English Nautical Glossary R


TFD: a buoyant platform of logs, planks, etc., used as a vessel or moored platform

F: a sort of float, formed by an assemblage of various planks, or pieces of timber, fastened together side by side, so as to be conveyed more commodiously, to any short distance in a harbour or road, than if they were separate. The timber and plank, with which merchant Ships are laden, in the different parts of the Baltic sea, are attached together in this manner, in order to float them off to the shipping.


d: (a) The stout, narrow plank that forms the top of the bulwarks. (b) The light, fencelike structures of wood or metal at the break of the deck, and elsewhere where such protection is needed.

F: are narrow planks, generally of fir, upon which there is a moulding stuck. They are for ornament, and are nailed across the stern, above the wing transom and counters, &c. They are likewise nailed upon several planks along the side; one in particular is called the sheer rail, which limits the height of the side from the forecastle to the quarterdeck, and runs aft to the stern, and forward to the cathead; the wales are nearly parallel to this.


TFD: To bring into sight by approaching nearer:

B: To elevaste any distant object at sea by approaching it; thus, to raise the land is used in opposition to lay the land.

F: to elevate any distant object at sea, by a gradual approach towards it from the place whence it was formerly observed. This effect is known to be occasioned by the convexity of the surface of the sea, which previously intercepted the view, when directed towards the lower parts of the said object.


An obtuse angle, such as the stem and sternpost make with the keel.

TFD: the degree to which an object, such as a ship's mast, inclines from the perpendicular, esp. towards the stern

F: the projection of the upper parts of a ship at the height of the stem and stern beyond the extremities of the keel. Thus if a plummet be hung from the top of a ship's stern, so as to be level with the continuation of the keel, the distance between the after end of the keel and the plummet will be the length of the rake abaft, or the rake of the stern.


TFD: To uncoil (an anchor cable) on deck so the anchor may descend easily.

F: a sufficient length of the cable, drawn up on the deck, before the anchor is cast loose from the bow, to let it sink to the bottom, without being interrupted, that the flukes may be forced the deeper into the ground, by the additional weight which the anchor acquires in sinking. For this reason the range, which is drawn up out of the tier, ought to be equal in length, to the depth of the water where the ship anchors.

ratlines, ratlings

TFD: Any of the small ropes fastened horizontally to the shrouds of a ship and forming a ladder for going aloft.

F: certain small lines which traverse the shrouds of a ship horizontally, at regular distances from the deck upwards, and forming a variety of ladders, whereby to climb to any of the mastheads, or descend from them. In order to prevent the ratling from slipping down by the weight of the sailors, they are firmly attached by a knot, called a clove hitch, to all the shrouds, except the foremost or aftmost; where one of the ends, being fitted with an eye splice, is previously fastened with twine or packthread.


W: An extended portion of land or water; a stretch; a straight portion of a stream or river, as from one turn to another; a level stretch, as between locks in a canal; an arm of the sea extending up into the land.

B: The distance between any two points on the banks of a river, wherein the current flows in an uninterrupted course.


similar to a chestnut


TFD: To take heed of or to have caution.

reef (n)

W: 1. A portion of a sail rolled and tied down to lessen the area exposed in a high wind. 2. A chain or range of rocks, sand, or coral lying at or near the surface of the water.

F: a certain portion of a sail, comprehended between the top or bottom, and a row of eyelet-holes parallel thereto. The intention of the reef is to reduce the surface of the sail in proportion to the increase of the wind; for which reason there are several reefs parallel to each other in the superior sails, whereby they may be still further diminished, in order to correspond with the several degrees of the gale. Thus the topsails of ships are usually furnished with three reefs parallel to the yard; and there are always three or four reefs, parallel to the bottom on those mainsails and foresails, which are extended upon booms; a circumstance common to many of the small vessels. Reef also implies a chain of rocks, lying near the surface of the water.

reef (v)

W: To take in part of a sail in order to adapt the size of the sail to the force of the wind.

