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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Nautical Terms Q
  • 3 Nautical Terms R
  • 4 Nautical Terms S
  • 5 Nautical Terms T

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.

As SN Members you are all encouraged to make your own entries here but if you do not feel confident to do this you can send a PM to one of the Moderators who will arrange for your contribution to be added.

Nautical Terms Q[edit]

Quarter: As in "Port Quarter" and "Starboard Quarter" - that part of the sides of a ship between the stern and the midships on the Port and Starboard respectively.

Quartering Sea: A sea which comes from either the port or starboard quarter.

Quoit: A piece of line spliced into a ring by seamen and given to passengers for their amusement.

Nautical Terms R[edit]

Ratlines: Ropes seized across the shrouds of a mast to form a ladder for access to the upper yards on a sailing ship.

Rattling down the rigging: Repairing or replacing damaged ratlines.

RAS: A term commonly used in the RFA/RN. It means "Replenishment at sea".

Ready About!: Alert to the crew to prepare to tack the vessel. For those below, it is a warning to expect the vessel to heel the opposite way.

Red Sea Rig: Blues long trousers with white tropical shirt and epaulettes.

"'RFA:"' Royal Fleet Auxiliary. A civilian-manned fleet owned by the British Ministry of Defence - its primary role is to supply the Royal Navy with fuel, ammunition and supplies, normally by replenishment at sea (RAS).

Ride the Flood: To travel the same way as the flood tide (rising tide).

Ringbolt: Slang name for a stowaway, usually female. Particularly common on the New Zealand and Australian coasts.

Roove: A small washer fitting over a coppernail for riveting boat planks" together

Rosie: A waste bin - in the galley or wastepaper bin in a cabin. See also Gashbucket and **** shute

Nautical Terms S[edit]

**** on a Raft: Kidneys on toastSaloon Bobby: A saloon steward

Salute the quarter deck: Originally a crucifx was fixed there and one saluted as one came on board.

Sash Tool: A long handled paint brush designed to provide better control

... especially useful during "the morning after the night before". Ideally used for painting in the ships name, company stem badge or any ornate work. You could rest your painting arm on a piece of wood while cutting in around a name etc using a sash tool. All of which came in different sizes but usually of the best quality hair.

Scandinavian Steam: Manually powered.

"Schooner Rigged": Applied to a seaman - joining a ship bringing little or no personal gear.

Scotchman: Any sleeve placed on rigging to take chafe.

Scrub out: Scrubbing floors and decks.

Scuppers: Drainage holes on ships to allow water to drain off the decks into the sea. Also known as Freeing Ports.

Scupper Shutters: Hinged flaps on the outside of scuppers intended to close to prevent water coming in but to open to allow water to drain out.

Scuttlebutt (1): A cask having a square piece sawn out of it's bilge and lashed in a convenient place to hold water for present use.

Scuttlebutt (2): Shipboard gossip or rumours.

Section Steward: Wine Steward in the restaurant on a cruise ship or liner.

Seven Bell Lunch: Ships' watches of 4 hours (0000-0400, 0400-0800, 0800-1200, 1200-1600, 1600-2000,2000-2400) were traditionally marked by the ringing of a bell every half hour, thus there are 8 bells to a watch. With lunches being served at 1200 and the 2nd Mate, 3rd Engineer and sometimes the Radio Officer starting watch at 1200, they had to have an early lunch. This was served at 1130, i.e seven bells, and was known as a Seven Bell Lunch.

Shaky: Evaporated Milk

Shanty: A work songs to co-ordinate the timing of the work on board ship when most of the power was provided with human muscle. this was usually call and answer in song structure with the maximum pull being one the last word of the chorus. Good singers, "shanty Men" were paid higher wages for this.

Shark's Mouth: When an awning is cut to allow it to fit round a stay or ventilator, the resulting "V" shaped cut is called a sharks mouth.

Shark`s Mouth/Jaws: A hydraulic Malgotter Post on an Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessel (AHTS) used to hold chains/cables etc whilst connecting/disconnecting anchors and other associated equipment.

Sharks on a raft: Sardines on toast.

Sheds: Derogatory term for passenger cabins - Tourist class.

Sheffield: Knife.

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: This expression actually did originate in the port of Bristol. Because of the extreme height of the tide (30ft rise to fall), any sailing ship visiting Bristol needed to have her timbers strengthened within the hull, due to the enormous stress and strains encountered at low tide. Any ship caught in the River Avon at low tide would be practically laying on her side's causing undue damage, due to the steep mud banks. If everything had not been stowed away and battened down when caught at low tide this meant extra work for the crew before they could leave port. Therefore any ship that had been strengthened and was well stowed and battened down to deal with the Bristol tides was known to be.......Shipshape and Bristol fashion....neat and tidy.

**** on a shingle: A delectable breakfast order aboard ship of chipped beef on toast.

**** shute: A shute rigged on the poop for disposing of food waste while at sea. In Blue Funnel at least, it had a salt water tap plumbed in to sluice the gunge away.

