Oakhum, Oakum - A soft material made from old ropes unravelled and picked loose.  Most often used in caulking seams, planks, etc.

Oakum boys – In shipyards, it was usual for the oakum and pitch caulking to be applied by boys employed to that trade.

Oar – A wooden shaft with a loom at the inboard end and a blade at the outer end and used to propel a boat by rowing.  Sometimes used fro steering, when unsurprisingly it was known as a steering oar.

Oar lock, Oarlock – (tge)  Rowlock

Oars – hold water – stern all – The sequence of orders given to a boat’s crew to check a boat’s way.  At ‘oars’ the crew feather their oars at gunwale height – at ‘hold water’ they drop their oars into the water to check headway – at ‘stern all’ they pull backwards.

Oblique sailing – To secure navigational fixes by using cross bearings or running fixes.

Observations – Measurement of the vertical angle between the horizon and a celestial body or the angular distance between two bodies.  Also sight.

Observed position – A vessel’s position obtained by astronomical measurement.  Also position by observation.

Observer’s meridian – The vertical circle through the north and south points of the horizon.  Also principal vertical circle.

Ocean currents - A sailing ship master needed to know the set and drift of ocean currents, which could affect his daily run by many miles, and the length of a trip by many days.

Oceanography -

Ocean plait – Plaited yarns used to make chafing mats.

Ochre - A red chalk used to mark timbers in shipwrights’ works.

Octant -

Octant - The true name of Hadley’s quadrant or sextant, as it only measures 45 degrees – or an eighth of a circle.

Octoroon - An expression for a shade of mulatto, used by the Spanish.

Occulting light (Occ.) - NTUS 1803

Occupy - Follow ones occupation.

OD - An abbreviation for Ordinary rate of seaman.  One below Able, or AB.  Also used to describe someone a bit lacking.

Ods bobs! – God’s blood!

Ods bodikins! – God’s body!

Off – The order to release an item, such as ‘off covers’.

Off and fair – The order to remove a damaged item, repair it and replace it.  Fair meant to return it to its correct form.

Off and on – Sail alternately towards and then away from the land.  The usual need for this was when arriving at an unfamiliar harbour at night, or when awaiting the arrival of a pilot.  Also standing off and on.

Off Fighting - cf In Fighting.

Officer - In the Elizabethan sense it applied to anyone holding a particular office, not necessarily in authority.

Offing – 1. That most distant part of the sea that is visible from the shore.  2. The position or distance of a vessel quite far from land but visible from it.

Off nippers – surge the messenger – When weighing anchor, the order given to release the nippers holding the anchor cable to the messenger, thus releasing the messenger.

Offshore – Far enough from land for a vessel to not be visible from it.

Off the wind – Sailing with the wind abaft the beam, especially when reaching.

Oil bag – A canvas bag with a soft filling, such as oakum or cotton waste saturated with oil and punctured to allow the oil to seep out slowly.  Heaved overboard and attached to a line or a sea anchor in order to form a slick that would reduce the seas in heavy weather.

Oilskins – The most effective weatherproof clothing made from cotton, linen or silk soaked with linseed oil.

Old horse – Seamen’s name for salt beef.

“Old Tommy” – Seamen’s nickname for Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth.

On a bowline – Said of a square-rigged vessel sailing close to the wind and with the bowlines taut.

On a lee shore – The dangerous situation of a vessel near to a shore with the wind blowing directly onto it.

One for coming up – The final pull on a rope to take in sufficient slack to belay it.

Onshore – Close to land.  Also inshore.

On the Account – Pirating.

On the Fiddle – Extra food piled high up to the raised plate edging, the fiddle.

Open boat – Any un-decked boat.

Open hawse – 1. (v) The evolution of disentangling a foul hawse, caused by the effects of wind and tide.  Also clear hawse.  2. Said of the two anchor cables when they lead clear of each other and uncrossed.

Open hawse ­to the gale – Said of a ship that is moored with open hawse and with the wind is coming from straight ahead.

Open link – A link of chain with no transverse strengthening stud, located next to the cable shackle.

Open roadstead – An area of open sea near land, with good holding ground, where vessels may moor in safety but unprotected from the weather or sea.  Often just ‘roadstead’.

Oppo - A particular friend, from one’s opposite number, who would be on watch when one was off, leaving space where his hammock would have been.

Ophthalmia – A common slave disease.

Orange Pip Principle - SMS

Order Book – In which standing orders were written down, particularly necessary where officers constantly changed.

Orders in Council - Administrative device used by British government to legalise departures from normal peacetime practice, such as seizing foreign ships and blockades of foreign ports.

Ordinary - Peace time establishment of navy, dockyards, ships, etc.  When a ship was ‘In Ordinary’ it meant she was laid up.

Ordinary seaman – A crew member who carried out most duties on board, but who had not yet reach the standard required for him to be rated able.  The rating of approximately a third of the crew.

Ordnance -

Ordnance Board - Independent of the Navy Board.  Responsible for guns and ammunition and for the supervision of all naval fortifications, artillery and engineering.

Ordnance Office -

Orisons -

Orkney Yole - A sailing boat of the Orkney Islands used for long-lining and seining, around 26ft(8m) long with a beam of 8ft(2.5m).

Orlop deck - The lowest deck in a warship, laid over the beams of the hold and mostly used for storage.  Similar to the old German word for ‘deck over hold’.

Orlop deck beam - NTUS 0101, 0300

Out – Said of the sails when they are set.

Outboard – Said of anything away from the fore-and-aft centreline of a vessel, including the hull and anything projecting outward from the side.

Outer turns - The turns of an earing, fastening the sail to the yardarm, that are outside the lift and so right at the yardarm.  See also inner turns.

Outfit – (v) To install all the equipment necessary to make a newly launched vessel seaworthy.

Outfoot -

Outhaul – A rope used for hauling out the jib traveller, rove through a block on the bowsprit cap and through a sheave hole in the heel with the other end taken through an eye-bolt on the other side of the cap and hitched.

Outhaul tackle – (hgv)

Outhauler – ERR

Outlicker - SMS

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

Out of doors – Said of a rudder rigged outboard.

Out or down! – Call to sleeping seamen to wake up and rise quickly, or have their hammocks cut down, resulting in their undignified fall to the deck.

Out of trim – 1. Said of a ship whose sails and yards, or cargo, are out of adjustment.  2. Said of a ship which is not floating levelly.  ‘Trimmed by the stern’ means she was drawing more water at the stern and ‘trimmed by the head’ meant she was drawing more water at the head.

Outpoint – To be able to sail closer to the wind than another vessel.

Outports – British naval ports outside London.

Outrigger - 1 Any spar projecting out from the sides of a vessel.  2 A small spar used in the tops and cross-trees, to spread the backstays.  3. Generic term for boats, usually of the Pacific and SE Asia, that were fitted with a parallel lateral outrigger float to reduce the risk of capsizing.

Outsail – To sail or manoeuvre more efficiently than another ship.

Outside clinch – A similar knot to an inside clinch, but with the end passing outside the bight so make it easy to cast off.

Outside strake - A line of plating fastened overlapping the edges of an inside strake, the longitudinal edges of which were riveted through.

Outward bound – Said of a ship putting to sea.

Overbearing – To overbear is to sail downwind directly towards an enemy vessel and, when close, taking the wind from her sails.  Ashore, to be overbearing has come to mean threatening.

Overblowing - SMS

Overboard - Said of an object or person in the water, having recently passed over the ship or boat’s side, usually inadvertently.

Overcast - NTUS 1705

Overcast staff - A measure used by shipwrights to determine the relationship of curves in timbers at the broadest points of a vessel, and at the stem and stern.

Overfalls – Violent rips with breaking water, in a tide-rip.

Overhand knot – A simple knot made by forming a bight and taking the end around the rope and through the bight.

Overhang - The part of a vessel extending aft of the rudder head.

Overhaul – To come up and pass another vessel.  Also overtake.

Overhauling – Repositioning and separating the blocks, or other components, of a tackle to improve its efficiency.  Also fleeting.

Overhaul the gear – The order given to the hands to go aloft and slacken off the buntlines and other tight gear to prevent chafing.

Overhead compass - See Tell-tale compass. NTUS 1906

Overlap of plating - That part of a strake of plating that is covering part of another strake.

Overlop - Orlop.

Overloops -

Overseen - Mistaken.

Overset (vb) – To capsize.

Over Standing Part of the Fore Sheet - Seamen’s term for dead and/or buried, not surprisingly coined from the practice of burying at sea by sending the corpse over the standing part of the fore sheet.

Overtake – To come up and pass another vessel.  Also overhaul.

Overwhelm – To be overwhelmed at sea is to capsize or sink as a result of a heavy sea having swamped one.

Owlers – Raw wool smuggled out of England during Charles II reign, to European garment makers.

Owner - Seamen’s ironic nickname for the Captain, when the ship was on a private posting.

Oxter Plates - Shaped Plates.  CTC

Pacific iron- SMS


Packers - Any of many types of infills and wedges used to secure masts.

Packet or Pacquet – Fast mail carrying craft, often government sponsored.

Packet Ships CTC

Pack Ice


Pad - Shaped or curved timbers fixed onto a beam to give the required shape onto which adjacent timbers can be affixed.

Paddle – 1. A short-handled, broad-bladed oar held free of the side in both hands, to propel a canoe or similar.  2. (v) To use a paddle.

Paddy Doyle’s Boots

Paddy’s purchase - Seamen’s slang for a rope lead that makes extra work rather than saving it.

Paid off, pay off – 1. Made/ make leeway.  2. ‘Paid off and turned adrift’ was the expression used for seamen or officers released from service, without any care for their future.  This happened during the ‘Spanish Armament’ in 1770

Painful - In Elizabethan times, to take pains.

