Tabernacle - A construction around the base of mast, including a shroud to prevent weather penetration through the deck.  On a vessel whose masts can be lowered, the tabernacle holds the pivot pin.

Tabernacle - NTUS 0313

Tabernacle-  Housing in which a mast may be lowered or set up on a deck.

Table – 1. (v) To reinforce a sail’s hem by turning the edge over twice, into itself, and sewing it down.  2. A legend attached to a picture or drawing or plan.  3. Any flat land or surface.

Table Fiddles

Table money - The allowance now made to flag officers for entertainment.

Table of Rates-+15

Table, The - Defaulters’ parade.

Tabling – 1. The broad hem at a sail’s foot, strengthening the part sewn onto the bolt-rope.  Hence, (v) The turning over and sewing of a sails edges, known as hemming to lubbers.  2. Carving out of mast spindle in alternating raised lips and sunken mortises.

Tabula de Amalpha – Table of maritime laws used throughout the Mediterranean, devised in city-state Amalfi in 13-14c.

Tack – 1. A rope shackled to the clew of a sail and used to control the clew of the sail when transferring from tack to sheet, and vice versa, i.e. when going about.  2. The lower forward corner of a fore-and-aft sail.  3. A rope used to haul out the clew of a studding sail to the boom end.  4. The direction a vessel takes when sailing into the wind.  5. The distance a vessel travels on one definition (4) tack.  6. Seamen’s slang for food, particularly ship’s biscuits, which was also called hard tack.

Tack – (v) 1. To work a vessel to windward, repeatedly changing course from starboard to port tack or vice versa.  A course tacked has a zigzag appearance if charted.  2. To change the direction of a vessel by bringing her head into the wind and continuing the change through to the other tack.  Also to wend.  cf wear.

Tack block – 1. A block attached over the clew of a sail.  2. A standing block through which a sail rope is rove.

Tack about- SMS

Tack earring thimble(tge)

Tack in a pint of water - Descriptive of a handy sailing ship.

Tacking – Going about by turning the head into the wind and trimming the sails so that the turn continues under its own momentum.

Tacking in line- SMS

Tack knot – A knob knot made by working a double wall knot and crown into the end of a tack or other rope.

Tackle – 1. Any purchase formed by running a rope through a block.  The part of the rope fixed to a block, or elsewhere, is the standing part; the rest are running parts; the part of the rope hauled is the fall.  2. Pronounced “taykel” – all the blocks, ropes, pulleys, etc., of a vessel,

Tackling - The running rigging and sails of a vessel.

Tack of a sail - The angle between the foot and the luff.

Tack purchase – A simple tackle comprising two single blocks, used for general purposes.

Tacks to weather- SMS

Tack tackle – A tackle comprising a double and a single block strapped with hooks and thimbles, used to bowse down the tacks of the large sails.

Tack tricing line – A small rope passed through a block or thimble, used to hoist the tack of a sail from a yard.

Tactics- The first important book was “An Essay on Naval Tactics” by Clerk of Eldin in 1797




Taffrail - The rail, often ornamental, along the upper edge of the stern.

Tail – An extension to the strop attached to a block.

Tail block – A small block onto which a short length of rope is attached, by which it could be fastened onto any place.

Tail jigger – A small light tackle comprising a single block and a double block with a selvagee tail.

Tail on – The order given to the hands to lend a hand in hauling on a rope.

Tail rope

Tail splice - NTUS 0512

Tail tackle – A tackle comprising a hooked single block and a double block with a selvagee tail.  Similar to luff or watch tackles.


Take a turn – To secure a rope quickly and temporarily by making it fast on a belaying pin, bitt or cleat.

Take charge - Said of a gun or other heavy object that has broken loose and is out of control.

Take in – Reduce sail area by lowering or furling a sail.

Taken aback – When the wind veers suddenly the sails can fill from the wrong direction and cause the ship to stop, thus becoming seamen’s slang for being stopped short or surprised.

Taken by the lee – The situation of a vessel that has been taken aback by a sudden wind shift.

Take the con - Be in control of a vessel’s direction.

Take the ground – The action of a drift net sinking to the bottom because it is too full to bring up.

Take up – The action of a boat’s planking, of swelling when wet and sealing the joints against ingress of water when in use.  Planked boats should stored with some water in them, if they are not to dry out too much, when they become leaky.

Taken aback - Said of a vessel upon which the wind has unexpectedly shifted, causing the sails to empty and the vessel to stop.  Came to mean, taken by surprise by anything.

Taken aback - Seamen’s slang for stopped short or surprised.

Taken by the lee - NTUS 1211

Taking a Caulk-Sleeping on deck

‘Taking to Pieces’– The official Navy Board term for the dismantling of a ship, which is what it was, as every removed part was examined and reused wherever possible, or stored for use on another vessel.  The dockyard term for doing this wasRipping Down’, which implies that sometimes a little less care was taken than the Navy Board had intended.

Tallowing- SMS

Tally – 1. The count taken of the cargo as it is loaded or unloaded.  2. Seamen’s slang for a person’s full name.

Tally on - Catch hold.

Tamkin- Tompion

Tampion - The ornamental plug for a gun barrel.

Tan – (v) To treat sails with an extract of oak bark, with, later, other ingredients, to preserve them.  Red sails resulted.

Tandem block – A block with two sheaves in line.

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

Tangent Sights


Tanky- Nickname for Sailing Master’s Assistant who tended the freshwater tanks and later the grog mixing water.



Tap-house or -room - Pub.

Taper Off, To- American? slang for adjusting to shipboard life again

Tapered rope – A rope that tapered towards its end, to ease its entry into a block.

Tapering – Reducing the diameter of a rope’s end, to ease its entry into a block.

Tar - A dark resinous liquid gum extracted from pine trees and used to coat the sides of ships and

Tar - boats and their rigging and yards, for protection against the weather.

Tar, Tarpaulin- Sea-bred Captain as opposed to a gentleman Captain; a seaman.

Tarbreeks - A sailor who laced his language with nautical terms, such as avast and belay.

Target - Fighting shield.

Tarpaulin – 1. Sailcloth dressed with tar, or paint or similar materials, and used to make weatherproof clothing and hatch covers and places where there was a need to protect against the sea or weather.  2. A tarpaulin captain was one who had risen through the ranks.

Tarpaulin canvas - Strong but pliable heavy duty canvas made from second quality yarns and

Tarpaulin muster - Seamen’s slang for a money collection for some charitable cause, which would be gathered in a tarpaulin.



Tartan, Tartana - ERR

Tartan, Tartane - Small lateen rigged Med ship with a single mast and a small square sail set on the bowsprit.

Tartane - 48-60′ long, 17′ beam, single masted lateen rigged, or two-masted with foremast raked forward

Tassiel - Taffrail?

Taught Taut, Stiff

Taunt - An expression for an old ship with very tall masts.  Hence a seamen’s term for anything tall or high, such as extra-high masts.

Taut - Seamen’s slang for smart and efficient.

Taut - The term applied to a sail or rope that was extended and stretched out.  NTUS 1012

Taut bowline – The bowlines hauled as taut as possible to sail close to the wind.  A ship is described as being on a taut bowline when sailing as close to the wind as possible.

Taut hand - A smart, all round crewman, well disciplined and good at his job, and whom everyone therefore respects.

Taut leech – Said of a sail working correctly.  Also stand.

Taut mooring- SMS

Taut ship - A smart ship, well disciplined and well run.

T bar - An iron or steel bar with an T-shaped section.

Tea boat - Seamen’s slang for the provision of mugs of tea.  ‘Tea-boat time’ is time to stand easy.

Teague - Seamen’s nickname for an Irishman.

Teak Margin - CTC

Teakwood- Not attacked by sea or worms

Teased out - Frayed.

Teeth of the gale- SMS


Telegraph - CTC

Telescopic topmast – A topmast that can be withdrawn into the lower mast.  Used on vessels that need to pass under low bridges.

Tell that to the marines! – An expression of disbelief, based on the assertion that you would need to get the marines to verify the truth of a story, from the tale that William IV did not believe a story of flying fish until a Captain of Marines confirmed it as being true.  So, if the Marines believe it, then it must be true.

Tell-tale - A repeater instrument, such as the weather vane in the Admiralty Room.

Tell-tale compass - NTUS 1906

Temperance Men- Sailors who did not take Grog*. See Balkers*.

Temple toggle-iron – A most efficient harpoon invented in 1848 by Lewis Temple of New Bedford, Mass.

Tend – 1. (v) To attend to something that needs attending to.  See Attend.  2. The action of a vessel at anchor as it swings to the tidal stream.

Tender - A small vessel serving with and for a larger one.

Tenderness- SMS

Tending to leeward, windward- SMS

Tensioning tackles(hgv)

Teredo Navalis- Ship worm.

Terellas – Models of planet Earth, made from lodestone in 16c, on which magnetic variation was studied. First for Dr Wm Gilbert.  Also called earthkins.

Tern Schooner- Three masted schooner with all masts of the same height.

Terrestrial magnetism - NTUS 1905

Tetanus – A frequent killer of seamen as an after effect of injuries sustained from gunshot or other penetration wounds.

Tew, or tow – 1. Any rope used for towing.  2. The beating of hemp in the preliminary stage of rope making.


Thames barges - Large shoes.

Thames measurement - The measurement of a yacht based on her Thames Tonnage.

Thames tonnage - The method of calculating the tonnage of a yacht by the formula:  (B²(L-B))/188,

Thames tonnage - where B is the beam and L is the length, in feet.


Theft-More serious crime than Mutiny or Desertion

The Island - In the RN: Madeira.


Thick - Misty, hazy.

Thick and thin block – A single-shelled block in which two sheaves turn on separate pins, a larger one above a smaller, thus permitting two ropes to be worked at the same time.  This type of block could lie closer to the yard than a double block and was sued to take sheets and clewlines on the quarters of a yard.

Thick strake(tge)

Thick stuff over the wales(tge)

Thick With – Friendly with.

