The Latest

Or “Tie that rope to the middle cleat on the other side of the boat.”

Nautical speak can be a strange yet oddly wonderful way to communicate.


Have you ever wondered why long-time boaters don’t speak in a language that landlubbers can easily decipher?

No one really knows why they do, but they continue to insist upon using their anachronistic and archaic language.  So if you want to hang out with these people, or even become one, it’s probably not a bad idea to learn their language so you can obey and help when so directed, rather than risk having to walk the plank or even get keelhauled for a mistaken case of mutiny.

We’ll start with the A’s today, as in AAAAArrrrgh:

Funny Pirate








A & AS
Alterations and additions to the structure, rigging and equipment of a warship.
Toward the stern, relative to some object (“abaft the fore hatch”).
Abaft the beam
Further aft than the beam: a relative bearing of greater than 90 degrees from the bow: “two points abaft the port beam”. That would describe “an object lying 22.5 degrees toward the rear of the ship, as measured clockwise from a perpendicular line from the right side, center, of the ship, toward the horizon.”
Abandon ship!
An imperative to leave the vessel immediately, usually in the face of some imminent overwhelming danger. It is an order issued by the Master or a delegated person in command. It is usually the last resort after all other mitigating actions have failed or become impossible, and destruction or loss of the ship is imminent; and customarily followed by a command to “man the lifeboats” or life rafts.
On the beam, a relative bearing at right angles to the centerline of the ship’s keel.
“Abel Brown”
A sea shanty (song) about a young sailor trying to sleep with a maiden.
Able Bodied Seaman
A merchant seaman qualified to perform all routine duties.
On or in a vessel (see also close aboard).
“To go about is to change the course of a ship by tacking. Ready about, or boutship, is the order to prepare for tacking.”
Above board
On or above the deck, in plain view, not hiding anything. Pirates would secret their crews below decks, thereby creating the false impression that an encounter with another ship was a casual matter of chance.
Above-water hull
The hull section of a vessel above the waterline, the visible part of a ship. Also, topsides.
Absentee pennant
Special pennant flown to indicate absence of commanding officer, admiral, his chief of staff, or officer whose flag is flying (division, squadron, or flotilla commander).
Absolute bearing
The bearing of an object in relation to north. Either true bearing, using the geographical or true north, or magnetic bearing, using magnetic north. See also bearing and relative bearing.
Accommodation ladder
A portable flight of steps down a ship’s side.
Accommodation ship (or accommodation hulk)
A ship or hulk used as housing, generally when there is a lack of quarters available ashore. An operational ship can be used, but more commonly a hulk modified for accommodation is used.
Act of Pardon or Act of Grace
A letter from a state or power authorizing action by a privateer. Also see Letter of marque.
Senior naval officer of Flag rank. In ascending order of seniority, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, Admiral and Admiral of the Fleet (Royal Navy). Derivation Arabic, from Amir al-Bahr (“Ruler of the sea”).
1.  A high naval authority in charge of a state’s Navy or a major territorial component. In the Royal Navy (UK) the Board of Admiralty, executing the office of the Lord High Admiral, promulgates Naval law in the form of Queen’s (or King’s) Regulations and Admiralty Instructions.
2.  Admiralty law
Admiralty law
Body of law that deals with maritime cases. In the UK administered by the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice or supreme court.
Afloat and unattached in any way to the shore or seabed, but not under way. It implies that a vessel is not under control and therefore goes where the wind and current take her (loose from moorings, or out of place). Also refers to any gear not fastened down or put away properly. It can also apply generically to any person or thing that is misplaced or missing, e.g., “absent without leave”.
Advance note
A note for one month’s wages issued to sailors on their signing a ship’s articles.
See aviso.
Of a vessel which is floating freely (not aground or sunk). More generally of vessels in service (“the company has 10 ships afloat”).
1.  In, on, or toward the front of a vessel.
2.  In front of a vessel.
1.  The portion of the vessel behind the middle area of the vessel.
2.  Towards the stern (of the vessel).
Afternoon watch
The 1200–1600 watch.
Resting on or touching the ground or bottom (usually involuntarily).
Forward of the bow.
A cry to draw attention. Term used to hail a boat or a ship, as “Boat ahoy!
1.  lying broadside to the sea.
2.  to ride out a storm with no sails and helm held to leeward.
Aid to Navigation
(ATON) Any device external to a vessel or aircraft specifically intended to assist navigators in determining their position or safe course, or to warn them of dangers or obstructions to navigation.
Aircraft carrier
A warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Since 1918, the term generally has been limited to a warship with an extensive flight deck designed to operate conventional fixed-wing aircraft. Also called a flat top.
1.  On the lee side of a ship.
2.  To leeward.
All hands
Entire ship’s company, both officers and enlisted personnel.
All night in