Paint locker(tge)

Paint Room

Painter – The bow-ropes of a small boat, used to make her fast.  There were two painters, the main one to secure the boat when alongside and the other smaller one, the lazy painter, that was used by the first seaman down the Jacob’s ladder to pull the boat into the ship if it was trailing loose alongside.

Pair of dividers - See Dividers. NTUS 1905

Paixhan Shot- Particularly destructive shot named after French inventor

Pakenham’s jury rudder- SMS

Pallating flat

Palm – 1. The holding surface of an anchor’s fluke.  2. Leather protecting pad worn in the palm of the hand, with a metal plate on it for pushing the head of the needle in sewing canvas.

Palm and needle hitching, or whipping – A series of half hitches made on twine, using a sailmaker’s palm and needle.


Pampas Wind

Pampero Wind Wind of S America, near R Plate

Pampero- A wind that comes off the East Coast of South America.  NTUS 1703

Pancake Ice- Small circular floes with raised rims, caused by gentle break up of ice, into pieces that bump together.

Panic stations - Seamen’s slang for being ready for an emergency.

Pannikin - A small metal cup or pan.

Panting - The vibrating inward and outward movement of a vessel’s structure and plating.

Pantofles - Overshoes or mules.


Panyar- Stealing of slaves from dealers.

Paper Jacks- (Am) Theory sailors

Paper-stuff - A disparaging description of a poor suite of sails

Parallel of latitude – An imaginary circle around the world, parallel to the equator, at a given latitude.

Parallelogram of forces- SMS

Parallel ruler - NTUS 1905


Parallel sailing – The method of navigating by sailing north or south until the latitude of the immediate destination was reached, and then sailing east or west towards it along the parallel of latitude.  This was common before longitude could be readily found at sea.

Parancelle, Paranzella- A single-masted Italian fishing vessel of 18 and 19c, about 40ft(12m) long with very tall bow. 56′ long, 18′ beam, single mast lateen rig plus jib on outrigger and 20 oars

Parbuckle – An arrangement used to lift round objects by securing the middle of a rope and passing the two halves under the object and through the middle, with the ends used to haul.

Parbuckling - A method of rolling a barrel up or down a hill, by tackles.

Parcel – 1. The waterproofing of a length of hemp rope, filled with cord and wrapped in canvas strips served with spunyarn.  Ashore, the business of Royal Mail makes use of this term.  2. (v) To wrap a canvas, or sometimes Hessian, round the end of a wormed rope to protect it from water and prepare it for serving.

Parcelling – The wrapping of wormed rope with tarred cloth.

Paredgia- A two-masted Italian lateen rigged ship used in 19c.

Parhelia- Mock suns, mirages caused by ice reflections in polar regions.

Parish rig - The clothes a new seaman stood up in, when he owned no others and no sea kit.

Parliament heel – Another term for a careen, when a vessel’s hull is listed over to exposed her bottom fro cleaning.



Parral, Parrel- 1. An assembly of wooden beads, known as  trucks, and dividers known as ribs, strung onto ropes and forming a collar between upper yards and their masts, to allow easier hoisting and lowering by reducing friction.  2. Any iron or rope collar joining the centre of a yard to its mast and capable of sliding up and down.  3. The rope attaching the jaws of a gaff to its mast.

Parrel cleat - A shaped wooden piece attached to the middle of an upper yard to steady it against the mast.  Also rolling chock or rolling cleat.

Parrel of the lower yard - The rope securing the lower yard to the mast.  Later vessels replaced this arrangement with a goose-neck.  Also sometimes called the truss.

Parrel-ribs – Large wooden dividers threaded onto the parrel, between the trucks.

Parrel-ropes – ERR

Parrel supporting span - Wire span from chain tye to parral to stop it jamming by keeping it horizontal.

Parrel trucks - Large wooden beads threaded onto the parrel, used as rollers to make the slide up and down easier.

Part - See Partisan.

Part – (v) To break or separate a rope or cable.

Part brass rags - Seamen’s slang for breaking up a friendship in anger.  From the tradition of friends sharing cleaning rags.

Part his cable - Break loose, i.e. die

Particular Average

Parting strop – A safety strop made to part under excessive stress, being weaker than the cable or rope to which it is attached.

Partisan - A broad-bladed spear about 9 feet long.

Partners – 1. The arrangement wherever a mast, capstan, pump or similar penetrates between deck beams, comprising a timber framework providing strengthening together with angle-bars, plates and bulb-plates, for support.  2. Seamen, in particular buccaneers, often entered into a pact with a companion, in which they shared property and fortune and, as a result, risk.

Pass a Gammoning – To pass the coil of rope used in lashing a bowsprit.



Passarado - See Passaree. NTUS 0409

Passaree, pazaree, passarado - The rope used to haul out the clew of a studding sail along its boom, to ensure its full spread.

Passaree Boom CTC


Passenger’s Galley- Was on deck for emigrants.

Passing rope ERR

Passing the nippers- SMS

Passing- Reply to Watchman’s Challenge if boat passing by.

Pass muster - OK.

Patach, Patache - Small Spanish two-masted merchant or armed pinnace messenger boat, used between vessels of a fleet, or used as a guardship or coastal vessel.

Patateroes - Hand weapons.


Patent log - See Towed log. NTUS 1901

Patent reefing- SMS

Patent Windlass CTC

Patlander (Irishman)      ERR

Patriotic Fund - Set up by merchants to support dependants of recipients of Pavesses.  Controlled from Lloyd’s Coffee House.      SMS

Patrol System- System of patrolled areas and convoy escorting where traffic was thickest.

Patron - Early Mediterranean title for a ship’s captain.


Pattereroes – Very small guns on swivels.


Paunch mat – A thick protective mat used to prevent chafing in the rigging and yards.

Pavesses – 1. Painted shields on the sides of Medieval ships.  2. Check out patriotic fund.

Pavisade - Portable shield.

Pawl – 1. A short pivoted iron bar attached by a hinge at one end to the capstan or windlass barrel, that would drop into notches in the pawl rim to prevent the capstan or windlass from slipping back as the cable was hove in.  2. (v) To allow the pawls on the capstan to engage, thus preventing it to slip back.

Pawl bitt, or pawl-bitt post - A heavy post extending from the keelson through the upper deck, onto which the windlass was attached.  The vertical timber onto which a pawl is fixed.

Pawl head(hgv)

Pawl rack – A fixed series of pawl stops.

Pawl rests- SMS

Pawl rim – A rim at the base with notches into which a pawl would drop to prevent it slipping back.

Pawl the capstan – When weighing anchor, the order given to temporarily hold the capstan by engaging the pawls, when the anchor has reached the hawse.

Pawns - Usually a relative of an African native chief that has been paid in advance to get slaves, who are carried off in lieu if slaves, or equal value of goods, are not provided by a set deadline.

Pay – 1. Ropes are payed out, when proffered.  2. To cover the surface of an item, or the seams between them, with a fluid protective coating, such as tar, pitch, tallow, turpentine, sulphur, resin, etc.  3. A ship’s bows were paying off when they fall to leeward on tacking.  4. The paying-off pennant would be flown at the masthead of a ship about to be taken out of commission.  5. Pay levels set in 1653, were: Able Seaman (AB) £24 Per Lunar Month; Ordinary Seaman 19s PLM; Landsman 18s PLM.  After deductions for Greenwich Hospital of 6d and for Chatham Chest of 1s, net pay was 22/6, 17/6 & 16/6 PLM respectively, (at a time when a ploughman earned £3 to £4 per year), wages set in 1653.  In 1768 pay rose to  32s to 40s PLM following a strike. In 1800 pay was approximately: AB £20.2s.0d; Non Comm. £30; Mid >£30; Lieutenants >£100; Master and Commander >£100; Capt 6th Rate >£200; Capt 3rd Rate £283; Capt 1st Rate £386; Admiral £600-£1820; Captains’ and Admirals’ allowances could double pay;  An Admiral would get £600 p.a. in 1820

Paying all debts with the topsail sheet - The practice of a crewman leaving in a ship, whilst his debts are unpaid, resulting in the unlikelihood of them ever being so.  Later became ‘First turn of the screw pays all debts’.

Pay away - See Pay out. NTUS 0507

Payed – Covered with tar or pitch

Paying off – 1. The discharge of a crew and the payment to them of all they are owed.  2. The end of a naval ship’s commission.

Paying Off Pennant- Originally a string of cleaning rags, subsequently St George’s cross plus white tail that got longer as ship’s commission extended.

Paying- SMS

Paymaster- Pursers’ new name and role in 1851.

Pay off – Of a vessel’s head, to fall away from the wind when tacking.

Pay out, or pay away – To slacken a rope and allow it to run out.

Pay out the cable – The order given to slacken the anchor cable so that it will run freely out of the vessel.  Also veer away the cable.

Pay Tickets – Pay Tickets were given to seamen as they signed off at the end of a voyage, but they could only be cashed at Navy Offices at Chatham & Portsmouth.  Consequently, ticket holders would often be tempted to cash them in, at greatly reduced value, with local publicans, who would then expect the cash to be spent on his premises, usually without being disappointed.

Pazaree - See Passaree. NTUS 0409

Pea – An anchor bill.

Pea jacket – A short double-breasted coat made from heavy coarse woollen material.

Peak – 1. The reduced uppermost end of a gaff, at the opposite end to its throat.  2. Top aft corner of a fore and aft sail.

Peak downhaul - A rope rove through a block at the outer end of a gaff, to haul it down.

Peak earring thimble(tge)

Peaked flukes – The moment when a whale has lifted its tail and body into a vertical position, prior to diving deep.

Peak halliard, halyard - A purchase made up with a number of blocks and used to hoist and control the peak of a fore-and-aft sail.

Peak piece(tge)

Peak purchase - A purchase on the standing peak halyards to hoist the peak up tight.

Peak span - The span used to support the peak of a spar, from its mast.

Peak tye - The wire or chain from the lower mast-head to the peak of a gaff.

