Nautical Terminology

Nautical Terminology

New Zealand Bound

The definitions for nautical terms with the majority of the terms appearing in White Wings by Sir Henry Brett.
References: The New Zealand Contemporary Dictionary and the Webster New World Dictionary

A1: after a ship's name is a Lloyd's survey classification and signifies that the ship has passed the Lloyd's insurance survey as 100%
: A square sail is aback when the wind pushes it against the mast
: At 90 to the keel of a ship. The ship drew abeam the cove

aft: at, near or towards the stern or rear of a ship
"all standing"
: when sailors lie down to rest in their clothes 
Midway between the bow and the stern.
anchors: In 1863 a  ship of 300 tons must henceforth, if classed at Lloyd's, be provided with three bower anchors - one stream and two kedges. Two of the bowers taken together must not be less weight than 23cwt., and each must be capable of bearing a proof strain of 23 and one eight tons. A bower anchor so called from being carried on the bows. The stream anchor is one fourth the weight of the bower anchor. Kedge anchors are light anchors used in warping (to move a vessel) by hauling on a line that is fastened to or around a piling, anchor, or pier. 

Timaru Herald, 24 July 1872, Page 2
A Nautical Paradox. � A correspondent writes: � "The brig Princess Alice, coal laden, was at anchor m the Timaru roadstead on Thursday night, a stiff breeze came on, bringing with it a moderate sea. The swell was from the S. E., but not heavy. At about eight p.m., the brig parted her best bower chain. She then let go the small bower, and parted that chain also. Then let go a kedge anchor attached to a warp, by which she rode out the night. This is kedge and warp versus anchors and cables !"

assisted emigrant: after 1840, New Zealand and Australia offered money or land grants to skilled workers to encourage immigration. Most immigrants received assistance from either the New Zealand Company or from a government or church association formed to encourage immigration
ballast: heavy material taken on board ship to increase the vessel's draft and steadiness e.g. pig iron (iron cast in rough oblong bars)
balwark: a railing around the deck of a ship
: An instrument for measuring atmospheric pressure, used especially in weather forecasting. Barometric pressures given by weather reports are for sea level. For any increase in altitude there is a decrease in atmospheric pressure. Call your local airport to find your altitude. When your barometric is set, use the knob to move the hand on top of the other hand, inspect it in the morning and note whether the hand is in the same position as before or if it is rising or falling. No movement denotes a continuation of the present conditions. A rise denotes the approach of better weather and a fall means the weather will deteriorate. The figures given are inches of mercury.

30.50 and above
Settled, fine Settled, fine Fine outlook less settled
Fine Fine Probably fine-a southerly wind will bring rain
Probably fine-favourable outlook Probably fine Changeable-showers likely
Rain at times-improving Changeable Rain-dry intervals likely
Rain likely Rain Rain
29.25 and below
Heavy rain Heavy rain Heavy rain-storms

barque is a bark is a barque: Two spellings for the same thing. The spelling barque was more British, where the spelling bark, is more North American. A sailing vessel with not less than three masts, having her fore and main masts rigged square, and the last (the mizzen) in a three mast vessel fore-aft rigged.  When speed was not essential, one could save on crew's wagers by rerigging the mizzenmast to convert a ship into a bark. Many vessels that started on the packet runs with the emphasis on sped, became barques when they shifted to whaling.
barquentine: Also have three or more masts but, except for the mast closest to the vessel's bow, are completely fore-and-aft rigged. A barquentine carries all square sails on her foremast while a three-masted schooner carries only a square topsail and square topgallant sail. The main and mizzenmasts of both, are rigged similarly.
beam: the breadth of a ship at its widest point. Or side of a ship. "A tremendous sea threw the vessel on her beam ends."
: a bell every half hour to mark the watch period at sea and ends at eight bells (4:00, 8:00, 12:00) The series of bells begin at 12:30, 4:30, and 8:30 "fire was reported at four bells". Eight bells - Midnight.

The forward bell on the Eutepre.

