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Nautical Terms I-L
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This entry provides simple layman's explanations of nautical terms for the benefit of those that come across them and do not understand them.
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Nautical Terms I
In: As an order meaning to bring inboard "oars in!"
In Irons: A sailing vessel unable to complete a tack and head to wind unable or reluctant to pay off the new tack or resume the old one.
In Mothballs: Laid up, in reserve
In Stays: The moment at which a sailing vessel is head-to-wind when tacking as the wind goes through the stays (see also In Irons); formerly meant tacking.
Inboard: Inside the rails or bulwarks.
Inhaul: Running rigging for hauling a sail inboard from the end of a spar or yard.
Inshore: Close to the land.
Irish Hurricane: See Paddy's Hurricane)
Irish Pennant: A loose thread, string, or strap on a uniform or equipment that detracts from a perfect appearance, also loose rope or wire hanging over side of vessel with no apparent purpose. (see also Dutch Pennant)
Iron Mike: Auto Pilot steering on hand electric steering systems.
Nautical Terms J
Jackstaff: The pole forward at the stem or bowsprit end used to fly the Pilot Jack.
Jackstays: Stays made from metal, rope or wire and rigged tautly between two points along which anything can travel or be made fast to. Also the rods along the tops of yards for securing the sails
Jackyard: A length of wood laced to the foot of a topsail to extend it beyond the end of the gaff. Usually used in conjunction with a Topsail Yard which extends the luff above the mast head.
Jackyard Topsail: A jibheaded topsail - the luff and foot are extend beyond the mast-head and gaff by two small yards; a light weather sail. Jacob's ladder: Ladder of wire or rope with elm treads stowed rolled and secured to eye bolts on deck. Japanese Seaboots: Flip-flops.
Jaws: The crutch at the end of the boom or gaff which fits around the mast.
Jeers: The heavy tackle used to sway (raise up) the yards.
Jenny Yard: See Jackyard.
Jewel Blocks: Blocks fitted at the yard-arm for the studding sail halyards.
Jib: The foremost headsail - set at the stem or bowsprit end.
Jib-boom: The extension of the bowsprit - not a boom for a jib (see Gob stick)
Jib-headed: Any triangular shaped sail.
Jib Header: Slang for Jib-Headed Topsail.
Jib of Jibs: A light weather sail set flying on the royal stay of a square-rigger.
Jip-Topsail: A headsail set above the Jib on the Topmast stay.
Jib Traveller: The metal ring fitted around the bowsprit,to which the jib tack is secured and by which the jib is hauled in and out.
Jigger: A small tackle similar to but smaller than a "Handy Billy" often used as a luff tackle. Sometimes the name for a small mizzen sail set aboard yawls; also the sail set on a jigger mast.
Jigger Mast: The fourth mast aboard a Barque.
"Jimmy One": Royal Navy term for First Lieutenant known
Joggle: A joint between timber to prevent movement.
Joggle Shackle: Used in anchor work - a long jawed shackle.
Jolly Boat: The ship's boat for general work; not the Captain's Gig.
Jumper: Similar to a Bobstay - this counters the upward lift of the Jib Boom and is led from the end of the Jib boom, inboard over the Dolphin Striker. (see also Martingale)
Jumperstay: A wire stay set up between formast and the funnel, on which halyards were attached in the way of bridge for the hoisting of signal flags etc. This stay in sailing ships served the same purpose as the Triatic stay (q.v.) but was positioned to facilitate the setting of between mast sails. The terms Jumper and Triatic stay have, over the years, become interchangeable, however personal recollection of use of terms in the fifties was Triatic between masts, and Jumper, foremast head to funnel.
Junk: Old rope used to make Baggywrinkle, Fenders and similar tasks.
Jury Mast: A mast rigged at sea after dismasting - temporary or makeshift.
Nautical Terms K
Kedge: A small anchor - often referring to a spare anchor.
Keel: The main timber running fore-and-aft in a vessel, upon which the frames and garboard strake are fixed.
Kentledge: Pre-shaped permanent ballast.
Ketch: A two-masted vessel which has the smaller after mast stepped well inboard forward of the stern post or rudder head (See Yawl)
Kevel: A length of timber often fitted horizontally inside the bulwarks and used as a large cleat for mooring ropes.
Killick: A slang term for anchor - formally a stone weight to anchor on rough ground. Also navy slang for a leading hand/Leading Seaman eg Killick of the watch.
