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Nautical Terms E-H
From SN Guides
This entry provides simple layman's explanations of nautical terms for the benefit of those that come across them and do not understand them.
Contributions are encouraged from all SN members as the more people that contribute the more successful this will be.
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Nautical Terms E
Earings: Lines used to secure the outboard end of the head of a square sail to the yard - the earing cringle is at the top of the leech. Also reefing earings are the lines which haul down and secure the reef cringle to form the new clew of the mainsail.
Ease (to): To slacken off carefully; to relax the pressure on the helm when it is hard or nearly hard over.
Ease Up (to): To come up handsomely.
Ebb: The flow of the tide as it goes out or recedes. It starts at the end of the period of slack water after high tide and ends at the beginning of the period of slack water at low tide.
Eddy: A circular, counter or back flowing local current of wind or tide - unrelated to its surroundings.
Edge Away: To move slightly away from.
EDH: Efficient Deck Hand.
Egyptian exercises: Practised extensively by most of the crew in the afternoon at sea leaving only the 2nd Mate and one or two others on watch. The exercises have to be done in a horizontal position with eyes closed.
Eleven center: On a standard type tanker of ten sets of cargo tanks, No.11 C refered to the after pumproom bilges, which was a convenient place to pump small amounts of unwanted liquids from the cargo tanks.
End for End: To change one end for the other, often when turning a working coil of rope over and starting to work with the new unused end.
End On: A vessel when seen with bow and stern directly in line with each other. The opposite of broadside on.
End-over-End: When a boat is turned stern over bow by heavy surf or large breaking seas; to pitch pole.
Entrance: The form of the fore part of a vessel's underwater sections.
Even Keel: When a vessel is lying level in the water, fore-and-aft as well as transversely. This does not mean that the forward and after draughts are the same but that ratio between them is the same as when fully loaded.
Eye (the): The centre of a storm or depression; the eye of the wind; the exact direction from which it blows.
Eyes (the): The centre of a storm or depression; the eye of the wind; the exact direction from which it blows.
Eyes of the Rigging: The eyes spliced into the ends of the shrouds to pass over the mast
Nautical Terms F
Fag End: The frayed out end of a rope.
Fair Lead (a): The straight unobstructed lead of a rope between two points.
Fairleads: Smooth grooves or channels of metal or hardwood through which rope is led to prevent chafing
Fairway: The normal navigable channel into or out of a port; the start is marked by the Fairway Buoy.
Fake: A single circle of a coil of rope.
Fall: The loose or hauling part of a rope or tackle.
Falling Off: When a craft tends to go away from the wind rather than come up into it
Fast: Secured or belayed.
Fathom: Formally the standard unit of measuring depths or lengths - 6 feet (the span of a mans arms from finger tip to finger tip of a man's outspread arms).
Fay (to): To paint or treat wood surfaces before joining then together.
Feather (to): To turn the blade of a oar horizontal at the end of the stroke. Done to reduce wind pressure on the oar when rowing to windward.
Feel the Helm (to): As a vessel gathers way and first starts to answer or respond to the helm. When sailing and a little weather helm becomes apparent.
Fender: (Defender) Pads, cylinders, or balls of rope or canvas-covered material to protect the ship's side from wear or damage.
Fend Off: To push off, to prevent a craft touching the quay or another boat, using fenders, a boathook or pole.
Fetch (to): To reach or arrive at.
Fid (1): A tool for separating the strands of a rope to assist in splicing - something like a marlin spike.
Fid (2): A flat wedge of wood or iron used to keep the topmast or bowsprit in place.
Fiddle: A wood or metal bar holding light sheaves to give a better lead for light running gear
Fiddle Block: A block with a large sheave above a small one.
Fiddles: Strips used round tables in rough weather were called fiddles. Or around a galley stove to stop pots falling off for the same reason.
Fiddley Deck: A deck above the engine and boiler room and adjacent to the funnel of a steam ship out of which steam and fumes etc. could escape. It served to cool and ventilate the very hot areas below for the benefit of those working there.
Field Day: Turning to for extra work after your allotted watch with no overtime paid.
Fife Rail: A curved rail around the foot of the mast, holding the belaying pins. (see also Pin Rail)
Fill (to): To brace or trim the sails so that they fill with wind after they have been flogging or shivering. (see to Cast)
Fine: Sailing so close to the wind that the sails are just at the point of shivering.
First Rate: Royal Navy warships had been cagegorised since the time of the Stuarts. Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Admiralty (and writer of the famous diary) introduced a new rating system in 1677. The rating of a ship was determined by the number and weight of guns. Although this was later revised, under Pepys' classification a First Rate ship carried 90–100 guns.