Thief’s, Thieves’ cat - A cat’o'nine tails in which the ropes were knotted along their length, for special effect, and used for the more serious thieves.

Thimble – A metal ring made with a concave outer edge round which a rope could be spliced, used as a rope guide or to take a hook.

Thin plate keel - A keel formed from a number of plates laid side by side and with shifted butt joints.

Third Leaguer

Third Rate-See Rate

Thole, or thole pin – Strong wooden or metal pegs arranged usually in pairs, but sometimes singly, in a boat’s gunwale, used as a rowlock.

Thoroughfoot – 1. A method of removing a twisted rope by coiling it down in the direction of the twist, drawing its end up through the centre of the coil and then hauling out the coil.  2. The fouling of a tackle when one of its blocks catches in the running parts.

Thrash - That part of an anchor cable that rises and falls on the sea bed, with the wind and tide, and so wears most.

Thrashing – 1. Sailing fast on a wind.  2. Making heavy work of beating in heavy weather.

Thread – The name for individual yarns, or pairs of yarns, composed of hemp fibres twisted up for rope making.

Three and one - Grog.  Originally grog was two parts of water to one of rum, but was reduced to the more general mixture of three parts of water to one of rum.

Three-arm protractor – An instrument used to plot a position obtained by horizontal sextant angles.  Also station pointer.


Threefold purchase – A tackle comprising a rope through two treble blocks.

Three glasses - An hour and a half

Three half hitches - Seamen’s slang for someone taking too much care over a job, from the complete expression ‘Three half hitches are more than the king’s yacht wants’.

Three sheets in or to the wind - Drunk.  Originally said of a  sail that is almost out of control because its sheets, or control ropes, are flapping in the wind.

Three-sticker - Salvagee for a three masted vessel about to founder on rocks, etc

Three-stranded – The term for a rope formed of three strands, such as a hawser.

Three Water Grog- 3 parts water to 1 part rum. Usual mix until 1937, then two water grog. Six water grog used as punishment. Submariners always had one for one grog.

Throat - The widened end of a gaff, where it fits to its mast.

Throat - on bower anchor(tge)

Throat - Top fore corner of a fore and aft sail.

Throat bolts - Eye-bolts in the throat of a gaff, which hold the throat halyards.

Throat brail tackle- SMS

Throat brails - Ropes attached to the gaff and the leech of a fore-and-aft sail, and used for gathering the sail in to the gaff.

Throat downhaul - The rope used for hauling down the throat of a gaff.

Throat halliard(tge)

Throat halliards - Halliards used to control the throat or gaff-jaws of a fore-and-aft sail.

Throat halyard - The rope and tackle used to hoist the inboard end of a gaff and its sail.

Throat seizing - NTUS 0512

Throat tye - ERR

Through the Hawse Hole-Enter RN as an unrated seaman or boy or landsman*.

Thrum Cap - Hat like a mop BDD

Thrum Cap- Warm hat. Early Slops*.

Thrum mat- SMS

Thrumming- Matting made of small rope yarns.

Thrumming - The temporary blocking of a hole letting in the sea, by covering it with a sail & sealing with oakum.

Thumb cleat – A small single-horned cleat.

Thumpers”- Big Ships

Thus – A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel to continue sailing in the present direction when sailing close-hauled.  Also ‘very well thus’, or ‘very well dyce’, or ‘keep her so’.

Thwart hawse - Said of a vessel ahead of another and across her keel centreline.

Thwarts – 1. The planks of a boat on which the oarsmen sit, which are arranged athwartships and supported by the stringers.  2. The Viking measure equalling each hull section divided by two adjacent sets of frames and the beams spanning them, not including cant frames.  Only one oar could be situated in each thwart, so a forty oared ship had twenty on each side, so was a twenty thwarter.  Also called rooms.  A twenty thwarter was about 75 feet long.

Thwartships - A contraction of the term ‘Athwartships’.

Ticket – In the Merchant Navy, an officer’s Certificate of Competency, without which he could not be enlisted.

Ticket - Pay warrant signed by the captain, to discharge the amount owing to a seaman.  Sale of tickets was common, but illegal.

Ticket Brokers

Tickets- Pay notes to seamen, only redeemable at the port of embarkation. Led to “quayside sharks” buying them at often not more than half their face value, to provide cash to the owner.

Tidal currents - See Tidal stream. NTUS 1603

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

Tidal estuary- SMS

Tidal prediction – A necessity for navigators was the accurate prediction of the effects of local tides.  The technical terms used included: age of the Moon; age of the tide; change of the Moon; epact for the month; epact for the year; establishment of the port; high water full and change; interval; lunar day; lunar month; lunation; lunitidal interval; Moon’s bearing; Moon’s southing; synodical month; tidal day; vulgar establishment and tide tables.

Tidal stream – The periodical horizontal water movements due to tidal action.  In rivers or straits they are usually rectilinear, but offshore they are more frequently rotary.

Tidal waters – Any waters that are affected by tidal forces.

Tiddlers, Tom- See Tom Tiddlers.

Tiddley, Tiddly - Very neat and tidy, even perhaps too much so, such as white painted anchor cables.

Tiddly - Slightly drunk, a hopefully temporary state, on the way to later oblivion.

Tiddy oggy - A Cornish pasty, or a seaman from the Devonport area.

Tide – 1. The natural rising and falling of the sea, from the effects of the Moon’s gravitational pull, with a little help from the sun’s, on the water surface added to the effects from the Earth’s rotation.  2. (v) To work a vessel into or out of a river, anchoring whenever the tide is adverse.

Tide Crack - A working crack between the land ice and the sea ice, in Arctic or Antarctic regions, which rises and falls with the tide.

Tide gate – A particularly strong tidal stream caused by a narrow channel.  cf tide race.

Tide gauge – An instrument used to measure the current water level.

Tide it (up) – When the wind is contrary, sailing with the tide and anchoring when the tide is adverse.

Tide making, The – The rising tide.

Tide over - Drop anchor until the tide turns, if headway was impossible to make.  Ships that were making poor headway against the prevailing wind could also not make progress against a flood tide, so they would drop anchor until the tide began to ebb, thus tiding over a temporary difficulty.

Tide race – A strong tidal stream caused by a narrowing of the tideway by a headland or similar constriction.  Also just race.  cf tide gate.

Tide raising forces - NTUS 1601

Tide-rip – Disturbance of the water’s surface caused by the meeting of opposing currents or by the water passing rapidly over an irregular seabed or riverbed.

Tide rode – Said of a vessel at anchor as it swings to the tidal stream with its head pointing into the tide.

Tides, Types of – The gravitational pull from the Moon causes tidal waves on the points of the Earth nearest to and opposite to it and the rotation of the Earth cause these tidal waves to move round the globe.  The sun does a similar job, but less pronounced due to its weaker effect.  All local tides are caused by the combination of lunar and solar tidal waves affected by local land masses.  A tidal wave is not a tsunami.  Local tides include:  diurnal; single-day; semi-diurnal; mixed; spring; neap; equinoctial; tropic and solsticial tides, cf.

Tide tables – The tidal prediction tables giving high water full and change or the Moon’s bearing for the local ports, together with the times and heights of low and high water. The earliest printed tide tables were in the almanac published by the Breton, G Brouscon, in 1546.  The British Admiralty published tide tables for London Bridge from 1834 until 1916.

Tideway – The part of a waterway where the tide runs strongest.

Tiding it over- SMS

Tidley - NTUS 1012

Tidley - Seamen’s slang for very smart.  Taut is also used, but for something more efficient.


Tie - Block

Tie beam

Tie block - See Tye block. NTUS 0502

Tie block- SMS

Tie mate

Tie Mates-(Hair Plaiting)

Tie plates -Narrow plates fixed around hatchways and riveted to the hatch coamings, to strengthen and bind the openings.

Tie- SMS

Tier1. A stack of coils of hemp rope that has been flaked down ready for running. 2. A horizontal layer of the stowed anchor cable in the cable locker.  3. A row of mooring buoys.

Tierce - A third portion.

Tierer- One who stows cables in the Tier*.

Tierers- SMS

Tight - Not leaky.

Tight - NTUS 0310

Tight - Watertight.  Without leaks.

Tight Captain


Tiller - “Starboard” meant ‘port’ and vice versa.

Tiller - NTUS 0309

Tiller - The wooden or iron bar attached to the rudder head, which was moved from side to side by the steering gear and so similarly moved the rudder.

Tiller chain - NTUS 0309

Tiller chain - The chain linking the tiller to the steering wheel barrel.

Tiller girl

Tiller head - NTUS 0309

Tiller head - The farthest end of the tiller from the rudder, that moved most distance when sweeping from side to side.

Tiller rope – A three or four strand tightly laid rope with or without a heart, untarred and made from fine white 25-thread yarn.

Tiller sweep(hgv)


Tiller- SMS

Tilt – The canvas awning over the after end of a boat.

Tilt boat - Large rowing boat with an awning(tilt), used as a passenger boat on the Thames

Timber - in ship construction.

Timber - Usually referred to a frame or rib, but could equally apply to any large piece of wood used

Timber and room - See Room and space.

Timber head - for decoration.

Timber head - The part of a frame that extends above deck level.  Used as a bitt and usually carved

Timber head - The topmost end of frame timbers. projecting above the gunwale.

Timber heads

Timber hitch – A hitch formed around a spar or timber, by taking two turns around the spar, with the end taken back round the standing part and down through the two turns.

Timber hoops on wooldings(ecr)

Timber- Wood used for skeleton of ship. cf Plank; Deal.

Time and arc – 1 day = 24 hours = 360°; 1 hour = 15°; 4 minute = 1°; 1 minute = 15’; 4 seconds = 1’; 1 second = 15”.

Timenoguy – A rope attached to the forestay at one end and nailed to the anchor stock at the bow, to prevent the foresheet from entangling.

Timmynocky- SMS

Timoneer – An old term for the helmsman.

Tin lantern(tge)

Tingle – 1. A temporary external lead and canvas hull patch.  2. A lead covering over a recessed bolt head.

