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Glossary

May 2024
2min read


abaft.

Behind.

bear up.

To steer closer to the wind.

bridle port.

A bow port through which hawsers are passed in mooring.

carronade.

A type of short iron cannon of large caliber.

cr’jack.

Short for crossjack . The lower yard on the mizzenmast (see mast). Cr’jack braces is applied to all braces on the mizzen.

dispart.

A metal sight set upon the muzzle ring of a piece of ordnance which enables the gunner, in calculating the proper elevation of his weapon, to correct for the difference in the diameters of the barrel at the breech and the muzzle.

dolphin striker.

A spar extending downward from the bottom of the bowsprit cap.

fiddlehead.

A wooden ornament similar in shape to the head of a violin, used in place of a figurehead to decorate the bow of a ship.

flake.

To coil or arrange a rope so that it will run out smoothly.

flying jib boom.

A light extension to the jib boom.

gaff.

A spar which projects behind a mast to extend the head of a fore-and-aft sail not set on a stay.

idler.

A sailor who has constant day duty and therefore is not assigned any night watches.

in irons.

A position in which a vessel is rendered incapable of maneuvering, occurring when a ship is turning at a slow speed and the sails are not catching wind from either direction.

jolly boat.

A ship’s small boat, used for errands or rough work.

lift.

A rope or chain from the mast to the end of a boom, or at each end of a yard, to support or lift it.

loblolly boy.

A surgeon’s attendant or steward.

lubber’s hole.

A hole in a top (see top ) through which a man may crawl when going aloft.

luff.

To steer or sail nearer to the wind.

manger.

A small space across the deck immediately behind the hawseholes. The after end has a strong coaming to prevent the ingress of the sea when the hawseholes are open.

martingale.

A rope or chain for staving the end of
the jib boom to the dolphin striker.

mast.

Frigates have three masts: the foremast, farthest forward; the mainmast; and the mizzenmast.

meridian.

A navigator’s observation of the sun or stars, taken when the reference point is directly overhead; thus, if the navigator is shooting the sun, he does so at noon.

monkeytail.

A short iron lever for aiming a swivel gun.

preventer.

A line designed as an extra support for a mast in case of damage to the headstay, the line that keeps the mast from falling backward.

quarter.

The after part of a vessel’s side. An approaching vessel is said to be on the quarter when it is coming up from astern at an angle of 45°.

quoin.

A wedge-shaped device for blocking up a gun to aim it.

rope yarn.

Fibers twisted to form a strand of rope.

sail.

The principal sails on each of a frigate’s three masts are (from deck to top of mast) the course, the topsail, the topgallant ( t’gallant ), and the royal.

sheet home.

To haul sails out to the yardarms, as in setting sail.

ship of the line.

A war vessel larger than a frigate, with three gun decks and sixty or more guns. Also called line-of-battle ship .

sling.

An extra support for a yard to prevent it from falling in case of accident or battle damage.

spanker.

A fore-and-aft sail set behind the mizzen. It has a mast and generally a boom.

spritsail.

A square sail spread on a yard under the bowsprit.

staysail.

Any fore-and-aft sail fastened on a stay.

studding sail.

A sail set outboard of square sails in good weather and when the wind is fair.

taffrail.

The rail around the deck at a ship’s stern; the upper part of a ship’s stern.

tampion.

A stopper placed over or in the mouth of a gun or cannon when it is not in use.

throat brail.

A rope that is attached to the outer lower corner of a sail and passes through a block at the jaws of the gaff to furl the sail.

top.

A platform at a lower masthead that spreads out the topmast shrouds and acts as a platform for setting or taking in sail and, in battle, as a perch for sharpshooters.

waister.

A green hand or an old sailor whose duties are confined to the waist of the ship.

walk.

To sail. Used with down, out, over .

wear.

To turn about by swinging the bow to leeward, or away from the wind; to veer; the opposite of to come about .

weather.

Toward the wind; the opposite of lee .

worm.

A small corkscrewlike wire, either on a long handle or attached to the end of a gun sponge, used to withdraw fragments of unconsumed cartridge from the barrel of a cannon.

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