English Nautical glossary D


dead calm

W: A perfectly flat sea with no waves

TFD: no wind at all

dead reckoning

TFD: a method of establishing one's position using the distance and direction travelled rather than astronomical observations

F: in navigation, the judgment or estimation which is made of the place where a ship is situated, without any observation of the heavenly bodies. It is discovered by keeping an account of the distance she has run by the log, and of her course steered by the compass; and by rectifying these data by the usual allowances for drift, leeway, &c. according to the ship's known trim. This reckoning, however, is always to be corrected, as often as any good observation of the sun can be obtained.

dead water

W: The eddying water under a slow-moving ship's counter.

B: The eddy of water, which appears like whirlpools, closing in with the ship's stern as she sails on.

dead wind

TFD: a wind directly ahead, or opposed to the ship's course.

B: The wind right against the ship, or blowing from the very point to which she wants to go.


deadeyesTFD: A round, flattish, wooden block, encircled by a rope, or an iron band, and pierced with three holes to receive the lanyard; used to extend the shrouds and stays, and for other purposes. Called also deadman's eye.

B: Blocks of wood through which the lanyards of the shrouds are reeved.

F: a sort of round, flattish, wooden block. It is usually encircled with the end of a rope, or with an iron band, and pierced with three holes through the flat, in order to receive the rope called a lanyard, which, corresponding with three holes in another dead-eye, creates a purchase employed for various uses, but chiefly to extend the shrouds and stays, otherwise called the standing rigging. In order to form this purchase, one of the dead-eyes is fastened in the lower-end of each shroud, and the opposite one in the upper link of each chain on the ship's side, which is made round to receive and encompass the hollowed outer edge of the dead-eye. After this the lanyard is passed alternately through the holes in the upper and lower dead-eyes till it becomes six-fold; and is then drawn tight by the application of mechanical powers. In merchant Ships they are generally fitted with iron plates in the room of chains. The dead-eyes used for the stays have only one hole, which, however, is large enough to receive ten or twelve turns of the lanyard; these are generally termed hearts. There are also dead-eyes of another form, employed for the crow-feet. These are long cylindrical blocks with a number of small holes in them, to receive the legs or lines of which the crow-foot is composed.


TFD: A strong shutter or plate fastened over a ship's porthole or cabin window in stormy weather.

B: A kind of window shutter for the windows in the stern of a ship, used in very bad weather only.

F: certain wooden ports which are made to fasten into the cabin windows, to prevent the waves from gushing into a ship in a high sea. As they are made exactly to fit the windows, and are strong enough to resist the waves, they are always fixed in, on the approach of a storm, and the glass frames taken out, which might otherwise be shattered to pieces by the surges, and suffer great quantities of water to enter the vessel.


W: The floorlike covering of the horizontal sections, or compartments, of a ship. Small vessels have only one deck; larger ships have two or three decks.

F: the planked floors of a ship, which connect the sides together, and serve as different platforms to support the artillery, and lodge the men, as also to preserve the cargo from the sea in merchant vessels. As all ships are broader at the lower deck than on the next above it, and as the cannon thereof are always heaviest, it is necessary that the frame of it should be much stronger than that of the others and, for the same reason, the second or middle deck ought to be stronger than the upper deck, or forecastle. Ships of the first and second rates are furnished with three whole decks, reaching from the stem to the stern, besides a forecastle and a quarterdeck, which extends from the stem [stern] to the mainmast, between which and the forecastle, a vacancy is left in the middle, opening to the upperdeck, and forming what is called the waist. There is yet another deck above the hinder or aftmost part of the quarter deck, called the poop, which also serves as a roof for the captain's cabin or couch. The inferior ships of the line of battle are equipped with two decks and a half, and frigates, sloops, &c. with one gun deck and a half, with a spar deck below to lodge the crew. The decks are formed and sustained by the beams, the clamps, the waterways, the carlings, the ledges, the knees, and two rows of small pillars, called stanchions, &c.


TFD: Having a deep waist, as when, in a ship, the poop and forecastle are much elevated above the deck.

F: the distinguishing fabric of a ship's decks, when the quarterdeck and forecastle are elevated from four to six feet above the level of the upper deck, so as to leave a vacant space, called the waist, on the middle of the upper deck.


