English Nautical glossary C



TFD: A heavy rope or chain for mooring or anchoring a ship.

F: a large, strong rope, of a considerable length, used to retain a ship at anchor in a road, bay, or haven. Cables are of various sorts and sizes. In Europe they are usually manufactured of hemp; in Africa they are more frequently composed of bass, which is a sort of long straw or rushes; and in Asia of a peculiar sort of Indian grass. Cables, of what thickness soever, are generally formed of three ropes twisted together, which are then called strands; each of these is composed of three smaller strands; and those last of a certain number of rope yarns. This number is therefore greater or smaller in proportion to the size of the cable required. There are some cables, however, manufactured of four strands; which are chiefly the production of Italy and Provence. All ships ought to be furnished with at least three good cables; the sheet cable, and the two bowers; best and small. All cables ought to be one hundred and twenty fathoms in length; for which purpose the threads or yarns must be one hundred and eighty fathoms; inasmuch as they are diminished one-third in length by twisting. Besides this length, it is necessary to splice at least two cables together, in order to double the length when a ship is obliged to anchor in deep water. For although it is not common to anchor in a greater depth than forty fathoms, yet if there is only one cable, and the ship rides in a storm and tempestuous sea, the anchor will of necessity sustain the whole weight and violent jerking of the ship, in a direction too nearly perpendicular. By this effort it will unavoidably be loosened from it's hold, and dragged by the ship, which, thus driven from her station, is in immediate danger of being wrecked on the nearest rocks or shallows; whereas it is evident, that if the cable, by it's great length, were to draw more horizontally on the anchor, it would bear a much greater force. The long cable is not so apt to break as the short one; because it will bear a great deal more stretching before it comes to the greatest strain; it therefore resembles a sort of spring, which may be very easily extended, and afterwards recovers its first state, as soon as the force which extended it is removed. Besides all this, a ship will ride much smoother with a long cable, and be less apt to pitch, or plunge deep in the water with her fore part. On the contrary, the short cable, being too nearly vertical to the anchor, cannot bear such a strain, because it is charged with a greater effort; and, as it will not bear stretching, may break at the first violent tug. The ship also rides with much greater difficulty, labours extremely, and often plunges all her fore part under water.

bit the cable

pay away the cable

serve the cable

stream cable

tier of the cable

cable (length)

TFD: 1. a unit of distance in navigation, equal to one tenth of a sea mile (about 600 feet) 2. Also called cable length, cable's length, a unit of length in nautical use that has various values, including 100 fathoms (600 feet).

cable buoy

TFD: an empty cask employed to buoy up the cable in rocky anchorage.

F: common casks employed to buoy up the cables in different places from any rocky ground. In the harbour of Alexandria, in Egypt, every ship is moored with at least three cables, and has three or four of these buoys on each cable for this purpose.


can buoy

nun buoy

cable tier

W13: That part of a vessel where the cables are stowed.

B: the space in the midst of a cable when it is coiled; also the place in which it is coiled.


W: A small galley or cookhouse on the deck of a (small) vessel.



cacklingW: alternate ring hitching (kackling, keckling) is a type of Ringbolt hitching formed with a series of alternate left and right hitches made around a ring. Covering a ring in hitching can prevent damage if the ring is likely to chafe or strike against something, such as a mooring line or mast.


the leaves of the dasheen, a variety of taro (a nutritious, potato-like vegetable)


TFD: boatswain's call (or bosun's whistle) is a pipe that is made of a tube (called the gun), that directs air over a grape-sized metal sphere (called the buoy) with a hole cut in the top. The player opens and closes the hand over the hole to change the pitch. The historical use of the boatswain's pipe was as a signaling device on a ship. Because of its high pitch, it could be heard over the activities of the crew and bad weather. Our phrase, 'pipe down,' comes from the boatswain's call of the same name which dismissed all hands not on watch.

F: a sort of whistle, or pipe, of silver or brass, used by the boatswain and his mates to summon the sailors to their duty, and direct them in the different employments of the ship. As the call can be sounded to various strains, each of them is appropriated to some particular exercise; such as hoisting, heaving, lowering, veering away, belaying, letting go a tackle, &c. The act of winding this instrument is called piping, which is as attentively observed by sailors, as the beat of the drum to march, retreat, rally, charge, &c. is obeyed by soldiers.


TFD: A condition of no wind or a wind with a speed of less than 1 knot (1.15 miles per hour; 1.9 kilometers per hour), according to the Beaufort scale.

