Illustrated Terminology from the Age of Sail

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Complete Terminology Listing divider
Aback: Wind coming in from the front or 'wrong' side of a sail or sails, i.e. coming in to harbour with 'all yards aback'.
Abaft: Like aft or a preposition indicating further aft, or nearer the stern; as in: the capstan stands abaft the mainmast, i.e. behind it, or nearer the stern.
Abeam: At right angles to, or beside a ship.
Aberdeen Bow: A type of sharp bow developed in the 19th century which led to better performance and speed. Used in the construction of the famous China tea clippers such as the Thermopylae and Cutty Sark.
Adze: A shipwright's tool, similar to an axe, used for shaping and dressing wood. It was different from an axe in that it had a long slender curved blade set at a right angle to the handle.
Image of Adze
Afore: Before. Examples of usage: Afore the mast, as in before the mast. Also was used as in sailing afore the wind, meaning to sail closer (in) to the wind or sailing larger.
Aft: The after (or rear) part of a ship or a location towards the stern.
After-castle: A medieval tower-like structure placed near the stern of a sailing warship such as a cog or carrack on which soldiers (bowmen) stood and fought during battle.
Afterpeak: The aftermost part of a ship's hold, closest to the stern.
Ahoy: A greeting or hail to another ship originating from the mid-18th century. Hello there!
Alee: In the direction toward which the wind is blowing; downwind.
Aloft: Overhead or above.
Altitude: Used in celestial navigation, it is the angle a celestial body makes with a point on the horizon vertically below this object. Historically, altitude was measured with an astrolabe, a cross staff, a backstaff or quadrant and finally a sextant or octant.
Amidship: Midway between the bow and the stern.
Amsterdam Voet: A Dutch measurement formerly used for shipbuilding, 1 Amsterdam voet was equal to 28.31cm or 11.14 inch.
Anchor: An object designed to grip the ground, under a body of water, to hold a ship in a selected area. In the Golden Age of Sail it was usually a cast-iron shank with two arms and two flukes, and a wooden stock perpendicular to the arms. The stock often consisted of two long pieces of oak tapered toward each end, held together with iron hoops and treenails. Around the 19th century a typical anchor became of all-iron construction, including the stock.
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In ancient times an anchor often consisted of a large stone with one or more holes, through which a rope was fastened.
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A stone anchor could weigh as little as 20 Lbs for a small anchor or 500 Lbs or more for a large anchor. Often cut from sandstone, limestone or whatever other stone was locally available.
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Roman lead and wood anchor shown above.

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Anchor building tools in the Age of Sail.

Anchor's Aweigh: Expression for when the anchor is just clear of the bottom. Was also called atrip.
Anchorage: Any location where a ship savely can and is allowed to drop anchor, most often a location within or just outside a harbour.
Apeak: When an object such as an anchor or an oar is in a vertical position (straight-up). The anchor was said to be apeak when directly under the hawse. When oars where apeak, they were held straight up.

1. A planked platform at the entrance to a dock.

2. A rectangular piece of metal mounted over the touch-hole of a cannon to keep the charge covered and dry.

3. A curved timber fixed behind the lower part of the stem, immediately above the foremost end of the keel. An apron was intended to strengthen the connection between the stem and the keel. Also called gripe or gripe piece.
Armada: A large fleet of warships.
Articles: Signed documents indicating a crew member's responsibilities, duties, rank and/or position on board a ship.
Astern: Any distance behind a ship, as opposed to a-head, which is before her.
Astrolabe: A navigational instrument. It consisted of a dial, showing degrees, with an arm (alidade) pivoting through the centre. This arm, had a projection with a small hole on each end, you would line these up so a celestial body would be visible through both and the astrolabe's degree markings would indicate the celestial object's angle in the sky.
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It was used to determine a ships position by finding and predicting the position of the stars and the sun through triangulation. With the mariners astrolabe, latitude could be determined using the Pole Star or the Sun. The astrolabe was the main navigational instrument until the invention of the sextant in the 16th century.
Athwart: From side to side; crosswise or perpendicular to the keel.
Auger: A shipwright's tool for drilling holes in timbers.
Avast: Stop! Halt! Cease!
Awning: A canopy, often made from extra sail material, over a weather deck, gallery or quarter gallery, intended to shield the officers and crew from the sun in warmer climates or hot weather.
Axe: A shipwright's tool, the shipwright's axe came in a variety of shapes. The shape of the blade depended on the function of the axe. De edge of the blade was either straight or curved, most were curved; The angle of the blade also varied depending whether hard or softer wood was to be cut, a thinner blade was required for the hardest woods. A typical size would be a 1.4" (3.5cm) thick blade, a blade height of 4.1" (10.5cm) and a blade length of 7.4" (19cm).
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Azimuth: Used in celestial navigation, it was the angle measured clockwise around the horizon from the North point to a point on the horizon vertically below the observed celestial object. Azimuth was determined with the help of a compass.

- North = 0/360 degrees
- East = 90 degrees
- South = 180 degrees
- West = 270 degrees.
Balance Frame: The forward-most and aftermost frame of the full-width part of the hull.
Balinger: A small single-masted sailing vessel, used in the 15th and 16th century.
Ballast: Heavy material, such as iron, lead or stone placed in the bottom of a ship's hold to keep the vessel steady by lowering her centre of gravity and increasing her draft.
Baltimore Clipper: A two-masted fore-and-aft gaff-rigged schooner-like ship also carrying square sails on the foremast and often used in the role of a blockade-runner or privateer.

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The masts were set at extreme angles, as it was believed at the time to provide for better speed. Baltimore clippers were also used to transport prospectors and settlers from the East Coast to the West Coast during the California gold-rush.

Examples of a Baltimore clipper
Banking: A term for fishing the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. A vessel doing so was called a banker.
Barca-longa: A two- or three-masted Mediterranean vessel carrying lugsails.
Barque Longue: A relatively small 17th century two-masted square-rigged sailing vessel best known for its use by early Fench explorers.

Examples of a barque Longue
Barratry: An unlawful act or fraudulent breach of duty on the part of a ship's master or crew, going against, and in conflict with the interests of the ship's or cargo's owner. For example, selling a vessel's cargo and subsequently claiming it was lost at sea.
Barge: A 17th century long and narrow ship's boat, rowed by 10 to 20 oars, often used to transport senior officers.
Bark: A vessel square-rigged on all but the aftermost mast, which is fore-and-aft rigged. Also spelled Barque. Most were three-masted, some were four- or five-masted vessels. Before the mid 18th century the term Barque or Bark was often used for any three-masted vessel not fitting any other accepted nomenclature or category.

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Examples of a bark
Barkentine: A sailing ship with from three to five masts of which only the foremast is square-rigged, the others all being fore-and-aft rigged. Also spelled Barquentine.

image of barkentine

image of barkentine Bothnia

Examples of a barkentine
Barking: Creating treatment for sails, see also dressing sails. Barking Yard.
Barnacle: A species of shell-fish, often attaching themselves to the hulls of ships.
Bar Shot: An iron bar with a half-sphere (or full sphere) at each end, fired from a cannon to damage a ship's rigging.
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A cannonball cut in half with an iron bar wrought in between.
Basilisk: A generic term for a large bronze cannon of exceptional power, used in the 15th and 16th centuries. Named after the 'king serpent' or dragon of legend, which had a supposed deadly breath and stare. In the 17th century, the term Basilisk was used for a ships cannon firing 14 1/2 pound stone or iron roundshot.
Battens: Narrow strips of wood used for a variety of purposes such as:

1. Strips of wood or bamboo poles, placed in pockets in the leech of a sail or sewn into a sail, to assist in keeping its form.

2. Strips of wood used to fasten down the edges of the material covering the hatches in bad weather (batten down the hatches).

3. Strips of wood used in the construction of a vessel, spiling battens
Beam: 1.The extreme or main breadth (widest point) of a vessel's hull. 2.One of the transverse members of a ship's frames on which the decks are laid. They are supported on the ship's sides by right angle timbers called knees.
Bearding Line: A line drawn on the dead-woods and keel showing where the hull planking enters the dead-woods and keel.
Beaufort Scale: Scale named after Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857), a British naval officer, for classifying wind velocity, ranging from 0 for calm or no wind to 12 for hurricane strength winds.

Beaufort Scale

Explanation of knot, course, royal and reefed.
Becket: A looped rope, with a knot on one end and an eye at the other end, used to secure loose ropes, spars, or oars.
Bees: A timber block attached to the outer end of a bowsprit for guiding and tensioning (reefing) the forestays or a block attached to any other spar for changing and holding the spar's position.

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Beetle: A shipbuilding tool. A heavy iron mallet used to drive wedges (irons) into the seams of wooden ships to open them before caulking.
Beakhead: A projection forward of the bow on a sailing ship, located below the bowsprit and often highly decorated.
Belay: To tie and secure a rope.
Belaying Pin: A removable wooden, iron or brass pin fitted in a hole in the rail of a ship, used for securing and tying the running rigging. They were also handy clubs in case of hand-to-hand combat during boarding. Also called tack pin or jack pin.
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Belfry: Usually a single-arch structure, sometimes a more elaborate structure as shown below, from which the ship's bell was hung. After 1660, often located on or near the forecastle.
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Bend: To attach a sail, or having been fastened onto its supporting spar: a direct hit split the yard the mainsail was bent to.
Berth: 1.Sufficient space for a ship to maneuver. 2.A space for a ship to dock or anchor. 3.Employment on a ship. 4.Another term for bunk or bed onboard a ship.
Bibb: A wooden bracket supporting the trestle trees.

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Bight: The loop or double part created in a rope or in a strand of a rope when folded, often used in creating complex knots such as the wale knot.
Bilander: A small two-masted merchant sailing ship, similar to a brigantine, used mainly on Dutch coastal routes and canals. Rarely larger than 100 tons burthen. She carried a fore-and-aft lateen main-sail bent to a yard hanging at about 45 degrees to the mast.

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Bilge: Where the sides of a vessel curve in to form the bottom.
Bilge Keel: An additional keel located near the bilge on either side of a vessel to protect the hull when grounding, and to lessen drift when heeling.
Bilge Pump: A mechanism for emptying the bilge of water. Since all wooden ships would leak to some degree, pumps were always in demand. Spray and waves would only add to how much water a ship took on. The most common was the handpump or elm-pump, often locate on the highest deck not open to the weather. The more complex but also much more effective chain-pump was used mainly in the British Royal Navy from the late 17th century.

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Bilge Stringer: Timbers running the entire length of the hull near the turn of the bilge as an integral girder (part) in a wooden ship's frame.
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Billethead: An alternative bow decoration to the figurehead, usually carved flowing shapes, often flowers or leaf like curls, ending in an upward or downward spiral below the bowsprit.
Binnacle: The housing of the ship's compass, gimbals and, in later times, a binnacle light. It was often a simple wooden box, sometimes mounted on a pedestal. The binnacle was normally placed near or in front of the helm. Earlier was also called bittacle. The binnacle shown below is of the pedestal type of around 1850. The compass could be viewed through the six angled glass 'windows'.
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Bireme: An ancient Greek or Roman war galley propelled by two tiers of oars on each side.
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Bitt: A vertical post set on the deck of a ship; used to secure and tie ropes or cables.
Bitter End: The inboard end of a rope or (anchor) cable, receiving its name from that end being wound around a bitt.
Block: A wooden or metal case in which one or more sheaves (rollers) are fitted through which lines can run, either to increase the purchase or to change the direction of the line. They are commonly known as pulleys. In the 17th and 18th centuries the pins of blocks were often made from greenheart.
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Block making tools from the Age of Sail.
Bluff: The bow of a ship is said to be bluff when it has a full broad rounded or flat shape (not sharp). The term bluff originates back to the early 17th century.
Boarding: To go or come aboard a ship is to enter by invitation or consent. To board a ship is to force one's way onto a ship without consent.

Boarding a vessel
Boat: A small open vessel for travel on water by rowing or sailing.

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In the age of sail, boats were essential equipment on any ship. Used as a tender, for shore landing parties, towing, warping, rescue missions, patrols, escape from mutiny, to mention only a few purposes. Boats came in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on time-period, geography and function: barges, cutters, dinghies, gigs, launches, longboats, pinnaces, shallops, skiffs, wherries and yawls.

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Boatswain: The officer who is responsible for the boats, sails, rigging, colours, anchors, and cables. Also called Bosun.
Bobstay: A rope or chain used to steady the bowsprit of a ship.
Boejer: A small single-masted Dutch vessel with an extreme rounded stern and bow, normally carrying leeboards. It had a very shallow draft but a relatively tall mast, intended for use on canals, rivers and coastal regions.

image of boejer
Bollard: A heavy post on a ship or wharf, used for securing mooring ropes or cables.
Bolster: A substantial timber used as a temporary support or to strengthen and reinforce a ship's frame or cradle while under construction.
Boltrope: A rope sewn into the outer edge of a sail to prevent it from tearing.
Bomb Vessel: Developed by the French to battle the Barbary corsairs, these vessels used high trajectory mortars instead of conventional guns. The hull was strengthened to take the weight of one or more mortars and the foremast was completely omitted. Late 18th century bomb vessels would have had a full three-masted rig, and some were used for perilous polar expeditions since their sturdily built hulls would hold up well in the ice.

image of bomb vessel

Examples of a bomb vessel
Bonaventure Mizzenmast: Small fourth mast abaft the mizzenmast, often seen in larger galleons.
Bonnet: An extra strip of canvas fixed to the foot of a fore-and-aft sail.

Image of bonnet
Boom: A spar used to hold or extend the foot of a sail. In fore-and-aft rigged vessels such as schooners, a boom is a spar at the foot of the mainsail and also of the foresail and the mizzen. A boom often pivots and connects at the fore end to the mast by means of a gooseneck. Additionally, in square-rigged vessels, the temporary extensions to the yardarms to allow the rigging of studdingsails were also callen booms.
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Bootship: An 18th century three masted vessel with a rounded bow and stern, and a flat or rounded tafferel extending beyond the sides of the vessel. Often used as whalers. Developed from of the earlier 17th century Fluyt. They were either square-rigged on all masts with a spanker on the mizzen, or had a fore-and-aft gaff-rigged mizzen. Also bootschip in Dutch, literally translated as 'boatship". Sometimes also referred to as a kat or cat.

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Examples of a bootship
Bossing: Shaping metal plates, normally with a mallet, to fit the shape of the hull.
Bow: The fore end of a vessel. Also called prow.
Bow Chaser: A cannon located near the bow of a vessel for the purpose of raking an enemy ship or hapless victim while she's being pursued (chased).
Bowline: A line attached to the weather leech of a square sail to haul it forward, allowing the ship to point as high into the wind as possible.
Bowsprit: A large spar projecting over the stem of a vessel to carry the stays for the fore-topmast and from which the jibs are set. Could be thought of as a nth mast. A standing bowsprit is fixed in position while a running bowsprit can be taken in (movable). Also called boltsprit.
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Boy: Also cabin boy or ship's boy. A young man acting as a servant on a ship; fetching water; helping out with the cooking; cleaning etc.

Exerpt from A history of the United States Navy from 1775 to 1902: 'The captain of a frigate usually had both a steward and a boy who acted as his servants, while the lieutenants, purser, surgeon and sailing master were entitled to one boy each. The lieutenants of the marines were waited on by marines. One boy was allotted to the gunner, boatswain and a few others as a special favor, while a man and a boy were appointed to a certain number of midshipmen.'
Brace: A rope by which a yard is swung around and secured to shift a sail into a favourable position to the wind and the course of a square-rigged ship. Performing this action was thus called 'bracing the yard'.
Brail: One of a number of thin lines attached to the leech of a sail for hauling it in. Brailing.
Breast Hook: 'Bow shaped' timbers used to strengthen the bows of a ship, positioned horizontally at different heights across the stem. On larger vessels, a breast hook would be located below each deck and the deck planking would be supported by and rabbeted onto this timber.
Breech: The solid metal base of a cannon, from the cascabel to the start of the concave inside bore.
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Breeching Rope: A thick and heavy rope used to secure a cannon to the side of a ship for the purpose of controlling and limiting the recoil when the gun was fired. It was often wound around or spliced to the cascabel of a cannon and looped through a ring on either side of a gun-carriage. Both ends had an eye-splice by which the rope was connected on either side of the gun to a heavy ringbolt attached to the side of a ship. As a rule of thumb, a breeching rope was three times the length of the gun barrel. The rope itself could be up to 6 1/2 inches in diameter for a large gun such as a 32 pounder.

