English nautical glossary F


fag end

W: frayed end of a length of cloth or rope.

F: the end of any rope, or cord, which is become untwisted and loosened by frequent use. To prevent this effect, the ends of ropes are generally well fastened by winding a piece of small line, or packthread, around them, which operation is called whipping.


TFD: (of the tide or wind) favourable to the passage of a vessel

F: a general term for the disposition of the wind, when it is favourable to a ship's course, in opposition to that which is contrary, or foul. This term, when applied to the wind, is much more comprehensive than large, since the former seems to include about eighteen points of the compass, or at least sixteen; whereas large is confined to the beam or quarter, that is, to a wind which crosses the keel at right angles, or obliquely from the stern, but never to one right astern.


TFD: 1. A navigable deep-water channel in a river or harbor or along a coastline. 2. The usual course taken by vessels through a harbor or coastal waters.

F: the path or channel of a narrow bay, river, or haven, in which ships usually advance in their passage up and down; so that if any vessels are anchored therein, they are said to lie in the fair way.


W: One of the circles or windings of a cable or hawser, as it lies in a coil; a single turn or coil.

F: one of the circles, or windings, of a cable, or hawser, as it lies disposed in the coil. The fakes are greater or smaller in proportion to the extent of space which a cable is allowed to occupy where it lies.


D: the part of the rope of a tackle to which the power is applied in hoisting.

F: the loose end of a tackle; or that part upon which the people pull, or hoist, to produce the required effect.

fall aboard

F: to strike or encounter another ship, when one or both are in motion; to be driven upon a ship by the force of the wind or current.

fall astern

F: to be driven backwards; to retreat with the stern foremost: expressed of the motion of a ship either under sail or at anchor.

fall calm

B: To become in a state of rest by a total cessation of the wind.

fall down

B: To sail or be towed down a river nearer towards its mouth.

F: in navigation, to sail, or be conducted from any part of a river, towards some other nearer to it's mouth or opening.

fall off

TFD: To change course to leeward.

B: denotes the motion of the ship's head from the direction of the wind. It is used in opposition to coming to.

F: the movement or direction of the ship's head to leeward of the point whither it was lately directed, particularly when she sails near the wind, or lies by. Falling off is also the angle contained between her nearest approach towards the source of the wind, and her furthest declination from it, when trying.

false fire

one of the signals at sea used at night during the days of sailing navies. A composition which burned with a blue flame was packed into a wooden tube and when ignited would burn for several minutes.

TFD: a combustible carried by vessels of war, chiefly for signaling, but sometimes burned for the purpose of deceiving an enemy; also, a light on shore for decoying a vessel to destruction.


a measure of 6 feet or 1.8288 meters


TFD: obsolete A communication, especially a letter


TFD: To join or fit closely or tightly.

F: to fit any two pieces of wood so as to join close together. The plank is said to fay to the timbers, when it bears, or lies, close to all the timbers.


TFD: a cushion-like device, such as a car tire hung over the side of a vessel to reduce damage resulting from accidental contact or collision

F: certain pieces of old cable, timber, faggots, or other materials, hung over the tide of a ship or vessel, to prevent it from striking or rubbing against a wharf, or key; as also to preserve the smaller vessel from being damaged by the larger ones.


W: To bring or get within reach by going; to reach; to arrive at; to attain; to reach by sailing.

fetch way

B: To be shaken or agitated from one side to another so as to loosen any thing which was before fixed.

F: to be shaken or agitated from one side to another. It is usually applied to a mast, bowsprit, &c. when it is not sufficiently wedged, being loose in the partners; it is also said of a cask, box, or such body which moves by the rolling of the ship at sea, as not being well secured and enclosed.


W: 1. A square bar of wood or iron, with a shoulder at one end, to support the weight of the topmast. 2. A pointed tool without any sharp edges, used in weaving or knotwork to tighten and form up weaves or complex knots; used in sailing ships to open the strands of a rope before splicing.