Tipping centre - The position on the fore-and-aft centreline at which a vessel will tip when her trim is altered.

Tireplate - A heavy iron plate fastened under the deck, where it is penetrated by a mast, to prevent distortion of the deck when wedges or chocks are driven in to hold the mast.

Tissot - A strong rope employed between a fishing vessel and the warp to its net, to take some of the strain.

Tizzysnatcher - Paymaster.  Tizzy was cockney slang for a sixpence.

Tjalk - ERR

Tjalk Yacht

Toast to the first two words of Third Psalm - “Lord! How”, after the Glorious 1st of June.

Toasts of the week - 1 Monday:  Our ships at sea;  Tuesday:  Our men;  Wednesday:  Ourselves (since no-one else will think of us);  Thursday:  A bloody war or a sickly season (and quick promotion);  Friday:  A willing foe – and sea room;

Toasts of the week - 2 Saturday:  Sweethearts and wives (may they never meet!);  Sunday:  Absent friends.


Toddy - Rum with hot water and lemon.

Toe the line – Originally used when the ship’s company were mustered for victualling or pay, when each sailor would step forward to a line marked on the deck and then give his name and place of duty on board.  Ashore it has come to denote a recognition of authority and a willingness to obey the rules.

Toeing and heeling - Pitching in heavy seas

Together - NTUS 1101

Toggle – A rapid-release device comprising a pin of wood passed through the eye of a rope or becket.

Toggling the halliard, etc- SMS

Togs- Clothes.

Tom (vb) – To shore up.

Tombola – The geographical term for an island tied to the mainland by a spit.

Tom Bowling – Nickname for an ideal seaman, from a character in Smollett’s Roderick Random and the title of a song by Charles Dibdin (1745-1814).

Tom Cox’s  traverse - NTUS 1012

Tom Cox’s traverse - Antics of a dodger, seeming to work but accomplishing little.

Tom Cox’s Traverse, To Work - To idle.

Tom Tiddlers Ground - Site of profitable ventures.


Tomm - See Tom. NTUS 0202

Tommed up - Supported or shored up.

Tommy Pipes - 1. Nickname for the boatswain.  2. A bosun’s mate.

Tompions- Wooden plugs painted black in gun muzzles to prevent sea entering.

Ton – One naval ton = two butts, each of 126 gallons – so volume not weight.

Tongue - A block of wood pivoted on a pin between the jaws of a gaff, to assist its sliding up and down.  Also called a tumbler.

Tonnage - From 1773, Calculated by the formula – ((L-3/5B)*B*1/2B)/94, where L=Length of keel and B=Max beam

Tonnage - From 1836, 100cu ft of cargo carrying space = one ton

Tonnage - The measure of the cargo-carrying capacity or weight of a ship.

Tonnage deck - NTUS 0311

Tonnage deck - The deck that forms the upper limit to the space measured to asses a vessel’s tonnage.  On a small vessel, with just one or two decks, it is the upper deck and on larger vessels it is the second deck up.

Tonnage, tunnage - A measure of capacity, not weight, based on the number of tuns (barrels) that could be carried.  cf Gross Tonnage, Displacement, etc.

Tons burden - That weight required to bring the ship down from the light water-line to the load water-line.  This depends on the construction of the ship, but can be found by calculating the capacity in cubic feet multiplied by 74 and divided by 2,240 to give the tonnage.  The official net carrying capacity of a vessel.

Tons per inch - The number of tons that increase a vessel’s draught by one inch.

Tons per man

Too far north - Too clever

Took the wind out of his sails – A ship to windward steals the wind of another to leeward, so this expression has come ashore denoting the action of taking someone aback.

Toolong Fleet- Nickname for Napoleon’s Toulon Fleet, implying they were too long in port to be any use – true.

Top - A platform across the head of a lower mast, mounted on the cross-trees and trestle-trees and spreading the upper rigging.

Top armour - Decorated screen around the ‘top’.  In the US this was canvas.

Top block – An iron single block attached to an eye-bolt on one side of a mast cap; used for reeving the top rope pendant when swaying up the topmast.

Top button - 1 The circular wooden cap on an upper masthead, usually having sheaves for signal halyards.  Also called truck.

Top chain - A secondary chain sling used on warships, as a precaution against the usual slings being shot away.

Top cloths - Additional cloths sewn on the after side of a sail, where the tops or cross-trees would chafe, to prevent it.

Top gear - NTUS 1012

Top gear - Seamen’s slang for upper garments.

Top hamper - All rigging and equipment above the main deck, such as spars, top sails and their gear and tackle, and all other gear aloft.

Top Hat With Sleeves On”- Lower deck nickname for Cocked Hat*.

Top Heavy- Drunk

Top his boom - Hurry.

Top lantern - A large lantern at the rear of the top, used for signalling.

Top lining - NTUS 0412

Topman – An elite seaman who was stationed in the foretop or the maintop.

Topmast backstays - The ropes supporting the topmast from abaft, running between the topmast cross-trees and the upper parts of the hull, or the bulwarks.

Top maul - NTUS 1008

Top rim - The circular part of the front of the top;  curved to prevent chafing the topsails.

Top rope - NTUS 0409

Top rope(ecr)

Top rope- SMS

Top strake - NTUS 0902

Top tackle

Top tackle - NTUS 0505

Top Your Boom”- Slang for “Get to work” or “Get moving”.

Top-hamper - All the masts and rigging.

Top-lantern - NTUS 0403


Top-Platform around the head of the lower mast.

Top-rim (Top-brim)- Middle of the foot of a sail.

Top-rope - Rope used to hoist a mast into position.

Top-timber - The topmost component of a frame, situated above the futtock.

Topgallant mast - The mast mounted above the topmast, being the third part of a complete mast.

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

Topgallant Rail - CTC

Topgallant, etc- SMS

Topgallant-mast, -sail- Mast, sail, next above the topmast or topsail. The third stage upwards of masts and sails.

Tophamper- General term for masts, spars and rigging.

Topler - Self-righting lifeboat.


Topman - NTUS 1002

Topmark – The characteristic shape attached to the top of a buoy or beacon to help identify it.

Topmast - The mast mounted above the main mast;  the second part of a complete mast.

Topmast backstays - NTUS 0408

Topmast stay - NTUS 0408 it can be permanently fastened.

Topmast, -sail- The second stage upwards of masts or sails. Later ships sometimes had two Topsails, known as “Upper” and “Lower” Topsails.

Topmast stay - The rope or wire used to support the topmast from forward, forming an eye over the topmast head and with its bottom end attached to the bowsprit or deck, for the foremast and main and mizzen masts respectively.

Topmates - Fellow members of the topmast crew.

Top maul – A heavy mallet stowed in the main or foretops, used when knocking out the topmast fid.

Top lining – The lining at the after part of a sail to prevent chafing against the mast.

Topmen- SMS


Topped his boom - Fled.

Toppers - Full up.

Topping – The tilting of yards by slackening off one lift and hauling on the other.

Topping gaff - ERR

Topping lift(tge)

Topping lift- SMS

Topping lifts - 1 The ropes used to raise and lower, or square up, the yards.  2 The ropes and tackle that support the head of a spar being used as a davit, or similar.

Toprail - A rail mounted on stanchions along the after edge of the top.

Top rope - The rope used to hoist or lower a topmast or topgallant mast, via a sheave in the cap of the lower mast.


Topsail halyard bend – A method of attaching the halyard by passing the rope end three times round the yard and back under the turns, over the outer turns and back under the first turn.

Topsail ketch - The same as a schooner ketch.

Topsail Schooner- Schooner* with a square sail on at least one topmast.

Topsail sheet - The rope extending and holding down the lower corners of a topsail, and led aft.

Topsail sheet and lift - Block

Topsail sheet bitts - NTUS 0313, 0300

Topsail Spilling lines - ERR

Topside line - The sheer line drawn along the top edge of the gunwale.

Topside strake - The line of side plating attached adjacent to and above the main sheer strake.

Topsides - 1. The part of a ship’s side that is above the waterline.  2. Seamen’s term for ‘on deck’.

Topsides”- On deck, aloft.

Top strake – The top plank of a boat that is adjacent to the gunwale.

Top tackle – A tackle comprising double and treble blocks with the fall rove through a leading block, used to hoist topmasts.

Top timber(tge)

Tordesillas - 47°27′W

Tormentor – A large fork used to lift boiled salted meat out of its cooking pot.


Torrid Zones - Between the tropics. BDD

Toshing”- Stealing copper from ships hulls.

“Toss Oars!”

Tot – A half-gill measure of real rum.  If a seaman is asked “Why tot?” the usual reply is “Why not?”

Touch – 1. (v) The first shiver of a sail as its luff starts to catch the wind. 2. The point at which the keel ceases to be straight, at the stem.

Touch and go – To touch the bottom briefly and refloat immediately.

Touch the ground – To graze the bottom.

Tow – To pull another vessel through the water.

Tow, or tew – 1. Any rope used for towing.  2. The beating of hemp in the preliminary stage of rope making.

Towage - CTC

Towardly - Promising.

Towards - destination, not “To”, otherwise the sea will repay the arrogance of confidence badly.

Towards - Superstition demands that one sails “For” or “Towards” a destination, not “To”,

Towed under – What happens to a trawler when it’s snagged net pulls it under.


Towing block – The block used to keep a fishing trawl warp close alongside the trawler whilst in use.

Towing drugg – Two heavy squares of wood attached to a whale harpoon with line, used to tire out the and slow down a whale.

Towing post – A strong post fitted amidships on a trawler, around which the warp of the trawl net was passed.

Tow line – A hawser used by one ship to tow another.

Town ho! – An early call from the lookout when a whale was sighted.  Later ‘there she blows’ became more popular.

Trabaccolo ERR

Track – 1. The path of a vessel over the ground.  2. (v) To take a small vessel in tow from a berth ashore.

Tracklements – Pickles, chutneys, etc.

Trade - In Elizabethan times, a trail, tread or footprints.