The New Zealand National Maritime Museum in Auckland held a exhibit of 22 ship bells in 2005. Ships are still required to carry one and ring it once a day at 0800. Bells were once rung on the half hour to mark the ships' watches, with eight bells rung at the end of every four-hour watch.
1. USSCo inter-island ferry Hinemoa, the first passenger ship launched in Britain after WW2. She served the Wellington to Lyttelton run for 20 years before being used as accommodation and as a power supply in Tasmania until she was scrapped in 1971.
2. The oldest bell is from the wooden barque Subraon, which was built in England in 1848. She was wrecked at the entrance to Wellington Harbour in 1848 when the pilot ignored the skipper's advice and took the ship through Chaffers Passage.
3. The passenger vessel Jessie Readman built in 1869 and ran aground on the Chatham Islands on Dec. 23, 1893, and became a total loss.
4. The USS Company's Waitemata bell. Returned to NZ from Canada after it was taken during a refit.


binnacle: the case encasing compass of a ship
blue jacket: a sailor in the Royal Navy
Blue PeterBlue Peter:
A blue flag with a white square in the centre, flown to signal that a ship is ready to sail.
boatswain: (bo-sun) also bo's'n or bos'n. An officer who has charge of the ship's rigging, sails, colours, anchors, cables, cordage, deck crew etc. Boatswains used whistle signals to order the coordinated actions e.g. heaving anchors. When visitors were hoisted aboard or over the side, the pipe was used to order "Hoist Away" or "Avast heaving."
bollard: A strong post on a wharf for making fast hawsers 
: a rope sewn into the edge seam of a sail to prevent tearing
boom: a light spar run out from the extremity of the bowsprit
bow: the front section of a ship
: a large tapered spar extending forward from the bow of a sailing vessel
broadside: toward a full side. The whole side of a vessel from stem to stern. "the doomed vessel was swept broadside on to the rocks"

burthen: means the total amount of water displaced by the ship herself.  The word is the old term for "displacement."Bollard from the Timaru Wharf
Bridle Path: the route the early settlers took from Lyttelton Harbour over the Port Hills to Christchurch, NZ.  It was walked in a day.
 Today you can walk this path in about 90 minutes one way.
brig: a sailing ship with two masts, both square-rigged
brigantine: a light, two-mast vessel, the foremast with square sails and the other with a triangular sail
bulwarks: the ship sides above the deck.
the bunting tossers: RN slang name for signalmen - bunting being the flags, and often used to decorate a ship on special occasions.
carvel built: system of building wooden hulls in which the side planking goes fore and aft, with the longitudinal edges butting and flush. The hull planks are flush or butting.
cast: To turn a ship; change to the opposite tack
capstan: a cable holder on deck used to hoist the anchor. Seamen rotate the spindle by pushing on the capstan bars.

chronometer: instrument for measuring time precisely. The navigator had to know the time at his point of departure
Cobh:  A seaport in Cork Harbour, nine miles S.E. of Cork and was known as Queenstown from 1849 (when Queen Victoria first visited Ireland) until 1922 when its earlier name, Cove was resumed but with the Gaelic spelling and still pronounced Cove.
clewed up: To raise the lower corners of a square sail by means of clew lines. A clew is a metal loop attached to the lower corner of a sail. "claw" up
: move quickly, hence clipper, a fast sailing vessel with a long sharp bow curved in, instead of bulging out. Clipper ships "greyhounds of the sea" sacrificed cargo capacity for speed c.1830-1854, where heavily sparred to carry more canvas..
cockboat: a small light rowboat
cordage: an assemblage of rope esp. the rigging of a ship. Flax was used to make rope and heavy cloth.  One of the trademarks was the odour of tar on ships as tar was used as a preservative to treat vegetable fibres
coxswain or cockswain
: a petty officer on board a ship who commands a boat's crew in the absence of superior officers and usually steers the boat. A helmsman.
crimping of seamen:
To procure (sailors or soldiers) by trickery or coercion. To press into service. An agent who procures men for service as sailors.

Otago Witness September 28 1861 page 6 Any delay through the desertion of seamen, must occasion very great losses, both to charterers and shipowners.  It is a mistake to suppose that seamen desert of their own accord, the exceptions (and rare they are). The seeds of mistrust are sown on board by the recant runner, glowing accounts of colonial prosperity are circulated. plum-duff, sea-pie, grog, sweethearts - completely undermine the sailor's respect for his engagements, and a bottle uncorked at the auspicious moment, turns the scale-beam of his mind in favour of desertion. Secrecy among shipmates sworn, the appointed hour approached, and away darts the skiff, snakelike, to continue the blackguard game. ... Alexander Pyle, September 14 1861.