B: 1. A square bar of wood or iron, with shoulders at one end, used to support the weight of the topmast, when erected at the head of a lower mast. 2. A large piece of wood of a conical figure; used to extend the strands and layers of cables in splicing.

F: a square bar of wood, or iron, with a shoulder at one end. It is used to support the weight of the topmast, when erected at the head of the lower mast, by passing through a mortise in the lower end of the former, and resting its ends on the trestle trees, which are sustained by the head of the latter. The fid, therefore, must be withdrawn every time the topmast is lowered. The topgallant mast is retained at the head of the topmast in the same manner.


W: A carved figure on the prow of a sailing ship.


TFD: 1. To cause a sail to swell. 2. To adjust a yard so that wind will cause a sail to swell.

B: To brace the sails so as to receive the wind in them, and advance the ship in her course, after they had been either shivering or braced aback.

F: to brace the sails in such a manner, as that the wind, entering their cavities from behind, dilates them so as to advance the ship in her course, after the sails had for some time been shivering, or braced aback.


W: A makeshift overlapping longitudinal brace used to temporarily repair or extend a spar or mast of a ship.

D: 1. to secure (an anchor) by raising the flukes. 2. to reinforce (a mast or other spar) by fastening a spar, batten, metal bar, or the like, lengthwise over a weak place.

F: a machine employed to hoist or draw up the flukes of the ship's anchor towards the top of the bow in order to stow it, after having been heaved up by the cable. Fish is also a long piece of oak, convex on one side, and concave on the other. It is used to fasten upon the outside of the lower masts, either as an additional security, to strengthen them when it becomes necessary to carry an extraordinary pressure of sail, in pursuit of, or flight from, an enemy; or to reinforce them after they have received some damage in battle, tempestuous weather, &c. The fishes are also employed for the same purpose on any yard, which happens to be sprung or fractured. Thus their form, application, and utility are exactly like those of the splinters applied to a broken limb in surgery.

fish the anchor

B: To draw up the flukes of the anchor towards the top of the bow, in order to stow it, after having been catted.

fish the mast

B: apply a large piece of wood to it to strengthen it. (See fish above.)


B: A large hook by which the anchor is received and brought to the cathead; and the tackle which is used for this purpose is called fish tackle.

fitting out

F: the act of providing a ship with a sufficient number of men, to navigate and arm her for attack or defence; also to furnish her with proper masts, sails, yards, ammunition, artillery, cordage, anchors, and other naval furniture; together with sufficient provisions for the ship's company.


D: a marsh, shoal, or shallow.

F: a level ground lying at a small depth under the surface of the sea, and otherwise called a shoal or shallow.

flat aft

B: The situation of the sails when their surfaces are pressed aft against the mast by the force of the wind.

flat in

B: To draw in the aftermost lower corner, or clue, of a sail towards the middle of the ship, to give the sail a greater power to turn the vessel.

F: the action of drawing in the aftmost lower corner, or clue, of a sail towards the middle of the ship, to give the sail the greater power of turning the vessel. Thus if the mizen, or aftersails are flatted in, it is evident that the intention is to carry the stern to leeward, and turn the head nearer to the direction of the wind; and if the headsails are flatted in, the intention is accordingly to make the ship fall off, when by design or accident she has come so near the wind as to make the sails shiver.

flat in forward

B: To draw in the fore sheet, jib sheet, and fore staysail sheet, towards the middle of the ship.

F: is the order to draw in the fore sheet, jib sheet, and forestaysail sheet, towards the middle of the ship. This operation is seldom performed, except in light breezes of wind, when the helm has not sufficient government of the ship.

flaw (of wind)

W: A sudden burst or gust of wind of short duration.

F: a sudden breeze, or gull of wind.


W: To move up a rope, so as to haul to more advantage; esp. to draw apart the blocks of a tackle.

F: To chang the situation of a tackle, when the blocks are drawn together, or what is called block and block by sailors. The use of fleeting is accordingly to replace the mechanical powers into a state of action; the force by which they operated before being destroyed by the meeting of the blocks or pullies. Fleeting therefore is nearly similar to the winding up of a watch or clock.


