Boating Glossary

Here you will find a huge list of nautical terms. Whether you are a boat owner or a boating enthusiast if you have confused your 'bow' from your 'stern' this is the right place for you. We have collected hundreds of boat terms in the below dictionary to help you on your way.



Towards, or in the direction of the stern of a ship. Astern

Abandon Ship

An instruction to evacuate a ship usually in the face of great danger


At right angles to the keel of a ship

Abel Brown

A rather vulgar sea shanty about a sailor trying to persuade a young girl to let him sleep with her


On board or within a vessel

Above Board

In open view on or above the deck of a ship

Above Deck

On the actual deck of a ship

Above-Water Hull

The part of the ship's hull which is visible above the waterline also called the topside


Along the side of; in line with

Absentee Pennant

A designated pennant that when flown indicates that the commanding officer is absent

Absolute Bearing

The angle of an object between it and the north, whether this be true north or magnetic north

Accommodation ladder

A moveable stairway positioned down a ship's side

Act of Pardon, Act of Grace

An acknowledgement from an authority or state which endorses action by a privateer.


A naval officer of senior rank of which there are four grades, admiral being second only to Admiral of the Fleet


The department of a government having authority over naval affairs

Admiralty Law

The legal system applied to maritime matters which, in the UK, is the responsibility of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice or Supreme Court


Floating at random without power or attachment

Advance Note

Represents one month's wages and is given to sailors upon their signature of a ship's articles


The hiring of a ship for the transportation of goods or freight


Floating unfixed in the water


In the direction of the stern of the ship

Aft and After

An instruction to go to the stern of the ship


The part of a ship's deck that is situated behind the bridge


Men stationed on the quarter deck and poop to work the after-sails

Afternoon watch

The watch hours between midday and 4 pm


The situation of a ship whose bottom is touching the ground; stranded


In the front; forward


The term used in hailing a vessel


With sails furled and the helm lashed leeward; said of a ship in a storm

Aids to Navigation

Objects used to designate waters as being safe or unsafe in addition to natural landmark indications

Air Draft

The measurement between the waterline of a vessel and its highest point representing its height specifically useful in relation to low bridges etc


On the lee or sheltered side of a ship; opposite to aweather

All Hands

Every member of the crew of the vessel including officers

All Night In

No night watches are observed


At the masthead or on the rigging above the deck of a ship


Side by side to another vessel or structure


That part of an engine responsible for generating electricity

Altocumulus Clouds

Clouds which often indicate the onset of rain that take the shape of globules, often in layers

Amid Ship

In the middle of a ship


An iron implement used to secure a floating vessel to the bottom by means of a cable

Anchor Ball

The black round object displayed at the forepart of a ship when it is anchored in a fairway

Anchor Buoy

Used to indicate the position of an anchor, this is a small buoy attached to it by a light line

Anchor Cable

The rope, cable or line that connects the anchor to the ship

Anchor Detail

The workers responsible for handling tackle on land when a ship is either anchoring or setting sail

Anchor Fairlead

Situated at the bow of a ship, the anchor rode is fed through this to protect from chafing

Anchor Home

Indicates that the anchor has been secured prior to getting underway. In this position, the anchor usually rests at the bow of the ship on the outer side of the hull

Anchor Light

When a ship is at anchor, it will display this white light. If the vessel is over 150 ft high it is required to show two such lights

Anchor Sentinel

A separate line bearing a separate weight which is attached to the anchor rode to stop it becoming fouled on the keel or elsewhere whilst the ship is at anchor. Also known as a kellet

Anchor Swivel

The device that connects the anchor and the anchor line

Anchor Watch

Especially important at night and in rough seas, this safeguards the anchor's hold and ensures the vessel does not drift. Marine GPS systems normally have an alarm facility for this.


A suitable or customary place for the anchoring of vessels with regards to conditions and depths

Anchor's Aweigh

The phrase employed when a ship's anchor is clear of the bottom


A slang term used by the Royal Navy to refer to the lower deck


A section of magnesium which is welded to the front and back of a narrowboat below the waterline to protect its hull from corrosion by electrolysis

Anser Pins

Steel hooks or pins attached to the stern of a boat for the purpose of breasting up or strapping

Anti-cavitation Plate

To cover the weedhatch opening, this is fitted directly to the uxter plate

Anti-rolling Tanks

Two tanks fitted below the waterline on opposite sides of a ship to inhibit the amount of roll by means of filling them with fluid which is then pumped between them


In relation to a rabbet, this refers to the inside corner

Apparent Wind

As a ship moves forward, the true wind combines with the head wind so that a light side wind can apparently appear to be coming from elsewhere


A bridge that conveys water over an obstacle such as another stretch of water or a ravine

Arc of Visibility

From a seaward direction, the part of the horizon where a lighted navigation aid can be seen


The piece of wood attached to a ship's stern on which it's name is normally painted


The collective name for the weapons of a ship; the number of guns of a war vessel

Articles of War

These are the rules and regulations pertaining to the armed and naval forces of the UK and the USA which are read to every ship's company at the time of commissioning and periodically thereafter

As the Crow Flies

Refers to the way in which crows travel directly between two points rather than having to divert around land or other obstacles as ships must do


Refers to a vessel that is travelling upstream towards the source and therefore against the current


During WW2 this sonar device was used by the Allies to detect enemy submarines


Either towards the shore or on land


At or towards the back of a ship


Abbreviation for Anti-Submarine Warfare

Asylum harbour

Such harbours offer shelter from a storm

Athwart, Athwartships

Across the direction of a ship at a right angle

Auto Pilot

An apparatus used to keep a vessel automatically on course without outside, particularly human, assistance

Automatic Pilot

A system whereby the vessel follows a certain pre-programmed route via the operation of automatic steering apparatus


An instruction to stop or cease an action or to hold still


On a level with the waves so that water washes over the surface of an object or vessel


The perpendicular position of an anchor as it is being drawn up

Axial Fire

Naval gunfire concerned with the ends of a vessel as opposed to broadside

Aye, Aye

A response to an order which indicates two things, firstly that the order has been heard and secondly that it will be obeyed

Aye, Aye (/ˌaɪ ˈaɪ/)

The correct response from a vessel that has been hailed to acknowledge the presence of an officer on board

Azimuth Circle

A device whereby the bearings of celestial bodies can be ascertained

Azimuth Compass

A device for calculating the sun's azimuth, i.e. its bearing from the subject measured as an angle form the north



(1) The keel of a ship

(2) Of wind, to change its direction especially in the direction of the sun

(3) To reverse the wind across the sails to cause a vessel to stop

Back and Fill

When the wind is not with a vessel, to use the tide to advantage instead

Backing out

To make a hollow in a plank by scooping out a small amount of wood so that the plank can abut to a curved frame with the degree of backing out varying according to the frame it is to rest against


The cable located between the aft of a vessel and its mast


Long ropes extending from the masthead to the sides or rear of a ship to support the mast


To row or move a boat in a backward direction; to slow down or stop a ship


A soft covering used on cables to stop sails from chafing


An appliance used to bail out water from a boat


Weighty material, often lead, carried by a ship to ensure stability and uprightness

Ballast Tank

A means by which the stability and buoyancy of seagoing vessels is controlled


A supplier of ballast to ships

Balls to Four Watch

In the US Navy, the watch which falls between midnight and 4 am


An extended area of rising ground beneath the sea which forms a shallower depth


The term long used by the Royal Navy for a day or period of rest or leisure


Making navigation difficult, these large deposits of sand, formed by the movement of water, are usually found at the mouths of large rivers

Bar Pilot

Assists ships in the navigation of sandbars in bays and river mouths

Bareboat Charter

A contract whereby the charterer is responsible for not only the vessel and its costs but also the master and crew and their costs for an agreed period


A person who owns a barge


An instrument for measuring the weight or pressure of the atmosphere in millibars


In times gone by, the name given to the sailor positioned in the crow's nest


A narrow strip of wood used to fasten objects down or to create a curve

Batten Down

To fasten down anything loose and secure hatches within the hull of a ship as well as on deck

Batten Down the Hatches

In the face of bad weather, secure hatches further with battens so that there is no danger of water permeating


To run a vessel onto a beach deliberately to facilitate loading or unloading or to rescue a vessel


A signal of warning or guidance fixed at sea or on land which may be lit or unlit


The extreme breadth of a ship

Beam Ends

A vessel's sides


A hewn piece of stone used to scrape wooden decks clean with the aid of sand

Bear Down or Bear Away

To turn a vessel away from the wind

Bear Off

To turn a vessel away from the wind

Bearding Line

With reference to a Rabbet, the line made by the inboard edge


The direction or point of the compass heading of an object or vessel either as plotted on a chart or bearing relation to the direction of a travel

Beat to Quarters

The beating of a drum to indicate preparation for battle is required


Refer to the entry for tacking

Beating or Beat To

Using a zig zag route to sail as close as possible to the wind in order to achieve an upwind bearing

Beaufort Scale

The scale used to define the force of the wind from zero to Force 17

Bed Cupboard

A tall cupboard in a sailor's cabin whose door drops down to form a bed


A strip of wood which is bolted each side of a bowsprit for the purpose of allowing foretopmast stays to be reeved

Before the Mast

(1) In the forecastle

(2) Applied to the common sailors who live in the forecastle in front of the foremast


(1) To fasten a running rope by winding it round a cleat or belaying pin

(2) To fasten a person who is climbing in the same way

Belaying Pins

A stout pin to which running ropes may be belayed


Abbreviation for below the deck

Bench Seat

The plank of wood that forms a seat for the purpose of rowing


A particular type of knot for adjoining two pieces of rope, line or cable

Bermudan Rig/ Marconi Rig

A certain configuration of the mast and rigging for sailboats involving a tall mast and triangular mainsail

Berth (moorings)

The area in a port or harbour which provides spaces for vessels to moor

Berth (sleeping)

A bed, space or room for sleeping on board a ship

Best Bower (anchor)

Of the two anchors carried in a vessel's bow, the best bower is the larger

Between Wind and Water

Refers to the part of the hull of a ship that is sometimes below and sometimes above the waterline depending on the roll of the vessel


The loop or bend of a rope as distinct from the ends

Bight (/ˈbaɪt/) –

A bend in a coastline forming a bay


The bottom of a ship's floor, the part that a ship rests on when aground

Bilge Keel

A timber fixed under the bilge to hold a vessel up when ashore or on dry mooring to prevent rolling

Bilge Keels

A pair of keels fixed under the bilge on each side of th hull to hold a vessel upright particularly when using dry mooring

Bilge Pump

A pump used to carry away bilge water

Bilged on her Anchor

Refers to vessel grounded on its own anchor


Weatherproof canvas stretched over a metal frame and attached to the cockpit of a boat to provide shelter


An instrument of punishment

Binder Plank

A plank attached below the sheer with lapstrake planking in a carvel planked vessel


A turret shaped box containing a ship's compass

Binnacle List

A list of men reporting sick for duty which was traditionally stored in the binnacle by the officer of the watch

Bitt or Bitts

A post of wood or iron positioned on a ship's bow to which cables are made fast. Also sometime used for the punishment of ship's boys by tying them to the bitts and tanning their behinds