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Brig: A two-masted vessel, square-rigged on both masts. The main mast carries a fore-and-aft boom-sail as well.

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In the 17th century the term Brig was also used as short for Brigantine, which then could be any variety of two-masted square-rigged vessels depending on nation and region.

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Examples of a brig
Brigantine: A two-masted vessel with square sails on the foremast and fore-and-aft sails on the mainmast. See also Hermaphrodite Brig. In the 17th century the term Brigantine was also used to describe any variety of small two-masted square-rigged vessels.

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Examples of a brigantine
British East India Company: Sometimes referred to as "John Company", was a joint-stock company of investors, which was granted a Royal Charter by Elizabeth I on December 31, 1600, with the intent to favour trade privileges in India. The Royal Charter effectively gave the newly created British East India Company a monopoly on all trade in the East Indies. The Company transformed from a commercial trading venture to one which virtually ruled India as it acquired auxiliary governmental and military functions, until the Company's dissolution in 1858.

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Typical ships of the British East India Company
Broach: When a ship veers or turns suddenly and uncontrollably broadside to the wind and waves. Broached, broaching.
Broadside: 1. The simultaneous discharge of some or all of the port or starboard guns. 2. The side of a ship.
Brow: The gangway or entrance onto a ship while docked.
Buccaneer: Another term for pirate, pertaining to and origination from pirates who preyed on Spanish 'treasure' ships in the West Indies during the 17th century.
Bucekarl: A mercenary seaman for hire by anyone who's willing to pay. Sailors were always in short demand, the mortality rate was rather high, ship Captains would often hire who ever they could. Sometimes not the most trusted crew members, these mercenary seaman, mutiny was often instigated or carried out by crew members differing in nationality from the ship, ship's Captain or core crew. Also Buscarl (17th century)
Bulkhead: A vertical partition, running either fore-and-aft or athwart ships, dividing the hull into separate compartments.
Bull Rope: A rope used for hoisting a topmast or topgallant mast in a square-rigged ship.
Bulwark: The planking along the sides of a ship, above the upper deck and below the gunwales, to act as a railing to prevent crew and passengers from falling or being washed overboard.
Bumkin: A small spar, usually made of oak or fir, projecting from each side of a ship's bow, or protruding from the stern, providing for tack fairleads. Also called 'boomkin'.

image of bumkins
Bunk: A built-in wooden bed on board of later ships, often built in tiers, one above the other.
Bunt: The middle or center part of a sail. Also called belly (bellying).
Buntline: A rope tied to the foot of a square sail that keeps it from opening or bellying when it is being hauled up for furling to the yard. Normally there were multiple somewhat evenly-spaced buntlines leading through blocks on a yard to the foot of a square sail bent to that yard.
Buntline Hitch: A knot used to tie a buntline to the foot of a square sail.
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Buoy: A float of different shape and size, attached by a cable or chain to the seabed to mark navigational channels or underwater hazards such as shallow banks, rocks or reefs. A ship's buoy could be attached by rope to the anchor, to indicate the underwater location of the anchor so that the ship could stay clear of the anchor and the anchor-cable.
Burthen: An older term used to express a ship's carrying capacity. About 40 cubic feet per ton burthen. Also spelled burden.
Buss: A relatively large two- or sometimes three-masted European sailing vessel dating from the late 15th through the 17th century, used mainly for the North-Sea herring fishery. Up to about 200 tons in size. Also buis (Dutch).

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Buttock: The width or part of a vessel where the hull rounds down to the stern.
Cabin: A room or space partitioned off by bulkheads to provide a private compartment for officers, passengers and crew members for sleeping and/or meals. The Great Cabin was the Captain's or Master's quarters.
Cable: 1. A thick and heavy rope of considerable length, used to moor or retain a ship at anchor. 2. A naval unit of distance. The British cable was 0.1 nautical (Admiralty) miles or 608 feet (1830), the American equivalent was 120 fathoms or 0.1185 nautical miles. Still used by some navies as a distance measure of 200 meters.
Caique: (Caïgue) A long narrow rowboat, similar to a skiff, used in the Middle East and is also the name of a light sailing vessel used in the eastern Mediterranean.
Camber: The slight convex athwart curvature of a ship's deck, providing for water drainage.

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Canister shot: A cannister filled with small solid balls, fired to inflict damage to personnel, rigging and sails. Think of it as giant shot-gun ammunition.
Cannon: An artillery gun made of bronze, or from the 16th century on more increasingly made of iron and usually mounted on a wheeled gun-carriage. Early ship's cannons often resembled nothing more than a barrel strapped to a plank, later this 'plank' would develop into the full gun-carriage. The angle of elevation could be altered by moving a wooden wedge-like block, the quoin, under the base of the barrel.
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Its size ranged greatly, from a 4 pounder to a 60 pounder, with 'pounder' meaning the weight of the shot, or ball the cannon fired.

In and before the 16th century a cannon was classified according to size, with such names as "cannon-royal", "demi-cannon", "cannon-perier", "culverin", "demi-culverin", "saker", "falcon", "falconet", "minion", "fowler", "base", "bastard" and "murderer". By the 18th century a cannon was classified by the weight of the roundshot it fired. A cannon's muzzle velocity was anywhere between 900 and 1700 fps and a typical cannon had a practical range of 400 to 600 metres. Smoothbore, black-powder cannon remained the dominant naval artillery until the middle of the 19th century.
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cannon specifications

Note: While a bronze saker would have weighed 1400 - 1600 Lbs, an iron saker would have almost doubled the weight to about 2500 lbs.

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Cannon-Perier: A ships cannon firing 24 1/2 pound stone or iron shot.
Cannon-royal: The original designation for a cannon, firing 60-66 pound stone or iron roundshot.
Cant Frame: Frames fore and aft, not set at right angles to the keel; introduced in English ships around 1715.
Cap: The wooden block at the top of a mast through which the mast is drawn when being stepped or lowered, often elm was used.
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Capsquare: A metal covering plate, part of a gun-carriage, which passes over the trunnions of a cannon, and holds it in place while allowing it to pivot.
Capstan: A cylindrical barrel used for heavy lifting, also called Capstern. The capstan (sometimes two on larger ships) was located in the centre line of a ship, sometimes through several deck-levels. Wooden rods were inserted into receiving openings in the head of the capstan to rotate the barrel. A dog or pawl ratchet mechanism was located at or below the base to prevent the capstan from slipping back. External link to an excellent working model of a capstan from Texas A&M.

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19th century capstan patent

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18th century capstan on model
Captain: From the Latin caput, meaning head. Rank or commanding officer of a ship or squadron (see also Commodore).
Caracore: A small, light and swift sailboat with a single triangular or rectangular sail and an outrigger, originating in the East Indies. Also called Proa.

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Caravel: A relatively small but highly manoeuvrable Portuguese vessel of the 15th and 16th centuries setting lateen sails on two, three, or four masts and sometimes setting a single square sail on the foremast. When lateen-rigged was classified as a 'caravela latina', when modified as a square-rigged vessel was classified as a 'caravela redonda'.

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A typical three masted 'caravela latina' shown above, note the sharply decreasing mast height from fore to aft. The image below depicts the profile of a large four-masted caravel.
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Examples of a caravel
Careen: To turn a ship on her side for repairs or cleaning, or a ship leaning to one side while sailing in the wind.

Image of a careened vessel
Carling: Timbers running fore and aft that connect the transverse beams supporting the deck of a ship. Also used to describe the timbers used to frame the partners.
Carpenter's Measurement: (L×B×D)/95. An unofficial North American measurement of a vessel's cargo capacity, very much popular in the 1800's. Carpenter's Measurement was calculated by multiplying the length of a vessel, measured on-deck from stem to sternpost, with the beam of the vessel and the depth of her hold, and dividing the result by 95.
Carrack: A large three- or four-masted sailing vessel developed from the earlier cog, in use from the 14th to the 17th century, usually with elevated structures at the bow and stern.

Image of carrack
Carrack ~1561

Examples of a carrack
Carronade: A short-barreled limited range gun developed in the 1770s by the Carron Company in Scotland. At short range they were enormously destructive to a ship's timbers. A real ship smasher.
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The addition of carronades was not reflected in the nominal rate of a ship; a 52-gun ship mounting 10 carronades was still designated as a 42.
Carvel Built: A method of ship building in which the planks are laid flush with the edges laid close and caulked to make them watertight as opposed to clinker built where the side planks overlap. Generally only small boats and early ships were clinker built.
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Cascabel: A rounded projection at the rear of the breech of a muzzle loading cannon's barrel. Also spelled cascable.
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Cat: The name of the purchase by which the anchor was hoisted to the cathead in preparation for stowing or letting go. 'To cat the anchor' is the process of hoisting the anchor to the cathead.
Cat O' Nine Tails: A whip made from unraveling a rope's strands (3x3). Used as punishment for a variety of offences aboard a Naval ship. Also called 'Captains Daughter'.
Cathead: A heavy piece of timber projecting from each side of the bow of a vessel to hold the anchors in position and clear away from the bow. Early catheads were often capped off with a carved cat or lion face.

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Catwalk: Or gangway. A narrow, elevated walkway, as on either side of a ship, connecting the quarter-deck section to the forecastle.
Caulk: The process of driving material into the seams of the ship's deck or sides to make them watertight. The tools used were caulking irons and mallets.

image of caulker
Caulking Mallet: A shipbuilding tool. An iron or wooden mallet (heavy hammer) used to strike a variety of irons, to open and close seams or to fill seams with oakum.
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Ceiling: The inside planking in the holds of a vessel, laid across the floors and carried up the sides of the holds to the beams.
Celestial Navigation: In celestial navigation, the two coordinates used to determine a ship's bearing were the azimuth and altitude of a celestial body.
Centerboard: A type of retractable keel used on sailing vessels to prevent drifting downwind. Also known as a drop keel.
Chain: A unit of length equal to 4 rods or (4x16.5) 66 feet.
Chain Plate: One of a number of strips of iron, chains, or a combination of iron links and straps with each lower end fastened to a ships hull and the upper end carrying a deadeye to which the shrouds or back stays were connected and tensioned.

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Chain Shot: A chain with a solid ball (sphere or half-sphere) at each end, fired from a cannon to inflict damage to a ships rigging and masts.
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Channel: A flat, plank-like or platform-like projection from the side of a sailing ship that is used to spread the shrouds clear of the hull. Before 1590 its equivalent was often called a chain wale. The upper ends of the chain plates were connected and terminated here.

Image of channel
Charter: Late 18th century Dutch equivalent to the English Rates:

1st Charter : 80 guns
2nd Charter : 70 guns
3rd Charter : 60 guns
4th Charter : 50 guns
5th Charter : 36 guns
6th Charter : 20 guns

Only the first 4 charters were considered 'ships of the line'.
Chesstree: A timber fitted on the outside of the hull, just below the gunwale. It had one or more holes with internal rollers or pulleys through which the main tack or sheets were hauled from within board.
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Dutch fashion chesstree ornamented with overlapping scales.
Chine: The line created by the intersection between the side and the bottom of a flatbottom boat or ship.
Chip Log: A piece of wood tied to a knotted cord. The speed of a vessel was measured by counting the number of knots passing over the stern while being timed. The nautical unit knot came from these equidistant knots tied in a rope. Also called hand log.
Cleat: A piece of equipment made of iron or wood having projecting arms called horns to which a rope can be wound and secured. A thumb cleat has only one horn and was normally used on a yard or boom.

Clew: The lower, aft corner of a fore-and-aft sail or the two lower corners of a square sail.
Clew Line: A line used for hauling up the clews when furling a sail.
Clinker Built: A method of ship building in which the hull planks overlap. Early ships such as longships, nefs and early cogs were clinker built, as were, and still are, some small boats. Also called lapstrake construction.
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Clipper: A variety of square-rigged speed-built merchant ships built between 1790 and 1870. Often thought of as some of the most beautiful and elegant sailing vessels ever built. The three-masted Cutty Sark on display at Greenwich, England may well be the best known of the clippers.

image of Cutty Sark

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image of clipper

Examples of a clipper
Close-hauled: The trim of sails when sailing close to (into) the wind was required, generally within 45 degrees to the wind. A vessel was said to be close hauled, when her tacks were drawn close to windward; the sheets hauled close aft and the bow-lines were drawn to their greatest extension.
Clove Hitch: Also called ratline hitch, as it was used to tie and secure the ratlines to the shrouds.

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Coak: To join two scarfed timbers with tenons. Also a hardwood pin joining two timbers or two halfs of a tackle block.
Coaming: The framing or vertical barriers around openings in the upper or weather deck such as hatches, usually about 15-20cm high, to prevent water on deck from running into the interiour of a vessel.
Coble: A small clinker-built open fishing vessel from the North-Eastern coast of England and Scotland. Characterized by a relatively high bow, exaggerated sheer and shallow draft, often setting a single lugsail.
Cocca: Mediterranean equivalent for the Northern European cog. Introduced to the Mediterranean in the 14th century, a cocca was a one- or two-masted square-rigged and clinker-built vessel. Also Coca, Cocha or Cocche.
Cockswain: The helmsman or crew member in command of a ship's boat.

Cofferdam: A watertight chamber or compartment attached to the outside of a ship's hull below the water line so that repairs can be made. Also called caisson.
Cog: A single-masted clinker-built vessel used until the 15th century. The Cog originated in Northern Europe and spread throughout the Baltic and to the Mediterranean. The first mention of a cog is from 948 AD in Muiden near Amsterdam. Even though the usual clinker construction limited the ultimate size of a cog, the English chronicler Thomas Walsingham speaks of great cogs in 1331 with three decks and over 500 crew and soldiers. A cog is characterised by high sides, a relatively flat bottom, rounded bilge and a single square sail. Also Kog(Dutch) or Kogge (German).

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Examples of a cog
Coir: The fibres obtained from the husk of a coconut, used for making rope.
Collier: A broad beamed and shallow draught merchant sailing ship. They were designed to transport coal between ports. The HMS Bark Endeavour was a Whitby collier.

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Examples of a collier
Come About: To change tack and thus the direction or course of a sailing vessel. In other words: changing the position of the vessel and the sails for the wind to come in from the opposite direction, from starboard to port and vice versa. 'Ducking under the boom' comes to mind as an illustration.
Comito: A galley officer of rank varying from Admiral in ancient Byzantine times to Captain and to First Mate in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance.
Commander: A British naval rank directly below Captain, introduced in 1794. Could command 'lesser ships'.
Commodore: Temporary rank of a Captain in command of a squadron.
Companionway: Any staircase or ladder leading from one deck to another.
Compass: A navigational instrument used since the 12th century for determining a ship's direction and position. A compass was often housed in a binnacle and still consists today of a pivoting magnetic needle which is freely suspended to align itself to the earth's magnetic field, the needle turns until its ends are aligned with the magnetic north and south poles. The ship's direction would be the angle the needle made with the lubber's line or simply the direction forward. Also used to determine azimuth in celestial navigation.
Composite Construction: Late 19th century hull construction using an iron or steel frame with wooden planking.
Coppering: The sheathing of the hull of a wooden vessel below the waterline with copper plates. Expensive but intended to extend a ship's life-span significantly by preventing damage caused by shipworm, and to prevent the build-up of weed and barnacles resulting in slower speed.

Image of copperplating a hull
Corsair: A raider or pirate normally operating off the Barbary Coast of North Africa (Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis) during the 16th - 19th centuries. Also Barbary Corsair.

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Corvette: Smallest of all the three-masted square-rigged sailing warships. Corvettes were used primarily for reconnaissance. Also called a 'sloop-of-war', and could be classified as a small frigate. Armed with 8-22 guns on only one deck.