Pea Soup


Peason - Peas.

Peck- “Brought on board a peck of apples”

Pecooes -       Currency unit

Peecul -       Currency unit

Peek - See Peak. NTUS 0412

Peg or two, To take down – Naval ships displayed their ensigns hoisted at various heights, depending on their status in the fleet, with the flag halyards belayed on a number of pins for differing heights.  When encountering a superior vessel, the inferior would dip its ensign in salute, by belaying it on alternative pegs, thus having been “taken down a peg or two”.  A phrase that has come ashore to mean having been reminded of ones lower status in life.

Peg to windward – To beat to windward.

Peggy – 1. Seamen’s nickname for the seaman detailed to clean the mess.  2. Any messenger.  Often this was a peg-legged veteran.

Pelorus - NTUS 1906

Pencil – Early name for a pendant.

Pendant – A short rope attached under the shrouds and hanging from the head of the mainmast or the foremast, with a block or an eye and thimble at its lower end to take main, fore and other tackles.

Pendant, Pennant - The flag on the tallest mast denoting a naval vessel.  Narrow P; Broad P; Long P.




Peotta- A fast sailing despatch ship used by Italians until 17c. Similar to Shallop.

Percy Grainger - Check out his music.

Perforated sails - For a time, sails were penetrated with holes about three feet in diameter, intended to relieve the theoretical cushioning effect of the wind in the belly of a sail.

Perforst man – A merchant seaman removed from his ship to serve on a Royal Navy ship.

Periagna-rig   ERR

Perier - 16c large calibre light gun firing stone shot at low velocity.  Later came to mean a gun that would suit a low charge.


Period of a light - NTUS 1803

Period of roll- SMS

Periplus – Ancient Mediterranean sailing instructions.

Perique – A ‘prick’ of tobacco.

Perry wind - A half gale

Persian-See Sybarite

Peruvian Bark- Partial treatment for Malaria until mid 19c.

Peso - A Spanish coin, the well known ‘piece of eight’, valued in Elizabethan times at about 4s. 3d.

Petard - ?Bomb.

Peterboats - ??

Petition Writer at the Admiralty Gates


Petty officer – A non-commissioned officer in charge of ratings.

Petty Warrant Beer- Weak beer. Also Harbour Beer.

Pewter – Seamen’s name for prize money.

Pewterizing – Making prize money.  Usually applied to the undertaking of a cruise in order to do so.

Pharology – The science of lighthouse construction, from The Pharos of Alexandria.  Built in 300 BC and destroyed by an earthquake in 1300 AD.

Phoenix - A name used to refer to a skilled seaman who could make his ship ‘fly’.


Piahiap- A small two-masted pirate boat used in the Moluccan region

Picaroon, Pickaroon – Privateer or pirate.

Pick – Seamen’s term for an anchor or its bill.

Picket Duty - ?(Piquet)

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


Piedmont Ice- Ice.

Pier - NTUS 2002

Pier-head jump - To make the ‘Pier-head jump’ was to join a ship at the moment she leaves port, from the pier head.

Piggin – A small bucket shaped bailer.


Pigtails- Became fashionable about 1780, stopped about 1820.

Pile driving – Pitching and plunging heavily into wave troughs.

Pile up – To run a vessel aground.

Pillar – A vertical column of wood used to support a vessel’s decks and beams or superstructure, or a boat’s thwart, and give strength to the whole frame assembly.  These were usually turned or similarly decorative.

Pillar Box Steering Gear CTC

Pilled – Pillaged.

Pillow - A block of timber used to support the inboard end of the bowsprit.

Pilot - The temporary navigator taken on board on the approaches to an unfamiliar harbour, whose local knowledge would prevent mishap – usually.  Also used on leaving, when he would be dropped off to a pilot boat offshore.

Pilotage - NTUS 1801

Pilotage authority - NTUS 1801

Pilotage waters - NTUS 1801

Pilot Boat, Launch, Cutter- Vessels employed in the Pilot Service.

Pilot book - See Pilot. NTUS 1807

Pilot cutter - NTUS 1801

Pilot jack - Union flag with a white border, flown to indicate the ship was under control of a pilot and not the captain.

Pilot Service

Pilot’s luff - See half board

Pilot’s water, Pilot-water - See Pilotage water. NTUS 1801

Pilot vessel - See Pilot cutter. NTUS 1801

Pin – The steel axle of a block sheave.

Pinch Gut Money – Savings made by the Purser, at the expense of full rations      BDD

Pinching- SMS

Pine - In Elizabethan times used for pineapple.

Pineapple knot – A knob knot similar to a Turk’s head, but resembling a pineapple.

Pine sheathing - Used before copper sheathing was adopted for the protection of ship’s hulls under water.

Pink, Pinke- A three-masted 200 to 300 ton coastal cargo ship used from 15 to 19c in the Mediterranean region.

Pinker – A straight marlin spike.

Pink Stern - Opposite of square

Pinnace – 1. A small boat or ship, usually with oars and sails, made of spruce (Pinus in Latin means spruce).  2. A small armed three-masted ship about 115ft (35m) long with about 18 guns, up to 30 guns, employed like Frigates in 16 and 17c.

Pin rack – A rail mounted at various positions with holes through which belaying pins are mounted.  Another name for a rack or fife rail.

Pin rail - A longer pin rack.

Pins - Iron or wooden bars to which running rigging is secured.

Pintado - A cloth painted or printed in colours.

Pintle - One of the vertical bronze bolts bracketed off the rudder that fit into the gudgeons on the stern post, to form a hinge.  Separate on later ships, hence Rudder Gudgeons and Stern Gudgeons.

Pipe – 1. The whistle or call used by the boatswain to signify various evolutions, or activities, that were to commence or cease.  2. A signal sounded on the boatswain’s call.  More usually called pipe call.  3. A large cask of wine or water, of about half a tun.

Pipe calls, or pipes – Orders sounded on a boatswain’s call or whistle.  They included the following: all together; avast; away …; away galley; belay; dinner; d’ye hear there; haul; haul and veer; haul away; haul taut; hoist; heave round the capstan; high enough; light to; pipe down; pipe still; pipe the side; reelers; supper; sweepers; veer and haul; walk back.


Pipe down – A pipe call meaning: 1. the crew to come down from aloft, or 2. the crew to turn in, or 3. the crew are no longer needed until further orders, or 4. The order to be silent.  Hence seamen’s slang for shutting up.

Pipe, giving the- SMS

Pipes- Nickname for the boatswain. Also Tommy Pipes.

Pipe still – A pipe call meaning: the crew to stand at attention, or at least to stand still.

Pipe the side – A pipe call given as a naval salute to Royal or naval visitors of appropriate rank and never to others, or to a coffin, at the gangway, by sounding a call on a boatswain’s pipe as he/it leaves or boards the ship.  Often called ‘piping the side’.  The tradition started originally when visitors would be hoisted aboard by means of a boatswain’s chair, controlled by pipe calls.

Piping hot - If food was collected from the galley as soon as the appropriate pipe signal was made, then it would be served piping hot.

Piping the eye – Crying.

Piracy - Unlawful armed robbery at sea of a ship or her goods.

Piragua – a forty to fifty foot long canoe with one big bow gun and many men, used by south American Spanish coastguards/pirates (the terms were often interchangeable) as support vessels on raids.

Pirate Round – The annual course taken by most 18c pirates: from W Indies in early summer up to Newfoundland, where many new crew were enlisted, back to the Leeward Isles and Barbados for Christmas, then to Africa and Brazil and then the Indian Ocean and back to the W Indies.

Pirate Shares- The Captain Had two full shares of any profits; the quartermaster one and a half; the doctor, gunner boatswain and master one and a quarter and everyone else one share.


Piss-dales – Runs built into a ship for urine to be drained away.


Pistole Spanish gold coin more accurately called double escudo, worth 17s 6d.

Pitch – 1. The rapid drop of a vessel’s bows into a trough between waves, at which action the bow would be pitching.  Compare with ‘scend, when the bows were going the other way.  2. A resinous substance distilled from tar.  Used in caulking and to protect rigging against the effects of the weather.

Pitched Within and Without”

Pitching - SMS

Pitchpoling – The method by which the lance was thrust into a whale, by pitching it in an arc to ensure maximum penetration.

Pitch up - Arrive.

Pivoting point – The point about which a vessel pivots when turning.  Also turning centre.

Plain sail – The set of sails generally worn in normal weather, not including fair weather sails.

Plane sailing – The convenient practice of sailing with the assumption that the meridians are parallel, when in fact they converge.  Often incorrectly referred to as plain sailing.

Plait – Sennit or gaskets made by intertwining yarn or small line.

Plane chart - NTUS 1804

Plane sailing - NTUS 1506

Planetary tables

Planing hull- SMS

Plank - A board, usually of oak or pine, between one and four inches thick, used to cover the decks and sides of a vessel.

Plankers - One last drink ashore before hitting the brow.


Planking clamp - A clamp used to hold a plank in place temporarily, whilst it is permanently fixed.

Plank sheer - The topmost plank running along the top-timbers of a vessel’s frame members.

Plant, to - To colonize.

Plantano - Plantain.

Plat, Platt – Old spelling of plait.  A strap of twisted yarns woven together to form a protective material.

Plat. – See Sea-chart. NTUS 1804

Platdrawer - 16c chart or plot maker.

Plate – 1. Silver items, not coin.  2. A sheet of iron or steel rolled to a consistent thickness and cut to a regular shape.

Plate Fleet- Spain’s Silver Fleet.

Platform - NTUS 0305

Platting- SMS

Pledget - A length of oakum.

Pleit- A coastal merchant ship of the Hanseatic period, particularly 15c.

Plimsoll, Mr Samuel, MP - 1876 Act of Parliament CTC

Plimsoll Man – A proponent of marine reforms advocated by 19c British MP Samuel Plimsoll.

