Adapted from 'The Seaman's Friend...' by R. H. DANA Jr

Dana was also the author of ‘Two Years Before the Mast’

[Dum's copy: Thomas Groom & Co., Boston 1851. 6th Edition, Revised and Corrected]

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L

M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y
BACK To back an anchor, is to carry out a smaller one ahead of the one by which the vessel rides, to take off some of the strain.

To back a sail, is throw it aback.

To back and fill, is alternately to back and fill the sails.

BACKSTAYS Stays running from a masthead to the vessel's side, slanting a little aft. (See STAYS.)
BAGPIPE To bagpipe the mizzen, is to lay it aback by bringing the sheet to the weather mizzen rigging.
BALANCE-REEF A reef in a spanker or fore-and-aft mainsail, which runs from the outer head-earing, diagonally, to the tack. It is the closest reef, and makes the sail triangular, or nearly so.
BALE To bale a boat, is to throw water out of her.
BALLAST Heavy material, as iron, lead, or stone, placed in the bottom of the hold, to keep a vessel from upsetting.

To freshen ballast, is to shift it. Coarse gravel is called shingle ballast.

BANK A boat is double banked, when two oars, one opposite the other, are pulled by men seated on the same thwart.
BAR A bank or shoal at the entrance of a harbor.

Capstan-bars are heavy pieces of wood by which the capstan is hove round.

BARE-POLES The condition of a ship when she has no sail set.
BARGE A large double-banked boat, used by the commander of a vessel, in the navy.
BARK or BARQUE A three-masted vessel, having her fore and main masts rigged like a ship's, and her mizzen mast like the main mast of a schooner, with no sail upon it but a spanker, and gaff topsail.
BARNACLE A shell-fish often found on a vessel's bottom.
BATTENS Thin strips of wood put around the hatches, to keep the tarpaulin down. Also put upon rigging to keep it from chafing. A large batten widened at the end, and put upon rigging, is called a scotchman.
BEACON A post or buoy placed over a shoal or bank to warn vessels off. Also as a signal-mark on land.
BEAMS Strong pieces of timber stretching across the vessel, to support the decks.

On the weather or lee beam, is in a direction to windward or leeward, at right angles with the keel.

On beam ends. The situation of a vessel when turned over so that her beams are inclined toward the vertical.

BEAR An object bears so and so, when it is in such a direction from the person looking.

To bear down upon a vessel, is to approach her from the windward.

To bear up, is to put the helm up and keep a vessel off from her course, and move her to leeward.

To bear away, is the same as to bear up; being applied to the vessel instead of to the tiller.

To bear-a-hand. To make haste.

BEARING The direction of an object from the person looking. The bearings of a vessel, are the widest part of her below the plank-shear. That part of her hull which is on the water-line when she is at anchor and in her proper trim.
BEATING Going toward the direction of the wind, by alternate tacks.
BECALM To intercept the wind. A vessel or highland to windward is said to becalm another. So one sail becalms another.
BECKET A piece of rope placed so as to confine a spar or another rope. A handle made of rope, in the form of a circle, (as the handle of a chest.) is called a becket.
BEES Pieces of plank bolted to the outer end of the bowsprit, to reeve the foretopmast stays through.
BELAY To make a rope fast by turns round a pin or coil, without hitching or seizing it.
BEND To make fast.

To bend a sail, is to make it fast to the yard.

To bend a cable, is to make it fast to the anchor.

A bend, is a knot by which one rope is made fast to another.

BENDS The strongest part of a vessel's side, to which the beams, knees, and foot-hooks are bolted. The part between the water's edge and the bulwarks.
BENTICK SHROUDS Formerly used, and extending from the futtock-staves to the opposite channels.
BERTH The place where a vessel lies. The place in which a man sleeps.
BETWEEN-DECKS The space between any two decks of a ship.
BIBBS Pieces of timber bolted to the hounds of a mast, to support the trestle-trees.
BIGHT The double part of a rope when it is folded; in contradistinction from the ends. Any part of a rope may be called the bight, except the ends. Also, a bend in the shore, making a small bay or inlet.
BILGE That part of the floor of a ship upon which she would rest if aground; being the part near the keel which is more in a horizontal than a perpendicular line.

Bilge-ways. Pieces of timber bolted together and placed under the bilge, in launching.

Bilged. When the bilge is broken in.

Bilge Water. Water which settles in the bilge.

Bilge. The largest circumference of a cask.

BILL The point at the extremity of the fluke of an anchor.
BINNACLE A box near the helm, containing the compass.
BITTS Perpendicular pieces of timber going through the deck, placed to secure anything to. The cables are fastened to them, if there is no windlass. There are also bitts to secure the windlass, and on each side of the heel of the bowsprit.
BITTER or BITTER-END That part of the cable which is abaft the bitts.
BLACKWALL HITCH A type of knot.
BLADE The flat part of an oar, which goes into the water.
BLOCK A piece of wood with sheaves, or wheels, in it, through which the running rigging passes, to add to the purchase.
BLUFF A bluff-bowed or bluff-headed vessel is one which is full and square forward.
BOARD The stretch a vessel makes upon one tack, when she is beating.

Stern-board. When a vessel goes stern foremost.

By the board. Said of masts, when they fall over the side.