F: the state of rest which appears in the air and sea when there is no wind stirring. That tract of the Atlantic ocean, situated between the tropic of Cancer and the latitude of 29° north; or the space that lies between the trade and the variable winds, is frequently subject to calms of very long duration; and hence it has acquired, amongst seamen, the name of the Calm Latitudes. A long calm is often more fatal to a ship than the severest tempest, because if the ship is tight and in good condition, she may sustain the latter without much injury; whereas in a long calm, the provision and water may be entirely consumed, without any opportunity of obtaining a fresh supply. The surface of the sea in a continued calm is smooth and bright as a looking glass.

dead calm

can buoy

TFD: a buoy with a flat-topped cylindrical shape above water, marking the left side of a channel leading into a harbour; red in British waters but green (occasionally black) in US waters

F: Can Buoys are in the form of a cone, and of this construction are all the buoys which are floated over dangerous banks and shallows, as a warning to passing ships, that they may avoid them. They are extremely large, that they may be seen at a distance, and are fastened by strong chains to the anchors which are sunk for this purpose at such places.


cable buoy

nun buoy


a slanted or oblique surface

cant timbers

W13: timber at the two ends of a ship, rising obliquely from the keel.

F: in ship building, those timbers which are situated at the two ends of a ship. They derive their name from being canted, or railed obliquely from the keel; in contradistinction to those whose planes are perpendicular to it. The upper ends of those on the bow, or fore part of the ship, are inclined to the stem; as those in the after, or hind part, incline to the stern post above.


W13: A collar of iron or wood used in joining spars, as the mast and the topmast, the bowsprit and the jib boom; also, a covering of tarred canvas at the end of a rope.

capF: a strong, thick block of wood, used to confine two masts together, when the one is erected at the head of the other, in order to lengthen it. It is for this purpose furnished with two holes perpendicular to its length and breadth, and parallel to its thickness; one of these is square, and the other round; the former being solidly fixed upon the upper end of the lower mast, whilst the latter receives the mast employed to lengthen it, and secures it in this position. The principal caps of a ship are those of the lower masts, which are fitted with a strong eye bolt on each side, wherein to hook the block by which the topmast is drawn up through the cap. The breadth of all caps is equal to twice the diameter of the topmast, and the length to twice the breadth. The thickness of the main and forecaps is half the diameter of their breadths; the mizen cap three-sevenths, and the topmast caps two-fifths of their respective breadths. In the same manner as the topmast slides up through the cap of the lower mast, the topgallant mast slides up through the cap of the topmast.


peppers, either chili or sweet/bell

TFD: 1. Any of various tropical American pepper plants of the genus Capsicum, especially any of the numerous cultivated forms of the species C. annuum and C. frutescens. 2. The fruit of any of these plants, used as a vegetable or ground to produce a condiment.


W: A vertical cleated drum or cylinder, revolving on an upright spindle, and surmounted by a drumhead with sockets for bars or levers. It is much used, especially on shipboard, for moving or raising heavy weights or exerting great power by traction upon a rope or cable, passing around the drum. It is operated either by steam power or by a number of men walking around the capstan, each pushing on the end of a lever fixed in its socket.

B: An instrument by which the anchor is weighed out of the ground, used also for setting up the shrouds, and other work where a great purchase is required.

F: a strong massy column of timber, formed like a truncated cone, and having it's upper extremity pierced with a number of holes to receive the bars or levers. It is let down perpendicularly through the decks of a ship, and is fixed in such manner, that the men, by turning it horizontally with their bars, may perform any work which requires an extraordinary effort.


F: the officer who commands a ship of the line of battle, or a frigate carrying twenty or more cannon. The charge of a captain in his Majesty's navy is very comprehensive, inasmuch as he is not only answerable for any bad conduct in the military government, navigation, and equipment of the ship he commands; but also for any neglect of duty, or ill management in his inferior officers, whose several charges he is appointed to superintend and regulate. On his first receiving information of the condition and quality of the ship he is appointed to command, he must attend her constantly, and hasten the necessary preparations to fit her for sea. So strict indeed are the injunctions laid on him by the lord high admiral, or commissioners of the admiralty, that he is forbid to lie out of his ship, from his arrival on board, till the day of his discharge, unless by particular leave from the admiralty, or his commander in chief. He is enjoined to shew a laudable example of honour and virtue to the officers and men, and to discountenance all dissolute, immoral, and disorderly practices, and such as are contrary to the rules of discipline and subordination, as well as to correct those who are guilty of such offences, as are punishable according to the usage of the sea. He is ordered particularly to survey all the military stores which are sent on board, and to return whatsoever is deemed unfit for service. His diligence and application are required to procure his complement of men; observing carefully to enter only such as are fit for the necessary duty, that the government may not be put to improper expence. When his ship is fully manned, he is expected to keep the established number of men complete, and superintend the muster himfelf, if there is no clerk of the check at the port.


W: To heave a ship down on one side so as to expose the other, in order to clean it of barnacles and weed, or to repair it below the water line.

B: To incline a ship on one side so low down, by shifting the cargo or stores on one side, that her bottom on the other side may be cleaned by breaming.