Trade, The – The sea area between Brest and Ushant.

Trade Winds

Trafalgar - Atlantic and back. The battle was between the Royal Navy fleet led by Admiral Horatio, Lord Nelson, supported by Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, and the combined French and Spanish fleet led by Vice-Admiral Pierre Charles

Trafalgar - Jean-Baptista Silvestre, Comte de Villeneuve, supported by Admiral Gravina, the latter fleet being superior in numbers but not in experience and quality, as history has revealed.

Trafalgar, The Battle of- The last and greatest battle between two fleets, each under sail, fought off Cape Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, after a long chase by Nelson’s fleet of the French fleet, out of the Mediterranean and across the

Trafalgar - The famous sea battle still celebrated every 21 October.


Trailboard- The timbers between the cheeks* and the knee* of the head*.

Train - In Elizabethan times, a trap for catching wild animals.

Trained Bands- Bands from City of London, from whom many early marine recruits were drawn. See Jollies*.

Train oil - Russian sailors’ repast – refined whale oil.

Train tackle(tge)

Train Tackles

Transferred position line – The line drawn between such time-spaced position lines when a vessel’s position can only be determined by a running fix.


Transom bolt(hgv)

Transom plate - A flat transverse plate at the stern of a vessel, fixed to the frames.

Transport – Ship carrying passengers or troops, with or without victuals.

Transport Agent (P384?) – Officer employed afloat and in uniform by the Navy Board to control and organise merchant ships on charter to the government.  Looked like sea officers but were only naval officers.

Transporting line – A rope used for warping.

Trap - A large mess serving dish.

Traveller – A large light iron ring or cylinder able to move freely along a yard or mast, or along a rope.

Traveller guy - ERR

Traverse – The zigzag route of a tacking vessel.

Travelling Backstay - ERR

Travelling backstays

Traverse Board - A board on which the main 32 compass points are marked, each with eight equally spaced holes radiating out along the rhumb of the point, into which a peg is inserted at each half-hour of a four-hour watch.  Each peg indicated the mean

Traverse Board - Each peg indicated the mean course steered during

Traverse sailing – Moving a vessel in a windward direction by tacking.

Traverse the yards – To brace the yards as far aft as possible.

Traverse wind

Traversing tackle(hgv)

Trawler – A fishing vessel that fishes by dragging a large net called a trawl along the bottom to catch bottom-dwelling fish.

Trawler crew – Skipper, mate, third hand and three boys.

Trawl warp – The rope by which a trawl net is towed along the seabed.

Trayne Oil – Train oil – refined whale oil.

Treasury of the Navy

Treaty – A tender for a contract to supply the Admiralty.

Treble block – A block with three sheaves turning on a single pin, within one shell.

Treble riveting - Rivets placed three abreast in close parallel lines.

Treenails - on bower anchor(tge)

Treenails - See Trenels

Tremisses (Merovingian gold coins, early)

Trenche - A faggot of burning reeds used as a signal.

Trend – 1. The angle between the fore-and-aft line of a ship and her anchor cable when riding at a single anchor.  2. The swelling of an anchor shank, where it joins the arms.

Trenels(Treenails)-Oak or Pitch Pine+11

Trestle tree(ecr)

Trestle-trees - Two heavy timbers resting fore-and-aft on the cheeks at the head of a mast, to support the cross-trees and the mast above.

Triatic stay - The horizontal stay running between mastheads.

Tribunale degli Armamenti – A tribunal set up in 1605 to administer the Maltese Corsairs.

Trice – (v) To haul on any rope passing through a sheave.

Trice up – The order given to haul lines and tackle out of the way, temporarily, while carrying out a particular operation.

Tricing line – Any small rope or tackle used to hoist something higher.

Tricing Up - Punishment

Trick - Seamen’s slang for an ordinary two hour spell on watch, or at the wheel.

Trim - The way a vessel rides in the water, referring to whether she is ‘by the head’ or ‘by the stern’, meaning deeper in the water at the end referred to.

Trim – 1. The general adjustment of sails and yards to improve the vessel’s efficiency.  2. The order given to adjust the angle of a yard to improve efficiency.  3. (v) To arrange the load and crew of a boat or ship to achieve the best ride in the water.

Trim and make sail – The order given to adjust yards and make more sail.

Trim the dish - Seamen’s slang for levelling things up, usually passengers in a boat, to trim it onto a more even keel.

Trimmed the Yards

Trim sails – The order given to adjust the sails to improve efficiency.

Trinity House – The organisation responsible for the maintenance of navigational aids, such as lighthouses, and for the supervision of pilots.  Originally established by Henry VIII to oversee the construction of Royal Navy ships.  Its managing board members are called Elder Brethren and other house members are called Younger Brethren.

Trip – Another term for a leg.

Tripod mast - A three-legged mast, designed to eliminate the need for shrouds and much of the standing rigging.  Their success can be judged by the number not seen today on sailing vessels.

Tripping – Freeing an anchor that has been fouled on the sea bottom, by pulling on the tripping line.

Tripping line – 1. The line fastened to an anchor fluke when about to anchor in rocky ground, used to trip the anchor out of the ground when getting under way.  2. The line fastened to a sea anchor or drogue and used to haul it back on board empty of water.

Tripping palm – A projection on a self-canting anchor’s shank by which the flukes are forced downwards to dig into the ground.

Trip shores

Trip strop

Trip the anchor - The practice of jerking the anchor flukes out of the sea-bed before raising it.


Trisse (ecr)



Tropic tides – Tides that occur every two weeks when the Moon’s declination north or south of the equator has its greatest effect.

Trot 1. A line of mooring buoys or ships at anchor, from which we now get “…and then six came along on the trot.”

2. Desert.

Trotma’s Anchor

Trots, The - Diarrhoea.

Trottero - A messenger.

Trounser – A useless member of the crew.

Truck - 1 The circular wooden cap on an upper masthead, usually having sheaves for signal halyards.  2 Spherical wooden beads threaded onto a gaff jaw rope, to assist the sliding of the gaff.  Also called bull’s eyes.

Truck - The wooden cap at the head of a mast.

Truck Carriage

Trucks - Large bull’s eyes, threaded onto a rope to reduce chafing through friction by rolling, when the rope would otherwise rub against a mast or spar.

Truck wheels - The wheels of a gun carriage.

True colours - The national flags of a vessel, which had to be broken out before firing in anger.  The antonym of false colours.  False colours were allowed to be worn during an approach to an enemy ship, but true colours would have to be broken out once battle was joined.

True north – The direction of the north geographical pole on any meridian.

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

True wind – The actual direction from which the wind blows.  cf relative wind.


Trumpets - Speaking trumpets were used by officers to give orders. Also tubes fixed through ships, for the same purpose

Trundle-head – The capstan head.

Trunnels – Treenails, trenels, etc.


Trunnion bearing(hgv)



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

Truss hoop - An open iron hoop fitting around a mast or spar, whose lugged open ends can be fastened together.  Also clasp hoop.

Truss-parrel - That part of a rope parrel that goes round the yard.

Truss pendant(tge)

Truss tackle

Truss tackle - ERR

Truss yoke

Trusso”- Initiation ceremony for Coopers’* apprentice after 5 years.

Try – (v) Lie-to in heavy weather with reduced sail area, occasionally under bare poles.

Try back – To veer or make a small change of direction.

Try Out His Metal

Try Out- Extract whale oil from Blubber

Try pots – The pair of large polished cauldrons used on a whaleship to render down whale blubber.

Trysail – 1. A gaff-and-boom sail set from an auxiliary mast or rope horse.  2. A fore-and-aft sail set on the mast of a square-rigged ship.  3. A small sail set by a small craft in place of the main sail in stormy weather.

Trysail gaff - The upper spar of a trysail.

Trysail mast - An auxiliary mast or spar placed immediately abaft a mainmast or foremast, to which a trysail is attached.

Try works – A brick-built structure on a whaleship in which the try pots were housed and heated by a fire lit between them, to render whale oil from the blubber.

Tsunami – A large destructive wave caused by an underwater earthquake.

Tub (vb) – Seamen’s slang for puzzling or baffling, usually done deliberately to teach someone a lesson.

Tub - The polished and decorated tot barrel.

Tub parrels

Tuberones - Sharks.

Tubes- Sutton’s

TUBMIN – A more modern acronym for Thumb Up Bum, Mind In Neutral, used to describe someone who is daydreaming whilst carrying out a task.


“Tucked Up” - Hanged

Tuck rail(tge)

Tugs, Tuggs – Wagons used to bring tree trunks from the forest.

Tumble-Home- LOB

Tumbler – 1. A block of wood pivoted on a pin between the jaws of a gaff, to assist its sliding up and down.  Also called a tongue.  2. An iron bar fitted with two curved pins and a lever, used to attach the end of the anchor chain to the ship’s side.  When released by raising the lever the anchor would drop overboard.

Tun- 240 gallon barrel.

Tuphoon – Typhoon

Turk’s Head- Ornamental knot resembling a turban.

Turkey - 1. Marine, from red tunics.  2. In Elizabethan times, turquoise.  3. Fishermen’s name for fish.

Turk’s head – An ornamental knot also worked onto the log-line, resembling a turban.

Turn – 1. The order to turn the sand-glass and start timing.  2. (v) To pass a rope around an object.

Turn a blind eye - Ignore a misdemeanour by pretending not to have seen it, from Nelson at Copenhagen, when he declined to see a signal ordering him to desist from irritating the Danes by bombarding them, which gave us this expression meaning to witness something but ignore it.


Turn and turn about - A period of duty of two watches.

Turnback - White patch on Mid’s* collar. Also Weekly Account*.

Turnbuckle – A bottle-screw.

Turned Over-Crewmen transferred from other ships

Turner’s reefing gear - A patent rolling boom mechanism, used on small boats, to enable a sail to be rolled down single-handed.

Turnery Ware – Wooden plates, bowls, etc., issued by Purser to crew.

Turn in - Go to bed.  At last!