Plimsoll, Samuel - (1824-98)

Ploughshare - A type of anchor introduced in the early 20c, now mainly used on small boats.

Plug – A stopper fitted into the drain hole in a boat’s bottom, to enable it to be drained when hoisted aboard or taken ashore.

Plug stop rudder- SMS

Plum Pudding- Part of whale flesh

Plush - The larger than standard final share of grog that by tradition went to the cook of the mess, made larger by ordinary members of the mess taking slightly less than the regular measure, for this purpose.

Plusher’s, plusser’s - The residue of rum left in the barrel after the tot had been distributed, and the reason why there was rivalry to be assigned as the Tanky. Also sometimes used to refer to extra grog.

Ply – (v) To work to windward, tacking frequently.

Plymouth Sound


Point (vb) – NTUS 0512

Point beacher - Seamen’s slang for an old Portsmouth prostitute.

Point blank - The distance to a target at which wind and elevation could virtually be ignored.  For 16c cannon or culverin this was only about 350 to 400 yards.

Point high - Lie close to the wind when close-hauled.

Pointing - A kind of neat plait with which ropes are sometimes ended off or decorated.

Points of the compass – Also rhumbs.

Points of sailing- SMS

Poit Flat boards made to be strapped onto boots, to prevent sinking into mud flats.  Sometimes necessary for ferry passengers.

Poker-beer - Beer warmed with a poker.

Polacca- A medium sized Italian sailing ship of 16 and 17c.

Polacre - Slightly larger than tartane – Any ship with pole masts

Polacre brigantine - A rig with a pole mast with three or more square yards but with no cross-trees or topmast rigging, except back-stays.

Polar diagram- SMS

Polar distance – A body’s angular distance from the pole.

Pole axe - An early boarding weapon, comprising an axe-head with a spike at the rear, on a short wooden handle.  The axe was used as a weapon and to destroy rigging, etc., and the spike was used to grip the ship’s side or masts when climbing aboard or about.

Pole mast - Masts made from a single piece of timber forming the lower and topmasts.  Sometimes applied to the topmast/royal mast in one piece.  A lower mast made from one piece was called a single-tree mast.

Pole Masted- See Polacca.

Pole masts(ecr)


Poleheads ERR

Policy - In Elizabethan times, a strategy or trick.

Polish the Cape - By beating about its edges so long

Politically - In Elizabethan times, craftily or falsely.

‘Polly Infamous’ - HMS Polyphemus.


Pompey - Seamen’s name for Portsmouth.  Probably from the captured French ship HMS Pompee being moored there and used as a receiving ship, or maybe from the fact that the Portsmouth fire brigade were known as the Pompiers.

Pompion - Pumpkin.

Pomponpet - A kicking dance enjoyed by sailors.

Pontoon Bridge

Pontoon- Square vessel with flat bottom and vertical sides used as moored utility vessels.

Poodle faking - Seamen’s slang for going ashore to meet female company.

Poon - Generic term for Dutch inland freight sailing ships.

Poop, Poop-deck - Highest and aftmost deck of a ship.

Poop Break - The forward end of the after superstructure.

Poop deck - NTUS 0300

Pooped – Originally a term to describe a large sea having broken over the stern, where the poop deck is situated, resulting usually in the end of the ship, but it has come to mean tired out.

Pooping – The action of a following sea breaking over a vessel’s stern when running before heavy seas.  Most dangerous.

Poop off - Seamen’s slang for firing a small cannon, so, also, for carrying anything ineffectively.

Poo-poo, foo-foo - Seamen’s slang for something effeminate or not well understood.  For example, talcum powder was called foo-foo powder, and some technical object could be called a poo-poo pump, etc.

Poop royal - A supplementary deck at the aftmost part of the poop, on French or Spanish vessels, used as the master’s cabin.  Called topgallant poop in English vessels.

Poor as piss and twice as nasty - Seamen’s slang for something really bad.

Poor Jack, poor John – 1. Dried and salted fish.  2. Small beer.

Poppet – A wooden shutter used to close a boat’s rowlock when not in use, attached to the boat by a lanyard to secure it from loss.

Poppling sea – A ruffling of the sea’s surface from the wind.



Port - 1. An opening in a ship’s side used for access, loading, light, ventilation, etc.

Port- SMS

Port - “In Port” means not in harbour, but in road. Also left side of ship looking forward, after 1844. Previously Larboard.

Port - The left-hand side of a vessel, looking forward.  Port – Red light; port passed to left at dinner.  NTUS 2002

Portable soup - Beef essence.

Portable Stove

Port Admiral

Portage – 1. The wages earned by a seaman during a complete voyage.  2. The wages earned while in port.

Portalano - Early charts used to get from one port to another.

Porter- Concentrated beer.

Port fire stock(tge)

Port flange - Canopy over outer side of gunport. See rigol.

Port-hand buoy - NTUS 1803

Port hole - A circular window in a vessel’s side, sealed in heavy weather by means of a hinged dead-light.  Also scuttle.

Port lanyard - NTUS 0508

Portlast - The gunwale.

Portlast- SMS

Port-last A heavy rope topping lift.

Port lintel(hgv)

Port luff- SMS

Port Mahon Baboon, or Port Mahon Soger - Insulting epithets used against marines by sailors.

Port of refuge – A port or harbour used as a temporary refuge from dangerous seas or storms.

Port lanyard, or port pendant – A rope attached to the ring on the outside of a port, then led back inboard through a pipe and used to haul up the port lid.

Portoise- SMS

Portolan - NTUS 1807

Port pendant - See Port halyard. NTUS 0508

Portpiece Type of cannon.

Port Riggles

Port sail – A sail stretched between a ship and a boat or lighter alongside to catch dropped items of cargo when loading or unloading.

Port sash - The frame on the upper half of a square window port.

Port sill - The sill of a square port.

Portsmouth Polls

Port tack – The tack with the wind on the port side.

Port tackle ERR

Port Tackle-+42

Port the helm – A helm order given when the conner wanted the rudder and ship’s head to carry to starboard.

Portugal Pieces 16c currency

Portulan - See Portolan. NTUS 1807

Portulan chart – A Mediterranean plane chart.

Port your helm - ??

Position by account – The calculation of a vessel’s position by judging the distance logged, courses steered, currents, leeway, etc.  Also dead reckoning.

Position by observation – A vessel’s position obtained by astronomical measurement.  Also observed position.

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

Post-boy jack – Flag flown by post packets, in the hope of being allowed free passage through enemies.

Post Captain

Post Ships- In late 18c, the smallest vessels described as Frigates, with 28 guns. However, smaller ships under the command of ‘Post’ Captains could be called Post ships to differentiate them from ‘unrated’ ships.

Posted Aloft

Posy - A short inscription or motto.

Pot Island - The galley.


Pound – (v) To drop heavily back into the sea, or onto the ground, after having been lifted by the action of heavy seas.

Poundage- Customs dues.  First levied in 1347, to support a fleet of 120 ships for the siege of Calais.  one shilling a tun on wine, two shillings a sack of wool, six pence a pound on goods, at first.  This was the beginnings of financing a royal fleet

Pound & Pint-WW45

Powder Monkey

Powder room - The gunpowder bulk storeroom of a man-of-war.  Also used for any room in which explosives were stored.


Praam - Small 20 gun ship type.

Prahm- A vessel similar to a Pontoon.

Pram – Norwegian skiff, with spoon bow.

Pram – A twin-transomed boat originating in Scandinavia.

Prao ERR

Pratique- Ship’s licence for port facilities to be given on its presenting clean bill of health.

Prayer book – A small holystone used to scrub areas of deck inaccessible to the bibles.

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



Premier - First Lieutenant.

Presentation Sword Decorative smallsword given 1750-1850 for brave deeds.

Press gang – A party of seamen under the command of an officer, detailed to go ashore and seize men to be pressed into service for the Royal Navy.

Press of canvas – All sails set and drawing well.

Press Room

Press Warrant

Press-See Impress Service

Pressing tender Boat used by press gangs


Prest Money- The King’s Shilling, once accepted, however unwillingly, represented a contract to serve. Prest from the French word for Loan or advance.

Prester- Officer in charge of Press Gangs.

Pretty – Fine, gallant.

Prevailing wind – The average wind in any given location.  Also reigning wind.

Preventer - Any rope used to supplement another.  Usually identified with its purpose by adding the name of the original rope, such as a preventer backstay, used to reinforce a backstay.

Preventer bolts - Bolts holding the preventer plates.

Preventer brace - An extra brace rigged as insurance, in case the original brace is damaged.

Preventer cross tree(ecr)

Preventer fid - An extra fid, comprising an iron or wooden bar, mounted above the fid, in case of it breaking.

Preventer plates - Iron plates bolted between the side planks and the chains, to hold the side seams together when they come under strain from the shrouds under heavy weather conditions.

Preventer ringbolt(tge)

Preventer-stays - Duplicates of stays, rigged to prevent the masts collapsing if the stay should fail.  Most commonly used in men-of-war, where they would be laced together diagonally, allowing either to part more than once and survive.

Prick – A pound-weight of tobacco, officially called a prick of tobacco, issued to seamen was formed, by the recipient, into a tightly rolled cylinder wrapped in canvas, with obvious but unexplainable anatomical similarities that have come ashore.  Perique

Pricker – 1. A small pointed tool with a wooden handle, used to force holes through canvas when sailmaking, or for piercing a powder cartridge.  2. The skilled crew member of a cod fishing boat whose job it was to prick the cod freshly hauled from the sea-bottom to release the air from its sound.  3. The instrument, made from a filed-down handle of a silver spoon, used by a pricker to prick.

Prick-farrier – The ship’s doctor, from his skills with VD and the seamen’s regrettably frequent need to employ them.

Pricking- Tattooing.