Bitter End

The end of the anchor rode nearest the ship; the end part of any rope or chain


Posts mounted on a ship for fastening ropes


The bitumen based paint applied to a ship's hull to protect it from rust


The piece of wood in which the wheels of one or more grooved pulleys run


An adverb usual meaning stained or running with blood. Also used to refer to 17th century Bucks Scrowers and Mohocks

Blue Peter

A small blue flag with a white square in the middle used as a signal for sailing


A small open vessel generally undecked and usually propelled by oars or sails

Boat Hook

A pole with an iron point and hook used to push or pull a boat or to retrieve objects from the water

Boat Safety Certificate

Similar to a car's MOT, a certificate issued for a narrowboat which expires after 4 years

Boat Yard

A site operated to build, repair and store vessels


A pole with an iron point and hook used to push or pull a boat or to retrieve objects from the water

Boatmans Cabin

The part of a boat, both traditional working and modern boats, that provides the living and sleeping areas


Ship's crewmember in charge of equipment and maintenance

Boatswain or Bosun (both /ˈboʊsən/)

The foreman of the crew in charge of rigging, anchors, cables and cordage. Also summons the crew to their duties


One of two or more ropes or chains which holds the bowsprit down towards the stem and keeps it steady

Body Plan

A drawing showing the end elevations of a ship thereby showing its width and the contour of the sides at various points along the entire length


A strong post of wood or iron for securing hawsers, usually on a wharf or dock but also shipboard

Bolt Rope (or flange)

A rope held within a piece of material which slides into a groove in the hull and holds the buoyancy tube in position


A rope to which the edges of sails are sewed to prevent it being torn

Bombay Runner

A species of cockroach

Bonded Jacky

Can refer to either a type of tobacco or an edible cake


An additional piece of canvas laced to the bottom of a sail to enlarge it

Booby Hatch

A small kind of companion, particularly for the half decks of merchant ships


A long spar to extend the foot of a particular sail

Boom Gallows

A cross member which supports the boom when a sail is lowered

Boom Jigger

A tackle for rigging a top-mast studding-sail boom out or in

Boom Vang or Vang

A type of sail control which allows downward pressure to be applied to the boom


(1) A small boom projecting from each bow to extend the foresail

(2) A similar boom for the mainsail or the mizzen


Spare masts and spars available on board


A sail extended on a boom instead of a yard


A sheet attached to the boom

Boot Top

A line painted to indicate the intended waterline


Used with a preposition (up/away), meaning to engage or disengage with the enemy


A diminutive of boatswain

Bosun's chair

A canvas chair used to lift and suspend a person up a mast usually in order to undertake work aloft


A tool for adjusting the tension of equipment particularly lines and stays

Bottom Boards

The slatted framework at the bottom of a boat which keeps feet off the planking and out of any bilge water

Bottom of the Hull

Essential for navigational purposes, this refers to the section of a ship's hull that is under water therefore the depth capacity it requires

Bottom Road

The term used by boatmen to refer to the route from the north east of Birmingham to Coventry


Borrowing money using a ship as security for the loan


The rounded fore-end of a boat or ship

Bow Chaser

A gun mounted at the stern used for attack or defence

Bow Haulers

Men who are employed on tow paths to haul barges or boats

Bow Line

A line or cable attached to the bow when docking

Bow Stable

On a canal boat, the area at the front lower level where horses are housed

Bow Thrusters

A small propeller situated at the bow of a vessel allowing it to be manoeuvred at slow speed


The name given to two anchors, best bower and small bower, which are carried in the bows of a ship. Also refers to the cable attached to either


A bolt on the bow stem to which tow lines are secured or by which the boat is attached to trailer hooks


(1) A rope fastened to the middle part of the weather side of a sail to make it stand close to the wind.

(2) A safe kind of knot


To haul hard


A spar running out from the bows of a vessel to support sails and stays

Box Mast

A square box shaped mast on a canal boat used as a tow post

Box Pump

A square wooden pump with a leather bound piston

Boxing the Compass

To name the points of the compass in proper order

Boy Seaman

A sailor of a young age still undergoing training

Bracing Chains

Chains on a narrowboat used to pull in its sides by placing them across the hold and adjusting their length

Bracket Open

Refers to the operation of a motor boat at top speed


To haul sails by means of the brails


Ropes used to gather up the foot of a sail before furling


Pump handle

Brass Monkey or Brass Monkey Weather

Refers to very cold weather

Bread and Larders

Traditionally used when referring to boatmen working on the south Oxford canal


(1) A pier, mole or similar which breaks the force of the waves and protects shipping.

(2) A structure built for the same purpose on a ship's forecastle


To clear a ship's bottom of ooze, seaweed, shellfish etc by burning


The end wall of a lock construction supporting the sill

Breast Post

A vertical post in a lock construction which is farthest away from the lock gate hanging point.

Breasting Up

Occurs when boats are tied together abreast in order to navigate a river or to pass through a double lock


The area which houses the equipment by which a vessel is steered and controlled

Bridge Hole

The opening aperture of a bridge and the passage underneath it


(1) A rope by which the bowline is fastened to a sail.

(2) A mooring hawser.

(3) A line or cable attached to a structure at each end so that the strain is evenly distributed


(1) A square rigged vessel with two masts.

(2) Dialect for a bridge in Scotland and the north.

(3) In the US, the area where prisoners, stowaways, wrongdoers etc are kept securely

Brighouse Fender

Refers to a hand made and intricate rope stern fender specifically created for Yorkshire Keels


Any bright shiny surface such as glossed or varnished woodwork and polished metal

Bring To

To bring a vessel to a halt by use of its sails


To turn suddenly to windward


To veer to windward so as to present a ship's broadside to the sea


The planks which are positioned next to the first plank either side of a ship's keel (garboard)


(1) The side of a ship above the water.

(2) A volley from all the guns on one side of a ship.

(3) A broadsheet


A pamphlet dealing with a subject of passing interest

Bsc Safety Scheme

A safety inspection carried out every 4 years by a qualified Boat Safety inspector which is required by all boats and covers all boat safety matters


In the Royal Navy, the crew member responsible for disciplinary matters, usually the Chief Bosun's mate


A purely ornamental feature of narrowboats usually constructed of wood and canvas


An upright partition dividing a ship into compartments

Bull Nose or Knuckle

Both terms refer to the stonework at a lock entrance, the first being a Thames term and the latter being used in the docklands

Bull of Barney

A phrase mentioned in Sing a Song o' Shipwreck (1902) by John Masefield to refer to "a beast of a breeze"

Bulls Eye

(1) A hemispherical disc of glass in the side of a ship to give light below.

(2) A small round window

Bulwark or Bulward (/ˈbʊlək/ in nautical use)

The boarding round the sides of a ship that rises above the upper deck


A boat used to carry and offer for sale provisions to other vessels

Bumping Pieces

The protective cladding found on lock gates and walls

Bumpkin, boomkin or bumkin

(1) A small boom projecting from each bow to extend the foresail.

(2) A similar boom for the mainsail or the mizzen


A stopper for a bunghole to prevent leakage; to stop with a bung

Bungee Cord

A cord made from elastic which has hooks on each end to facilitate stretching


A building which provides sleeping accommodation for a workforce


(1) A rope passing from the foot-rope of a square sail and in front of the canvas to prevent bellying.

(2) The middle part or belly of a square sail.

(3) To haul up the middle part of a sail in furling

Bunting Tosser

The crew member responsible for preparing, hoisting and flying flags


One of the ropes attached to the foot-rope of a square sail to draw the sail up to the yard


A floating body moored at a certain place to indicate the position of something beneath the water such as a fairway, reef or shoal

Buoyed Up

To be kept afloat or brought to the surface by a buoy particularly refers to cables and ropes

Burdened Vessel

The burdened vessel is the ship that gives way to the privileged vessel according to Navigation Rules, i.e. it does not have right of way


A triangular or swallow tailed flag usually flow from a yacht to indicate club membership

Butt Strap

A method of securing joints between plates in boats constructed of steel or iron


The convex part of a ship under the stern


In a pair of working boats on canals, the butty is that which has no power and where once is was towed by a horse, a motorboat is now used


Bureau Veritas is one of the world's leading classification societies and offshore verification bodies

Bw or bwb

Abbreviations for British Waterways and British Waterways Board

By and Large

Into the wind is signified with "by" whilst with the wind is signified with " large" so by and large refers on the whole

By the Board

To become ruined or lost, particularly overboard


Someone other than the canal owner who trades on the canal


A weir that handles the overflow of water on a canal rather than it passing through a lock


Cabbage Turn

The name given to the turn on the Oxford Canal located between Wormleighton and Marston Doles


A room or compartment in a ship for officers or passengers

Cabin Beam or Back End Beam

A piece of wood or plank in front of the cabin

Cabin Block

A block which supports the back of the planks placed on the top of the cabin roof of a narrowboat

Cabin Boy

A boy who waits on the officers of a ship or the passengers in a cabin


(1) A strong rope more than 10 inches round

(2) The rope or chain to which an anchor is fastened

Cable Length

One tenth of a nautical mile; 100-140 fathoms


A ship's galley or kitchen


Coasting-trade, i.e. trade between the ports of the same country


A water tank which generates heat


The small curve or arch of a ship's deck

Can Buoy

A conical buoy to mark out shoals and rocks

Canal & River Trust Licence

The licence required in order to navigate canals and rivers

Canal Bed

The area the water occupies in a canal

Canal Lock

An enclosure in a canal, between gates, for raising and lowering vessels by the introduction or liberation of water

Canal Slip

A strip of water in a canal which allows boats to leave the main waterway traffic and moor

Canaller or Canawler

Vernacular term for anyone who lives or works on a canal


A case containing shot which explodes when fired from a gun, also called case-shot

Canoe Stern

A type for yacht design which has a pointed bow, as a canoe, instead of being square


(1) A raised deck

(2) To swing round

Cape Horn Fever

When a malingerer is pretending to be ill, this is the name given to his non existent ailment


To overturn or upset


A revolving pulley or drum either power or lever driven with a belt or cable running over it used to increase the force exerted by a cable or belt


The commanding officer or master of a ship

Captain's Daughter

Another name for the cat o' nine tails whip


To turn a ship on one side in order to clean or caulk it


Turning a ship on its side usually for cleaning purposes


A member of a deck's frame which runs fore-and-aft


Having the planks flush at the edges in a wooden construction

Carvel Build

The building of a wooden boat with the planks flush at the edges

Carvel Built

Having the planks flush at the edges in a wooden construction as opposed to clinker built

Carvel Planking

Having the planks flush at the edges in a wooden construction with the planks then being caulked

Cassette Toilet

A chemical toilet so called because it has a storage cassette beneath which can be removed for emptying and cleaning

Cast Off

To untie a line attaching a boat to a mooring or other boat and to then stow the line appropriately


(1) A strong tackle used to hoist the anchor to the cat heads, various parts of this tackle.

(2) The cat o' nine tails

(3) A cat-boat

Cat O'Nine Tails

A whip or scourge with nine lashes of knotted cord formerly used as an instrument of punishment in the Army and Navy


A vessel with two hulls


A small boat with one sail on a mast near the bows


Pronounced cat-harping, a rope or clamp which braces the shrouds towards the mast


A beam projecting from the ship's bows to which the anchor is secured

Cat Paws

(1) A light air which just ripples the surface of the water

(2) A turn in the bight of a rope onto which to hook tackle


Stuffing the seams of ships with oakum to make them watertight


The formation of a cavity between a solid and a liquid, i.e. a propeller and water which causes the loss of power


Floorboards that extend up the sides on the inside edge of a boat


An official count of the inhabitants of a country; the statistical result of such a count

Centerboard or Centreplate

A sliding keel which can be raised or lowered which is used to resist leeway


(1) Wearing down by rubbing

(2) The battens mats and yarn etc put upon rigging to prevent it being chafed.