Fitted Out: When all gear is aboard and the boat is ready to go to sea - "all a-taunto".
Flake: To coil or lay out a rope so that it is clear and ready to run without kinks or risk of it fouling.
Flash up To swtich on or start up a machine or device.
Flat-aback: With the wind on the wrong side of the sail.
Flat Aft: The sheets are hard in and the sails trimmed for the boat to sail as close as possible to the wind.
Flat Iron Collier: A collier built with low superstructure to enable it to go under Thames bridges.
Flatten-in: When fore-and-aft sheets are hauled as far as possible.
Fleet (to): To haul apart or overhaul the blocks of tackle which have been 'two blocks'; also to float.
Fleeting: To move the position of a tackle along a rope to which it is secured, when it has become "two blocks".
Flemish Horse: A loop of footrope below the outer ends of a yard, apparently so called because it is more mobile than the main footrope and therefore harder to "ride" on.
Flinders Bar: Rod of soft iron inserted between Lord Kelvin's Balls to adjust the compas for the magnetism of the ship.
Flog the Log: Not taking correct reading, or even falsifying an entry in an engineroom, radio or bridge log book.
Flood: The incoming tide.
Flotsam: Debris from a wreck which has floated off rather than been jettisoned (Jetsam).
Flowing Sheet: Sheets eased off before a favourable wind.
Fluke: Irregular shifts in the wind.
Flukes: The blades of anchor.
Flush: Level, flush-decked is when the deck-level from stem to stern is the same.
Fly: To let fly is to release suddenly; also the part of the flag farthest from the halyard. May be used to describe the horizontal length of a flag.
Flying: A sail set flying does not have its luff hanked onto a stay.
Flying Jib: A headsail set either from the jib-boom or above the jib, provided it is not hanked onto a stay. Not to be confused with a Jib Topsail.
Flying Tabnab: Mission to Seamen
Foot: The bottom or lower edge of a sail.
Fore-and-aft: On a line with the keel; from stem to stern also describes a vessel rigged without square sails.
Fore Foot: The area at the bottom of the bow; exterior junction between keel and stem post.
Fore Guy: The guy from boom or whisker pole which is led forward.
Fore-Reaching: Movement to windward when hove-to under sail.
Foresail: The principal sail set on the foremast - the Fore Course.
Fore Staysail: The foresail set upon the fore stay inside the jib; on a cutter often just called the staysail.
Forelock: The tapered pin holding the arm of a Fisherman's anchor in place.
Forge Ahead: To make strong progress ahead
"Forty Thieves": Derogatory term used for the New York harbour flying squad of US Customs agents about 30 years ago. They acted mostly on tips and attempted to recruit as informants anyone they coulda and at that time they were the only US Customs Agents on the piers there who were allowed to carry a sidearm.
Forward: In the fore part - on the forward side of.
Foul: Opposite to clear; a foul anchorage, berth or bottom, all have obstructions.
Foul Hawse: When the anchor cables are crossed.
Founder: To sink.
Frap: Tight binding around the parts a rope lashing or tackle to draw them together and so increase their tension.
Free: Off the wind with sheets eased between "full and by" and "going large".
Freeboard: The distance between the waterline and gunwale on an open boat or the height of the weather deck above the waterline on a decked vessel.
French Lug: See Balance Lug.
Freshen the Nip: To ease out or haul in and so change the part of a warp or cable being subjected to chafe or wear.
Full and By: Sailing close to the wind with all sails full but not as close as close hauled
Full House: A meal order aboard ship which requests one of every item on the menu.
Furl: To roll or gather up a sail into itself or onto a spar
Futtock: The ratlines made up on the upper or topmast shrouds which lean outboard, immediately below the "top" or "cross trees".
Nautical Terms G
Gaff: The spar which supports and extends the upper edge of a fore-and-aft sail; gaff rigged.
Gaff Saddle: A curved cup, leather lined to reduce friction, which locates the end of the gaff against the mast.
Gaff Topsail: A sail set above a gaff sail - it may be either four-sided and set on a yard or Jibheaded with the luff and foot extended beyond mast-head and gaff by yards.
Gage: The vessel to leeward of another has the Lee Gage, the other has the Windward Gage (gauge is incorrect)
Galley: The kitchen aboard ship.
Galley Radio: Source of rumours,and information,mostly disinformation.
Gallows: A permanent fixed support for the boom.
Gammon Iron: The modern alternative to gammoning; a metal hoop securing the bowsprit to the stem.
Gammoning: A lashing securing the bowsprit at the stem-head, usually at the cutwater.