TFD: A raft.

F: a raft, or quantity of timber fastened together across, to be wafted along a river with the tide or current.


TFD: the rising of the tide from low to high water

flood tide

TFD: The incoming or rising tide; the period between low water and the succeeding high water.


B: The position of the sheets of the principal sails when they are loosened from the wind so as to receive it into the cavities more nearly perpendicular than when close-hauled, but more obliquely than when the ship sails before the wind. A ship going two or three points large has flowing sheets.


TFD: The triangular blade at the end of an arm of an anchor, designed to catch in the ground.


TFD: The discharge of large quantities of fluid material from the body, especially the discharge of watery feces from the intestines.


A heavy sail, closely thrummed with yarn and oakum. drawn under a vessel's bottom, in order to stop a leak.

following sea

TFD: A "following sea" refers to tidal and wave direction in reference to the heading of the boat. For example, if the current and waves of the body of water are heading in the same direction as the sailor, then the water is "following" the sailor's boat. The word "sea" in this phrase is used regardless of whether or not the situation involves a seafaring vessel.


W: The bottom edge of a sail

TFD: The lower edge of a sail


W: a rope attached to the lower part of a sail

F: the rope to which the foot of a sail is sewed.


TFD: at or towards a ship's bow

B: that part of a ship's frame and machinery that lies near the stem.

fore and aft

TFD: 1. From the bow of a ship to the stern; lengthwise. 2. In, at, or toward both ends of a ship.

F: throughout the ship's whole length, or from end to end

fore shrouds

See shrouds.


W: (of the orientation of the sails of a ship) parallel with the keel, that is, going from bow to stern.


W: 1. (of a ship) having its main sails rigged onto spars or stays parallel to the keel 2. (of a sail) being rigged in this manner


F: the bowline of the foresail.


TFD: 1. The section of the upper deck of a ship located at the bow forward of the foremast. 2. the part of a vessel at the bow where the crew is quartered

D: 1. the forward part of the weather deck of a vessel, esp. that part forward of the foremast. 2. any sailors' quarters located in the forward part of a vessel, as a deckhouse.


TFD: The part of a ship at which the prow joins the keel.

F: a piece of timber which terminates the keel at the foreend. It is connected by a scarf to the extremity of the keel, of which it makes a part, and the other end of it, which is incurvated upwards into a sort of knee or crotch, is attached to the lower end of the stem; of which it also makes a part, being also called the gripe. As the lower arm of the forefoot lies on the same level with the keel, so the upper one coincides with the middle line of the stem; it's breadth and thickness therefore correspond to the dimensions of those pieces, and the heel of the cutwater is scarfed to its upper end.


TFD: a headland, cape, or coastal promontory

F: a cape or promontory, projecting into the sea


the mast nearest the bow in all vessels having two or more masts.


the lowermost sail on the foremast. Also called the fore course.


W: A stay that extends from the top of the foremast to the bowsprit


W: A platform at the top of the foremast, supported by the trestle trees. See top.


B: Towards the fore part of the ship.


W: Having freedom of motion interfered with by collision or entanglement; entangled; -- opposed to clear

TFD: 1. entangled or impeded 2. (of the bottom of a vessel) covered with barnacles and other growth that slow forward motion

B: Is used in opposition both to clear and fair. As opposed to clear we say, foul weather, foul bottom, foul ground, foul anchor, foul hawse. As opposed to fair, we say foul wind.

F: as a sea term, is generally used in opposition to clear, and implies entangled, embarrassed, or contrary, in the following senses:

A ship ran foul of us in the river, i.e. entangled herself amongst our rigging.

Foul, when expressed of a ship's bottom, denotes that it is very dirty; as being covered with grass, seaweeds, shells, or other filth which gathers on it during the course of a long voyage. When understood of the ground or bottom of a road, bay, sea coast, or harbour it signifies rocky, or abounding with shallows, or otherwise dangerous.

When spoken of the hawse, it means that the cables are turned round each other, by the winding or turning about of the ship while she rides at anchor.

