 5¾ fathoms     ‘A quarter less, five!’
At 6 fathoms               ‘Deep, six!’
’No bottom!’               ‘No bottom at 20 fathoms!’

Call the wheel – Take a trick

Cally ho – Callao.  Seamen’s slang for unduly free and easy, especially of the ship’s routine, which they did not like disrupted.
Calm – The name for the weather condition when there is not a breath of wind.
Caltraps – Weapons thrown from the attacking deck to another deck.

Cam, Diogo – (fl.1482-6) Portuguese navigator who was the first European to explore the west coast of Africa south of the equator.  Sometimes called Diogo Cao.
Camber – 1. The curve of a deck downwards to the ship’s sides.  2. A small salt water dock where timber was stored submerged to pickle, which was sometimes used as shelter by small boats.
Camber keel – A vessel’s keel in which the depth at the bow and stern is greater than in the middle.

Camboose – An American term for the cookhouse or galley of a whaleship.

Camels – 1. A pair of floats made to fit against a ship, which were firmly chained to the sides, semi-submerged, then pumped out, thus raising the ship.  Of great use when moving a ship in shoal water.  2. Strong wooden fenders used when alongside a wharf.
Camperdown – A famous furious sea battle fought off Camperdown on the coast of Holland in 1797 between a British fleet commanded by Admiral Adam Duncan and a Dutch fleet under Vice Admiral Jan de Winter, fighting on behalf of Napoleon.  Not a good day for the Dutch, by a long way.
Canary – Fortified wine, similar to Madeira.
Can buoy – A sea marker in the shape of a truncated cone painted red, or in red and white chequers, indicating the port side of a channel when entering.  See buoys.
Candia – Crete (Elizabethan).
Candle out of binnacle – To run out of money was to ‘run the candle, etc
Cane fender – Fenders made from bundles of cane lashed together.

Cangue – A wooden collar with a cannon ball attached, used as a punishment for swearing.

Can-hooks – Hooks arranged in pairs, joined by chain, used to hoist casks by fitting the hooks under the chines.
– larger than perier, it fired stone or iron balls.

Cannon – Various types of cannon are as follows:  12pdr: long, medium, short(hgv) 24pdr long(hgv) 32pdr long(hgv) Many cannon were named after birds, e.g. a Saker Drake was named after the saker falcon a small portable gun, and the drake was a large form with a tapering barrel, thus using a reduced charge.  Lanyard, Port Piece- Pre 17c in RN, Sling- Pre 17c in RN, Slow-Match, Fowler- Pre 17c in RN, Saker, Power-Train, Flintlock, Cannon-Royal- Short gun with 8.5 inch bore, 10 foot long, Cannon-Perier, Bombard- Pre 17c in RN, Bass- Pre 17c in RN, Culverin- Long-barrelled heavy gun firing lighter iron shot at higher velocity for greater distance, short range impact similar to cannon. Demi cannon- Very heavy gun, a cross between cannon and culverin. Cutts or Curtal – A short heavy gun firing large heavy iron shot.

Cannon – In Elizabethan times, the English cannon was a 7 inch gun firing a 40 pound round shot.  The Spanish was larger, firing a 50 pound round shot.
Cannonade – Minion- Pre 17c in RN.
Cannon of 7 – A 42 pounder cannon with a 7” bore, weighing about 3 tons.

Canoe – A small primitive open boat.
Canser, Carnser
Cansey, cannsey
– Quay.
Cant – 1. The cut made in the side of a whale, between the neck and the fins, used to attach a purchase that was needed to turn the carcass during flensing.  2. The timber of a ship, located near the stem and stern, that are not at right angles to the keel.  3. To cant a ship is to turn its head to one side or the other when weighing anchor or leaving a mooring.  4. To cant a yard is to brace forward a yard.
Cant frame – One of the frames of a ship near the stem and stern, that are not at right angles to the keel.
Cant hook – A hooked lever used to handling heavy cargo.

Cantick quoin – A type of quoin.

Canting – Turning something over.

Canting a yard – The bracing forward of a yard.
Cantline – The groove between the strands of a rope.

Can’t make head nor tail of it! – Originally expressed by the signal midshipman unable to read or make sense of a distant hoist of flags signals.

Cant ribbon

Cant piece – A strip of whale blubber about two feet wide and up to 40 feet long.

Cant purchase – A heavy tackle rigged from a whaleship’s mainmast, used to haul the cant piece inboard.  The American term was cutting tackle.

Cant ribbon – The vertically fixed horizontal deck plank, at the junction of the deck and the bulwarks or sides, usually a band of gilded and/or painted mouldings, that runs along the sides of a vessel, canting up towards the stern.

Cant rope – The old name for a four-stranded rope laid without a central core.
Cant spar – A length of timber suitable for making a small mast or spar.

Cant-tackle – The tackle attached to the blubber to be stripped off a whale carcass alongside a whaler.  When hoisted it would cant the carcass and tear off the blubber strip prepared by the flensers.

Canute or Cnut – (c.995-1035) The king of Denmark and England who is most famous for ordering the tide back from the bank of Thames at Westminster.  This was to demonstrate to his courtiers that there are some   forces that cannot be withstood, in preparing them for his intention to submit to the Holy See in Rome.
Canvas back – Someone who prefers sleeping to waking, and avoids the latter.

Canvas set – The choice and number of sails set, selected by considering the direction and strength of the wind.
Canvas – A cloth woven from hemp, from the Greek word kannabis for hemp.  Sails were made of hemp canvas that was numbered according to thickness and hence strength, the lowest number being coarsest and heaviest.  See bolt and cloths.
Cao – See Cam, Diogo.

Cap – 1. The wooden block with two holes at the top of a mast, holding the top of a lower mast and the foot of an upper mast, rigged at the top of the former.  Also Cap Plate.  2. The semi-circular projection from the sides and round the end of a block, into which the strop is let to prevent chafing.

Cap-a-Bar – Nickname for the misappropriation of Government stores. Also Cape Bar and Cappabar.
Capacity plan – A plan of a vessel, showing the capacity of its tanks, holds and carrying spaces.

Cap a rope – To parcel a wormed rope by wrapping tarred canvas round the end before it is served, to keep water out of the end.

Cape Finisterre – The most westerly point on the coast of Spain, off which a naval battle was fought in 1747, between a British fleet under Admiral Sir George Anson and two French squadrons, for which Anson was awarded a peerage.
Cape Horn Fever – 1. The name given to the disease of malingering, from the reluctance of seamen to sign on for a voyage intending to round the Horn, because of the well known hardships they would endure if they survived, or, having signed on, feigning illness to avoid dangerous conditions.  2. Any imaginary disease.

Cape Horn Snorter – Particular storm
Cape Horners – This originally referred to the American clipper ships that rounded Cape Horn during the 19c.  Later the name was extended to apply to any ship or sailor that had achieved the feat and survived.
Capelle, Jan van de – (c.1624-79) Dutch maritime painter, particularly known for his calm seas and limp sails.
Caper – A small Dutch vessel used as a privateer.
Cape Spartel – ?

Cape stiff – Seamen’s nickname for Cape Horn.
Cape St Vincent – The site and name of the battle fought on 14 February 1797 between a British fleet under Admiral Sir John Jarvis (as a result of which to become Earl St Vincent) and a Spanish fleet under Admiral Don José de Cordova.  This is the famous battle in which Commodore (as he was then) Horatio Nelson, in HMS Captain, exceeded the current Fighting Instructions by acting independently to attack San Nicholas and San Josef, the latter being boarded across the former; described by Nelson as his ‘patent bridge for capturing enemies’ and for which action he was knighted.  Jervis is reckoned to have missed further destruction of the enemy by failing to pursue them throughout the night.
Cape, The – Generally used to refer to Cape Horn, but also used for the Cape of Good Hope if nearby, but without the capital letters.

Cape Town – Seaport of South Africa, founded by the Dutch in 1652.
Capful of wind – An occasional breath of wind.

Caping – Sailing a coastal course within sight of land, from cape to cape.
Capital Ship – The term used for the most important ships in a nation’s fleet, usually applied to ships-of-the-line during the periods relevant to this dictionary.
Cappanus – A type of sea-worm that attacks a ship’s bottom.

Capping – Strips of hardwood fitted to the tops or edges of gunwales, tops, etc., to strengthen them.
Cap rail (tge) –
Capshore –
The vertical pillar located under the fore part of the lower mast cap, to shore it up when under strain.
Cap square (hgv) –
– To upset or overturn a vessel, so that her keel is above water and her masts submerged.
Capshore, cap-shore – A supporting spar between the cap and the trestle-tree.

Capstan – The large vertical barrel-shaped mechanism turning about an upright spindle on the main deck of larger ships, first used in 14c as a manpowered winch for heavy work, such as weighing the anchor or swaying up a yard.  The men powering it pushed against capstan bars, inserted into the head, the other ends of which were joined together by a swifter, to give more space for extra men to pull.  The capstan had a set of pawls at the base that would drop into a pawl rim to prevent it slipping back.  For really heavy work a messenger was rigged, to allow even more men to join in the ‘fun’.  Smaller vessels had a windlass to carry out similar tasks, the main difference being that the spindle of the windlass is horizontal as compared to the vertical capstan.
Capstan bar – One of many long wooden levers or ‘handles’ that were inserted into sockets in the drumhead of the capstan when in use, against which the crew pushed in order to work the capstan by hand.  They were usually made of ash and had a metal shoe at the inner end.  When not in use they were placed on shot boxes as seats for crew at entertainment or church

Capstange – Early word for capstan.

Capstan Pawls – Sprung levers that clicked into place as the capstan turned and prevented it from slipping back as pressure was released.
Capstan room – The space on board directly beneath the capstan.

Cap-stay – A stay rigged forward from the mast-cap.
Captain – 1. The commissioned rank below admiral.  2. The title of the commander of any naval ship, regardless of his commissioned rank.  3. The master of a merchant ship.  4. The senior rating in charge of a specific group of men, such as the captain of the maintop, captain of the fo’c’s’l, etc.  5. The early title of a Mediterranean commodore of a galley fleet.  See Post Captain.
Captain, HMS – Seven ships of the British Navy have famously held this name, the most famous being the seventy-four gun flagship of Commodore Nelson in the Battle of St Vincent, in 1797, qv.
Captain of gun/ maintop/ head/ sweepers/ crosstrees, etc See Captain.
Captain of the Heads – Seaman assigned the duty of cleaning the heads, usually selected as a punishment.

Captain of Fleet – The Post Captain responsible for the day-to-day organisation of a fleet, under local Admiral.  Now known as Captain’s Agent.
Captain of top – The petty officer in charge of one of the three groups of topmen in each watch.

Captain’s bed place – The traditional name for the captain’s sleeping cabin, in which his cot was slung.
Captain’s Clerk+75 –
Captain’s Cloak
– Article 36 of War, the Article of War that covered anything judged by the captain as a misdemeanour, that was not specifically covered by any of the previous thirty-five articles.
Captain’s Cook –

Captain’s day cabin – The cabin in which the captain spent his working time when not on deck.
Captain’s dining cabin – The captain’s dining cabin.
Captain’s Journal – The captain’s private record of events on board, and his private thoughts about them.  It was, and is, the captain’s choice about whether or not they were kept and the most interesting have often turned out to be those consciously prepared for later publication and self-aggrandisement.  cf Captain’s Logs.
Captain’s List – The Admiralty list of Captains showing seniority of posting.  A post-captain’s climb up the Captains List was strictly controlled by his place on it, eventually followed by the elevation to the vast height of rear-admiral, automatically achieved when the top of the list was reached, by those above having been promoted off the list, either by becoming an admiral or by dying.  The list could be jumped by dint of brave action, at the whim of The Admiralty.
Captain’s Logs – The captain’s official record of events on board.  These were usually returned to The Admiralty at the end of a mission, unless lost during the mission.  cf Captain’s Journal.

Captain’s Order Book – Standing Orders for the ship.
Captains’ Room – A waiting room at The Admiralty; in which captains waited to learn their fate regarding their next posting.
Captain’s Servant – The title given to a boy entered into the Navy before he became a midshipman, usually at about the age of twelve or before.  He was a personal follower of a post-captain, usually taken on board as a favour to family or friends.  He rarely carried out any of the tasks usually associated with the term ‘servant’, being in fact an aspiring officer.  The gunner was charged with his supervision, and he was berthed with the gunner before moving into the midshipmen’s mess later, for his own protection, particularly of his morals.  In 1796 the title was changed to Volunteer, First Class; boys of the second and third classes not looking forward to commissions.  cf Volunteers-per-order and King’s letter boys.
Captain’s sleeping cabin – Te captain’s bed place.
Captain’s store – The store of private foodstuffs and goodies kept on board for the captain’s use, perhaps shared when entertaining fellow ship’s officers or visitors, and perhaps not.

Caracciolo, Prince Francesco – (1732-99) Neapolitan admiral who trained and served in the British Navy, serving in the War of American Independence.  Hanged at the orders of Nelson, for alleged sympathy with French republicanism, largely on the word of the queen of Naples, a friend of Emma Hamilton, with whom Nelson was infatuated, and for which he was to suffer criticism for both the hanging and the infatuation.
Caracks – See Carracks.
Caravel – Originally 13c Portuguese fishing boat, later the term referred to a two-masted, lateen-rigged merchant ship and, eventually they became three-masted square-rigged ships, of about 75-80 feet long, with a lateen-rigged mizzen, which made them very seaworthy.  Vasco da Gama’s ships were all caravels on his voyage to discover the sea route to India, via the Cape of Good Hope, in 1498, as were two of Columbus’ ships (Nina & Pinta) with which he discovered the Caribbean in 1492.
Carcass – 1. An incendiary shell fired from ship-to-ship, comprising a hollow ball filled with explosive combustibles that vented through three or more holes, sometimes with added pistol barrels discharging bullets, introduced by the British Navy in the late 17c ad used until the early 19c, intended to ignite the sails and rigging of enemy ships, but not very successful and therefore not popular, even with the users.  2. Cannon balls heated to red-hot and fired from ship-to-land targets.
Cardinal Points – North, south, east and west on a compass card.  Those halfway between, such as north-east, south-west, etc., are known as half-cardinal points.
Cardinal System – See buoys and buoyage.  CHECK
Careen – To heave a ship over onto its side, on a beach or similar situation, to clean the bottom of weeds, barnacles, etc., or to repair it.  See also Parliamentary heel.
Careen, to sail on the – To sail heeled over to keep shot holes, etc., above water level.

Careenage – A steep sandy beach where a ship could be careened.
Careening Capstan – A capstan installed at a convenient shoreside location, where ships could regularly stop for careening, to which the careening tackles were led to pull the ship over.
Careening Pit – A pit used to accommodate the bilges of a ship when careened, to avoid undue strain on the hull, from the weight of the ship.
Careening Wharf – A wharf usually in a dockyard where ships could be careened, permanently equipped with a pit, capstan, etc.
Cargason – Cargo, or bill of lading.

Cargo battens – Loose planks used to keep a cargo away from direct contact with a ship’s sides whilst leaving airways for ventilation.

Cargo jack – A screw jack used to compress cargo, such as hides, cotton, etc., into the holds of merchant ships, to get more in.
Cargo net – A square net of rope or wire used to hoist a large number of smaller items of cargo in or out of the hold.

Cargo plan – A diagram of a vessel’s cargo spaces, drawn either in plan or section.

Caribs – Caribbeans.