Gangway: A passageway or the section of the bulwarks removed for the access; to make a gangway is to let something pass (perhaps from "gang" the Norwegian for go).
Gantline: A single rope often rove through a block or sheave at the mast-head by which all materials or gear are taken aloft. Also used to rig a Boatswain's Chair on the mast.
Garboard: The plank next to the keel.
Garland: A heavy rope strop placed around a spar and used to raise or lower it; also the earlier form of mast cheeks upon which standing rigging rested.
Gash Bucket: Rubbish bin. See also entires for Rosie and Shit Shute.
Gasket: A length of rope used to make up and stow a sail; also describes the way a coil is secured onto a belaying pin by a short twisted bight.
Gather Way: To start moving through the water due to oars, sails or engine.
Gazinta: A type of paint brush with angled Handle - also known as Dogs Leg.
Gear: Rigging or tackle of any kind but in particular masts and sails.
Gib: See Jib
Gilling: To sail so close to the wind that steerageway is barely maintained - a tactic used in squalls or when waiting to take a pilot and not wishing to reduce sail.
Gimbals: A system of diametrically opposed bearings which keep a compass, galley stove or lamp horizontal regardless of the boats movement or list.
Ginger Beer: Rhyming slang for Engineer
Girt: To moor between two cables so taut that they prevent a vessel from swinging with the tide.
Girt (to): To loosely stow a sail into bellies or bags, also when a sail's shape is fouled by a taut line or crease.
Give (to): To stretch or part; a new ropes gives as it takes the strain or a lashing will give as it parts.
Give Way: Can also mean to part or break; a boat's crew will give way as soon as they start rowing.
Go About: To change tack.
Go Down: To sink or to founder.
Gob Stick: The light spar used as a boom for headsails.
Going through the Lee: To pass another vessel close to leeward sailing through her lee.
Gooseneck: The metal fitting or joint securing the boom of a fore-and-aft sail to the mast.
Goose-Wing: To sail downwind with headsails boomed out and set on the opposite side of the boat to the mainsail - schooner, ketch or yawl to main and mizzen on opposite sides ( a square sail is goose winged when the middle is furled and only the clews set).
Gorge: See Swallow
Grafting: Ornamental and also practical form of knotting which gives a tapered finish to a ropes end.
Grapnel: A multi-pointed hook to recover gear floating over the side as an or anchor often used by small boats.
'Graveyard Watch: 'Midnight to 4am seagoing watch.
Graving: The cleaning, burning off and tarring of a ship's underwater hull - hence dry docks being called Graving Docks.
Gripe: A webbing or canvas strop used to hold boats secure on their davits.
Gripe (to): When a vessel has a tendency to keep coming up into the wind - countered by weather helm - a desirable feature provided it is not excessive.
Grocer: Deragotary term for the Catering Officer or Purser and not to be used in the presence of those individuals.
Grog: Rum mixed with water and formerly issued to RN crew.
Grommet: A rope ring - like a quoit.
Ground Tackle: All gear relating to a boats anchors and cables.
Gudgeons: Metal eyes mounted on the stern into which the rudder pintles are shipped.
Gunter Rig: A triangular sail laced to a yard which extends the sail's luff vertically above the mast; also known as sliding gunter.
Gunwale: The top of the sheer strake or upper edge of a boat's side. Pronounced and sometimes written Gunnel. (see also Covering Board)
Guy: A rope used to control a spar or derrick; often a preventer guy used in heavy weather to control the boom and prevent an involuntary gybe.
Gybing: To bring the wind from one quarter to the other by passing the stern through the eye of the wind.
Nautical Terms H
Hail: To call
Halyards: The ropes and tackles used for hoisting sails (also halliards from haul-yards)
Hand: A member of the ship's crew (usually singular because one hand for himself and one for the ship – however “call all hands” muster the crew); in hand, to keep hold and not make fast; or to hand a sail is to furl and stow it.
Hand Bone: A sextant.
Handy Billy: Rope blocks.
To be more specific, it was a small double sheave block and a single sheave block. There was usually 3 or 4 sets situated about the decks usually in the mast houses and one near the gangway either in a locker or in one of the fire hose boxes. This one was used to stow the gangway. There was even one set in the engine room I seem to remember.
Hand-Over-Billy: A rapid method of taking in a rope - hauling with one hand after the other.
Hand Taut: Making a rope as tight as possible without use of a tackle of swigging up.
Handsomely: Steadily and carefully, but not necessarily slowly
Handy Billy: A small purchase or jigger used for sweating gear up (made up with a double and a single block).