Chafing Gear

A soft covering used on cables to prevent chafing.

Chain-wale or Channel

A wooden plank mounted horizontally on the side of a ship, abreast of a mast

Chain Locker

A compartment in the bow of a ship where the chain or cable of an anchor is stowed when the it is raised

Chain Plate

One of the flat iron bars bolted to a ship's side to secure the shrouds, also called a channel plate

Chain Slot

Ammunition which consists of cannon balls chained together used to cause damage to rigging and masts


Strong plates of iron bolted to a ship's side and used to secure the shrouds


Ammunition which consists of cannon balls chained together used to cause damage to rigging and masts


A dressing used in boat building traditionally made of horse dung and tar


A female employee who is in charge of bedrooms/sleeping accommodation

Change Boat

A vessel boat workers used when their own boat was unavailable

Change Bridge

When a towpath changes sides along a canal, this is the bridge horses or pedestrians use to cross over the canal to join the towpath on the other side


(1) A narrow piece of water joining two seas.

(2) A plank of wood fastened horizontally to the side of a ship to spread the lower rigging

Charley Noble

A name given to a stovepipe chimney


A map of some part of the sea with coasts, islands, rocks shoals etc marked on it

Chase Gun, Chase Piece or Chaser

A gun mounted at the bow or stern (bow-chaser, stern-chaser) used for attack or defence

Check Pin

The pins to which checking straps are tethered located at the side of a lock

Checking Strap

The rope by which a butty boat is attached to a bollard in order to slow it down


The wooden blocks located at the side of a spar


On a flat bottomed or v-bottomed vessel, the intersection of the sides and bottom


(1) A securing device for anchor or mooring lines.

(2) Block for wedging up a boat on a ship's deck.

(3) To place a boat on the chocks


Crammed tightly together so that movement is impossible derived from

Choppy Water

Rough sea with short quick waves


An instrument that measures time with great exactness such as is used to determine longitude at sea by the difference between its time and solar time

Cill or Sill

The brickwork beneath lock gates upon which they sit

Circle of Death

When the operator of a boat falls overboard with the engine is still running and the boat subsequently circles back and hits the person in the water, this is referred to as the circle of death

Civil Red Ensign

The Red Ensign is the courtesy flag for civilian ships visiting UK waters. Also known as the Red Duster

Clamp Up

To suddenly become silent

Clapping Post or Clapping Quoin

The vertical sill on a lock upon which the lock gates close, the name refers to noise made as the gates close

Classification Society

The organisations who oversee vessels during construction and later their seaworthiness and also udertake inspections etc to ensure the vessel fits within a certain class. A vessel without a class is difficult to insure

Clean Bill of Health

Now in general use, this originally referred to confirmation certificate issued by port authorities that the crew of a ship carried no infectious diseases

Clean Slate

As each new watch started, the slate recording details of the previous watch would be wiped clean, hence the expression wiping the slate clean indicating a fresh start


A piece of wood or iron for fastening ropes to


To rivet; to fasten firmly by bending the point of a nail with a hammer


(1) The aftermost corner of a staysail or the lower corner of a square sail.

(2) The cords by which a hammock is suspended

Clinker / Clinker Built

Built with overlapping planks fastened with clinch nails

Clinton’s Ditch

A name given to the Erie Canal

Close Aboard

Close to a ship


Kept as near as possible to the point form which the wind blows


Another name for the paddle of a lock

Clove Hitch

A safe kind of rope fastening round a spar or another rope

Club Hauling

Moving a ship by dropping the kedge whilst is is fast motion enabling it to turn quickly

Coal Trimmer, or Trimmer

The crew member on a coal fired ship responsible for the vessel remaining evenly balanced as coal is moved and used


The raised borders round hatches which prevents water from pouring into the hold


A covering or layer applied to fabric to make the interior airtight and to toughen the exterior against abrasion


A custom house seal; a customs' receipt for duty on exported goods


The area, usually enclosed or covered, from where a vessel is controlled


The space between the bulkheads of a vessel


Originally a broad round shaped vessel used in the Middle Ages both for burden and war, nowadays a small boat or single masted, square sailed ship


To wind into rings (as a rope)

Coin or Coyn

Where a lock gate's heel post fits enabling it to turn to open and close

Coin Post

The traditional phrase for a lock gate heel post used in Staffordshire and Worcestershire

Come About, Go About

To turn a vessel so that it takes the wind on the other side

Come Up

(1) Of a vessel, to turn towards the wind

(2) To slacken (as a rope)


Material, goods or products that can be traded, bought and sold

Communication Tube, Speaking Tube or Voice Tube

An armoured air filled tube which allow communication between below decks and the conning tower of a warship


The staircase originally from the cabin to the quarter deck but now refers to any ladderway between decks


A portion of the hold of a ship shut off by a bulkhead and capable of being made watertight

Compartment Boats

Vessels used on the Aire & Calder Navigation, also called Tom Puddings


An instrument indicating the magnetic meridian used to ascertain the direction and determine the course of a ship

Compass Card

The card or dial of a sailor's compass on which the points are drawn

Cone Reinforcement

The caps placed on the end of buoyancy tubes


A vessel used on the Great Lakes in the late 1800s to the early 1920s

Construction Drawing

A detailed plan of a vessel's construction used in boat building

Contour Canal

A canal that follows the natural terrain, including its contours, which means that fewer locks are required


The ropes or rigging of a ship collectively


An amateur yachtsman who does not always conform to expected seamanship

Corketts Two

Ivinghoe Locks numbered 32 and 33 on the GU main line


The instrument used to correct the compass of a ship


The vernacular term used in the Fenlands for the uprooting a river's reeds and rushes


(1) The curved part of a ship's stern

(2) That part of the stern above the waterline extending beyond the rudder ending in a small transom

Counter Plate

Plating that wraps around on the stern section of the side of the hull above the waterline


The deliberate flooding of compartments situate opposite already flooded areas in order to reduce listing


The area at the end of a trailer tongue which bears the towing mechanism


The direction taken


Th sails set on a ship's lower yards,. i.e. the mainsail, foresail and the mizzen

Coxswain or Cockswain

One who steers a boat; the petty officer on board a ship in charge of a boat and its crew


A type of answer which, when pronounced, sounds like 'secure'


A term used in the fenlands for the use of reeds or grass to re-inforce a bank

Crance or Cranze

A boom-iron especially one forming a cap to the bowsprit

Cratch / Cratch Cover

A triangular structure over the forward cockpit of a narrowboat and the canvas used to cover it


An iron ring on the bolt rope of a sail for the attachment of a bridle

Cro'jack or Crossjack

(1) The yard of a square sail occasionally carried by a cutter running before the wind.

(2) The lower yard on the mizzen-mast

Cross Beam

A large beam running across the width of a boat

Cross Bed

A bed which occupies the full width of a boat when in use but which folds away allowing gangway access during the day

Cross Straps

The short ropes attached to an empty boat for towing purposes

Cross Wind

To approach a narrow space, such as a lock, at an angle causing a collision with the sides of the structure rather than a clear passage through the centre

Crossover Bridge

When a towpath changes sides along a canal, this is the bridge horses or pedestrians use to cross over the canal to join the towpath on the other side


Timbers on the top of masts to support the rigging of the mast above

Crow's Nest

A tub or box for the look-out man on a ship's mast

Cruiser Stern

A type of narrowboat with a lengthened back deck designed for socialising


(1) Various appliances for spars, timbers etc.

(2) The pins which hold rowing oars


A cabin in a ship where crew and/or passengers take their meals; a small cabin in a boat


A line used to control a sail's shape which was invented by Briggs Cunningham

Cunt Splice or Cut Splice

A splice made by turning the end of a rope back on itself and interlacing the strands of this with those of the standing part leaving a loop


The gap between the strands of a rope


The movement of a body of water in a certain direction


A channel

Cut and Run

In order to flee quickly, a ship's crew cut the lines and lashing to sails or the anchor cable without regard to damage

Cut of his Jib

The shape of a sail is referred to as its cut and therefore to identify a vessel's cut imparts information as to its type and capabilities in the water


(1) A powerful motorlaunch usually used by the navy and coastguard

(2) A small vessel with one mast, a mainsail, fore-sail and a jib set to bowsprit end. 3. Any sloop of narrow beam and deep draught



A sliding keel or centreboard which is moved vertically

Dandy Paddle

The name give to the top paddle by Trent & Mersey boatmen


A type of anchor


(1) A spar used as a crane for hoisting the anchor.

(2) One of a pair of beams projecting over a ship's side with tackles to hoist or lower a boat

Davy Jones' Locker

A sailor's name for the sea as the tomb of the drowned

Day Beacon

A structure to which a day board is attached to convey navigational information

Day Boat

A vessel employed for the operation of day trips


The exact moment in time at dawn when a look out is able to see over the low lying mist surrounding the vessel

Dayboard / Daymark

The signboard which is attached to a day beacon which conveys navigational data through a system of shapes and colours

Dead Ahead, dead head

Directly ahead

Dead Astern

Directly astern

Dead Reckoning

The calculation of a ship's position from the log and compass when observations cannot be taken

Dead Run

See running


A flat round block having eyes for the lanyards by which the rigging is set up


In ship design, the angle between the keel and the horizontal plane


(1) The eddy under the stern of a ship or boat.

(2) Water that is absolutely still

Deadweight (dwt)

(1) The weight of the vessel in addition to the load to be carried.

(2) Freight charged for by weight instead of bulk.

(3) The heaviest part of a ship's cargo


The built up timbers fore and aft above the keel


The grading measurement used for the weights of filaments and spinning yarns in the man-made fibres industry


The plank flooring of a ship

Deck Hand, Decky

A seaman who works on deck whose duties include mooring and cargo handling

Deck Lid

A hinged lid found at deck level to cover a locker


The underside of a deck in a ship forming the ceiling of the deck below


The horizontal structures spanning the hull of a ship

Deep-v Hull

A design of hull intended to go through the water and therefore without planing speed


The 360th part of the circumference of a circle


(1) A delay in loading or unloading beyond the stimulated time in a charter party

(2) The compensation paid by the freighter for such a delay

Depth Sounder

An instrument with which to measure the depth of water similar to sonar


A hoisting device with a boom stayed from a central post


Travelling in the direction of the current of a river or, on a canal, descending down to a lock rather than ascending to it


The copying of anything on a spiling batten onto a wooden plank

Devil Seam

The name given to the planking on deck which is closest to the side of the ship which is where the phrase 'between the devil and the deep blue sea' arises

Devil to Pay

Sealing the devil seam which, because of its position on board, is an unpleasant chore


(1) An internal combustion engine uses on boats and cars

(2) The heavy fuel oil that powers diesel engines


A small space or alcove used as a dining area where the table and area underneath it can be converted to a bed


A small ship's boat; any small boat


A utensil with a bowl and handle, similar to a large spoon

Directional Light

A light illuminating a very narrow sector, used to mark a direction to be followed


A book containing the names, addresses and other relevant information or individuals, businesses, organisations etc


The water displaced by a ship, the weight of which equals that of the ship at rest

Displacement Hull

A type of hull design which enables a vessel to plough through water so named because it displaces a weight of water equal to its own


To degrade or reduce in rank or rating

Ditty Bag

A sailor's bag for storing odds and ends traditionally including needle and thread

Dnv gl

Norwegian company which provides classification, verification, risk-management and technical advice to the maritime industry on safety, enhanced performance etc. As a classification society, DNV GL sets standards for ships and offshore structures - known as Class Rules.