Turn in a Dead Eye”

Turning ability

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

Turning circle – The circular course of a vessel when turning.

Turning in her heel

Turning Over- Captain changing ships

Turning short round – A quick turn in a boat, achieved by one bank of oars being pushed while the other is pulled.

Turn Out-Hands at 07.30 (depending on Watch)

Turn out - Get up again.  Already?

Turn out - Get up, as in the appearance of ones dress.

Turn Over

Turn to - Start work.

Turn turtle – Said of a vessel that has turned right over and remains upside down in the water, looking like a turtle’s shell.

Turn up – To secure a rope to a cleat or other attachment by taking a number of turns around it.

Tuyere (grate)(tge)


Twelve tide - The twelve days of Christmas.

Twice-laid stuff – The term for a rope formed from old rope that has been unlaid and laid up again.

Twiddling line – A small line made fast at one end and attached to a spoke of the wheel, or to the yoke-lines of a small boat rudder, used to ease the helmsman’s arm when steering.

Twig- To realise

Twilight – The period of reduced daylight just after sunset and before sunrise, when star sights and star lunar distances are possible, if the sea horizon is to be referred to.

Twine – Thin line made up from good quality long stranded hemp.

Two and one - The original grog, from its comprising two parts of water to one of the essential rum.

Two Blocks – To reach the limit of ones endurance or patience. See Chock-a-block or block and block.

Two Legged Table”- A tray on lap aboard

Two master & smaller rigs: Snow, Brig, Blander, Ketch, Howker, schooner (fore & aft and  topsail), lugger, dogger, Galliot, Dutch galeas, Ketch-yacht, Yacht, Dutch state or pleasure yacht, Sloop (topsail and fore & aft), Lighter hoy ERR

Two-decker- LOB

Two-Masted Ship

Two-six – An expression used as a command to crew members to lift a heavy object in unison.  This originally came from the gun’s crews, where No.2 and No.6 were the gun crew members who would heave on the side tackles to run the gun out again after loading.

Two watches - The duty of four hours on and four hours off, continuously (except for the dog watches).  Also used to refer to someone who was drunk, by saying ‘His eyes are in two watches’.

Two water - The same as ‘Two and one’.

Tye - The length of heavy rope or chain by which a yard is hoisted.  Sometimes lumped in nominally with the halyard.

Tye, tie block – A block with two small blocks double-strapped underneath and secured to the topsail yard by means of rose lashings.

Tye channels, to mast caps(ecr)

Tye-wig - Undress wig with hair and curls tied back to form a queue.

Types of ship rig: Cat, Bark, Kray, Skerry boat, Dutch herring-bus, Fly boat, Jackass bark, Jigger bark, Hermaphrodite bark ERR




UA - Under Age, as entered in the Victualling Book, to show that the crewman was too young to draw a tot.

Ullage- The residue of grog at the major issuing ceremony to the Rum Bosuns.

Unballast – To empty the ballast from a ship’s holds.

Unbend – 1. To unreeve and remove sails.  2. The order given to unfasten parts of the rigging to remove unwanted sails, etc.

Unbending headsails- SMS

Unbending lower sails- SMS

Unbending square sails- SMS

Unbitt – 1. (v) To remove the turns of cable from the bitts. Hence, the order given to release the anchor cable from the bitts.

Uncleanness-Not using Heads

Uncork - Decode a signal.

Under bare poles – No sails set.

Under canvas – Sailing, literally.

Under foot – Said of the anchor cable when the ship has moved forward at anchor and rides with her head over the anchor.

Undergird, Under-gird – To pass a hawser or chain under a vessel’s hull and make it tight across the deck, to hold the hull from opening up too much in an emergency.  Also frap.

Undermanned – Said of a vessel without a full complement.

Underrun – The evolution of checking a submerged rope for damage or wear by hauling it over the bow of a boat and moving forward whilst letting the rope pass over the stern.

Under sail – Sailing, literally.

Under-strappers - Underlings

“Under Strapper Official”

Under the mast - Coins were placed under the mast for good luck, safe or fast voyage, wealth etc BDD

Undertow – The compensatory bottom flow away from shore after onshore waves or currents raise sea level.

Under way - No longer moored.  Getting under way is making a start.  cf Making way.

Underwater body - The part of a ship’s body that is below the water-line at any given draught.

Under way – In motion.

Undress - Ordinary uniform

Unfurl – Release a furled sail in order to reset it.

Unhook - Remove an article that deserves to spend its existence with the unhooker, as distinct from the rightful owner, in the judgement of the unhooker.  Or, steal.

Uniform- First regular uniform in 1748 for officers only.

Union Flag

Union Jack - NTUS 1301

Union Jack- Name of Union Flag only when worn at a Jackstaff.

Union purchase – A pair of fixed derricks being used together.  One, called the inboard derrick is located over the hatch and the other, the outboard derrick is located outboard and the load is transferred from one derrick to the other.

Universal time – The mean time on the meridian of Greenwich.  Also Greenwich mean time.

Unmoor – To release a vessel from her moorings.  When a vessel is secured at two anchors, to weigh the first of them.

Unreeve – (v) To remove a rope from a sheave or tackle.

Unrig - To dismantle the standing and running rigging.

Unseaworthy – Said of a ship that was found wanting in her condition, gear or crew or in the way her cargo had been stowed.

Unship - To remove something from its proper place to which it was fixed.

Unstable equilibrium - The state of a vessel that is liable to capsize when held over, because of being insufficiently stable.

Up all hammocks - Call to crew off watch to stow their hammocks and report for duty.

Up and down – 1. Said of an anchor cable when the ship’s forefoot is over the anchor and the cable is vertical. Hence, the warning called to those working the capstan, and those controlling the vessel, when the anchor cable is perpendicular and the anchor about to break ground.

Uphroe – An oblong block without sheaves, usually made of ash, with regularly spaced holes through it; used to separate rope strands or to form the crowfoot in the suspension of an awning.  Also euphroe, euvro.

Up oars – The order given to a boat’s crew to take hold of the oars and raise them to the vertical.

Uppers, The – Upper decks.

Up Spirits! - The pipe signal to collect the tot.  Not often misheard.

Upstream – On the side from which a stream is setting.

Up the creek - Derived from the 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.

Up together The order to keep your eyes in the boat ensures that you don’t thump the man immediatley astern of you in the back as he pulls through.

Up top - On deck.

Up wind - See To windward. NTUS 1503

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



Uphroe - See Euphroe. NTUS 0501

Uphroes- Large Norwegian spars

Upon the Account” - Men entering into piracy BDD

Upper brace men- SMS

Upper counter timber

Upper Deck

Upper deck - The highest uninterrupted deck.

Upper deck - The officers.

Upperdeck Netting

Upper lifts- SMS

Upper sheer strake - NTUS 0317

Upper sheer strake - The line of side plating attached adjacent to and above the topside strake.

Upper studdingsail, downhaul- SMS

Upper topsails, reefing- SMS

Upper/Lower Topsail

Upper wale - NTUS 0101

Upper Works – 1. The parts of a ship’s superstructure as distinct from her hull.  2. All parts of a vessel properly above the water-line.  cf Works.

Upper Yardie - A quickly promoted officer, from the fact that upper yardsmen were often very young.

Upright - The state of a ship when she is heeling neither to left nor right.

Upstream - NTUS 1503



Utter - 1. Outer.  2. To offer for sale.

Utterance - A sale.

Vail, to - Go downstream with the tide.

Vailing- SMS



Van, Vanguard, Vanward – 1. The vessels at the head of a moving fleet or convoy.  2. The leading squadron, or first of three divisions, of a line of battle ships.

Vane - A weather cock, or wind direction indicator, usually rigged at the top of a mast.

Vangs - The ropes leading down and outwards from the end of a gaff, to a vessel’s sides, and used to steady the gaff when under sail.  They were used to keep the gaff amidships when it was not in use.

Variable wind – The converse of a steady wind.  Also erratic wind.

Variables - NTUS 1701

Variation - The difference between true and magnetic north, which varies as the ship moves across the surface of the earth.

Variation chart - NTUS 1905

Variation compass - NTUS 1906

Vasco - The Navigating Officer, from Vasco da Gama.

Vast – Avast.  Stop.

Vast heaving - Seamen’s slang for ‘Stop pulling my leg’.

Veer – (v) 1. To slacken the cable and pay it out.  2. To wear.

Veer and haul – 1. A method of increasing the tension in a rope by alternately and rhythmically easing and hauling on it. 2. A pipe call comprising the two calls, ‘walk back’ and ‘heave round the capstan’.

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

Veerer- One who veers.

Veering – The wind altering direction clockwise.

Veering away – (v) Turning a cable or rope round the bitts to slacking it off slowly.  Also see bitt (v).

Vega - NTUS 0811

Vegetable store(tge)

Velical point- SMS

Vellum portolan - Early charts of the Mediterranean area, used since 12c.

Vendavales - NTUS 1703

Vent trunk


Ventilated mastheads - Steel masts sometimes had caps with gaps under them, to permit them to ‘breath’.

Ventilator - CTC

Ventilator- Hales’ and Sutton’s. Samuel Sutton used pipes and a furnace to extract foul air- in general use in 18C. Rev Stephen Hales developed a rival method using fans operated by windmills.

Venture - The carrying of a small private cargo by a seaman BDD

Vertical circle – The great circle through the zenith and the nadir, perpendicular to the horizon.

Vertical scarphs

Very good, sir! - The expected response to an order.

Very Large Crude Carriers- SMS

Very well dyce – A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel to continue sailing in the present direction when sailing close-hauled.  Also ‘very well thus’, or ‘thus’, or ‘keep her so’.

Very well thus – A helm order given when the conner wanted the vessel to continue sailing in the present direction when sailing close-hauled.  Also ‘thus’, or ‘very well dyce’, or ‘keep her so’.

Vice Admiral-Admiral of the White

Victory- Admiral Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. A First Rate launched on 7 May 1765, the fifth vessel to have this name. Preserved as a museum ship in the oldest dry dock in the world at Portsmouth

Victualler - 1. Victualling contractor.  2. Ship delivering victuals.