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Examples of a corvette
Counter: The overhang of the stern above the waterline.
Course: A sail set on the lower yard of a square-rigged ship or any principal sail of a ship. The fore-and-aft main-stay-sails of brigs and schooners were also called courses.
Crab: A small and sometimes portable capstan, for the purpose of lifting equipment and cargo.
Cradle: The timber frame constructed around the hull of a ship while under construction on the launching ways. The cradle was often designed to slide down the ways with the ship when the ship was launched.
Crank: 1.A ship which, either because her construction or by the way her cargo was stowed, could not carry a great deal of sail without the danger of capsizing. 2.Any iron brackets for supporting and/or storing items such as the stern lanterns and capstan rods were also called cranks.
Crayer: A small single-masted and slow merchant vessel. Built solely for maximum hold capacity, not for its sailing qualities.
Creeper: A very small anchor, very much like a grapnel but without any flukes or barbs. Used for the retrieval of mooring lines, anchor cables, flotsam etc.
Crimp: A person who coerces, often by force or deception, men into service as sailors. See also shanghai.
Cross Staff: A relatively accurate tool used in celestial navigation since the early 16th century, it consisted of a scaled wooden staff or rod with one or more sliding perpendicular 'transoms' with which the angle between a celestial object such as the sun or moon and the horizon could be measured (altitude). Later often replaced by the more usable but somewhat less accurate backstaff or quadrant.
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Crossjack: The lowest square sail, or the lower yard of the mizzenmast. Also cro'jack.
Crosstree: Light oak timber spreader fixed across the trestle trees at the upper ends of the lowermast and topmast. They supported the topmast and topgallant mast shrouds.
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Crown: The lower end of an anchor-shank where the arms come together.
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Crowfoot: Rigging to even the pull or load on spars, stays and leeches (1550 - 1700). Often more decorative than purposeful. Crowfeet for the tops of masts were used until ~1800.

image of crowfoot
Crow's Nest: A platform for a lookout at or near the top of a mast. Named for the cage which housed ravens, often carried by Norsemen at their masthead; for when a raven was released, its flight direction would hopefully indicate shore.
Crutch: Oblique or horizontal knee used to reinforce the stern.
Culverin: A long-barreled heavy cannon used in the 16th and 17th centuries, often an 18 pounder with two serpent-shaped handles and a muzzle velocity of over 1200 fps.
Currach: A small rounded boat made of hides stretched over a wicker frame; still used in some parts of Great Britain. Also called Coracle.
Cutter: 1. A fast-sailing fore-and-aft rigged single-masted vessel usually setting double headsails, used for patrol and dispatch services. Cutters were the ships of choice for English smugglers during the 18th century. The largest were up to 150 tons burden and could carry up to 12 guns.

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2. A clinker built ship's boat used for travel between ship and shore.

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Cutwater: The forward curve or edge of the stem of a ship.
Dandy-rig: A name used for a variety of rigs, most often a ketch or yawl-rig. Also formerly applied to the rig of some English punts.
Danish East India Company: Dansk Ostindisk Kompagni 1616 - 1669. The first Danish East India Company was formed in 1616, modelled after the Dutch VOC, she traded tea and other commodities from Tranquebar in Danish-India to Europe. Founded in 1670, the second Danish East India Company was dissolved in 1729.
Davit: A purchase for suspending or lowering heavy equipment and objects. For example: fish davits for raising the flukes of an anchor, or boat davits for lowering and raising a ship's boat.
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Deadeye: A round or triangular hardwood disk with one or more holes and a grooved perimeter, used to properly tension and tighten a shroud or stay. As in the image below, the most commonly thought of variety had three holes.
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Dead-light: A shutter for a stern or gallery light.
Deadrise: The 'rise' or angle between the hull and horizontal, at any given point on a section through the hull below the waterline.
Deadweight: Deadweight tonnage is the absolute maximum weight that a ship can safely carry when fully loaded. It includes crew, passengers, cargo, fuel, water, and stores. Often expressed in long tons or metric tons. Acronym: dwt. It is measured by measuring the displacement difference when the vessel is empty (or light) and fully loaded.
Dead-wood: Solid timbers at the bow and stern, just above the keel where the lines narrowed down so that separate side timbers would not fit. They extended from the keel upwards, effectively raising the floor-timbers at the bow and stern.
Deals: Planks cut from pine or fir of a specific size, for instance deals of 3" x 9" x 12' were common.
Deck: A horizontal platform in a vessel that corresponds to a floor in a building. Decks in wooden vessels often were sloped towards the stern or bow, and always had an athwart camber.
Demi-cannon: A heavy cannon, usually a thirty to thirty-six pounder.
Demi-culverin: A long barreled cannon used in the 16th and 17th centuries, normally a 9 to 13 pounder.
Demurrage: Charges required as compensation for the delay, or the detention of a ship beyond its scheduled time of departure.
Dinghy: A small rowing or sailing boat, often a tender to a larger vessel.
Disembark: Leaving a ship to go ashore.
Displacement Tonnage: The actual weight of a ship and its contents. One displacement ton, measuring the displacement of seawater while a ship is afloat, is equivalent to one long ton or about one cubic meter (35 cubic feet) of salt water.
Dhow: A lateen-rigged sailing vessel that originated in the Middle East. Early dhows were of shell-first construction. Most dhows are known by names referring to their hull shape.

The ghanjah was a large two- or three-masted vessel with a curved stem and a long sloping and often ornately carved transom, originating from India.

Image of ghanjah

The baghlah was the traditional two-masted deep-sea dhow; it had a transom with usually five windows and a poop deck similar to European galleons or caravels.

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Other large seagoing two-masted dhows were the double-ended boom, which had a long stem pointing to the heavens, often with a bowsprit flying a jib, and the sambuk.

Image of dhow - boom

The smaller battil featured a long stem topped by a large, club-shaped stemhead and a sternpost decorated with cowrie shells and leather.

The badan was a much smaller and single-masted, shallow draught boat, used for fishing and oyster diving.
Dog: A hinged catch that fits into a notch of a ratchet to move a wheel forward or prevent it from moving backward.
Dogger: A two-masted fishing-vessel resembling a ketch. Also hooker.

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Doldrums: Regions near the equator where there is little or no wind.
Dolphin Striker: The short perpendicular spar under the cap of the bowsprit used to counteract the upward pull on the jib-boom of the fore topgallant stay or topmast stay.
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Dory: A small, narrow, flat-bottomed and shallow draft boat of between 15 to 20 ft in length, usually with high sides and a sharp prow, propelled by oars. Also spelled Dorey (British).

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Double Block: A tackle block with two sheaves located side by side.

Image of double block
Down Easter: A square-rigged merchant vessel combining large carrying capacity with a relatively sharp hull. They got their name from having been built in Maine, downwind and east of all the major East Coast ports, and were being used largely for the California grain trade (1865-1890).

Examples of a down easter
Drabler: An additional strip of canvas attached to the foot of the bonnet of a fore-and-aft sail. Also spelled drabbler.

Image of drabler
Draft: The depth of a ship in the water. The vertical distance between the waterline and the keel, expressed in feet or meters. Also draught.
Draught: The plans for construction of a ship, showing at least hull cross-sections and water-lines (horizontal sections). Draughts were often at 1:48 scale (quarter of an inch to a foot). Drawings did not exist for ships built before the 17th century, which were constructed solely by and from a shipwright's knowledge and experience. Also draft.

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Drawing Knife: A shipbuilding tool with a long and slender sharp-edged blade and two handles, one on each end. It was used to draw material away from the piece to be worked on.
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Dressing Sails: Applying a treatment to sails to preserve and keep them supple in wet and cold weather. Often a mixture of linseed oil and ochre, giving the sails a red-brown appearance. Tar, tallow and oak bark were also used as ingredients, hence the term barking sails. New sails normally were/are not dressed in the first year or so, since they have to be fully stretched first before treatment can be applied.

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Dromon: A medium-size, fast-sailing Mediterranean galley often armed with Greek fire for burning enemy ships.
Druxey: Fungal decay in a ship's timbers, characterized by spongy whitish-colored spots and veins.
Dubbing: A term used for working with an adze in smoothing or evening timbers.
Dunnage: Loose wood, laid in the bottom of a ship's hold, to raise the cargo, to keep it from getting water damaged. Most ships would take on some water during rough weather or just through seepage.
Earing: A rope used to fasten the top corners of a square sail to its yard, or an eye spliced into the boltrope of a sail for reefing purposes.
East Indiaman: A large and heavily armed European merchantman used for trade between Europe and the East-Indies.

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Examples of an East-Indiaman
Elm: Wood from various deciduous trees of the genus Ulmus and an important timber in wooden shipbuilding since its tough and curly grain makes it very resistant to splitting. Elm trees were usually felled in winter when they contained no sap. Elm was used for bees, bibbs, caps, tops and planking below the waterline.
Ensign: A large standard, banner or flag, hoisted on the ensign-staff. The ensign is used to distinguish the ships of different nations from each other, and to characterise the different squadrons of the navy.

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The Red Ensign as carried by English civil vessels from 1707-1800.
Ensign-staff: A long pole erected over the poop, used to hoist the ensign.
Entry: The form of the fore part of the ship as it cuts through the water.
Escutcheon: A shield-shaped emblem located on a ship's stern, bow or sides, bearing a coat of arms, name, or owners symbol.
Even Keel: When the draft of a vessel fore and aft is equal. In other words: the ship's keel is parallel to the ship's waterline.
Eye: A circular loop on the end of a shroud or stay.
Eyes of a ship: The extreme bows of a ship. Originated from the ancient custom of painting an eye on each side of the bow so a ship could find her way.

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Fack: A full circle of any coiled rope or cable.
Fairlead: A means, often a pulley-block, of leading a line in the proper direction and prevent snagging or chafing.
Falcon: A small anti-personnel cannon, usually a 2 to 3 pounder.
Falconet: A small anti-personnel cannon, usually a 1 to 1 1/2 pounder.
False Keel: An extra timber attached to the underside of a ship's main keel, either to protect the keel from damage and/or to increase the draft and improve the sailing characteristics.
Fashion Piece(s): The aft most timbers in the submerged hull of a ship forming the shape of the stern.
Fathom: A unit of measurement for depth. One fathom is 1.83 meters or 6 feet. From the Anglo-Saxon "faehom" for the act of stretching two arms wide or 'embracing arms' as a rough measurement of six feet.
Fay: To fit together two pieces of timber so there is no perceptible space between them.
Felucca: A narrow, swift, lateen-rigged sailing vessel used on the Nile and in the Mediterranean.

image of felucca
Fender: Originally timbers running along the outside of the hull from the gunwale downward, later a cable hung over the side of a ship, to prevent it from striking or rubbing against a wharf, or another vessel moored alongside it.
Fid: A bar of wood or iron which takes the weight of a topmast when it is stepped on the lowermast. A hole in the topmast corresponds with a hole in the lowermast and the fid is driven through to hold them together.
Fiddlehead: The scrolled stemhead of a vessel lacking a true figurehead.
Fife Rail: A rail around the mast or along a ship's sides with holes for belaying pins, used to secure the running rigging.
Fifth Rate: Sailing warship with 32-44 guns (1779).

image of fifth rate

Examples of a fifth rate
Figurehead: An ornamental carved and painted figure or scene on the stem, below the bowsprit, generally expressing some aspect of the ship's name or owner.

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A straddlehead was a free standing figure, normally standing on a little but often decorated platform extending ahead of the ship. An example is shown directly below:

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An alternate form of bow decoration was the billethead.
Filling Frame: A frame in between the master frames.
Fireship: A ship or boat that is deliberately set on fire and steered to collide with a larger enemy ship in order to set it on fire and destroy it. Fireships were often used in the 17th century to finish off disabled enemy vessels.
First Mate: The officer below the master on a ship.
First Rate: Sailing 'ship of the line' warship with 100 or more guns on three gun decks (1779).

image of first rate

Examples of a first rate
Fish: A piece of timber, somewhat resembling a fish, used to strengthen a mast or yard.
Fish Davit: A spar used as a purchase to hoist the flukes of the anchor to the top of the bow, without damaging the ship's hull.
Fisherman's bend: A knot used to secure the end of a line to a ring or spar, made by two turns with the end passed back under both.
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Flag: On a sailing warship the flag distinguished the Admiral's ship from the other ships of his squadron; also the colours by which one nation is distinguished from another, flown from either the fore, main, or mizzenmast.
Flagship: The sailing warship carrying the Admiral (or fleet commander) and his flag. Normally the most powerful ship in a squadron or fleet.

Examples of a flagship
Flax: Fibres of the flax plant stem were often used in creating oakum.
Fleet: 1.A number of ships sailing together. 2.The number of merchant ships owned by a shipping company. 3.The whole of a national navy in a region or territory. In 18th century naval terms anything more than five ships-of-the-line would have been considered a fleet.
Flitch: One of a number of planks used in creating a heavy beam.
Floor: The lowest timber of a frame, centered on the keel.
Fluke: The pointed triangular blade at the end of an anchor arm, intended to grab hold of the sea-bottom. It is usually the broadest part of an anchor and was also called the palm of an anchor.
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Flush Deck: A continuous deck of a ship laid from stem to stern without any break.
Fluyt: A classic three-masted, square-rigged merchant ship of the 17th and 18th century, invented by the Dutch to be economical in operation, carrying the largest cargo and smallest crew possible. It had a wide, balloon-like hull rounding at the stern and bow and a very narrow, high stern. Lightly armed, they were not well-suited for dealing with pirates, privateers or any other armed opposition. Also Fluit or Flute.

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Dutch Fluyt

Image of fluyt
English Fluyt

Examples of a fluyt
Flying Jib: The outermost triangular fore-and-aft sail that extends beyond the jib and is carried on a stay attached to the flying-jib boom.
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Foot: The bottom edge of a sail.
Footrope: A rope in square-rigged ships suspended below a yard on which the topmen stood when furling or reefing sails. Also called yard-horses.
Fore: The forward part of a ship or a position towards the bow.
Fore-and-aft Rigged: Rigged with sails bent to gaffs or set on stays in the midship line (parallel to the centerline) of a vessel.
Fore-and-aft Sail: A sail set parallel to the centerline of a vessel. A fore-and-aft rigged vessel is often simpler to rig then a square-rigged vessel, it requires less crew and can sail closer to the direction from which the wind is blowing.
Forecastle: Originally a tower-like structure placed near the bow of a sailing warship on which soldiers stood and fought from during battle. Later the space between the short raised forward deck, pronounced fo'c'sle. Also a generic term for the living space of the crew in sailing vessels.
Foremast: The mast on a sailing vessel set closest to the bow or front.
Forepeak: The foremost part of a ship's hold.
Forward: Toward the bow.
Fourth Rate: Sailing 'ship of the line' warship with 50-60 guns on two gun decks (1779).

image of fourth rate

Examples of a fourth rate
Frame: The timber or rib of a ship running from the keel to the side rail. The frames form the shape of the hull.
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ship's frame
Frame-first Construction: A method of construction in which the internal framework, or skeleton, of a ship's hull is constructed first, with the hull planking being attached afterward.

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Several different methods of building the frame or hull were used according to local practice and time-period.

A semi-frame-first method, as shown below, would consist of building the keel and attaching a bow- and stern-frame first, then lay and shape the bottom up to the bilge as the shipwright saw fit, including the planking. After this was completed the remaining frames and sides would follow.

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More 'progressive' builders would build the entire framework before any planking. Several combinations of the two were also used.
Freeboard: The distance from the waterline to the upper deck level, measured at the waist.
Freeing Port: An opening or hole in the bulwarks at deck level to drain water from the deck.
French East India Company: 'La Compagnie des Indes Orientales' was the French answer to rival the Dutch and British in the trade on the East Indies. It was established in 1664, dissolved in 1719.
Frigate: A three-masted sailing warship with two full decks, with only one gun deck. A frigate was armed with between 30 to 44 guns located on the gun deck and possibly some on the quarter-deck and forecastle. Frigates were used in the 18th and 19th centuries for escort and reconnaissance, but also for a myriad of other duties. In the 16th and 17th century the term frigate is synonymous to warship. Find the modern definition of frigate here.

Examples of a frigate
Furl: To fold or roll a sail and secure it to its main support. Furling.