An artificial basin for the reception of ships to load and unload or for ships to be built or repaired


The name given to the line by which a vessel is secured to a dock


A written or printed paper containing information for the establishment of facts


A fabric screen fitted to the cockpit to protect it from spray and weather elements

Dodswell Two

The name given to Dudswell Locks 47 and 48 on the Grand Union main line


A US vernacular term for the raised part of a ship's deck


A small vane traditionally made of cork and feathers placed on the weather rail as a guide to the helmsman


One of two watches of two hours each between 4 pm and 8 pm


A stump made of iron or steel on a motorboat to which towropes are attached


A mooring post; an anchored spar with rings serving as a mooring buoy


In the Cambridgeshire fenlands, gates are referred to as doors, i.e. sluice doors instead of sluice gates

Double Bottom

A false bottom between the floor of a vessel and its hull

Double Lock

Two locks situated together, either side by side or with a two level staircase devised to increase traffic throughput

Double Planked Hull

The hull of a vessel which is constructed from two layers of planking, an inner lighter wood and an outer hardwood


A vessel with a pointed shape to the hull at both the bow and the stern, i.e. a canoe


Cannons which are loaded with twice the shot to cause extensive damage


(1) The direction of a vessel travelling downstream

(2) The St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation uses term for eastward movements of cargo


A rope for hauling down a sail

Downhill Runner (or strap)

The checking strap attached to a butty boat


In the direction of the current of a river


In the direction the wind is blowing


Another piece of canvas attached to a bonnet to further enlarge a sail

Draft or Draught (both /ˈdrɑːft/)

The depth to which a ship sinks in the water


To raise a lock paddle to allow water in or out

Dressing Down

(1) To apply oil or wax to old sails in order to renovate them.

(2) To censure verbally


A D shaped ring through which a rope is fed

Drive Shaft

The shaft transmitting motion between the engine and the propeller


A large sail which is flown from the mizzen gaff


A bag drawn behind a vessel to prevent it broaching to in a storm


A large medieval ship


The act of lowering something, i.e. to drop a paddle when closing off the water in a lock

Dry Sailing

Boats are said to be dry sailed when they are left on shore rather than being anchored


Where a boat is kept out of the water for the purpose of repair or storage

Dummy Bows

In a train of compartment boats, these are the false bows attached to the front boat


Loose wood, faggots, boughs etc laid in the hold to raise the cargo above the bilge-water or wedged between the cargo to keep it from rolling when stowed


Abbreviation for deadweight tons


A local term in Norfolk for dredging a channel


A chart which indicates the deflection of a compass caused by a ship's iron



The lies which attach the corners of a sail to the yardarms


To slacken a rope, sail or speed

Ease her

The command to reduce the speed of the engines of a steamer

Ease Away / Ease Off

To slacken a rope gradually


A fenland expression meaning an artificial channel


To flow back; to recede

Ebb Tide

The retiring tide

Echo sounding

Sounding the depth of water beneath the keel

Edge Set

A method of joining planks together by forcing their edges together firmly

Elsan Disposal

A method of emptying a cassette toilet's tank

Elum or Ellum

The rudder and tiller of a butty boat


Putting on or going on board a vessel


To enclose a vessel in a bay, to landlock

En Echelon

The gun turrets forward an aft on each side of a ship

Engine Hole

The space on a motorboat for the engine

Engine Order Telegraph

The device by which a pilot communicates with the engine room as to the required speed of the vessel


The flag with distinguishing colours carried by ships


The part of a ship's stern bearing her name

Even Keel

Of a vessel, to float on the waterline designed for it


An extremis situation occurs when a collision can be avoided only by the action of both vessels rather than the normal protocol of privileged and burdened vessels


The term used in the Fenlands for the opening in a lock through which water enters or leaves

Eye of the Wind

In the face of the wind, directly against the wind

Eye Splice

A splice made by turning the end of a rope back on itself and interlacing the strands of this with those of the standing part leaving a loop



A device which alters the direction of a line


The section of the tackle used to haul

Fall Aboard Of

To strike against, as one vessel in collision with another

Fall Off

Of a vessel, to fail to keep its head to the wind

False Cratch

A triangular shaped wooden structure that forms the back section of the cratch

False Floors

Floors that can be moved or removed in order to raise a cargo from the bottom of a vessel

Family Boat

A vessel, especially a barge, which accommodates a skipper and his family


A term used for the propeller


(1) The poop deck

(2) A sort of sou'wester


Loose wood, faggots, boughs etc laid in the hold to raise the cargo above the bilge-water or wedged between the cargo to keep it from rolling when stowed


Firmly fixed, tight


A measure of length - six feet


(1) A thin piece of wood used to pad a gap prior to caulking

(2) To turn an oar so that the blade passes horizontally through the air

Fellows, Morton & Clayton

A former canal carrying company sold to the British Transport Commission in 1948


A piece of timber, mass of rope of cushion which protects the side of a vessel from injury by collision

Fender Beam

A beam hung over the side of a vessel to protect her from injury by ice

Fest Ropes

Ropes on a fen lighter


(1) To reach a place, to bring up

(2) The distance travelled by wind or waves across the water


(1) A bar of wood or iron to support a top-mast

(2) A pointed wooden pin used to open the strands of a rope in splicing


A frame of bars an strings to keep things rolling off table and shelves in bad weather


The iron framework enclosing a deck-hatch

Fife Rail

A rail on the quarter-deck and poop or around the mast

Figure Eight Knot

A type of knot that takes the form of a figure of eight


The ornamental bust of full length carving on the prow of a ship above the cutwater and immediately below the bowsprit


A nautical term for Fenney Stratford on the GU

Fire Ship

A vessel freighted with combustibles and explosives sent among enemy ships in order to set them on fire


The area on a vessel which houses its boilers and furnaces

First Lieutenant

Junior commissioned officer, above the rank of second lieutenant and below the rank of captain

First Mate

A vessel's second in command

First Rate

A warship of the most powerful class


A strip of wood for mending or strengthening a spar

Fish the Anchor

To draw up the flukes to the bulwarks after the anchor has been catted

Five Paddle

Home Park Mill Lock No 70 on the GU mainline


To determine a definite position for

Fixed Propeller

A propeller driven by an inboard motor and mounted on a fixed shaft which projects from the hull of a vessel

Flag Hoist

Signal flags hoisted together which convey a message


The ship which carries the admiral and on which his flag is displayed


The pole or staff on which a flag is displayed

Flame Arrester

A device which stops an exhaust's backfire from causing a fire or explosion


Flame resistant or made to be so by the way something is secured


A vessel's maximum speed


(1) Of a ship's bows, to open or spread outward

(2) A distress signal

Flash Lock

A lock with a single gate

Flash Flush

(1) To send a rush of water down a river, weir etc.

(2) A body of water driven along with violence.

(3) A sluice or lock just above a shoal


Type of trading vessel operating between the River Weaver and Liverpool including Mersey flats and Black flats


A term used on the Great Lakes for a vessel with no self unloading apparatus


A local term in Norfolk for a shallow


To coil a line so that is lies flat on the deck when not in use


The inflow of the tide


A way to prevent flooding by the building of banks some distance away from the natural banks of a river


The floor of the cockpit


The framework that runs across the keel but not up the sides


Goods lost in shipwreck and found floating


The broad holding portion of an anchor


A large sail employed when sailing downwind


A block which moves with the tackle from one position to another

Fly boat

A canal boat capable of speed which carries priority cargoes

Flybridge / Flying Bridge

A bridge above the main level of a vessel which houses a secondary set of controls used for improved visibility

Folding Propeller

A propeller whose blades fold when not in use

Following Sea

An overtaking sea coming from the stern


The bottom edge of a triangular sail

Foot or Footing

The lower section of the side of a hull of a narrowboat


A narrow bridge for pedestrians to cross a canal


Unbound by ties, i.e. blowing in the wind


A rope beneath a yard upon which seamen stand in reefing and furling sails


In or towards the bows

Fore and Aft

Along or over the whole length of the vessel


A lock's breast wall and upper sill


The post at a ship's foremast where cables are fastened


A rope on the fore yard-arm for shifting the sail


A forward cabin traditionally for second class passengers


(1) The part of the upper deck forward of the after-shroud

(2) In merchant ships a forward space below deck where the crew live


The forepart of a deck, the deck I the forepart of a ship


The forward ned of a vessel's keel


The mast nearest the bow of a vessel

Foremast Jack

An enlisted sailor housed before the foremast


The part of a vessel's hold in the angle of the bow


The principal sail on the foremast


A strong rope reaching from the foremast head to the bowsprit end to support the mast


The triangle formed by the forestay, mast and foredeck


Towards, at or in the fore-part of a vessel

Fore well

A forward lower deck


A favourable wind


Th state of something that is stuck, jammed or caught up


Vernacular term for oilskins


To fill with water and therefore sink

Fourth Rate

Formerly a 50- 70 gun vessel, later a gunboat carrying from one to four guns

Fractional Rig

A type of rig design where the forestay reaches a fraction of the mast, i.e. ¾, rather than the top of the mast


A member that sits laterally in a vessel and supports the planks above


The wooden ribs which give the hull its shape


To draw together by ropes crossing each other


The space between the waterline on a vessel and the upper side of the deck or the uppermost full deck


A cargo boat


Occurs when rain causes an increase in the flow of a river

Full and By

Sailing full into the wind


To roll up a sail and wrap around a yard, mast or stay


One of the timbers in the compound rib of a vessel

Futtock Plate

An iron plate at the head of a lower mast to which the futtock shrouds and the dead-eyes of the topmast shrouds are secured

Futtock Shrouds

The short shrouds from the futtock plate to a band on the mast below



(1) The spar which extends the upper edge of fore-and-aft sails not set on stays.

(2) A stick with a metal hook at the end used by anglers to land heavy fish

Gaff Rigged

A four sided fore-and-aft sail rigged vessel whose upper edge is supported by a gaff

Gaff Vang

A line used to adjust the trim of a gaff sail


Sail supported by a spar or gaff in its upper parts.


A sail spread by a gaff above the mainsail of a fore-and-aft rigged vessel

Gale or Storm Warnings

A weather warning for small craft


(1) A low flat vessel with one deck navigated with sails and oars

(2) The cookhouse on board ship

Galley Beam or Lintel

The beam placed across the posts of a pair of lock gates which keeps them in place

Galvanic Isolator

A device fitted to the electrical system of a boat which helps to prevent corrosion of th hull


(1) Keeping company or an exchange of visits among whalers at sea.