Foul, when applied to the wind, is used to express that it is unfavourable, or contrary to the ship's course, as opposed to large or fair.


W: Fill with water and sink.

B: To sink at sea by filling with water.


TFD: Small cordage made by twisting together two or more strands of tarred yarn.

F: a sort of strand, formed by twisting several rope yarns together, and used as a seizing, or to weave a mat or paunch, &c.


TFD: 1. To make secure by lashing; frap a sail. 2. To take up the slack of; tighten.

F: (frapping) the act of crossing and drawing together the several parts of a tackle, or other complication of ropes, which had already been straightened to their utmost extent; in this sense, it exactly resembles the operation of bracing up a drum, &c. The frapping always increases the tension, and of course adds to the security acquired by the purchase. Hence the Catharpins are no other than frappings to the shrouds.


B: Pumping is said to free the ship when it discharges more water than leaks into her.

F: (freeing) the act of pumping, or otherwise throwing out the water which has leaked into a ship's bottom at sea, &c.


TFD: A person who pillages and plunders, especially a pirate.


F: when applied to the wind, generally signifies strong, but not violent or dangerous; hence when the gale increases, it is said to freshen.


TFD: (of the wind) to increase

B: When a gale increases it is said to freshen.

freshen the ballast

B: Divide or separate it.

freshen the hawse

B: Veering out or heaving in a little cable to let another part of it endure the stress of the hawseholes. It is also applied to the act of renewing the service round the cable at the hawseholes.

F: to relieve that part of the cable which for some time has been exposed to the friction in one of the bawse holes, produced by the rolling and pitching of a ship as the rides at anchor in a high sea. When a Ship remains in such a situation, it is always necessary to wrap some old canvas, mat, leather, or such like material, round that part of the cable which rubs against the stem, &c. The matter used for this purpose is called service; but as the violent agitation of the ship, produced by the tempest, or sea, as she rides in an open road, must communicate a great friction to the cable; the service will consequently be soon worn through; it is necessary therefore to have it frequently renewed by a fresh application of the like materials, behind the former, for the preservation of the cable, on which everything depends; and this renewal of service is called freshening the hawse, a circumstance which cannot be too vigilantly observed.


worn, eroded


W: An obsolete type of sailing warship with a single continuous gun deck, typically used for patrolling, blockading, etc, but not in line of battle.

TFD: a medium-sized square-rigged warship of the 18th and 19th centuries

F: in the navy, a light nimble ship, built for the purposes of sailing swiftly. These vessels mount from twenty to thirty-eight guns, and are esteemed excellent cruizers.


TFD: (of sails, etc.) distended by wind

B: The situation of the sails, when they are kept distended by the wind.

full and by

W: Keeping the sails full and steering by the wind.

TFD: another term for close-hauled

B: The situation of a ship, with regard to the wind, when close-hauled and sailing, so as to steer neither too nigh the direction, nor to deviate to leeward.

F: the situation of a ship with regard to the wind, when she is close-hauled, and sailing in such a manner as neither to steer too nigh the direction of the wind, nor to deviate to leeward; both of which movements are unfavourable to her course, as in the former her sails will shiver, and render the effort of the wind precarious and ineffectual; and in the latter she will advance in a direction widely distant from her real course. Hence, keep her full! is the order from the pilot or other officer to the helmsman, not to incline too much to windward, and thereby shake the sails so as to retard the course.



D: (of a sailing vessel) rigged as a ship; square-rigged on all of three or more masts.


TFD: to gather in (a square sail)

B: To wrap or to roll a sail close up to the yard or stay to which it belongs, and winding a cord around it, to keep it flat.

F: (furling) the operation of wrapping or rolling a sail close up to the yard, stay, or mast to which it belongs, and winding a gasket or cord about it to fasten it thereto.

furling line

F: denotes a cord employed in this office; those which are used for the larger sails are generally flat, and are known by the name of gaskets.


TFD: One of the curved timbers that forms a rib in the frame of a ship.

futtock shrouds

the shrouds which connect the lower and topmast rigging together


pandanus, prickly palm