English Nautical Glossary B


back and fill

TFD: adjust the sails so as to let the wind in and out of them in alteration.

back astern

B: In rowing, is to impel the boat with her stern foremost, by means of the oars.

F: is to manage the oars in a direction contrary to the usual method, so as that the boat, or vessel, impressed by their force, shall retreat, or move with her stern foremost, instead of advancing.

back of the post

F: The difficulty of procuring a sternpost of sufficient breadth in one piece, has introduced the practice of fixing an additional piece behind it, which is strongly bolted to the former. The hinges, which support the rudder, are accordingly fixed to this latter, which is also tenanted into the keel, and denominated the back of the post. It is half the breadth of the sternpost at the heel, but diminishes gradually towards the upper end, where it is one third narrower.

back the anchor

F: to carry out a small anchor, as the stream or kedge, ahead of the large one by which the ship usually rides, in order to support it, and prevent it from loosening, or coming home, in bad ground. In this situation the latter is confined by the former, in the same manner that the ship is restrained by the latter.

back the sails

F: is to arrange them in a situation that will occasion the ship to retreat or move astern. This operation is particularly necessary in narrow channels, when a ship is carried along sidewise by the strength of the tide or current, and it becomes requisite to avoid any object that may intercept her course, as shoals, or vessels under sail or at anchor.


TFD: a rope or shroud extending from the top of a mast aft to a ship's side or stern to help support the mast

F: from back and stay, long ropes reaching from the topmast heads to the starboard and larboard sides of the ship, where they are extended to the channels; they are used to support the topmasts, and second the efforts of the shrouds, when the mast is strained by a weight of sail in a fresh wind.


F: in ship building, a sort of ornament, placed on the outside of small ships, very near the stern, containing either a window, for the convenience of the cabin, or the representation of it; it is commonly decorated with marine figures, martial instruments, or such like emblems.

bagpipe the mizen

F: to lay it aback, by bringing the sheet to the mizen shrouds.


B: To contract a sail into a narrower compass, by folding up a part at one corner. Balancing is peculiar only to the mizen of a ship, and the mainsail of those vessels wherein it is extended by a boom.

balance of the mizen

F: is thus performed: the mizen yard is lowered a little, then a small portion of the sail is rolled up at the peak, or upper corner, and fastened to the yard about one fifth inward from the outer end, or yardarm, toward the mast.

balance of the boom sail

F: A boom mainsail is balanced, after all its reefs are taken in, by rolling up a similar portion of the hindmost or aftmost lower corner, called the clue, and fastening it strongly to the boom, having previously wrapped a piece of old canvas round the part (which is done in both cases) to prevent the sail from being fretted by the cord which fastens it.


TFD: any dense heavy material, such as lead or iron pigs, used to stabilize a vessel, esp. one that is not carrying cargo

B: is either pigs of iron, stones or gravel, which last is called shingle ballast; and its use is to bring the ship down to her bearings in the water, which her provisions and stores will not do.

F: a certain portion of stone, iron, gravel, or such like materials, deposited in a ship's hold, when she has either no cargo, or too little to bring her sufficiently low in the water. It is used to counterbalance the effort of the wind upon the masts, and give the ship a proper stability, that she may be enabled to carry sail without danger of oversetting.

freshen the ballast

trim the ballast

banyan day

W: In British naval tradition, this originally referred to a day of the week when galley kitchens served no meat on board ship.

F: a cant term among common sailors, denoting those days on which they have no flesh meat; it seems to be derived from the practice of a nation amongst the eastern Indians, who never eat flesh.


TFD: A large elevated area of a sea floor. Often used in the plural.

F: an elevation of the ground, or bottom of the sea, which is often so high as to appear above the surface of the water, or at least so little beneath it, as to prevent a ship from floating over it; in this sense, bank amounts nearly to the same as shallows, flats, &c. The shelves that abound with rocks under water are distinguished by other names, as reefs, ridges, keys, &c.


W: A ridge or succession of ridges of sand or other substance, especially a formation extending across the mouth of a river or harbor or off a beach, and which may obstruct navigation.

F: of a port or haven, a shoal or bank of sand, gravel, &c. thrown up by the surge of the sea, to the mouth of a river or harbour, so as to endanger, and sometimes totally prevent, the navigation.


TFD: A platform or mound of earth within a fort from which guns are fired over the parapet.

bare poles

B: When a ship has no sail set, she is under bare poles.


TFD: The barca longa was a two or three-masted lugger found on the coasts of Spain and Portugal as well as more widely in the Mediterranean Sea. They were used in Spain and Portugal for fishing but were employed by the Royal Navy in Mediterranean waters, for shore raids or as dispatch boats. In general, they were not in Royal Naval ownership.

F: a large Spanish tithing boat, navigated with lugsails, and having two or three masts; these are very common in the Mediterranean.