Pricking the sails – The practice of sewing a middle seam between two side seams of two overlapping pieces of canvas, to strengthen the sail.

Prickly Pear

Priddy the deck - Make it tidy, etc.

Priest – 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 cod knocker.

Priest of the Parish”- Game entailing fast ritual dialogue, with punishment if deviating.

Prime meridian – A semi-great-circle on the world, from pole to pole and perpendicular to the equator, from which longitude is reckoned.  Also first meridian.

Prime vertical – The vertical circle through the east and west points.

Prime vertical circle - See Observer’s meridian. NTUS 1509

Prince Alberts - Ad hoc leggings of tightly bound burlap on feet and legs.

Principal vertical circle – The vertical circle through the north and south points of the horizon.  Also observer’s meridian.

Prison Ship


Privateer’s Licence - Obtained from the Post Office.

Private Men- Not Officers

Private Ship- One without Admiral or other Flag Officer on board.

Private Signals


Private Trade - Allowed on many merchant ships, up to 5% of total carrying space       BDD

Privilege - Small allotment of cargo space in which a merchant seaman could, freight free, ship a few items for private trading             BDD


Prize Agent

Prize Commission - Incorporated 1644.  Ran the Navy under the Parliament of the Civil War.

Prize Court

Prize Master

Prize Money - Captain=3/8 (But if Admiral involved then he gets 1/8 share, taken away from Captain); Captain of Marines, Lieutenants, Master share 1/8;  Lieutenant of Marines, Warrant Officers, Master’s Mates, Senior Petty Officers, Chaplain’s share 1/8; Midshipmen, Senior Petty Officers, Warrant Officers’ Mates, Sergeant of Marines share 1/8; Rest of Crew share 1/4

Proa -       Currency unit


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

Proda - Foredeck of brigantine, galley, etc

Proff - Naval slang for acquiring an item without authority.  On land, some would say stealing.

Profile draughts - The name given to a pair of sheer plans for a vessel, one showing her layout and the other showing the layout of her fittings.


Proper return port – The port to which a seaman should be returned at the end of a voyage.

Proportional lengths - The correct lengths of a vessel’s masts and spars in relation to her dimensions.

Protections- Twp types: Act of Parliament & Admiralty

Protractor - NTUS 1905

Proud - Taught

Proved – Said of anchors that have been tested for strength and certified as suitable for use.

Provost ERR

Provost Marshall

Prow - The early name for the pointed stem of a vessel.

Prudent - A poor vessel was scarce prudent to go to sea

Public Service - Pressed into the Royal Navy        BDD

Puck - A rope cringle used in play.

Puddening, pudding, puddinging – 1. A band of plaited cordage forming a chafing mat fastened around a yard to protect it from damage.  2. A dock fender arranged against the dolphin (a wooden structure in harbour for securing a ship); or, safe-guarding the “dolphin” with a “pudding”.

Pudding chain – A chain made of short links for reeving through a block.  Used before wire rigging was introduced.

Pudding fender – A fender made in the shape of a small bag filled with cork.

Puff the gaff - Blow a secret.

Puggs – Seamen, 17c.

Pull - A form of rowing in which the oars are not feathered with each stroke.

Pulley – Any wheel turning on a pin, with its edge grooved to take a rope.  A block sheave.

Pulling – Seamen’s term for rowing.

Pulling boat – Any boat propelled by oars.

Pump – The main pump of a sailing ship, comprising a wooden tube extending from the bilge to the deck, where it was operated by the pump brake and two attached pistons.  Also bilge pump.  Cf chain pump.

Pump box – One of the valved pistons forming part of the pump.

Pump brake – The handle or lever used to work a bilge pump.

Pump dale outlets(tge)

Pumped Over

Pump room

Pumps- SMS

Pump ship - To urinate.

Pump spear – The iron bar between the pump brake and the pump box and used to operate the latter.

Pump well - The compartment in a vessel’s bottom, contrived to allow water to drain into it without the ballast getting in, from which such water is pumped out.

Punch – A popular drink comprising sugar, water, lime juice and brandy, rum or arrack.

Puncheon- 100 gallon (approx) cask

Punishment- If money taken in lieu of Grog then stopping Grog was not an option, so flogging was inevitable instead.

Punt – 1. A small river craft.  2. A Lowestoft longshore boat

Puoy – A type of quant, but with a spike at the end.

Purchase blocks – Two blocks used together as part of a purchase or tackle.

Purchase fall – A rope run through a series of blocks to gain mechanical strength.

Purchase – 1. Blocks and lines used in an arrangement to give extra pull.  Any tackle mechanism used to move heavy loads or set up the rigging.  2. Capture, plunder, prize.

Purchase Rods - connect hand lever to traveller on windlass CTC

Pure Bob Smith – US seamen’s name for pure rye whisky, introduced to replace rum in US Navy in 1806, by Robert Smith, Secretary of the Navy.

Purser - A nickname for a mortar.

Purser’s cabin

Purser’s Deputy

Purser’s dips - Candles.

Purser’s dirk – 1. A seaman’s knife of uniform pattern.  2. A midshipman’s dirk.

Purser’s Eights-2oz in the pound, due to 14oz in the pound served(stopped Spithead Mutiny), #Quart= 35fl oz

Purser’s Establishment (14oz=1lb)      ERR

Purser’s grin - Seamen’s slang for an insincere smile.

Purser’s knife – A seaman’s clasp knife.

Purser’s pound – The measure of 14 ounces, which was a deduction of one eighth of full measure, until 9 January 1797.

Purser’s Quart” Usually three half pints

Purser’s Savings

Purser’s store

Purser’s Tricks- Fiddles.

Purse seine – A fishing net used to encircle a shoal of fish, the bottom of which is then gathered together, or pursed, to stop the fish getting away through the open bottom.

Purveyance - The sovereign’s right to goods at a fixed price.

Pusher - The mizen mast on a six-masted ship.

Pusser- Purser’s nickname after about late 19c.

Pusser - The purser, slurred.

Pusser’s: – 1 Dip – a candle.  2 Dirk – a seaman’s clasp knife.  3 Leaf – rolled tobacco.  4 Loaf – biscuit.  5 Rum – Proper Naval rum. etc, etc

Put About

Put a head on - To punch or assault someone, to silence them.

Put Off

Putting the King/Queen to bed - Evening colours and Sunset ceremonials.

Put to the Hoop

Puttoc shrouds Futtock shrouds

Put your ears back - Seamen’s slang for eating to the full, usually said to a guest.

Pye, Port Adm. at Portsmouth – “Nozey”.

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

Quack - Seamen’s friendly nickname for the ship’s doctor.

Quadrant – 1. Davis’s or Hadley’s. John Hadley’s Reflecting Q (90deg) was invented in 1731, then developed into modern Q (120deg) in 1757 by John Campbell.     NTUS 0309  2. The fitting at the head of the rudder stock onto which the steering chains are fixed.

Quadrant, Reflecting


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

Quadrireme – An ancient Roman oared warship, which probably meant it had four tiers of rowers stepped above each other.  It could have simply meant it had four men on each oar (Latin quadri means four and remus means oar).

Quadroon - An expression for a shade of mulatto, used by the Spanish.

Quaker – Dummy cannon muzzles, used when guns moved away from ports to give the impression of being fully armed.

Quant – A long pole with a shoulder piece at one end and a flat disc at the other, used for punting or driving small vessels and to propel barges and wherries in east coast shoals, when the wind was insufficient.

Quarantine – NTUS 1006

Quarantine – The isolation of a vessel with an infectious disease on board, or that has come from a port known to be infected, usually for 40 days.  The ship was required to display the flag Q, or yellow jack, and she had to get a doctor’s clearance before being allowed to leave port.

Quarter - SMS

Quarter Check all uses

Quarter – 1. The part of a ship between main-chains and stern.  2. A fourth of one point of compass.  A compass has 32 points, each of 11°15′, so a quarter is 2°48’45″.

Quarter - NTUS 0308

Quarterbill - The Watchbill used to show everyone’s place during action.

Quarter blocks - Blocks fixed to bands at mast or yard quarters.

Quarter block – See thick and thin block.

Quarter boards - Boards temporarily erected around the quarterdeck and poop, when a ship is sailing with a heavy following sea, to prevent waves breaking inboard.

Quarter Boat – A light ship’s boat carried on davits over the ship’s quarter, usually used as the Captain’s gig*.

Quarter boat – A boat kept clear and ready on the quarter davits of a ship, for immediate use at sea in case of emergency.

Quarter Cask – Half a hogshead, or twenty seven to twenty eight gallons.

Quarter-cloths - Painted canvas strips rigged along a ship’s quarterdeck sides to keep out sea spray.

Quarter davit(hgv)

Quarterdeck - Upper deck between stern and main-mast, where officers have quarters.  Known to seamen as the bit near the back, where the officer’s prowl.

Quarterdecker - Seamen’s slang for an officer excessively conscious of his status and position, and the prerogatives that come with them.

Quarterdeckman – SMS

Quartered - Said of guns rigged to fire aftwards.  cf bowed.

Quarter-fast - NTUS 2003

Quarter-gallery - The small balcony on each quarter, often connecting to the stern gallery.

Quarter gasket – The braided cord located halfway between the yardarm and the mast, used to fasten a sail to its yard when furled.

Quarter-Gunner -(Am?)

Quartering - The 16c practice of contriving the broadside great guns to fire as far aftwards as they could.  cf Bowing.

Quartering sea - See Head sea. NTUS 1705

Quartering wind – A wind blowing from a vessel’s quarter.

Quarter iron - A fitment attached about two thirds of the way along a yard, from the yard-arm, and used to take a studding-sail boom.

Quarterly accounts - White patches on the uniform collar of a midshipman.  Also called the mark of Cain.

Quartermaster – In the Royal Navy, the petty officer responsible for the helmsman, who sometimes steers the ship.  In a merchant ship he is the helmsman and is responsible for the navigational equipment.  In port, the quartermaster would be on duty at the gangway.