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Furniture: All moveable equipment of a ship: rigging, sails, spars, anchors, etc.
Furring: The re-planking of a vessel to give her more beam and freeboard.
Futtock: The separate pieces of wood that together form a frame in a wooden vessel. Usually there were four or five futtocks to a rib.
Futtock Plates: Plates of wood or iron to which the deadeyes of the topmast shrouds are secured.
Futtock Riders: Large vertical timbers strengthening the inside of the hull below the waterline.
Futtock Shroud: A shroud used to brace and support the base of the topmast, running from the futtock plates on the sides of the top downwards and inwards to a futtock band around the mast or directly to the lower shroud's futtock stave.
Futtock Stave: A served piece of rope across and lashed to a lower shroud, below the top and near the masthead. As a rule of thumb, they were attached at the same distance below the top as the masthead is above the top. To reinforce the lower shroud where the futtock shrouds terminate.
Gaff: A spar to which the head of a four sided fore-and-aft sail is attached. When a gaff is hoisted, it carries the sail up with it. Normally it takes two sets of halyards to hoist a gaff-rigged sail.
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Gaff-rigged: A fore-and-aft rig where the primary sails abaft the mast are trapezoidal in shape. The foot of the sail is attached to a boom, the luff is attached to the mast, and the head is attached to a gaff.
Gale: A very strong wind. Classified on the Beaufort scale as one of four (7-10) wind speeds from 32 to 63 miles or 51 to 102 kilometers per hour.
Galeas: A two- or three-masted Scandinavian merchant vessel from the 18th and 19th century, developed from the earlier Dutch galjoot. Unlike the galjoot however, the galeas had a square stern.
Galjoot: Also galiot, galioot or galyoot. A fast sailing shallow-draught Dutch vessel wich was often used as a coastal merchant vessel during the 17th and 18th century. She had a rounded stern and bow. Usually thought of as a one and a half masted small vessel, some were as large as 700 tons and had a full three masted rig. They were also used on occasion as bomb vessels because of their stability and durability. See also hoy.

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A typical small galjoot.

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A three-masted galjoot of 700 tons, circa 1800.

Examples of a galjoot
Galleas: A large, three-masted galley/galleon hybrid of the 16th and 17th centuries that used both sails and oars. Derived from earlier galleys, they were powerful warships of the day, very successful at the Battle of Lepanto, 1571. The image directly below depicts an artists impression of a Spanish armada galleas in typical medieval fashion. The image at the bottom shows a lateen-rigged galleas.

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Examples of a galleas
Galleon: A square-rigged, three- or four-masted sailing ship in use from the 16th to the 18th century, particularly by the Spanish and Portuguese but also by most other European nations.

image of galleon model

Examples of a galleon
Gallery: A platform at the stern of a ship, could be open like a balcony or closed i.e. built-up.

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Galley: An oared fighting ship used mainly in the Mediterranean from many centuries BC until well into the 18th century. They were also used in the Baltic and by other northern European nations, just not to the same extent and duration as in the Mediterranean.

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A galley a scaloccio is rowed by groups of three, five or seven men on a bench pulling a single oar, and a galley ala sensile has a single rower per oar, possibly two or three men to a bench (a terzaruolo). The top speed of a galley under full-oar has been estimated to be 7 or 8 knots.

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Maltese galley at anchor - plate (G. Tagliagambe/Antonio Suntach) from around 1780 - 1800.

Examples of a galley
Galliot: A light and fast Mediterranean galley.

image of galliot
Gammoning: A heavy rope securing the bowsprit to the stem of a ship.

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Gammon Iron: A circular band of iron used to hold the bowsprit to the stem of a ship in late sailing vessels. See also gammoning.
Gangplank: A plank, board or ramp used for boarding or disembarking a ship.
Garboard: The first plank on the outer hull next to the keel.
Ghost Ship: Either a ship that appears as a ghostly apparition such as the Flying Dutchman, or a ship which is found floating at sea with no sign of the crew, such as the Mary Celeste.

Examples of a ghost-ship
Gig: 1.A two-masted coastal vessel carrying lugsails. 2.A wide beamed 18th century ship's boat, often reserved for use by a ship's Captain.
Gimbal: Gimbal or Gimbals. Two concentric metal rings mounted and pivoting on axes at right angles from each other. Used to suspend an object such as a ship's compass in a horizontal plane, allowing gravity to keep the object level despite the vessel's rolling and pitching in the waves.
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Girder: A steel, iron or wooden beam supporting the hull structure.
Girtline: Term for a rope passing through a block hung from a mast or masthead for hoisting relatively light loads such as a flag, tools and weapons. Also called gantline from the mid-19th century on.
Gooseneck: 1. A fitting attaching the boom to the mast of a fore-and-aft rigged vessel allowing the boom to swing sideways. 2. The join between the end of a whipstaff and the tiller.
Grape Shot: Usually a canvas bag filled with golf-ball size solid balls, placed over a metal plate fitting the bore of a cannon, fired to inflict damage to personnel, rigging and sails.
Grapnel: A small anchor with three or more fluked claws, often used for anchoring a small vessel or used as a grappling hook. Was called a fire grapnel when the claws were barbed. Also spelled grapnell.

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Graving: The treatment of the submerged part of the hull to protect it from weeds, shipworm and decay. Performed at a graving dock.
Great Cabin: The Captain's quarters on a ship, located at the stern of a vessel. Often used as a meeting or dining room and of course foremost for the Captain's use. Some cannons could be located in the Great Cabin turning it into an occasional battle station (after dissassembling most of the Great Cabin and removing furniture and glass windows). Sometimes, depending on time-period and ship-type, the rudder yoke or tiller would run through this cabin from the rudder to the helm.
Greenheart: A strong, hard and durable dark greenish timber from the West Indies (Guyana) tree Ocotea rodioei, used for shipbuilding; outer hull, block-pins etc.
Grog: A sailers drink; rum diluted with water. Originated around 1740 from English Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757), nicknamed Old Grog for wearing a grogram cloak, who ordered the Navy sailor's rations of rum to be diluted. Not a popular man he was.
Gross Ton: A British unit of weight equivalent to 2240 pounds. Also called 'long ton'. (One 'short ton' or 'net ton' equals 2000 pounds or 0.907 metric tons).
Gudgeon: A socket for a pintle of a rudder. Also spelled Gudgin.
Gun: A generic term for a carriage-mounted cannon in sailing warships. By the 18th century guns were rated according to the weight of shot fired, anywhere from a 1 pounder to 42 pounders.
Gun deck: Any full-length deck carrying a ship's guns. There could be up to three gun decks for large deep-draught sailing warships, the upper or main gun deck, the middle gun deck and the lower gun deck. A few large warships have been built with four gun decks but they were not very successful.
Gunner: An officer in charge of the artillery and ammunition on a sailing warship, also responsible for training sailors on how to handle and fire cannons.
Gunport: A square or round hole built in the side of a sailing warship through which the cannons were fired. First appeared around 1500 AD. Sometimes the gunports were highly decorated with wreaths and other decorations, especially from the 15th to the 17th century.
Gunwale: Upper edge or topmost planking of the side of a ship or boat. Was also called gunnel.
GWC: The Dutch West India Company or Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie. Hoping for the same success as the VOC, the GWC was founded in 1621 and focused on privateering of Spanish vessels, producing and trading Brazilian sugar and on the African gold and slave trade. The GWC built Fort Orange (1624) on the site of Albany, N.Y., Fort Nassau (1624) on the Delaware River, Fort Good Hope on the site of Hartford on the Connecticut River, and finally Fort Amsterdam (1626) on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, which was the settlement called New Amsterdam, now New York City. Between 1634 and 1648 the GWC also established colonies further south: Aruba, Curaçao, Surinam, Guyana and Saint Martin.

Peace with Spain in 1648 signalled the start of the end for the GWC: Spanish shipping was no longer a legitimate target to plunder. The financial fortune of the company steadily declined and the GWC was dissolved in 1674.
Hair Bracket: A moulding which comes in at the back of, or runs aft from a figurehead or billethead.
Half Beam: Short beam running from the ships side to the coamings of hatches.
Half Frame: A floorless frame fore and aft, with futtocks seated directly on the keel.
Half-Model: A scale model of the hull of a proposed ship showing the hull from stem to stern. It was made in layers which when taken apart served as a model for the full scale plans.
Halyard: A line used to hoist a spar holding a sail or a line used to hoist a flag.
Hammoc: A sailors bed, often made of a piece of canvas, drawn together at the two ends, and hung lengthways, fore-and-aft, under the deck. Often more than one sailor had to share one hammock, space was at a premium.
Hance: The step made by the drop of a hand-rail (at the top of a ship's side) to a lower level.
Hancing Piece: A bracket to fit a hance, often elaborately carved with dogs or dolphins and sometimes running several feet down a ship's side.

hancing piece
Hand: A measurement unit of 4 inches, used to describe the circumference of masts and yards among other things.

Ship spar names and sizes
Handspike: One of several wooden levers used to turn a windlass or capstan. One end was rectangular or square and would fit into a slot or hole in the barrel of a windlass or capstan. Was also used whenever a sturdy lever was required for any other purposes.
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Harpins: Term for the bow part of the wales where they are attached to the stem.
Hanseatic League: Former alliance of trading cities in the Baltic and North Sea Region, officially established in 1356 in Lübeck, the alliance lasted well into the 17th century. Cloth, grain, pelts, salt and wax were some of the more important goods traded.
Hatch: An opening in a ships deck, often rectangular, covered by gratings; for below deck access (ladder) or access to a ship's hold for stowing and retrieving cargo or stores. Also called hatchway (hatchways), implying a passage below rather than a physical hatch-grating.
Hawse: Location at the bow of a ship where the hawseholes are located. A ship is also said to be riding to hawse when moored with both starboard and port bow anchors out.
Hawsehole: A hole in the bow of the ship through which the anchor cable or hawser passes.
Hawse-pieces: Relatively large pieces of wood attached to the bow through which the hawseholes were cut.
Hawser: A cable or rope used in mooring or towing a ship.
Head: 1.The area forward of the forecastle and beak. 2.The top edge of a four sided sail.
Headsail: A sail, such as a jib, set forward of a foremast.
Headway: The forward motion of a ship. Opposite of sternway.
Heave to: To bring a vessel up in a position where it will maintain little or no headway (forward motion), usually with the bow into the wind or close to.
Heel: 1. The lower end of a mast. 2. The aft end of a ship's keel.
Heeling: When a ship or boat tilts to one side, she is said to heel, as in: 'She never took in sail, heeled sharply to port, took on water and sank shortly thereafter'.
Helm: The mechanism (wheel, tiller, yoke, rudder) by which a ship is steered.

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Helmsman: The crew member responsible for steering a ship.

image of helm system
Helve: Generic term for the handle of a variety of shipwright's tools, such as an adze or a hammer.
Hemp: Tough, coarse fibers of the cannabis plant, used to make cordage or rope. Also used in creating oakum
Hermaphrodite Brig: A two-masted vessel, square-rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft rigged mainsail with square topsail on the mainmast.

image of Hermaphrodite Brig

Examples of a hermaphrodite brig
Hog: A ship was said to be hogging when the keel would arch up because of structural weakness causing an improper amount of sheer and causing the ship to be out of trim. The U.S. Super-Frigates of 1812 suffered from hogging because of their extreme length and frame-structure.
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Opposite of hogging is sagging, see image below.
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Hold: A large compartment below decks for the stowing of cargo and stores.
Hollow shot: A cast-iron ball with a hollow interior filled with gun-powder. One of the culprits that made wooden warships obsolete.
Holystone: A soft sandstone used for scrubbing the decks of a ship.

1. A single-, two-, or sometimes even three-masted coastal fishing vessel similar to a smack but setting square sails on the mainmast. Also hoeker or dogger (Dutch).

2. Slang for an outdated, obsolete, unwieldy, or just plain ugly vessel.

Image of hoeker
Hoop: In fore-and-aft rigged vessels the wooden hoops that secure the luff of a sail to the mast and slide up and down when the sail is hoisted or lowered.
Horn: A fixtures securing a gaff to the mast. Unlike a gooseneck that secured the boom, horns could slide up and down the mast.
Horn timbers: Timbers rising up from the sternpost to support the stern and stern gallery overhang.
Horse: A wooden rod or iron bar running athwart the deck to allow the sheet of a fore-and-aft sail to traverse from side to side according to the tack(2).
Horsing Iron: A shipbuilding tool. A caulking iron used when caulking deck seams.
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Hound: A large timber support bracket location directly below the head of a mast, supporting the trestle trees and top.

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Hoy: A single-, two- or even three-masted European coastal merchant and fishing vessel from the 17th and 18th century. See also galjoot.

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A small single-masted sloop-rigged hoy shown below.

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Hulk: 1. A medieval ship with the ends of the planks fitted parallel to the stern and sternposts. 2. A ship that has fallen into disuse or is used in a static role, for instance as a sheer hulk or a prison hulk as shown below.

prison hulk
Hull: The main body of a ship excluding the masts, rigging and internal fittings.

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Impress: To compel or force a person to serve in a specific naval force, often without having been given any opportunity to make arrangements for leaving family or home. Sort of a cruel thing, this whole 'press-gang' business.
Inboard: The inside of the structural area of a vessel and the opposite of outboard.
Interscalm: The minimum distance between rowers or oarsmen when viewing a ship or boat from the side. The interscalm is sometimes used to estimate the length of ancient galleys and other rowed vessels. Often a little more or less than a meter.
Ironclad: A warship with a wooden hull sheathed in iron for protection against gunfire. Another culprit causing the demise of wooden sailing ships.

image of ironclad

Examples of an ironclad
Jack: 1. A sailor. Also 'Jack Tar', referring to the over-abundant use of tar as a water-repelling preservative aboard a wooden sailing ship. 2. A relatively small flag flown at the bow of a ship, usually to indicate nationality.
Jack Staff: A flag pole fixed to the bowsprit cap for flying the jack.
Jackyard Topsail: A triangular topsail set above the mainsail in a gaff-rigged vessel.
Jacob's Staff: An instrument used to measure altitude at sea.
Jaght: Also jacht. A three-masted, lightly armed, and speed-built Dutch merchant vessel of the 17th century. Often used in convoys to and from the East Indies and for voyages of exploration. Usually they were slightly larger than a fluyt.

image of an early 17th century jacht

Examples of a jaght
Jagt: A single-masted Scandinavian inland and coastal merchant vessel of the 17th, 18th and 19th century.
Jeers: Heavy tackle used for hoisting the lower yards in square-rigged vessels.
Jerry Iron: A shipbuilding tool. An iron tool used for extracting old oakum from seams. Also called meaking iron.
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Jib: A triangular fore-and-aft sail carried on a stay leading from the fore-topmast head to the bow or bowsprit.
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Jib-Boom: A continuation of the bowsprit used to stay the foot of the outer jib and the stay of the topgallant mast. A flying-jib boom is a further extension to which the tack of the flying jib is attached.
Jigger: A piece of rope about five feet long, with a block at one end and a sheave at the other. Used to pull back (tension) the hind part of a cable, when it is pulled aboard ship by means of a windlass.
Joggle: A notch cut in the edge of a plank to take the butt of the next plank when planking a wooden vessel.
Jolly Boat: All purpose boat onboard a ship.
Jumper: A stay leading from the outer end of the jib-boom to the dolphin striker. See also martingale.
Junk: A Chinese sailing vessel with bamboo sail battens and a long overhanging counter; originally developed during the 5th century.

image of junk
Jury Rig: A temporary rig used to replace a damaged mast or spar.
Jute: The fibre obtained from either of two Asian plants (Corchorus capsularis or C. olitorius) used for cordage and to create oakum.
Keckling: Also called kaicling. The process of winding old rope around a cable, with a small interval between the turns, to save the cable from being fretted and chafed by the hull.
Keel: The lowest and most important timber of a wooden ship to which the stem, sternpost and ribs are attached.

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Keel Block: One of many aligned timber blocks, on the floor of the slip on which the keel of a ship to be built or repaired is laid and rests.
Keel-hauling: Punishment for various offences onboard a ship. The offender was plunged repeatedly under the bottom of the ship on one side and then pulled up on the other side of the ship, after having passed under the keel. Particularly cruel treatment since the victim would contact the rough hull repeatedly and mind-numbing cold seawater would often only add to the misery. Originally a term for careening.
Keelson: A timber bolted to the keel to provide additional strength (internal keel). Also kelson.
Kedge: A light, small anchor used for warping a vessel.

image of junk
Kentledge: Iron ballast.
Ketch: A two-masted sailing vessel with the mizzenmast stepped forward of the rudder head. They were usually fore-and-aft rigged but could have square sails. Sizewise, they were usually from 100 to 250 tons burthen. Often used in the role as a bombard vessel.
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Examples of a ketch
Kevel: A large and sturdy belaying pin for use with heavy cables such as the mooring cable (mooring kevel). The word kevel stands for the old French word for 'wooden peg'.
Killick: A relatively small anchor made of an elongated stone or several stones enclosed in a wooden frame. Normally a killick has two curved wooden timbers forming a cross as the base on wich this center stone rests. Pliable wooden rods rise from the base enclosing the center stone(s). These rods were then tied together just above the center stone(s). Used for anchoring small boats and fishing nets. Also called killock or kellick. Either from Irish or Scottish origins.