(2) A herd of whales


To make fast the bowsprit to the stem

Gammon Iron

The iron used to fasten the bowsprit to the stem


In East Anglia, either five fen lighters or two Stour lighters which are tied together for navigation purposes

Gang Planks

A gangway for landing from a vessel


A temporary bridge affording means of passage from a ship to the shore


Rushall Locks, BCN


A vernacular term for the Rushall Canal


The mixing of cargo and garbage which is an illegal practice


The first plank fastened on either side of a ship's keel

Garboard Strake

The row of planks next to the keel on a ship's bottom

Gas Boats

A narrowboat which carries gas liquor or tar in bulk

Gas Separator

A mechanism which eliminates water and solid contamination from fuel before it reaches the pump

Gas Two

Northchurch Locks Nos 51 & 52 on the GU main line


Rubbish, garbage which is put into a dustbin or similar receptacle

Gash Fanny

Vernacular used by the South African Navy for a dustbin

Gate Paddle

Paddles (openings) in a lock gate through which water can enter instead of through culverts in the ground


(1) The measuring of the depth to which a vessel sinks in the water

(2) Assessing the position of a ship with reference to another and the wind


A generic term for tools, tackle, apparatus, ropes etc


A large lightweight sail


A large triangular sail


To sail at a slow speed due to the apparent lack of wind

Gibe / Gybe

To swing from one side to the mast to the other (of a fore-and -aft sail)


A pole attached vertically to the mast which is used as a lever to raise the mast


A thin line used to tie down the top planks and attached to the cross beam

Give Way

To begin to row

Give Way Together

In larger rowing boats, the coxswain's command to begin to row

Give Way Vessel

The vessel that has to give way when meeting, crossing or overtaking other vessels


The vernacular term given to a barometer

Global Positioning System

A satellite based navigation system


Abbreviation for Greenwich Mean Time

Go About

To turn a vessel so that it takes the wind on the other side

Going About or Tacking

Changing direction to take advantage of a side-wind etc


A quadrilateral sail used by schooners in light air


A rubbernecker seen at locks, wharves etc


A bent iron fitted at the end of a yard or boom for various purposes


Abbreviation for gallons per hour (as in fuel consumption)

Grab Rails

Rails fitted to walls etc to enable personnel to steady themselves when moving around a vessel


Shot arranged in three tiers between plates so as to scatter when fired


An anchor with flukes for mooring boats


To scrape clean the bottom of a ship

Graving Piece

A strip or sliver of wood that is used to patch a board

Greasy Ockers

The slang term used for Fellows, Morton & Clayton boaters


(1) The fore-foot of a ship, the forward end of a keel.

(2) A series of ropes, deadeyes and hooks fastened to ringbolts in the deck for securing boats


A mixture of rum and cold water


Tipsy or drunk

Gross & Net Tonnage (gt and nt)

Net tonnage is the volume of cargo the vessel can carry which is calculated by taking the gross tonnage and deducting the volume of spaces that do not hold cargo (e.g., engine compartment, helm station, and crew spaces etc


(1) The sea bed

(2) To run a ship aground


Dues paid for the space occupied by a vessel on a beach or in port

Ground Paddle

Paddles at a lock through which water can enter via culverts in the ground instead of through a gate

Ground Tackle

The ropes and tackle connected with the anchors and mooring apparatus


Planted firmly on the ground


The situation of a ship whose bottom is touching the ground


Abbreviation for glass reinforced plastic


Abbreviation for the Grand Union Canal


Abbreviation for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Co


(1) The metal journal piece let into the end of a wooden shaft

(2) The eye or socket in which a rudder turns

Gudgeon or Tan Pin

The pin on the bottom of a lock gate's heel post which allows the gate to turn

Guillotine Gate

A lock gate which rises vertically


The gun count of a war ship


The porthole or opening on a ship's side from where a gun is fired

Gunter Rig

Very similar to a gaff rig

Gunwale / Gunnel

(1) The upper edge of a ship's side next to the bulwarks

(2) A strip forming the upper edge of a boat


A rope or chain used to steady a load in hoisting or to act as a stay


(1) To swing from one side of the mast to the other

(2) To take the wind on the other quarter of a vessel; to shift a sail in this way


Half Lock

A lock with a single gate located below the weir to make level

Half-breadth Plan

A diagram used in shipbuilding to show the elevation of the lines of a vessel

Half Mast

(1) The middle of or halfway up the mast.

(2) The position of a flag denoting respect for a person's death

Haling Way

Another name for a towpath


A rope or tackle for hoisting or lowering yards, sails or flags

Ham Radio

Amateur radio used for the non commercial exchange of messages


A swinging or suspended bed made or canvas and hung by hooks from a roof, ceiling, tree etc.


To furl

Hand Bomber

A vessel wit coal boilers which are stoked by hand

Hand over Fist

Climbing by passing the hands alternately one above the other

Hand Railing

Rails fitted to walls etc to enable personnel to steady themselves when moving around a vessel


Hauling a line with a slow steady motion


A means of operating lock paddles with a length of wood rather than the traditional rack and pinion gear system

Handy Billy

The name given to a block and tackle which has a tail on each end


One of the hoops or rings to which a fore-and-aft sail is bent


(1) A refuge or shelter for ships, a port or haven

(2) To come to anchor in a harbour

Harbor of Refuge

A harbour which provides shelter from bad weather


(1) A firm landing place or jetty.

(2) As hard as possible

Hard Chine

The intersection between a hull's side and its bottom

Harden Up

To turn and sail closer to the wind


A hard dry biscuit used as sustenance on a long journey


The safety device attached to a crew member to prevent them falling over board

Harness Cask / Tub

A large cask or tub with a rimmed lid containing the supply of salt for immediate use

Hatch / Hatchway

A hatchway or trap-door or the shutter that covers them. 2. To be confined below


A large steel coal barge

Haul Wind

To turn the head of a ship nearer to the point from which the wind blows


(1) That part of the bow where the hawse-holes are.

(2) The distance between a ship's head and the anchors by which she rides

(3) The situation of the cables when a ship is moored from the bows with two anchors

Hawse Pipe, Hawse-hole or Hawse

A hole in each bow for a cable or hawser to pass through


Maritime vernacular for an officer on a merchant ship who has risen through the ranks rather than attend a maritime institution for training


A cable used in warping and mooring


(1) The front part of a ship

(2) The toilet on a vessel

(3) The top corner of a triangular sail

Head Knocker

A block located on the boom with a jam cleat which controls the main sails on smaller boats

Head of Navigation

The furthest point from the mouth of the river which is still navigable for ships

Head Post

A vertical post in a lock construction which is farthest away from the lock gate hanging point

Head Sea

A heavy sea running directly against a ship's course


A board which stiffens the head of a sail


A change in wind direction causing the helmsman to steer away form the vessel's current course to a less advantageous one


A rod which is fitted over the forestay to help support it


The direction in which a vessel's bow is pointing


The distance between the water level and the highest point of a vessel which dictates the space it needs to pass a bridge, tunnel etc


Any of the foresails


The line running between the bow and the mast of a vessel


A vessels' forward movement


A contrary wind


(1) To throw something heavy.

(2) To hoist, as an anchor.

(3) The rise and fall of a vessel in motion

Heave Down

To careen

Heave Ho

A sailor's cry in hauling up the anchor

Heaving To

To bring the head of a ship to the wind and so stop her motion; to bring a ship to a standstill


To incline to one side; to make a vessel do this

Heel Post

The perpendicular post of a lock gate on which it hangs and thus turns


The inclination of a vessel brought about by the action of the force of the wind on the sails


The instrument, a wheel or tiller, by which a vessel is steered

Helmsman / Helmsperson

The person who steers a vessel

Helum or Elum

A butty boat's combined rudder and tiller


Abbreviation for High Frequency


(1) A weather system featuring a clockwise wind pattern

(2) Out of the water, aground

Highfield Lever

A tensioning lever used on backstays

Hiking Stick

An extension to the tiller so that the helmsman can sit further away from it


(1) To make fast by a hook, loop etc

(2) Various species of knot by which a rope is bent to a spar or to another rope

(3) A knot made by passing the end of a rope round itself and through the bend


A casual dock labourer


(1) To clean a ship's bottom under water by scraping.

(2) A scrub broom for cleaning a ship's bottom

(3) A member fitted over the keel to which garboard planks are affixed


The boy employed to lead the horse towing boats along the towpath

Hoist Sail

(1) The vertical height of a yard, sail or flag.

(2) To run up a sail or flag

Hoist Sail

To lift a sail


The interior cavity of a vessel in which the cargo is stowed

Hold Back

To turn astern in order to slow or stop a vessel

Hold In

To turn a boat on a canal towards the direction of the tow path

Hold Out

To turn a boat on a canal away rom the direction of a tow path

Holding Tank

A tank used for storing toilet waste which is then emptied at a pumping station


The time allowed after a coat of paint or preservative has been applied before another coat

Hollow Quoin

Where a lock gate's heel post fits enabling it to turn to open and close


A soft sandstone used for scrubbing the decks of vessels

Hood End

The plank end which abuts a boat's stem


(1) A warning signal

(2) In shipbuilding to square a vessel's frame with the line of the keel

Horn Timber

A structural part of the hull which supports the counter that slopes up and rearward from the keel


(1) An iron bar on which slides the sheet-block of a fore-and-aft sail.

(2) A foot-rope beneath a yard or bowsprit

Horse Boat

(1) A vessel drawn by horses

(2) A boat for transporting horses across water

Horse Marines

A Yorkshire term for horse haulage workers who towed keels on canals

Hotel Load

The capacity of electricity required to operate a ship

Houdini Hatch

The skylight in a cabin's roof used for ventilation and as an emergency exit


Wooden pieces attached to the mast on which the forestay, sidestays etc rest

House Lighter

A tem used in the fenlands for a lighter which has a cabin


The body of a ship

Hull Speed

The top practical speed of a displacement hulled ship


So far away that only the masts and sails are visible


A vessel designed with a hull fitted with shaped vanes or foils which lift the hull clear of the water at speed.


The condition when a person's body temperature drops below 35C which can be life threatening


A small port or haven


Ice Plates

Plates attached to a narrowboat's front and sides at the waterline which protect its hull from ice sheets


Persons not required to keep night watch


Abbreviation for the International Maritime Organisation

In Irons

Refers to a sailboat being unable to manoeuvre after its bow is headed into the wind

In the Offing

Visible from on board a vessel

In way of

Around and about


Within the sides or towards the middle of a ship

Inboard End

Of an anchor line, the end that is attached to the vessel

Inboard Motor

Having the engine mounted within the hull of a vessel


Having most of the engine inboard but with part of the drive system projecting from the stern

Inclined Plane

A wheeled apparatus for lifting boats between levels without using a lock

Inglefield Clip

A clip used to affix a flag to a halyard


The towpath side of a canal

Inside Turn

When the deepest water is on the towpath side of a canal

Inspection Port

A watertight cover or hatch which allows inspection of a hull's interior when removed

Intake Grate

The suction area on a PWC's bottom

International Waters

Any ocean or sea which falls outside of any national jurisdiction

Intracoastal Waterway

Connected waterways along coastlines enabling vessels to avoid putting to sea


An upside down brick arch found at the bottom of a lock or a tunnel


A gizmo which converts battery power to AC current

In-water Survey

A survey of the underwater sections of a ship carried out whilst it is in the water rather than in dry-dock

Ippey Cut

A name given to the Wilts & Berks Canal

Iron Topsail

The name given to a schooner's auxiliary motor

Iron Wind

The name sailors give to an inboard engine



A small flag; the Union Jack; a sailor

Jack Clough

Another name for a paddle

Jack Dusty

A vernacular term for a naval stores clerk

Jack Tar

A sailor, formerly one wearing a 'square rig' uniform


A block for raising and lowering the top-gallant mast


The cross tree at the top of the top-gallant mast

Jacklines or Jack Stays

Ribs or plates with holes, or a rod running through eye-bolts passing along the upper side of a yard to which the sail is bent


A flagstaff on the bowsprit cap for flying the jack


The spar employed to spread the foot of the gaff topsail

Jacob's Ladder

A rope ladder with wooden rounds


In a train of compartment boats, the first vessel is fitted with these false bows


A large triangular sail

Jet Thrust Nozzle

The nozzle through which water is forced to create propulsion on a PWC


Goods, cargo etc thrown overboard in order to lighten a ship in distress which is subsequently washed ashore


The casting of goods overboard to lighten a vessel in distress


A structure of stone or timber projecting into the water and serving as a pier or wharf


(1) A large triangular sail on a stay between the fore-topmast-head and bowsprit or jib boom.