W: 1. A large flat-bottomed towed or self-propelled boat used mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods or bulk cargo, 2. A richly decorated ceremonial state vessel propelled by rowers for river processions 3. A large flat-bottomed coastal trading vessel having a large spritsail and jib-headed topsail, a fore staysail and a very small mizen, and having leeboards instead of a keel 4. One of the boats of a warship having fourteen oars

B: A carval built boat, that rows with ten or twelve oars.

F: a vessel or boat of state, furnished with elegant apartments, canopies, and cushions; equipped with a band of rowers, and decorated with flags and streamers; they are generally used for processions on the water, by noblemen, officers of state, or magistrates of great cities. Of this sort we may naturally suppose the famous barge or galley of Cleopatra... There are likewise other barges of a smaller kind, for the use of admirals and captains of ships of war. These are of a lighter frame, and may be easily hoisted into, and out of the ships to which they occasionally belong. Barge is also the name of a flat-bottomed vessel of burthen, for lading and discharging ships, and removing their cargoes from place to place in a harbour.

bark (barque)

W: A three-masted vessel, having her foremast and mainmast square-rigged, and her mizenmast schooner-rigged.

F: a general name given to small ships: it is however peculiarly appropriated by seamen to those which carry three masts without a mizen topsail. Our northern mariners, who are trained in the coal trade, apply this distinction to a broad-sterned ship, which carries no ornamental figure on the stem or prow.

barque or bark


TFD: Any of various marine crustaceans of the subclass Cirripedia that in the adult stage form a hard shell and remain attached to submerged surfaces, such as rocks and ships' bottoms.


F: a strong wooden rail, supported by Several little pillars or stanchions, and extending, as a fence, across the foremost part of the quarterdeck. In a vessel of war, the intervals between the pillars are commonly filled with cork, junks of old cable, or matts of plaited cordage. In the upper part, there is a double rope-netting, supported by double cranes of iron, extending about a foot above the rail; and between the two parts of the netting are stuffed a number of hammocks, filled with the seamens bedding, to intercept and prevent the execution of small shot fired by swivel guns, carabines, or muskets, in the time of battle.


a small keg or cask to contain water


TFD: any partially enclosed or sheltered area where vessels may be moored or docked

F: a place where the water is confined by double flood-gates, and thereby prevented from running out at the tide of ebb. The use of it is to contain ships whilst repairing, either before they enter, or after they come out of the dock. Basin also implies some part of a haven, which opens from a narrow channels into a wide and spacious reservoir for shipping.


TFD: a. One of several flexible strips of wood or plastic placed in pockets at the outer edge of a sail to keep it flat. b. A narrow strip of wood used to fasten down the edges of the material that covers hatches in foul weather.

B: a thin piece of wood.

batten down the hatches

W: In the age of sail, to cover the hatches with tarpaulins and nail the edges down with battens, to prevent water getting below-decks in a storm.

B: is to lay battens upon the tarpaulins, which are over the hatches in bad weather, and nail them down that they may not be washed off.


W: A signal or conspicuous mark erected on an eminence near the shore, or moored in shoal water, as a guide to mariners. A post or buoy placed over a shoal or bank to warn vessels of danger; also a signal mark on land.

B: A post or stake erected over a shoal or sand bank, as a warning to seamen to keep at a distance. Also a signal placed at the top of hills, &c.


W: A protruding part of the foremost section of a sailing ship.

F: a name given to a ship's head whose forecastle is square or oblong, a circumstance common to all vessels of war which have two or more decks of guns. In smaller ships, the forecastle is nearly shaped like a parabola, whose vertex, or angular point, lies immediately over the stem.


W: 1. The maximum width of a vessel; as, one vessel is said to have more beam than another; also called breadth. 2. The side of a ship.

TFD: The breadth of a ship at the widest point.

before the beam

on the beam


W: The ends of the transverse beams of a ship.

Note: A ship is on her beam-ends when she has heeled over such that the beams are vertical and she cannot be brought back to an upright position.


TFD: Transverse structural members of a ship's frame, used to support a deck and to brace the sides against stress.

B: Strong pieces of timber stretching across a ship's side to side, to support the decks, and retain the sides at their proper distance.

bear a hand

W: to make haste; to help quickly (used mostly in the imperative)

F: a phrase of the same import with make haste, dispatch, quick, &c.

bear away, or bear up

W: To sail close to the wind.

B: The act of changing the course of a ship, in order to make her run before the wind, after she had sailed sometime with a side wind, or close-hauled; it is generally performed to arrive at some port under the lee, or to avoid some imminent danger occasioned by a violent storm, leak, or enemy in sight.