Victualler – Ship carrying victuals to fleet.


Victualling Board - dealing with victualling yards and store at the dockyard ports.

Victuals, victualling – (pronounced “vittles” and “vittling”) food and drink and the supplying of same.

Vigia – A suspected navigational danger that has been reported but not verified.

Viking Ship, Longship

Vinegar- Hot V sprinkled on decks, to remove smells after battle.

Vinnen rig - A five-masted schooner with the first two masts square-rigged and the others fore-and-aft-rigged.

Vinnen schooners- SMS

Vino collapso - Strong local wine.

Viol block – A large double-scored block used to heave up the anchor.  Also voyal block.

Viol messenger(tge)

Vicious Circle - See Sweat – BDD

Vliete - Dutch three-masted freight ship from 15c.

Volume of displacement - The volume of water displaced by a vessel.

Voluntary stranding – The intentional grounding of a vessel to save the crew or the cargo, or the vessel itself.


Volunteers-per-order - Volunteers assigned to a ship by The Admiralty.

Volvelle - An early form of mechanical calculator that could be used to enable a pilot to dial a port’s establishment and the age of the Moon and read off the time of high water.

Votive Ship- Model ships which were presented to churches as gifts.

Voyage - A ship’s journey from place of departure to destination.

Voyal, voyol – A single purchase on a heavy messenger, used to help the capstan weigh anchor, when needed.

Voyal block – A large double-scored block used to heave up the anchor.  Also viol block.

Vulgar establishment – The tidal prediction term meaning the lunitidal interval at a given port on days of full and change.  Also establishment of the port, or high water full and change.

Wad hook(tge)


Waft - 1. Convoy.  2. To wave or beckon as a signal.

Waft, wafter - Convoy words to be looked up.

Waggoner - See Sea-atlas. NTUS 1804

Waggoners - The English name for The Mariner’s Mirror, by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer.

Waif- Marker on caught whale left to drift before bringing to Whaler

Waif-pole – A tall pole thrust into a whale that has been killed to mark it to show who has harpooned it.

Waist - That part of a ship between the quarterdeck and the forecastle.

Waist anchor – Another name for the sheet anchor, from its customary location when not in use.

Waist block – A block located amidships, in the waist.

Waist cloth - Canvas coverings to the hammock netting in the waist.

Waisters – Those employed in the ship’s waist, where the lubbers were gathered who were only good for pulling on a rope, and not always for that.

Waist pipe - Reinforced openings in a ship’s midships bulwarks, through which the hawser passed when she was moored at a quay.

Waist-now called Well

Waistcloth- Hung on ship as decoration between quarterdeck and forecastle.

Wake – The turbulent water astern of a moving vessel.

Wake current – The eddies caused by water flowing back into the wake.

Wake up - A vessel beginning to stir after a calm

Wake- SMS

Wakey, wakey! - The bosun’s first call of the day.

Wale knot – A wall knot.

Wales - Strong thick planks extending throughout the length of a vessel to strengthen the hull and give it shape and to reinforce the decks.  See main-wales and channel-wales.

Walk away – The order given to the hands working a rope to haul on it by walking away whilst holding it.

Walk back – 1. The order given to the hands working a tackle to slowly release it by walking back towards the pulley whilst holding onto the fall.  2. A pipe call meaning: Slowly release a tackle by walking towards the pulley.

Walking back the capstan- SMS

Walk Spanish - Desert.

Wall knot, or wale knot – A knob knot made from a rope’s own three strands interwoven into any of a number of patterns.

Wall sided - Said of a ship whose sides are vertical, with no tumble home.

Wall sided- SMS

“Wally de Cham”

Walt sided - Unbalanced

Wane cloud - NTUS 1705

Want - A mole.

Wapping Landlord- Crimp

Ward robe - A strongroom used to hold valuables seized from captured enemy ship’s.  When empty, it was sometimes used as the lieutenants’ mess room.

Wardroom - All the officers, except the captain, and the mess room in which they dine.

Wardroom Cooks

Warm the bell - Heat the hour glass to expand the neck and make the sand flow faster, thereby shortening the watch.

Warp – 1. (v) To move a vessel by hauling on a warp or transporting line attached to a distant mooring point.  This would often be done when adverse winds prevented a sailing vessel from leaving harbour under sail, when she would be warped out to a position where she could tack away.  2. The rope or chain used to warp a vessel.  3. That part of a shroud between the mast-head and the dead-eye.  4. The rope from which a trawl net trailed. An experienced fisherman would ‘feel the warp’ and judge whether or not the net was working properly, or when it could be brought in.

Warping Barrel - on windlass

Warping block – A carefully made block shaped like a bellows and with the front cheek cut away to give access to the sheave; used by ropemakers to warp off yarn into hauls.

Warping Capstan.

Warping chock – A secure point on shore to which a warp can be attached.

Warping Out

Warping the block - NTUS 0502

Warrant officer – In the Royal Navy, the senior rank held by a non-commissioned officer.  The warrant was issued by the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain.

Warrope - A warp

Warwick screw – A type of bottle screw with the cover cut away to allow locking blocks to be placed on the square ends of the screws.

Wash board - See Wash strake. NTUS 0902

Wash cant(tge)

Wash out - NTUS 1012

Wash plates - Plates fixed vertically in the bilges, between the floors, to stop or limit the wash of water in the bilges when the vessel rolls.

Wash port - A scupper.

Wash strake - NTUS 0902



Washing down – Shipping heavy seas that wash out through the scuppers and wash ports.

Wash strake, or wash board – 1. The top plank on a boat’s side.  2. A removable plank that can be fitted when necessary to increase a boat’s freeboard.

Waste of rations - Said of someone who might otherwise be called a waste of space.

Watch - A period of duty, during which those enduring it were expected to watch out for and ward off danger.

Watch and Watch – To be on watch every other watch, day and night, serving duties four hours on and four hours off.  A common punishment for officers.

Watch Below

Watch below - NTUS 1012

Watch bill – The list of crewmembers in a particular watch, in which each man’s duties and station are detailed.

Watch buoy - NTUS 1803

Watch doggy - A warship on escort duty.

Watches, The – Middle (also Graveyard*): 0001-0400; Morning: 0400-0800; Forenoon: 0800-1200; Afternoon: 1200-1600; First Dog: 1600-1800; Last Dog 1800-2000; First Middle: 2000-0000.  A bell rung every half-hour told the time, except during Silent Hours*.

Watchet - Light blue, sky blue.  Purser’s jacket for boy servants.

Watching - Something afloat, but only just visible, is said to be watching.

Watching the buoy- SMS

Watch keeper - Anyone standing a watch.

Watch machine - Chronometer.

Watch on stop on - Serve a second duty without relief.

Watch tackle – A heavy tackle comprising a hooked single block and a double block with a selvagee tail.

Watch there watch – The warning call that the deep-sea lead line is about to run out.

Watchmen of the Gangway- Nightwatchmen at the Gangway*, who called challenges* to incoming boats

Water – (v) To take on fresh supplies water.

Water anchor – A sea anchor or drogue.

Water bewitched and tea begrudged - NTUS 1012

Water-borne - Said of a vessel that has just refloated after being grounded or in dry-dock.

Water casks- SMS

Water-Gate- Entrance to a Wet-Dock

Water Guard – Inshore Customs squad formed 1809.

Water hole, in sail(tge)

Water-laid – Another name for a rope that has been laid left-handed.

Water-line - The horizontal line along a ship’s side, marked by the surface of the water.  This line’s height on a ship’s side would vary depending on the loading.

Waterline plane- SMS

Waterlogged – 1. So filled with water as to be nearly sinking.  2. Unable to force in a drop more alcohol, try as one might.  Also water wedged.

Waterplane - The imaginary section through a ship’s hull drawn at the water-line, so representing her outline in the water at any given draught.

Water sail – A small fair-weather sail occasionally set under the lower studding sails or the driver boom.  Also save-all.

Water-Sky- In Pack Ice*, indication of open water by sky appearance.

Water splice - NTUS 0512

Water spout - NTUS 0203

Water store - NTUS 0300

Water-way - A gutter along each side of a deck, in which water could run easily to the scuppers.

Waterway plank(hgv)

Water whip- SMS

Wave Line Theory- SMS

Waveson - Goods or cargo left floating on the surface after a ship has sunk.

Wax - To grow.


Way - The vessel’s motion through the water.

Way aloft – Away aloft.

Way enough – toss and boat oars – The order given to a boat’s crew to stop rowing, when the coxswain judges that enough headway remains to permit the boat to reach its landing point, and then to raise their oars to the vertical and lay them in the boat.  At this order, any fenders are laid out and lines readied for throwing.

Ways of the Navy - The customs and practices of the Navy.

Weak-See Crank

Wear – 1. (v) To change tack by running off before the wind and sailing round onto the other tack by trimming sails.  2. To fly a particular flag.  A ship wears her suit of flags. Whereas an Admiral flies his flag, a ship wears it.

Wearing a flag - Said of a ship serving under an Admiral.

Weather – (v) To sail clear to windward of a headland or similar hazard.

Weather anchor – The anchor on the weather bow of a ship coming to anchor.

Weather beam- SMS

Weather bitt – An extra turn of cable around the windlass, as a precaution in heavy weather.

Weather board – The side of a vessel from where the wind blows.  Also weather side.

Weather bound – Unable to leave harbour due to heavy weather.

Weather bow - The bow on the windward side of a vessel.

Weather braces- SMS

Weather clew- SMS

Weather cloth – A canvas protective cloth rigged to shelter the watchman from the weather.

Weather coil- SMS

Weather deck - An open deck that is unprotected against the effects of weather or breaking seas.

Weather Division- Of fleet.

Weather eye – To watch something carefully for change or deterioration, as a seaman would watch the weather.

Weather gage – The position to the windward of another vessel.  The preferred position by an aggressive enemy, from where they could choose when or whether to attack.