Crossing the Bar:  poem melody Although not the last poem written by Tennyson, "Crossing the Bar" appears, at his request, as the final poem in all collections of his works.
crossing the line
: ceremony performed when crossing the equator. Landlubbers (one who knows little about ships) were greeted by Neptune, shaved and dunked in a water barrel to prove to King Neptune that they are worthy to sail in his realm.
cross-jack: cro'jack:  the sail carried on the lower yard of the mizzen mast. 
cuddy: a small cabin under the poop of a ship
cutter: a boat carried aboard large ships e.g. warship. Small sloop rigged vessel with straight running bowsprit.
Davy Jones
: the bottom of a sea  "we nearly took a trip to "Davy Jones" A cold and devoid place.
: a strong cover placed over a ship's porthole or cabin window in stormy weather

Deal: a village on the extreme East coast of Kent overlooking the Goodwin Sands
Deal boat: small, strong boat. with foresail; built in Deal, England
diary: a book in which personal daily record of thoughts and actions and events are kept
dogwatch: early evening watch, first dogwatch 4-6 p.m. or second dogwatch 6-8 p.m. The shorter half-watches or "Dog Watches", allowed for all sailors to rotate their on and off times.
doldrums: A region of the ocean near the equator, characterized by calms, light winds, or squalls
: It is a natural harbour of refuge, a roadstead, for shipping between the Kent coast and Goodwin Sands in the English Channel off Deal. This is where outward bound ships dropped the pilot. Merchant ships waited for an easterly wind to take them down the English Channel and those going up to London gathered there.  The Downs is protected on the east by the Goodwin Sands and on the north and west by the coast. It has depths down to 12 fathoms (22 m).
: The depth of the boat under the water 
: headland of shingle, Kent, ENG.
easting: The difference in longitude between two positions as a result of movement to the east.
ebb tide: The receding or outgoing tide; the period between high water and the succeeding low water.

: To leave one's country and settle in another. English emigration peaked in the 1880's
ensign: a national flag deployed on a ship. The Red Ensign has a Union Jack in the canton and may be defaced by a badge or shield in the fly is a flag flown as an ensign by merchant ships and other private vessels of the United Kingdom. A ship's company house flag would normally be hoisted on a yard-arm above the bridge. The stern flag would be a New Zealand red ensign.  A British ship, other than a fishing vessel, shall hoist the red ensign or other proper national colours: 
a. on a signal being made to the ship by one of Her Majesty's ships 
b. on entering or leaving any foreign port
c. ships of 50 or more tons gross tonnage, on entering or leaving any British port. 
escutcheon: that part of a vessel's stern on which her name and hailing port are  inscribed. See transom.
Falmouth: town on the estuary of R. Cornwall, ENG
fathom:  six feet deep. 100 fathoms = 1 cable, 10 cables= 1 nautical mile. 60 miles = 1 degree of latitude. 
: the carved figure on the prow (bow) of a ship
: She was too "flat" to answer the helm. The sail was taut.  The main mizzen sail laid "flat-a-back" to put a brake on.

: wreckage or cargo that remains afloat on the sea after a shipwreck. Jetsam applies to cargo or equipment thrown overboard from a ship in distress and either sunk or washed ashore.
Foochow:  Older spelling for Fuzhou, a port city of southeast China on the Min River delta.
fore: at, near or towards the front part of a ship
fore and aft: lengthwise

fore-and-aft rigged sail: This sail follows the same plane as the line from the vessel's bow to stern, or front to back might not provide as much sped out at sea but along the coast it gave a vessel a better chance of staying clear when winds threatened to drive her onto a lee shore.  The fore-and-aft sails could be hoisted from the deck without anyone having to go aloft therefore required less crew than a square rigger of the same size. 
forecastle: upper deck forward of the foremast (fo'c'sle) (pronounced "fokes-ul") Sailors would live here. Windlass located here.