F: the operation of heaving the ship down on one side, by the application of a strong purchase to her masts, which are properly supported for the occasion, to prevent them from breaking with so great a strain. Careening is used to heave one of the ship's sides so low in the water, as that her bottom, being elevated above its surface on the other side, may be cleansed from any filth, which adheres to it, by breaming.


TFD: the short timbers running fore and aft that connect the transverse beams supporting the deck of a ship.

F: short pieces of timber ranging fore and aft, from one of the deck beams to another, into which their ends are scored; they are used to sustain and fortify the smaller beams of the ship


W: a senior rating in ships responsible for all the woodwork onboard; in the days of sail, a warrant officer responsible for the hull, masts, spars and boats of a ship, and whose responsibility was to sound the well to see if the ship was making water

F: an officer appointed to examine and keep in order the frame of the ship, together with her masts, yards, boats, and all other wooden machinery, and stores committed to him by indenture from the surveyor of the dock yard. It is his duty in particular to keep the Ship tight; for which purpose he ought frequently to review the decks and sides, and to caulk them when it is found necessary. In the time of battle he is to examine up and down, with all possible attention, in the lower apartments of the ship, to stop any holes that may have been made in the sides by shot, with wooden plugs provided, of several sizes, for that purpose.

carry away

W: (of a mast, or rigging) to break under sudden pressure of violent wind

B: To break—as a ship has carried away her bowsprit, that is has broken it off.


TFD: (French) cartridge


W: 1. To heave the lead and line in order to ascertain the depth of water. 2. To bring the bows of a sailing ship on to the required tack just as the anchor is weighed by use of the headsail; to bring (a ship) round.


carvel-builtWP: a method of constructing wooden boats and tall ships by fixing planks to a frame so that the planks butt up against each other, edge to edge, gaining support from the frame and forming a smooth hull. Such planking requires caulking between the joints over and above that needed by the clinker built technology, but gives a stronger hull capable of taking a variety of full-rigged sail plans, albeit one of greater weight.


B: The motion of falling off, so as to bring the direction of the wind on either side of the ship after it had blown sometime right ahead. It is particularly applied to a ship about to weigh anchor.

F: in navigation, the motion of falling off, so as to bring the direction of the wind on either side of the ship after it had blown for some time right ahead. This term is particularly applied to a ship when her anchor first loosens from the ground, when she is about to depart from any place where the had anchored; and as the had probably rested at anchor with her head to windward, it is plain she must turn it off, so as to fill the sails before she can advance in her course, which operation is called casting. Hence she is said to cast the right way, or the wrong way.


W: 1. A strong tackle used to hoist an anchor to the cathead of a ship. 2. Contraction of cat o' nine tails.

F: a sort of strong tackle, or complication of pullies, to hook and draw the anchor perpendicularly up to the cathead.

cat block

TFD: a heavy iron-strapped block with a large hook, part of the tackle used in drawing an anchor up to the cathead.

F: The cat block is employed to draw the anchor up to the cat-head.

cat o' nine tails

TFD: a whip used as an instrument of punishment consisting of nine pieces of knotted line or cord fastened to a handle; – formerly used to flog offenders on the bare back; – called also the cat. It was used in the British Navy to maintain discipline on board sailing ships.

cat the anchor

B: is to hook the cat block to the ring of the anchor, and haul it up close to the cathead.


TFD: (a variant of cat-harping) describes one of the short ropes or iron cramps used to brace in the shrouds toward the masts so as to give a freer sweep to the yards.

F: a purchase of ropes employed to brace in the shrouds of the lower masts behind their yards, for the double purpose of making the shrouds more tight, and of affording room to draw the yards in more obliquely, to trim the sails for a side wind, when they are said to be close-hauled.


D: A rope used in hoisting the anchor to the cathead.


W: A heavy piece of timber projecting from each side of the bow of a ship for holding anchors which were fitted with a stock in position for letting go or for securing after weighing.

B: The timbers on ship's bows with sheaves in them, by which the anchor is hoisted after it has been hove up by the cable.

F: two strong short beams of timber, which project almost horizontally over the ship's bows, on each side of the bowsprit, being like two radii which extend from a center taken in the direction of the bowsprit. That part of the cathead which rests upon the forecastle is securely bolted to the beams; the other part projects like a crane, as above described, and carries in its extremity two or three small wheels, or sheaves, of brass, or strong wood, about which a rope called the catfall passes, and communicates with the cat block, which also contains three sheaves. The machine formed by this combination of pullies is called the cat, which serves to pull the anchor up to the cathead without tearing the ship's side with its flukes. The cat block is fitted with a large and strong hook, which catches the ring of the anchor when it is to be drawn up. The cathead also serves to suspend the anchor clear of the bow, when it is necessary to let it go; it is supported by a sort of knee, which is generally ornamented with sculpture.


