English Nautical Glossary O


TFD: loose fibre obtained by unravelling old rope, used esp. for caulking seams in wooden ships

F: the substance into which old ropes are reduced, when they are untwisted, loosened, and drawn asunder. It is principally used to drive into the seams, or intervals, between the planks of a ship, to prevent the water from entering.


TFD: 1. a sight taken with an instrument to determine the position of an observer relative to that of a given heavenly body 2. the data so taken

F: the art of measuring the altitude of the sun or a star, in order to determine the latitude, or the sun's azimuth, &c.


TFD: Any of several earthy mineral oxides of iron occurring in yellow, brown, or red and used as pigments.


TFD: Farthest from the shore; seaward; to seaward of.

D: away from the land, a ship, the wind, etc.; at some distance to seaward of

F: an expression applied to the movement of a ship, when she sails out from the shore towards the distant sea.

off and on

d: On different tacks, now toward, and now away from, the land.

B: When a ship is beating to windward, so that by one board she approaches towards the shore, and by the other stands out to sea, she is said to stand off and on shore.


W: The area of the sea in which a ship can be seen in the distance from land, excluding the parts nearest the shore, and beyond the anchoring ground.

F: implies out at sea; or at a competent distance from the shore, and generally out of anchor-ground.

on board

W: On or in a means of transportation.

B: Within the ship, as, he is come on board.

on the beam

TFD: in a line with the beams, or at right angles with the keel.

F: implies any distance from the ship on a line with the beams, or at right angles with the keel; thus, if the ship steers or points northward, any object lying east or west, is said to be on her starboard or larboard beam.

on the bow

TFD: on that part of the horizon within 45° on either side of the line ahead.

B: An arch of the horizon, comprehending about four points of the compass on each side of that point to which the ship's head is directed. Thus, they say, the ship in sight bears three points on the starboard bow; that is, three points towards the right hand, from that part of the horizon which is right ahead.

on the quarter

TFD: in a direction between abeam and astern; opposite, or nearly opposite, a vessel's quarter.

B: An arch of the horizon, comprehending about four points of the compass on each side of that point to which the ship's stern is directed.


F: the situation of a place which is exposed to the wind and sea, with little or no shelter for shipping to anchor therein. Open is also expressed of any distant object, to which the light or passage is not intercepted by something lying, or coming between. Thus, to be open with any place, is to be opposite to it; as the entry of a port, road, or haven.

open hawse

TFD: a hawse in which the cables are parallel or slightly divergent.

B: When the cables of a ship at her moorings lead straight to their respective anchors, without crossing, she is said to ride with an open hawse.

ordinary seaman

TFD: a seaman of the lowest rank, being insufficiently experienced to be an able-bodied seaman


WP: The orlop is the lowest deck in a ship (except for very old ships). It is the deck or part of a deck where the cables are stowed, usually below the water line.

B: The deck on which the cables are stowed.

F: a platform of planks laid over the beams, in the hold of a ship of war, whereon the cables are usually coiled, and the several officers storerooms contained.


W: Tahiti. Recorded by Samuel Wallis on encountering the island in 1767. But Johann Forster and Georg Forster on Captain Cook's second voyage to the island in 1773 were accomplished comparative linguists and realized the O was an article in the Tahitian language and not properly part of the name.

[Note: I wish they had passed the word around. Bligh and others continued tacking on the O for years afterwards. If you happen to be looking for any of these words, first remove the O, then simplify the spelling: Oparre - Pare, Otoo - Tu, Otootooillah - Tutuila.]


F: an expression frequently used at sea, implying the situation of the sails when they are set, or extended, to assist the ship's course; as opposed to in; which is also applied, in the contrary sense, to signify that such sails are furled.

out of trim

F: the state of a ship when she is not properly balanced for the purposes of navigation; which is either occasioned by the size, or position of her masts and sails; or by the comparative quantity, or arrangement of her cargo and ballast in the hold.


TFD: To slacken (a line) or to release and separate the blocks of (a tackle).

B: To clear away and disentangle any rope; also to come up with the chase; as we overhaul her, that is, we gain ground of her.

F: the act of opening and extending the several parts of a tackle, or other assemblage of ropes, communicating with blocks or dead-eyes. It is used to remove those blocks to a sufficient distance from each other, that they may be again placed in a state of action, so as to produce the effect required.


B: A ship is overset when her keel turns upward.

F: the act of turning any thing upside down also the movement of a ship when she overturns so that the keel becomes above the water, and the masts under the surface.