TFD: A person of doubtful reputation or respectability. Rare a woman of bad repute, esp a prostitute

depth of a sail

W13: the extent of a square sail from the head rope to the foot rope; the length of the after leech of a staysail or boom sail; -- commonly called the drop of a sail.


dirty weather, foggy or stormy weather


F: the state of a ship when, by the loss of her masts, sails, yards, or rigging; by springing a leak, or receiving some fracture in her hull, or other disaster; she is rendered incapable of prosecuting her voyage without great difficulty and danger.


F: When expressed of the officers, or crew, it implies to disband them from immediate service.


F: the state of a ship which has lost her masts by boisterous weather, engagement, or other misfortune.


GB: According to the Admiralty Regulations and Instructions, the captain, aided by his officers, was to:

Divide the ship's company, exclusive of the marines, into as many divisions as there are lieutenants allowed to the ship; the divisions are to be equal in number to each other, and the men are to be taken equally from the different stations in which they are watched. A lieutenant is to command each division; he is to have under his orders as many master's mates and midshipman as the number on board, being equally divided, will admit; he is to sub-divide his division into as many sub-divisions as there are mates and midshipmen fit to command under his orders.


F: a sort of broad and deep trench, formed on the side of a harbour, or on the banks of a river; and commodiously fitted either to build ships, or receive them to be repaired and breamed therein. These sorts of docks have generally strong floodgates, to prevent the flux of the tide from entering the dock while the ship is under repair. There are likewise docks of another kind, called wet docks, where a ship can only be cleaned during the recess of the tide, or in the interval between the time when the tide leaves her dry aground, and the period when it again reaches her by the return of the flood. Docks of the latter kind are not furnished with the usual flood gates.


W: A place where ships are repaired or outfitted.

F: certain magazines containing all sorts of naval stores, and timber for shipbuilding. In England, the royal dockyards are at Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Deptford, Woolwich, and Sheerness. His Majesty's ships and vessels of war are generally moored at these ports, during the time of peace; and such as want repairing are taken into the docks, examined, and refitted for service. The principal dockyards are governed by a commissioner, resident at the port, who superintends all the musters of the officers, artificers, and labourers, employed in the dockyard, and ordinary. He also controls their payment therein; examines the accounts; contracts, and draws bills on the Navy office to supply the deficiency of stores; and, finally, regulates whatever belongs to the dockyard, maintaining due order in the respective offices. These yards are generally supplied from the northern crowns with hemp, pitch, tar, resin, canvas, oak plank, and several other species of stores. With regard to the masts, particularly those of the largest size, they are usually imported from New England.


TFD: a light windvane consisting of a feather or a piece of cloth or yarn mounted on the side of a vessel

B: A small vane with feathers and cork, and placed on the ship's quarter, for the men at con and helm to see the course of wind by.


W: Aboard a ship, either of the two short two-hour watches that take place between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

B: The watches from four to six and from six to eight in the evening.

See also: watch, bells


the beans of genus of chiefly tropical vines, here perhaps, Australian pea, a type of bean

Dolphin Bank

PISC: A reef off Point Venus on the northern coast of Tahiti, named after the ship Dolphin which carried the discoverer of Tahiti, Samuel Wallis, around the world.


W: To sail around (a headland or other point).

F: in navigation, the act of sailing round, or passing beyond a cape or promontory, so as that the cape or point of land separates the ship from her former situation, or lies between her and any distant observer.

douse, dowse

W: To strike or lower in haste; to slacken suddenly; as, douse the topsail.

F: to lower suddenly or slacken; expressed of a sail in a squall of wind, an extended hawser, &c.


TFD: A rope or set of ropes for hauling down or securing a sail or spar.

F: a rope passing up along a stay through the rings of the staysail, and tied to the upper corner of the sail, to pull it down, when they are shortening sail.

downhaul tackle

F: a complication of pullies employed to pull down the main or foreyard in a tempest, in order to reef the sail. It is used at this time, because the violence of the wind prevents the weight of the yard from having it's natural effect, of descending, when the ropes by which it is suspended are slackened.


American spelling, see draught, British spelling, below.

drag sails

W: An alternative term for a sea anchor.

drag the anchor

F: the act of trailing it along the bottom, after it is loosened from the ground, by the effort of the wind or current upon the ship, communicated to the cable.