SN Member Pat Kennedy says: I had many a hairy trip aft to the **** chute in heavy weather when I was a peggy.

Shooting the sun: The act of solar observation using a sextant once performed daily by navigators in order to retain familiarity with the associated positional mathematical calculations.

Shoreside: The outside world, dry land, the place where we would all eventually go.

Short arm inspection: Jocular expression for a medical check up for sexually transmitted diseases.

Side Scuttle: A porthole

Sister ship: any ship belonging to the same shipping company see "sister ship clause". Ships built from the same plans for a single company ie lookalikes are a class or type of ship but also a sister ship.

Sky Pilot: A seamans club padre or naval chaplain

Slice the Carbon: Breaking up carbon in furnace.

Slops: Uniform Store, sailors clothes. Also known as "Slop Shop"

Slops(2): Mixture of oil and water left in a 'slop tank' on a tanker, normally after tank cleaning has taken place.

Smart Money: Old British Naval term for a wounds pension issued in terms of rank and the extent of the wounds received. The term died out mid 19th Century, probably when the Greenwich Hospital closed its wards and issued out pensions in lieu of the original accommodation provided for naval pensioners.

Smoko: Morning or afternoon tea/coffee break.

Sniffing a Sandy Bottom: In a maritime sense this refers to the inter-action that takes places between the hull of a ship and sea bed in shallow water; rather like the venturi effect that befell the tanker and submarine in the AG. - A ship proceeding under power (as opposed to sail) will suffer a curious effect, as the water is drawn from under the hull - by the propeller - and in an already shallow-water condition, the effect will be magnified and the ship drawn down on to the bottom.

Snorty: Sea state when the outgoing tide stream is bucking an incoming swell or seas from the prevailing winds causing steep and irregular waves and/or rips.

Snotty: General term for an RN midshipman. Also occasionally used for apprentices and cadets in the MN.

Son of a gun: This expression is said to originate from the old Naval sailing ships. When a Naval ship entered port the Captain who was constantly in fear of losing his press-ganged crew had one of the officers go ashore to invite the local ladies of ill repute on board. By doing this he kept the crew satisfied (or they did) and he had all hands on board ready to sail should the need arise. Because hammocks were not the best of places to enjoy female company the sailors used to take the girls down to the gun decks and used the spaces between the guns for privacy. As many of the girls sailed between ports with the ship it was inevitable that there would be a certain amount of girls giving birth on board, which by law had to be recorded. Because the mother of the child found difficulty in naming the rightfull father the Captain recorded in the ships log, the father as being the.... Son of a gun.

Soogee Moogee: Cleansing powder or other mixture used for cleaning wood and paintwork. (Also referred to as Soogy and Soogy Moogy).

Just in case there are some young uns reading this stuff I thought I should note the correct (old) term was "Soogee Moogee" Cleansing powder used for cleaning wood and paintwork ... more often than not , it was pure caustic powder mixed into a bucket of water ... resultant hand skin (if any left) being as sooth as silk! Again, for the uninitiated ... last few days before arrival home, our hands (no work gloves in those days) were softened up by either, or both, soogeeing paintwork and/or rubbing linseed oil into the wooden decks. Off to the local Nurse's Home with hands as soft as a baby's bottom! Nurses were the only other professionals who suffered the same restrictive off duty time, so we understood and respected each other.

Based on input from various SN members, it appears that this term has been applied to a variety of cleaning preparations over the years.

They include mixtures based on:

  1. Teepol (for general washing down of bulheads etc.)
  2. Washing soda crystals (for more heavy duty use)
  3. Caustic soda (only for really heavy grease/oil removal)

SN Member Old Janner says: Soogee was one of the first names I learnt on joining the Merchant Navy, the solution that I had to make from the recipe of the chief cook was - "Take a hard bar of brown dhobi soap, grate half of it into a bucket using a cheese grater, add a small amount of washing soda, add boiling water from the copper galley geyser, stir with brush handle then add cold water to cool". This was good for all sooty paintwork in the galley and was not too harmful on the hands providing you worked quickly. Method was to wash it on with Mutton Cloth then rinse it off with a fresh water mutton cloth.

Spanish windlass: Two or more parts of rope (or wire) twisted with a spar to add tension, used to be used amongst other things for lashing cargo pre containerisation.

Spar Ceiling: See Ceiling.

Sparks: The radio officer, shoreside the same term is used for an electrician who at sea is a "Lecky"

Spreader: A pilot ladder step that is much wider than the rest of the steps in order to prevent the ladder twisting whilst the pilot is climbing.

Sprittie: Familiar expression for a spritsail rigged sailing barge.

Spurling Pipe: The other pipe the anchor chain goes through.

Stackie: Familiar name for a sailing barge designed to carry hay or straw piled up high above her hatches. Stackie barges were generally built with little sheer and a feature was the wide deck between rail and hatch coaming designed to accommodate a standard bale.