Carlings, carlines – Pieces of square timber fixed fore-and-aft between deck beams to support the deck planking of wooden ships.
Carnegie, William, Earl of Northesk – (1758-1831) British admiral who was known for his involvement with the Nore mutiny, in 1797, where he unsuccessfully presented the seamen’s’ grievances to the king, as a result of which he resigned his command of the Monmouth.  He was third in command at the Battle of Trafalgar and was made a Knight of the Bath for his services in action.
Carny – Seamen’s slang for hypocrisy and cant.  After Captain Carny who was mild ashore and unbearable at sea.
Carosse – The open space where the captain of a galley slept, under the poop deck.
Carous – A pivoted, unwieldy, form of bridge used on ancient vessels to board enemy ship’s, before accurate guns made them unnecessary.
Carpenter – In the Royal Navy, the commissioned officer who was responsible for all the ship’s woodwork, including the hull, masts, spars and boats.  In action he was in charge of repair parties plugging shot holes and repairing damaged masts and spars.  In merchant ships the carpenter’s duties were the same, but his rank was petty officer.

Carpenter’s Mate –
Carpenter’s stopper
– 1. A cable stopper comprising a metal hinged-topped box, in one side of which was grooved to take the lay of a wire rope and into the other side of which was driven a wooden wedge.  2. A small plug of oakum or wood, used to temporarily repair gunshot holes in battle.

Carpenter’s walk – A passageway that ran along the insides of the hull, below the waterline, along which the Carpenter or his mates could quickly gain access to shot-holes, or other leaks.
– Larger 14-17c Mediterranean three-masted (sometimes four) square-rigged ship with lateen mizzen (also lateen rig on fourth mast, if it had one).
Carriage –
Carriage gun –

Carrick bend – A flat knot used for joining hawsers, due to its ability to pass round a capstan without jamming between its whelps.  A bight is formed in one rope; the end of the other rope is passed through it, over the cross of the first rope and then brought back through the loop.
Carrick bitts – The supports at each end of the windlass barrel.  Also windlass bitts.
Carronade, 68pdr (hgv) –

Carry – To take an enemy ship by boarding.
Carry away – 1. (verb) The breaking or parting of masts, spars, hawsers, etc., suddenly put under too much strain.  2. (noun) A parted piece of rigging being carried downwind.
Carry lee helm – To correct a ship’s tendency to fall off, by keeping the rudder a little to weather.  cf carry weather helm, which is the opposite, when a ship’s inclination is to turn into the wind.
Carry on! – 1. The order to resume duties. 2. To add more sail, even when the wind is strong.

Carry the tide – To gain advantage from the tidal flow.
Carry weather helm – To correct a ship’s tendency to turn into the wind, by keeping the rudder a little away.  cf carry lee helm, which is the opposite, when a ship’s inclination is to fall off.
Cartel – 1. Ships or ship’s boats used to communicate with the enemy, by flying a white flag.  2. An agreement between nations at war for the exchange of prisoners-of-war, during the war.
Carteret, Sir George – (c1609-80) Royal Navy commander under Charles I, appointed comptroller of the navy in 1639.  Held the island of Jersey for the royalists until 1651 after the execution of Charles, and was made treasurer of the navy by Chares II in 1660.  Eventually one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
Carteret, Philip – (c1738-96) British rear admiral who accompanied Captain John Byron on his circumnavigation in 1764-6.  Best known for his second voyage of circumnavigation, in which he discovered Polynesian and Melanesian island groups and became one of the greatest explorers of his time.
Cartier, Jacques – (1491-1557) French navigator who discovered the St. Lawrence River in Canada, when searching for the North-West passage to China.
Cartography – The science, or art, of mapmaking.
Cartouche Boxes –
Cartridge Paper – From 16c gunpowder charges, or cartridges.

Carvel – 1. A small Portuguese and Mediterranean lateen-rigged cargo vessel of the middle ages.  2. The staple food of sea-turtles, comprising mainly molluscs.
Carvel-built – Built with hull strakes and planks butt-jointed along their top and bottom edges, instead of being overlapped as in the Clinker-built* method.  Probably from the Portuguese caravel.
Carvel joint – A butt joint between timbers or planks.

Casabianca, Louis de – (1762-98) French naval officer who was in command of Orient when she blew up after being set on fire whilst engaged in the Battle of the Nile in Aboukir Bay.  He perished in the explosion, together with his son, whose bravery became the subject of Mrs Felicia Heman’s ballad:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled.
Cascabel –
– The cavity in a sperm whale’s head that contains the finest sperm oil.  Also the Heidelberg tun.

Case-shot – Preferably wooden, but sometimes canvas, cases into which were stuffed bits of old iron, stones, bullets, etc., as available, to cause much damage to enemy personnel when in the line of their fire.
Cask – Also See Spile*. Casks are raised, not built.
Cast – 1. To bring the bow of a vessel on to the required tack as the anchor was weighed.  2. To ‘cast off’ is to let go of the rope or cable securing a vessel to its mooring.  3. To ‘cast the lead’ was to heave the lead line when sounding for depth.  See lead-line.  4. (v) To make a vessel pay off.
Castaway, cast away – A deliberate shipwreck or a shipwrecked sailor.  cf marooned.
Casting off – Letting go the moorings so that the vessel can move away and proceed to sea.

Castor and Pollux – Seamen’s name for the fire frequently seen ‘dancing’ on masts and yards, often seen in pairs.

Cat – 1. The heavy purchase used to hoist an anchor onto the cathead, in the process of stowing it.  2. (v) To hoist an anchor by its ring to the cat-head, and to let it hang ready to drop or be hoisted inboard.  3. A strongly- built sailing collier that was the type selected by Captain James Cook for his voyages of discovery.  4. The cat ‘o nine tails was an instrument of punishment comprising nine rope ‘tails’ on a handle, with which recalcitrants were lashed.  If knotted it was called a thieves cat.  Two expressions came ashore, the first from the practice of storing the cat in a red baize bag – when the cat was let out of the bag retribution was imminent.  The other expression to come ashore is the expression that there is hardly room to swing a cat, in a cramped space.  5. A small open sailing boat in North America, correctly called a cat-boat.

Catamaran – Vessel with two hulls. Originally from east coast of India.
“Cat & Fish” – Hold anchor up with fish tackle to fluke and hung off cat head.
Cat back – A small line attached to the rear of the cat hook at the end of the cat-fall, used to insert the hook into the balancing band of an anchor, in order to cat it.  The similar line attached to the cat-block was called the second cat-back.

Cat block – The heavy three-sheaved block fitted to the cat davit.

Cat block – A strong iron-bound double or triple block fitted with a bound iron hook attached to the anchor ring and used in catting the anchor.  See catfall.

Catch a crab – To turn an oar blade the wrong way in the water so that the oar jams in its rowlock.

Catch a turn – To make a temporary turn with a rope.

Catching-up rope – A light line used to temporarily moor a vessel until a heavier mooring can be attached.  Also picking-up rope.

Catch ratline – A ratline that has been reinforced.  These were rigged regularly amongst normal ratlines.

Catch the boat up – 1 Seaman’s term for getting ill, form the time a sick boat would circulate through the fleet at anchor and take any sick off to the local naval hospital, for fear they would desert if sent alone.  2 Now used in the Navy to refer to catching a social disease.

Cat davit – A heavy davit used to hoist the anchor up to the billboard.

Catenary – The curve of an anchor cable as it lies between the ship and the sea bed, caused by the effects of gravity.  A good catenary, with more curve, is necessary so that the anchor pulls horizontally into the sea bed and so that the ship does not snub at its anchor as she rides to the sea.  Chain cables tend to form better catenaries, hence their choice.  2. A weight attached to a hawser in order to produce a deeper curve in it, to reduce the shock effects from sudden jerks.
Cat-fall – The rope tackle used to hoist the anchor.

Cat-harpins, catharpins or catharpings – Short ropes rigged between the futtock shrouds under the tops, tightly bracing the lower futtock shrouds, and to therefore giving more room to brace the yards round sharply.
Cat-harpin swifter – The foremost of the futtock shrouds, which was never held by the cat-harpins.

Cat-heads – Short beams located one each side of the bows and projecting over the side, with a sheave at the outer end, through which the cat tackle was rove, for heaving the anchors up to the cat-head, clear of the bow.

Cat-head stopper – A small rope or chain used to hold the stock of an anchor fast after it has been hoisted to the billboard.

Cat fall(tge) –
Cat hole –
The English translation of the French term for the lubber’s hole.
Catling – A double-edged sharp pointed knife used for amputations.
Cat-o’-nine-tails – A means of punishment common to most navies, used to flog miscreants, comprising nine lengths of cord about eighteen inches long, joined to a larger rope that formed a handle.  If knotted it was called a thieves’ cat.  The regulated maximum number of lashes that a British Navy captain was permitted to sentence for any crime was twelve, a number largely ignored by those captains who used the ‘cat’, as most did.  It was a form of punishment generally accepted and respected by seamen, if administered fairly.  To ‘let the cat out of the bag’ was the term for having caused the need for punishment.  Room to ‘swing a cat’ came to denote plenty of room, from this source.  See also flogging and thieves’ cat.

Cat rig – Una rig.
Cat’s out of the bag – Referred originally to the cat o’nine tails, but came to mean that any trouble is due.

Cat’s Paw or catspaw – 1. A twisting hitch made in a bight of rope to form two eyes, through which the hook of a tackle could be passed.  2. A ruffle caused by the wind on the water, indicating the approaching end of a calm.  Old sailors would then stroke a backstay and whistle, to encourage the wind.
Cat Stopper – Held the anchor “cock-billed”          CTC
Cat-tackle – The large tackle rigged from the cat-head, used to weigh the anchor.  Tradition has it that the name is from the practice of carving a lion’s head on the end of the cat-head, but this is probably an unsolvable chicken-and-egg situation.
Cat tail –
Cattee –
Catting & Fishing –
See cat and fish.
Catting – Being sick; vomiting.

Catwalk – An elevated walkway, without handholds, between the fore and aft parts of a ship, across the waist.

Caulk – The verb and noun for the sealing of seams in a vessel’s hull to make it watertight, by compressing oakum into the seams and sealing with hot pitch or resin to keep it from rotting.
Caulkers – Those employed in caulking.

Caulking iron – An iron chisel-shaped tool used for compressing oakum into seams, when struck with a caulking mallet.

Caulking mallet – A wedge-shaped wooden mallet used with a caulking iron to force oakum into seams between timbers or deck planks.

Cause – In Elizabethan times, a causeway or raised roadway.

Cavendish (sometimes Candish), Thomas – (1555-92) British navigator who accompanied Sir Richard Grenville on his voyage to colonise Virginia, following which he set out to circumnavigate the world in 1586, arriving back just in time to miss the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.  He died on the return trip after attempting a further circumnavigation in 1592, which failed to pass through the Straits of Magellan.
Cavil, kevel – Thick horizontal timber bolted to partner to form a large cleat.
Cavitation – Disturbance of the water caused by the negative pressure created when a ship passes through.
Cay – Key.
Ceiling – The inside planking of a vessel.  What we call the ceiling ashore is called the deckhead aboard ship.
Celestial body – Any body on the celestial sphere, such as the moon, sun, etc.  Also heavenly body.

Celestial coordinates – The means by which the positions of heavenly bodies can be identified, by reference to the equator, using right ascension and declination, or to the horizon, by using altitude and azimuth.

Celestial equator – The apparent heavenly line coinciding with the terrestrial equator.  Also equinoctial.

Celestial equator coordinate system – A navigational system based on terrestrial points of reference, such as the poles and equator.

Celestial horizon – The great circle located halfway between the zenith and the nadir.  Also called rational horizon.

Celestial latitude – A body’s apparent angular distance north or south of the ecliptic.

Celestial longitude – A body’s angular distance along the ecliptic, from the equinox to a point where a perpendicular drops from it to the ecliptic.

Celestial meridians – Great circles through the celestial poles, coinciding with the terrestrial meridians.  Also hour circles.

Celestial poles – The north and south poles.

Celestial sphere – The imaginary sphere onto which the stars appear to be projected, referred to as such in navigation.
Cemetery, The – The north-eastern edge of the Dogger Bank, where the seas can be very dangerous during north-westerly gales.

Centipedes – 1. A strip of sennit nailed to a staysail boom, with short gaskets on each side, used for ‘harbour stowing’ the staysail.  2. Fast rowing smugglers boats of the south coast, often with a dozen or more oarsmen, in which they would dash to France and back in the dark.
Centre of buoyancy – The centre of flotation or displacement of a vessel, about which it seems to be poised, where all forces meet.
Centre of effort – The position on a sail plan where theoretically all the wind forces act.
Centre of lateral resistance – A point theoretically at the geometric centre of the side underwater profile of a vessel, upon which side forces act.
Centreboard, centre board – A drop keel on a boat, used in boats of shallow draught to increase the depth of their keel by lowering it and improving the vessels resistance to leeway.  Generally attributed to American boatmen, it was in fact first used in early Chinese junks.  Introduced to the British Navy in the late 18c, by Lord Percy, who had a trial boat made in Boston.
Centre Pawl Bitt – on hand lever windlass. CTC
Centre through plate keelson – The heavy central girder at the centreline of the hull, formed of a vertical plate with angle-bars riveted to it and the floors.

Centring chain – The chains rigged across the entrance and head of a dry-dock, with a marker at its centre to show where the centres were of the blocks on which the ships keel must rest when the dock is pumped out.

Centurion, HMS – 1. Commodore Anson’s flagship on his circumnavigation started in 1740, she was a fifty gun fourth rate launched in 1732.  2. HMS Centurion is the modern day Pay and records establishment near Portsmouth.
Cesser Clause – The clause in a charter party in which the charterer’s liability ceases when the vessel has been loaded and the master has a lien on the cargo.
Chafe – To rub or wear the surface of a rope or spar.  A hazard to all timber parts and standing rigging, particularly, from the rubbing against them of running rigging, braced spars, etc.  It was known as the bosun’s great enemy, and was protected against by the use of mats or rounding or baggywrinkle.
Chaffer – A jib sail that is shivering in the wind.

Chafing board – Any smoothly rounded piece of timber fitted in a position to save the rigging from chafing on otherwise sharp edges.

Chafing cheeks – Sheaves used instead of blocks on the yardarms of light vessels.

Chafing gear – Any protective mats or covering fitted in a position to save the rigging ropes, masts or spars from unnecessary wear, rigged at a position where wear could occur.  See breeches, hanging, paunch, Scotchmen and sword mats.
Chafing mats – Puddening.  See breeches, hanging, paunch, Scotchmen and sword mats.
Chafing spar – A small spar carried abaft the yard to prevent a rolled sail chafing on the lee rigging, on some self-reefing systems.

Chafing mat – A portable mat of woven rope or yarn, used to save the rigging from chafing on masts or spars.

Chain cable – In place of a hempen anchor cable, chain cable was introduced into the Royal Navy in 1811, and generally adopted by 1820.  It was a heavy chain with studs lightly welded across each link to prevent kinking and stretching, as was a problem with open, or crane-chain.  Swivels were needed with chain cables.
Chain Cable Lifter – on windlass          CTC
Chain deadeye(hgv) –
Chain Fore-Tack –
Chain hook
– A long handled hook used for handling the chain cable on deck or in the chain locker.

Chain Locker – The compartment below decks where the chain cable is stowed when the anchor is weighed and secured.
Chain messenger – A chain version of messenger, in which a square linked chain passed round the base of the capstan, engaged on sprockets designed to fit the chain, or vice versa, and forward round two rollers that adjusted to keep the chain messenger taut.  It then worked as a normal messenger, by the hawser being nippered to it for heaving.
Chain plates – Strips of iron or bronze bolted between the channels and the ship’s side, carrying the deadeyes of the standing rigging.  These used always to be chain, hence the name, which stuck.
Chain pump – A heavy pump installed in large sailing ships, comprising a continuous chain enclosed in a wooden tube fitted with valves and worked by a number of crew at a roller or winch to shift a large quantity of water quickly from the bilges.  Doubled the speed of pumping out, but with little over half  the number of hands.