F: in navigation, the act of changing the course of a ship, in order to make her run before the wind, after she had sailed some time with a side wind, or close hauled; it is generally performed to arrive at some port under the lee, or to avoid some imminent danger occasioned by a violent storm, leak, or an enemy in sight. This phrase, which is absurd enough, seems to have been derived from the motion of the helm, by which this effect is partly produced; as the helm is then borne up to the windward, or weather side of the ship. Otherwise, it is a direct contradiction in terms, to say that a ship bears up, when she goes before the wind; since the current of the wind, as well as that of a river, is always understood to determine the situation of objects or places within its limits. In the first sense we say, up to windward and down to leeward; as in the latter we say, up or down the river. This expression, however, although extremely improper, is commonly adopted in the general instructions of our navy, printed by authority, instead of bearing down, or bearing away.

bear down

W: To approach another vessel from windward

bear in with

W: To approach (a ship) nearer.

B: the land, is when a ship sails toward the shore

bear off

B: To thrust or keep off from the ship's side, &c. any weight when hoisting.

bear off from

W: To stand further off from (a ship)

bear to

B: is to sail into an harbour, &c

bear up

See bear away


W: The horizontal angle between the direction of an object and that of true north; subject to variation and deviation when taken by a magnetic compass

B: signifies the point of the compass which any two or more places bear from each other, or has any place bears from the ship by the compass; or it may be said to bear on the beam, abaft the beam, on the bow, the head or stern, &c.

F: an arch of the horizon intercepted between the nearest meridian and any distinct object, either discovered by the eye, or resulting from the sinical proportion; as in the first case, at 4 P. M. Cape Spado, in the isle of Candia, bore S by W. by the compass. In the second, the longitudes and latitudes of any two places being given, and consequently the difference of latitude and longitude between them, the bearing from one to the other is discovered by the following analogy: As the meridianal difference of latitude is to the difference of longitude; so is radius to the tangent bearing. These bearings, therefore, which may be called mechanical, are on the beam, before the beam, abaft the beam, on the bow, on the quarter, ahead, or astern. If the ship sails with a side wind, it alters the names of such bearings in some measure, since a distant object on the beam is then said to be to leeward, or to windward; on the lee quarter, or bow; and on the weather quarter or bow.

beat, beating

W: To sail to windward using a series of alternate tacks across the wind.

B: To make a progress against the direction of the wind, by steering alternately close hauled on the starboard and larboard tacks.

F: in navigation, the operation of making a progress at sea against the direction of the wind, in a zig-zag line, or traverse, like that in which we ascend a steep hill.

Beaufort scale

Although Francis Beaufort didn't enter his first scale into his logbook until 1806, he used terms in use by British naval officers and it may serve to give an idea of the relative strengths of the various descriptions.

Modern Scale


W: To cut off the wind from a ship either by the proximity of land or by another vessel. A ship that is motionless due to the absence of wind is becalmed.

F: to intercept the current of the wind, in its passage to a ship, with any contiguous object, as a shore above her sails, a high sea behind, or some other ship. At this time the sails remain in a state of rest, and are consequently deprived of their power to govern the motion of the ship.


TFD: A device, such as a looped rope, hook and eye, strap, or grommet, used to hold or fasten loose ropes, spars, or oars in position.

F: imply in general any thing used to confine loose ropes, tackles, oars, or spars, in a convenient place, where they may be disposed out of the way till they are wanted. Hence, beckets are either large hooks, or short pieces of rope, with a knot on one end and an eye in the ocher, or formed like a circular wreath; or they are wooden brackets; and, probably, from a corruption and misapplication of this last term, arose the word becket, which seems often to be confounded with bracket.


F: a flat thick piece of timber, usually formed of the rough staves of casks, or such like materials, to be lodged under the quarters of casks containing any liquid and stowed in a ship's hold. The use of the beds is to support the cask, and keep the bilge, or middle part of it, from bearing against the ship's floor, or against the body upon which it rests, lest the staves should give way and break in the place where they are weakest; or lie in a wet place, so as to rot in the course of the voyage.

before the beam

B: denotes an arch of the horizon comprehended between the line of the beam (which is at right angles to the keel) and that point of the compass on which the ship stems. See bearing.

F: is an arch of the horizon comprehended between the line that crosses her length at right angles, and some object at a distance before it, or between the line of the beam and that point of the compass which she stems. Thus if a ship, steering west, discovers an island on the right, three points before the beam, the island must bear NW by N from the ship.


W: 1. To make (a rope) fast by turning it round a cleat or belaying pin, 2. The general command to stop or cease.

F: to fasten a rope by winding it several times round a cleat, belaying pin, or kevel; this term is peculiar to small ropes, and chiefly the running rigging, there being several other expressions used for large ropes, as bitting, bending, making fast, stopping, &c.

belaying pin

TFD: A short, removable wooden or metal pin fitted in a hole in the rail of a boat and used for securing running gear.


w: the ornamental frame in which the ship's bell is hung.