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King Spoke: Marked top spoke on a ship's wheel when the rudder is centered.
KL: Norwegian Commercial last. A measure of burthen. 1 kl = 2,08 register tons.
Knarr: A clinker built Viking merchant ship, exceptionally sturdy in rough seas. Broader in the beam and more draught than a longship. They were also more reliant on the use of sails for propulsion, rather than oars. Also Knorr.
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Knee: Wooden support brace used to strengthen the location where two timbers were joined or crossing. Rising knees supported the connection of deck beams to the hull or frame from above or below, lodging knees strengthened them laterally (sideways). See also crutch and stemson.
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Knight Head: One of two large timbers on either side of the stem of the vessel which rise above the deck and support the heel of the bowsprit between them. In smaller vessels they were called bitts. In early vessels often decorated with carved human heads, thus the name knight-head. Also called bollards.
Knot: A unit of measure used to express the speed of a ship in nautical miles per hour. One knot = 1.151 statute miles per hour.

In the Age of Sail, speeds of 4 to 12 knots were typical depending on vessel type, wind speed and direction. The 14 knot cruising speed of the 1779 frigate USS Constellation being indeed very fast and earning her the nickname Yankee Race Horse.
Knuckle: Any abrupt change in direction or non-tangency in any external structure of a vessel, forming a 'knuckle-line' i.e. the line formed at the apex of the angle dividing the upper and lower part of the stern or counter. Was also called a nipple.
Lanyard: A line used for extending or securing rigging.
Larboard: The old name for the left hand side of a ship. Larboard was officially changed to 'port' in 1844, to avoid confusion with starboard. Larboard refers to the loading side of a ship, as apposed to steerboard.
Lasten: An older Dutch term used to express a ship's carrying capacity. 4000 Amsterdam pounds or 1976 kilos per ton lasten. As a quick reference or rule of thumb: 1 last is about 2 ton.
Lateen: A triangular fore-and-aft sail set from a long spar set at an angle to a relatively short mast and found in traditional vessels of the Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean. Lateen comes from the word latium, meaning Rome and surrounding area.
Lateen-rigged: Rigged with triangular lateen fore-and-aft sails.
Launch: 1.The process of sending the hull of a newly built vessel from the shipyard into the water. 2. Originally a large dock-yard boat with a broad transom, used as a ship's boat from the late 18th century on. They were often lug-rigged.

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Launching Ways: Beds of timber blocks sloping toward the water which supported the sliding ways of the cradle holding the ship. Large timbers called Ground-ways were sunk into the ground on top of which timber (keel) blocks were laid. At launch time, the launching ways were greased to facilitate smooth sliding of the hull into the water.
See also our 3D Launching ways model
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Lay down: The start of construction of a vessel, the first timbers of the ways have been layed down.
Lay by: Also lay by the wind. To remain in position with the vessel's bow turned into the wind. Similar to heave to
Lay up: A vessel put in dock for maintenance, modifications or repairs is said to be layed up. Layed up for repairs.
League: Unit of distance equal to 3 statute miles or 4.8 kilometers. Previously a unit of distance equal to 3 nautical miles.
Leeboard: Leeboards are lobe-shaped boards lowered from either side of a vessel acting as large oars to minimize drifting.
Leech: The after side of a fore-and-aft sail and the edges of a square sail.
Leech Line: A line used for hauling a sail onto a yard. Also called brail.
Lee Gauge: If a ship was down-wind of another it was said to have the lee gauge, its guns would fire at the enemy rigging; opposite ship had the weather gauge.
Leeward: The direction away from the wind; opposite of windward.
Lift: A rope in a square-rigged ship, leading from a masthead, crosstrees or cap to either end of a yard for support.
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Light: Any opening in a ship's hull, stern or deck structure that is specifically meant to allow sunlight to enter a ship.
Lightship: An anchored ship acting as a floating lighthouse where building a lighthouse was not possible or impractical. Lightships would display a light at the top of a mast and in case of fog would sound a fog signal.

Example of a lightship
Limber Hole: A hole cut in the timbers on either side of the keelson to allow bilge water to run freely to the pump well.
Limber Rope: A rope threaded through the limber holes, running the length of a ship. To keep the holes from becoming plugged, the limber rope was being pulled back and forth.
Line of Battle: A formation of a fleet before entering battle. Also called: Order of Battle. Introduced in the mid-17th century, fleets formed opposing lines to engage one another, thus bringing all their respective broadsides to bear. All the ships were close-hauled when possible and about 50 fathoms (300 feet) apart.
Lines: The designer's drawings of a ship. There were normally three; the sheer plan showing the longitudinal vertical section, the body plan, showing the vertical cross section and the halfwidth plan showing the longitudinal transverse section at various depths between the deck line, waterline and bottom.
List: A ship that leans to one side is said to be listing: The heavily overloaded galleon listed badly to larboard.
Lodeman: A navigator who could find the magnetic North with the aid of a primitive early 16th century compass called a lodestone or waystone (magnetic ore), and thus could 'show the way'.
Lodya: Name for Russian river, lake and sea vessels until the 16th century and later.
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Loggerhead: 1.A post on a whaling ship used to secure the line attached to the harpoon. 2.A long wooden handle with an iron ball attached to the end, used for caulking and, just like a belaying pin, a handy and effective weapon for close combat.
Lombard: A small cannon used in the 15th and early 16th centuries by the Spanish and Portuguese.
Longship: Langskip. Generally thought of as the Viking war ship. It was a 45–148ft (14–45m) galley with up to 40 oars on each side, a square sail on a removable mast, and a 40–80 man capacity. Double-ended and built shell-first with overlapping planks (clinker built).

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Longboat: The largest boat carried aboard a larger sea going vessel. Propelled by sail or oars.

image of longboat
Loose-footed: A fore-and-aft sail that is set without a boom. Most jibs are loose footed.
Lowermast: The main mast body rising up from a ship and the first division of a complete mast.
Lubber: An inexperienced, unsure or clumsy seaman (land lubber).
Lubber's Hole: The opening in the floor of the tops on the fore, main and mizzen masts of square-rigged ships to give access to the topmasts from below. Unsure or inexperienced seaman (lubbers) preferred going through this hole rather than over the futtock shrouds as the more experienced sailors did.
Lubber's Line: A mark or permanent line on a compass indicating the direction forward; parallel to the keel.
Luff: 1.The leading (forward) edge of a fore-and-aft sail. 2.To bring a sailing vessel's bow closer to the wind, usually to decrease power to the headsails.
Lugger: A small ship rigged with one or more lugsails on two or three masts, and usually one, two or three jibs were set on the bowsprit. Luggers usually outperformed square-rigged vessels in coastal tideways but required a larger crew then a square-rigged vessel of similar size. Frequently used by smugglers and privateers around the English Channel in the 18th century.

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Courtesy of Greg Pesta
Lug-rigged: Rigged with lugsails.
Lugsail: A square sail, which has the foot larger than the head and that is bent to a yard hanging slanted (obliquely, not at right angles) to the mast.
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Lumber Iron: A forked iron crutch or stanchion, usually located upright on the gunwales, to hold oars or extra spars.
Magazine: A ship's gunpowder storage room, usually located deep in the fore, or after-part of a ship's hold. As for obvious reasons, no lamps or candles were permitted. To still see what one was doing, often there was a 'light-room' adjacent to it, with the specific purpose of illuminating the magazine. The magazine was often lined with either lead or copper to prevent sparking and keep rats from gnawing their way in.
Mainmast: The main and normally tallest mast on a sailing vessel. On a two-masted vessel it is always the tallest mast.
Mainsail: The principal and largest sail of a sailing vessel. In square-rigged ships it is the lowest sail on the mainmast.
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Manger: A small space or compartment in the bows of a ship to prevent water coming in through the hawseholes from running along the deck or into the ship. Located directly aft of the hawseholes, a manger was enclosed by a coaming while scuppers drained the water from the manger back to the sea.
Manila: Fibres obtained from the stalks of a Philippine banana tree called Abaca, used to create rope.
Man O'War: A term applied to a ship specifically built for the purpose of war. Instances of the term 'man-of-war' to indicate a warship are found as early as 1484. Man O War.

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Examples of a Man O'War
Martingale: A stay running from the end of the jib-boom to the dolphin striker, which holds the jib-boom down against the pull of the fore topgallant mast Larger vessels may have two martingales, an outer- and an inner martingale. the outer martingale being the most forward.stay.
Mast: A large vertical spar set in a vessel used to attach further yards and spars to carry sails. A mast is taken through a hole in the deck(s) and fitted into a step in the keelson. A mast made from a single tree trunk was called a pole-mast. When there were no suitable tall trees available, masts were constructed of several pieces of timber, scarfed, glued and banded together. Until the 19th century ships carried one, two, three or a maximum of four masts: a foremast at the front; a mainmast in the center; and a mizzenmast nearest the stern. A tall mast could consist of a lowermast, a topmast and a topgallant mast. In some larger late sailing vessels you may even have a royalmast above the topgallant mast. Masts and yards were made of softwoods such as fir, spruce and pine.

Mast making and lifting tools from the Age of Sail.
Mast and yard dimensions for a 19th century ship of 600 tons.
Mast and yard dimensions for a 19th century bark of 623 tons.
Mast and yard dimensions for a 19th century ship of 500 tons.

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Mast Cheek: One of a pair of support brackets directly below the trestle trees at the masthead, normally made from oak.
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Master: The Captain of a merchantman or warship.
Master-at-Arms: A non-commissioned officer responsible for maintaining discipline and order on a naval ship.
Master Builder: The head workman in a shipyard. In many shipyards, he was the designer of the ship as well. See also shipwright.
Master Frame: The main frames set up at intervals to give form to the hull; between them are the filling frames.
Masthead: The top of a mast.
Masthead Knot: A knot around a jury-rigged masthead intended to provide for attachment points for stays.
Matelot: A sailor on a merchantman. Meaning the person sharing a bunk or hammock with, as was usual with the different watches.
Meaking: Extracting old oakum from a wooden vessel's seams.
Merchantman: Any vessel used for trade. The combined term of 'merchant' and 'man' occurs as early as 1473.

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Midshipman: Naval cadet, appointed by the Captain of a sailing warship, to second the orders of the superior officers, and assist with whatever needs to be done, either onboard the ship or ashore.

Minion: A type of cannon, usually a 4 to 5 pounder.
Mizzenmast: The name of the third and aftermost mast of a square-rigged ship or a three-masted schooner. Also the aftermost mast in a two-masted vessel such as a ketch or a yawl.
Monkey: A small 16th century coastal merchantman. It carried a square sail on a single mast.
Moonraker: A small light sail set above the skysail of a square-rigged ship.
Moor: To secure and hold a ship or boat in a specific location by means of lines, cables and/or anchors.
Mortar: A piece of high trajectory artillery, shorter and wider than a cannon. Used to bombard a target from above, a mortar was the main armament on a bomb vessel.
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Mortise: A square hole in the sides of a plank, made to receive a tenon and so to form a mortise-and-tenon joint.
Moulding: A term describing the depth of any member of a ships construction such as frames, keelson, beams, sternpost, etc.
Mould-Loft: A large building where the full-size lines of a ship could be laid-out.
Mould: A thin length of wood or template used to form the patterns from which the timbers of the frames are shaped. A convex timber mould would be called a bend-mould and a concave mould a hollow-mould (timbers adjacent to the keel or at stern and bow).
Murderer: A small anti-personnel cannon, its name indicative of the effect it had. Also called murdering piece.
Mutiny: Rebellion against a ship's constituted authority.
Nabby: A Scottish lug-rigged boat with extreme rake to the mast, usually also setting a jib.
Nao: A classic medium-sized Spanish vessel of the age of exploration, having a fully developed three-masted rig and often a small topsail on the mainmast.

Examples of a nao
Nautical Mile: A unit of measurement used in navigation that is equal to a minute of arc (one-sixtieth of a degree) of a great (full) circle on a sphere. One international nautical mile is equivalent to 1852 meters or 1.151 statute miles.
Nave Line: Small tackle used to keep the parrel directly opposite to the yard, particularly while raising or lowering, (as it would otherwise hang under the yard), and prevent it from being sufficiently braced.
Nef: 1.Also called a roundship, a single- or two-masted clinker-built ship used in Europe during the middle-ages until the 15th century, for example as transportation for the crusades. Descendant of the Viking longship a Nef still had a side-rudder and was used in Northern regions a century or two longer with a sternpost-rudder. 2.A French word for ship. 3.Drinking vessel in the shape of a ship.
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Nest: 1.Two or more boats stowed one within the other 2.Two or more ships moored alongside each other.
New Measurement: NM; came into effect on 1 January 1836 when the method of recording the measurements of tonnage and other dimensions of British merchant ships was changed, giving way to the term "New Measurement". In NM terms overall length, beam and depth of ships were all measured from the inner edges of the hull i.e. inner edge to inner edge from stem to stern for length, inner edge to inner edge at the widest part of the ship for beam, and an overall depth from the top of the gunwales to base of the hold. Dimensions in New Measurement terms are given in decimals of a foot.
Nog: A wooden treenail or pin used in shipbuilding.
Oak: Wood from deciduous trees of the genus Quercus and a most important shipbuilding timber for strength and durability. Oak trees were often grown for a particular function, for example they were grown in bizarre bends to provide the ideal grain and shape for knees and crutches.
Oakum: Tarred hemp, flax or jute fibres used for caulking the seams on the decks and sides of wooden ships. Often produced by picking apart old ropes.
Oar: A wooden lever used to steer or propel (sculling or rowing) a boat through the water. A rowing or sculling oar generally consists of three parts; a broad blade that makes contact with the water; the shaft, the main length of the oar; and the loom or handle.

See also rowlock
Octant: A similar navigational device to a sextant with the difference being a shorter scale, only 1/8 of a circle or 45°. It was used until 1767 when it was quickly replaced by the sextant because of the first edition of the Nautical Almanac. This almanac tabulated lunar distances, enabling navigators to determine the current time from the measured angle between the sun and the moon. This angle is sometimes larger than 90° and then can not be measured with an octant, making it obsolete.
Offward: In the direction away from the shore.
Oker: Red chalk used by shipwrights to mark timber. Also ochre.
Old Man: Seaman's term for the Captain of a ship.
Old Measurement: OM; applies to the measurements of ships built, registered or surveyed prior to 1 January 1836, and in particular to merchant ships of the British Empire. In OM terms a ship was measured for overall length, from fore side of the stem to aftside of the sternpost, and for the beam - outer edge to outer edge across the widest part of the ship. The depth was an inside measurement of the depth of the hold for a single decked vessel, and the total of the space between decks for a multi decked vessel. In Old Measurement, the dimensions are given in feet and inches. Also called BM or Builders Measurement.
Orlop: The lowest deck of a ship laid directly over the bilge.
Outrigger: In larger sailing vessels an outrigger is an extension to each side of the crosstrees to spread the backstays. In smaller East Indies sailing vessels such as the Caracore it is a thin, long extra hull parallel to the main hull.
Overboard: Generally a very, very bad thing. Closely related to drowning.
Overlaunch: When the end of a plank overlaps the end of another.
Packet Ship: The generic name given to a vessel that sailed in regular service between two or more ports.