TFD: a pattern of ripples on the surface of water caused by a light wind

F: a light air of wind perceived at a distance in a calm, by the impression made on the surface of the sea, which it sweeps very lightly, and then decays.


W: To drive oakum into the seams of a ship's wooden deck or hull in order to make them watertight

F: to drive a quantity of oakum, or old ropes untwisted and drawn asunder, into the seams of the planks, or into the intervals where the planks are joined to each other in the ship's decks or sides, in order to prevent the entrance of water. After the oakum is driven very hard into these seams, it is covered with hot melted pitch or resin, to keep the water from rotting it. Amongst the ancients, the first who made use of pitch in calking, were the inhabitants of Phaeacia, afterwards called Corsica. Wax and resin appear to have been commonly used previous to that period; and the Poles at this time use a sort of unctuous clay for the same purpose, on their navigable rivers.


a kind of fish belonging to a family allied to the mackerels


archaic spelling of sentinel


W: To be worn by rubbing; as, a cable chafes.

F: is to rub or fret the surface of a cable, mast, or yard, whilst the ship is agitated by the motion of the sea, or otherwise.

chain wale

See channel


D: the area outboard at the foot of the shrouds of a mast; the customary position of the leadsman in taking soundings.

B: A place built on the sides of the ship projecting out, and at which the shrouds are fastened, for the purpose of giving them greater angle than they could have if fastened to the ship's side, and of course giving them a greater power to secure the mast.

F: strong links or plates of iron, the lower ends of which are bolted through the ship's side to the timbers. They are placed at short distances from each other on the ship's outside, as being used to contain the blocks called deadeyes, by which the shrouds of the masts are extended.


D: an English dry measure formerly used for coal, coke, lime, and the like, varying locally from 32 to 36 bushels or more.


TFD: A wood or steel ledge projecting from a sailing ship's sides to spread the shrouds and keep them clear of the gunwales.

F: broad and thick planks projecting horizontally from the ship's outside, abreast of, and somewhat behind, the masts. They are formed to extend the shrouds from each other, and from the axis or middle line of the ship, so as to give a greater security and support to the masts, as well as to prevent the shrouds from damaging the gunwale, or being hurt by rubbing against it. Every mast has it's chain wales, which are either built above or below the second deck ports in a ship of the line; they are strongly connected to the side by knees, bolts, and standards, besides being confined thereto by the chains, whose upper ends pass through notches on the outer edge of the chain wales, so as to unite with the shrouds above.


TFD: A map showing coastlines, water depths, or other information of use to navigators.

F: a marine map or draught, upon which are represented the coasts, isles, banks, rocks, and dangers of the sea, together with the rhombs of the wind, and the entrance of bays and rivers, whereby to shape and regulate the various courses of a ship in her voyage.

cheeks of the mast

TFD: the projection on each side of a mast, upon which the trestletrees rest.

F: the faces or projecting parts on each side of the masts, used to sustain the frame of the top, together with the topmast, which rests immediately upon them.


TFD: A piece of oak bolted perpendicularly on the side of a vessel, to aid in drawing down and securing the clew of the mainsail.

F: two pieces of wood bolted perpendicularly, one on the starboard, and the other on the larboard side of the ship. They are used to confine the clue, or lower corners of the mainsail; for which purpose there is a hole in the upper part through which the rope passes that usually extends the clue of the sail to windward. The chesstrees are commonly placed as far before the mainmast as the length of the main beam.


TFD: the projecting edge or rim of a cask or barrel


F: is to thrust oakum into a seam or chink with the point of a knife or chissel. This is chiefly used as a temporary expedient when caulking cannot be safely or conveniently performed.


D: 1. a shaped support or cradle for a ship's boat, barrel, etc. 2. a small wooden piece or timber for filling a gap, reinforcing an angle, etc., in a wooden vessel.

cholera morbus

TFD: Acute gastroenteritis occurring in summer and autumn and marked by severe cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. No longer in scientific use.


D: horizontal timbers in a wooden hull, secured to ribs to support deck beams and to provide longitudinal strength.

F: thick planks in a ship's side, used to sustain the ends of the beams. The clamps extend from the stem to the fashion-pieces of the stern, including the whole interior range of the side. They are placed close under each deck so as to be securely fayed to all the timbers, to which they are fastened by nails driven through the clamp, and penetrating two-thirds of the thickness of the timber. The clamps of the lower and second decks ought to be equal in thickness to half the corresponding timbers in that part, and as broad as can be procured. In their disposition it is essentially necessary to avoid their being wounded by the ports, as the strength and firmness of a ship greatly depend on the substance and solidity of those pieces which lie horizontally in her frame.


TFD: A piece of metal or wood having projecting arms or ends on which a rope can be wound or secured.

