A Conversation for Sailing Ship Terminology

Other generic terms for your consideration

Post 1

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

Keel: the spine of the ship. A footnote here about "keel hauling" might be interesting (and horrifying) to the reader, as well. If you're not sure how it was done, let me know.

Overhead: Obviously, and horizontal surface that is above you.

Weatherdecks: Horizontal surface that is not enclosed by a bulkhead.

Bulkhead: Vertical surface.

Forecastle (foc'sle): Section of weatherdeck closest to the bow.

Fantail: Section of weatherdeck closest to the stern.

Galley: kitchen

Bridge: location of the steering wheel... in sailing ships, this was often also the fantail.

Helm: Steering wheel

Quarterdeck: Usually located at the amidships weatherdeck, port side, this was where people boarded and departed the ship.

And since I just used that one, amidships: Middle of the ship, halfway between stern and bow and/or halfway between port and starboard.

There are plenty more, I suppose, but there's no need to bog this thing down in minutiae. If you want any other help, let me know... although my knowledge of sailing does not, in any way, extend to wind-powered craft specifically.

Other generic terms for your consideration

Post 2

Steve K.

A somewhat different approach is taken in the book "Sailing: A Saiolor's Dictionary", Beard & McKie, 1981. A few samples may be of interest:


Tack: To shift the course of a sailboat from a direction far to the right, say, of the direction in which one wishes to go, to a direction far to the left.

Spinnaker: An extremely large, lightweight, balloon-shaped piece of sailcloth frequently trailed in the water off the bos in a big bundle to slow the boat down.

Small Craft Warnings: There are a great many of these, and the wise skipper pays close attention to them. Typical are: "Is there supposed to be water in those drawers under the bunks?"; ... "Gee, the wheel suddenly got much easier to turn"; "Hmmm, you'd think they'd put an island as big as that on the chart."


I can add my own small craft warning, a friend went below to check on a noise from the inboard gasoline engine, and he shouted back up, "Where do you keep the fire extinguisher?"

Other generic terms for your consideration

Post 3

west wind

lots of fascinating stuff in there. Including the other terms added here. I was going to add something but do not now remember what. hope this project is still going ahead. It looks very interesting.

Other generic terms for your consideration

Post 4



thanks for the input guys. Can you believe that I didn't notice these postings 'til now? Too busy faffing with layout.

I don't know where to draw the line with this one. There's a whole lot more terminology that I could include, but the entry is a tad too long already. I'm hoping to get some graphics to illustrate the basics, and have sent peta a bunch of photos too, but don't want to get bogged down in the minutae.

Any advice on how to end this entry would be appreciated. I feel that it kind of tails off at the minute, although this is now pretty much the final version. Next will be the basic intro to sailing a tall ship where I'll cover tacking, wearing, warping etc. (Spinnackers are for comparatively small boats, btw.)

Take a look at the other 3 entries in the series and feel free to make suggestions - my home page is probably the best place to get my attention tho'.

all the best


Other generic terms for your consideration

Post 5


Excellent work! Couple of suggested additions:

Above & Below would be good.

I think you also need to mention something about steering.

Still another suggestion

Post 6

SDI Divemaster

Just a quick thought. Might I suggest anyone who is interested in learning more nautical words and also in seeing how many of those words and phrases have crept into the modern lexicon read the novels of Patrick O'Brian. They're richly detailed works of historical fiction and explain a good deal about sailing ships and the Royal Navy.

By way of example, the expression "red tape" refers to orders from the British Admiralty. All official correspondence was bound in red ribbon (tape) and had to be cut in order to read the contents.

Sidebar: Russel Crowe is rumored to be in Austrailia filming the first motion picture adapation of O'Brians "Master and Commander".

Still another suggestion

Post 7

SDI Divemaster

I forgot to include another favorite as well. When flogging was considered a good idea it could be done with a knotted rope, a whip, or a whip with 9 ends, called a Cat-o'-ninetails. This was kept in a red sack and when someone had committed an offense that warranted its use the person doing the flogging (a noncomissioned officer, usually the Master), would "let the cat out of the bag".

Thanks for reading, I'll stop now.

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