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Examples of a Packet Ship

Parish-Rigged: A vessel that because of the neglect of the ship's owner or master had worn or bad gear aloft.
Parrel: An arrangement of rollers and flat pieces of wood held together with rope, used to hold a yard against a mast while allowing it be raised and lowered. Sometimes all yards or some of the lighter, upper yards were held to the mast with ropes called parrel lashings.
Partners: A wooden framework used to strengthen a ship's deck at the point where a mast or capstan shaft passes through it.
Paterero: A swivel gun. Also Patarero or Pedrero (Spanish).
Pattamar: A one- to three-masted lateen-rigged dhow like vessel used off the west coast of India.

image of pattamar
Pavesses: Large wooden shields fixed permanently to the sides and bulwarks of a ship, often seen in galleons and carracks.
Pawl: A hinged or pivoted catch designed to fit into a notch of a ratchet wheel, to move it forward in one direction while preventing it from slipping back.
Pay: To pour hot pitch over a freshly caulked hull or deck to waterproof the oakum.
Peak: The upper, aft corner of a four-sided, gaff-rigged, fore-and-aft sail.
Penteconter: An ancient Greek galley with 50 oars, 25 each side set in a single bank.
Pied: Old French (Paris) measurement equivalent to the English foot. 1 pied equals 0.3248 meter or 1.066 ft. The old French equivalent to the English inch was a pouce, and since 1 pied equals 12 pouces; 1 pouce would be 1.066 inch or 0.02707 meter. Apparently French feet used to be slightly larger than English feet.
Pillow: A block of timber fixed to the deck of a sailing vessel just inside the bow on which the inboard end of the bowsprit rests.
Pink: A two- or three-masted Dutch fishing vessel of the 18th century.

image of Pink
Pinnace: 1. A variety of relatively small sailing vessels having generally two fore-and-aft rigged masts. 2. A 17th century ship's boat, usually rowed with eight oars.

image of pinnace

Examples of a pinnace
Pintle: A pin or bolt forming the pivot of one of the hinges on which a rudder turns. Also called a rudder-iron. See also: gudgeon.
Pirate: A sea-robber, or an armed ship that roams the seas without any legal commission, and seizes or plunders any vessel she meets indiscriminately, whether friend or foe. Some other names for a pirate were buccaneer, freebooter, ladrone and skimmer.


Examples of a pirate
Examples of a pirate ship
Pissdale: A ship's urinal from the 18th century. It was essentially a tapered lead tube leading to the sea, often located near the officer's quarters.
Pitch: A mixture of boiled tar and coarse resin. Also a term for a ship's rotational motion, the rise and fall of the bow and stern.
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Pitch Ladle: An iron ladle used to pour boiling tar into deck seams to seal and make them watertight.
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Plank: A long piece of timber used in the construction of the hull and for decking. Planks were from 1" (2.5cm) to 4" (10cm) thick and of varying lengths.
Plim: When wood swells (expands) in water. To plim. Plimed.
Plimsoll Line: A mark painted on the sides of (initially British) merchant ships indicating the draught levels to which the ship may be loaded under varying conditions. It was made compulsory in 1876 after too many ships were lost due to being overloaded. Named after Samuel Plimsoll, who was instrumental in the creation of the British Merchant Shipping Act one year earlier.
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Polacre: A three-masted Mediterranean vessel, usually square-rigged on the mainmast, and lateen-rigged on the foremast and mizzenmast. Some of them however carried square sails on all three masts. They usually carried one piece pole-masts, neither topmasts nor topgallant masts were present.

image of polacre
Pole-mast: An uninterrupted single spar mast, no topmast, nor topgallant mast.
Polyreme: A variety of large Phoenician, Greek or Roman war galleys. In these large 'Polyremes', there were only two levels of oars, each being rowed by half the men indicated by the number. For instance, in an octoreme (8), there were 2 banks of oars, each rowed by 4 men, on each side of the ship. In a 'decareme' (10), each oar was manned by 5.
Poop: The short, aftermost deck raised above the quarter-deck of a ship. Received its name from the old Roman custom of carrying pupi (small images of their gods) at the stern of their ships for luck.
Port: The left hand side of a ship, looking from aft forward. Formerly called larboard.
Porthole: The term porthole is generally used to describe the relatively small circular windows and vents in a ship's hull and upper structure, appearing on vessels since the latter half of the 19th century. Also called scuttle. See also: Ports.
Port-Piece: Generally a term for a smaller or short range ships cannon firing 8 to 12 pound shot. Sometimes all the ships guns were referred to as port-pieces.
Ports: Openings in the side of a ship's hull. They can be for various purpose, i.e. gun ports, timber ports, freeing ports, vents or lights. When not in use they were closed by hinging doors, called port-lids.
Pot Boat: An ancient boat made from clay or similar material for use in inland waterways.
Powder Monkey: Term for a ship's boy during naval engagements, carrying the powder and balls from the magazine to the gunners.
Pram: A clinker-built small boat. Also called praam. It had a transom at both ends, the bow transom was usually smaller then the stern transom.
Preventer: A rope backing-up another line or rope that is under extra strain, to 'prevent' the latter from breaking or giving way.
Privateer: A person or private vessel intent on raiding enemy shipping in wartime for the purpose of making a profit from the sale of captured ships, including whatever cargo would be onboard. A privateer could be described as a commissioned pirate. Dangerous business all-around, often a privateer would mistake a 'friendly' ship for fair game with the consequence of rapidly being 'promoted' from privateer to pirate.

Examples of privateers
Prize Money: The proceeds from the sale of a captured enemy ship, often shared between officers and the rest of the crew.
Prize Rules: English legislation governing the distribution of prize money.
Prow: Alternate term for bow; the fore end of a vessel.
Pump: Bilge pump. A mechanism for emptying the bilge of water. Since all wooden ships would leak to some degree, pumps were always in demand. Spray and waves would only add to how much water a ship took on.
Punt: A 14 to 18 ft. square ended rowboat.

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Images courtesy of Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland & Labrador

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Purchase: Any mechanical device, often consisting of spars and tackle, to increase the mechanical advantage (lifting power) when hoisting heavy objects such as spars or sails.
Qarib: A small two-masted lateen-rigged vessel, common in Egypt around the 11th century, sailing down the Nile from Cairo and as far west as Tunisia and Sicily.
Quail: Coil. When a cable or rope was neatly coiled and stacked, one fack over another, it was called a quail of ropes.
Quarter: 1. The after parts of the ship on each side of the centerline. 2. Work-shift on board a sailing vessel, continual 24/7 rotation of a 4 hour work-shift followed by a 4 hour rest period in a normal two quarters setup. Also called 'Quarter Watch' on a Man O'War.
Quarter Badge: Window or outcrop at the quarters of a sailing ship, a remnant of the earlier quarter gallery, often highly decorated with marine figures or other emblems.

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Quarter Boat: A boat hung from, or located on a ship's quarter.
Quarter Block: A block attached to a yard through which the clew lines and sheets are reeved.
Quarter-deck: The part of the upper deck of a ship abaft the mainmast, also often included a poop deck. The quarter-deck was that part of the ship from which command was executed and thus it was often reserved for officers in naval vessels. Cannon were often also stationed on this deck.
Quarter Gallery: An open or closed platform at the quarters of a sailing ship, sometimes separate from the stern gallery and sometimes fully joined so one could "walk around the stern".
Quarter Netting: Nettings along the quarter rails.
Quartermaster: An inferior officer appointed by the master of a sailing warship to assist the mates in their respective duties; such as stowing the ballast and provisions in the hold, coiling the cables on their platforms, overlooking the steerage of the ship, and keeping time by the watch-glasses.
Quinquereme: A Mediterranean war galley having three banks of oars, the oars on the top two levels being pulled by two men each, the lower level oar being pulled by a single man. The quinquereme (5 rowers) was developed from the earlier trireme, rowed by three levels (or banks) of oars, each rowed by a single man. It was used by the Greeks of the Hellenistic period and later by the Carthaginians and Romans, from the 4th century BC to about the 1st century AD.
Quintal: A weight measure of 100-120 lbs.
Quoin: A wooden wedge, used to raise or lower a cannon's breech to the proper level for targeting.

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Rabbet: A notch in a piece of timber made to receive the ends or sides of planks which are to be secured to it. For example a keel was rabbeted to receive the sides of the garboard strake and a breast hook was rabbeted to receive the ends of deck planking.
Rabonet: A small anti-personnel cannon, usually around a 1/3 pounder.
Racing Knife A shipwright's tool to mark or race the shape to be cut, often to mark or score the shape of a mould onto a piece of timber.
Rake: Deviation off the perpendicular. For instance the fore-and-aft deviation (angle) a mast makes from vertical.
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Raking: Firing cannon along the entire deck length of an enemy vessel. By maneuvering at a right angle across an opponents' bow or stern, a full broadside could be fired along the length of an enemy vessel's deck, causing much havoc. The opponent would only be able to bring a few bow or stern chasers to bear.
Ram: A long sharp or blunt projection from the bow of a warship for the purpose of demolishing an enemy warship's hull. Often present in ancient Greek and Roman war galleys.
Rammer: A wooden rod to push the charge (gunpowder) and shot down into the breech of a cannon. A side arm.
Rate: In 1653 the British Admiralty's Fighting Instructions classified the size and capabilities (guns mounted) of a sailing warship into 6 distinct rates. A first rate being the largest and most capable, a sixth rate being the least. The number of guns carried by a ship of a certain rate changed from time to time. Only the first four rates were considered fit for duty as 'ships of the line'. However, fifth and sixth rates, and other even smaller vessels, did join the battle where and when required.

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Ratline: One of a series of rope steps affixed horizontally between the shrouds of a mast. They form a rope-ladder for the crew to climb the masts and reach the yards and tops when working aloft.

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Reef: (verb) To take in or lessen the area of a sail without furling it. Depending on the location and size of the sail (and time-period), sails would have the option to be single reefed, double reefed, treble reefed or close reefed, the last indicating that all the reefs had been taken in and the minimum surface area was exposed. Between 0 and 4 reef bands were common, often 2 were present. Also (noun) the area between the reef bands and the nearest edge of a sail, either head or foot.
Reef Band: A strip of extra canvas attached across a sail to strengthen it where the reef points are located.
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Reef Points: Short tapered lengths of rope located across and reeved though the sail which can be tied together or hauled onto a yard to keep part of the sail out of use in strong winds. These reef points were reinforced with reef bands to prevent the sail from tearing.
Reef Tackle: A tackle for hauling up the reef bands onto a yard and thus lessening the effective sail area in strong winds.
Reeving: To pass a rope or line through something else. For instance: To pass a line through a hole in a sail or through a block. Rove or Reeved.
Reeming Iron: A shipbuilding tool. An iron wedge used to open up seams before caulking.
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Retour Ship: Generic name for a collection of different but relatively heavily armed, and well-manned merchant ships of the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC). They were specifically designed for the long roundtrip (retour) voyage from the Netherlands to the East Indies.

Examples of a retour ship
Ribband: A length of wood (and later metal) running across the hull frames (ribs), for the purpose of keeping the frames in position while the outer hull planking was being applied.
Riders: Substantial timbers used to strengthen the internal structure of a wood-framed hull.
Rig: The characteristics of a sailing vessel's masts and type and number of sails by which the type is determined i.e. square-rigged or fore-and-aft rigged.
Rigger: A shipyards worker who fits or dismantles the standing and running rigging of ships.
Rigging: All the ropes, wires or chains used to support the masts and yards and for hoisting, lowering or trimming sails. Rigging used to support the masts, yards and bowsprit is called the standing rigging. The ropes or lines controlling the sails form the running rigging.

image of rigging

Names of rigging lines
Rigging Nomenclature - English, French, German and Dutch
Click here for a much larger version.

Rigol: A gutter fitted over a port or scuttle to prevent the rain from running into the ship when the port is open.
Rising Floor: The floors fore and aft of the flat (midship) floors, having an increasing (steeper) angle towards the stem and stern.
Ro: A traditional Japanese sculling oar, similar to the Chinese yuloh.
Roads: A save and sheltered anchorage, also called 'roadstead'.
Rolling Hitch: A knot to secure and attach a rope to another rope.
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Rope: Any flexible heavy cord over one inch in diameter. The tightly intertwined fibres used in ropes on sailing vessels were hemp, manila, sisal and coir.

image of rope making
Roundship: A clinker-built medieval merchant sailing ship with a rounded stern and bow, as opposed to a sharp double-ended longship. A roundship often had a two-masted rig with a small foresail. Also called a nef.

image of roundship

Examples of a roundship
Roundshot: A cannonball. A solid stone or (later) iron ball to be fired from a cannon.
Rowlock: A U-shaped or O-shaped hole cut in the gunwale of a ship's boat where an oar is located, or any of a number of devices providing a pivot point for an oar while rowing. Often it consisted of a swiveling, U-shaped or O-shaped holder located just above the gunwale. Also called oarlock.

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Images courtesy of Leen van den Berg

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Royal: The sail next above the top-gallant sail. Normally it is the fourth sail in ascending order from the deck.
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Royalmast: The mast next above the topgallant mast and the fourth division of a complete mast.
Rubbing Strake: A line of thick and heavy (protruding) horizontal planking running the length of a ships hull acting as a bumper.
Rudder: Also formerly spelled 'rother'. The means of giving direction to a ship under way. Around the mid-14th century changed from an oar rudder, hung from the side of a ship, to a fixed stern rudder. The latter being a flat paddle, hung and hinging from the sternpost. See gudgeon and pintle. This pivoting lateral movement was transmitted to the rudder by a wheel, tiller and/or a rope and pulley system, depending on the ship's size and time period.

image of helm system
Rope and pulley tiller system for rudder movement
Run: As in 'the run of a ship'. Indicating the curvature of the lines of a vessel's hull towards the stern.
Running before the wind: Sailing downwind.
Running Rigging: The name given to the all the lines, ropes and chains controlling sails, yards and masts, all the rigging except the shrouds and stays:

Bull ropes for hoisting top- or topgallant-masts.
Halyards, tyes and jeers for hoisting sails and yards.
Trusses and parrels for securing and holding the yards to the mast.
Lifts and braces for positioning, topping and supporting the yards.
Sheets, tacks, reef tackles, bow-, bunt-, clew- and leech lines for manipulating and controlling the sails.

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Saddle: A long block of wood, or semi-circular pieces of wood, fixed to a mast, bowsprit, or a yard.
Sail: A piece of cloth or canvas, or a combination of pieces, cut and sewn together to the desired shape and size and attached to the spars and rigging of a vessel. A sail has the single purpose of catching the wind and propelling the vessel. Sails were often repaired at sea, or at anchor in a secluded bay a thousand miles from home, and thus could be quite a patchwork of different pieces of material. Something the head-seamstress at the Royal Dockyards would have surely disapproved of.

Fore-and-aft Sails
Lateen Sails
Square Sails

Flying Jib
Royal Sail
Studding Sail
Topgallant Sail

Sail (sailcloth) making in the Age of Sail.

Sail Iron
Sail Iron - used to close and flatten seams and stitching.

Dressing Sails.

Sail Burton: A block and tackle that extended from the head of a topmast to the deck in a square-rigged vessel, used for hoisting the sails aloft when they were bent to the yards.
Saker: A relatively small ships cannon, usually a 4 to 9 pounder.
Sarve: The process of winding something around a rope to protect it against being fretted and chafed.
Scantling: The dimension of a timber after it has been reduced to a standard size.
Scarph: Also Scarf. An overlapping joint used to connect two timbers or planks. Includes hooked and keyed (image below) scarphs. The stem and sternposts of wooden ships were scarphed to the keel.
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Schooner: A vessel rigged with fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts. A topsail schooner sets one to three square sails on the foremast as well. Many further sub-divisions can be made such as Tern Schooners, Scow Schooners, Coastal Schooners and Grand Banks Schooners such as the Bluenose. Bald Headed Schooner is a slang term for a Schooner having/setting no topsails at all.

topsail schooner

Examples of a schooner
Scow: A variety of flat-bottomed vessels used for carrying cargo, often having a sloping square bow and stern. Similar to a barge, simple hull construction and maximum cargo capacity.
Scow Schooner: A flat-bottomed square-ended schooner-rigged vessel used mainly in the latter half of the 19th century on the Great Lakes and North-American coastal routes. Scow schooners often used centerboards or leeboards and the name scow refers to the shape of the hull. Scow schooners carried the bulk of cargo in North-America during the 19th century.

Examples of a scow schooner
Scrive Board: A platform of boards to draw or scrive full-scale lines and moulds, showing the length and shape of all frames and beams.
Scud: When a sailing ship runs before a gale (downwind) with little or no sail set. Also called spoom.