F: the operation of reducing a sail, by taking in one or more of the reefs, which is either performed by lines, points, or knittles. Thus the topsails are always, and the courses generally, reefed with points, which are flat braided pieces of cordage, whose lengths are nearly double the circumference of the yard. These being inserted in the eyelet holes, are fixed in the sail by means of two knots in the middle, one of which is before, and the other behind the reef band. In order to reef the topsails with more facility and expedition, they are lowered down and made to shiver in the wind, which considerably relaxes their tension. The extremities of the reef are then drawn up to the yardarms by an assemblage of pullies communicating with the deck, termed the reef tackle; and they are securely fastened to the yardarms by small cords, called earings. The space of sail, comprehended in the reef, is then laid smoothly over the yard, in several folds or doubles; and the whole is completed by tying the points about the yard, so as to bind the reef close up to it. The courses of large ships are either reefed with points or small cords, which are thence called reef lines. In the latter case, the line is passed spirally through the eyelet-holes of the reef, and over the head of the sail alternately, and afterwards strained as tight as possible. It must be observed, however, that the reef line is sometimes passed round the yard, and sometimes only round the head of the sail; and each of these methods have their advocates, with arguments more or less convincing. But if it should appear essential to prevent the friction by which a sail is galled between the line and the yard; and as the ropebands are sufficient to sustain the effort of the sail, it is certainly much better to pass the line only round the sail, provided that the turns are inserted through the roband legs; a circumstance which is carefully practised by every skilful sailor. The same reason may be alledged, with equal propriety, in favour of tying the points of the courses in the same manner; that is to say, the after end of the point should be thrust forward between the head of the sail and the yard; and the foreleg of the said point should come aft over the head of the sail, and also under the yard; and thus crossed over the head of the sail, the point should be extended, and the two ends brought over the yard, and tied on the upper side of it as strait as possible. When a sail is reefed at the bottom, it is done by knittles, which being thrust through the eyelet-holes thereof, are tied firmly about the space of canvas of which the reef is composed, and knotted on the lower side of the boltrope. These knittles are accordingly removed as soon as the reef is let out.


W: To pass a rope through a hole or opening, especially so as to fasten it.

B: To pass the end of a rope through any hole, as the channel of a block, the cavity of a thimble, &c.


TFD: a repair or re-equipping, as of a ship, for further use

F: is generally understood to imply the repairing any damages, which a ship may have sustained in her sails or rigging, by battle or tempestuous weather; but more particularly by the former.


WN: the military uniform and insignia of a regiment


TFD: 1. to reeve (a line) 2. to slacken (a rope, etc.)

F: as a sea-term, is generally understood to be the effect of yielding, or giving way, without resistance, to the efforts of some mechanical power. It is usually expressed of a complicated tackle, lanyard, or lashing when the effect of the power applied is communicated with facility to all the parts, without being interrupted in its passage. It is therefore used in contra-distinction to sticking or jamming.


F: the port, or place of destination, where the several ships of a fleet or squadron are appointed to rejoin the whole, in case of a separation, occasioned by tempestuous weather, or other unforeseen accident.


TFD: A length of flexible wood or metal used to hold the ribs of a ship in place while the exterior planking or plating is being applied.

F: (pl.) in naval architecture, long narrow flexible pieces of timber, nailed upon the outside of the ribs, from the stem to the stern post, so as to envelop the ship lengthways, and appear on her side and bottom like the meridians on the surface of the globe.


TFD: To lie at anchor.

F: (riding) when expressed of a ship, is the state of being retained in a particular station, by means of one or more cables with their anchors, which are for this purpose sunk into the bottom of the sea, &c. in order to prevent the vessel from being driven at the mercy of the wind or current.

ride athwart

B: is to ride with the ship's side to the tide.

F: the position of a ship which lies across the direction of the wind and tide, when the former is so strong as to prevent her from falling into the current of the latter.