Quarter netting - Hammock netting on the quarterdeck.  Sometimes just the netting was rigged, without the hammocks being stored there.

Quarter of a yard - The distance between the slings and the half-way point to the end of a yard.

Quarter-rails - A safety barrier formed of narrow planks, along the sides of the quarterdeck.

Quarters -Action Stations

Quarters - Masts, yards and spars are divided into 1st,  2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters, of equal length.

Quarter timber - The frame members located at a ship’s quarters.

Quarter wind - NTUS 1701

Quay - NTUS 2003

Queen of the road - Seamen’s slang for a ship close-hauled and having the right of way.

Queen’s - The drop of rum left in the fanny after the messdeck has had its tot.  The rum bosun would insert a large thumb in the measure when serving, to ensure short measures for all, and so plentiful Queen’s for himself – if he wasn’t caught!

Queen’s hard bargain - A seaman who enlisted in the Navy instead of going to prison.  Now applies to a retired seaman, whose time drawing retirement pay exceeds his time served.

Queue - Hair style mid 18c.

Questingstone - Medieval name for a lodestone.

Quick-match - Used to fire explosives.

Quick saver – A rope span attached to the fore side of a course to prevent it from bellying.

Quickwork, Quick-work - Those parts of a vessel’s sides that are above the upper deck, which need not be to the same standard as those lower down, and so can be built more quickly.

Quid – A piece of chewing tobacco.

Quilting – A woven rope protective wrapping around a bottle or jar.

Quitant – An instrument used for making lunar observations.

Quid - Seamen’s slang for a wad of chewing tobacco.

Quidding - Tobacco chewing.

Quinquereme – An ancient Roman oared warship similar to the Quadrireme* but with five banks of oars or five men on each oar.

Quintal - A quantity of fish caught.  100 pound weight.

Quoin – A wooden chock or wedge used to keep items of cargo in place and to prevent them from damaging each other.

Quota Acts

Quota Bounty

Quota Men

Qvaerk – SMS

Rabbet – 1. Deep groove cut into a piece of timber to receive the edge of a plank.

Rabbit - A gift, or proffed item, which was often an item made from navy stores to be ‘landed’ for ones own use, from the habit of catching free meat on an island inside Chatham Dockyard.  A rabbit-run is a run ashore to buy presents. To say an item has ears, is to imply suspicion about its provenance.

Race - Tide race e.g. Portland Race, Alderney Race, Wild Goose Race, The Skerries, etc.  NTUS 1602

Race-built ships - The ‘new’ Elizabethan ship design with fast lines, no forecastle, reduced after-castle and lower free-board.  From ‘raze’, or cut down, not ‘race’.

Rack - Another name for a fife rail or pin rack.

Rack block – A block or plank containing a number of sheaves, used on the bowsprit for leading running gear.

Racking - NTUS 0512

Racking turns - SMS

Rack Rail - CTC

Raddle - NTUS 0512

Radeau – A raft or floating battery.

Radoub - To refurbish a ship and her fittings and rigging, by the crew.

Rafale - The drum call to quarters.

Raffee-topsail - A triangular sail set between the uppermost yard and the masthead.

Raffle – 1. The whole ship’s tackle.  2. A whole mess of ropes.

Raft- A buoyant construction that floats because its material is less dense than water.

Raft-port - A square opening in the end of a merchant ship, through which long timbers could be loaded.

Rag bolt - A bolt formed with sharp notches across its shank which prevent it pulling out of the timber into which it is driven.

Rag, The - The Army and Navy Club in Pall Mall.

Rags, raggie - An oppo, from the practice of sharing cleaning rags with a particular friend.

Rail – 1. The upper edge of the bulwark.  2. A pin-rail, named for its numerous locations, such as main-rail, fife-rail, etc.

Rail of the head - A curved timber supporting the knee of the head that extends from the bow to the stem.

Rail roundabout - The belaying pin rack around a mast.

Rail with hammock cranes

Rain cloud - NTUS 1705

Raise a light – To sail towards a light, thus enabling it to appear above the horizon.

Raise a purchase – To use a tackle.

Raising Jack- A pontoon-shaped hull equipped with a winch or capstan and a trestle frame, used for lifting heavy loads.

Raise tacks and sheets – The order given to raise the clews enough to permit lower sails to be handled clearly when tacking.

Raise the land – To sail towards land, thus enabling it to appear above the horizon.

Raise the ship - SMS

Rake - 1. The slope of a ship’s masts, forward or aft.  2. A ship’s projection beyond the keel, at stem or stern.

Rake of masts - SMS

Rake of rudder - SMS

Rake of stern - SMS

Rake of sternpost - SMS

Rally in - To haul in quickly.

Ram - A bronze or iron projecting forefoot or stem on ancient warships, used for ramming an enemy vessel.


Ram block – A flat-sided block with three or four holes through which lanyards are rove for the shrouds and stays.

Ram bow - The bow of a vessel with a ram.

Ramshead – Block

Ram’s head - SMS

Ramshorn hook – A special hook shaped like a ram’s horn, used to hold a cargo sling in a way that stops the ends chafing.

Ran – 1. Spunyarn, used for worming, seizing, etc., made from old cable being unlaid, tarred and re-laid in three or four strands, using a spunyarn winch.  2. A reel wound with twenty cords of twine each parted by a knot to allow them to be easily separated.

Range – (v) To sail along the coast.

Range alongside – To come alongside another vessel while under way.

Range cleat – (tge)

Rangeing cable – NTUS 0601

Range of the tide – The difference in level between low and high water.

Random shot - Extreme range of gun.

Ranging the cable – The process of laying out a cable on deck to check each of its links for damage, rust or other deterioration.

Ran Tan – Occasional seamen’s name for a good time, or razzle.

Rap full – Said of sails drawing at their best.


Rate – 1. The classification by which sailing warships were recognised, according to the number of guns they carried, which varied over time but was usually as follows:
First Rate:    100 or more guns
Second Rate:        84 or 90 to 100 guns
Third Rate:  64, 70 or 80 to 84 or up to 90 guns
Fourth Rate: 50 or 60, but up to 70 or 80 guns
Fifth Rate:   32 to 50 or 60 guns (usually frigates)
Sixth Rate:   Less than 32 guns.
2. Rank.  To rate or assign a rank to a seaman or officer, from which to dis-rate can evolve, for defaulters.  3. The speed by which the great guns could reload and fire was known as the rate of fire.

Rate a chronometer – To establish the rate by which a chronometer gains or loses each day.

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

Rated Time

Rating – A seaman who is not an officer.

Rational horizon – The great circle located halfway between the zenith and the nadir.  Also called celestial horizon.

Ratline stuff – Three-stranded loose laid long-jaw rope of tarred hemp, used for shroud ratlines.

Ratlines, or ratlings - The horizontal ropes rigged across the shrouds, at close enough intervals to form a rope ladder to the tops and upper rigging.


Rattle - 1. Some Captains waved a rattle to attract attention.  2. To be in the rattle was seamen’s slang for being in trouble, or to be run in for a misdemeanour.

Rattle down the shrouds - The expression used to describe the fitting of ratlines to the shrouds, by means of a series of clove hitches.


Razzle – Occasional seamen’s name for a good time, or ran tan.

Reach – 1. That part of a river visible between bends.  2. (v) To sail with the wind on or before the beam.

Reaching – SMS

Reach the Quarterdeck

Read Himself In - +43


Ready about, or ready all – The order given to the crew to stand by at their stations, ready for tacking.

Ready all - See ready about. NTUS 1101

Real of plate - A Spanish silver coin worth about 6½d. in Elizabethan times.

Reamer - (tge)

Rear Admiral - Admiral of the Blue

Rear axletree - (hgv)


Receipt - Capacity.

Receiving ship - An old hulk moored permanently in harbour and used as temporary accommodation for newly recruited or impressed men before they were sent to a ship.

Recoil guide slot - (hgv)

Reconcile (vb) – To join a vessel’s sides together smoothly, in unbroken lines.

Recruiters - Recruited seamen. BDD

Recruitment Act

Rectors – Ship’s officers in the 13c, one of whom would command.

Red and blue magnetic poles - NTUS 1905

Red Cap of Liberty - ERR

Red ensign - Flown by merchant navy ships.


Red Eye - Rum, alternative American name.

Red Herring

Red Record - Register of seamen’s’ complaints, started in late 1880s.

Red ropes – Man-ropes used to ascend or descend the ship’s sides were covered in red baize in the officers’ gangway.

Red Sea Men – Generic name given to pirates of late 17c/early 18c frequenting the Red Sea to plunder Country Ships.

Red, white and blue - There were nine degrees of admiral before 1865.

Reducing an observation – The name for the process of producing a position from observed information.  Also sight reduction.

Reed’s Tillerless Screw - Type of steering gear. CTC

Reef – 1. One of three or four strips across the top of a square sail that can be fastened up to reduce the sail’s surface, which is single-, double-, or triple-reefed according to the number of reefs taken in.  2. The area of a sail between the head of the sail and the first reef band.  3. (v) Reduce sail area by gathering up part of the sail and securing it by using the reefing points.

Reef band – The narrow piece of canvas sewn along the reef line, with eyelets for the reef points.

Reef Band Hole ERR

Reefing beckets - Beckets used with the jack-line-reef, consisting of a strop with a toggle and two loops, which passes through the jack-line.

Reef cringles - Cringles sewn onto the leeches of a sail, level with the reef bands.

Reef earring - Short lines used to reef the head of a sail to its yard.

Reefed Sails

Reefer – A pea jacket, particularly when worn by a midshipman.

Reefer’s Nut - +103

Reefer – Slang for midshipman.

Reefing halyards - The ropes used to rotate the yard in the various forms of patent roller reefing systems.