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Sculling Oar: A large oar used for propelling a boat by moving it from side to side, called sculling; also used as a rudder.
Scupper: A drainage opening.
Scuttle: A small hatch or port opening.
Scuttlebutt: A ships drinking water barrel.
Sealer: A vessel involved in the annual spring seal hunt. Most often not purpose built, but referring to a merchantman or even a liner that was converted each spring specifically for the seal hunt.

Examples of a sealer
Seasoning: Reducing the moisture content in timbers. The preferred shipbuilding timber for European and American ships was fully seasoned oak. To reduced moisture content below 20 per cent, years of controlled storage of these timbers was required. This was not always possible, especially during wartime when shipbuilding timbers were routinely in short supply since ships would be lost faster then they could be built.
Second Rate: Sailing 'ship of the line' warship with 84-98 guns on three or two gun decks (1779).

Examples of a second rate
Section: Drawings made during the design stage of a ship showing the positions of the frames and their exact curvature.
Seizing: To bind a rope to another, or to a spar, with turns of a smaller, thinner line.
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Seizing and fastening
Serpentine: A small anti-personnel cannon, usually a 1/2 pounder.
Serve: To wind a smaller diameter cord or rope around a larger diameter cord, rope or cable, in order to protect or stiffen the larger diameter cord, rope or cable.
Sextant: A navigational instrument used to measure the angle of elevation of a celestial object above the horizon. The angle, and the time when it was measured, are used to calculate a position line on a nautical chart. A common use of the sextant is to sight the sun at noon to find the vessel's latitude. The scale of a sextant has a length of 1/6 of a full circle or 60°, hence the sextant's name.
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Shackle: 1.A greatly varying unit of length, most often used for measuring the length of anchor chains. Shackels were used to join lengths of anchor chain and thus could be counted when the anchor was dropped or raised. These lengths could be anywhere from 75 to 100 feet. The standard length of a shackle is 15 fathoms or 90 feet, but different deviating lengths were used through varying time-periods. Also called shot. 2.A u-shaped piece of metal, closed with a pin across the end, used for connecting and securing parts of the rigging including the aforementioned anchor chains.
Shallop: 1.A two-masted ship usually carrying lugsails. 2.A 17th century ship's boat, used as a tender. Shallops had no keel but used leeboards instead. A shallop could be propelled by oars or sails. See image below.

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Shanghai: To take someone against their will for compulsory service on board a ship; "The men were shanghaied after being drugged".
Sheathing: To protect the hull of a wooden ship against wood boring ship worms, the underwater part of the hull was often covered with board, tar and hair and later in the 18th century and on with iron or copper plates.
Sheepshank: A knot for shortening a line. Should remain under tension to be secure.
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Sheer: 1. The upward curve of the deck of a ship toward the bow and stern with the lowest point at or near the waist when viewed from the side.
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2. The position of a ship riding at single anchor holding her clear of the anchor.
Sheer Draught: A projection of the lines of a vessel on a vertical longitudinal plane passing through the middle line of the vessel(centerline-section). Also called Elevation or Sheer Plan.
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Sheer Hulk: A cut-down, old ship fitted with a pair of 'sheers', used to hoist masts up to another ship that was being built or repaired.

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Example of a sheer hulk and other mastbuilding tools.

Sheer Pole: A horizontal rod, parallel to the ratlines, attached to the base of the shrouds just above the deadeyes to keep the shrouds from twisting while they were being set up and tensioned.
Sheer Strake: The top strake of the hull, usually following the sheer of the upper deck. Located just below the gunwale.
Sheer Width: The distance between the centerline and the sheer-line (or sheer strake) (1/2 deck width) of a vessel at a specific location.
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Sheet: A line used for trimming a sail to the wind and hold down the clew.
Shell-first Construction: A method of construction in which the hull is formed without a frame. Strakes either overlap, fastened to one another by clenched nails (clinker or lapstrake construction), or they form a smooth skin, fastened edge to edge by a complex system of mortise-and-tenon joints.
Ship: In the 18-19th centuries a ship was defined as a first rank sailing vessel having a bowsprit and three or more square-rigged masts (ship-rigged), each composed of a lowermast, a topmast, and often a topgallant mast.

Examples of a full-rigged ship.

Many earlier and other definitions of ship exist, just think of a single-masted Viking ship for example.

Ship of the Line: A sailing warship built to fight in the line of battle. The 'line of battle' meant that each ship would form in a line thus allowing each ship to fire full broadside salvos at the opponent. Ships of the line were usually all of fourth rate or above, most were third-rate ships of 74 guns.

Examples of a ship of the line
Ship-rigged: Rigged with three or more masts carrying all square sails. Also called full-rigged.
Shipside: The area of a wharf or dock that is next to a ship.
Ship´s Boy: A young servant on board a ship. See also boy
Ship types: A variety of ship and boat types from the Age of Sail are located at their appropriate alphabetic letters all through this database. They are also conveniently grouped together on our Listing of Historical Sailing Ship types and nomenclature page.
Shipyard: An area where ships are built and repaired. Also called a dock or dockyard when bordering a body of water.

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Shipworm: Troublesome wormlike marine mollusks such as the Teredo (shown below) and the large Bankia, which bore into the submerged timbers of a wooden ship and are capable of doing extensive damage to the hull.

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Shipwright: A carpenter who builds and launches wooden vessels. A shipwright would often also be the designer of the ship.
Shoe: Protective planking along the bottom of a keel. Shoeing.
Shot: General term for all projectiles fired from a ship's guns: round-shot, grape-shot, canister-shot, chain-shot, bar-shot, star-shot, hollow-shot.
Shot-Rack: A wooden frame to hold shot, normally in multiple and easily accessible locations near the guns.
Shroud: The standing rigging of a sailing ship that gives lateral and aft support to the masts.

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Side Arms: The collection of tools such as a rammer, sponge and worm that were used for cleaning and servicing a ships cannon.
Siding: The width of deck beams, the crosswise members of the ship's frames.
Signal Flags: Flags were used for centuries for ship to ship and ship to shore communication. They were read top to bottom and were possibly flown from halyards on all masts to convey a message or condition onboard. A vessel, usually in harbour and on special occasion may be 'dressed up' with signal flags along the entire length of the ship simply for show. Shown below is a chart of a set of early 20th century signal flags.

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Sisal: Fibres from a Central American plant, Agave sisalana, which sword-shaped leaves yield stiff fibres used for cordage and rope.
Sixth Rate: Sailing warship with 20-30 guns (1779).

Examples of a sixth rate
Skeg: A timber connecting the keel and sternpost of a ship.
Skiff: A small flat-bottomed ship's boat, having a sharp pointed bow and a square stern. Could be propelled by oars or sail.
Skylight: A window set at an angle to the deck of a ship to give light and ventilation to the cabin below.
Skysail: The sail next above the royals in a square-rigged vessel. Normally it is the fifth sail in ascending order from the deck.
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Skyscraper: A small triangular sail set above the skysail in fair weather.
Slave Ship: Slave ships were either purpose built or were common merchant vessels retro-fit with irons in the hold to accommodate securely holding the special 'cargo'. Slaves were often 'packed' and shackled side by side, to fit as many into the hold as possible. Life aboard a wooden vessel sailing from Africa to the Americas was perilous enough for the crew, let alone for the 'passengers' being transported below deck. Scared, cramped, sick, alone, dehumanized; the horrors slaves must have felt are unspeakable. Just enough care was taken to keep most of the slaves alive. To the slave-traders it was just a very lucrative business, instead of wheat or wool they transported and traded slaves.

Examples of a slave ship
Sleepers: Heavy, thick planks laying in the bottom of a vessel's hold.
Sling: The middle part of a yard, including the ropes or chains by which the yard is attached to the mast.
Slipway: A sloping surface in front of a shipyard, leading down to the water, on which ships are built or repaired. It was fitted with keel blocks and launching ways.
Sloop: A single-masted fore-and-aft rigged vessel setting a mainsail and generally a single jib, or headsail (sometimes double - double-headsail sloop). Sloop and cutter are almost indistinguishable today, generally a sloop has her mast located more forward than a cutter. See also sloop-of-war.

image of sloop

Examples of a sloop
Sloop-of-war: A name given to the smallest three-masted sailing warships, having 8 to 22 cannon on only one deck. They were either fully rigged as ships (three-masted ship-sloop) or as snows (two-masted brig-sloop). Also sometimes called 'corvette' (originally a French term). Even cutters were sometimes classified as sloops-of-war, or simply classified as sloops.

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Examples of a sloop-of-war
Slough: A shallow, muddy, swampy inlet or channel.
Smack: Originally a relatively large cutter-rigged merchant vessel. Later a small single- or two-masted coastal fishing or merchant vessel, fore-and-aft rigged with the two masted variant being very similar to a ketch. She was also characterized by a long horizontal running bowsprit.

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Snow: A relatively large two-masted sailing vessel, similar to a Brig.

image of snow

"A Brig bends her boom-sail (or trysail) to the mainmast, while a Snow bends it to a trysail mast (a third mast much less in diameter, stepped immediately aft of the mainmast): in other respects these two vessels are alike." (Young's Nautical Dictionary 1846.)

Examples of a snow
Sny: The upward curve of the edge of a plank resulting from the bend and twist occurring when a plank is laid against a hull or hull frames. Sny is usually amplified at the bows and stern of a wooden vessel but will occur wherever a plank twists because of the curvature of the hull.
SOIC: Swedish East India Company or Svenska Ostindiska Companiet was formed in 1731 in Gothenburg. The Swedish East India Company traded commodities such as tea, porcelain and silk from China, very similar to other European East India Companies.

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Spale: Temporary cross beam to support and hold the frames of a wooden ship in the proper position while the hull is under construction.
Spanker: A fore-and-aft gaff-rigged sail set on the aftermost lowermast of a sailing vessel.
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Spar: Any wooden (and later metal) pole used in supporting the rigging and sails of a ship, such as a boom, gaff, yard, or bowsprit. Fir, spruce and white pine were often used for spars. A mast is also considered to be a spar.

Ship spar names and sizes
Spiegelschip: Dutch term for a vessel with a distinctive flat stern and tafferel, with spiegel meaning mirror. Also spiegeljacht.
Spiling: The process of determining the shape of a plank's edges. This shape is usually determined by lifting the desired plank's shape from a hull with the help of spiling battens.
Spiling Batten: A template for lifting a plank's shape from a hull.
Splice the Main Brace: Breaking out extra rations of rum, something rare, like really splicing the main brace.

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Spoke: In a ship's wheel the extension beyond the rim that acts as a handle by which the wheel is turned.
Sponge: A damp (sheepskin) sponge attached to the end of a wooden rod or to the end of a rope for the purpose of extinguishing any smoldering residue and embers still in the cannon after it was fired. Meant to prevent a new charge from prematurely igniting. A side arm.
Spoondrift: Wind swept spray from the water surface. Also called spindrift.
Spreader: A metal bar fitted to the foremast of a square-rigged ship to give more spread to the tacks of the fore sails.
Sprig: A relatively small threaded eye-bolt.
Sprit: A long spar stretching diagonally across a four-sided fore-and-aft sail to support the peak.
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Spritsail: 1. A square sail extended by a spar running diagonally to the sail's peak. 2. A fore-and-aft sail extended by a sprit.
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Square Frame: One of the frames erected perpendicular to the keel in the midbody of the hull.
Square Sail: A quadrilateral (four-sided) sail set from a yard. Although a square-rigged vessel can carry more sail then a fore-and-aft rigged vessel of comparable size, it is more dependent on favourable (following) winds.

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Square-rigged: Fitted with square sails as the principal sails.

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Stanchion: Upright support set along the edge of the upper deck to carry a guard rail.
Standing Rigging: The ropes and chains used to support the masts, yards and bowsprit, called the shrouds and stays.

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Star Shot: A small iron ring holding a dozen or so pivoting weighted bars which when fired from a cannon spread out like a "star" to do damage to a ship's rigging and crew.
Starboard: The right hand side of a vessel when facing forward. From earlier steerboard, the side the oar rudder was hung from.
Stay: A part of the standing rigging of a sailing vessel that supports a mast in the fore-and-aft line. Forestays support from forward and backstays support from aft. Backstays also give lateral support to the masts since there is a pair of each backstay, one to each side of the ship, aft of the mast.
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Staysail: An often triangular fore-and-aft sail which is set by attaching it to a stay. A staysail takes its name from the particular stay on which it is set, for instance the topgallant staysail.
Steeve: The angle of the bowsprit in relation to the horizontal.
Stem: The foremost timber forming the bow of a vessel.

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Stem-head: The top or highest and forward most point of the stem. Sometimes a carved figure such as a lion was located right on-top of the stem-head. The English vessel Prince of 1670 had a lion located on top of the stem-head which was possible since her bowsprit was offset from center. After 1700 it became the norm for the bowsprit to be centered on and thus be supported by the stem.

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Stemson: A large timber knee providing structural support between the inside of the apron and upper side of the keelson.
Step: A framework of timber or metal fixed to the keel of a vessel to take the heel of a mast.
Stern: The rear part of a ship or boat. Often referring to the rear part above the sternpost, from the counter to the taffrail. Where the galleries, lanterns and tafferel were located.

the stern of a ship
Stern Chaser: A cannon located in the stern for the purpose of raking a pursuing enemy ship and hopefully slowing her down by damaging her rigging.
Sternpost: The aftermost timber in a ship's hull, forming the stern of the ship down to the keel.

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Stern Lantern: A lantern, often resembling a street-lamp, mounted above the tafferel or above the quarter-galleries.
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Since about 1450, sailing ships would often carry one to three (and sometimes even more) lanterns at the stern.

Stern Lanterns

A single lantern could also be mounted aft of a mast-top to indicate the lead-ship, admiral or squadron commander. Since this was most likely a temporary situation, often one of the stern lanterns was relocated to a top. Main-top for a full admiral, fore-top for a vice-admiral and the mizzen-top for a rear-admiral.
Stores: The provisions and supplies, such as food, water, arms, sailcloth and rope on board a ship during a sea-voyage.
Strake: A set of length-wise planking with similar sny, running the length of a ships hull. In small boats this might be a single plank, in larger vessels a strake could consist of a number of planks.
Stretcher: A staff or wooden bar fixed athwart the bottom of a boat, for a sailor's feet to push off against, while rowing.
Studding Sail: An extra sail set on an extension of a yardarm. These extensions were called studding-sail booms or booms Also referred to, and contracted as stunsail or stunsails.

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Sway: The operation of hoisting the topmasts and yards of a square-rigged ship.
Sweep: A long and heavy oar used to propel a ship or boat.
Tack: Also called takke in Old English. 1. The lower, forward corner of a fore-and-aft sail. In square-rigged ships, it is the rope used to hold in the lower corners of the courses and staysails on the weather side. 2. To change the course of a vessel by shifting the position of the helm and sails, as in: tacking the ship to larboard. 3. A line used to pull the lower corner of a studding sail to its boom.
Tackle: Any combination of two or more blocks and ropes used to gain a mechanical advantage.
image of tackle
Tafferel: Upper part of a ship's stern, often a curved piece of wood, richly decorated with sculptures and paintings. Later also called taffrail when referring more to a railing around the stern.
Taffrail: The railing around the stern of a ship, or the upper part of the stern of a vessel, often richly decorated. Also tafferel.
Tarides: Small sail and/or oar powered transport vessel used from the dark ages to about the late 12th century. Early medieval equivalent of a landing craft, they had doors used as ramps for loading and unloading men and their horses. Possibly derived from earlier Roman horse transports.
Tarpaulin: Waterproofed and treated canvas used for covering hatches, boats and other gear on board a ship.
Tartan: A small and nimble single- or two-masted lateen-rigged sailing vessel originating in the Middle East and the north coast of Africa. Like the xebec, it is often associated with the Barbary corsairs.

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Engraving plate (G. Tagliagambe/Antonio Suntach) from around 1780 - 1800.
Tender: A vessel attending to another vessel, in particular one that ferries supplies and personnel between ship and shore.
Tenon: A projection at the sides of a plank that is shaped to fit into a mortise and form a mortise-and-tenon joint.
Tern Schooner: North American term for a three-masted Schooner of 200 to 400 tons. Most cargo carrying Tern Schooners were built between 1870 and 1920 along the coast of North America.
Thames Measurement A system for measuring the size (tonnage) of smaller ships and boats. Originally used for calculating port dues for smaller vessels such as yachts, the formula was also used in early handicapping rules for yacht racing (1854). Also called Thames Tonnage.(Length = length stempost to sternpost; Beam = maximum beam).
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Thick-stuff: Term to describe planks thicker than four inches.
Third Rate: Sailing 'ship of the line' warship with 64-80 guns on two gun decks (1779).