Weather halliards- SMS

Weather helm – The extent by which the helm has to be held to windward to keep the vessel from coming up into the wind.  A ship with a tendency to gripe is said to have a Weather Helm and was considered desirable.

Weather helmsman, Helmsman who could see the compass, sails, etc.

Weather Jigger Rigging

Weather leech- SMS

Weather Lift- Rope from mast to suspend the yardarm end, on the weather side.

Weather lurch – A sudden roll to windward.

Weather quarter – 1. The part of a ship abaft the beam.  2. The area of the sea off the ship’s quarter.

Weather Rail

Weather reef tackle- SMS

Weather ropes – Tarred ropes.

Weather side – The side of a vessel from where the wind blows.  Also weather board.

Weather, to be under – When a crewman stood watch on the weather side of the ship, where its worst would hit him, he was said to be under the weather.

Weather tide – A tide flowing against the wind.

Weather wheel rope- SMS

Weather working days – Days when the weather allows the cargo to be loaded or unloaded without being ruined or delayed.

Weather-shore - The shore lying to the windward side of a vessel.


Weatherly- SMS

Web frame - A heavy frame, fixed every fourth or fifth frame, formed of plates and bars.

Web sheave – An iron sheave with four spokes joined by a thin web and usually with a brass-coaked pin-hole.

Wedding Garland- A garland hoisted at the masthead, comprising two loops of evergreen at right angles to each other, to signify ship was out of routine for 2 to 3 days, on return to port, when an officer or seaman was getting married, from the old signal that women were welcome on board, to prevent the pressed men trotting.

Weeding – Removing any unnecessary lines, stops, etc., from the rigging.

Weekly Accounts- White patch on Midshipmen’s’ coat collar.

Weep (vb) – To leak very slowly.

Weep - When a ship’s nails start to weep she is about to complain

Weeping butts – Butt joints that are opening up and letting in water.

Weevil – The frequent first partaker of ship’s biscuit, being a small red beetle that would infest them in the hold, along with other stored foods.

Weigh – (v) To lift the anchor out of the ground by its cable.

Weigh off - NTUS 1012

Weigh Up- To raise a sunken ship by passing a line under her at low tide, fastened to lighters, which lift her at high tide.

Weigh- Raise, see Weigh Up

Weighing anchor- SMS

Well - 1. The space in a vessel’s bottom where water gathers, before being pumped out.  2. In a fishing vessel, a space filled with sea-water and used to contain live fish.

Well deck - Those parts of an upper deck that have fore and aft bulkheads supporting higher decks.

Well found - Said of a good ship that was well-stocked with furniture, equipment and all necessary stores for a voyage.


Wending – An early expression for going about from one tack to another.

Wesley hunters – Dockside scroungers on the lookout for fishermen with a good payout, from whom they can profit.  Named from John Wesley, who was always keen to raise money.

West country shipping - NTUS 0512

West Indiamen

Westerlies - NTUS 1701

Western Approaches

Western planting - Elizabethan proposals for colonies in North America.

Western Squadron

Wet - 1. Said of a vessel that ship’s water too easily.  2. Seamen’s name for a drink, usually an alcoholic one (as if they would ever recognise any other sort).  3. To wet a stripe or a swab was to celebrate promotion with alcohol.

Wet as a messdeck scrubber - Not much use.  Sometimes simply ‘wet as a scrubber’.

Wet Christmas- Sometimes lethal result of Grog* saving.

Wet compass - See Liquid compass. NTUS 1906

Wet dock - NTUS 2003


Wetted surface - The external parts of a ship’s hull that are under water when she floats.

Wet provisions- SMS

Wet the stripe, or swab - Toast the promotion signified by the new epaulette worn.

Whack - A fair share.

Whaleback - Said of a ship with a very steeply cambered deck.

Whaleboat, whaler, whaling boat – A light lithe clinker-built double-ended boat of between 20 and 30 feet long, originally used by whalers, who would use it with oars and often fitted with an auxiliary sail as they were often towed far from their mother ship by a harpooned whale making a run.  Being light and fast they became popular on other ships, where they would be called whalers.

Whale lance – A light steel lance attached to a ten-foot wooden shaft, used to kill a whale after it had been harpooned.

Whale-line – The pliable line attached to the whaler’s harpoon, originally of hemp cured with tar smoke but later of manilla, of about 300 fathoms.

Whalemen Officers- Captain, 1st, 2nd, 3rd Mates

Whaler - A double-ended rowing boat.  A whaleboat.

Whaleship – A tough dirty broad-beamed flush-decked square-rigged ship of between 200 and 300 tons whose trade it was to catch and render whales.

Whale spade, whaling spade – The sharp spade-like tool used to loosen the blubber from a whale’s carcass so that the blanket-pieces could be stripped off.

Whange- Chinese Cane

Wharf - NTUS 2003

Wharfinger – 1. The owner of a wharf.  2. A shipowner’s representative responsible for overseeing the loading and unloading of a vessels’ cargo.

Wheel - The steering wheel.

Wheel chains - NTUS 0309

Wheel chains - See steering chains.

Wheel house - An enclosure built around the steering wheel, to protect the helmsman from the weather and the binnacle.

Wheel house - NTUS 0312

Wheelman – A seaman steering a vessel.  In a merchant ship the helmsman was usually a quartermaster.  Also steersman or helmsman.

Wheel ropes - NTUS 0309

Wheel ropes - See tiller ropes.

Wheel- SMS

Whelps – 1. Projections around the barrel of the capstan or windlass to provide grip to the cable or messenger.  2. The shapings in the groove of a roller used to grip the links of a chain.

Where away? – The call to a lookout who has just announced that he has spotted something, to enquire its direction.

“Wherever you find a fathom of water, there you will find the British”, said Napoleon.



Whip - A simple single block tackle.

Whip – A small tackle comprising a rope rove through a fixed block or one fixed and one movable block.

Whip and runner - A double whip purchase.

Whip and Tickle - Punishment in which a sailor was fastened with hands and legs extended to Blackstakes, Jeers or a Capstan, flogged with the Cat, then doused with brine from the salt beef tub

Whipper In – Of Convoys*.

Whipping - Yarn lashed around a ropes end to prevent fraying.

‘Whip, Mr’ - One of many nicknames for Admiral Sir William Cornwallis, from his love of driving a coach and horses.

Whip-rigged - tye

Whipstaff - An early form of steering device comprising a vertical lever mechanism that enabled a helmsman to stand on the upper deck and move the tiller by passing through to the deck below.

Whisker booms – 1. The hinged iron bars or spars at ends of catheads extending from the cat-heads, on both sides of the bow, used to spread the jib-boom rigging and to hold it clear of the anchor gear.  2. Any light spar rigged with one end round the mast and a spike at the other end, to take the clew of a sail.  Also, just whiskers.


Whiskers - See Whisker boom. NTUS 0407

Whistle buoy, bell buoy, gong buoy – NTUS 1803

Whistle for a wind - When becalmed it was common knowledge that one must whistle loudly and stick a knife in the mainmast, to make the wind blow.

Whistle up - Call someone or make something quickly.

Whistle up a wind –To indulge in vain hopes, from seamen’s superstition that they could whistle and a wind would arise, or strengthen.  From this it can be seen why whistling was encouraged in a calm and discouraged in a storm.  In  fact whistling is banned at sea in case of confusion with the bosun’s calls.

Whistling Mess Cooks

Whistling psalms to the taffrail - NTUS 1012

White caps - See White horse. NTUS 1705

White Cotton Canvas- A mark of US ships

White horse - NTUS 1705

White Mice+84

White rat - A messdeck informer.

White rope – Untarred rope.  Untarred rope could become tarred rope when used.

White Squall- Dry Waterspout

White Stuff - Used to protect ship’s hulls before coppering.

White-ash weather - Whaler speak for a calm, needing whaleboats to be rowed (white-ash oars).

White-Horse- Part of whale flesh

“Who Shall Have This?”

Whole topsail breeze- SMS

Whole water - Deep water

Wholesome – Able to lie-to comfortably in heavy weather and to ride well at anchor.

Wide berth – Ample clearance.

Widow’s Men- Dead men who were allowed on the ships’ muster* books at the rate of 2 per 100, to pay for relief of officers’ widows.

Widow’s walk - Rooftop platform on a whaler captain’s house, from which their wives watched for their return.

“Wig Wag”- To use the Admiralty’s telegraph system*.


Will & Power

Williwaw - NTUS 1703

Williwaws -Sudden winds off the South American mountainous coast, particularly in the Magellan Straits.

Willy-willies - NTUS 1704

Win - Obtain illicit ownership.

Winch – A horizontal revolving barrel used to give purchase to a tackle to hoist loads.

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


Wind backing – The wind altering direction anti-clockwise.

Wind current – A current caused by the wind.

Windfall – This is the term for a wind blowing off a lee shore, against the general direction of the wind.  To catch a windfall could gain a vessel more leeway, hence the expression ashore for a bit of luck.

Wind gall – A luminous halo round the edge of a cloud, taken as a sign of rain to windward.

Wind hauling – The wind altering direction clockwise.  Also wind veering.

Winding – Turning a vessel 180°, or end-to-end, in dock.

Winding tackle – A heavy tackle comprising a fixed treble block and a running double block.

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


Windlass – A heavy lifting mechanism used to raise the anchor, similar to a horizontal capstan suspended between knight-heads and operated by handspikes.  First used in 12c.

Windlass bitts – The upright timbers supporting the shaft of a windlass.  Also carrick bitts and carrick heads.

Wind One Point Free

Wind rode – Said of a vessel at anchor as it swings to the wind with its head pointing into the wind.

Wind-rose - The eight point marking of wind direction on a chart, superseded by the compass rose. The eight winds of the ancient wind-rose, used to approximately determine direction before the compass: Tramontana(N), Greco(NE), Levanter(E), Syroco(SE), Mezzodi(S), Garbio(SW), Pomente(W), Maestro(SW)

Wind rudder - A small sail rigged on the rudder to assist with steering.  These were particularly useful on flat-bottomed boats.