Hanks: Rings or clips for securing the luff of a sail onto a stay (staysails) or its own halyard (jib topsail); small stuff or line is made up in hanks rather than coils
Happy Valley: Rhyming slang for Galley.
Hard (A): A slipway or hard part of the beach upon which boats may ground for painting etc
Hard Down: To put the tiller hard to leeward.
Hard Up: To move the tiller hard to weather.
Harden In: To haul in the sheets and flatten the sail.
Hard-And-Fast: When a craft is well aground.
Harry Tate: Rhyming slang for The Mate (First Officer), usage "Anybody seen Harry?"
Hawsepipe: The pipe the anchor cable passes through
Handraulic: Ironic expression to describe the pulling in of mooring ropes etc by hand power when for whatever reason power was unavailable
Hatchway: An opening through the deck which can be made watertight with a cover (hatch).
Haul: To pull.
Haul Her Wind: When a craft becomes close-hauled after sailing free.
Hawse: The part of the vessel where the hawse pipes are; also thought to mean the space between the stem and the anchor.
Hawser Laid: The normal left-hand laid three-stranded rope laid against the twist of the strands
Head: The upper edge of a sail laced to a gaff or yard; also the fore part of the ship.
Head Rope: The rope sewn to the head of a sail.
Head Sheets: The bottom boards or grating in the bows a boat reverse of Stern Sheets. Also the sheets for the headsails.
Head Stick: The former name for a headboard - the wood at the top of a sail to stop it from twisting.
Head-To-Wind: Lying with the bow pointing into the wind.
Heading: The direction of a ship's head when sailing.
Heads: An area of grating either side of the bowsprit on large ships used by the crew as a lavatory - hence the current use for a ship board toilet.
Headsails: Those sails set forward of the only or forward mast.
Headway: Movement forward or ahead.
Heart: A multi-stranded rope is laid up around central strand called the heart; a Deadeye with only a single hole
Heart Stopper: A breakfast order aboard ship which requests eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, hash browns, and whatever other greasy delights are offered on the menu that morning.
Heave (to): To throw a lifebuoy or heaving line, also to haul strongly.
Heave-To: To stop making headway or to lie with headsails aback so as to make only enough way to keep steerage in heavy seas.
Heel: To list or to lean over; the bottom of the mast.
Heel Rope: A line which passes through a sheave in the heel of a topmast or bowsprit. By this means they can be raised and lowered or hauled out.
Helm: The means of steering craft whether tiller or wheel.
Helm's a-Lee!: Call by the helmsman to announce that he has initiated a tack (compare 'Ready about'). It refers to the movement of a tiller, pushed to the lee side to turn the vessel's head toward the wind.
High-And-Dry: Left clear of the water by the ebbing tide.
Hitch: Part of a knot; 'a round turn and two half hitches'
Hog: To clean or scrub very thoroughly.
Hoist: To haul or raise anything aloft; also another name for the luff of a sail. The side of a flag next to the mast or halyard.
Holiday: An area left unpainted or varnished.
Holy stones: Stones formerly used to clean wooden decking. The smaller holystone was called a prayer book. That was for getting in the corners.
One Mate used to have us wrap them in matting & then put in a bracket attached to the end of a broomstick. The deck was hosed down, liberally sprinkled with sand & then we apprentices pushed these holy stones backwards & forwards, backwards & forwards on a given spot until the Mate decided that area was clean enough. All this from 6-8 in the morning before breakfast. It certainly gave you an appetite. In my first 2 months at sea I lost 2 stone in weight.
Home: In its place; to haul the sheets home is to bring them in as far as possible
Hood Ends: The ends of those planks fitted to stem and stern post rabbets.
Hoops: Wood or metal rings which hold the luff of a sail close to the mast (also Mast Hoops)
Horns: The sides of the gaff which fit together to form the jaws either side of the mast.
Horse: The rail or bar across the deck along which the sheet block travels athwartships.
Hounds: A metal band,or wood cheeks or even a thickening of the mast which locates and holds up the lower shrouds; formerly the support for the trestle trees. The portion of the mast where the shrouds are secured.
House (to): To secure in its proper place of stowage - the upper mast is housed when lowered and made fast.
House Line: Small stuff, a light line.
Housing: The part of the bowsprit or mast which is inboard or below decks.
Housewife: Pronounced "Hussiff" - A kit of needles and thread etc to sew on buttons, darn socks and make minor repairs. Mostly an RN expression
Hove-To: See Heave To.
Hug: To keep close - to hug the land.
Hull: The complete body of a vessel without rig or sails.
Hull Down: A distant vessel, of which only her masts and superstructre can be seen above the horizon.
Hull Up: A distant vessel, the hull of which can just be seen above the horizon.