Chain riveting – Riveting where the rivets are in adjacent pairs.  Usually called double riveting.

Chains – Strengthened small platform areas on the outside the sides of a vessel, onto which the shrouds are rigged.  The shrouds are rigged over the channels, to spread them, and then the deadeyes are fixed to the iron chain-plates.  The chains were often a popular alternative venue for evolutions normally carried out by seamen in the heads, when bad weather made the latter uncomfortable.  The leadsman would usually stand on the chains when heaving his lead to take soundings.

Chain-shot – A missile designed to destroy enemy rigging and to clear crews from the enemy deck, comprising two cannon balls joined by a chain, or an iron bar (then strictly called bar-shot), that would spin at high speed when fired from cannon.
Chain Sling   CTC –
Chain sling –
Yards that did not lower, such as lower yards, were suspended from the mast in such a way as to permit them to swing to either side, for control.  Originally they were suspended on ropes, called slings, but later the slings were made of chain as it was more durable.  Later still, forged steel slings were used, but that is for a later entry.
Chain Slings –
Chain stoppers –
Deck mounted devices through which chain cables were gripped to prevent the cable slipping through and the anchor dropping.  See Blake’s slip and devil’s claw.
Chain-strop   ERR –
Chain –
Length of ??
Chains –
– See Channels.
Chain Tye – CTC
Chalder –
Challenger, HMS – Famous late 19c screw steam corvette used for surveying works.
Challenges – Made by Watchmen of the Gangway*, usually commencing with “Boat Ahoy”*. To this the usual replies were “Admiralty”*; “Aye aye”*; “Flag”*; “Guard Boat”*; “No no”*; “Passing”*; “Staff”*; “Standard”*; “Ship Name”*; as appropriate. Usual secondary challenge was “Coming Here?”
Chamber – Small gun for firing salutes
Chamberlye -Urine used for washing clothes in.
Chambers – An area of sea between headlands, but strictly outside the three mile limit.
Chambers, George – (1803-40) Famous marine painter.  Father of a son of the same name (1831-90), whose paintings were often indistinguishable from his father’s.
Chamlet – In Elizabethan times, a kind of mohair or camelhair cloth.

Champlain, Samuel de – (1567-1635) French explorer who first served under Henry IV of France, known best for his work in Canada, particularly in the creation and support of Quebec.
Chancellor, Richard – (d 1556) British navigator, whose discovery of the White Sea, when seeking the north east passage to India, led to the formation of the Muscovy Company.
Change of the Moon – The tidal prediction term meaning the New Moon, from it being the time when the Moon’s age becomes zero again.

Channel – Navigable part of a river.
Channel bar – Rolled iron bar with a U section.

Channel buoy – A buoy marking a channel.

Channel Fever – Seamen’s’ name for the excitement, at the prospect of a run ashore, on a ship approaching her home port through the English Channel, after a long time away.
Channel Fleet
Channels –
The broad thick planks projecting out from the hull and used to spread the base of the shrouds, thus giving wider and better support to the masts.  Also Chain-wales.  See Chains.
“Channel Weather”
Chanted orders
– Orders chanted to encourage the crewmen, such as ‘Let go and haulo-o-oh!’

Chanty – The incorrect name for sea songs, used by many supposedly educated writers, who assume sea songs must derive from the root ‘chant’.  See shanty.
Chap Boats – Chinese lighters.

Chapelled – Said of a ship that turns completely around in light winds, or, when close hauled, goes about and then comes back on the same tack, without bracing her head-yards.  Also sometimes called building a chapel.
Chapel, Chappell, To – To back sails.

Chapelling – Putting a vessel’s head through the wind without bracing her yards.

Chapels – The grooves in a made mast, by which the components fit together neatly.
Chapman, Frederick Hendrick af
– (1721-1808) Swedish innovative naval architect, the son of a Yorkshire émigré who was a captain in the Swedish Navy.  Chapman junior’s work had a great impact on world ship design, especially his published works.
Chapp – The entrance to a channel.  Also chops.

Characteristic – The distinguishing features of a navigational light, such as its colour and the frequency of the exposure of the light.  The five groups of light are alternating, fixed, flashing, fixed and flashing, or occulting, and the number of groups in each cycle, in red, white or green light.
Chargeable – In Elizabethan times, responsible, expensive, troublesome.

Charged – In Elizabethan times, said of a tall or high ship, such as one having tall castles fore and aft.

Charles XIII – (1748-1818) The king of Sweden and Norway who served as an admiral in the Russo-Swedish war of 1788, with great distinction.
Charley Noble – A portable chimney from a stove or coal fire, originally used as the name of the galley fire chimney.
Charlies – Seamen’s’ name for on-shore policemen.
Charlotte Dundas – The world’s first commercial steam propelled vessel, designed by William Symington and built for Lord Dundas, after whose daughter she was named, and used on the Forth and Clyde canal following her maiden voyage there in 1802.
Charnock, John – (1756-1807) British naval architect and naval biographer, who’s worked considerably influenced contemporary ship design.  He died in the King’s Bench prison, where he had been incarcerated because of debt.
Chart – A sea map, showing the coastline and any navigational aids, the characteristics of lights and the depths of water.  Every chart has a compass rose showing the direction and annual rate of change of variation.  Dutch and French charts were historically better than English, but still unreliable.
Chart datum – The level from which the depths below it and the tides above it are given on charts.  Now normally the mean low water at ordinary spring tide.
Charter – The contract for the employment of a merchant ship.  In a time charter the owner provides the crew and all requirements for working the ship.  In a bare pole, or bare hull, charter the charterer provides it all.
Charter-Party – Contract between shipowner and freighter
Chartmaking – The art, supported by the science of surveying, of representing the three-dimensional surface of the world’s seas and coastlines in a two-dimensional plane.  Homer is attributed with first recognising the need for charts, between 950 and 750 BC, although the earliest known map is a clay one dated as 7th or 6th century BC, with Babylon at its centre.
Chase (The) – 1. The quarry or vessel being chased.  2. The name given to each of the guns mounted in the bows or stern, hence called the bow- and stern-chase, and used to fire directly ahead or astern.  Also sometimes chase guns or chasers, cf.  3. Sometimes referred to the bow of a ship.

Chase (To) – To pursue a vessel with the intention of capturing her, or interrogating her crew.
Chase guns, chasers – Chase guns or chasers were guns temporarily moved to fire through gunports temporarily cut in the bows or stern, to fire from gun deck level and not from the upper deck, as were the bow- or stern-chase guns.

Chasse-Marée – French two/three mast flush deck ship used as a tidal coaster, privateer or small warship, mostly in 18 & 19c.  The foremast was nearly vertical and stepped far forward and with small sail area and they usually had a lateen mizen.  The French term means ‘tide chaser’.
Chateau-Renault, François Louis de Rousselet, Marquis de – (1637-1716) French admiral, who transferred to the navy in 1661, after three years army service, which was not uncommon in those times.  He was made a marshal of France in 1703.
Chatham or Chats – One of the principal naval ports of England, one of three royal dockyards, located on the River Medway in Kent.  Although a dock since medieval times, it was first used as a naval dockyard under Henry VIII, when he first established a permanent navy.
Chatham Chest – A contributory fund established by Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins and Lord Howard of Effingham in 1590, to benefit wounded seamen and the families of seamen, who paid sixpence a month from their pay.  Despite stringent security measures, the chest was often plundered by administrators.  It was combined with the funds of Greenwich Royal Hospital in 1814.
Chatham Church – Ships put in ordinary and kept at Chatham were said to be ‘keeping Chatham Church’.

Chats – The informal name used by seamen for the naval dockyard at Chatham.

Chatterton, Edward Keble – (1878-1944) British naval officer and historian, whose works may be of interest to readers of this dictionary.
Chauffer – Open grate for lighthouse fire.
Chazelles, Jean Mathieu de – (1657-1710) French hydrographer, famed for his excellent works in the second volume of Le Neptune François.
Chearly, cheerily, cheerly – Heartily.  An old maritime expression, used such as ‘row chearly lads!’.
Chebec – Larger tartane type of vessel.  Usually a corsair.  Rig was usually changed between square and lateen rig to suit weather conditions.

Check – (v) 1. To ease off a rope and then secure it again.  2. To slow down the speed with which a rope is running, by making a turn or two around the bitts. 3. To stop a vessel’s headway.

Check(in) – 1. To check a cable was to slow the rate of veering.  2. To check-in a yard was to brace it in a little.  3. To check a rope was to start to ease it off.  4. To check a vessel was to stop it by letting go the anchor or by making fast to a wharf.
Checking – (v) To gradually ease the pressure on a rope under strain.

Checking around, of wind – A wind that had shifted about was said to have checked around.
Checking line – A light line rigged to haul the upper eye of a yard up to the crosstrees, worked from the top.
Check-ropes, checks – Temporary moorings used to stop a ship as it left the dockside, to prevent it going too far out into the stream.

Check stopper- A cable stopper comprising a short length of chain or spun-yarn attached to a deck ring-bolt and taken around a moving rope or wire and back through the bolt, used to used to check the speed at which the cable was paid out by being made of just strong enough to slow it but light enough to break under strain.
Check the ship for leaks – An expression of the intention to pass water.

Cheek block – A block made to match the size of the topmast head to which it was attached by a pin that also served as the sheave pin.

Cheek knee – See Head knee.

Cheeks – 1. The timber or iron brackets fitted each side of a mast and supporting the heel of the upper mast and the trestle-trees.  Also called Bibbs.  2. The two sides of a block.  3. The timber sides of a gun carriage.  4. The extension of the bows, under the forecastles of early warships. 5. The heavy shaped knee pieces between the knee of the head and the bows.  6. Nickname for Marine Officer, from his short uniform jacket.

Cheerly, chearly – An old maritime expression used to express the need for a job to be carried out briskly.  cf roundly.
Cheering the ship or cheer ship – A ceremony when all the crew stand visible all over and wave hats and cheer in unison to another ship or some suitable personage, who returns the courtesy.
Cheese cutter – A drop-keel on a smaller boat.

Cheese down – An incorrect term meaning to coil the tail end of a rope on deck, with the end in the middle of a flat coil with each fake touching.  The correct term is to flake the rope (or fake, which has become interchangeable over time).  A Flemish coil was a tiddley coil of rope, and, if it was Flemish, it follows that it must be cheese.  Not done on ropes needed to be used quickly, as they could easily kink when uncoiled.

Cheese of Wads – A bundle of wads that resembled a cheese shape, or thick disk.
Cheesed Rope – See cheese and cheese down.
Cheeses – See Suffolk Cheese.
Cherbourg – An important French naval harbour since Roman times.

Cherriliccum – A badge of office of the boatswain.  It was a cane sheathed in the cured penis of a bull, with which he beat the crew to encourage them in their labours.

Chesapeake, USS – One of the six original frigates forming the first US Navy in 1794.  Although a famous valiant ship, she is perhaps best remembered for the ‘Chesapeake Incident’ in 1807, when she was surrendered to Captain Broke commanding HMS Shannon, after an action lasting less than 15 minutes, off Boston, Mass., when her captain, James Barron, was killed.

Chesapeake Bay – The large inlet on the US east coast, the scene of two major actions in 1781, fought between English and French fleets during the War of American Independence.  Neither action were particularly decisive, in naval terms, but the second resulted in relief being prevented from reaching the occupying British Army, under the Earl of Cornwallis, who was consequently forced to surrender.

Chess trees – Two vertical pieces of, usually, decorated timber mounted one on each side of the topsides of square-rigged ships, where the curve of the bows meet the ship’s side, with a hole or sheave in the middle through which the bowlines were reeved, in order to help the crew with a clear haul to the mainsail to windward.  The mainsail tacks also run through holes at the top of the chess-trees.

Chest rope – A boat rope extending from a ship’s bow to an entry port in her side.

Chew the fat – When seamen chewed the tough rind of old salt-beef they would take a long time, and talk whilst so employed.

Chevils – Wooden cleats for the tacks and sheets of sails.

Chew the fat – A long and drawn out discussion, from the time it took to soften, by chewing, the tough rind of old salt beef.

Chief-of-Staff –

Chiloé – A Chilean seaport and province that was the first welcome sight of land by many an early explorer, after rounding Cape Horn from the east.

Chime – See Chine.

Chinch, chinse – The action of pressing oakum into a seam with a knife or chisel, temporarily, until it can be properly caulked.  It sometimes referred to the light caulking of those more delicate parts of a ship’s structure that could not stand hard caulking with an iron and hammer.

Chine – 1. The angle where the side of a boat meets the bottom strakes.  If sharp, the boat is said to be hard-chined, and, if rounded is said to be soft-chined.  2. The part of the waterway of a ship, projecting up along the side of the top deck, to assist caulking the spirketting.  3. The part of the ends of a barrel that project beyond the top or bottom.  4. Smallest diameter of a cask.

Chine & bulge – The description of the way a layer of casks lay on top of its next layer below, namely, the chine or rim of the one above was located over the bulge or middle of the one below, by half a length and half a width displaced.  In this way, the cask above rested on four below.  This was repeated layer by layer, the bottom layer being well chocked and ballasted to make a firm base to the stack.

Chine & chine – When casks were laid end to end they were said to be stowed chine-and-chine.  See chine and bulge.

Chinese gybe – An uncontrolled gybe in which the boom moves but the gaff does not, from its commonness in Chinese junks, which had no boom.

Chinky, or Chinky Silver – Chinese traders used to cut chips, or chinks, off gold and silver coins, to make small change, from which they earned this epithet.  Pieces of silver dollar or other coins were valued in China by weight.  These coins broke up after repeated stamping by traders.

Chinkle – 1. A twist in a light line.  2. A small bight made in a rope or line, with a crossing or riding turn and seized; used in the middle of back ropes and passing round the end of the dolphin striker.  3. A half-crown.

Chinse – See chinch.

Chinsing iron – A caulker’s tool with a grooved curved lower edge, used to force oakum into seams between planks.

Chip-log – A weighted billet of wood that floated upright and therefore still in the water, onto which the log-line was attached.  See Log.

Chippy – Later seamen’s nickname for the shipwright artificer or an orthopaedic surgeon (even more recently).

Chippy chap – Earlier seamen’s nickname for the ship’s carpenter, or one of his crew.  Cf Chips.

Chips – 1. The ship’s Carpenter’s nickname.  2. Pieces cut off timber in Royal dockyards, when ships were under construction, which were traditionally the perquisites of the carpenters and shipwrights, who were    permitted to remove them from the dockyard without penalty.  The system was frequently abused, especially during the 17c, with whole planks and timbers being removed, for house and furniture construction.

Chirurgeon – Surgeon.

Chock – 1. (v) To secure an article stowed away to prevent them breaking loose in heavy weather.  2. A wooden wedge used to keep any article of cargo from moving when the ship is in motion.

Chock a block – An informal name for block and block.

Chock piece – Wedges or similar devices used to chock an article of equipment.

Chocks – Wooden stands on which the ship’s boats are stored.  Used to wedge casks etc into place BDD

Chock-a-block – The state of tackle when it’s standing and moving blocks are hauled tight together and so immovable. Hence its colloquial use to mean bored.

Chocolate gale – The prevailing brisk north-west wind of the West Indies, as known to seamen.

Choiseul, Étienne Francçois, Duc de – (1719-85) French minister of marine in 1758, during the Seven Years War.  Plotted to create an excuse to start a war of revenge against Britain, for which he was dismissed in 1770.

Choke his luff! – Shut him up!  See next item.

Choke the luff – A quick method of stopping a rope through a block, by trapping the hauling part across the sheave of the block.  Released by a tug on the hauling part.