Reefing jackstay - A rope rove through the grommets of  a reef band, and used for reefing with a toggle on the jackstay.  Also jack line or reef line.

Reef knot – A knot used in reefing, because of the ease by which it can be shaken out, comprising two half knots laid in opposite directions.

Reef line – 1. A rope rove through the grommets of a reef band, and used for reefing with a toggle on the jackstay.  Also jack line or reefing jackstay.  2. An improvised line, used in an emergency reefing.

Reef pendant - The rope leading to the after leech of a fore-and-aft sail with a boom.  Used to haul the leech down to the boom to reef it.

Reef points - Short lines used to reef the reefed part of a sail to its yard.

Reef tackle - A tackle used to haul the reef band up and tight to allow the sail to be reefed, attached between the sail’s leech and the yard-arm.

Reef tackle cringles - Reinforced loops in the leeches of a square sail, onto which the reef tackle is attached.

Reel - A part of the machinery used with the Logship.

Reeler – The seaman assigned to reel the log line.

Reelers – A pipe call originally summoning those who operated the sounding machine.  Later came to also refer to those operating the hand log.

Reeming beetle - A heavy wooden mallet with soft steel rings at the striking faces, used in caulking, with a reeming iron.

Reeming iron – A heavy iron chisel used to open up seams before forcing in the oakum or cotton wadding, prior to applying pitch to seal it all in.

Reeve – (v) To pass a rope through a block or sheave or similar.

Reeve a Burton

Reeving line - SMS

Refit – (v) To replace defective parts and/or gear of a vessel, usually in a dry dock or similar.

Reflecting circle – An instrument used to make lunar observations at sea, built on the same principles as Hadley’s quadrant, but with a full graduated circle.

Reflecting quadrant - See Hadley’s quadrant. NTUS 1903

Re-flux – The movement of water away from the shore, or downstream, caused by the falling tide.  Also ebb tide.

Regatta - The name given to a race meeting of small craft, from the name of the traditional gondola race, still held in Venice each year.

Reign - To continue in use.  E.g. of a ship: ‘She’s ten years old but still reigns’.

Reigning wind – The average wind in any given location.  Also prevailing wind.

Relative bearings – The day-to-day direction indicators used on a sailing ship.  The eight principle directions are each separated by four degrees and are: ahead; starboard bow; starboard beam; starboard quarter; astern; larboard quarter; larboard beam and larboard bow.  There are refinements called: right astern; fine on the larboard bow; broad on the starboard quarter; abaft the starboard beam; before the larboard beam, etc.  For even more precision the points would be used, as follows: two points on the starboard bow; three points on the larboard quarter, etc.

Relative wind – The apparent wind direction as felt from a moving vessel, as indicated by the masthead pennant.

Relieving tackles – A pair of tackles, rigged in action or during heavy weather, on either side of the tiller to prevent shocks to the tiller connections.

Render – (v) To offer no resistance, such as when a rope runs freely through a block.  A rope renders to a block, rather than going through it.

Repair – (v) To generally overhaul a vessel, usually in a dry dock.

Reserve buoyancy - The buoyancy inherent in a ship’s design that keeps her watertight deck above the level of the load water-line.

Retinue - A Flag Officer’s staff, including household staff.

Return storm - After a wind change, the second and worst half of a storm.

Revenue men

Revenue Service

Reverse frame - An angle-bar fixed to the inboard edge of a frame to form a flange opposing that on the outboard edge of the frame.  Also called Z frame.

Reverse laid – The term for a rope in which the yarns and strands are laid in the same direction.

Rhino – Money, especially ready cash.

Rhodomontados - Rascals ?

Rhumb – One of the non-cardinal points of the compass.  Also rumb, or romb, or wind, or loxodrome.

Rhumb line – A line which crosses all meridians (or parallels) at the same angle. Not the shortest distance between two points which is the arc of a great circle.  Also loxodrome.

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

Ria Coast – The geographical term for deep inlets and long headlands.  Where the grain of land lies transverse to shore of submergence.

Rib - A frame or timber.

Rib and truck - An arrangement of alternating trucks and ribs threaded onto a parrel rope, to keep the trucks separate.  Also jaw parrels.

Ribband carvel – A form of carvel-built construction in which the battens run fore and aft inside the hull.

Ribband lines - Fore-and-aft sections of a ship’s hull that lie at an angle to the keel.

Ribbands - The long strips of timber nailed along the outside of a ship’s frames to keep them in place while she is under construction.

Ribbing nail - A large copper or steel nail used to fasten the ribbands to the vessel’s frame.

Ride – (v) To move easily to the motion of wind and sea.

Rider - The heavy timber inner frame shaped to the keelson and fixed across the ceiling, through to the frames, for additional strength, with its own floor-timbers, futtocks and top-timbers.

Ridge rope – The rope forming the main top centreline support of an awning.

Ridge tackle – A tackle suspending the ridge of an awning.

Riding a try – Lying-to under bare poles.

Riding bitts - Two strong timber or iron posts in the fore part of a vessel, used for securing the cable.

Riding sail – A triangular sail set on the mainmast of a stationary vessel to keep its head to the wind and to reduce rolling.

Riding slip – A short length of chain located above the cable locker, shaped to attach to a link of the anchor cable to ease the strain on it, when the ship is riding at anchor.

Riding the rigging – Using a boatswain’s chair to work around the rigging when repairing it or blacking it down.

Riding turn – A turn in a rope contrived to run over another.

Riff raff - Unpleasant characters, from the Riff, or Berber Pirates of the Barbary Coast.

Rig – 1. Clothing; rig of the day is the uniform laid down in a ship’s daily orders; shore rig is civilian attire, worn for a run ashore.  2. The arrangement of a ship’s masts, spars and sails that distinguished her from other ships.  NTUS 1011  3. Jury rig is a temporary arrangement or repair of masts and spars, rudder, etc. to get the ship home or to a place of safety where she could be repaired more permanently.  From the French de jour.

Rigger – A shipyard worker employed to replace or repair a ship’s rigging.

Rigging - The ropes and wires of a vessel, including standing and running rigging.

Right – (v) To return a vessel to its proper upright position following careening, or some similar laying over.

Right ascension – An east-west coordinate equivalent of terrestrial longitudes.

Right ascension of the meridian – Time based on the rotation of the Earth relative to the stars.  Also sidereal time.

Right-handed – The direction of lay of hawser-laid and shroud-laid ropes, where the strands lay from upper right to lower left.

Righting – 1. Said of a vessel recovering from a heavy roll.  2. (v) Bringing a vessel upright after she has capsized.

Right knot – Another name for a reef knot.

Right the helm – A helm order given when the conner wanted the helm brought back to amidships after it has been put to port or starboard.  Also ‘midships’, or ‘helm amidships’.

Rig in – The order given to withdraw a boom from its extreme location.

Rigol - A curved moulding fastened above a port hole or scuttle, or similar opening, to prevent water entering the opening by running down from above.  Also called eyebrow, port flange and spurnwater.

Rig out – The order given to extend a boom into position.

Rim - The circular outer edge of the top.  Sometimes called the brim.

Rime - A rung of a ladder.

Ring-bolt – A type of bolt with an eye and ring in its head, used for hooking tackles.

Ring eight bells - To die.

Ring-rope – A short rope attached to a ring-bolt, used to secure the anchor cable or some other rope under strain.

Ring tail – A studding sail set aft of the gaff mizzen sail, with its lower end attached to a ring-tail boom extending from the mizzen boom.

Rinse out, or ‘bull’, a cask, to

Rip (vb) – To pull old caulking out of seams before re-caulking.

Ripping Down – The dockyard term for the dismantling of a ship.  The Navy Board term was ‘Taking to Pieces’, which is what it was, as every removed part was examined and reused wherever possible, or stored for use on another vessel.

Ripping iron - A long-handled forked tool used for ripping old planks and sheathing from a vessel’s      bottom.

Rippling sea - See Poppling sea. NTUS 1705

Rise – (v) To appear above the horizon.

Rise and shine - Call when making the pipe ‘Call the hands’.

Rising – The fore-and-aft timber running along the inside of a boat, to take the ends of the thwarts.

Rising floor - The upward sweep to fore and aft of a vessel’s floor timbers.

Rising line - See Dead rise.

Rising square - A shipwright’s square, used in measuring the upward sweep of a vessel’s side or lines.

Rising wood - Pieces of timber worked into the underside of the floor timbers and into the keel, to hold the keel firmly in place.

River, The – When referring to the Home Fleet: The Thames.

Rivet - An iron or steel pin formed with a head at one end, and onto the other end of which a head is formed by hammering when the rivet is in place.  Rivets are known by the shape of their heads, such as conical, countersunk, pan or snap head.

R.N. - Royal Navy.

R.N.L.I. - Royal National Life-boat Institution.

R.N.R. - Royal Navy Reserve.

Roach - The cutaway, or raised line, forming the foot of a square sail.

Roader – A vessel moored in a roadstead.

Roadstead – An area of open sea near land, with good holding ground, where vessels may moor in safety but unprotected from the weather or sea.  Sometimes called ‘open roadstead’.

Roat of the shore - The sound of waves hitting the shore.

Rob – The distillation of fruit juice.  Particularly used as a prevention and cure of scurvy.

Robands - Short lengths of small line that pass through eyelets at the head of a sail to attach it to its yard or jackstay.  Also called rope bands, rovings, or robbens.

Robbens - Short lengths of small line that pass through eyelets at the head of a sail to attach it to its yard or jackstay.  Also called robands, rope bands, or rovings.

Rockered - Said of a keel that increases in depth towards the after end, usually for improved stability in fast sailers.

Rocking the quadrant, or sextant – The rocking back and forth of a quadrant or sextant to achieve a more accurate measurement of altitude.  Also swinging the arm or arc.