W: Ship's bells; the strokes on a ship's bell, every half hour, to mark the passage of time.

(from Wikipedia)

explanation bells on a ship


TFD: on or to a lower deck

below decks

W: In any of the spaces below the the main deck of a vessel


W: To tie, as in securing a line to a cleat; to shackle a chain to an anchor; make fast.

B: To apply to and fasten; as bend the sails, apply them to the yards and fasten them; unbend the sails, that is cast them off, and take them from the yards; her sails are unbent, she had none fixed; bend the cable, make it fast to the anchor.

F: to fasten one rope to another, of which there are several methods.


W: The thickest and strongest planks in a wooden ship's side, wales.


See neaped

berth, or birth

1. A space for a ship to dock or anchor, 2. a person's job or position aboard ship, 3. a built-in bed or bunk on a ship, 4. the place where a person sleeps aboard ship

B: A place; as the ship's birth, the place where she is moored; an officer's birth, his place in the ship to eat or sleep in; birth the ship's company that is, to allot them their plaes to mess in; birth the hammocks, point out where each man's hammock is to hang

F: the station in which a ship rides at anchor, either alone or in a fleet; or the distance between the ship and any adjacent object; comprehending the extent of the space in which the ranges at the length of her cables; as, she lies in a good birth, i. e. in a convenient situation, or at a proper distance from the shore and other vessels; and where there is good anchoring-ground, and shelter from the violence of the wind and sea. Also signifies the room or apartment where any particular number of the officers or ship's company usually mess and reside.

best bower

WP: The larger of two anchors carried in the bow; so named as it was the last, best hope.

between decks

The space contained between any two decks of a ship.


B: 1. The double part of a rope when it is folded, 2. A narrow inlet of the sea.

F: 1. the double part of a rope when it is folded, in contradistinction to the end; as, her anchor hooked the bight of our cable, i. e. caught any part of it between the ends. The bight of his cable has swept our anchor; that is, the double part of the cable of another ship, as she ranged about, has entangled itself under the stock or fluke of our anchor. 2. also a small bay between two points of land.


TFD: An iron bar to which sliding fetters are attached, formerly used to shackle the feet of prisoners.


W: 1. The rounded portion of a ship's hull, forming a transition between the bottom and the sides, 2. the lowest inner part of a ship's hull, 3. to spring a leak in the bilge, 4. to break open the bilge(s) of

F: that part of the floor of a ship, on either side of the keel, which approaches nearer to an horizontal than to a perpendicular direction, and on which the ship would rest if laid on the ground; or more particularly, those parts of the bottom which are opposite to the heads of the floor timbers amidships on each side of the keel. Hence when a ship receives a fracture in this place, she is said to be bilged.

bilge water

W: Water which collects in the bilges of a ship.

B: is that which, by reason of the flatness of a ship's bottom, lies on her floor, and cannot go to the well of the pump.


W: The extremity of the arm of an anchor; the point of or beyond the fluke.

F: the point or extremity of the fluke of an anchor.


TFD: A ledge on the bow of a ship on which the bill of an anchor rests when the anchor is secured to the cathead.


W: The wooden housing for a ship's compass, with its corrector magnets and illuminating arrangements; the log and other equipment for measuring the ship's speed is also stowed there.

F: a wooden case or box, which contains the compasses, log glasses, watch glasses, and lights to shew the compass at night. The binnacle is furnished with three apartments, with sliding shutters; the two side ones have always a compass in each to direct the ship's way, while the middle division has a lamp or candle, with a pane of glass on either side to throw a light upon the compass in the night, whereby the man who steers may observe it in the darkest weather, as it stands immediately before the helm on the quarter-deck.


See berth


W: The "bread" formerly supplied to naval ships; made with very little water, kneaded into flat cakes and slowly baked; often infested with weevils.


F: to hold fast in the ground; expressed of the anchor.

bit the cable

B: is to confine the cable to the bitts, by one turn under the cross piece, and another turn round the bitthead. In this position it may be either kept fixed, or it may be veered away.


TFD: A binnacle.


B: The turn of the cable round the bitts.

bitter end

W: that part of an anchor cable which is abaft the bitts and thus remains onboard when a ship is riding at anchor.

B: that part of the cable which stays within board, round about the bitts, when the ship is at anchor.


W: A frame of strong oak timber bolted to the deck beams in the fore part of a ship to which are secured the cables when the ship rides to anchor

B: Very large pieces of timber in the fore part of a ship, round which the cables are fastened when the ship is at anchor. The after bitts are a smaller kind of bitts upon the quarterdeck, for belaying the running rigging to.


W: A case with one or more sheaves/pulleys, used with ropes to increase or redirect force, for example, as part of the rigging of a sailing ship.