Winds - See Loxodromes. NTUS 1807

Windsail – An open-ended canvas funnel rigged to catch the wind and convey fresh air to the lower decks.

Wind’s eye – The direction from which the wind is blowing.  Directly to windward.  Also eye of the wind.

Wind taut – Said of a vessel at anchor, when the wind is so strong as to make her strain at her cable and to list.

Wind veering – The wind altering direction clockwise.  Also wind hauling.

Windward - 1. Direction from which the wind is blowing at sea. Opposite of leeward.  2. Towards the wind, or the side from which the wind is blowing.  3. To get to windward of someone was to gain the advantage, from the obvious seagoing similarity.

Windward service- SMS

Wing and wing – The arrangement of a fore-and-aft rigged ship with sails set alternately to port and starboard.  Also goose-winged.

Wings – 1. Clear space along the outsides the orlop deck, or between decks, for access by the carpenter and his crew to plug holes near the waterline of a ship.  2. The tapered side pockets in the main body of a trawl net, so contrived that the fish were moved further into the net.

Wing space

Wing stopper- SMS

Wing transom - Effectively, the foundation piece of the counter and stern, formed by a heavy transom fixed across the stern post and sitting on the head of the inner-post.

Wing transom - NTUS 0308

Winger - NTUS 1012

Wingers- SMS

Winging out weights- SMS


Wings - NTUS 1403


Wing sail

Winter pole- SMS

Wipe off the wind- SMS

Wiring clamp – The wooden fitting on a boat’s rising or stringer onto which the thwarts are fixed.

“Wise Rules”

Withe - See Boom iron. NTUS 0407

Within Soundings

Withy - Early rope material?


Wooldings - Rope bindings holding the front-fish and fillings of a mast in place, invariably thirteen turns of rope, nailed to wooding nails, which had leather washers under their heads.

Wolf’s throat- SMS

Wood - Mad.

Wood Collar-Punishment for swearing

Wood’s detaching apparatus- SMS

Wooden horse – The structure supporting the blubber mincing machine on a whaleship.

Wooden walls - Sailing warships, which were thought to be the mobile fortification defending England from attack by furriners.

Woold (vb) – NTUS 0512

Woolder - NTUS 0512



Woollen Screen

Work – (v) Of a ship’s timbers, to move against each other from the various movements in heavy seas, and to gradually loosen.

Worked - Ships, also Labours Worked up a river

Working - Becoming loose.

Working  jib - Working foresail. NTUS 0411

Working anchor- SMS

Working foresail, jib – A medium sized jib used in normal weather.  cf storm jib, balloon jib.

Working Off

Working strain – An incorrect expression sometimes used for the maximum load that a rope can bear.  The correct term is ‘breaking strain’.

Working to windward- SMS

Working up – 1. The action of bringing a ship and her crew up to peak efficiency after a dormant period for refit or repair.  2. Assigning dirty disagreeable duties to novices, or to a seaman to whom a grudge was borne

Working up a crew - Modern phrase for reaching a state of discipline.

Works - The parts of a ship’s structure, or hull, as distinct from her superstructure.  cf Upper Works.

Work the tide - A vessel could make headway against light winds by drifting along with the tide until slack water and then anchoring until the next tide going in the desired direction.

Work Tom Cox’s Traverse – Three turns round the longboat and a pull at the scuttlebutt – work deliberately slowly as through having been humbugged.

Work to windward – 1. To beat or tack.  2. To get under way in poor weather.

Worm – 1. (v) To lay spunyarn along the cantlines of a rope to add strength and to make the rope smooth and waterproof before serving or parcelling.  2. A thin spunyarn laid along the cantlines of a rope to help make it waterproof.  3. In Elizabethan times, snake, dragon, serpent.

Worming – The winding of spun yarn in a long contour of rope to get a level surface for parcelling. “Worm and parcel with the lay,/ Turn and serve the other way”

Worried up

Wort – The decoction of malt used to brew beer was incorrectly considered to prevent or cure scurvy in the 18thC.

Wounded Dog Theory – First put forward in 1687.  Based on a quack cure called powder of sympathy, which was reputed to heal at a distance if applied to an article from the sick person.  In dipping that article into the powder, it was claimed that the patient

Wreck - A vessel damaged by the weather or the shore to such an extent as to be a total loss.

Wreck buoy - NTUS 1803

Wreck commission – A British court convened to investigate the circumstances of a shipping loss and the consequent casualties.

Wreck-marking buoy - NTUS 1803

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

Wring - To distort through strain and stress.

Wring bolt - A bolt used during ship construction, to bend a strake in place and hold it secure until

Wring staff - A wooden spike used in fixing wring bolts.


Wrinkle – A crease in a set sail or a bulge in a furled sail.

Wrist-watch and motor-bike navy - NTUS 1012

Writer of the First Lieutenant


Wrung - The expression applied to a mast that has been strained out of its natural shape and position by badly set up rigging.

Wulley- A squall between cliffs

usually measured one inch in diameter for each 100 feet of the vessel’s length.  They would swell when they got wet, thereby making the fixing more secure when the vessel was afloat.

broadest part to the gunwale.

Xebec - Larger tartane type.  Usually a corsair.  Changed between square and lateen rig to suit weather conditions.

Xebec - The only English xebec was “Minorca”, Port Mahon 1778, 96’9″ x 30’6″, 388 tons

y – Medieval English had the ‘y’ shaped consonant called Thorn, which was pronounced “th”; e.g. ‘ye’ was pronounced, and has become, “the” and likewise ‘yt’ has become “that”, etc.  This should not be confused with Old English, in which the definite article was ‘se’, ‘sēo’, etc.

Yacht - Originally a fast pursuit warship, usually sloop- or cutter-rigged.  Small craft, originally a single-mast sprit rig, known as a half-sprit.  In English navies, the term referred to up to sixth rate fast auxiliary or pleasure boats.

Yacht Establishment - The Corporation of Trinity House.

Yacht- Term derived from the Dutch word ‘jaghtschip’ meaning pursuit ship and applied to any light vessel used for pleasure

Yankee fashion - Brutally.

Yankee jib topsail – A racing jib topsail attached to the topmast stay.

Yard – 1. A large spar mounted horizontally across a mast to carry sails.  If mounted diagonally, and in a fore-and-aft direction, it is known as a lateen yard.  2. A whale’s private part.

Yard and stay – Another name for a union tackle.

Yardarm, Yard-arm - The outer end of a yard or spar, between the tip and the lift, from where flags and felons would be dangled.

Yard arm and yard arm – The term for the situation of two square-rigged vessels sailing so close alongside one another that their yard arms are almost touching.

Yardarm Furler – A sailor of limited ability.

Yardarm horse- SMS

Yard hoop(ecr)

Yard-arm irons - Metal fixtures on the ends of yards, with rings to hold the studding-sail booms.

Yardmen- SMS

Yard quarters - Positions along the yard at which bands were fitted.

Yard rope - The rope used for swaying or striking those yards that are normally left in position.  On a normally lowering yard, this function is performed by halyards.

Yard tackle – A tackle attached to the lower yard of a square-rigged ship and used as a derrick with a tackle attached to the triatic stay.

Yard tackle block(hgv)

Yard tye(tge)

Yard tye block(hgv)

Yare - Brisk, smart, handy.

Yarn – The product of cleaned hemp having been spun, as an early element in the rope making process.

Yaw – (v) To deviate from course through the effects of the wind and sea.

Yawl – A two-masted small fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel in which the aftermost mast is located aft of the rudder.

Yellow Admiral – 1. An admiral who was posted onto the Yellow List by having achieved the rank of admiral, probably through seniority alone, by reaching the top of the Captain’s List; as distinct from one who has been given a posting to Blue, Red or White divisions.  2. A drunken Greenwich Hospital pensioner; they were punished by being made to wear a yellow jacket.

Yellow bellies - NTUS 1012

Yellow Fever – 1. The 2. N American name for gold fever, such as the gold rush

Yellow Jack - A quarantine flag.

Yellow List – A list of new admirals, who had been passed over and who were not required for duty.

Yeoman – In the Royal Navy, a rating assisting a navigating or a storekeeping officer.

Yeoman of Signals - A senior bunting tosser.

Yoke – A cross-piece of wood or metal mounted on the rudder-head of a boat and fitted with yoke lines to control the rudder.

Yoke-lines – Lines attached to yoke of small boat rudder to make steering easier.

Yoke Parral

Yole - A two-masted fishing boat with bowsprit, of the Orkneys.

You have the ship! - The words used by an Officer of the Watch, on handing over to his relief.

Young gentleman – A midshipman.

Young Ice- Flat Ice* up to a foot thick.

Young wind – The start of land and sea breezes.

Youngsters - Midshipmen – All mids were ‘young’ however old they were.

Younkers - A navy officer’s name for a midshipman or a ship’s boys.

Zabra- Biscay Smack, or a small Spanish or Portuguese vessel.

Z bar – An iron or steel bar with an Z-shaped section.

Zaruk- A single-masted Arab Dhow.

Zebec - Larger tartane type  Usually a corsair.  Changed between square and lateen rig to suit weather conditions.

Zeesen Boat- Baltic fishing vessel.

Zeilan - Ceylon.

Zenith – The point in the heavens directly overhead.

Zenith distance – The angular distance of a body from the zenith.


Z frame - A frame formed from two angle-bars connected together with their angles opposed.  Also called reverse frame.

Zigzag riveting - Rivets placed in parallel rows, but staggered.

Zizz - NTUS 1012

Zob - NTUS 1012

Zobbing match - NTUS 1012

Zocotoro - Socotra.

Zodiac – The band within 8° of either side of the ecliptic, in which the Moon and planets are all found.

Zomp- A Dutch single-masted flat-bottomed cargo vessel of about 40 to 50ft(12-15m) length, first built in 17c.

Zonda - NTUS 1703

Zule - A two-masted fishing boat with bowsprit, of the Scotland.