(2) To shift a boom, yard or sail from one side of the vessel to the other


A moveable spar running out beyond the bowsprit


To alter course when sailing downwind so that the wind is on the opposite side


The instruction given to jibe

Jiffy Reefing

A very quick method of reefing by means of lines to reduce the area of a sail


(1) A small mast at the stem of a yawl, a small mizen-mast

(2) Small tackle used for holding on to the cable as it is heaved in

Joey Boat

A day boat


A notch which is cut in a boat's timbers into which a plank fits


The nickname for Royal Marines used by the Royal Navy

Josher Style Bow

A type of bow design named after Joshua Fellows which had a pointed nose and an S shaped sweep


The name given to vessels which belonged to Fellow, Morton & Clayton


A logbook or daily register of a ship's course and distance etc


The larger headsail

Jumper Stay

A short stay which runs from the top of the mast over a strut and then down the mast

Jury Rig

A temporary mast and sails to replace damaged rigging


A temporary mast erected in place of one carried away



A rake used to retrieve items from a canal bed, particularly coal


(1) A small portable anchor used in warping.

(2) To move a ship by a light cable attached to a kedge


The principal timber of a ship extending from bow to stern and supporting the whole structure

Keel Batten

A longitudinal timber along the top of the keel to which the garboard planking is fastened

Keel Cooled

A cooling system involving the use of a tank through which engine cooling water is passed


To punish by dragging under water on one side of the ship and up again on the other

Keelson / Kelson

A longitudinal piece placed along the floor timbers of a ship binding them to the keel

Keep Her Full

An order to sail into the wind


Pigs of iron used for permanent ballast laid over the kelson plates


Notching a channel with a saw to make a joint where another piece fits


A fore-and-aft rigged two masted vessel


A rudder that turns backwards and upwards when it meets an obstruction


A stone or small anchor used for mooring a fishing boat

King Plank

The centre plank of a deck which often has recessed sides to receive the ends of the curved deck planking

Kitchen Rudder

A type of cowling around a fixed propeller which enables manoeuvrability by allowing the drive to be directed forwards or sideways


In shipbuilding a piece of timber or metal cut or cast with an angle like that of the knee to connect beams


One of a pair of vertical posts supporting the bowsprit


The name given to an Anderton Co narrowboat


A light partly decked yacht or sailing boat


Describes the pushing of a sailboat into a horizontal position whereby the mast is parallel to the water


(1) The intertwining of a rope or cords so as to fasten one part to another part of the rope or object.

(2) A division of the log-line marked off by knots used as a unit for measuring speed.

(3) A nautical mile per hour

Knot Meter

A device which measures a vessel's speed through the water

Know the Ropes

To be familiar with all of the ropes, rigging etc of a ship

Knowledge Box

The head, as part of the human body


A term used for the stonework at a lock's entrance



(1) In shipbuilding, interlacing structures of timber, iron etc

(2) A line attaching a sail to a spar

Lacing Cuff

A material flap which lifelines are lead through


Apart from proper staircases on passenger ships, all steps and stairs on ship are called ladders

Lade Hole

A well in a narrowboat's floor to enable the pumping out of water


Wreckage or goods lying at the bottom of the sea usually marked by a buoy

Laid Up

To be put to one side, to be mothballed


Term used on the Great Lakes for a vessel which only sail the five Great Lakes

Land Lubber

One unused to the sea or ships

Land Water

The water in a river that has accumulated from running off the land

Land Wind

A wind blowing off the land


A short cord or line for seizing and lashing


A foresail which goes behind and overlaps the mast

Lapstrake Planking

A system of planking whereby they overlap each other and are pulled tight together with fasteners to make them watertight


The port or left side of a vessel to a person standing on the deck and facing the bow


Into the wind is signified with "by" whilst with the wind is signified with " large" so by and large refers on the whole


An alternative name for a weir


Space in a ship for stowing goods


A triangular sail inclined at an angle of about 45 degrees used principally in the Mediterranean

Lateral Canal

A canal that runs alongside a river and uses it as a water supply

Lateral Stability

A PWC's ability to remain upright rather than tilt sideways as it crosses a wake

Lateral System

Aids to navigation involving lines of buoys and beacons to indicate the sides of a channel etc


The angular distance of a place north or south of the equator


To sail against the wind


(1) The direction the strands of a rope are twisted.

(2) To lie

Lay Day

A delay in a voyage caused by equipment failure, bad weather etc

Lay Down

To delineate a ship's line and begin construction

Lazaret / Lazaretto

A store room for provisions

Lazy Jack

Lines attached from the topping lift to the boom which form a cradle for the mainsail to be lowered into


A plummet usually consisting of a lump of lead used for sounding


The direction in which a line leads


A nautical measurement equal to 3 nautical miles


The term used in the fenlands to refer to a drainage channel


The sheltered side

Lee Boards

A board let down on the lee-side of a flat bottomed vessel to prevent the vessel drifting to leeward

Lee Shore

(1) The shore under the lee of a vessel.

(2) The shore towards which the wind blows

Lee Side

The lee of a vessel

Lee Tide

A tide running in the same direction as the wind blows


The perpendicular ledge of a square sail; the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail

Leech Line

A line used to tighten the leech of a sail

Lee-oh or Hard-a-lee

The order given on a sailing boat to come about


The opposite direction to the wind


The drift of a vessel to leeward on her course


The course run by a vessel on one tack


The crew members are people employed responsible for legging a boat through a tunnel


When a tunnel had no towpath, boats would be propelled through it by two people pushing their feet against the tunnel's walls to gain momentum

Legging Boards

The boards attached to the sides of a boat on which the leggers lay

Length Water Line, lwl

Refers to the length of a vessel that touches the water


The person overseeing a certain stretch of a canal

Let Go

(1) To drop anchor

(2) To cease to hold a rope

Let Go and Haul

An order given when a vessel is in line with the wind

Let Off

A device which allows water to be drained from a canal to maintain water levels or to drain water out completely for the purpose of repairs and maintenance

Let the Cat Out of the Bag

Refers to bad news as is when the cat o' nine tails was taken from its bag in readiness for punishment to be applied

Letter of Marque and Reprisal

A commission to a private person to undertake reprisals against a foreign state or its subjects


When two bodies of water either side of a lock or weir become level

Lie Ahull

To allow a vessel to drift by taking down all its sails

Life Line

(1) A rope used for saving life.

(2) A rope used as an additional safeguard to steady passengers and personnel

Life Raft

An inflatable boat used in emergencies

Lifebelt, Lifejacket, Life Preserver or Mae West

Buoyancy devices for supporting a person in the water


A small boat at the stern of a vessel used to evacuate crew and passengers in the event of an emergency


(1) The rise of a ship on the waves

(2) The rise of a sail in the wind.

(3) A wind shift that enables a sailboat to shift to a more favourable course

Light Displacement Tonnage

The combined weight of a vessel's hull, equipment, machinery etc


A large open flat bottomed boat used in loading and unloading ships


A gutter on each side of the kelson for draining

Limber Holes

The holes that convey water to the limber


Any rope or cord used on a vessel

Line Astern

The line of battleships formed behind the flagship In naval warfare

Line Boat

A particular company's line in canal boats


One of a regular line of passenger ships

Lines Plan

A diagram of a vessel indicating the curves of the hull

Lintel or Galley Beam

Horizontal beam across the top of a lock gate's posts


The leaning over of a ship

Lloyd's Register of Shipping

An annual alphabetical list of shipping belonging to all nations, classified according to seaworthiness


The overall length of a vessel

Loaded to the Gunwales

With cargo loaded above the rail of a ship


An enclosure in a canal between gates for raising and lowering vessels y the introduction of liberation of water

Lock Chamber

The space between the upstream gate and the downstream gate of a lock

Lock Distance Post

The post which a boat had to pass first in order to use the lock first, usually placed 20 yards or so from the head or tail of the lock itself

Lock Passage

The time taken for a boat to pass through a lock

Lock Sill

A step on the lock gate side of an upstream lock

Lock Wheeler

A person who goes ahead, often on a bike, to prepare the lock for a boat's approach

Lock, To

To negotiate a lock with a boat


The side walls of a lock which can be vertical or sloped


Converting a scaled drawing to full size measurements


(1) To enter into a log-book

(2) A piece of line with a line attached used for ascertaining the rate of a ship's motion


(1) A post built into a whale boat for tuning a rope round and taking a heavy strain

(2) A round mass of iron with a long handle used to melt tar or to caulk a seam


Abbreviation for lift on-lift off, a type of container ship where a crane moves containers on and off

Long Boat

The term used on the River Severn for a narrowboat

Long Stay

Referring to the slackness or tautness of an anchor chain, long means taut


Angular distance of a place east or west of a given meridian usually that of Greenwich

Loobey, Looby or Luby

A swivel on the top of a mast which holds a tow rope


A device to extend a tiller when carrying a high load

Loose - Footed

Said of a main-sail which is attached to the boom at the clew and tack rather than long the length of its foot


A short range navigational system that employs shore transmitters


A weather system featuring an anticlockwise wind pattern

Lowest Water Level

The lowest level of a canal or waterway


A device which records a ship's voyages


Pertaining to oblique sailing

Lubber's Hole

A hole in the top through which sailors can reach the masthead without climbing the futtock-shrouds

Lubber's Line

The mark inside a compass case which shows the direction of a ship's head


(1) That part of a ship's bows where the timbers begin to curve in towards the stem.

(2) The weather edge of a fore-and-aft sail.

(3) The act of sailing close to the wind

Luff and Touch Her

Bringing the head of a ship nearer the wind so that the sails shake

Luff Up

Steering nearer the wind to ease the pressure


A small vessel with two or three masts, a running bowsprit


A four cornered sail bent to a yard lashed obliquely to the mast

Lumber Hooker

A ship on the Great Lakes carrying lumber and towing one or two barges similarly laden


A person who cuts down trees for a lumber company to send to the saw mill for building.