Otago Witness April 22 1854 page 4.
The sailor's lot has been a hard one.  His home-the forecastle-has been generally a low, confined, cribbed, cramped, damp, leaky, ill-ventilated, ill-lighted, square hole; and yet we have been marvellously surprised and shocked at the excesses of the sailor when ashore! This physical condition has been almost always overlooked, and the sailor today is but little different from the sailor of 50 years ago, excepting perhaps the "pig-tail."

forepeak: the part of a ship's hold in the angle of the bow
foremast: the mast in the fore-part of a vessel

Friday Superstition:  Bad luck.

frigate: a fast 2 decked sailing ship of war of the 18th and 19th centuries
furl: to roll a sail. Gaskets are used to tie it to the yard
gaff: A spar attached to the mast and used to extend the upper edge of a fore-and-aft sail. "a lantern was run up to the peak of the gaff."
galliot: A light, single-masted, flat bottom Dutch merchant ship
: a flat, platted cord used to fasten the sail to the yard
GMT: Greenwich Mean Time. The first Nautical Almanac was published in 1767 and was based on the meridian, an imaginary line running through Greenwich, England with longitude measured east and west of 0� (from that line). In 1884 Greenwich was chosen as the prime meridian where time zones start.  Zones to the west of the prime meridian have an earlier time and zones to the east have a later time. Halfway around the world from Greenwich, a zone is split in half and the imaginary International Date Line runs through this. NZ is just to the west of the IDL. There are 24 meridians of longitude running north to south. Time is one hour different in each neighbouring zone. To locate your position in the world take the GMT and check it against the exact sun time where you are. Every four minutes between the two indicates one degree away from Greenwich. When you point the hour hand of a watch toward the sun - north is half way between the hour hand and the 12.
gig: a long light boat ships reserved for a commanding officer
Gravesend: a seaport in Kent, England on the south bank of the river Thames and is a pilot station for the Port of London. Located 22 miles east of London
halyard: a rope for hoisting or lowering yards or sails. A flag can be flown from a staff or halyard.
hawser: a cable or large rope 5" to 10" in circumference used in mooring or towing a ship
heave to: to bring a ship to a stand still
hogged: an arch in the centre of the keel. The 'Marco Polo' was hogged i.e. the bow and stern were six inches (0.12m) lower than the centre (amidships) of the ship
holystone: a soft sandstone for scouring a ship's deck
hooker: any clumsy old ship
The New Zealand Shipping CompanyHouse flag: A flag denoting the commercial house to which a merchant vessel belongs. Shipping companies usually have square flags.
hulk: the body of a ship not intended to be sea going
: to come into a new country or region
Jack : Are national flags. A small flag flown at the bow of a ship, usually to indicate nationality. 
Jack staff : A staff fixed on the bowsprit cap, upon which the jack is hoisted.

: "Jack" - as a generic name for a sailor. A sailor, also a tar, a jolly jack, a jack tar
"Jack ashore": Our main thoroughfare, Queen -street, Auckland, was made lively enough all mid-day yesterday by the larking, carousing, dancing, and racing of certain men from the H.M. s.s.'Sappho' man-of-war, now in our harbour. As customary with "Jack ashore", a number of them were bent upon making as much amusement for themselves within the short furlough allowed them as was possible. With this end in view the Greyhound Hotel was made their house of call. Ref.:
Southern Cross April 12 1876 page 2
jackass barque:  a sailing ship with 3 or more masts, of which the foremast is square-rigged and the main is partially square-rigged (topsail, topgallant, etc.) and partially fore-and-aft rigged. e.g. Ziba, Foldin, Omeo,
a triangular stay - sail extended from the outer end of the jib-boom to the fore topmast head
jolly boat: a small boat used by a ship's sailors for general work
journal: a record of events rather than a continuous personal record
jury-rig: mast and sails for temporary or emergency use "The 'Dallam Tower'  from London, bound to Otago went 2000 miles under jury-rig".  stunsails
kites: Any of the light sails of a ship that are used only in a light wind. A squall, necessitating the lowering of our kites, came down
A weighed piece of wood, a drogue, attached to a line is tossed over the side while a seaman watches a sandglass. The log line is divided by knots at equal distances, 1/120 of a geographical mile. The number of knots travelled in 30 seconds corresponds to the number of sea miles the vessel travelled per hour. e.g. 15 knots
knot: a measure of ships speed, one nautical mile per hour, equal to one nautical mile (6,080ft) per hour. (1 1/16 statue mile). A nautical mile is one minute of latitude or 1.852 kilometers. There are 60 minutes to a degree of latitude. Length between two knots on the line of a chip log which were spaced at a distance of 47 feet 3" but most mariners used 48 feet. The 48 feet comes from 8 fathoms and thus easier to measure, one fathom being taken as the span of a man's arms.
    A line about 900 feet long on a reel having one end fastened to a thin sector-shaped piece of wood called a log. the arc of the log is loaded to make it stay vertical when tossed into the sea. It is supposed to remain in the same place in the water while the line is unwinding from the reel. The line is divided into equal parts of 50ft each, called knots. Since half a minute has the same ration to an hour that a knot has to a nautical mile, the ship runs at the rate of as many nautical miles an hour as it runs knots in half a minute. If, say, it runs 19 knots in half a minute, the vessel is then running 19 miles an hour. Patent logs are now in almost universal use. Otago Witness March 25 1908 pg 50
: A person who lives and works on land and goes to sea might say today "I'm more of a land crab. I'll stick to the dirt."  An inexperienced sailor; a sailor on the first voyage.