Chokey – Prison.

Chop – 1. Commercial quantity of tea.  Merchants bought in chops.  2. Seamen’s’ term for a Chinese bribe, or for Customs revenue, which was considered to be equally offensive.

Choppers – Whaler crewmen whose task it was to chop up the carcass.

Chopping, or choppy sea – See short sea.

Chops – The place where tides meet or where a channel meets the open sea.  Also chapp.

Chops of the Channel – The western mouth of the English Channel, between Cornwall and Brittany.

Chow – Food, after the Chinese “chow-chow”.

Chowder – Shark meat, salt pork and biscuit.

Christian – Naval slang for civilised.

Christian, Fletcher – (1764-93) An English seaman, from the Isle of Man, who was a protégé of Captain William Bligh, who acted as lieutenant on the Bounty during her voyage to Tahiti in 1788.  After falling out     for various reasons, Christian led the mutiny, resulting in Bligh’s famous open boat journey of escape and in Christian’s people setting up home on Pitcairn Island, where he died.

Christmas Rounds – Captain’s Christmas morning rounds, accompanied by the lowest rating dressed as a mock Admiral and with the Master-at-Arms and a scratch band.

Chronometer  – Although technically the name for a large watch, it was generally agreed as the name first coined by Jeremy Thacker (English horologist) in 1714, which became accepted as the name for a marine timekeeping instrument.  Such an instrument was essential if longitude was to be accurately and simply calculated, and it had to be accurate because the calculation is a function of the difference between local time and Greenwich mean time, the chronometer needing to maintain the latter.  It is now recognised that Harrison’s chronometer was the winner of the competition to find a means of finding longitude, set up by the Board of Longitude in the early 18c.  An essential feature of Harrison’s, and indeed all, chronometers is some form of compensation spring, to replace the balance of a land based clock.  After extensive testing, Harrison’s chronometer was first used during 7 Year War, in 1735. John Harrison was a village carpenter nicknamed “Longitude Harrison”, after his obsession.  See Harrison and Board of Longitude for more details.

Chronometer error – The amount by which a chronometer varies with Greenwich Mean Time when checked.

Chuck – See fairlead.

Chummed – Shared.  A term used by seamen who paired off for the mutual convenience of such things as plaiting each others hair, and watching each others belongings.

Church Pennant, pendant – An old signal flag, formed from a red St George cross on white with red white and blue fly, therefore formed from a combination of English and Netherlands colours, used to call a temporary cessation of hostilities so that prayers and worship can be conducted, from the First Dutch War in 17c when both used a common pennant, so the other would not fight when flown. Still used today.

Chyrurgion – Surgeon

Ci-devant – French exiled and active supporter of the king, during the revolution.

Cimaroons – Seamen purposely marooned as punishment, or to avoid paying(Also” Maroons”).

Cinque Ports – Originally, the grouping of five ports, namely Dover, Hastings, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich, to which later was added Rye and Wynchelsea, brought together to provide ships and their crews for the crown, in return for rights over shipping and fishing in the English Channel.  The first charter is known to pre-date 1278, the date of the earliest existing charter, and their power lapsed when the first true English Navy was formed by Henry VII.

Cipangu – Japan, as she was known in 15-17c.

Circular sailing – Sailing along a great-circle.

Circumbendibus – A seamen’s’ name for a circuitous route or journey.

Circumnavigation – Generally meant to refer to the globe. The first was by Magellan. The first Englishman to do it was Drake in late 16c.

Civil day – Begins at midnight, unlike ship’s time, which started at noon.

Clacker – Seamen’s term for food; one of many.

Clamp – 1. Another name for a fish on a mast or spar.  2. Planks laid fore and aft under the deck beams of the lower and orlop decks, to add strength.  3. Strakes on the inside of ships, onto which the knees were fastened.

Clanger – A remark that is so inappropriate as to make the ship’s bell clang.

Clap … on – An expression for the temporary adding on of a new component.  Such as ‘clap a purchase on to a guy’ when extra power is needed, or, ‘clap a seizing on the main stay’ when something had to be attached, or ‘clap on sails’ to take advantage of a fair wind, etc.

Clapleighton – Privilege of the Master of a merchant ship to carry some private cargo. BDD
Clashers – Whaler crewmen who carried blubber.

Clasp hoop – An open iron hoop fitting around a mast or spar, whose lugged open ends can be fastened together.  Also truss hoop.

Class or classification – The ancient method of assessing the seaworthiness of ships, used throughout the world.  The old classification of A1 is now only used for inshore craft.

Claw Off – To beat to windward of a lee shore or other hazard.

Claw ring – A modern expression for a fitting on a boom where roller reefing is fitted, to take the main sheet.

Cleading – The wooden casing to the buoyancy tanks.

Clean – The term applied to a hull having fine lines, with a clean entrance, a clear run and a clean run aft, thus allowing an undisturbed passage through the water, with no cavitation or drag.

Clean bill – Refers to the ship’s bill of health, when all the crew are in good health.

Clean full – The same as ‘full and by’, in which the ship is sailing as close to the wind as possible with the sails filled and drawing well.

Clean lines – Said of a vessel with a fine entrance and smooth lines in her underwater design.

Clean slate – 1. Details of the course steered by a ship, during a watch and before being entered in the log, were entered on a log-slate.  At the end of the watch the information was transferred from the log-slate to the deck-log and the slate was wiped clean for the next watch to use.  2. On land, it has come to also mean clearing a debt, or just a fresh start, in everyday language.

Clear – 1. A ship is cleared to sail when her papers are in order with the custom house at the port of departure.  2. A ship was steered to clear a headland, etc.  3. In preparing for battle a ship was cleared for action, involving removal of all unnecessary clutter from fighting areas, including cabin partitions, furniture, etc., and otherwise checking and preparing nets, fire-hoses and adding secondary rigging, in case of damage by shot.  4. Clear weather referred to it being fair.  5. A coast is clear when it is free of danger.  6. Hawser cables are clear when they are un-tangled and ready for use.

“Clear a Foul Hawse” – When at anchor with two bow anchors, the action of wind and tide moving the ship can cause the hawsers to cross, or become foul.  The action of clearing them was vital if the ship was likely to need to weigh anchor in a hurry, as the flukes of one anchor would tangle with the hawser of the other.  Clearing a foul hawse required the slackening and then releasing of one hawse and its laborious unwinding by hand – a difficult task best avoided by preventing it happening in the first place.

Clearance – The document issued by the custom house after they have found all the ship’s papers in order, giving permission for the ship to go foreign, or leave port.

Clear anchor – The antithesis of a fouled anchor, in which the anchor has not been fouled by its cable.  It is important that a ship at anchor is handled properly as wind and tides changed, if a clear anchor was to be kept.

Clear away

Cleared for Quarters – The same as cleared for action, but spoken in the usual North American language.

Clear for action – To get a ship ready for action by clearing away anything removable, securing everything else, rigging protective nets, etc.

Clear for running – Description of a rope that has been carefully coiled with the end underneath, so that it is able to run out smoothly and without tangling.

Clear hawse – 1. A ship lying at two anchors, with each hawse leading directly to its anchor, without crossing the other hawse, was said to have a clear hawse.  cf Cross in the hawse, fouled hawse and open hawse.  2. The evolution of disentangling a foul hawse, caused by the effects of wind and tide.  Also open hawse.

Clear hawse slip – A slip used to temporarily secure the ends of a foul hawse whilst it is being cleared.

Clearing line – In pilotage, a transit line chosen to mark the edge of a danger area.

Clear lower deck! – An order for all hands to stop work and muster on the upper deck to hear an announcement, with the few exceptions of those who can’t leave their assigned task unattended.

Clear ones yardarm – Make sure the blame for something that has gone wrong would not attach to oneself.

Cleat – 1. A device of wood or metal with two arms, fixed at various places around the ship, to which falls or other ropes can be made fast by taking it in turns around the arms.  2. Wooden wedges on the yards to prevent sail earrings from slipping off.

Cleat block

Cleats – Seamen’s’ expression for big ears.

Clench – To bend over and flatten down a nail or bolt.  Also clinch.

Clenching – Hammering a bolt head over a washer to mushroom it out.  The bolt head was held against another hammer and the bolt shaft would also swell up and shorten, which strengthened the metal and made a tighter fit.

Clerk of the Cheque – Officer of control in a dockyard or royal port.

Clermont – The first steam powered vessel built in the USA, designed by Robert Fulton, whose maiden voyage on the East Hudson River was in 1807.

Clevely, John – (1745-86) English marine artist and naval draughtsman, who accompanied midshipman Horatio Nelson on the polar expedition of 1773, and whose sketches are a useful record of their experiences.  He became a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and was appointed painter to the Prince of Wales, later George IV.  He died when he fell over a cliff at Dover, as one would.

Clew, clue – 1. The lower aftermost corner of a fore-and-aft sail, or the two lower corners of a square sail, onto which the sheet is fastened.  2. The lanyards and nettles used to sling a hammock from hooks on the deck beams.  Also clue.

Clew cringle – An iron ring or eyelet with two or more holes, stitched into the clew of a sail, through which ropes pass or are attached.  Also clue cringle.

Clew down – To use clew lines as downhauls by keeping sheets taut when lowering yards.

Clewed up – 1. Hammocks hang from clews, so to be clewed up with someone is to serve on the same ship.  2. It also sometimes was used to refer to a group of seamen joining together for a run ashore, or similar adventure.  3. Seamen’s slang to describe someone who is very knowledgeable at their work.

Clew garnet – The clew line, or tackle, attached to the clews of a course, from which they run to the centre of the yard and are used to pull the clews up and inwards to ‘goose-wing’ a sail, by which it is drawn up and trussed to the yard.  Clew garnets are the name given to these items on the courses, whilst on other sails they are just called clew lines.  Yet another mystery of the sea.

Clew-iron – Three or four rings formed into a single iron cringle at the clew of a sail, onto which the running rigging is attached.  See Spectacles, spectacle clew, spectacle iron.

Clew line, clue line – The tackle of any sail, except the courses, by which it is drawn up and trussed to the yard.  On the courses they are called clew garnets.

Clew line block – A block through which a clew line is rove.

Clew to earring – Said when the clew of a sail has been hauled up to the earring.

Clew up – To haul the clews of a sail up to its yard by the clewlines.

Clifford’s lowering gear- A mid 19c form of davit rigging that enabled a boat to be lowered by one man, comprising two three sheave friction blocks with leads to a roller that when turned released the ropes by unwinding.

Clift – Split wood.

Clinch – 1. To fasten a rope to an object by a half hitch with the end stopped back on itself by a seizing.  The stopped part was the end, so to run a rope out to its clinch was to run it out as far as possible.  2. To bring two things together tightly and fix them with a clinch, or clench, nail, by turning over the ends of nails fastening through the planking, or similar.  3. The old term for the attachment of a hemp anchor cable to a vessel.

Clinker-built – A method of ship or boat building with the outer timbers or running planks laid fore-and-aft and overlapped horizontally, i.e. with the bottom edge of one plank overlapping the top edge of the plank below.  Eventually usually limited to small boat building.  cf Carvel method.

Clinker-joint – Joint in which the two members overlap.

Clinker pieces – Strengthening pieces at the corners of a gaff sail.

Clinker plating – Plating with overlapping strakes.

Clip – The throat of a gaff or boom.

Clip hooks – Two similar shaped hooks attached to a thimble, used for small tackles.  Or a ring or thimble made with two hooks facing in opposite directions.

Clipper – High speed merchant sailing ships first developed early 19c on the American east coast. Usually three-masted full-rigged ships, sometimes four-masted, with an increased sail area often with staysails and moonsails above the royals and using studding sails whenever possible. The largest clipper, Great Republic had a cargo capacity of 5400tons, was 100m long and carried 1253m² of sail when fully rigged, and the fastest clipper, Lightning, was capable of travelling at 18 knots. The record time for a run from New York to Hong Kong was 81 days, set by the clipper Oriental.  Clippers were only beaten when steam came to rule, although a few clippers survived as training ships and museums.

Clipper Bow – The name for a bow shape that has delicate concave curves forward above the water-line.

Clipper built – Said of a vessel with a concave bow, fine lines and raked masts.

Clock-calm – As calm as an old case clock.

Cloggie – Any Dutchman.

Close aboard – Said of something near the ship.

Close butt – Said of a ship’s planks that have been so well formed and fastened as to not need caulking.

Closed heart – A type of block.

Closed-up – When a signal flag cannot be hoisted higher on its halyard, it is closed-up.

Close-hauled – The state of a vessel sailing as close to the wind as possible, with her sails full and not shivering.  A square-rigged ship could get as close as about six points off the wind, while a fore-and-aft-rigged ship could get to four points off the wind.  Modern sailing boats with the narrow high Bermuda rig can get even closer to the wind.

Close-jammed – Extremely close-hauled, so that even a little more so would take the vessel aback.

Close-lined – Said of a vessel with its internal planking so close to the sides that there is no air space.

Close-quarters – The name of strong wooden barriers with loopholes, rigged on the decks of merchant ships, behind which the crew could fire on and defend themselves against privateers.  It came to mean fighting close to an enemy ship.

Close-reefed – The state of a square-rigged ship when all the topsail reefs have been taken in.

Close the land – Approach the land.

Close to the wind – Sailing close to the wind is to sail as nearly as possible towards the compass point from which the wind is blowing.

Clothe – To provide the running rigging and sails of a vessel.

Clothed – Can mean the lowest sails meet the deck.  Also, ‘well clothed’ means a well fitted set of sails.

Clothing – The name for the set of rigging holding bowsprit in position.  cf apparel for the masts.

Cloths – The term for a single strip or width of canvas, from which sails are made.  Usually 24 inches wide.

Cloveboards – Boards split radially from a tree, used in the best clinker-built ships.

Clove hitch – A bend formed by two half hitches around an object to be secured.

Cloud Raker – The rarely used topmost square sail on some clippers.

Clout – A rag or cloth.  Also a blow: “I fetched him a clout i’ the ear.”

Clove hitch – A method of fastening any part of a rope onto a post or similar object, by taking two turns in a rope, passing the lower over the upper and slipping both over the object to be secured.

Clowes, Sir William Laird – (1856-1905) British naval writer, best known for The Royal Navy, its History from the Earliest Times, which is still the only complete history on this subject, although now largely out-dated.

CLR – Centre of Lateral Resistance   CTC

Club – 1. (v) To drift downstream with the current, with the anchor down.  2. A spar set at the foot of a triangular sail.

Clubbing – The action of a vessel drifting with the current with the anchor down to control itself.  Also called dredging.  cf kedging.

Clubhauling – A last resort method of tacking, used when embayed on a lee shore in bad weather, when the ship could not tack successfully.  The ship would be close-hauled on the port tack, would fail to stay, when the starboard anchor would be let go, with a spring to the quarter; the spring would bring the quarter to the wind, the cable slipped, the spring cut and the ship would be brought up close-hauled on the starboard tack.  As simple as that!  It does not work for fore-and-aft-rigged ships, as they do not gather sternway the same way.

Clue – See Clew.

Clue-garnets – See Clew-garnets.

Clue-line – See Clew-line.

Clue Sabran, M de la – (c.1703-59) French admiral.

Clue to earring, from – Thorough going, out-and-out, applied to a seaman.

Clump block – A large wooden block with a wide swallow and with a length equal to twice the circumference of the rope used, used for heavy everyday work on board ship.

Clump cat-heads – Short beams projecting at the bows to which the anchor is suspended when the cable has been unshackled for mooring to a buoy.

Clumsy cleat – An American term for the thwartships plank at the bow of a whaleboat, which had a notch to take the whaleman’s left knee to steady him.