F: a machine known in mechanics by the name of pulley, and used for various purposes in a ship, particularly to increase the mechanical power of the ropes employed in contracting, dilating, or traversing the sails. The ends of these ropes, being arranged in certain places upon the deck, may thus be readily found whenever they are wanted. The blocks, which are for these purposes disposed in various places upon the masts, yards, and sails, and amongst the rigging, are also of various sizes, shapes, and powers, according to the effect they are calculated to produce. They are single, double, or treble, being so denominated from the number of wheels they contain. There are even some of them five, fix, and seven fold, but these are only employed to raise or move some very weighty bodies, and are not used about the yards or sails.


TFD: a large sea nettle or medusa

medusa: the tentacled, usually bell-shaped, free-swimming sexual stage in the life cycle of a coelenterate, such as a jellyfish


W: 1. The side of a ship., 2. The distance a sailing vessel runs between tacks when working to windward

F: the space comprehended between any two places where the ship changes her course by tacking; or the line over which she runs between tack and tack, when she is turning to windward, or sailing against the direction of the wind.

by the board

make a board

make a good board

make a stern board

on board

board it up

B: to turn to windward


TFD: A relatively small, usually open craft of a size that might be carried aboard a ship.

F: a small open vessel, conducted on the water by rowing or sailing. The construction, machinery, and even the names of boats, are very different, according to the various purposes for which they are calculated, and the services on which they are to be employed.

boat hook

TFD: A pole with a metal point and hook at one end used especially to maneuver logs, rafts, and boats.

F: an iron hook with a sharp point on the hinder part thereof, to stick into a piece of wood, a ship's side, &c. It is stuck upon a long pole or shaft, by the help of which a person in the boat may either hook any thing to confine the boat in a particular place, or push her off by the sharp point attached to the back of the hook.


W: The officer (or warrant officer) in charge of sails, rigging, anchors, cables etc. and all work on deck of a sailing ship.

F: the officer who has the boats, sails, rigging, colours, anchors, and cables, committed to his charge. It is the duty of the boatswain particularly to direct whatever relates to the rigging of a ship, after she is equipped from a royal dock yard. Thus he is to observe that the masts are properly supported by their shrouds, stays, and back-stays, so that each of those ropes may sustain a proportional effort when the mast is strained by the violence of the wind, or the agitation of the ship. He ought also to take care that the blocks and running-ropes are regularly placed, so as to answer the purposes for which they are intended; and that the sails are properly fitted to their yards and stays, and well furled or reefed when occasion requires. It is likewise his office to summon the crew to their duty; to assist with his mates in the necessary business of the ship; and to relieve the watch when it expires. He ought frequently to examine the condition of the masts, sails, and rigging, and remove whatever may be judged unfit for service, or supply what is deficient; and he is ordered by his instructions to perform this duty with as little noise as possible.

A boatswain, also known as a bosun or bo's'n, is a senior crew member on a ship responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the vessel. The boatswain is typically a member of the deck department and supervises the deck crew. The boatswain is responsible for the components of a ship's hull, including the masts, yards, sails, rigging, anchors, boats, and cordage. The boatswain also issues signals to the crew using a distinctive pipe or whistle. In modern vessels, the boatswain has charge of anchors and anchor gear, cargo-handling gear, rigging, boats, and instruction of the crew in these areas. The term "bosun" is a shortened version of "boatswain" and is commonly used to describe the same profession

boatswain's pipe

See call


W: A strong rope or chain rigging running from the end of the bowsprit to the ship's stem or cutwater

F: a rope used to confine the bowsprit of a ship downward to the stem, or cut-water. It is fixed by thrusting one of it's ends through a hole bored in the fore-part of the cut-water for this purpose, and then splicing both ends together so as to make it two-fold, or like the link of a chain; a dead-eye is then seized into it, and a laniard passing through this, and communicating with another dead-eye upon the bowsprit, is drawn extremely tight by the help of mechanical powers. The use of the bobstay, is to draw down the bowsprit, and keep it steady; and to counteract the force of the stays of the foremast, which draw it upwards. The bowsprit is also fortified by shrouds from the bows on each side; which are all very necessary, as the foremast and the upper part of the mainmast are stayed and greatly supported by the bowsprit. For this reason, the bobstay is the first part of a ship's rigging which is drawn tight to support the masts. To perform this task more effectually, it is usual to suspend a boat, anchor, or other weighty body, at the bowsprit end, to press it downwards during this operation.


TFD: Steep or abrupt in grade or terrain

B: A steep coast, permitting the close approach of shipping.

F: an epithet applied to the sea-coast, signifying steep, or abrupt, so as to admit the approach of shipping without exposing them to the danger of being run aground, or stranded.


F: a sort of small cushions or bags, filled with tarred canvas, laid between the collars of the stays and the edge of some piece of wood on which they lie; they are used to preserve the stays from being chafed or galled by the motion of the masts, as the ship rolls or pitches at sea.