F: pieces of wood of different shapes, used occasionally to fasten ropes upon in a ship; some of them have one, and some two arms, others are hollowed in the middle, and have no arms at all, these are nailed to the deck or sides to fasten any thing to.

clerk of the cheque

F: an officer in the royal dockyards, who keeps a muster or register of all the men employed aboard his Majesty's ships and vessels, and also of all the artificers and others in the service of the navy at the port where he is settled.

clew, clue

Parts of SailW: The lower corner(s) of a sail to which a sheet is attached for trimming the sail (adjusting its position relative to the wind); the metal loop or cringle in the corner of the sail, to which the sheet is attached. On a triangular sail, the clew is the trailing corner relative to the wind direction.

TFD: 1. One of the two lower corners of a square sail. 2. The lower aft corner of a fore-and-aft sail. 3. A metal loop attached to the lower corner of a sail.

clew garnet(s)

TFD: one of the ropes by which the clews of the courses of square-rigged vessels are drawn up to the lower yards.

F: are a sort of tackles fastened to the clues, or lower corners of the mainsail and foresail, to truss them up to the yard as occasion requires, which is usually termed clueing up the sails.

clew line(s)

W: Outermost of the ropes with which a square sail is rolled up to the yard

TFD: A rope used to raise the clew of a sail up to the yard or mast.

B: are ropes which come down from the mast to the lower corners of the sails, and by which the corners or clues of the sails are hauled up.

F: are for the same purpose as clue garnets, only that the latter are confined to the courses, whereas the cluelines are common to all the square sails.

clew up, clue up

TFD: to furl (a square sail) by gathering its clews up to the yard by means of clew lines

B: To haul up the clues of a sail to its yard by means of the clue lines.


W: The cords suspending a hammock.


W: with the sails trimmed as close to the wind as possible with all sails full and not shivering

TFD: with the sails flat, so as to sail as close to the wind as possible

F: in navigation, the general arrangement, or trim, of a ship's sails, when she endeavours to make a progress in the nearest direction possible towards that point of the compass from which the wind bloweth. In this manner of sailing the keel commonly makes an angle of six points with the line of the wind; but sloops, and some other small vessels, are said to sail almost a point nearer. All vessels, however, are supposed to make nearly a point of leeway, when close-hauled, even when they have the advantage of a good sailing breeze and smooth water. The angle of leeway, however, enlarges in proportion to the increase of the wind and sea. In this disposition of the sails, they are all extended sideways on the ship, so that the wind, as it crosses the ship obliquely towards the stern from forwards, may fill their cavities. But as the current of wind also enters the cavities of the sails, in an oblique direction, the effort of it, to make the the ship advance, is considerably diminished; she will, therefore, make the least progress when sailing in this manner. The ship is said to be close-hauled, because at this time her tacks, or lower corners of the principal sails, are drawn close down to her side to windward; the sheets hauled close aft; and all the bowlines drawn to their greatest extension, in order to keep the sails steady.


See clew


TFD: An enema.


D: an after cabin in a sailing ship, located beneath the poop deck, for use esp. by the commander of the ship.

F: a sort of chamber or apartment in a large ship of war near the stern. The floor of it is formed by the aftmost part of the quarterdeck, and the roof of it by the poop; it is generally the habitation of the captain.


upright frames around openings in the deck to prevent water from running below

TFD: A raised rim or border around an opening, as in a ship's deck, designed to keep out water.

F: certain raised borders about the edge of the hatches of a ship, to prevent the water which may flow in upon the deck at sea, from running down into the lower apartments.


W: canvas painted with thick tar and secured round a mast or bowsprit to prevent water running down the sides into the hold (now made of rubber or leather)

F: a piece of tarred canvas nailed round that part of the masts and bowsprit which joins to the deck, or lies over the stem of a ship. It is used to prevent the water from running down into the hold, or between the decks. Besides those above mentioned, there is a coat for the rudder nailed round the hole where the rudder traverses in the ship's counter.


small mollusk with a rounded or heart-shaped shell in two parts

TFD: Any of various bivalve mollusks of the family Cardiidae, having rounded or heart-shaped shells with radiating ribs. 2. The shell of a cockle.


MW: a compartment in a sailing warship used as quarters for junior officers and for treatment of the wounded in an engagement

F: the apartments of the surgeon and his mates, being the place where the wounded men are dressed in the time of battle, or otherwise. It is situated under the lower-deck.


F: the manner in which all ropes are disposed aboard ships for the conveniency of stowage; because coiling implies a sort of serpentine winding of a cable or other rope, that it may occupy a small space in the ship. Each of the windings of this sort is called a fake, and one range of fakes upon the same line is called a tier; there are generally from five to seven fakes in a tier, and three or four tiers in the whole length of the cables. This, however, depends on the extent of the fakes. The smaller ropes employed about the sails are coiled upon cleats at sea, to prevent their being entangled amongst one another in traversing, contracting, or extending the sails.