Coach – 1. Originally, the forward part of the cabin, under the poop deck, but later referred to the area just forward of the great cabin. On larger ships the lower coach was known as the great coach or steerage and the upper coach was known as the roundhouse or upper coach.  On a flag-ship the coach was occupied by the flag-captain, otherwise the master would usually occupy it.

Coach house – The coach, by any other name would smell as sweet.
Coach horses – The navy name for the men who rowed the admiral’s barge or the captain’s galley.  It later came to be applied to the liverymen who row state barges.
Coach roof – The old name for a cabin top, usually in yachts.
Coach whipping, coachwipping – A traditional type of sennit work commonly done by boatswains and their mates, forming a square herring-bone pattern.  Usually used to decorate a rope or stanchion, to make the ship smart and tiddley.
Coak – 1. A sunken mortise or projections on a shaped timber, made to fit into recesses shaped into the adjacent timber, used in made masts and spars to make a stronger lateral joint and to stop the pieces sliding and drawing apart.  2. The cylindrical metal bush bearing in a sheave, originally wooden but later brass, fixed through the middle of a block, by means of two riveted end plates to take the pin, to keep the block from wearing and splitting. Also called coques or coak dowels.
Coaking – The use of coaks in spars or timbers to join them together more strongly.
Coal-whipping – A manual method of unloading coal.

Coaming – The raised framework around a hatch or doorway that prevents water from running in off the deck.

Coaming stopper – A cable stopper used to control the cable when veering, from the hatchway.  Also hatchway stopper.
Coaming rash – A graze caused by hitting a shin on the raised coaming around a hatch.  Also hatch rash.

CoqueThe cylindrical bronze or gun metal bearing fitted in the lignum vitae sheeve/ shiver of a block., originally wooden but later metal, fixed through the middle of a block, by means of two riveted end plates to take the pin, to keep the block from wearing and splitting. Also called coques or coak dowels.  Invented  and patented in 1781 by Walter Taylor (1734-1803) of Southampton, it enabled him to give a seven year guarantee against failure from fair wear and tear. None of Taylor’s blocks failed during the battle of Trafalgar.

Coarse metal and Fine metal– Grades of gunmetal; there was a 3:2 price difference between the two grades, so quality versus quantity choices had frequently to be made when ordering new ordnance to be manufactured.

Coast – (v) To sail along the coastline.

Coastguard, Her Majesty’s – Formed 1820 (1822?) by the joining up of the Water Guard, the Revenue Cutters and the Custom’s Riding Officers.  Originally to stop smugglers.

Coasting – Originally meant travelling by ship from port to port, without ever losing sight of the coast.  Blue water seamen considered such travel as gentle, easy and safe, and indicative of someone not really trying and so worthy of contempt.  It came ashore to mean doing something in a relaxed manner.

Coasting vessel – A vessel that coasts.
Coat – A canvas jacket, painted with tar, shrouding the end of a mast or bowsprit where it penetrated the deck, to prevent water getting in around it.
Coaxing – One of various methods of doing just that little bit more to bring the ship round, or to get that bit        more out of her.
Coax pieces – Internal shapings or hardwood pins used to hold timber joints together.

Cobb, Cob -Spanish Dollar piece
Cobbing – A gunroom beating, a punishment used in the Royal Navy, in which the offender was tied down and struck on the buttocks with a cobbing board or a hammock clew, usually given for offences against the offender’s shipmates.

Cobbing board – A flat piece of wood used in cobbing.

Coble – Boat?
Cocha – A 14-15c ship between a cog and a carrack.
Cock – The medieval name for a small boat.

Cockbill – Said of a vessel’s yards and booms rigged awry at various angles, usually as a mark of respect or mourning.

Cock-billed – Cocked, tilted towards the vertical, or otherwise out of true, to show mourning. This comes down from the tradition of “Sackcloth and Ashes”.
Cock-billing – The act of setting yards etc., cock-billed.
Cockboat – Small fishing boat, like a dinghy.
Cocked hat – 1. A three-cornered hat when worn athwartships by Admirals and Fore and Aft by other officers.  2. Navigators would try to mark three bearings on a chart, which inevitably resulted in slight errors that ended up with a triangular space in which the ship was (hopefully) located.  It was called a ‘cocked hat’ from its similarity to the officers’ hats and, if someone was knocked into a cocked hat it meant they would not know quite where they were.

Cocked Hat Pitcher
– Cockroach.  Also Bombay runner.

Cockling sea – Short sharp waves breaking against each other.  See Short sea.

Cock-pit, Cockpit – The space under the lower deck, where wounded were attended to during action.  Often the midshipmen’s’ accommodation at other times.

Cockroaches – A particular problem on whalers, growing up to 1½” long and voracious.
Cockscomb – A decorative cover to a rope or rail, made by half-hitching consecutively a series of lines to it.

Cockswain, cox’n, coxswain – The senior seaman on board, from cog (a type of vessel) and swain (husband). The helmsman and senior rating of a ship’s boat.  From a ship’s boats originally being called cockboats.

Cod – Pod.

Cod banger – 1. The name used by other fishermen for those vessels line-fishing for cod.  2. The name used by those same other fishermen for the crews of those vessels line-fishing for cod, who kept their catch alive in a saltwater well until they docked, when they would kill the fish by banging them on the head.

Cod end – The tapered end of a trawl net, where the catch is held.

Cod end knot – The knot at the cod-end that is untied to release the catch.

Cod knocker – A short heavy club used to kill the live cod from the well of a fishing boat, when the catch is landed.  Also called a priest.

Cod line – A small line made of three or six hemp threads to a strand and three strands to the whole line, originally used for fishing.

Cod’s head & mackerel tail – The descriptive way of referring to a ship’s underwater shape being fuller forward than aft.
Codswallop – Originally a seamen’s term for a load of rubbish.

Coehoorn – Dutch military engineer and inventor, Menno van Coehoorn, 1641-1704.  See cohorn.

Coffee Rooms
Coffee Royal
– Coffee drink with a tot of rum in it.

Coffer/carcass – Semi-submersible timed explosive that would be floated by wind and tide up to enemy target ship.  Early 19c. Of dubious efficacy.  Napoleon described their effectiveness as “Breaking the windows of the good citizens of Boulogne with English guineas” and called their use “Unmanly and assassin-like”.

Coffin ships – Ships with defects or that were overloaded, and therefore unseaworthy.
Coffle – of slaves   BDD
– Early N European sailing ship.
Cohorn – A small 18th century mortar, named after its inventor.  See Coehoorn.

Coil 1. A length of rope of about 120 fathoms, wound concentrically and accoil.  2. A single coil of a fake of rope on deck.

Coiling – The method by which a rope is stored, coiled round in a left- or right-handed direction to suit its lay.

Coir hawser – Rope made from coconut fibres that was about a third as strong as hemp, but was capable of floating and was used to attach to a heavier cable to be hauled in for towing or mooring.

Cokkebote – 15c ship’s boat of twelve oars.

Cokkeswain – 15c spelling.

Cold Defender – Woollen comforter.
Collar – 1 The heavy eye worked into the top end of a shroud, for looping over the mast head.  2 A rope formed into an eye with a dead-eye inside.

Collar beam(hgv)
Collar knot
– A granny knot comprising two identical half knots made in the middle of two ropes to make temporary shrouds for a jury rig.

Collier – Coal ship.
Collier’s purchase – A deck-tackle comprising a rope clapped onto the cable near the hawse, with the end taken to the jeer-capstan.
Colling and Pinkney’s Patent Self-Reefing and Furling Topsails – A system of reefing by means of a roller arrangement on the fore side of the yard.  Superseded by simpler methods due to its complications.  See also Howe’s close-reefing topsail.
Collins, Captain Greenville – Authorized to survey the whole of the British Isles in 1681, the results appearing in 1688 as Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot.

Collision – The unintentional, usually, and violent coming together of two or more vessels.

Collision mat – A temporary patch used to repair an accidental hole below a ship’s waterline, comprising a heavy canvas mat.

Colonel – Seamen’s slang for someone who provides hospitality ashore.
Colours – 1. The ship’s identification flags.  2. The name of the ceremony to start the working day, from 1820ish, comprising hoisting of the white ensign in silent respect.  3. A ship’s colours were flown above enemy colours on prizes.  4. A term now used of address of the Royal Marine Colour Sergeant.

Colt – A short length of rope knotted at the end, used by Royal Navy officers to punish minor felonies.

Columbiad – US ill-fated (?) attempt to improve the carronade by making it lightweight and with a larger bore.

Colza Oil – Vegetable oil popular for pouring on troubled waters
Comb – A piece of wood bolted to the beakhead, with two holes in, to which the fore tack is taken.
Comb cleat – A fitting used to prevent ropes from fouling each other.  Usually made of elm or ash and with a semi-circular back like a cockscomb.

Combined Ops
Come alongside
– Reach an agreement, or an encouragement to someone dim to reach understanding.

Come home – Said of an anchor that will not hold or has broken free of the ground and is dragging towards the ship.

Come to – 1. Stopped.  cf Bring to and Lay to.  2. A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel’s head nearer to the wind.  Also come up a little.

Come to anchor – To drop the anchor and then ride by it, safely and normally.

Come up – The order given to the hands working a rope to stop hauling and slacken off, or to let go sail handling gear.

Come up a little – A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel’s head nearer to the wind.  Also come to.

Come-up glass – A telescope with divided lenses that gave two images.  When they separate, the images show the object to be moving away;  when the images overlap, they show that the object is moving towards the viewer.

Come up the capstan – The order given to reverse the capstan, in order to slacken the anchor cable.

“Coming Here?” – The challenge called to an approaching boat.  See Boat Calls.
Coming home – The action of the anchor dragging.
Coming to – To alter course to sail by the wind.
Coming up – The same as coming to.
Coming-up tack – The tack that takes a vessel to windward of her course.

Comitre – The early Mediterranean title of a boatswain.
Commander – 1. The naval rank below Post Captain.  Strictly, Master and Commander.  2. A wooden mallet.

Commander – 1,2,3
Commanding Officer – 1,2
Commerce Raiding
– 1 An officer’s warrant, the document of an officer’s status in his ship.  2. The period of a ship’s service on a particular assignment.  3. The time during which a warship is in active service, numbered sequentially as first, second, third, etc. commission.

Commissioned Officers
Commissioners of the Admiralty Board
– First Lord was in charge of all business; First Sea Lord was in charge of the organisation of war and the distribution of the fleet; the Second Sea Lord was in charge of personnel; the Third Sea Lord was in charge of materials.
Commissioners of the Dockyards – Theoretically members of the Navy Board, but in fact detached, receiving their orders from a member of the Navy Board or a Principal Officer.  Each dockyard had its own senior officer, a master shipwright, the master(s) attendant.
Commissioners for Sick and Wounded Seamen – Independent of the Navy Board.  Responsible for the navy’s hospitals and for prisoners of war.  Also Sick & Hurt Board.
Commissioning Pennant – Pennant that remained flying whilst ship was in commission.  Also Masthead Pennant.
Commodious – In Elizabethan times, used to mean convenient, profitable or advantageous in some way.

Commodity – In Elizabethan times, profit.

Commodore’s broad pennant
– Highest rank in American Navy, until ??.
Common bend – A knot made by passing the end of one rope through the bight of another, then round and under the standing part.

Common dog – Common sense.

Common Log – Device for measuring ship’s speed. Comprised a Logship*, Stayline*, Logline* on a Logreel*. See “Streaming the Log”. Originally named from the actual “log”.
Common whipping – A whipping made by laying a loop of whipping line along a rope, making a number of turns around it, passing the end through the loop and then drawing the loop back under the turns and so hiding and securing the end.
Companies – E India, Russian, Levant, South Sea, Muscovy, Royal African, Hudson’s Bay, Venice, Turkey
Companion – The wooden hood over a hatchway.

Companion ladder – A ladder leading from one deck to another. Companionway – A ladder on board ship.

Company – The complete crew and officers of a ship.  See Ship’s Company.
Company keepers – Ships in convoy, used to apply to people on land
Compass north – The direction indicated by a vessel’s compass, as distinct from true north.

Compass Points
Compass Timber
– Naturally curved or bent timbers, used in various parts of a ship’s construction.
Compass Variation
– Developed and first patented by Englishman Dr Gowan Knight in 1766, then by Ralph Walker in late 18c, although the principles were known since 11c at least.
Compass – A device using a magnetised needle on a pivot, from which the direction north can be determined.
Compass north – North as indicated by the compass.
Compass oaks – The name given to the great oak trees with sweeping branches that were harvested to use for compass timbers in ship construction.

Compass of proportion – See Gunter’s section.
Compass rose – The pattern on a compass card that show all points of the compass.
Compass timber – A naturally curved timber, harvested to be used as a frame member when building a ship.
Complain – The squeak that a block, or some other component of a vessel, does when it does not like the strain it is put under.  A ship complains when her nails, planks, timbers or rigging begin to give way.
– The number of people needed to operate a ship.

Composite Ship – Ship constructed of timber with iron or steel framing. Post 1820
Composition – In Elizabethan times, compromise, or treaty, or agreement.

Compound course – See Traverse sailing.
Compressor – The device used to stop a chain cable, comprising a curved lever pivoted at one end on a vertical bolt, mounted over a chafing-piece at the corner of a coaming.  The cable was veered back to the compressor and then checked by being jammed by the lever against the chafing-piece, on the order ‘bowse to the compressor’.
Compulsory Convoy Act 1798
Comptor –

Con – (v) To direct a ship by ordering the helmsman.  Also cun.

Conceits – In Elizabethan times, ideas or fancies.

– The person who cons a vessel by giving directions to the helmsman.

Conding – Giving verbal directions to the helmsman.  Also conning or cunning.
Conduct Money – Travel expenses when on leave and due to report back to a different base.
“Cone Up” – ?The order to cease.
– Steering a vessel.

– Foul.

Continental lift – Block
Continental System, The, or Blockade – By Napoleon from inside Europe, against trade with UK.
Contraband – In maritime law, those articles of a warlike nature which a belligerent nation can prevent reaching an enemy by way of neutral shipping.
Contractation House – In Elizabethan times, an Exchange.

Contrary wind – A wind that lay in the twelve point sector of the compass that a ship was unable to steer into, so preventing her from lying her course.  The ship would the need to work, beat, ply or turn to windward, if she was to head in that direction.  See Foul wind.
Controller – Another name for a chain cable compressor.
Convict Ship – See Hulk.
Convoy Act 1793
Cook of the Mess
Cook’s Portion-+98
– Were remarkable for their inability to cook               BDD
Cook – See Ship’s Cook
– Sly person.
Cope iron
– Rounded section iron banding, used to line the outer edges of tops and cross-trees of later ships, to prevent chafing of rigging on sharp edges.
Coper – A floating pub and purveyor of tobacco, pornography, etc. to fleets at sea.  From the Dutch ‘kooper’ meaning buyer.
Copped Hay – Smuggled tobacco.
Copper bottomed – Said of a ship whose hull was sheathed in copper to prevent fouling and protect against worm; a practice introduced in the latter half of the 18c.  From Seamen’s slang for doubly safe and sure, the expression came to be used in land life to mean anything properly done.

Copper fastened – Said of a vessel whose fastenings were of copper instead of iron.

Copper fish plate
Copper Sheathing
– Protection against Teredo Worm; 1st ship HMS Alarm 1758; see Deal Sheathing
Cordage – 1. The name for the collection of ropes and lines of a ship. 2. The materials from which ropes are made, before they are laid up.

Cordovan skin – A fine leather made in Cordova in Spain.

Core or coar – 1. The central strand of a four-stranded rope, around which the other strands are laid.  2. To untwist a rope from its kinks.

Corinths – In Elizabethan times, currants.