W: Rope sewn around the edges of a sail to prevent it from fraying; placed slightly off-centre to assist orientation by feel in the dark.

B: The rope which goes round a sail, and to which the canvass is sewed. The side ropes are called leach ropes, that at the top the head rope, and that at the bottom the foot rope.

F: a rope to which the edges or skirts of the sails are sewed, to strengthen and prevent them from rending. Those parts of the bolt-rope, which are on the perpendicular or sloping edges, are called leech ropes; that at the bottom, the foot-rope; and that on the top or upper edge, the head-rope. Staysails, whose heads are formed like an acute angle, have no head-rope. To different parts of the bolt-rope are fastened all the ropes employed to contract or dilate the sails.


A corruption of bowsprit.


a sleek, fast-swimming fish in the tuna family


W: A length of canvas attached to a fore-and-aft sail to increase the pulling power.

B: an additional piece of canvass put to the sail in moderate weather to hold more wind.

lase on the bonnet

shake off the bonnet


W: A spar extending the foot of a sail; a spar rigged outboard from a ship's side to which boats are secured in harbour.

F: certain long poles run out from different places in the ship to extend the bottoms of particular sails. Of these there are several sorts; as the jib boom, studding sail booms, ring tail boom, driver boom, main boom, and square sail boom; the two last, however, are only appropriated to small ships of one or two masts.

boom iron

TFD: one of the iron rings on the yards through which the studding sail booms traverse.

F: is composed of two iron rings, formed into one piece. It is employed to connect two cylindrical pieces of wood together, when the one is used as a continuation of the other; such is the jib boom to the bowsprit; and such are the studding sail booms to the respective yards from whole extremities they are prolonged. The rims, or circles of the boom irons, are broad and flat; and one of them, which is firmly driven upon the main, or fore yardarm, is somewhat larger than the other. The studding sail boom usually rests in the small ring, through which it is occasionally thrust outwards from the yardarm, when the studding sail is to be set. Every boom of this kind has, or ought to have, two boom irons, one of which is fixed on the extremity of the yard, and the other further inward. The former of these is frequently framed of one ring only, which projects from the end of the yard, where it is fastened by a strong iron bar, opening into a sort of fork or crotch that hides upon the yard lengthways, where it is fastened by nails driven from above and below.

boom sail

F: any sail whose bottom is extended by a boom, the foreend of which is hooked to it's respective mast, so as to swing occasionally on either side of the vessel, describing an arch, of which the mast will be the center.


W: 1. The process of cleaning the upper part of a ship's underwater hull and daubing it with a protecting layer of antifouling substance. 2. Any substance used for boot-topping, especially a mixture of tallow, sulphur or lime and rosin, which was commonly used to paint the bottoms of wooden ships, as a deterrent against weeds and barnacles, and to reduce friction.

TFD: 1. the part of a ship's hull that is between the load line and the water line when the ship is not loaded 2. a coating applied to this part of a ship to remove marine growth

F: the act of cleaning the upper-part of a ship's bottom, or that part which lies immediately under the surface of the water, and daubing it over with tallow, or with a coat or mixture of tallow, sulphur, resin, &c. Boot-topping is chiefly performed where there is no dock, or other commodious situation for breaming or careening; or when the hurry of a voyage renders it inconvenient to have the whole bottom properly trimmed and cleansed from the filth which gathers to it in the course of a sea voyage. It is executed by making the ship lean to one side, as much as they can with safety, and then scraping off the grass, slime, shells, or other materials that adhere to the bottom, on the other side, which is elevated above the surface of the water for this purpose, and accordingly daubed with the coat of tallow and sulphur. Having thus finished one side, they make the ship lean to the other side, and perform the same operation, which not only preserves the bottom from the worm, but makes the ship slide smoothly through the water.


TFD: An edible plant (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) in the mustard family, having spreading crinkled leaves that do not form a compact head. (kale)


may refer either to the ship's bottom, the underside of the hull, or to the sea bottom, a sandy or oozy bottom


TFD: the foremost point of the hull of a ship or boat

on the bow

bow grace

B: A frame of old rope or junk, laid out at the bows, stems, and sides of ships, to prevent them from being injured by flakes of ice.


refers to the anchors carried in the bow, the small bower, and the best bower. The last so named because it was the largest anchor on the ship, and thus the last, best hope in an emergency.


TFD: A rope attached to the weather leech of a square sail to hold the leech forward when sailing close-hauled.

B: Line(s) made fast to the sides of the sails to haul them forward when upon a wind, which being hauled taut, enables the ship to come nearer to the wind.


TFD: To pull or hoist with a tackle.