latitude: angular distance, measured in degrees, minutes and seconds north or south from the equator. (remember: lat is flat) Thus the equator is 0� Lat. and the poles 90� Lat. (N. or S.)
Auckland, NZ  Lat: 36.52� S          Long: 174.46� E.
Nelson, NZ  Lat: 41.17 � S             Long: 173.17� E
Timaru, NZ 44� 28 min. S. lat.      171� deg. 27 min. 20 sec. East Longitude; at the flagstaff
Bluff, NZ Lat: 46.36 � S                 Long: 168.20� E

lazarette: a storage space on ships between decks

lee rail: the rail not into the wind
leeward: the direction in which a wind is blowing
Leith: outport for Edinburgh, Scotland
Lighter: a flatbottom boat for carrying heavy loads. Lighterman: someone who operates a barge
lime juicer: iron or steel ship built in Scotland or England. British crews were given a pannikin or metal cup of lime juice daily to fight scurvy
limey: nickname for an English sailor from the lime juice served to crew on British vessels
longitude: angular distance east or west of a given meridian, measured in degrees up to 180�.  The earth evolves through 360� in 24 hours, 15� longitude represents 1 hour's difference in apparent time. Nova's website
log: a book in which officially recorded the proceedings on board a ship, supplied by the Board of Trade. Daily transcribed at noon. Contents: weather, ship's speed, progress, position, course, astronomical observations, wind, crew employment, wages of dead deceased seaman, sale of deceased seaman's effects, and notable events of the voyage e.g. collisions.  The logbook must be signed by master and mate in particular cases. Proper entries admissible in court of law.
a small vessel with lug sails. A lug sail is a square sail bent upon the yard which hangs obliquely to the mast.
martingale: Any of several parts of standing rigging strengthening the bowsprit or jib boom against the force of the head stays.