Corned Powder – Gunpowder processed into beads, or corns, of glazed powder, to prevent their decomposition or separation in storage.  First adopted by the Royal Navy in 1580, because it burnt more steadily and was therefore more reliable and powerful.

Corn Rioters
Cornwallis, Admiral Sir Wm
– His nicknames included “Coachée”, or “Mr Whip”, from carriage driving, not punishing, due to certain mannerisms that were evocative of a coachman.  More usually “Billy-Go-Tight” or Billy Blue”.

Corporation of Trinity House – Incorporated 1514 by Henry VIII
Corpusants, or Corposants – St Elmo’s fire*.
Correcting magnets – One of a variety of devices used to reduce the deviation of the compass, caused by extraneous effects.
Corregidor – In Elizabethan times, a magistrate or sheriff.

Corsair – To Christian: pirates, but to themselves: Muslim anti-Christian privateers.
– Walkway down centre of galley

Corso, The – In Mediterranean languages: Muslim anti-Christian privateering.

Corvette – French fast three-masted full-rigged ship, usually 18-24 guns.
Corvette Corporal
– A ship’s bed made of canvas in a frame suspended from the deck beams like a hammock, used by a ship’s officers.

Cot-Boy – (Am)
Cottage – A messdeck.

Couch -+20, Hollow, See Settee
Counter – The arched section aft of the ship, curving upwards from the wing transom and buttock, to the stern above, beneath the cabin windows.
Counter bowline ERR
Counter-brace – To brace the fore and main yards in opposing directions to take the way off a square-rigged vessel.

Counter-braces – Braces rigged forward of the points of yards onto which braces are attached, thus providing four braces to each yard.  If a yard was braced in the after braces were used and if braced up the counter braces were used.
Countercurrent – A secondary current flowing alongside but in the opposite direction to the main current.

Counter sea – See Cross sea.
Counter stays – Timbers supporting a projecting stern.

Counter timbers
Country Ships – Originally those belonging to rich Indian nabobs and far eastern rich traders, used to transport wealthy pilgrims to the Red Sea area and great wealth in jewels, gold, silver etc.  Later this came to mean ships that were built for EIC and others in the eastern colonies, from local teak and other timber and crewed by lascars, etc.

– The direction sailed by a vessel form one place to another.

Course made good – The actual direction made good over a period.

Courses – The principle sails rigged on lower yards, namely the foresail, mainsail and mizzen.
Court Martial
Courts of Enquiry – In the 18c many pirates held a Court of Enquiry into the treatment of a captured ship’s crew by their captain.  If they spoke up for their captain, he was usually treated well, but if not, he was not.  This was from the fact that by 18c many pirates were disaffected merchant seamen, who had voluntarily become pirates to escape the harsh merchant or naval services.

Cove – The arched roof of the stern gallery.

Cow killer
– A successful fishing vessel.

Coxen – See Cockswain.
Coxcombery – Foolishness.

Coxs’n, coxswain – See Cockswain.
Crab – 1. A small capstan with no drumhead, but through which the capstan bars would pass at various levels near the top.  It was usually portable and used wherever a rope or tackle could not be served by one of the main capstans. 2. (v) To make leeway, or move sideways.

Crab, To Catch a – See ‘catch a crab’.
Crabbed as the Devil
– Modern seamen’s slang for the Royal Navy grey paint, from its similarity to the ointment issued for use against crab-lice.
Crabs – Small early capstans, later found only in merchantmen.
Crabby – Dirty.  Originally the expression for being lousy from crabs.

Crack – Said of a well performing ship.  Usually a ‘crack frigate’.
Crackerhash – Sea pie, comprising layers of salt beef, peas and powdered biscuit, baked and eaten hot or cold.

Crackerjack – A sailor’s dish of salted meat or soup mixed with crumbled ship’s biscuits and whatever else is available.

Crack on – Set all sail and make as much speed as possible.

Crackra – False currency paid by EI Company to their employees, valid only in Company stores at Company prices, used to keep Company servants in debt.
Cracks – Fast Clippers.

Cradle – The frame built on a slipway, on which a vessel is constructed, or supported when out of the water.
Cran – 1. A measure of about 1,000 herring.  2. The basket containing a cran of herring.

Crance – See Bowsprit cap.
Crance or crance iron – The iron fitting at the tip of the bowsprit, hooped to take the jib-boom.  Also bowsprit cap.

Crane chain – Open linked chain.
Crane-lines – Lines rigged between the foremost shrouds of a fore or main-mast to give access to furl or unfurl the staysails of main or mizzen-masts.  Also called stays’l horses, swifters, hand-lines and man-ropes.
Cranes – An American term for the whaleboat davits of a whaleship.

Crank – 1. Unstable, said of a vessel liable to capsize or just to lean over too far.  Also light or tender.  2. An iron brace supporting a lantern on the poop quarters.

Crankness – Said of a vessel reluctant to return quickly to the vertical when laid over.  Technically, when her metacentric height and righting moment are small.  Also said to be tender.
Cranse Iron
Crapaud – French word for toad.  Hence the term used by some English seamen for their French counterparts:

Crappoes – Frenchmen.
Crayer – Three-masted coaster cog used to fish for herring and mackerel.
Creep Around
– An iron grapnel used to recover lost items from the seabed.

Creeping for an anchor – The same as sweeping for an anchor when the cable has parted, by using a weighted hawser to sweep or creep for the lost anchor from two boats with the hawser suspended between them.  The theory was that the hawser would be hooked onto the anchor fluke, and sometimes it actually worked.
Crew – All members of a ship’s company, except the captain.

Crew-list – The name, on a merchantman, for what is known on a man-of-war as the muster-book.
Crew Size – Optimum: 44G = 320; 38G = 250; 36G = 230; 4th = 420; 6th = 160
Cribey Islands – Caribbean    BDD

Crimp – 1 An agent commissioned to produce a crew, usually by underhand methods, such as drunkenness and kidnapping.  A seamen, who had been Shanghaied would be delivered, by the crimp, probably unconscious, to a short-handed ship about to sail.  2 To crimp off a length is to defecate.  3. To sleep deeply is to be crimped out.
Cringle – A small loop made in a sail’s bolt-rope, sometimes with a metal ring, used to hold one of the controlling ropes.

Cringled – Fitted with iron rings or cringles.
Cromsters – Smacks

Crojack – The lower yard on the mizen mast, and the sail it wears.  Also cross-jack or crossjack yard.

Crooked hand spike(tge)
– The first step towards a foul hawse, when a ship riding by two anchors turns through 180° and the cables cross.

Crossbar shot – Cannon shot in the form of a cross or a bar.

Cross bar to belfry(bell attached)(hgv)
Cross-beam – Heavy section of timber running across the bitts in the bows of a ship.
Cross chock(tge)
Cross his bow – Seamen’s slang for to annoy a superior, originally by walking in front of him, but now for any reason.

Crossing – Intersecting the route of another vessel.

Crossing the line – 1. Crossing the equator.  2. The traditional ceremony carried out whenever a ship crosses the equator, to appease King Neptune by first crossers of the Equator, who become subjects of King Neptune, in which King Neptune comes aboard with his court, to initiate novices into the Brotherhood of the Sea.  Messy mayhem.

Crossing the Tee – Battle tactic.
Cross in the cables – The result of a vessel at anchor with a clear hawse being turned by the wind changing with the tide, or not changing when it would have helped.  To clear the hawse manually was a tricky business.
Cross in the hawse
Cross-jack, crossjack yard
– The lower yard on the mizen mast, and the sail it wears.  Also crojack

Crossjack lifts(hgv)
Crossjack yard
– See Cross-jack.
Cross pawl – Heavy timbers used to temporarily support the frames of a wooden vessel under construction.
Cross-piece – The heavy horizontal bar joining two knight-heads or bitts.

Cross sail – Dutch name for the square mizzen topsail.
Cross sea – Said of a series of waves crossing another series at an angle, usually after heavy weather.
Cross seizing – A seizing used where the two items to be joined cross each other at right angles.
Cross-staff – 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 arbalest, Jacob’s staff or fore-staff.
Cross strap – A strengthening plate fixed on top of the floors and over the keelson plate.

Cross timber – A floor timber that crosses the keel at right angles and whose centre is fixed to the keel.
Cross-trees – Pieces of timber laid across the top of a mast, supported by the cheeks and trestle-trees, used to support the top and to widen the span of the upper shrouds.

Crotch – 1. Any forked wooden or metal support for spars and booms.  2. One of the angled timbers mounted on the keel, that form part of the narrowing hull at the end of the keel.
Crow – 1. An iron lever with one end flattened into a forked wedge used to move guns from side to side and other tasks.  2. A crow released at sea will instinctively fly straight towards the nearest land.  Crows were therefore kept caged on some ships, to be released if the ship’s captain became unsure of the direction to land, when he would set course to follow the crow.

Crowd – (v) To set all sails in order to sail as fast as possible, even to the point of recklessness.

Crowding – The setting of a great press of sail.  This often resulted in a reduction in speed, through blanketing of some sails by others.
Crowd on – To increase sail.

Crowfoot – An arrangement of small lines all emanating from a long block and used to suspend an awning, or similar.

Crow’s nest – The modern term for the Senior WRNS accommodation.

Crown – 1. The top of a block.  2. On an anchor, the junction of the shank and the arms.

Crowning – A method of finishing off the end of a cable, by whipping it a bit short of the end, which is then unlaid and the strand formed into a crown and finished off.
Crown plait – Originally a plait formed with crown and diamond knots, but it came to mean any plait containing crown and other knots.

Cruise – A voyage to various destinations, usually unaccompanied.

Cruise the Marshalsea – Pretend to be a seaman
Cruisers and Convoys Act 1708
– Introduced Prize Money.
Crumbs – In Elizabethan times, to gather up or gain strength.

Crumpsters – Hoys of Newcastle.

Crupper chain – A chain holding the heel of the jib-boom tight to the bowsprit head.

Crusades – First planted the idea that English Navy could operate outside home waters.

Crusher – Regulating petty officer or ship’s policeman
Crutch – 1. The triangular plate fixed horizontally in the stern, onto which longitudinal members were attached. 2. A U-shaped swivel holder for a boat’s oars, that came to replace pairs of thole pins in some boats.

Crutching the backstays – The method of holding the weather backstay away from the top by crutching it in an outrigger rigged on the top, to give better lateral pull thus helping support the topmast.
Cubbridge head – A heavy clinker planking bulkhead between the space under the forecastle and the waist, to allow it to be defended against borders.
Cuckolds knot, or neck –1. A loop in the anchor cable, dropped over the upright of the riding bitts.  2. The seizing of a rope to a spar.

Cuddy – 1. A cabin in the fore part of a vessel.  2. A top deck cabin, used by the Captain or some other bigwig.  3. A room in a large ship, where officers eat.  4. The servant that works in the cuddy, for the senior officer of a merchant ship.
– The term for laying a ship up in a dry dock, for repairs or refitting.

Culverin – Larger than a cannon, firing iron balls.  Culverin Weighed 4000lbs, 18 pound ball, 460 yds ‘point blank’, 2650 yds at 10 degrees.  The longest muzzle-loading gun in use in Elizabethan times, having a smooth bore and firing round shot of about 17 pounds weight.

Cumshaw – Seamen’s slang for something for nothing, or a back-hander, or unofficial commission, or something obtained without payment, such as tips to Customs, etc., from Pidgin Chinese for Thank you!

Cun – (v) To direct a ship by ordering the helmsman.  Also con.

Cunning – See conning.  Also, in Elizabethan times this was used to describe someone skilful or clever.
Cunningham’s Self-Reefing Topsail – A patented system of reefing by means of rolling the yard.  Superseded by simpler methods due to its complications.  See also Howe’s close-reefing topsail.
Curl cloud – See mare’s tail.
Currents – Non-tidal horizontal movements of water.  Sometimes called non-tidal currents.

Current sailing – Traverse sailing, also using the tidal or other current.

Curtailed – Dog Watch joke.
Curtalls – And Demi # – Brass Cannon
Curved sail – Sails are naturally curved and it is now understood that they act as aerofoils and not, necessarily, as wind-bags.
Cushee Piece – 17th century mortar.

Customs, Portage and Pontage – ?

Customers – Customs house officials.
Customs Commission – Inc 1643.  Ran the Navy under the Parliament of the Civil War.
Cut – (v) Loosen the gaskets holding a furled sail, in preparation to setting it.

Cut a feather, cut a fine feather – An early expression for the action of a vessel forming a foaming crest, looking not unlike a feather, at her bow wave.  Also see ‘bone’.

Cut and run – To cut the light yarns by which a sail had been stopped after furling, so that the sail fell and started to draw instantly, in the direction to which the wind was blowing.  This became seamen’s slang for sudden departure.  Often mistakenly taken to mean the cutting of the anchor cable, which rarely happened because of the high costs and risks involved with losing an anchor.

Cutch – The mixture of shredded oak bark, tallow, tar, and red or yellow ochre, mixed with boiling water and used to bark the sails of some fishing and other vessels, as a preservative, giving them their brown appearance.
Cutch Tan – A concoction usually of linseed oil & red ochre, etc.
‘Cut-down’ – Noun

Cut his painter – A seaman’s painter was his link with life, as a boats painter was its link with land, so a seaman whose painter had been cut was no more.

Cutlass – The short, curved, heavy sabre-like sword introduced late 18c, used by seamen in hand-to-hand combat.

Cut of his jib – Seamen’s slang for the characteristic look of a person, or his actions or style, usually used when approved of.

Cut splice – A splice made into standing rigging where pendants or ropes are to be attached.
Cuts very little ice – Makes little impression, from the difficulty of a wooden ship to force its way through pack ice.

Cutter – 1. A small single-masted English ship with sloop rig, clinker (later carvel) built, with a light hull, a large gaff mainsail, with a square main course, a deeply roached topsail, a topgallantsail and a spritsail.  2. A ship’s boat with light oars and a lugsail and with a flat transom.

Cutter-built – Said of a fine lined craft

Cutter-stay fashion – A method of setting up lower rigging by knotting each lanyard at one end and then reeving it through the upper and lower dead-eyes, as commonly done in cutters.

Cutting-down line – The curved line formed by the upper sides of the floor timbers amidships, curving up towards the stem and stern, above the dead-wood, showing the curve on the keelson.
Cutting In/Out
Cutting stage
– A platform rigged outboard of an American whaleship from which the crew cut up a whale’s carcass alongside.

Cutting tackle – The American name for a cant purchase.

– A method of joining two single shrouds by forming a loop of crossing ends and seizing them together.

Cutwater – The vertical timber member forming the foremost hull component, leading from the keel to the beakhead.  See knee of the head.
Cyclones – Tropical revolving storms originating in the Indian Ocean area or in the Arabian Sea.

D-block, Dee-block – A ‘D’ shaped wooden block with a fixed central hole bolted onto the channels, to reeve the lift.

D-shackle – A shackle made with two parallel sides.

D.B.S. – Distressed British Sailor.  A term applied to those who are invalided home from a foreign port.

Dab toe – A seaman, from the habit of washing decks in bare feet.

Dagger – A timber used to support the shores in a bilgeway, that hold a vessel’s hull upright.

Dagger knees – Knees that are fixed at an angle to a vessel’s timbers, instead of perpendicularly.

Dagger piece – Any timber fixed at an angle, in a vessel’s frame.

Dagger plank – A timber or plank used to join the shores that support a vessel under construction.

Dahn-buoy – Used for gun practice, as a target.

Daily rate – The amount by which a chronometer gains or loses each day.  Also called the rate of going.

Dalmatian Coast – The geographic term given to long islands lying parallel to shore.  Where the grain of land lies parallel to a shore of submergence.

Damlooper – Dutch ferry boat used on canals and rivers in 17 and 18c.