F: to draw on any body with a tackle, or complication of pullies, in order to remove it, or otherwise alter it's state or situation; this is chiefly practised when such alteration or removal cannot be conveniently effected without the application of mechanical powers. This term is pronounced bowce.


TFD: A spar, extending forward from the stem of a ship, to which the stays of the foremast are fastened.

F: a large boom or mast, which projects over the stem, to carry sail forward, in order to govern the fore part of a ship, and counteract the force of the sails extended behind, or, in the after part. It is otherwise of great use, as being the principal support of the foremast, by confining the stays whereby it is secured and enabled to carry sail; these are great ropes stretching from the masthead to the middle of the bowsprit, where they are drawn tight.


TFD: Turning (a square-rigged ship) about on the heel by bracing the sails aback.

F: in navigation, a particular method of veering a ship, when the swell of the sea renders tacking impracticable. It is performed by putting the helm alee, to throw the head up to windward, where meeting with great resistance from the repeated shocks of the waves on the weather bow, it falls off, or turns to leeward, with a quicker effort, and without advancing. The aftermost sails are at this time diminished, or perhaps altogether deprived of their force of action, for a short time, because they would otherwise counteract the sails forward, and prevent the ship from turning. They are, however, extended as soon as the ship, in veering, brings the wind on the opposite quarter, as their effort then contributes to assist her motion of wheeling. Box-hauling is generally performed when the ship is too near the shore to have room for veering in the usual way.

brab tree

Palmyra Palm tree, or fan palm


W: A rope reeved through a block at the end of a yard, by which the yard is moved horizontally; also, a rudder gudgeon.

F: a rope employed to wheel, or traverse the sails upon the mast, in a direction parallel to the horizon, when it is necessary to shift the sails, that they may correspond with the direction of the wind and the course of the ship. Braces are, for this purpose, fastened to the extremities of the yards, which are called the yardarms. All the braces of the yards are double, except those of the topgallant and spritsail [and] topsail yards. The mizen yard is furnished with fangs, or vangs, in the room of braces.

brace aback

W: to bring the wind onto the forward side of the sails to slow the ship

brace about

W: to brace the ship's yards on the opposite tack when going about

brace sharp

W: to bring the yards around to make the smallest possible angle with the fore and aft line when sailing close-hauled

B: to brace the yards to a position in which they will make the smallest possible angle with the keel, for the ship to have headway.

brace the yards

B: To move the yards, by means of the braces, to any direction required.

brace to

B: to ease off the lee braces, and round in the weather braces, to assist the motion of the ship's head in tacking.


TFD: one of several lines fastened to the leech of a fore-and-aft sail to aid in furling it

F: certain rope(s) passing through pullies on the mizen mast, and afterwards fastened, in different places, on the hinder, or aftermost ridge of the sail, in order to truss it up to the mast, as occasion requires. Brails, is likewise a general name given to all the ropes which are employed to haul up, or collect to their yards, the bottoms, lower corners, and skirts of the other great sails, for the more ready furling them whenever it shall be necessary.

brail up

B: to haul up a sail by means of the brails, for the more readily furling it when necessary


W: The handle, manned by up to six men, by which a ship's pump was worked

F: the handle, or lever, by which a common ship pump is usually managed. It operates by means of two iron bolts thrust through the inner end of it; one of which resting across two cheeks or ears, in the upper end of the pump, serves as a fulcrum for the brake, supporting it between the cheeks. The other bolt connects the extremity of the brake to the pump spear, which draws up the box, or piston, charged with the water in the tube.

bread room

TS: The storerooms in which are kept the ship's allowance of hard-bread, etc. Usually situated in the after orlop.


W: A small cask of water kept permanently in a ship's boat in case of shipwreck

TFD: A small water cask, often used in lifeboats.


W: wave breaking into foam against the shore, or against a sand bank, or a rock or reef near the surface, considered a useful warning to ships of an underwater hazard

F: a name given by sailors to those billows that break violently over rocks lying under the surface of the sea. They are distinguished both by their appearance and found, as they cover that part of the sea with a perpetual foam, and produce a hoarse and terrible roaring, very different from what the waves usually have in a deeper bottom. When a ship is unhappily driven amongst breakers, it is hardly possible to save her, as every billow that heaves her upwards serves to dash her down with additional force, when it breaks over the rocks or sands beneath it.


TFD: To clean (a wooden ship's hull) by applying heat to soften the pitch and then scraping.

B: burning off the filth from a ship's bottom


F: a sort of balustrade or fence, composed of rails or mouldings, and frequently decorated with sculpture. It is used to terminate the quarterdeck and poop at the foreends, and to inclose the forecastle both before and behind.


a jug




small cask or keg used to contain water


W: A gentle to moderate wind. See Beaufort scale.


TFD: A span of chain, wire, or rope that can be secured at both ends to an object and slung from its center point.