The device which allows the mast to pivot in order for a vessel to pass under a bridge

Lying Ahull

Letting a vessel drift without sails while waiting out a storm


Macerator Toilet

A storage box found in a boatman's cabin

Mae West

A lifejacket


Marsworth and Marsworth Locks No 7 on th GU main line

Magnetic Bearing

The absolute bearing achieved by using magnetic north

Magnetic North

Towards the North Magnetic Pole


A thermionic tube for generating very high frequency oscillations


A brace attached to the mainyard


The principle mast of a ship.


(1) A sail bent to the main-yard of a square rigged ship.

(1) The sail set on the after part of the mainmast of a fore-and-aft rigged vessel.


The rope that extends and fastens the mainsail


The stay from the main-top to the foot of the foremast

Make Fast

To secure by tying

Make Sail

(1) To set sail

(2) To set more sails

Making Way

Refers to a vessel being in motion under its own power


One who pretends illness in order to shirk duties

Man of War

A warship belonging to the navy

Man Overboard!

The exclamation made if a sailor falls overboard


A rope at the side of a gangway

Marconi Rig

An alternative name for a Bermuda rig


The boards between the sole and the ceiling


A harbour designed for yachts and small vessels

Marines, Horse

A Yorkshire term for horse haulage workers who towed keels on canals


A small two stranded line used for lashing etc

Marlin pike

A pointed iron pin for opening the strands of rope in splicing


A lower stay for the jib-boom or flying jib-boom


A long pole of timber or iron or steel tube placed upright in a ship to support the yards, sails etc

Mast (on a working narrowboat)

On a narrowboat, the mast is an extendable post to which a towrope is attached

Mast Beam

The cross member into which a mast is fitted


The top of the mast usually of the lower-mast as a place for a look-out

Mast Partner

Structure which is part of the deck and which acts as a mast's upper support working with the mast step, the lower support

Mast Step

The structure support which holds the base of a mast

Mast Stepping

The action of raising a mast


(1) The captain of a merchant vessel

(2) An officer who navigates a ship of war under the direction of the captain


A first-class petty officer acting as head of the shup's police

Masthead Rig

A rigging design where the forestay is attached to the peak of a mast


The term traditionally used for an ordinary rating in the Royal Navy


Abbreviation for Maritime & Coastguard Agency

Mechanical Advantage (or purchase)

The ratio of a machine's resistance to the force applied to it


A Mediterranean strong wind


The area where the crew eat together on board a vessel

Mess Deck Catering

A catering system whereby in addition to standard rations, crew members were given a monetary allowance with which to buy provisions from the purser's stores

Middle Beam

The slotted cross member located behind a mast to which a stand is affixed


The middle part of a ship or boat


Formerly an officer ranking between a cadet and a sub-lieutenant; a young officer under instruction


A very young or small midshipman

Midshipman's Hitch

A type of knot mainly used if the rope is greasy used as an alternative to a Blackwall hitch

Midshipman's Nuts

The term used to refer to dessert made of broken biscuits

Midshipman's Roll

An untidy way to roll up a hammock crosswise instead of lengthwise

Military Mast

The mast of warships in the 19th century which often held a fighting top from which light calibre arms could be fired


One thousandth of a bar equivalent to the pressure exerted by a column of mercury about 0.03 high in a barometer

Mitre Post

A vertical post in a lock construction which is farthest away from the lock gate hanging point

Mizen / Mizzen

A fore-and-aft sail set on the mizen-mast

Mizzen Staysail

A lightweight sail on a ketch, yawl or similar forward of the mizzen mast

Mizzenmast (or mizzen)

The aftermost mast of a three masted ship

Modified-v Hull

A type of hull design

Monkey Boat

Vernacular for a narrowboat usually used on the Grand Junction and London waterways possibly named after boatbuilder Thomas Monk

Monkey Deck

A false deck constructed over a permanent one to form a working platform, usually in the bow of larger vessels

Monkey Rail

A light rail running above the quarter rail

Monkey's Fist

(1) A type of knot that resembles a clenched paw.

(2) A ball made from woven lines to provide leverage when heaving lines


A vessel with only one hull


A vessel's topmost sail


To secure a vessel with chains, ropes, cable or anchor

Mooring / Moorage

The place where a vessel is moored and the anchors and chains by which a ship is moored

Mooring Buoy

A buoy which is fastened to a permanent anchor

Mooring Line

The line, chain or cable used to moor a ship

Moria Cut

A name used to refer to the Ashby Canal

Moshers Two

Daw End Locks, BCN

Motor Bracket

Where the engine is mounted on a vessel

Motor Shaft

The shaft running between the propeller and the motor head


The template of a hull's shape


To fasten a shackle etc with wire or rope to stop it coming undone

Mud Box

A vernacular term

Mud Heelers

The vernacular term for workers on the Oxford Canal


Hand dredging

Mushroom Vent

A ventilation aperture in the roof of a vessel which is shaped like a mushroom


Nags Head Three

Seabrook Locks Nos 34-36 on the GU main line

Narrow Boat

A 70ft by 7ft vessel used mainly on the Midland canal system

Narrow Canals

A narrow canal whose stoplocks are restricted to boats measuring less than 70 ft by 7 ft

Nautical Mile

A measurement of 6076 feet

Naval Archtiecture

The design of ships

Naval Programme

Now referred to as the Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy


To sail, to pass from place to place by water; to manage and conduct a ship

Navigation Channel

On a map of waterways, this is the zone indicated to be navigable and as such must remain so by being kept clear

Navigation Lamp

A narrowboat's oil or electric light fitted onto the cratch for nightwork or to negotiate tunnels

Navigation Rules

Rules, regulations and guidance regarding the movement of vessels

Navigation Weir

A single gated weir


No, a word expressing negative or refusal


Slapton Lock No 30 on the GU main line

Net Capacity

The cargo tonnage that a vessel loaded in salt water can carry up to its summer freeboard marks

Net Tonnage

This equates to the gross tonnage of a vessel with the space given over to accommodation, navigational equipment etc deducted from that number representing the tonnage available for passengers or cargo

Nibbed Scarf

A type of scarf joint with a small return at the ends to receive a fastener


A vernacular term used on the River Trent meaning a narrow place


(1) A slang term for captain

(2) A short rope

No Room to Swing a Cat

If the entire crew of a ship crowded on a deck to observe a flogging then the bosun would have insufficient room to swing the cat o'nine tails hence the expression


A vernacular term for a Newbold vessel working on the Oxford Canal


Any visual distress signal which does not rely on ignition, such as flag or hand signalling


A type of commercial narrowboat built by Yarwoods Ltd

Number One

Someone who owns a boat, usually restricted to those using the narrow canals


A buoy shaped like two cones united at the base



Old rope untwisted and pulled into loose fibres used for caulking seams, stopping leaks etc


A long pole with a flattened blade for rowing, sculling or steering a boat


A crotch, notch or other device on the gunwale of a ship serving as a fulcrum for an oar

Oil Rod

On a Bolinder engine, the method of speed control

Oilskins or Oilies

Outerwear made of cloth rendered waterproof by treatment with oil

Old Thirteen

Farmes Bridge Locks on the BCN

On Station

The destination of a ship

On the Hard

Refers to a vessel having been hauled onto dry land

Open Boats

A vessel without a cabin


A term used on the Great Lakes for a vessel carrying iron ore


The lowest deck of a vessel having three or more decks


Situated on or directed towards the outside of a ship

Outboard End

The end of the anchor line secured to the anchor

Outboard Motor

An engine and propeller mounted outside the boat


The lower part of the stern-drive


A type of line used to pull the mainsail towards the boom thereby tightening the foot of it


The spar which helps to secure the mast which extends fro the side of a ship

Outside and Outside Turn

The side of a canal opposite the towpath so the outside turn is where deep water is at that point of a canal

Outward Bound

Going away from home, leaving port

Over the Barrel

Refers to the time when boys on board where punished with the cat o'nine tails and had to bend over the barrel of a gun in order to receive the beating


To steal the wind from another vessel's sails by sailing directly downwind at it


Over the side of a vessel


A vessel having too much sail area with which to safely move in the prevailing wind conditions


A turbulent race or current with choppy waves caused by shoals


To realign sails or rigging


Overtaking or gaining upon another vessel


The ceiling of one deck which is formed by the floor of the deck above


The plate fitted over the hullplate on a steel vessel


To sweep over or through the waves


To hold a course for too long when tacking




Nautical slang for a captain


A type of cloud which is usually a precursor to a storm

Oxford River

A term used to refer to the Thames above Reading


Pacific High

The high pressure system of the East Pacific

Packet Boat

A vessel conveying mail, goods and passengers at regular intervals


(1) A broad short oar used without a rowlock.

(1) To propel by means of paddles.

(1) A small aperture used to control the flow of water at a lock.

Paddle Bar

This links a paddle to the operating mechanism


A bow-rope for fastening a vessel to a ring, stake etc


An instrument with which to measure the vibration of a vessel


The bulging in and out of the plating of a ship under the stress of heavy seas


A double sling usually made by passing two ends of a rope through a bight for hoisting or lowering a cask or gun


To confer with an enemy with peaceful intentions


A loop fastening a yard to its mast

Part Brass Rags

Meaning to fall out as friends derived from when sailors shared cleaning stuff


A journey, voyage or crossing and the cost of such


An aisle, a gangway, a means by which to pass through something


On a yacht, a retractable brow


A variation of patron referring to both the captain of a ship and the coxswain of a longboat


To use caulking or pitch to fill a seam

Pay Away

To let a rope run out by slackening it

Pay Out

To let a rope run out


The substance used to fill the gap between the planks forming a hull


An officer whose duty it is to pay the officers and men


The post in a cockpit to which the steering wheel is fixed at the desired height


The local Fenland name for a lock


A short rope hanging from the mast-head

Pennant / Pendant

A long narrow streamer borne at the mast-head of a ship of war


The line securing a boat to a mooring buoy

Peters Two

Marsworth Locks No 37 & 38 on the GU main line

Phonetic Alphabet

The alphabetic code used in radio communication


A structure projecting into the sea used as a landing stage, promenade etc

Pier-head Jump

The drafting of a sailor onto a warship immediately before she sails

Pigeon Box

A ventilator on a motor-boat situated above the hatch of the engine hole

Pike Pole

A multi purpose pole on a canal boat used to push off, retrieve and to lift ropes over other vessels


A heavy timber driven into the ground especially under water to form a foundation


The structure constructed with piles


A tidal creek derived from the Welsh for pool (pwll)


A steersman especially one qualified to conduct ships into or out of harbour or along particular coasts, channels etc


The cabin that protects the steering apparatus and steersman on the deck of s vessel


Steering a vessel by means of navigational reference points


Abbreviation for Points of Intended Movement


To steer a ship close hauled


(1) A man-of-war's boat with six or eight oars.