master: Commonly termed "captain".  "Commanding officer" in the navy. The master was entirely responsible for whatever happened.   He would take charge leaving or entering port or in very in bad weather. He did not have to stand watch. 
master mariner
: merchant navy captain
merchant marine: a person who has worked aboard a commercial vessel
merchant seaman: a seaman or mariner was in the merchant navy, a sailor was in the Royal Navy 
mast: an upright pole supporting the yards, sails and rigging rising vertically from the keel or deck (second deck). The position of each mast is indicated by a prefix, as foremast, in the fore of the ship, the mainmast in the centre and mizzen nearest the stern.  Above the lower mast comes the topmast, and above that the topgallantmast and royalmast. The builders plaque is found on the mast below deck.
mate: Were addressed as "mister". Important for mate to have a knowledge of navigation in case the master became disabled. The mate led one of the watches, usually made the entries in the official ship's logbook, and often took part in celestial navigation. As was common for the officers and sailors, the mate generally sailed just one voyage before signing aboard another ship.
mizzen: the after most of the fore-aft sails of a vessel (the one closest to the rear) or aftermast 
nominated colonial emigrants: 'nominated' by someone already living in New Zealand. The nominator paid some of the fare and the provincial government some
- Ordinary seaman. A seaman of the lowest grade in the merchant marine. 
  - Able seaman: An experienced seaman certified to perform all routine duties at sea.  Able-bodied seaman.
oakum: loose fibre (as hemp and jute) got by untwisting and picking old tarry ropes impregnated with pine tar. Used for caulking the planking on wood ships. 
orlop deck:
the fourth or lowest deck of a vessel
packet: a vessel that sails regular for the conveyance of mail and passengers named because they carried packets of mail  They were usually "fast" sailers.
Pendant or Pennant :  A small pointed or swallow-tailed flag, tapering, usually triangular flag, used on ships for signalling or identification. The best known is the answering pendant
partique: permission to do business at a port, granted to a ship that has complied with quarantine regulations
pinnance or pinnace
: boat used for taking people to and from shore, or small ship in attendance on larger on
Plimsoll Mark
: also call the load line. Any of a set of lines on the hull of a merchant ship that indicate the depth to which it may be legally loaded under specified conditions. Samuel Plimsoll, MP, secured legislation limiting the loading of ships. It required that a line be painted on the sides of all British merchant vessels to show the limit of submergence allowed by law. He engaged engineers to derive a simple formula to determine the position of a line on the side of any specific ship's hull which, when it reached the surface of the water during loading of cargo, meant the ship was as deeply laden as it could safely be. A circle with a horizontal line through the centre. Because different types of water, (summer, fresh, tropical fresh, winter north Atlantic) have different densities, it became required that a group of lines forward of the Plimsoll Mark be installed to indicate the safe depth to which a specific ship could be loaded in water of various densities.
  Below is the load line for a commercial sailing vessel. Deck line is the white 300m stripe. All lines are 25mm in thickness. The original "Plimsoll mark" was a circle with a horizontal line through it to show the maximum draft of a ship. Additional marks allowing for different water densities.
WNA -Winter North Altanic
FW - Fresh Water
LR - Lloyd's Register -surveyed the vessel's load line.

Plymouth: an important seaport in South Devon, Devonshire, England. Embarkation from London was prohibited for some time after an emigrant ship was sunk in the Channel so outward bound ships loaded at London docks called at Plymouth for passengers for several years after 1883. Reference: White Wings by Brett
poop: A raised deck at the stern of a ship. Quarter-deck.  An enclosed superstructure at the stern of a ship.
pooped: To take a wave over the stern of a ship.
port: The left side of the boat looking forward.  "The bottle of port was left half empty"
Portland: island off Dorset, England
Port Phillip Bay: large inlet, Victoria, Australia. Melbourne on N., Geelong on W.
press of canvas: (or sail) the maximum amount of sail that a ship can safely carry under given conditions
: a small horizontal rope between the shrouds of a sailing ship; they form a ladder for climbing aloft
To reduce the size of a sail by tucking in a part and tying it to or rolling it around a yard 

Otago Witness April 22 1854 page 4.
Mr H.D.P. Cunningham, of Gosport, in England. New Method of Reefing.
Anybody at all acquainted with the sea knows that aboard a ship the hardest, the most dangerous, and the most distasteful of all work is the "reefing topsails."  "All hands reef topsails" The sleepers are roused out, the topsail halyards are let go, the weather braces hauled in, reef tackles hauled out, and the cry of "lay aloft" is mingled with the thundering and heavy dull thrashing of the sail.

The yard is a rolling cylinder, around which the canvas is gathered. In the centre of the yard are two broad irons bands, in which the yard revolves. The head of the sail is fixed in the usual manner to wooden backstays. The middle cloth could not be gathered round the yard, as the band would not be sufficiently large to admit it. To obviate this, the topsail is made in two pieces as far down as the reef. The middle cloth is of double canvas and roped down as far as the close reef. This roping runs through galvanised iron fair-leaders, the weight of which, when the yard is lowered, brings the middle cloth down with it as far as necessary. The roping of the middle cloth is, by a long splice, joined to the head of the sail, and as the canvas is gathered round the yard, the middle cloth slides down and forms a sort of bag, or pucker, in the middle. The revolving of the yard is thus effected; a common, strong sword mat, with a Flemish eye in one end is used; a tackle leading from the topmast head, with the hauling part on deck, is hooked into the eye, and the other end of the mat is fixed to the centre of the yard itself with about six turns around it, The yard is mast headed, and the swordmat tackle is hauled taut, the halyards are let go, and the weight of the yard, descending, revolves and gathers up the sail as it goes round. When the yard is on the cap, the sail is close reefed. In hoisting it up, the mat tackle is let go, and, as the yard ascends, fold after fold of the canvas falls out. When fully hoisted, the sail stands well, and is as stiff as a board. When reefed, there is no bagging or loose sail hanging about, as often observed after the old method. The brace blocks hook upon the band in which the yard resolves. The foot ropes are seized upon a boom shaft to the yard, and the stunsail booms are rigged out upon it. The men necessary for a vessel of 500 tons is not more than six for any reefing operations required. There is no chafing of canvas - a yard can be instantly lowered six inches or six feet, to meet the emergencies of bad weather - the speed of a ship can be regulated in dangerous seas.