F: the upper-part of the moorings laid in the king's harbours to ride ships or vessels of war.


brig brigantineW: A two-masted vessel, square-rigged on both foremast and mainmast

WP: two masts, both square-rigged with a spanker on the mainmast.


W: a two-masted vessel, square-rigged on the foremast, but fore-and-aft-rigged on the mainmast

bring by the lee

See broach to

bring to

TFD: To cause (a ship) to turn into the wind or come to a stop.

B: To check the course of a ship when she is advancing, by arranging the sails in such a manner that they shall counteract each other, and prevent her from either retreating or advancing. See lie to.

broach to

B: To incline suddenly to windward of the ship's course, so as to present her side to the wind, and endanger her oversetting. The difference between broaching to and bringing by the lee may be thus defined: Suppose a ship under great sail is steering south, having the wind at NNW then west is the weather side, and east the lee side. If, by any accident, her head turns round to the westward, so that her sails are all taken aback on the weather side, she is said to broach to. If, on the contrary, her head declines so far eastward as to lay her sails aback on that side which was the lee side, it is called bringing by the lee.

broad pendant, pennant

WP: A broad pennant is a swallow-tailed tapering flag flown from the masthead of a ship to indicate the presence of a commodore on board.

B: A kind of flag terminating in a point used to distinguish the chief of a squadron.


WN: the whole side of a vessel from stem to stern

Brodie stove

Brodie stoveScotsman Alexander Brodie patented this stove in 1781 and it was used by the Royal Navy until 1810. The Brodie stove was used not only to prepare food, but to warm and dry the ship. When the logs say "fires were kept in all night," this is where they were kept. The scale at the bottom of the image is twelve feet, but of course the stoves were made in various sizes depending on the size of the ship. On the Bounty, the stove was in the forecastle, directly under the stovepipe. (Click image to see original.)

brodie stove


W: Drooping at each end because of a damaged spine

B: The state of a ship which is so loosened in her frame as to drop at each end.


burning and/or scraping off the slime that collects on the hull, inside or out

See also bream


TFD: any upright wall-like partition in a ship

F: certain partitions, or walls, built up in several places of a ship between two decks, either lengthwise or across, to form and separate the various apartments. Some of those which are built across the Ship are remarkably strong.


a purple or greenish yellow wild plum

WN: small wild or half-domesticated Eurasian plum bearing small ovoid fruit in clusters


W: The planking or plating along the sides of a nautical vessel above her gunwale that reduces the likelihood of seas washing over the gunwales and people being washed overboard.


TFD: A short spar projecting from the deck of a ship, used to extend a sail or secure a block or stay.

F: a short boom or bar of timber, projecting from each bow of a ship, to extend the lower edge of the foresail to windward; for which purpose there is a large block fixed on it's outer end, through which the rope is passed that is fastened to the lower corner of the sail to windward, called the tack; and this being drawn tight down brings the corner of the sail close to the block, which being performed, the tack is said to be aboard. The bumpkin is secured by a strong rope which confines it downward to the ship's bow, to counteract the strain it bears from the foresail above, dragging it upwards.


W: A float moored in water to mark a location, warn of danger, or indicate a navigational channel.

B: A floating conical cask, moored upon shoals to show where the danger is; also used at anchors to show where they lie, in case the cable breaks.

F: a sort of closed cask, or block of wood, fastened by a rope to the anchor, to determine the place where the anchor is situated, that the ship may not come too near it, to entangle her cable about the stock, or the flukes of it.

cable buoy

can buoy

nun buoy


(Serves 4)

2 cups oats

4 cups cold water

l level teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

4 level teaspoons sugar

Gradually stir the oats into the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the other ingredients.


W: 1. the tonnage of a ship based on the number of tuns of wine that she could carry in her holds. 2. Archaic spelling of burden.

F: the weight or measure of any species of merchandise that a ship will carry when fit for sea.


TFD: A light tackle having double or single blocks, used to hoist or tighten rigging.

F: a sort of small tackle, formed by two blocks or pullies, till the rope becomes three or four fold, and acquires an additional power in proportion. It is generally employed to tighten the shrouds of the topmasts, but may be otherwise used to move or draw along any weighty body in the hold, or on the deck, as anchors, bales of goods, large casks, &c.


cask: 1 hogshead = 1⅓ puncheons = 2 butts; a hogshead of wine held 63 gallons, of beer, 54 gallons

WN: a large cask (especially one holding a volume equivalent to 2 hogsheads or 126 gallons

See table at puncheon


F: the convexity of a ship behind, under the stern; it is terminated by the counter above, and by the after part of the bilge below, by the rudder in the middle, and by the quarter on the side.

by the board

B: Over the ship's side.

by the head

D: so loaded as to draw more water forward than aft.

F: the state of a ship, which is laden deeper at the fore end than the after end.