Rogue’s yarn – A white or coloured yarn laid into each strand of any rope issued by one of HM Dockyards or those of the East India Company, or similar, to identify the owner of the rope and so to prevent their being proffed.  Also marker yarn.

Roll – The swinging of a vessel from side to side in a heavy sea or swell.

Rollers - Cylindrical timbers used to move heavy objects, by temporarily placing them underneath the object and then rolling it along.  NTUS 1705

Roller sheave – A pulley fixed inside a block.

Rolling chock, rolling cleat - A shaped wooden piece attached to the middle of an upper yard to steady it against the mast.  Also parrel cleat.

Rolling cleat - See Rolling chock. NTUS 0404

Rolling hitch - NTUS 0512

Rolling tackle – A tackle rigged onto the weather side of the topgallant masts in heavy weather, to restrain the yard from chafing the mast.

Romb – One of the non-cardinal points of the compass.  More usually rhumb, or rumb, or wind.

Ron finish – A method of pointing a rope end which incorporates a diamond knot over the heart.

Room and space - The term for the distance between two adjoining frames.  This was at least a space the breadth of two frames.  Also called timber and room.

Rooming – A safe distance of water to leeward.

Roove - Small copper washers over which the ends of nails used in clinker-built vessels are flattened to make them secure.

Rooving iron - A hollow punch tool, used to hold a roove over a nail end for fastening.

Rope – Any cordage more than one inch diameter.  Usually made of manila or hemp, which is stronger, sometimes tarred and twisted into strands that are then laid into a rope.  Wire ropes were introduced for standing rigging late in the nineteenth century.  The size of a rope or cable used to refer to the circumference.

Rope bands - Short lengths of small line that pass through eyelets at the head of a sail to attach it to its yard or jackstay.  Also called robands, rovings, or robbens.

Ropes - Prior to 19c, made of hemp, coir, leather and manila.

Rope’s end – A short length of rope, or the end of a long rope.

Ropes, To know the – As it would only be an experienced seaman that could know the functions and operations of all the standing and running rigging, this phrase was said of such a one.

Rope yarn – Yarn made from twenty-five, twenty or eighteen hemp threads, of various thicknesses.  A twenty-five thread yarn is finer than an eighteen thread yarn of the same thickness.

Rope yarn knot – A knot formed by separating the strands of a rope and tying them together with the ends served; used to repair standing rigging.

Roping needle – A strong curved needle used to sew bolt ropes around sails or awnings.

Roping palm – A heavy duty hand protector comprising a leather strip with a metal cup sewn into the palm, used as a thimble for the sailmaker’s roping needle to be forced through canvas.

Rorty - NTUS 1011

Rosebur - Roove by another name.

Rose knot – A knob knot made by forming a diamond knot and the tucking the ends in through the centre.

Rose lashing - NTUS 0512

Roster - Duty list, and also a list of those waiting for promotion.  A dry roster was an empty list.

Rough log – Another name for the deck log, from which the mate prepared the smooth log for the master’s signature.

Rough tree - An unfinished mast or spar.

Rough tree rail - The timber fixed to the top of a vessel’s frame members, forming the upper bulwark.

Roughers - A bit of rough sea.

Round – (v) To sail round a headland or seamark, keeping a steady distance from it.

Round house - A deckhouse aft of the main mast.  Originally, the poop.

Round in – (v) To haul on the fall of a tackle to close he distance between its blocks.

Rounding – Serving around the cable at the hawse or athwart the stem, made from old rope yarns and used to prevent chafing.

Roundly - Quickly and smartly.

Round ribbed - Said of a vessel with a curved Tumble home.

Rounds – 1. The formal tour of inspection, given the full title of whomsoever was doing it, such as the Captain’s Rounds.  2. The wooden rungs of a Jacob’s ladder or a jack ladder.

Round seam – A seam between two joined pieces of canvas, in which the edges do not overlap.

Round seizing - NTUS 0512

Round spliced - NTUS 0512

Round the buoy - NTUS 1011

Round to – Bring a vessel’s head to the wind.

Round top - The name commonly given to the tops, despite their not being round, from the fact that the tops on early ships were, in fact, round, and the name stuck.  The British seaman is very conservative.

Round turn – A single turn of a rope around a bollard or timber head.

Round up – (v) 1. To close the distance between two blocks when the load is off a tackle.  2. To take up the slack of any rope passing through a vertical tackle.

Round wind – A wind that changes direction by 180° during daylight.

Rouse – (v) To pull together without a mechanical aid, such as a capstan or windlass.

Rouse about block – A large snatch block with a slotted or hinged part of the shell, by which a rope could be laid directly onto the sheave.

Rovings - Short lengths of small line that pass through eyelets at the head of a sail to attach it to its yard or jackstay.  Also called robands, rope bands, or robbens.

Row – (v) To propel a boat by facing astern and pulling on oars.

Row boat, or rowing boat – Any boat propelled by oars.

Rowl – A small crane used to unload cargo.

Rowlock – The aperture in a boat’s wash strake through which an oar would operate.

Royal Humane Society - Forerunner of the RNLI

Royal mast - NTUS 0401

Rubber – A flat steel tool used to flatten down seams after the sewing has been finished.  2. The protective wooden moulding fixed along the outside of a boat’s gunwale to prevent chafing against a dockside or ship’s side.  Also rubbing piece.

Rubbing band - ?

Rubbing paunch - A smooth wooden guard fixed over the front of mast hoops, to protect the yards from damage during raising or lowering.

Rubbing piece – See rubber.

Rudder - The hinged steering device at the stern of a vessel.

Rudder brace, or band - One of the horizontal brackets on the fore edge of the rudder, holding either a pintle or a gudgeon.

Rudder breeching - Short heavy ropes fastened inboard and on the rudder to take some of its weight and so relieve the gudgeons.

Rudder chains - Light chains that hold the rudder if it becomes unshipped.

Rudder coat - The canvas housing fitted over the rudder stock where it emerges from the rudder trunk to prevent the sea entering.

Rudder head - The top part of the rudder stock.

Rudder hole - The stern housing of the rudder head.

Rudder iron - See rudder brace.

Rudder pendants - Lengths of rope or steel wire joining the rudder chains and the rudder tackles when needed.

Rudder port - The housing above the helm port, through which the rudder stock passes into the ship.

Rudder post - NTUS 0309

Rudder stock - The heavy vertical timber onto which the rudder blade is fastened.

Rudder stops - Projections on the rudder or the stern post that prevent the rudder from turning too much either side of amidships.

Rudder tackles - Tackles used to

Rudder tackle – A tackle comprising long-tackle blocks and single blocks strapped with hooks and thimbles, used steer the ship when the helm is damaged beyond use, by connecting them to the rudder chains.

Rudder trunk - The housing for the rudder stock, that runs from the deck to the helm port, where the quadrant is mounted.

Rumb – One of the non-cardinal points of the compass.  More usually rhumb, or romb, or wind.

Rum baron - Someone who has been illegally storing rum, to be used as currency or bribes.

Rum bosun - The mess member whose duty it was to draw the rum ration for the mess, in the rum fanny.

Rumbo, or rumboline – Line made up from old yarns taken from the outside of worn ropes and re-laid, used for lashings and similar light work.

Rumboline - See Rumbo. NTUS 0509

Rum, bum and baccy – The three most popular social activities.

Rumfustian - Beer, gin & sherry with a pinch of gunpowder, drunk by pirates.  Also Rumbo.

Rummage sale – The French term for cargo is arrumage.  Damaged cargo was sold off at reduced prices at a rummage sale.

Run – 1. Deserted.  2 Run in is to arrest and charge.  3 Run this up, means try out something, from running a signal flag up the flagpole. 4. The distance a ship has sailed over the ground.  5. A regular voyage, particularly on a trade route.

Run-ashore - A social visit with a group of shipmates, usually to pubs or clubs.

Rundle – The capstan drum.

Run down – To collide with a smaller vessel, or one that had the right of way.

Rung - The lowest timber in a frame.

Rung head - The floor head.

Runner, do a - Desert

Runner – The rope used in a tackle, with one end fixed and the other attached to the object of attention.

Runners - Lads from dockside boarding houses who would grab an off-loaded seaman’s chest and run off to same boarding house, thus obliging the seaman to follow.

Runner tackle – A tackle comprising double and single blocks and a pendant, used to set up the shrouds or staying a mast.

Running – Sailing before the wind.  Sometimes called ‘running free’.

Running block – The block that moves in a tackle.

Running bowline – A bowline knot made in the end of a rope around its own standing part, along which the bowline can slide.

Running by the lee – A fore-and-aft vessel sailing free but with the mainsail on the weather side.

Running fix – The practice of establishing a vessel’s position when it is not possible to make two or more simultaneous position lines, thus needing to make allowances for the distances travelled between observations.  A line drawn between time-spaced position lines is called a transferred position line.

Running free – Sailing before the wind.  Sometimes ‘sailing free’ or simply called ‘running’.

Running gear – Any tackles, ropes or rigging that can move.

Running hook – A hook located off-centre in the bow of a boat, to take the fore sheet when running before the wind.

Running moor – The action of dropping one anchor while the ship is still under way, followed by another anchor soon after, to separate them and spread the load on each.

Running part – That part of a tackle that is hauled.

Running rigging - The moving parts of the rigging, used for raising and lowering sails and for adjusting yards.

Running the easting down – Said of a ship sailing to the east before westerly winds.

Run out – To lead the end of a chain, rope or line out of a vessel and onto a mooring point.

Rupertinoe – A ships’ gun invented by Prince Rupert in the late 17c, of very high quality cast, then annealed and machined; they cost twice similar normal cannon, so were not universally adopted.  Only three ships were equipped with them: Royal Charles, Royal James and Royal Oak, 1671-4.

Russian sennit – A loose mat formed from interwoven small rope or yarn.

Rutter - A descriptive written sea route for mariners, pronounced “rooter”, from a corruption of the French routier.