Having no night watches.
All standing
Bringing a person or thing up short, that is an unforeseen and sudden stop.
In the rigging of a sailing ship. Above the ship’s uppermost solid structure; overhead or high above.
1.  In the rigging of a sailing ship.
2.  Above the ship’s uppermost solid structure.
3.  Overhead or high above.
By the side of a ship or pier.
Amidships (or midships)
In the middle portion of ship, along the line of the keel.
1.  an object designed to prevent or slow the drift of a ship, attached to the ship by a line or chain; typically a metal, hook-like or plough-like object designed to grip the bottom under the body of water (but also see sea anchor).
2.  to deploy an anchor (“She anchored offshore.”)
Anchor ball
Round black shape hoisted in the forepart of a vessel to show that it is anchored.
Anchor buoy
A small buoy secured by a light line to an anchor to indicate position of anchor on bottom.
Anchor chain (or anchor cable)
Chain connecting the ship to the anchor.
Anchor detail
Group of men who handle ground tackle when the ship is anchoring or getting underway.
Anchor home
When the anchor is secured for sea. Typically rests just outside the hawsepipe on the outer side of the hull, at the bow of a vessel.
Anchor light
White light displayed by a ship at anchor. Two such lights are displayed by a ship over 150 feet (46 m) in length.
Anchor rode
The anchor line, rope or cable connecting the anchor chain to the vessel. Also Rode.
Anchor sentinel
A separate weight on a separate line which is loosely attached to the anchor rode so that it can slide down it easily. It is made fast at a distance slightly longer than the draft of the boat. It is used to prevent the anchor rode from becoming fouled on the keel or other underwater structures when the boat is resting at anchor and moving randomly during slack tide. Also called a kellet.
Anchor watch
The crewmen assigned to take care of the ship while anchored or moored, charged with such duties as making sure that the anchor is holding and the vessel is not drifting. Most marine GPS units have an Anchor Watch alarm capability.
A suitable place for a ship to anchor. Area of a port or harbor.
Anchor’s aweigh
Said of an anchor when just clear of the bottom.
Traditional lower-deck slang term for the Royal Navy.
Anti-rolling tanks
A pair of fluid-filled, usually water, tanks mounted on opposite sides of a ship below the waterline. Fluid would be pumped between them in an attempt to dampen the amount of roll.
Over to the port side.
Apparent wind
The combination of the true wind and the headwind caused by the boat’s forward motion. For example, it causes a light side wind to appear to come from well ahead of the beam.
Arc of Visibility
The portion of the horizon over which a lighted aid to navigation is visible from seaward.
The plank along the stern where the name of the ship is commonly painted.
A ship’s weapons.
Articles of War
Regulations governing the military and naval forces of UK and USA; read to every ship’s company on commissioning and at specified intervals during the commission.
As the crow flies
A direct line between two points (which might cross land) which is the way crows travel rather than ships which must go around land.
Purportedly an acronym. A type of sonar used by the Allies for detecting submarines during the First and Second World War. abbreviation: Allied Submarine Devices Investigation Committee (World War I). The term has been generically applied to equipment for “under-water supersonic echo-ranging equipment” of submarines and other vessels.
1.  On the beach, shore, or land (as opposed to aboard or on board).
2.  Towards the shore.
3.  “To run ashore“: To collide with the shore (as opposed to “to run aground,” which is to strike a submerged feature such as a reef or sandbar)
Over to the starboard side.
1.  Toward the stern (rear) of a vessel.
2.  Behind a vessel.
Asylum Harbour
A harbour used to provide shelter from a storm.
Anti-submarine warfare.
Athwart, athwartships
At right angles to the fore and aft or centerline of a ship.
Auxiliary ship (or auxiliary)
A naval ship designed to operate in any number of roles supporting combatant ships and other naval operations, including a wide range of activities related to replenishment, transport, repair, harbor services, and research.
Stop, cease or desist from whatever is being done. From the Dutch hou’ vast (“hold fast”), from houd (“hold”) + vast (“fast”) or the Italian word “Basta”.
Aviso (formerly also an adviso)
A kind of dispatch boat or advice boat, survives particularly in the French navy, they are considered equivalent to the modern sloop.
So low in the water that the water is constantly washing across the surface.
Position of an anchor just clear of the bottom.
Axial fire
Fire oriented towards the ends of the ship; the opposite of broadside fire.
Aye, aye
Reply to an order or command to indicate that it, firstly, is heard; and, secondly, is understood and will be carried out. (“Aye, aye, sir” to officers). Also the proper reply from a hailed boat, to indicate that an officer is on board.
Azimuth circle
Instrument used to take bearings of celestial objects.
Azimuth compass
An instrument employed for ascertaining position of the sun with respect to magnetic north. The azimuth of an object is its bearing from the observer measured as an angle clockwise from true north.

I be watchin' ye to see if ye learns yer lessons...

I be watchin’ ye to see if ye learns yer lessons…


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