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Examples of a third rate
Thole Pin: A vertical piece of wood against which a rowing oar pivots.
Throat: The upper foremost corner of a four sided fore-and-aft sail.
Thwart: The transverse wooden seat in a small rowing boat.
Tiller: A wooden or metal bar, attached to the head of a rudder and by which the rudder is turned.
Timber: A frame or rib of a ship, connected to the keel. They give the hull both its shape and strength. Also a term to describe other substantial wooden parts of a ship. The preferred shipbuilding timber for European and American ships was fully seasoned oak. Cuban mahogany and Indian teak were also used and elm was often used for planking below the waterline.

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Timberhead: The upper end of a timber that projects above a deck and is used as a bollard.
Timber hitch: A knot used for fastening a rope around a spar to be hoisted. Tightens under strain and releases easily when slackened.
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Tjalk: A Dutch flat-bottomed vessel with rounded ends and leeboards. Used to carry freight and also often used as a pleasure yacht.

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Toggle: A fastener consisting of a peg or crosspiece that is inserted into an eye at the end of a rope in order to attach it to something.
Tomkin: A bung (wooden stopper) used as a plug for the muzzle of a cannon to prevent water from entering the gun. Also called tompion.
Tonnage: The cargo or internal capacity of a ship. From the medieval tun or wine cask. Earlier called burthen. In modern terms a ton equals 100 cubic feet.
Top: A platform at the masthead of a ship whose main purpose is to extend the topmast shrouds so the give additional support to the topmast. Early tops were often enclosed and basket-like, later tops were always open. They were also great platforms for look-out and for snipers and archers to take aim from.
Topgallant Mast: In a square-rigged vessel, the mast stepped above the topmast. It is the third division of a complete mast.
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Topgallant Sail: The sail set next above the topsail. Normally it is the third sail in ascending order from the deck. Also gallant or garrant sail. Later large 19th century vessels may carry a lower topgallant sail and an upper topgallant sail.
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Top-hamper: A collective term for the uppermost rigging, spars, and sails.
Topmast: The mast next above the lowermast and the second division of a complete mast.
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Topping: Raising one end of a spar higher than the other.
Topping Lift: The tackle used to raise or top the end of a gaff, or of a boom.
Topsail: In square-rigged vessels it is the sail set on the topsail yard. Normally the second sail in ascending order from the deck. Later large 19th century vessels may carry a lower topsail and an upper topsail. In fore-and-aft rigged vessels a variety of gaff topsails exist, generally still the second and sometimes third sail in ascending order from the deck.
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Topside: That part of the side of the ship that is above the upper deck.
Top-timber: The uppermost timber (futtock) of a frame.
Trailboard: One of a pair of boards or a set of often gilded and elaborate carvings, located on each side of the stem 'trailing' the figurehead. A trailboard often helped to express and support the ship's name, sometimes with figures or scenes related to the figurehead. Later, simpler trailboards often have a vine or oakleaf theme.

Stream god
Stream god figurehead with crops in her trailboard

Transom: The crosswise timbers bolted to the sternpost of a ship to create and support a flat or curved stern.
Treenail: A cylindrical pin of oak or other hardwood, used to secure the planks of a wooden ship to the ribs. Wooden nails did not rust nor loosen since they would swell when wet, and were also used simply because metal nails and bolts were not available yet. Treenail was pronounced as trennel.
Trestle Tree: Oak timbers fixed horizontally fore-and-aft on each side of the lower and upper masthead of a square-rigged vessel, used to support the topmast or topgallant mast, the lower or upper crosstrees and the top. A trestle tree normally rests on the cheeks of a lowermast, or the hounds of a topmast.
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Triaconter: An ancient Greek galley with 30 oars, 15 each side set in a single bank.
Trierarch: The highest ranking officer or Captain on an ancient Greek ship such as a trireme. Also the person who's civil duty it was to equip and maintain a trireme.
Trim: The relationship between a ship's draft fore and aft. See also: even keel.
Triple Sister: A triple sister block is a pulley block with three sheaves side by side in the same housing.
Trireme: An ancient Phoenician, Greek or Roman war galley propelled by three tiers (banks) of oars on each side, each oar being pulled by a single man, used from the 7th to the 4th century BC. Upper level oarsmen were called thranites, middle level zygites and lower level oarsmen were called thalamites. The hull was shell-first, mortise-and-tenon construction, planked with fir, cedar or pine while the keel was usually made of oak.

Athenian trireme Andreia model

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Truck: The wooden top 'cap-off' of a mast, staff or flagpole.
Trundlehead: The drumhead of the lower capstan of a double capstan.
Trunnion: A cylindrical projection on each side of a cannon forming the axis on which it pivots, and also by which it rests on a gun-carriage. Normally they are located near the center of gravity of a cannon, closer to the breech or base.
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Truss: 1. Any structural support or beam in a ship's frame. 2. The fitting by which a lower yard is fastened to a mast.
Trysail: A fore-and-aft sail with a boom and gaff on the fore, main or trysail mast of a three- or two-masted square-rigged vessel.
Tumble Home: The amount by which the two sides of a ship are brought in towards the center above the maximum beam. Also tumblehome. Opposite of flare.
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Turk's head: A knot resembling a turban, worked on a rope with a piece of small line.
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Turtle Ship: A 16th-century Korean armoured warship called Geobukseon or Kobukson in Korean. They were fitted with an iron shell top with sharp spikes, for protection and to prevent boarding. They were developed and built by Admiral YI, SOON SHIN in 1592 who led Korea to victory in the IM JIN WAR (Korea vs. Japan; 1592-1598). The hull was built from red pine and a turtle ship carried cannons with such names as Heaven and Earth, or in Korean, Chon and Ji. Comparable to the European 12pdr and 7pdr cannon respectively.
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Tye: A chain or rope to hoist a yard onto a mast. One end normally passed through the mast and was secured to the center of a yard. The other end was attached to a tackle for hoisting.
Unship: To remove or detach a piece of equipment from its proper operating location onboard a ship. For example: The rudder can be unshipped or dislodged from its hinges.
Upper Deck: The highest of the continuous decks running the full length of a ship. Sometimes also called the spar deck.
Upper Strake: Also called sheer strake, the top strake of the hull, usually following the sheer of the upper deck, and often heavier than any other strakes.
Upper Work: That part of a ship's hull that is above the surface of the water when she is properly balanced for a sea-voyage.
Van: The ship(s) leading a fleet or squadron. From vanguard.
Vangs: Braces to support the mizzenmast gaff to keep it steady. Connected to the outer-end or peek of the gaff, they reach downwards to the aftmost part of the ship's side, where they are hooked and fastened. They are slackened when the wind is fair; and drawn in to windward when the gaff's position becomes unfavourable to the ship's course.
Velocera: An Italian coastal merchant vessel.
Vessel: A craft designed for water transportation.

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Ship engraving plate (G. Tagliagambe/Antonio Suntach) from around 1780 - 1800.
Vinco: A three-masted Italian vessel from the 19th century setting lateen sails on the main and mizzenmast, and square sails on the foremast.
Vlieboat: A small three-masted vessel with a broad beam, shallow draft and a high narrow stern originating from the mid 16th century. Most likely named for the Vlie estuary of the IJssel near the Dutch islands of Vlieland and Terschelling. Designed as merchant vessels to navigate rivers and coastal waters, vlieboats were also used for exploration and military duties. Also Vlieboot (Dutch) and Flyboat (English).

Examples of a Vlieboat
VOC: Dutch East India Company or 'Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie'.
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The VOC was established on March 20, 1602 and was granted a Dutch monopoly on the trade to and from the East Indies. The VOC was responsible for protecting the Dutch Republic and prevent, or at least make it difficult, for other European nations to enter the East India trade. The VOC consisted of six chambers: Amsterdam, Zeeland, Delft, Rotterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. During its 200 year history, the VOC became the largest and most successful company of its kind, trading spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and pepper, and items like tea, silk and Chinese porcelain. In the mid-17th century its fleet numbered some six thousand ships.

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Typical ships of the VOC.
Voyol: A looped rope used to unmoor, or hoist the anchors of a ship. Since the voyol was thinner, lighter and more pliable than an anchor cable, it was easier to wind around the capstan and more convenient to use the voyal to hoist in the larger, stiffer anchor cables. The anchor cable was seized to the voyal using thin removable lines called nippers. A voyal was also called a messenger.
Wad: A ball or cylinder rolled from old rope-yarns and hay, acting as a stop to keep the shot and charge of powder in the breech of a cannon while the ship was in motion at sea.
Wadhook: An iron worm (corkscrew) for removing the charge and wad or the remnants of the charge after firing a cannon to avoid a build-up of material near the breech of the cannon. Also called worm. A side arm.
Waist: That part of the upper deck of a vessel that has the the lowest freeboard, generally amidships.
Wale: One of the heavy and thick planks or strakes extending length-wise along the sides of a wooden ship. As in upper, middle, lower and channel wale.
Wale Knot: A large knot created by untwisting the strands of the end of a rope and interweaving them. Also called a wall knot.
Walk the plank: An expression supposedly derived from the practice of pirates who extended a plank from the side of a ship to force their victims to walk off into the sea to drown. This may however be a complete fictional 'Hollywood' version, no historic accounts have ever been found attesting to the use of 'the plank'.
Walt: A vessel was said to be walt when it required more ballast for stability.
Ward-room. The officers quarters for dining and recreation on a sailng warship, often located directly below the Captain's cabin.
Warp: 1.To move or re-position a ship by hauling on a line. Often the ship's lesser anchors were used. See also kedge
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2.The measuring and laying out of rigging in a sail loft before cutting to the desired final lengths.
Watch: One of the six four-hour periods or shifts of work during a day on board a seagoing vessel.
Waterline: One of a number of horizontal lines on the hull of a ship indicating the surface of the water when the ship is under various loads.
Waterway: A hollowed out channel in the outboard planks of the ship's deck to allow water on the deck to run off.
Ways: Beds of timber blocks sloping toward the water which supported the sliding ways of the cradle holding the ship. Large timbers called Ground-ways were sunk into the ground on top of which timber keel blocks were laid. At launch time, the launching ways were greased to facilitate smooth sliding of the hull into the water. Think of it as a giant sled, holding the ship up and in position while the whole thing slid over wooden blocks into the water. Not always with great success, some ships slid right under the water while others are known to have capsized soon after launch.
See also our 3D Launching ways model
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Weather Deck: A term for a ship's deck having no overhead protection from the weather, it is open to the elements (weather).
Weather Gauge: If a ship was up-wind of another it was said to have the weather gauge, its guns could fire at the enemy hull; opposite of lee gauge.
Weather Side: The direction or side toward the wind (windward).
Weep:: Water leaking into the ship through cracks and seams, continually happening on wooden sailing ships, hence the pumps often being manned 24/7. Weeping is somewhat synonymous to leaking. Excessive weeping would also occur at launch, before the planks had time to plim.
Well: A vertical, often cylindrical trunk, running down to the lower parts of the ship's hull. The pipes of the bilge pumps lead through this well. Also called bilge well.
Well Found: A vessel that is all-around sound, that is well built and well equipped. A well found ship could, with good and regular maintenance, have a life span of up to fifty years. Lesser built ships would only last for 5-10 years.
West Indiaman: A relatively heavily armed European merchantman used for trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Image of west-indiaman lines

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Examples of a West-Indiaman
Whaler: A sturdy purpose build vessel with a large hold. Intended for the catching of whales, many were used on polar expedition and/or by navies around the world because of their sturdy nature.

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Examples of a whaler
Wharf: A structure or platform such as a pier or a dock, built along the water's edge or into the water for the purpose of loading and unloading vessels, often by means of cranes. Dues to be paid for the use of a wharf for loading and unloading were called wharfage. A wharf is also often referred to as a quay.

Image of cranes
Wharfinger: A person who is in charge of a wharf.
Wheel: Ship's wheel or wheel of the helm. A spoked round steering device, linked to the tiller by a configuration of ropes and blocks or chains. The rudder, tiller, and wheel form the helm.
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Wheelhouse: The deckhouse of a vessel in which the wheel is fitted, protecting the helmsman from the elements.
Whelp: Any of the pieces of wood, or iron, bolted onto the barrel of a windlass or capstan to save the barrel from being chafed and damaged by the cables it hoists.
Wherry: A light and fast 17th century ship's boat.
Whipping: A binding on the end of a rope to prevent it from unravelling. 'Whipping a Line'
Whipstaff: A bar attached to the tiller, for convenience and to extend leverage in steering.
Whisker: Short horizontal spars fitted to a bowsprit when a jib-boom is added.
White Rope: Untreated rope, not saturated in tar.
Whooding: The planks that are rabbeted into the stem of a vessel.
Windjammer: Refers to large three- to five-masted square-rigged merchant vessels built between 1870 and 1890. They were of all-iron hull construction and rather large, often displacing several thousand tons. The last of the large sailing merchant vessels, steamboats were taking over and the term 'windjammer' is thought to have been started as a derogatory term referring to those sailing ships as old technology.
Windlass: A lifting device, which in its simplest form consists of a horizontal cylindrical barrel on which a rope or anchor cable winds. A manually operated windlass was turned by rods called handspikes, and in later times by one or more cranks. In the 19th century the steam powered windlass made its appearance.

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Steam Windlass at work

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Wooden Handspike Windlass
Windward: In the same direction as the wind.
Woolding: A rope wound around a mast or yard, often at the place where it has been fished or scarfed, in order to strengthen it. Also spelled woulding.
Worm: An iron worm (corkscrew) for removing the charge and wad or the remnants of the charge after firing a cannon to avoid a build-up of material in the barrel of a cannon. Also called wadhook. A side arm.
Wreck: The ruined or sunken remains of a ship.
Wrung Staff: A shipwright's tool used in attaching the hull planking to the frame timbers. It consisted of a sturdy wooden rod, tapered at both ends. Also called stower, wrain-stave or -staff or twisting-staff. Was used together with ring bolts called wrung- or wrain-bolts, to force the planks closer to their shape and the ship's frame.
Xebec: A relatively small three-masted lateen-rigged vessel favoured by the Barbary corsairs operating off the coast of North Africa. These ships had long narrow hulls, and were fitted with oars like their galley predecessors. The xebec was adopted by the French and Spanish navies and called a chebec.

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Yacht: Any of a variety of small sailing vessels. Often a personal transportation watercraft or a personal pleasure boat; i.e. captain's yacht, royal yacht.

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Examples of a yacht
Yard: A large horizontal spar tapered towards each end. Yards were fastened to the masts of square-rigged vessels for the purpose of carrying square sails.
Yardarm: Either end (outer quarter) of a yard, from the lift to the outboard end of a yard. Also yard arm.
Yard Horses: Ropes slung under a yard on which sailors or topmen stood while reefing or furling sails. Also called foot ropes.
Yaw: Sudden and erratic off course deviation. For instance; when a ship swerves because of large waves.
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Yawl: Originally a double-ended clinker built Scandinavian yol. Later becomes: 1. A small two-masted sailing vessel with the mizzenmast stepped astern of the rudder post. Similar to a ketch, which has its mizzenmast stepped forward of the rudder head or post.

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2. A ship's boat, smaller but similar to a pinnace, usually rowed by four to six oars.

image of yawl
Yeoman: An officer under the boatswain or gunner of a ship of war, usually charged with the stowage, account, and distribution of their respective stores.
Yoke: An early name for the steering mechanism when steering was achieved with the help of tackle connected to the tiller. Also a name used for when a boat was steered by two ropes leading from the stern to a small cross-bar attached to the top of the rudder.
Yuloh: A long oar developed by the Chinese, it is placed over the stern and used for both steering and sculling without being taken out of the water.
Zabra: A 16th century Spanish sailing vessel, smaller then a Galleon or Carrack. Zabra's were used for dispatch, transport and other utilitarian duties.
Zeeland: A historical region along the southwest coast of Holland. One of the six chambers of the VOC.

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Zephyr: The west wind or a gentle breeze.
Zulu: A Scottish lugger with a straight stem and raking sternpost.

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Concept, content & Design: The Art of Age of Sail