BOAT-HOOK An iron hook with a long staff, held in the hand, by which a boat is kept fast to a wharf, or vessel.
BOATSWAIN A warrant officer in the navy, who has charge of the rigging, and calls the crew to duty. (Pronounced bo-s'n.)
BOBSTAYS Used to confine the bowsprit down to the stem or cutwater.
BOLSTERS Pieces of soft wood, covered with canvass, placed on the trestle-trees, for the eyes of the rigging to rest upon.
BOLTS Long cylindrical bars of iron or copper, used to secure or unite the different parts of a vessel.
BOLT-ROPE The rope which goes round a sail, and to which the canvass is sewed.
BONNET An additional piece of canvass attached to the foot of a jib, or a schooner's foresail, by lacing. Taken off in bad weather.
BOOM A spar used to extend the foot of a fore-and-aft sail or studding-sail..

Boom-irons. Iron rings on the yards, through which the studding-sail booms traverse.

BOOT-TOPPING Scraping off the grass, or other matter, which may be on a vessel's bottom, and daubing it over with tallow, or some mixture.
BOUND Wind-bound. When a vessel is kept in port by a head wind.
BOW The rounded part of a vessel, forward.
BOWER A working anchor, the cable of which is bent and reeved through the hawse-hole.

Best bower is the larger of the two bowers.

BOW-GRACE A frame of old rope or junk, placed round the bows and sides of a vessel, to prevent the ice from injuring her.
BOWLINE (Pronounced bo-lin.) A rope leading forward from the leech of a square sail, to keep the leech well out when sailing close-hauled. A vessel is said to be on a bowline, or on a taut bowline, when she is close-hauled.

Bowline-bridle. The span on the leech of the sail to which the bowline is toggled.


BOWSE To pull upon a tackle.
BOWSPRIT A large and strong spar, standing from the bows of a vessel. (Pronounced bo-sprit.)
BOX-HAULING Wearing a vessel by backing the head sails.
BOX To box the compass, is to repeat the thirty-two points of the compass in order.
BRACE A rope by which a yard is turned about.

To brace a yard, is to turn it about horizontally.

To brace up, is to lay the yard fore fore-and-aft.

To brace in, is to lay it nearer square.

To brace aback. (See ABACK.)

To brace to, is to brace the head yards a little aback, in tacking or wearing.

BRAILS Ropes by which the foot or lower corners of fore-and-aft sails are hauled up.
BRAKE The handle of a ship's pump.

To break bulk, is to begin to unload.

To break ground, is to lift the anchor from the bottom.

To break shear, is when a vessel, at anchor, in tending, is forced the wrong way by the wind or current, so that she does not lie so well for keeping herself clear of her anchor.

BREAKER A small cask containing water.
BREAMING Cleaning a ship's bottom by burning.
BREAST-FAST A rope used to confine a vessel sideways to a wharf, or to some other vessel.
BREAST-HOOKS Knees placed in the forward part of a vessel, across the stem, to unite the bows on each side.
BREAST-ROPE A rope passed round a man in the chains, while sounding.
BREECH The outside angle of a knee-timber. The after end of a gun.
BREECHING A strong rope used to secure the breech of a gun to the ship's side.
BRIDLE Spans of rope attached to the leeches of square sails, to which the bowlines are made fast.

Bridle-port. The foremost port, used for stowing the anchors.

BRIG A square-rigged vessel, with two masts. An hermaphrodite brig has a brig's foremast and a schooner's mainmnast.
BROACH-TO To fall off so much, when going free, as to bring the wind round on the other quarter and take the sails aback.
BROADSIDE The whole side of a vessel.
BROKEN-BACKED The state of a vessel when she is so loosened as to droop at each end.
BUCKLERS Blocks of wood made to fit in the hawse-holes, or holes in the half-ports, when at sea. Those in the hawse-holes are sometimes called hawse-blocks.
BULK The whole cargo when stowed.

Stowed in bulk, is when goods are stowed loose, instead of being stowed in casks or bags. (See BREAK BULK.)

BULK HEAD Temporary partitions of boards to separate different parts of a vessel.
BULL A sailor's term for a small keg, holding a gallon or two.
BULL'S EYE a small piece of stout wood with a hole in the centre for a stay or rope to reeve through, without any sheave, and with a groove round it for the strap, which is usually of iron. Also, a piece of thick glass inserted in the deck to let light below.
BULWARKS The wood work round a vessel, above her deck, consisting of boards fastened to stanchions and timber-heads.
BUM-BOATS Boats which lie alongside a vessel in port with provisions and fruit to sell.
BUMPKIN Pieces of timber projecting from the vessel, to board the fore tack to; and from each quarter, for the main brace-blocks.
BUNT The middle of a sail.
BUNTINE Thin woolen stuff of which a ship's colors are made. (Pronounced buntin.)
BUNTLINES Ropes used for hauling up the body of a sail.
BUOY A floating cask, or piece of wood, attached by a rope to an anchor, to show its position. Also, floated over a shoal, or other dangerous place as a beacon.

To stream a buoy, is to drop it into the water before letting go the anchor.

A buoy is said to watch, when it floats upon the surface of the water.

BURTON A tackle, rove in a particular manner. A single Spanish burton has three single blocks, or two single blocks and a hook in the bight of one of the running parts.

A double Spanish burton has three double blocks.

BUTT The end of a plank where it unites with the end of another.

Scuttle-butt. A cask with a hole cut in its bilge, and kept on deck to hold water for daily use.

BUTTOCK That part of the convexity of a vessel abaft, under the stern, contained between the counter above and the after part of the bilge below, and between the quarter on the side and the stern-post.
BY by the head. Said of a vessel when her head is lower in the water than her stern.

by the stern. Said of a vessel when her stern is lower than her head. Also method of reproduction among sailors.

by the lee (See LEE and see RUN.)

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L

M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y

© 2018 Duncan Linklater