Starboard: The right hand side of a ship when looking towards the bow (front). The derivation of Starboard is said to be from Steer-board. This was an oar or rudder that was over the starboard quarter of old ships.

Starboard Sea Store: A euphamism for "over the side", e.g. "I put the gash in the starboard sea store".

Steam packet: A steam-powered vessel carrying, Mails, Cargo and Passengers at regular intervals on a short fixed route. See entry for Packet Ship

Steel Yard: A metal weighing device used on ship for weights up to about 100 kgs. It worked on a sliding counterbalance, but was very accurate, even with the ship rolling.

Stem: The front timber or steel member in a ship which forms the bow.

Strap up: Washing silver etc.

Striker: see manhelper

" Strumbox " a square steel box with holes in, fitted around the bilge pump outlet to prevent anything being sucked up the pipe and damaging the pump.

Stumpie (or Stumpy): A familiar name for a sailing barge without a top mast.

Stumpy rigged: A sailing barge expression. A tops'l barge under way without tops'l set is spoken of as stumpy-rigged.

Swab: Formerly a lowly person who cleane the decks.

Subs: Advance on wages

Sun Gun: A sextant

Sundowner (1): Drinks at sundown

Sundowners is still a rigid tradition, out on the boat deck/fiddley top/wherever we can get the best sun and has the deckchairs etc, for a few beers or G&Ts before descending to the Saloon for dinner. However, the real hardcore element onboard go for 'Sun uppers' as well....

Sundowner (2): Formerly a slang name for a bullying officer on a ship. The origin is from a captain who would only give shore leave to his crew up to the time of sunset.

Superstructure: Those parts of a ship above the level of the main deck including the bridge and deckhouse.

Swimmie: A familiar term for a sailing barge with a square overhung bow like that of a London lighter (known as swimhead). Occasionally called Muffies.

Swinging on the Hook: At anchor

Nautical Terms T[edit]

Tabnabs: Snack usually served with afternoon tea.

......Biscuits,bits of cold nibblies, as in "tea and tabnabs", could be biscuits or more elaborate creations such as "sharks on a raft" (sardines on toasted fingers).

Tabnabs were afternoon smoko servings of rock cakes. Nothing else but rock cakes. Not biscuits. The better the ship's baker, the better the tabnabs. matter how badly were they cooked, no matter how hard they were, no matter how stale they were, they didn't last any more than ten seconds in the sailor's mess.

Tabl(e)ing: The method of putting the middle tarpaulin on the hatchboards, one of three, usually the newest.

Tack: (a) One of the lines controlling a square sail (b) The forward lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail (c) As a verb, to turn a vessel through approximately 90° by turning her head through the wind, so as to bring the wind on the other side; so called because on a square-rigger it meant changing the load to the opposite tack, in meaning (a).

Tank Top Ceiling: See Ceiling.

Telescopic masts: The top mast that could drop down into the main body of the mast to traverse under bridges etc as on Manchester ship canal.

"Three sheets to the wind": Inebriated - out of control - sheets being the ropes controlling sails, when these are flapping in the wind blows the ship is out of control.

Thunder box: Toilet facility rigged over the stern of the ship for the use of native crew members. Later used as a general term for a WC.

Thwart: Transverse wooden seat in a boat.

Ticket: Seamans' name for a Board of Trade or DTI officers certificate of competency.

Tick on: Report for duty.

Tiger: Captain's steward

"Tingle:" A repair to damage in small wooden craft such as a Ship's Lifeboat. Any damage, or small hole in a strake, can be made watertight with a patch of wood or copper fastened over the area to be repaired. Often, such a temporary repair would become permanent if done correctly.

Toby: A deck boy.

Top End spanner: Used for opening cans of beer - 2 or 3 came with every case of beer.

Turk's Head: A circle of a continuous three stranded plait, with as many parts in each strand of the plait as you want, but after three they tend not to lie flat mainlyused for decoration on manropes and bellrope

Two Blocks: When you were using a block and tackle and heaved it till you could get no more purchase (when the moving and fixed blocks were touching) it was called Two blocks. A bawdy alternative relates to bedroom behaviour.:)

Two of fat and one of lean: From the funnel colours of white red white bands on a black funnel. Also known as Tom and Jerry's......T&J Harrison.

Train Smash: A culinary delight consisting of sausages, mashed potato and tinned tomatoes.

Triatic stay: a stay in three parts that went from foremast head to mainmast head to which blocks were attached in way of the bridge for the hoisting of signal flags etc. In sailing ships this stay consisted of two pendants attached respectively to the foremast head and mainmast head, and connected by a span having stay tackles attached: used principally for lifting boats in and out, and weighty objects about the shipThe Jumper stay (qv) served the same purpose as the Triatic stay in sailing ships but was positioned to facilitate the setting of between mast sails. The terms Triatic and Jumper 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.

Tumblehome: The amount by which the two sides of a ships hull are brought in towards the centre line after reaching their maximum beam. The opposite of 'flare'.

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