Dammar Resin – Mixed with oil and blacking to treat hull prior to coppering        CTC

Dampier, William – Mariner said by some to have been a pirate.  The first to account for ocean currents being caused by the Trade Winds, in his A Collection of Voyages, first published in 1699.

Dan, den – A small buoy with an ensign, used to mark where fishing lines have been shot

Dan, Dan buoy – A buoy fitted with a tall upright pole from which a flag was flown, to show where fishing lines or nets or lobster pots had been laid.


Dandy – A sloop rig with a small mizzen, halfway between a cutter and ketch rig.

Dandy bridle – Tackle used to keep the after part of a trawl beam in place.

Dandyfunk, Dandy Funk – A sailor’s dish of molasses mixed with crumbled ship’s biscuits and whatever else is available.

Dandy’s sail

Dandy score – A fairlead with rollers fitted onto the port side of a fishing trawler, through which the beam trawl dandy bridle was led aboard.

Dandy wink – A small windlass used to work the dandy bridle.

Dangerous quadrant – NTUS1704

Dangerous semi-circle – NTUS1704

Danish seine – A long-haul fishing net with long narrow wings and a long bag, used to catch seabed dwelling fish.

Darbies – Handcuffs

Darkness, Sea of – Early European seamen’s’ name for the North Atlantic.

Dart – The action of throwing a harpoon into a whale.

Darting gun – NT1405US

Dashee – Customary bonuses to slave factors and suppliers.

Davis, John – One of the greatest of English Elizabethan sailors.

Davis‘s quadrant – See Backstaff, NTUS1902

Davit – A small crane or derrick used to hoist an anchor up to the bows, or in a longboat, to weigh an anchor, or used in pairs to lower and raise a ship’s boats.

Davit – Originally for stowing anchors, not boats.

Davit – CTC

Davy Jones – Strictly ‘Duffy’ Jones, or ghost of Jonah. ‘Duffy’ is an old English word for ghost, corrupted by misuse and came to mean the grave of the sea.  A legendary Welshman said to be storekeeper of the underwater world, who would take possession of all drowning seamen.  The name may have derived from Duffy Jonah, ‘duffy’ being a negro name for a ghost.

Davy Jones’s locker – The domain of Davy Jones, where all drowned seamen ended up.

Daw, to – To bring someone back to consciousness.

Dawn – The first appearance of daylight in the eastern sky before sunrise.  Also first light, or daybreak.

Dawson, Nancy – Air played by fiddler or fifer to announce rum issue.

Day – The time that elapses between successive passes of a heavenly body across the same meridian.

Day 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 book, or just log.

Daybreak – The first appearance of daylight in the eastern sky before sunrise.  Also first light, or dawn.

Day Diving Boat – Diving boat built 1774 by Day, an Englishman, who carried out diving experiments in Plymouth harbour, unfortunately sinking with crew and inventor all lost. Thought to be the first total loss in the history of submersibles.

Day’s workings – A midshipman’s navigation lesson calculations.

Day’s work – The daily reckoning of a vessel’s progress according to dead reckoning.

DD – Discharged Dead, as abbreviated in the muster book when a seaman had died on board.

Dead door – A wooden shutter used to seal off an open window in a ship.

Dead-eye – A solid wooden block with three holes through which a lanyard is rove and used as a purchase for the standing rigging.  Two dead-eyes are linked by a lanyard, with the upper one fastened to the shrouds and the lower to the chain in a ship’s side.

Deaden away – SMS

Dead flat – The point marking the midship frame, where the fore half of the vessels joins the after half.

Dead head – Any rough piece of wood used as an anchor buoy.

Dead heat – NTUS0602

Deadlight – A heavy brass hinged plate or wooden shutter fixed across inboard of a scuttle to protect the glass in heavy weather, to keep out the sea, or sometimes used to darken ship.

Dead man – The end of a rope or yarn left dangling untidily.

Dead man’s fingers – Whaler speak for the stalked barnacles found on whales.

Dead Marine – Seamen’s’ slang term for an empty wine bottle. The Duke of Clarence is reputed to have remarked that an empty bottle had done its duty and was ready to do it again, just like a Marine.

Dead muzzler – Headwind.

Dead on end – A head wind, blowing from right ahead.  Also referred to as dead wind, or wind in the teeth.

Dead Pays – Sailors kept on payroll after death.

Dead Reckoning – The calculation of a vessel’s position by estimating the speed and course of ship by considering the distance logged, courses steered, currents acting upon it, leeway, etc.  Also position by account.  ‘Dead’ was a corruption of ‘deduced’ and does not indicate a sinister connection, although the results of many errors of such navigation could suggest otherwise.

Deadrise – The angle of the floors in the midship section of the ship. A ship with a vee-shaped hull had a large deadrise, whereas a ship with a flat bottom had no deadrise.  A line on the body plan showing the angle of the midship frame in relation to the horizontal line of the keel.  It is expressed in the number of inches risen above the base line at half breadth.

Dead rope – A rope that is not rove through a sheave or block.

Deadshare – Extra ‘pays’, or shares of pay, distributed among ship’s officers.

Dead Time – Between voyages in a foreign port, merchant seamen were not usually paid, so they became casual labourers.

Dead upon the wind – SMS

Deadweight – The total weight that a ship can carry, over and above her own weight, including all the cargo, stores, fuel, provisions, water, crew and passengers that she can carry up to her certified maximum limit.

Deadweight cargo – The amount of cargo that will take the ship down to her maximum draught.

Deadweight scale – The scale showing the deadweight capacities of a ship and the draughts at various displacements.

Dead wind – A head wind, blowing from right ahead.  Also referred to as dead on end, or wind in the teeth.

Dead-wood – Solid blocks of timber fastened to and forming part of the keel at fore and aft, where the shape narrows and the angles of the frame members are most acute, thus forming solid supports for the stemson and sternpost and other frame members.

Dead-wood knee – NTUS0300

Dead-work – An old name for the parts of a vessel visible above water when full laden.

Dealing – 1 Hiring money in anticipation of quarter-pay, in dockyards.  Originally, borrowers would ‘deal’ with alehouse-keepers, at very high interest rates, and be expected to spend some of what they borrowed.  2. In 1805, quarter-pay had subsistence money added to it, to obviate the need for dealing.  ‘Dealers’ came into landlife.

Deals – Sawn timber used on decks, etc.

Deal Sheathing – Preceded copper sheathing as protection against Teredo Worm

Deal shells – Fast smuggling boats.

Deathboard – Used for burials at sea.

Death-or-money boats – Fast smuggling boats.

Debtors – Owing more than £20-Act of 1706, see Smugglers

Deck – The planked floor running the length or part of the length of a ship, covering the various compartments and connecting the sides.  To a lubber, the floor.

Deck-beam – A thwartship timber forming the support for the deck planking.

Deck block – (hgv)

Deck cargo – Items of cargo carried on the open decks of a ship, either because they are dangerous or because they will not fit into the holds.

Deck-cringle – A sheave in a metal shell attached to a lug projecting up through the deck.

Deck hand – A seaman who works on deck.

Deck head – The underneath side of the deck above.  What a landsman would know as the ceiling.  A deckhead inspection is carried out from ones hammock or bunk, in a relaxed manner.

Deck-head lantern

Deck hook – The timber framework inside the bow, giving it strength and supporting the fore end of the deck.

Deck load – Deck cargo.

Deck Log – Watch record of a ship’s progress, orders, actions and events, written by the deck officer on the Slate and later transcribed into the Log.

Deck nail – Six inch nails used to fix the deck planking to the beams beneath.

Deck officer – The officer on watch.

Deck passage – The name given to the accommodation, or lack of it, enjoyed by poor travellers, refugees, etc., for whom a cabin or berth was not available.

Deck plating – Flat iron plates forming the deck.

Decks – Poop, Quarter, Upper, Middle, Lower, Orlop,

Decks – 2nd=upper, 1st=Lower gun, Deck=Main+22, Orlop+25, Half deck+21= Steerage, Spardeck+22

Deck sheet – The sheet controlling the foot of a studding sail, which led directly to the deck.

Deck stopper – A short rope or chain attached to the deck at one end and with a cable-hook at the other, used to secure the anchor cable.

Deck tackles – SMS

Deck transom

Deck watch – A timepiece used on deck when astronomical observations are being taken, the readings from which are compared with the ship’s chronometer.

Declination (Dec or d) – 1. The navigational measurement north or south of the celestial equator, equivalent to the terrestrial latitudes.  2. The angle observed between the deck of one ship and the top(truck) of another’s mainmast.

Dee-block, D-block – A D shaped wooden block with a fixed central hole bolted onto the channels, to reeve the lift.

Deep, By the – Call made by the Leadsman when  the Leadline* is between marks*.

Deep-sea lead and line – NTUS1901

Deep-sea line block – A single block in which a part of the shell is cut away, like that of a snatch block, in order that the line may be laid across it and held in place by a hinged part of the strap.

Deep-sea sailor – Seamen’s slang for a sailor who sails the world’s oceans and not just a coaster.

Deep-sea sounding – NTUS1901

Deep sea tot – Short measure.  From the result of ones tot being drawn just at the moment of an excessive roll by the ship.

Deep six – Beyond the deepest marker on the lead line.  Used to refer to giving something a float test, i.e. ditching it.

Deep-waisted – Said of a vessel in which the quarterdeck and forecastle are significantly higher than the main deck.

Deepwaterman – Long distance shipping, as against coastal shipping.

Defaulters – The formal muster for hearing charges of indiscipline.  The name was also used to describe those so parading.

Defend – In Elizabethan times, to forbid.

Defender – See Cold Defender*.

Dehabiyah – 19c Nile cargo and passenger ship

Deliver, quick to – Nimble and active.

Demi-cannon – Very heavy gun, cross between cannon and culverin.  *55

Demi-culverin – 9 pounders

Demicurtalls – Brass cannon


Demurrage – Compensation due to shipowner from the freighter for delaying the vessel beyond the time specified in the Charter-Party.

Dentifice – Used instead of brickdust to polish Great Guns.

Departure – NTUS2001

Depressing sails – SMS

Depth contours – See Fathom lines, NTUS1807

Derelict – The name for a vessel abandoned at sea without hope of recovery.

Derrick – A type of crane used to hoist heavy loads, comprising a swinging boom supported by a topping lift and side guys or guy pendants.  Named after a seventeenth century hangman.

Derrick post – A short heavy mast from which the derrick is supported and stayed, located about midway between the ship’s side and her centreline.

Deserters – 3-6%

Destrelle – An early type of anchor.

Detract, to – In Elizabethan times, to withdraw from.

Deviation of the compass – The error caused by the ship’s own magnetism and the effect may be minimised by the compass adjuster. for different headings/ courses steered.  Cf Variation.

Devil – 1 The deck seam immediately adjacent to a vessel’s side, between deck and hull (See Between the Devil and the deep blue sea).  2 The plank running adjacent to the keel (See Devil to pay, and no pitch hot).

Devil bolts – Bolts with two visible ends but no middle, used to save money in unscrupulous shipyards, with deadly results sometimes.

Devil dodger – Naval padre.

Devilfish – Grey whale, for their ferocity when trapped in shallows.

Devil’s claw – A strong two-pronged hook connected at one end to the windlass or deck and used to hold the chain cable.

Devil’s Table Cloth – The cloud over Table Mountain.

Devil to pay and no pitch hot – Seamen’s slang for an unsolvable dilemma.  This is from the devil being the name given to the outermost deck seam, which had to be payed by sealing it with pitch but which was the most difficult seam to get at and of a very awkward shape.

Dhobie, dhobey – Seamen’s slang for the action of laundering, or just for dirty washing, from the Hindi word for laundry.


Diagonal built – A form of boat construction in which the side planks are laid edge to edge but at an angle of forty-five degrees to the keel.  It was usual for naval sailing boats to have two thicknesses of diagonal planking.

Diamond knot – A decorative knob knot formed by unlaying the rope’s end, making the knot and laying the rope up again.  Sometimes also used as a hand-hold at the end of a rope.

Diamond Rock – A rock of the island of Martinique in the Caribbean, located outside the French port of ??? and taken by the Royal Navy in 1804.  It was then given the new name of HMS Diamond and rated a Sloop and armed appropriately, with lieutenant ??? in command and ??? men.  They held the island against strenuous French marine counter-attacks for ??? weeks, eventually surrendering only through lack of water.

Dice shot – Small jagged pieces of iron used as shot.

Dickie – A Master’s Mate.

Dicky – Seamen’s slang for something small, such as a dicky run, being a shore leave for the evening only, rather than a long leave.

Dight – Dressed up and decorated.

Dingbat – Seamen’s slang for a small rope mop used for drying the deck.

Dinghy – A small general purpose boat with a pair of oars and a small sail.

Dinner – 1. Noon for hands (Early Dinner =11.30) (30minutes). 2. A pipe call meaning: dinner, or supper is ready.

Dip – A signal flag is at the dip when it is hoisted and ready to be unfurled.

Dip a light – To sail away from a navigation light, or one on another vessel, so that it dips below the horizon.

Dip circle – See Dipping needle, NTUS1906

Dip Flag – Salute

Dipped abaft all – SMS

Dipper – Another name for a boat’s bailer.

Dipping – Moving below the horizon.  e.g. ‘We dipped the beach’.

Dipping lug – A lug sail that is moved from one side of the mast to the other by dipping the front end of the yard around the mast when tacking.

Dipping needle – NTUS1906

Dipping the ensign – A method of returning a salute.

Dipsey – Deep sea lead.  30lbs.  Not swung!

Dirk – Elongated elaborate knife of late 18c.  Regularly used by midshipmen in 19c.  Probably originally made from broken swords.  Mid’s knife, issued after 1856 instead of previously a sword. Now the seaman’s clasp knife.  Also pusser’s dirk.

Disbock – To flow out of or into.

Discharge – 1. (v) To unload cargo.  2. The release of a crewmember from his duty for a particular voyage.


Discourse – SMS

Discovering the Longitude – Became a synonym for tackling the impossible in the early 18c.

Disengaging gear – A mechanism used to release a boat’s falls quickly and simultaneously when lowering.

Diseases – Mention “Observations on the Diseases Incident to Seamen” by Dr Sir Gilbert Blane

Dished Up – Disrated

Disinfection – 107

Dismal Jimmy – Seamen’s nickname for Admiral Gambier.  Also Preaching Jemmy.

Dismasted – 1. The term for the state of a ship that has lost its masts. 2. Lost a leg.

Dispart – The natural level of elevation in a gun aimed along the line of metal, because of the taper of the gun, the muzzle ring diameter being less than the breach diameter.

Dispart sight – A short metal upright fitted to the gun top to reduce the tendency towards elevation.  A foresight.

Dispatches – ERR


Displacement – The amount of water displaced by a vessel when fully loaded and crewed, expressed either as a weight or as a volume.  The weight of displaced water equals the weight of the vessel and the volume of displaced water equals the volume of the submerged parts of the vessel.

Displacement hull – SMS


Dit – Seamen’s slang for ‘the word on the street’, or shipboard intelligence amongst the crew.

Ditch – 1. To dispose of something over the side, or submit it to a float test, as seamen say.  2. The sea, or particularly the English Channel.

Ditch-crawlers – Dialect name for Thames barges

Ditty box, or bag – The seaman’s personal wooden container, usually elaborately decorated,.

Ditty bag – A small canvas bag used by a seaman to carry the everyday tools and materials needed for his day’s work.

Ditty box – A small wooden box used by a seaman to keep his most valuable, at least to him, possessions.

Diurnal – A day-to-day record.  NTUS1601

Diurnal tides

Dividers – NTUS1905

Divisional system – Made each lieutenant responsible for the health of his quota of men.