F: a name given to the lower part of any of the principal stays of the masts, or the part by which the stay is confined at it's lower end. Thus the collar of the mainstay connects the lower end of the stay to the ship's stem.


W: A vessel carrying a bulk cargo of coal

F: certain vessels employed to carry coals from one port to another, chiefly from the northern parts of England to the capital, and more southerly parts, as well as to foreign markets. This trade is known to be an excellent nursery for seamen, although they are often found, from the constitution of their climate, to be not so well calculated for southern navigation.


W: The national flag flown by a ship at sea.

F: the flags or banners which distinguish the ships of different nations.

come about

W: To tack; to change tack; to maneuver the bow of a sailing vessel across the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the vessel to the other; to position a boat with respect to the wind after tacking.

come home

(of an anchor) to begin to drag

come to

W: To stop a sailing vessel, especially by turning into the wind.

TFD: To bring the bow into the wind.

B: denotes the approach of a ship's head to the direction of the wind.

Commissioners of the Navy

F: certain officers appointed to superintend the affairs of the marine, under the direction of the Lord High Admiral, or Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. The duty of these officers does not extend to the internal government of ships invested with a military command, either at sea or in the port. It is more immediately concerned in the building, docking, repairing, and cleaning of ships in the dock yards. In consideration of this, all ships of war are commissioned from a report of their qualities presented to the Admiralty by the Navy Board. They have also the appointment of some of the inferior sea officers, as surgeons and masters of ships. The principal officers and commissioners residing at the board, are, 1. The comptroler. 2. Two surveyors, who are shipwrights. 3. Clerk of the acts. 4. Comptroler of the treasurer's accounts. 5. Comptroler of the victualing accounts. 6. Comptroler of the storekeeper's accounts. 7. An extraordinary commissioner. Besides these, there are three resident commissioners, who manage the affairs of the dock yards at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, under the direction of the board at the Navy Office.


W: A (temporary) commander over a collection of ships who is not an admiral.

TFD: Commodore is a rank of the Royal Navy above Captain and below Rear Admiral. It is equivalent to a 1 star rank and has a NATO ranking code of OF-6. The rank is equivalent to Brigadier in the British Army and Royal Marines and to Air Commodore in the Royal Air Force.


The appointment of Commodore dates to the mid-17th century: it was first used in the time of William III. There was a need for officers to command squadrons, but it was not deemed desirable to create new admirals (as Post-Captains were promoted to Rear-Admiral in order of seniority). Captains assigned squadron command were given the title of Commodore, but it was not an actual rank. The officer so designated kept his place on the list of Captains. In 1748 it was established that Captains serving as Commodores were equal to Brigadier-Generals in the Army.

Commodores could revert to the rank of Captain at the end of their posting (and Captains could be promoted directly to Rear-Admiral without ever having served as a Commodore).

The Royal Navy Commodore was eventually split into two classes. Those of the first class had a Captain under them to command their ship and were allocated one-eighth of all prize money earned by ships under their command. Those of the second class commanded their own ship as well as the squadron. In 1783, Commodores of the first class were allowed to wear the uniform of a Rear-Admiral, a distinction which continued with some variation until the two classes of Commodore were consolidated in 1958.

(Webmaster's note: In the logbook of the Assistant, the Armed Tender which accompanied Bligh in the Providence on the second breadfruit expedition, both he and his ship are often referred to as 'the Commodore.')

F: a general officer in the British marine, invested with the command of a detachment of ships of war destined on any particular enterprise; during which time he bears the rank of brigadier-general in the army, and is distinguished from the inferior ships of his squadron by a broad red pendent tapering towards the outer end, and sometimes forked. The word is corrupted from the Spanish comendador.


W: 1. The framework on the quarterdeck of a sailing ship through which daylight entered the cabins below. 2. The covering of a hatchway on an upper deck which leads to the companionway; the stairs themselves.


W: a staircase or ladder from one deck to another on a ship


W: The entire crew of a ship.


TFD: A device used to determine geographic direction, usually consisting of a magnetic needle or needles horizontally mounted or suspended and free to pivot until aligned with the earth's magnetic field.

F: an instrument employed to determine the ship's course at sea, and consisting of a card and two boxes. The card, which is calculated to represent the horizon, is a circle divided into thirty-two equal parts, by lines drawn from the center to the circumference, called points or rhumbs. The intervals between the points are also subdivided into equal parts called degrees, 360 of which complete the circle; and consequently the distance or angle comprehended between any two rhumbs is equal to 11°, 15′. The four principal rhumbs are called the cardinal points, deriving their names from the places to which they tend; viz. the two which extend themselves under the meridian, opposite to each other, pointing to the north and south, are called the north and south points. That which is towards the right hand as we look north is termed east, and it's opposite the west point. The names of all the inferior ones are compounded of these, according to their situation. Along the north and south line is fixed a steel needle, which being touched by the load-stone acquires a certain virtue that makes it hang nearly in the plane of the meridian, and consequently determine the direction of the other points toward the horizon.