rig: the style of the arrangement of ropes, sails, spars etc. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
rigs Jeremy Lowe's page 2

From page 341, The Bluejacket Manual, 1940.

Schooner, Topsail Schooner, Brigantine, Brig, Barkentine, Barque, Ship

rigging: the cordage or wire rope equipment of a vessel. The permanent ropes are called standing rigging and the moveable ones running rigging

rails: top of ship's bulwarks
RMS: Royal Mail Steamer (Service)
roadstead: or road. Anchorage providing part shelter for a vessel while off shore.  Ship can ride at anchor. e.g. Timaru Roadstead or 'Funchal Roads' at the island of Madeira. 
Roaring Forties: area of southern ocean between 40� and 50� latitude where strong winds W & NW winds are prevalent
royal mast: a small mast next above the top gallant mast
RoP : Report of Proceedings - e.g. as in a more detailed report by the Master of a vessel regarding a recently completed voyage etc. RoPs are the official record of activities of the Royal Australian Navy's commands, vessels, shore establishments, administrative authorities and installations.
: used to steer a vessel. The rudder is fastened by pintles and gudgeons not on hinges
SS: steamship
sagging: a straining of the ship that tends to make the middle portion lower than the bow and stern, opposed to hogging
St Elmo's Fire: an electrical phenomenon that sends a glow along the masts and yards of a ship during a thunder storm, was considered very bad luck.
saloon: principal cabin in steamer
schooner: a ship with two or more masts rigged fore and aft often used in coastal runs.
scow: large flat bottom barge for carrying deck loads. 
screw propeller: It began to replace the paddle wheel about 1837.  The only restriction on the use of the propeller is sufficient depth of water and draft of the hull to allow it to operate completely submerged.  One to four propellers can be used and the ship is designated as single-screw, twin screw, triple screw or quadruple screw.
: drains from decks to carry off accumulations of water
Scilly Islands: an archipelago 45 km S.W. of Lands End, Cornwall, England
sea dog: A very experienced sailor. An old sailor; a salt. 
second cabin
: passengers sailing second cabin received more provisions and were allowed twenty cubic feet of luggage compared with ten cubic feet for steerage passengers
sextant: a reflecting instrument, invented c. 1780, for measuring the angular distance of the sun, a star, etc. from the horizon.  Making a sextant sighting and noting the time, the master would use a nautical almanac to calculate his position e.g. noon to noon sightings "shooting the sun" ( the sun is in the highest position at midday). It is the moment the sun crosses the observers meridian. i.e. north-south axis.
: A veteran sailor. Crew that have crossed the Equator by sea, and have received King Neptune�s approval and blessing. All others are Pollywogs.
ship: a sailing vessel, of three or more masts, square rigged on all masts
shipwright: carpenter engaged in building or repairing ships
'short-shipped': passengers who were documented as coming on the ship but actually came on a different unidentified vessel, perhaps because the original ship was too small for the number of passengers, or the family did not pass the health inspection, or some other reason.
signal codes: Marryat signal codes 

square-rigged sail: The wood or steel yardarm supporting the sail hangs across the ship from side-to-side. Caught the wind and gave better propulsion out on the seas. At the same time required a large crew to go aloft and climb out on each yard to let out or shorten the sail. See fore-and-aft. 
Any upright post or beam used as a support, as for the deck, the quarter rails, awnings, etc

stay: A heavy rope or cable, usually of wire, used as a brace or support for a mast or spar. "lifts and stays"
staysail: A triangular sail hoisted on a stay
: a section of the ship allotted to the passengers paying the lowest fare and given inferior accommodations
stern: the rare end of a ship. Astern: behind a vessel
sloop: one mast fore-and-aft rigged ship
: The right side of the boat, looking forward. Opposite of port 
strake: a continuous band of hull planking or plates on a ship
: A contraction of studding sail. A light sail set at the side of a principal or square sail of a vessel in free winds, to increase her speed. Its head is bent to a small spar which is called the studding-sail boom.