W: The system of ropes, chains, and tackle used to support and control the masts, sails, and yards of a ship

F: a general name given to all the ropes employed to support the mast; and to extend or reduce the sails, or arrange them to the disposition of the wind. The former, which are used to sustain the masts, remain usually in a fixed position, and are called standing rigging; such are the shrouds, stays, and backstays. The latter, whose office is to manage the sails, by communicating with various blocks, or pullies, situated in different places of the masts, yards, shrouds, &c. are comprehended in the general term of running rigging. Such are the braces, sheets, halyards, clue lines, brails, &c. In rigging a mast, the first thing usually fixed upon its head, is a circular wreath or rope, called the grommet, or collar, which is firmly beat down upon the top of the hounds. The intent of this is to prevent the shrouds from being fretted or worn by the trestletrees, or shoulders of the mast; after this are laid on the two pendents, from whose lower ends the main, or fore tackles are suspended and next, the shrouds of the starboard and larboard side, in pairs, alternately. The whole is covered by the stays, which are the largest ropes of the rigging. When a yard is to be rigged, a grommet is also driven first on each of its extremities; next to this are fitted on the horses, the braces; and, lastly, the lifts, or topsail sheet blocks. The principal objects to be considered in rigging a ship appear to be strength, convenience, and simplicity; or the properties of affording sufficient security to the mast, yards, and sails; of arranging the whole machinery in the most advantageous manner, to sustain the masts, and facilitate the management of the sails; and of avoiding perplexity, and rejecting whatever is superfluous or unnecessary. The persection of this art then consists in retaining all those qualities, and in preserving a judicious medium between them.

rigging out a boom

F: the operation of running out a pole upon the end of a yard, or bowsprit, to extend the foot of a sail. These booms are confined in those places by double rings, formed like a figure of 8, one part of which is fastened to the respective yardarm, or bowsprit end, and the other receives the boom, which is occasionally rigged out, or drawn in through it.


D: a narrow studdingsail set abaft a gaff sail, esp. a spanker, upon spears extending beyond the gaff and boom.

F: a small triangular sail, extended on a little mast, which is occasionally erected for that purpose on the top of a ship's stern. The lower part of this sail is stretched out by a boom, which projects from the stern horizontally. This sail is only used in light and favourable winds, particularly in the Atlantic ocean. Ringtail is also a name given to a sort of studding sail, hoisted beyond the after edge or skirt of those mainsails which are extended by a boom and gaff; as in all sloops, brigs, and schooners this ringtail is accordingly of the same depth with that part of the mainsail upon which it borders.


Dutch: rijksdaalder, an 18th century Dutch coin worth 2-1/2 gulden. Today, 2-1/2 gulden are worth a little more than 1 euro (2007)

W: 1. A silver coin and money of account in use from the late-16th to the mid-19th centuries in the European Teutonic countries and their imperial trading networks. 2. A unit of currency introduced into certain former European colonies such as Cape Province and Ceylon.


W: (often plural) a partly sheltered area of water near a shore in which vessels may ride at anchor.

F: a bay, or place of anchorage, at some distance from the shore, on the seacoast, whither ships or vessels occasionally repair to receive intelligence, orders, or necessary supplies; or to wait for a fair wind, &c. The excellence of a road consists chiefly in its being protected from the reigning winds, and the swell of the sea; in having a good anchoring ground, and being at a competent distance from the shore. Those which are not sufficiently inclosed are termed open roads.


See ropeband


See ropeband


any of several coarse, brownish seaweeds of the genera Fucus and Ascophyllum that grow on rocks in coastal areas; thus seeing it on the water could be an indication of land

roll, rolling

W: when a nautical vessel rotates on its fore-and-aft axis, causing its sides to go up and down. Compare with pitch.

F: the motion by which a ship rocks from side to side like a cradle, occasioned by the agitation of the waves. Rolling, therefore, is a sort of revolution about an imaginary axis, passing through the center of gravity of a ship; so that the nearer the center of gravity is to the keel, the more violent will be the rolling motion; because the center about which the vibrations are made, is placed so low in the bottom, that the resistance made by the keel to the volume of water which it displaces in rolling, bears very little proportion to the force of the vibration above the center of gravity, the radius of which extends as high as the mastheads. But if the center of gravity is placed higher above the keel, the radius of vibration will not only be diminished, but an additional force to oppose the motion of rolling will be communicated to that part of the ship's bottom, which is below the center of gravity.