DraughtTFD: The draught of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull ( keel), with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draught outline would be obtained. draught determines the minimum depth of water a ship or boat can safely navigate. The draught can also be used to determine the weight of the cargo on board by calculating the total displacement of water and then using Archimedes' principle. A table made by the shipyard shows the water displacement for each draught. The density of the water (salt or fresh) and the content of the ship's bunkers has to be taken into account.

• The draught aft ( stern) is measured in the perpendicular of the stern.

• The draught forward ( bow) is measured in the perpendicular of the bow.

• The mean draught is obtained by calculating from the averaging of the stern and bow draughts, with correction for water level variation and value of the position of F with respect to the average perpendicular.

F: the depth of a body of water necessary to float a ship; hence a ship is said to draw so many feet of water, when she is borne up by a column of water of that particular depth. Thus, if it requires a body of water, whole depth is equal to twelve feet, to float or buoy up a ship on its surface, she is said to draw twelve feet water; and that this draught may be more readily known, the feet are marked on the stem and stern post, regularly from the keel upwards.


B: When a sail is inflated by the wind, so as to advance the vessel in her course, the sail is said to draw; and so to keep all drawing is to inflate all sails.


F: the act of ornamenting a ship with a variety of colours; as ensigns, flags, pendents, &c. displayed from different parts of her masts and rigging on a day of festivity.


W: 1. The angle which the line of a ship's motion makes with the meridian, in drifting. 2. The distance to which a vessel is carried off from her desired course by the wind, currents, or other causes. 3. The place in a deep-waisted vessel where the sheer is raised and the rail is cut off, and usually terminated with a scroll, or driftpiece.

F: in navigation, the angle which the line of a ship's motion makes with the nearest meridian, when she drives with her side to the wind and waves, and is not governed by the power of the helm; it also implies the distance which the ship drives on that line. A ship's way is only called drift in a storm; and then, when it blows so vehemently, as to prevent her from carrying any sail, or at least restrains her to such a portion of sail as may be necessary to keep her sufficiently inclined to one side, that she may not be dismasted by her violent labouring, produced by the turbulence of the sea.


TFD: An upright or curved piece of timber connecting the plank sheer with the gunwale; also, a scroll terminating a rail.


B: The ship drives, that is, her anchor comes through the ground.

F: (to be) carried at random along the surface of the water, as impelled by a storm, or impetuous current; it is generally expressed of a ship when, accidentally, broke loose from her anchors or moorings.


W: a kind of sail, smaller than a fore-and-aft spanker on a square-rigged ship, a driver is tied to the same spars.

B: A large sail set upon the mizen yards in light winds.

F: an oblong sail, occasionally hoisted to the mizen peak, when the wind is very fair. The lower corners of it are extended by a boom or pole, which is thrust out across the ship, and projects over the lee quarter.


TFD: the midships height of a sail bent to a fixed yard

B: used sometimes to denote the depth of a sail; as the foretopsail drops twelve yards


TFD: A fleshy fruit, such as a peach, plum, or cherry, usually having a single hard stone that encloses a seed. Also called stone fruit.


TFD: Any of various gold coins formerly used in certain European countries.


TFD: A silver coin of several countries of Europe, and of different values.


F: a sort of marine punishment inflicted by the French on those who have been convicted of desertion, blasphemy, or exciting sedition. It is performed as follows: the criminal is placed astride of a short thick batten, fastened to the end of a rope, which passes through a block hanging at one of the yardarms. Thus fixed, he is hoisted suddenly up to the yard, and the rope being slackened at once, he is plunged into the sea. This chastisement is repeated several times, conformable to the purport of the sentence pronounced against the culprit, who has at that time several cannon-shot fastened to his feet during the punishment, which is rendered public by the firing of a gun, to advertise the other ships of the fleet thereof, that their crews may become spectators. Ducking is also a penalty which veteran sailors pretend to inflict on those, who, for the first time, pass the tropic of Cancer, the Equator, or the streights of Gibraltar, in consequence of their refusal or incapacity to pay the usual fine levied on this occasion, which would redeem them from the said penalty.


German (adv.) abeam

W: at right angles to the length of a ship