taffrail: The rail around the stern of a vessel. The flat upper part of the ship's stern, made of wood and often richly carved.

engine order telegraph: ca. 1900 -1920. photo to the right.  link
The Lizard: a peninsula in Cornwall extending south from the town of Helston. Situated 24 miles S.E. of Lands End. Has lighthouses. South point of England
transom: stern-post of a ship. The horizontal beam across back of the vessel.  See escutcheon.
"Trf to S/M" or "Trf to S/W". Notation on passenger list. 13 years and over were listed initially with their families and then moved to the single women's/single men's quarters.
The Snares: Islands located 80km (50mi) to the south of Stewart Island and are a major seabird and seal breeding ground. Sealers called, even this century. A greenstone mere (club) and other artefacts testify they weren't the first. The islands also boast a colourful human history of sealers, castaways and farmers who battled to survive in the bleak, hostile climate.
tonnage gross: The entire internal cubic capacity of a vessel except for certain exempted spaces, expressed in "tons" taken at a 100 cubic feet each. It is the measure of the space available for carrying passengers and cargo. Not to be confused with displacement or deadweight
tonnage net: The internal capacity of a vessel which remain after the capacities of certain specified spaces (used for the working parts of the ship - navigating spaces, stores, engine room, crew accommodation, etc.,) have been deducted from the gross tonnage to allow for certain spaces not available for cargo. Basically a measurement of the earning capacity.
deadweight tons: Represents the weight carrying ability of the ship.  A measure of the amount of cargo, stores, bunkers, fuel, fresh water, etc. that a ship can carry down to her load draught or load line. 
displacement tons: Used for warships and is the weight of the total amount of water displaced by a ship and contents when floating at load draught. Calculated by dividing the cubic feet of water displaced by 35. Knowledge of the displacement of ships at their designed load waterlines is the most satisfactory means of comparing them for size.
Tramp steamer - any vessel carrying less than twelve passengers.  In the Old Country they are not surveyed, except for insurance purposes. In New Zealand everything was surveyed, even if it was only a "dugout" to carry a man and his dog.
Timaru Herald 1 Jul. 1899 pg2
triple deadeye - a piece of equipment used on sailing ships until the end of the 19th century.  photo

trysail: A small fore-and-aft sail hoisted abaft the foremast and mainmast in a storm to keep a ship's bow to the wind - used chiefly as a storm sail. 
TSS: Turbine Steamship
: ship's boat of the double-bowed type used in whaling
white squall :  A sudden squall occurring in tropical or subtropical waters, characterized by the absence of a dark cloud and the presence of white-capped waves
one of seven divisions of working day on ship, announced by bell strikes
"watch below": steam personnel. Consisted of an assistant engineer in charge of a coal passer, stoker, oilers, firemen, water tenders and wipers
wear a ship: to do with tacking
windjammers - was a derogatory term utilized by the crews of steamships. It's believed men aboard a steamship derisively jeered a sailing ship's crew as they attempted to jam their ship's sails around to capture the wind. But the sailing ship's crew embraced the name, transforming it into an emblem of pride rather than shame.
: winch, horizontal drum with crank handle for hoisting an anchor
windward: point from which the wind blows, facing the wind. Opposed to leeward
yard: spar set crosswise to mast, for supporting a sail. yard arms
yellow jack: yellow fever. Yellow flag  used as a signal of quarantine Glossary of Sailing Terms
More terms defined
Ship Prefixes


Tuapeka Times, 26 January 1889, Page 6 Nautical definitions
A boat on shore is a boat;
when on the water,
and tied up, it is a-float ;
cut it loose and it is a-drift.

Heavy reading - A ship's log-book.

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