King Post: A short mast to support a derrick.
King Spoke: The upper spoke of a ship's wheel when the rudder is amidships, usually marked in some way.
Kink: A sharp bend in a wire rope - liable to cause damage.
Knee: Elbows of wood or metal for strengthening angle joints, usually between deck and hull.
Knightheads: The pair of vertical timbers, securing the inboard end of the bow sprit.
Knot: A measurement of speed - one nautical mile per hour.
Nautical Terms L
Labour: To roll and pitch heavily in a seaway.
Lacing: The line used to secure a sail to a mast or spar along one of its edges.
Lampy: Abbreviation for Lamp Trimmer, who in the days before electricity on board ships was responsible for the oil lamps - navigation lights, etc. Later he became the storekeeper for the deck department, responsible for rope, paint, tools, etc. He was very much the Bosun's right hand man and carried out much technical work – wire splicing, etc. The position survived at least up until the late 1960's, and as the senior man, Lampy would tend to be in charge of the after deck crew during berthing, as opposed to the Bosun who was in charge of the Forward deck crew.
Landfall: The first sight of land.
Landlubber: Someone who is not a mariner.
Lands: The narrow overlapping portion of clinker-built planking.
Lanyard: A lashing rove through a deadeye or thimble - frequently used to secure and set up rigging.
Larboard: Formerly the left side, opposite starboard but changed because of the similarity of the spoken words. (see Starboard)
Large: To sail large is to do so with the wind free.
Lash: To bind or lace with rope.
Lay: The lay of a rope is the direction in which the strands are twisted - to lay is to come or go in that direction "to lay aft".
Lazarette: A storage compartment at the stern of a vessel. On yachts, lazarette berths are aft bunks usually contained in the side coamings of the cockpit.
Lazy: Usually means additional or extra and therefore not the principal - as in Lazy Guy, Lazy Sheet or Lazy Painter
Lazy Guy: The extra guy or preventer which stops the boom swinging inboard against the pressure of a light wind as the vessel rolls
Lazy Jacks: Lines which help gather a sail as it's lowered and control the gaff if vangs are not rigged. Secured to the topping-lifts, Lazy Jacks hang vertically either side of the sail and under the boom to catch the sail as it drops.
Leach: The aftermost edge of a sail whether gaff Bermudian. (now also spelt Leech)
Lead: The weight used for making soundings.
Lead (to): To pass or run cordage; eg: to lead the jib sheets outside the shrouds.
Leading Wind: A wind abeam, a fair wind.
Leads: See Fairleads.
Leak: A crack, hole or strained joint through which water enters the vessel.
Lee: See Leeward.
Lee-Board: Large boards fixed outboard, usually on barges and other flat-bottomed craft to reduce the drift to leeward; also a board serving the same purpose as a Lee-Cloth.
Lee-Cloth: Canvas or other material rigged on the inboard side of a weather bunk which prevents the occupant from falling out to leeward.
Lee Helm: A craft that naturally tends to turn to leeward (away from the wind) has lee helm - opposite of Weather Helm.
Lee Ho!: The warning given by the helmsman as he tacks and puts the helm over to leeward.
Leeward: The opposite side to that from which the wind is blowing; the side on which the sails are set.
Leeway: The sideways drift away from the desired course line of a sailing craft - caused by the action of the wind.
LEFO: Lands End for Orders.
Leg: The distance or course between two tacks.
Legs: Wooden supports fitted either side of a craft to keep it upright and on an even keel when drying out or taking the ground.
Lifejacket Watch: Derogatory term for the time period when an inexperienced or untrusted deck officer was in charge of the bridge.
Larboard: Old name for Port (see separate entry) - the left hand side of a ship when looking towards the bow (front). Changed in 1844 to avoid confusion with Starboard.
Lash up and stow: To tie up everything or put it away safely to stop it moving. Loll: Action of an unstable ship that can list alternately to port and starboard. Lord Kelvin's Balls: See Navigators balls.
LRIT: Long Range Identification and Tracking. A mandatory carriage requirement for most conventional trading vessels whereby the owner provides Inmarsat C equipment (maybe part of GMDSS) which can be configured to transmit the ship's position to Flag State at intervals determined, and set remotely, by them. Airtime is paid by Flag State (if you believe the owner doesn't pick up the bill along the way you are a sweet person indeed).