TFD: the officers and crew needed to man a ship


D: 1. To direct the steering of (a ship) 2. The station of the person who cons.

F: (conning) the art of directing the steersman to guide the ship in her proper course; the officer who performs this duty is either the pilot or quartermaster.

confused sea

TFD: A highly disturbed water surface without a single, well-defined direction of wave travel.


W: A craftsman who makes and repairs barrels and similar wooden vessels such as casks, buckets and tubs.


F: a general term for the running rigging of a ship, or all that part of her rigging which is employed to extend, contract, or traverse the sails; or which lies in reserve to supply the place of such as may be rendered unserviceable.


TFD: (in the Royal Navy) a petty officer who assists the master-at-arms

F: an officer under the master at arms, employed to teach the sailors the exercise of small arms, or musketry; to attend at the gangway, or entering-ports, and observe that no spirituous liquors are brought into the ship, unless by particular leave from the officers. He is also to extinguish the fire and candles at eight o'clock in winter, and nine in summer, when the evening gun is fired; and to walk frequently down in the lower decks in his watch, to see that there are no lights but such as are under the charge of proper centinels.


TFD: St. Elmo's fire – A visible electric discharge on a pointed object, such as the mast of a ship or the wing of an airplane, during an electrical storm.

F: a sort of volatile meteor, or ignis fatuus, often beheld in a dark and tempestuous night about the decks or rigging of a ship, but particularly at the extremities, as the mastheads, and yardarms; it is most frequent in heavy rain, accompanied with lightening. "They usually wander with uncertain motion from place to place, sometimes appearing to cleave close to the sails and masts; but they frequently leap up and down with intermission, affording an obscure flame, like that of a candle burning faintly. They are produced by some sulphureous and bituminous matter, which being beat down by the motion of the air above, and gathering together, is kindled by the agitation of the air, as butter is gathered together by the agitation of the cream. And from this appearance we infer that storms come from sulphureous spirits that rarify the air, and put it into a motion." Varenius.


W: A wooden bed frame, slung by its corners from a beam, in which officers slept before the introduction of bunks.

F: a particular sort of bed frame, suspended from the beams of a ship, for the officers to sleep in between the decks. This contrivance is much more convenient at sea than either the hammocks or fixed cabins, being a large piece of canvas sewed into the form of a chest, about six feet long, one foot deep, and from two to three feet wide; it is extended by a square wooden frame with a canvas bottom, equal to its length and breadth, to retain it in an horizontal position.


W: The overhanging stern of a vessel above the waterline.

D: the part of a stern that overhangs and projects aft of the sternpost of a vessel.

TFD: the portion of the stern of a boat or ship that overhangs the water aft of the rudder


W: The direction of movement of a vessel at any given moment.

TFD: A point on the compass, especially the one toward which a vehicle, such as a ship, is moving.

F: in navigation, the angle contained between the nearest meridian and that point of the compass upon which a ship sails in any particular direction.


W: The lowest square sails in fully rigged masts, often named according to the mast.

TFD: The lowest sail on a mast of a square-rigged ship.

B: a ship's lower sails; as the foresail is the fore course, the mainsail the main course, &c.

F: a name by which the principal sails of a ship are usually distinguished, viz. the mainsail, foresail, and mizen; the mizen staysail and foresail are also sometimes comprehended in this denomination, as are the main staysails of all brigs and schooners.

under courses


TFD: A person who usually steers a ship's boat and has charge of its crew.

F: the officer who manages and steers a boat, and has the command of the boat's crew. It is evidently compounded of the words cock and swain, the former of which was anciently used for a yawl or small boat, as appears by several authors; but it has now become obsolete, and is never used by our mariners.


W: 1 Boats, especially of smaller size than ships. Historically primarily applied to vessels engaged in loading or unloading of other vessels, as lighters, hoys, and barges. 2. (British Royal Navy) Those vessels attendant on a fleet, such as cutters, schooners, and gun-boats, generally commanded by lieutenants.

F: a general name for all sorts of vessels employed to load or discharge merchant ships, or to carry alongside, or return the stores of men of war; such are lighters, hoys, barges, prames, &c.


inclined to heel over easily under sail

W: A ship which, because of insufficient or poorly stowed ballast or cargo, is in danger of overturning

B: The ship is crank, that is, she has not a sufficient cargo or ballast to render her capable of bearing sail without being exposed to the danger of oversetting.