F: a cylindrical piece of timber, fixed either horizontally or perpendicularly above a ship's deck, so as to revolve about an axis. It is used to prevent the cables, hawsers, &c. from being chafed by the friction which their surfaces would otherwise encounter, from bearing against that part of the ship, where the roller is placed, whilst they are drawn into the ship, &c. by mechanical powers. Rollers are also moveable pieces of wood, of the same figure, which are occasionally placed under planks, or long pieces of timber, in order to move them with greater facility either in the dockyards, or in lading and delivering merchant ships.


W: Cordage of at least 1 inch in diameter, or a length of such cordage.

F: a general name given to all sorts of cordage, above one inch in circumference, used in the rigging a ship. See cable, hawser, towline, and warp.

Ropes are either cable-laid or hawser-laid; the former are composed of nine strands, viz. three great strands, each of which is composed of three smaller strands; and the latter is made with three strands, each of which contains a certain number of rope yarns, in proportion to the size of the rope required.

rope yarn

TFD: the strands out of which ropes are made

F: the smallest and simplest part of any rope, being one of the threads of which a strand is composed; so that the size of the latter, and of the rope into which it is twisted, is determined by the number of rope yarns.


TFD: A small piece of spun yarn or marline, used to fasten the head of the sail to the spar.

B: (pl.) Short flat pieces of plaited rope, having an eye worked at one end; they are used in pairs to tie the upper edges of the square sails to their respective yards.

F: (pl.) pronounced roebins, certain pieces of small rope, or braided cordage, used to tie the upper edges of the great sails to their respective yards. They are inserted through the eyelet holes in the head of the sail, being generally of a sufficient length to pass two or three times about the said yard.


TFD: A cabin on the after part of the quarterdeck of a ship.

F: a name given,, in East Indiamen, and other large merchant ships, to a cabin or apartment built in the after part of the quarterdeck, and having the poop for its roof. The apartment is usually called the coach in our ships of war.


d: Small rope, or strands of rope, or spun yarn, wound round a rope to keep it from chafing; -- called also service.

B: Old ropes fastened on the cable, near the anchor, to keep it from chafing.

F: certain old ropes wound firmly and closely about that part of a cable which lies in the hawse, or under the ship's bow, or athwart the stern. It is used to prevent the surface of the cable from being chafed or fretted in those places.

rounding in

B: The pulling upon any rope which passes through one or more blocks in a direction nearly horizontal; as, round in the weather braces.

F: generally implies the act of pulling upon any rope which passes through one or more blocks, in a direction nearly horizontal; as, round in the weather braces! &c. It is apparently derived from the circular motion of the rope about the sheave or pulley through which it passes.

rounding up

B: Similar to rounding in, except that is applied to ropes and blocks which act in a perpendicular direction.


W: To pull by main strength; to haul

B: (rowsing) Pulling up a cable or rope without the assistance of tackles.

F: (rowsing) the act of pulling together upon a cable, hawser, &c. without the assistance of tackles, capstans, or other mechanical powers. It is particularly used in the exercise of removing a ship from one place to another, by means of ropes and anchors.


TFD: 1. A pirate. 2. A pirate vessel.

F: a pirate or freebooter.


W: In large sailing ships, of a mast right above the topgallant mast and its sails, royal mast, royal sail

F: a name given to the highest sail which is extended in any ship, it is spread immediately above the topgallant sail, to whose yardarms the lower corners of it are attached. This sail is never used but in light and favourable breezes.


W: An underwater vane used to steer a vessel. The rudder is controlled by means of a wheel, tiller or other apparatus


W: The stern of the underwater body of a ship from where it begins to curve upward and inward.

B: The aftermost of a ship's bottom, where it grows extremely narrow as the stern approaches the stern post. Run is also the distance sailed by a ship; and is likewise used by sailors to imply the agreement to work a single passage from one place to another.

run out a warp

B: To carry the end of a rope out from a ship, in a boat, and fasten it to some distant object, so that by it the ship may be removed by pulling it. See warp.

running rigging

All the lines and blocks, or pulleys, used to control and manipulate the yards and sails.

F: all that part of a ship's rigging which passes through the blocks, to dilate, contract, or traverse the sails.


Indian unit of currency