English Nautical Glossary K


W: 1. A plant from the South Pacific, Piper methysticum. 2. An intoxicating beverage made from the kava plant.


TFD: To wind old rope around, as a cable, to preserve its surface from being fretted


TFD: Old rope or iron chains wound around a cable.

F: a name given to any old ropes, which are wound about a cable, with a small interval between the turns, and used to preserve the surface of the cable from being fretted, when it rubs against the ship's bow, or forefoot.


W: A small anchor used for warping a vessel

B: A small anchor with an iron stock.

F: a small anchor used to keep a ship steady whilst she rides in a harbour or river, particularly at the turn of the tide, when she might otherwise drive over her principal anchor, and entangle the stock or flukes with her slack cable, so as to loosen it from the ground. This is accordingly prevented by a kedge rope that restrains her from approaching it. The kedges are also particularly useful in transporting a ship, i.e. removing her from one part of the harbour to another, by means of ropes, which are fastened to these anchors. They are generally furnished with an iron stock, which is easily displaced, for the convenience of stowing them.


W: A large beam along the underside of a ship’s hull from bow to stern.

B: The principal piece of timber in a ship, which is usually first laid on the blocks in building.

keelson, kelson

TFD: A timber or girder fastened above and parallel to the keel of a ship or boat for additional strength.

B: A piece of timber forming the interior of the keel; being laid on the middle of the floor timbers immediately over the keel, and serving to unite the former to the latter.

keep the luff

F: to continue close to the wind, i.e. sailing with a course inclined to the direction of the wind, as much as possible, without deviating to leeward.



TFD: A two-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailing vessel with a mizzenmast stepped aft of a taller mainmast but forward of the rudder.

F: a vessel equipped with two masts, viz. the mainmast and mizenmast, and usually from 100 to 250 tons burthen.


TFD: A sturdy belaying pin for the heavier cables of a ship.


A small, low island composed largely of coral or sand.

F: a long wharf, usually built of stone, by the side of a harbour or river, and having several store houses for the convenience of lading and discharging merchant ships. It is accordingly furnished with posts and rings, whereby they are secured; together with cranes, capstans, and other engines, to lift the goods into, or out of, the vessels which lie alongside.

kicker, kicking strap

W: A piece of rope that connects the lower end of the mast and the boom in order to provide a means for exerting downward force on the boom and thus controlling the shape of the sail.


TFD: A small anchor, especially one made of a stone in a wooden frame.

king's evil

WN: scrofula: a form of tuberculosis characterized by swellings of the lymphatic glands


carriage, conveyance


WP: a curved piece of load-bearing wood that is often used to connect adjacent members at approximately right angles to one another. Knees are often used in the construction of wooden boats and ships, particularly as natural angle brackets to fasten the deck to the hull and to reinforce critical structural locations.

F: a crooked piece of timber, having two branches, or arms, and generally used to connect the beams of a ship with her sides or timbers. The branches of the knees form an angle of greater or smaller extent, according to the mutual situation of the pieces which they are designed to unite. One branch is securely bolted to one of the deck beams, whilst the other is in the same manner attached to a corresponding timber in the ship's side. Besides the great utility of knees in connecting the beams and timbers into one compact frame, they contribute greatly to the strength and solidity of the ship, in the different parts of her frame to which they are bolted, and thereby enable her, with greater firmness, to resist the effects of a turbulent sea. In fixing of these pieces, it is occasionally necessary to give an oblique direction to the vertical, or side branch, in order to avoid the range of an adjacent gun port, or, because the knee may be so shaped as to require this disposition; it being sometimes difficult to procure so great a variety of knees as may be necessary in the construction of a number of ships of war.


F: a small line, which is either plaited or twisted, and used for various purposes at sea; as to fasten the service on the cable, to reef the sails by the bottom, and to hang the hammocks between decks; this name is also given to the loops or buttons of a bonnet.


W: 1. A looping of a piece of string or of any other long, flexible material that cannot be untangled without passing one or both ends of the material through its loops. 2. A unit of speed, equal to one nautical mile per hour. (Which is equal to exactly 1.852 km/h and approximately 1.151 mph.)

B: A division of the log line, answering in the calculation of the ship's velocity, to one mile.

F: a large knob formed on the extremity of a rope, by untwisting the ends thereof, and interweaving them regularly amongst each other. There are several sorts of knots, which differ in their form and size, according to the uses for which they are designed; the principal of these are the diamond knot, the rose knot, the wall knot, or walnut, some of which are single, and others double. The knots are generally used to fasten one rope to another, by means of a small cord attached to the neck of the knot, called the lanyard, which is firmly tied about both ropes. They are also designed to prevent the end of a rope from sliding through an eye, which the knot is intended to confine in a particular situation.