W: A member of a ship's company who is not an officer

F: comprehends the officers, sailors, seamen, marines, ordinary men, servants and boys; but exclusive of the captain and lieutenants


TFD: A small ring or grommet of rope or metal fastened to the edge of a sail.

F: a small hole made in the bolt rope of a sail, by intertwisting one of the divisions of a rope, called a strand, alternately round itself and through the strands of the bolt rope, till it becomes threefold, and assumes the shape of a wreath or ring. The use of the cringle is generally to contain the end of some rope, which is fastened thereto, for the purpose of drawing up the sail to its yard, or of extending the skirts by the means of bridles to stand upon a side wind.

cross a yard

To bring a yard from its stored position (vertical) to its working position (horizontal)


(Note: the 's' is silent, it is pronounced 'kraw-jik, or kroj-ik)

TFD: the lowermost sail on a mizzenmast, mizzen course

F: a sail extended on the lower yard of the mizenmast, which is hence called the crossjack yard. This sail, however, has generally been found of little service, and is therefore very seldom used.

(Note: It was the mizen course, only if used. The Bounty had no crossjack sail. See below.)

crossjack yard

W: The lower yard on the mizenmast of a square-rigged ship

E: the lower yard on the mizzen or aftermost mast of a ship-rigged sailing vessel to spread the sheets of the mizzen topsail. It was so called because the term mizzen yard was in use for the lateen sail which was later replaced by the trapezoidal spanker sail set under a gaff. From about 1800 some ships set a square sail called the crossjack from the crossjack yard but it had limited use because of the interference with the spanker.


W: Two horizontal beams at the top of the lower and topmasts, used to spread rigging and as a standing place for sailors.

TFD: Pieces of timber at a masthead, to which are attached the upper shrouds. At the head of lower masts in large vessels, they support a semicircular platform called the top.

F: certain pieces of timber supported by the cheeks and trestletrees, at the upper ends of the lower masts, athwart which they are laid, to sustain the frame of the top.


W: (of a square-rigged ship) To carry excessive sail

TFD: To spread a large amount of sail to increase speed.

F: to carry an extraordinary force of sail upon a ship, in order to accelerate her course on some important occasion, as in pursuit of, or flight from, an enemy; to escape any immediate danger, &c.


TFD: A set of small lines passed through holes of a batten or fitting to help support the backbone of an awning.


TFD: A small cabin or the cook's galley on a ship.


See con


W: (ocean) Any more or less permanent or continuous, directed movement of water that flows in one of the Earth's oceans.

F: in navigation, a certain progressive movement of the water of the sea, by which all bodies floating therein are compelled to alter their course, or velocity, or both, and submit to the laws imposed on them by the current. In the sea, currents are either natural and general, as arising from the diurnal rotation of the earth about its axis; or accidental and particular, caused by the waters being driven against promontories or into gulfs and streights; where, wanting room to spread, they are driven back, and thus disturb the ordinary flux of the sea. Currents are various, and directed towards different parts of the ocean, of which some are constant, and others periodical. The most extraordinary current of the sea is that by which part of the Atlantic or African ocean moves about Guinea from Cape Verde towards the curvature or bay of Africa, which they call Fernando Poo, viz. from west to east, contrary to the general motion. And such is the force of this current, that when ships approach too near the shore, it carries them violently towards that bay, and deceives the mariners in their reckoning. There is a great variety of shifting currents, which do not last, but return at certain periods; and these do, most of them, depend upon, and follow the anniversary winds or monsoons, which by blowing in one place may cause a current in another. At Java, in the streights of Sunda, when the monsoons blow from the west, viz. in the month of May, the currents let to the eastward, contrary to the general motion. Also between the island of Celebes and Madura, when the western monsoons let in, viz. in December, January, and February, or when the winds blow from the N. W. or between the north and west, the currents let to the S. E. or between the south and east. At Ceylon, from the middle of March to October, the currents let to the southward, and in the other parts of the year to the northward; because at this time the southern monsoons blow, and at the other, the northern. Between Cochin, China, and Malacca, when the western monsoons blow, viz. from April to August, the currents set eastward against the general motion, but the rest of the year set westward; the monsoon conspiring with the general motion. They run so strongly in these seas, that unexperienced sailors mistake them for waves that beat upon the rocks known by the name of breakers.


TFD: A short heavy sword with a curved single-edged blade, once used as a weapon by sailors.



cutterW: 1. A single-masted, fore-and-aft rigged, sailing vessel with at least two headsails, and a mast set further aft than that of a sloop. 2. A ship's boat, used for transport ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore.

F: a small vessel commonly navigated in the channel of England; it is furnished with one mast, and rigged as a sloop. Many of these vessels are used on an illicit trade, and others employed by the government to seize them; the latter of which are either under the direction of the Admiralty or Custom-house. Cutter is also a small boat used by ships of war.


TFD: the forward part of the stem of a vessel, which cuts through the water