Divisions – A formal parade on board ship, or at a shore establishment.

Divvy – A share, or dividend.

Divvy up – Pay a share, or dividend.

Dixie – A large mess tin or cooking pot.

Doble – Small peter-boat on R Medway.

Dock – Devonport.

Dock – NTUS2002

Dock Dues – CTC

Docking – NTUS2001

Docking keels – Another name for bilge keels.

Dockyard – NTUS2002

Dockyard job – Any big or heavy job, including a sit-down job in the heads.

Doctor – Seamen’s nickname for the Cook, from the time when the cook had responsibility for the ship’s medicines.

Doctor Box – A medicine chest usually made up, complete with instructions on the use of its contents, by an apothecary at the port of departure, for use by the captain of a merchant ship that did not carry a surgeon, often by choice.  Required by law in the 19c.

Dodge – Heave to in heavy weather and maintain slow way with head to wind, usually applied to trawlers.

Dodger – 1 A protective canvas, or similar, weather screen rigged to shelter the man on watch.  2 The rating whose duty it was to be messdeck cleaner.

Dog – The dog watch.

Dog & Bitch (a brace block with a thimble seized round a strap) ERR

Dog & bitch thimbles – SMS

Dogger – Dutch fishing vessel

Doggie – An assistant or a friend.  From dogsbody.

Dogging – A thin line wound tightly around a rope.

Doggo – 1. Not good-looking.  2. To be quiet is to lie doggo.

Dogs – 1. Seamen’s slang for dog watches, which came to also mean any time off for leisure purposes.  2. The fishermen’s term for all types of dogfish, all of whom were a menace.

Dog’s Body – Seamen’s’ food.  A dish made from fat pork and pease pudding.

Dogsbody – Untrained helper.

Dog-shores – The last chocks on a launching cradle.

Dog’s lug – SMS

Dog stopper – SMS

Dog vane – A wind direction indicator, comprising a suspended canvas bag, or a contraption of cork and feathers, used to inform the helmsman.

Dog Watch – Two short watches from 1600 to 1800 and from 1800 to 2000, included to break up the sequence of four-hour watches, so that the men would not have to do the same watches every day by alternating.  Famously, the fictional Dr Stephen Maturin asserts that the name derives from the fact that these watches are cur-tailed.  The term came to be used to express a short length of time in general conversation.

Dog watch gossip

Doldrums – An area near the equator where the trade winds meet, resulting in calms and light variable winds caused by the local high pressure, coupled with sudden squalls and storms.

Dole – The portion of profits due to a shareman.

Dolly – Used by rivetter inside rivet.  CTC

Dolphin – 1. Wooden structure in harbour for securing ship.  2. A strap of plaited cordage supporting a puddening.

Dolphin striker – A short spar projecting downwards from the end of the bowsprit, to spread the martingales and to counter the upward pull of the jib-boom.


Done brown – Dropped upon, from a great height, to put it politely.

Donkey’s Breakfast – 1. A six-foot sack filled with hay, used as a mattress by seamen in the early days.  2. Seamen’s slang for anything badly performed resulting in a mess.

Donkey – Jewing Firms’ sewing machine.

Donkey boiler – A small coal-fired boiler used to drive the steam capstan on a fishing vessel.

Dooflicker, doo hickie – Seamen’s ironic slang for a gadget too complicated or technical for a simple sailor.

Dory – A flat-bottomed boat used by line fishermen of the Newfoundland Grand Banks, equipped with two pairs of oars and a small spritsail.  They could be stored by stacking after removing their thwarts.

Do the honours – Pour wine for ones neighbour at table.

Double – (v) To sail round a cape or promontory.

Double angle iron – Two angle-bars riveted back to back.  Sometimes unsurprisingly called back to back bars.

Double-banked – 1. An oar pulled by two oarsmen.  2. Having two tiers of oars, such as a bireme.

Double bitted – Cable turned on both sides of bitts.

Double block – A single-shelled block in which two sheaves turn on the same pin, thus permitting two ropes to be worked at the same time.

Double chaloupe – similar to galley

Double clewed – Just married.  This is from the need to double the number of nettles clewed to a hammock, to take the extra load.

Double-clewed jib – A modern jib with two sets of sheets used on racing craft.  Also quadrilateral jib.

Double luff – A tackle comprising two double blocks, one fixed and the other free to move.

Double plate keelson – A keelson formed with angle-bars riveted through at top and bottom.

Double reefed

Double riveting – Riveting where the rivets are in adjacent pairs along close parallel lines.  Sometimes called chain riveting.

Double sheet block – Block

Double target rule – SMS

Double the Horn – To pass from 50 degrees latitude on one side of Cape Horn to 50 degrees latitude on the other side.

Double tides – An occurrence caused by geographical circumstances where the high tide consists of two maxima and/or two minima.

Double topsails – Two narrow sails without reefs, replacing a single, larger topsail.  As merchant seamen became more expensive, owners sought to reduce their numbers and double topsails were easier to handle than the original large sails, thus needing less crew to work them.  The Royal Navy, who could not reduce crews as they were needed to fight the ship, retained single topsails until they stopped using sails at all.

Double up – To double the number of moorings, usually when heavy weather threatens.

Doubling – The overlapping part of masts, one below with one above.  NTUS2001

Doubling plate – A strake of plating fixed over the shell plating where more strength was needed.

Doublings – The parts of overlap between lower and upper masts.  Consequently, the space between the cap and the trestle-trees.

Doubling the Angle on the Bow



Dough-Boy, doughboy – A marine.  From the habit of marines to use pipe-clay ‘dough’ to clean their white belts.  Borrowed from the Americans.

Douse. dowse – (v) To slacken a rope suddenly, resulting in the attached object dropping.  The term was also used for sudden lowering of something or the putting out of a light.

Dousing chocks – Thwartship timbers extending to the knight heads.

Dover Court – All talkers and no hearers

Dove-tail plate – The plate shaped to be used at the junctions of the keel with the stem and stern posts.

Down by the head, stern – SMS

Down Easter – Ship similar to clippers, but less sharp of prow and with little dead rise

Downhaul, downhauls – Lines attached to yards or the upper corners of sails and passing down through the loops that hold the sail to its stay, to haul them down, in the event that the normal effects of gravity are rendered inadequate through the pressure of wind, or through jamming.

Downhauler – ERR

Downhaul tackle – A tackle comprising a series of heavy blocks, used to haul down the main or fore yard to furl the sail in heavy weather, when the wind force could prevent the yard lowering only by gravity.

Downstream – On the side to which a stream is setting.

Down the hatch – A Seamen’s toast.

Downward – See To leeward, NTUS1503

Downwind – See To leeward, NTUS1503

Down with 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 a-lee the helm, or luff round.

Downs, The – Roadstead off S.E. coast of Kent, protected by being inshore of the Goodwin Sands.

Dowse, douse – (v) To slacken a rope suddenly, resulting in the attached object dropping.  The term was also used for sudden lowering of something or the putting out of a light.

Dowsed – Drunk, as in “dowsed to the gaff t’sl”

Dozen at the Gangway – Flogging.  Supposed to be the maximum number sentenced.

Drabbler – SMS *46

Drabble-tail – A ship or boat with a stern extended to the point where the sea would slap into her was said to be a drabble-tail.

Drabler – Additional pieces of sail laced onto the lower edge of a bonnet.

Draft – In Elizabethan times, used to refer to a chart.

Drafting ship’s companies – The whole crew of a ship needing refit being transferred to one without a crew, but otherwise ready for sea.

Drag – (v) To pull a freed anchor along the sea bottom.

Dragon Ship – 1. The most frightening and largest of 11 to 13c Nordic longships, so named after their dragon’s-head stems, although other animals heads were more commonly used.  2. Far Eastern Dragon ships or boats were 100ft long narrow vessels used for ceremonial occasions.

Drag sheet – A sail or canvas used to form a drogue by being attached to a spar.

Drakes – A gun with tapered bore, fired with reduced charges.  Also a short name for Saker Drakes.  See Cannon.

Dram– 1. A neat rum ration.  2. Timber from Drammen, Norway.

Draught – The depth measured on a particular vessel, from the water-line to the bottom of the keel, indicating the depth of water needed to float the vessel.

Draught marks – Figures carved into the stem and stern posts of a vessel to assist in setting her trim and determining her draught.

Draw – 1. A vessel is said to draw a given depth of water in which to float.  2. Sails draw when they are working well and full of wind.



Drawing splice – SMS

Draw sail – A spare sail deployed beneath the keel of a becalmed vessel to use the tide to tow the net.

Drebbel Diving Boat – Boat invented by Dutchman Drebbel, who experimented with his diving boat in 1620s, including one demonstration in front of James I of a boat with 12 oarsmen and several passengers rowed and steered underwater at a depth of between 13 and 16feet (4 and 5m) from Westminster to Greenwich.

Dredge – A fishing net used to scrape mussels and oysters from the seabed, comprising a drag net attached to an iron frame.

Drekkar (dragon) – Viking ship of about 30 rooms.

Dress ship – Decorate a ship with signal bunting.

Dressed overall – Decorate a ship with signal bunting, from the jackstaff to the ensign staff, via the mastheads.

Dressing down – This was the treatment of old sails with oil and/or wax to renew them and help resist the water.  An officer who was reprimanded was said by seamen to have received a dressing down.

Dr Hale’s ventilation system – Patent improvements to ship ventilation, introduced in 1753, using windmills and air pumps, that greatly reduced sickness and death rates on ship-board.  A 2:1 improvement was claimed by the inventor.

Dried out in the Shrouds – Punished mildly for mutiny by seizing into the shrouds.  BDD

Drift – 1. (v) To be carried by the action of wind and tide without helm.  2. The speed of a stream or current expressed in knots.  3. The extent of leeway over the ground.

Drift anchor – A sea anchor or drogue.

Drift current – A broad, shallow, slow-moving current.

Drifter – A fishing vessel that used drift nets to do its business.

Drifting – 1. The technique of using a tapered punch to line up the holes in two plates, prior to riveting.  This method was condemned due to the strain and damage it caused to plates.  2. Fishing with a drift net.

Drift-lead – SMS

Drift net – Developed to catch pelagic fish – herring, mackerel, pilchard, sprat, etc.

Drift piece – The piece of timber that connects the plank sheer to the gunwale.

Drift rail(tge)

Drifts – The breaks in the sheer rails, where they change height, usually with a scroll decoration.

Drift sail – A temporary drogue achieved by throwing a sail attached to a strong line overboard.

Drink – The sea.

Drip – Seamen’s slang for a complaint or a complainer, particularly when there is no just cause.

Drive – 1. (v) To fall to leeward by the pressure of wind or sea.  2. Said to be done by a captain who did everything to make a faster passage.

Driver – The gaff mizzen sail.  Also spanker.  Originally it was a sail set on the outer end of the gaff mizzen.

Driver boom(hgv)

Driver gaff

Driving – Of a drifter, having its nets out and moving with the tide.

Driving the spigot out – The moment a whale spouts blood after it has been lanced.

Droggy – A hydrographer.

Drogue – A device used to slow down a vessel, or hold her head to the sea in bad weather, comprising a hollow canvas bag or sail attached to spars that was dragged along against the flow and could be collapsed when no longer needed.  Heavier ones are called sea anchors.

Droits of the Admiralty/Crown – Rights due to …

Dromon – 1. A large Byzantine oared warship.  2. Large 15c ship built at Southampton for use as a Royal Yacht.


Drop anchor – To let the anchor go, on its cable.

Drop astern – To fall behind in a chase.

Drop keel – A boat keel that could be lowered when tacking, to reduce the boat making leeway, comprising an iron plate in a wooden frame that was lowered by means of a suitable tackle.

Drop on board – Drift leeward into the side of another ship.

Drop pawls – SMS

Dropping – NTUS1701  One form of punishment was dropping from the yard, often coupled with a flogging, but usually preferable to being hanged from the yard.

Drowned baby – Steamed plum pudding.


Drown the miller – Dilute the grog by more than the regulation three parts of water to one of rum.  Something a few purser’s should have had red ears over.


Drumbler – A small fast transport or fighting vessel.

Drumhead – The top part of a capstan barrel with sockets into which the capstan bars are inserted.

Drumhead service – A short religious service held in action, from the practice of holding it around the capstan drumhead.

Drummer – A drum roll would precede many calls, particularly in action.

Drummer’s hook – The deck.  To hang a thing on the drummer’s hook was to drop it.

Drummer’s plait – A plait formed by the bight passing through each previous loop.


Dry-card, Dry compass – NTUS1906

Dry dock – NTUS2002

Dry Dock Dues – CTC

Dry Hash – +104

Drying height – The height above the chart datum of an object that dries out at low water.

D-shackle – A shackle made with two parallel sides.

Dub (vb) – To finish off a timber by smoothing it.

Dubas – Two-masted mid 19c Russian coastal cargo vessel

Ducat – In Elizabethan times, a Spanish coin worth about 5s. 10d. of English money.

Ducatoons – Currency unit

Duck – heavy cotton used by Americans for sails     CTC

Duck – Cloth used for light sails or working suits.

Duckboards – The latticed wooden floorboards found in the bottom of boats were said to keep a seaman’s feet a dry as a duck’s

Ducking – 1. A punishment in which the offender was hauled up to the yardarm by a rope round his body and repeatedly immersed in the sea.  2. Clearing sail out of the way of the helmsman, to give him a clear view.

Duck pen – Area of deck under whaler’s tryworks, filled with water against overheating.

Ducks – Haddock.

Due North – Alcoholic content 100%, i.e. pure rum. (see Grog*)(NW – Half and half; Southerly – Empty Glass.)

Due West – Alcoholic content nil, i.e. pure water (see Grog*)(NW – Half and half; Southerly – Empty Glass.)

Duff – Seamen’s slang for 1. A pudding:  figgy duff, plum duff, and 2. anything not good enough.

Dusk – The darker parts of twilight in the morning or evening.

Dusty – Jack Dusty, or Jack o’ the Dust, was the seaman assigned to issue flour.

Dugong – Sea mammal often mistakenly thought of as a mermaid, or perhaps the basis of “genuine” mermaid sightings. Also Halicore*, Moon Creature*.

Dull in stays – SMS

Dull Sailer

Dumb barge – Used only the tide-flow for propulsion, so had the right of way in a river.

Dumb Chalders – Chalder* is a gudgeon.

Dumb fastening – A temporary fastening used to hold a timber or plank in place temporarily, whilst fixing it permanently.

Dummy – Dock?

Dummy gantline, or girtline – A rope passed through a block, with a gantline attached to it for reeving.

Dummy Knighthead – on iron hulls, as warping chocks etc.  CTC

Dunderfunk – Seamen’s’ food.

Dungaree – A cheap rough thin cloth woven of coco-nut fibre.

Dunnage – 1. Seamen’s slang for the kit or baggage of a seaman.  2. Wooden blocks used to protect items of cargo from shifting in the hold or from damage or leakage.

Dusk – NTUS1511

Dusseuil’s jury rudder – SMS

Dusty, Jack – Nickname of Purser’s Steward, employed in the Bread Room

Dutch Auction

Dutch Bilander

Dutch Built

Dutch Courage

Dutch East India Company

Dutch hoy – ERR

Dutchman, Flying – Evil ghost ships, the first legend starting about 1660, but name applied to many similar phenomena since. Dutchman’s log – Any small floating object thrown overboard to determine the ship’s speed.  cf Chip-log.

Dutch picaroons – privateers

Dutchy – A nickname used for foreigners generally.


Dyce Steer just as at present?

Dydle – 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 lade-net.

D’ye hear there – A long pipe call followed by the spoken words, used before any other long pipe call or other announcement, to ensure that listeners were alert.