English Nautical Glossary Q


TFD: An early instrument for measuring altitude of celestial bodies, consisting of a 90° graduated arc with a movable radius for measuring angles.

F: an instrument used to take the altitude of the sun or stars at sea, in order to determine the latitude of the place; or the sun's azimuth, so as to ascertain the magnetical variation. These instruments are variously constructed, and by consequence the apparatus of each kind is somewhat different from those of the others, according to the improvements they have at different times received from several ingenious artists. As all the different kinds of quadrants are circumstantially described, either in printed directions to use them, or in other books, a particular account of them here might reasonably be esteemed superfluous. It suffices to say that the most useful, as well as the most general, for taking observations at sea is the octant, originally invented by Sir Isaac Newton, and since that time improved and brought into practice by Mess. Godfrey and Hadley. It may not however be unnecessary to remark, that the back-observation, which, in many situations, is certainly more accurate and useful than that which is taken in front, is almost totally neglected by our observers, under pretence of its being more uncertain, or more liable to error; but really because it is somewhat more difficult to learn. We may venture to affirm however, that no artist, who thoroughly understands the operation, will ever advance so absurd an objection, unless we should doubt the testimony of a multitude of experiments.


TFD: 1. The general direction on either side of a ship located 45° off the stern. 2. The upper portion of the after side of a ship, usually between the aftermost mast and the stern.

F: that part of a ship's side which lies towards the stern; or which is comprehended between the aftmost end of the main chains and the sides of the stern, where it is terminated by the quarter pieces. Although the lines by which the quarter and bow of a ship, with respect to her length, are only imaginary, yet experience appears sufficiently to have ascertained their limits; so that if we were to divide the ship's sides into five equal portions, the names of each space would be readily enough expressed. Thus the first, from the stern, would be the quarter; the second, abaft the midships; the third, the midships; the fourth, before the midships; and the fifth, the bow. Whether these divisions, which in reality are somewhat arbitrary, are altogether improper, may be readily discovered by referring to the mutual situation or approach of two adjacent vessels. The enemy boarded us on the larboard side! Whereabouts? Abaft the midships, before the midships, &c.

on the quarter

quarter board

w: One of a set of thin boards forming an additional height to the bulwarks of the after part of a vessel. They are also called topgallant bulwarks.

quarter gallery

quarter galleryTFD: a balcony on the quarter of a ship.

F: a sort of small balcony, with or without ballustrades, on the quarter of a ship. The gallery on the quarter generally communicates with that on the stern, by means of a door passing from one to the other.

quarter gunner

TFD: a petty officer who assists the gunner.

F: an inferior officer under the direction of the gunner of a ship of war, whom he is to assist in every branch of his duty; as keeping the guns and their carriages in proper order, and duly furnished with whatever is necessary; filling the powder into cartridges; scaling the guns, and keeping them always in a condition for service. The number of quarter gunners in any ship is always in proportion to the number of her artillery, one quarter gunner being allowed to every four cannon.

quarter pieces

TFD: several pieces of timber at the after-part of the quarter gallery, near the taffrail.


WP: In sailing ships, the quarterdeck was that part of the main deck abaft the mainmast. The captain or master commanded the ship from the quarterdeck, as there was no bridge to serve this purpose. The quarterdeck was traditionally the place where the captain walked when on deck, usually on the windward side. The navigator also used it when taking his sights when fixing the vessel's position. On most ships, it was customary that only officers could use the quarterdeck, others being allowed there only when assigned for specific duties.


D: a petty officer having charge of signals, navigating apparatus, etc.

F: an inferior officer appointed by the master of a ship of war to assist the mates in their several duties; as stowing the ballast and provisions in the hold, coiling the cables on their platforms, overlooking the steerage of the ship, and keeping the time by the watch-glasses.


TFD: a wharf, typically one built parallel to the shoreline


D: A term somewhat loosely used to denote: (a) All the submerged section of a vessel's planking. (b) The planking between the spirketing and the clamps. (c) The short planks between the portholes.

F: a general name given to all that part of a ship which is under the surface of the water when she is laden fit for a sea voyage. It is also applied, occasionally, to that part of the side which is above the sheer-rail, and which is usually painted with trophies, &c. on the outside.


TFD: A pound sterling.