(2) A small schooner-rigged vessel provided with sweeps


The pin on which the rudder swings

Pipe (bos'n's), or A Bos'N's Call

A boatswain's whistle used to issue orders

Pipe Down

The signal given on the boatswain's whistle to indicate the end of the day when lights and smoking pipes were to be put out

Piping the Side

A salute given on a bosun's pipe, usually at the top of the gangway, to welcome and signal farewell to a ship's captain, its officer or visitors


A vessel's movement up and down


When a vessel capsizes bow over stern rather than rolling over sideways

Plan View

A diagram of a vessel shown from the top down


(1) Of a vessel, to skim across the surface of the water

(2) A vessel starts to plane when it changes from pushing the water at slower speeds to gliding over it at an increased speed

Plane Sailing

The art of determining a ship's position on the supposition that she is moving on a plane


Moving across the top of the water as opposed to through it

Planing Hull

A hull which is shaped for speed being easily able to glide through the water

Planing Speed

When an accelerating hull rises onto the surface of the water, this is its planing speed calculated by the square root of the waterline length multiplied by two


A long piece of sawn timber used to cover the framework of a hull

Plank Staunch

A type of East Anglian staunch


The wooden boards that form the framework of a hull

Plotting Room

Transmitting station

Point Up

To alter the course of a vessel so that it is more upwind

Pointing Doors

A local Fenland name for mitred lock gates


A flat bottomed boat supported by a floating bridge


Local name for a canal pound in the North of England


Horton Lock No 31 on the GU main line


The stern of a ship.

Poop Deck

A deck over the after part of the spar-deck


(1) Of waves, having broken heavily over the poop.

(2) Having taken a wave heavily over the stern

Port / Port Side

The left hand side of a ship as one looks forward indicated by a red light in the dark

Port Claytons

A type of narrowboat used between Ellesmere Port and the Black Country for the conveyance of oil

Port Tack

A vessel sailing with the wind coming from its port side


(1) An opening or porthole.

(2) A break in a line of water-communication, i.e. a weir or lock, over which boats have to be carried


An aperture in a ship's side for light, air etc formerly for discharging guns through


The socket which receives the gudgeon at the bottom of a lock


The distance between two locks on a canal

Pound Lock

The standard type of lock on inland waterways

Powder Magazine

A storing place for gunpowder in the hull of a vessel


A flat bottomed barge or lighter

Pram Canopy

A canopy on a narrowboat which protects the steersman from the weather. It can be easily put up or down

Press Gang

A detachment of men employed to impress men into the navy

Pressure Gauge

A device for measuring and indicating air pressure

Preventer (gybe preventer, jibe preventer)

A sail control line attached from the boom to a point on a vessel's deck or rail


The percentage of the freight paid to the owner for a ship for care in loading and unloading

Principal Warfare Officer

Abbreviation for Principle Warfare Officer


An armed ship owned and officered by private persons commissioned by Governments by letters of marque to engage in war against a hostile nation especially to capture merchant shipping

Priveledged Vessel

The vessel which has right of way according to the Navigation Rules


A propeller attached by a drive shaft to the engine


A rotating device with blades which propels a vessel through the water

Propeller (Fixed)

A propeller driven by an inboard motor and mounted on a fixed shaft which projects from the hull of a vessel

Propeller (Folding)

A propeller whose blades fold when not in use

Propeller Walk or Prop Walk

Refers to the movement made due to the tendency of the propeller pushing the stern sideways

Propulsion System

A system of power generation whereby water is sucked in and then propelled out


Supplies of food, sustenance etc


The fore part of a vessel, the bow


A pad of rope used as a fender


An elevated enclosed stand on deck at the bow or stern providing a safety rail and a structure to which lines can be attached

Pumpout Toilet

A toilet facility whose waste flushes into a holding tank which is then pumped out


The term used for a 9 hp Bolinder engine


Advantage gained by the application of any mechanical power or leverage


An officer on board ship in charge of provisions, clothing, pay and general business


A pulpit on the stern of a vessel


A vernacular term for the purser of a vessel

Put the Helm Up

Refers to the movement of the tiller to the windward direction



A local word for a pole or shaft in Norfolk


Tidal changes on the River Severn


The sides of a boat behind amidships


Appointed stations of a crew at exercise or in action

Quarter Bits

Ropes attached from the fore end of the jambing pole of one fen lighter to the quarters of the fen lighter in front


The upper deck extending from the stern to the main mast usually assigned for the use of officers and cabin passengers


Sailing almost before the wind

Quartering Sea

A sea conditions that causes water to enter a vessel's quarter


A position of ships such that the bow of one is abaft the beam of the one in front


The part of a quay to which a vessel is moored


Boggy places alongside a canal

Queen Topsail

A small stay sail between the foremast and mainmast

Queen's (king's) Regulations

The rules governing the British Navy



A groove or slot along the edge of a board which allows it to receive the edge of another piece cut to fit

Rabbet or Rebat

A groove cut in wood to form part of a joint.


Radio detection and ranging - the employment of reflected or retransmitted radio waves to locate the presence of objects and to determine their angular position and range

Radar Reflector

A device either fitted to a vessel or built in to its navigational aid which helps to reflect radar energy

Railway Basins

Basins built specifically for the transfer of goods between railways and canal vessels

Railway Boats or Station Boats

Narrowboats employed by railway companies to transport goods between railway basins


(1) The projection of the stem or stern of a vessel beyond the extremities of the keel.

(2) The slope of a mast or funnel towards the stern


The spikes holding planks together side by side

Ram's Head

The rudder post of a butty boat traditionally decorated with ropework

Range Lights

Two lights which usually indicate the centreline of a channel


A sudden descent in a river with a swift current which is unsafe for boats


Small ropes extended across the shrouds on each side of a mast forming steps or rungs


Abbreviation for Recreational Craft Directive


Refers to the point of a sail as in close reaching (60 to 80 degrees), beam reaching (around 90 degrees) and broad reaching (120 to 160 degrees)

Ready About

The phrase used just prior to tacking


Any apparatus for receiving messages

Receiver of Wreck

The Government's official who administers the law dealing with wreck and salvage and who is responsible for processing incoming reports of wreck and ensures that the interests of both salvor and owner are taken into consideration

Red Duster

Vernacular for the Red Ensign

Red Ticket

Vessels carrying urgent cargoes are issues this ticket in order to allow them to pass through closed locks

Reduced Cat

A less vicious version of a cat o' nine tails used on ship's boys

Reed Rond

The local name for a reed bank in Norfolk


(1) One of the horizontal portions across the top of a square sail or the bottom of a fore-and-aft sail which can be rolled up or wrapped and secured in order to shorten sail.

(2) To reduce the extent of a sail by taking in a reef or reefs 3. To take in a part of a bowsprit , top-mast etc


Pieces of canvas stitched on to sails to provide reinforcement


(1) One who reefs.

(2) A reefing jacket.

(3) Slang term for a midshipman

Reefing Jacket

A stout close fitting double breasted jacket

Reef Knot

A square or symmetrical double knot

Reef Line

A small rope passing through eyelet holes for reefing a sail


A row of lines on a sail that are tied to the boom to reduce the area of the sail during heavy weather


The ropes used in reefing action


(1) To pass the end of a rope through a ring, a hole in a block etc.

(2) To fasten a rope round some object by this means

Remote Greaser

A cylinder near the stern tube which serves as a reservoir by which the stern gland is greased

Reverse Layout

The particular layout of a vessel which features the bedroom at the front and the galley and living accommodation to the rear


(1) A curved timber extending from the keel for supporting the side of a ship

(2) Abbreviation for a rigid inflatable boat


In shipbuilding terms, a strip, scantling or spar temporarily attached to the body of a ship to hold the ribs in position

Ribbon Plates

Decorative plates with pierced edging used to embellish a boatman's cabin


(1) A type of boat built by the Walker Brothers of Rickmansworth

(2) Vernacular term for Rickmansworth on the GU


The system of tackle, ropes etc supporting the masts and controlling the sails of a ship

Righting Couple

The natural force that restores a vessel's equilibrium by altering the relationship between its centre of gravity and its centre of buoyancy


A circle or ring above a port-hole


On Thames weirs, the posts that hold the removable paddles

Ring Hole Deep

A vessel whose gunwales are awash because it is so heavily laden

Rip Rap

A foundation of loose stones as in deep water or on a soft bottom on which an offshore lighthouse may stand


To see a ship rise above the horizon


A strip of wood attached to the framework of a boat to form a shelf which supports the sheets, seats and thwarts


Staircase locks

River Class Boat

(1) BWA narrowboats also called Blue Tops

(2) A type of tanker boat which were named after rivers and belonged to Thomas Clayton

Ro / Ro Ship

Abbreviation for roll on/roll off in regard to ferries and freighters where vehicles drive on and off through a large opening on the bow or stern


(1) The upward curve in the foot of a square sail

(2) To cut a sail with a roachl


(1) Used to refer to a certain canal route

(2) The way ahead as regards the lock system


A length of yarn used to attach a sail to a spar


A keel's upward curve towards the bow and stern


Vernacular term for a cutting


The line or chain attached to an anchor


Fenland vernacular for the cutting or reeds and rushes in a river

Rodney Boat

A narrowboat that has been neglected showing unpolished brass, damaged paintwork and general dereliction


Vernacular term for the engine controls as fitted to Bolinder engines


The extent a vessel turns back and forth on its longitudinal axis

Roller Reefing

Rolling a sail around a mast, boom or stay in order to reduce its size


A system of pulleys used especially in rough seas to keep th yard on the weather-side of the mast


A river bank in Norfolk


A stout cord of twisted fibres of hemp, flax, cotton etc

Rope's End

A fairly final instrument of punishment


The beak or prow of a war-galley


A labourer traditionally on river steamers and wharves.


A type of copper washer used on the end of a copper nail in riveting

Roving Bridge or Turnover Bridge

When a towpath changes sides along a canal, this is the bridge horses or pedestrians use to cross over the canal to join the towpath on the other side


A crotch, notch or other device on the gunwale of a ship serving as a fulcrum for an oar


A royal mast or sail next above the topgallant

Royalty Class Boats

Six vessels named after royalty belonging to the 1930s GUCC fleet

Rubbing Strake / Rub-rail

An additional plank on the outside of a hull which protects the topsides


The flat wooden or metal framework hinged to the stern-post of a vessel and serving as a means of steering

Rudder Nib

An extension to a rudder of a narrowboat above the waterline


The apparatus that connects the rudder vane to the steering mechanism

Rudderstock Tube

The tube containing the rudderstock that passes through the hull

Rummage Sale

A sale where damaged cargo can be bought


When a rope or line runs freely

Runcorn Boat

Type of narrowboat operating on the Bridgwater Canal

Running Aground

Hitting shallow ground and becoming stuck on it

Running Backstay

A stay supporting the mast from behind

Running before the Wind or Running

Sailing away fro the wind at roughly 160 degrees

Running Blocks

The blocks employed to guide a tow rope

Running Gear

The parts of a motorboat required for its operation- propellers, shafts etc

Running Lights

When a vessel is underway between the hours of sun up and sun down, these lights must be displayed

Running Rigging

That part of the rigging which is adjustable


Sacrificial Chine

The extended bottom plate of a narrowboat which protects the chine

Safe Harbour / Haven

A harbour which provides shelter from bad weather or safety from enemy attack


(1) Drifting to leeward.

(2) Drifting sideways

(3) The condition when the trough of a wave is amidships


A piece of canvas or other fabric spread on rigging to catch the wind and cause a vessel to move in the water

Sailing Rig

All the equipment and fittings required to sail a boat


Diagrams illustrating sail combinations for use in various given situations


A large cabin for passengers on board


Great Lakes vernacular term for an ocean going vessel

Sampson Post

A mooring post


The conversion into a soap by combination with an alkali, the result of which can damage paintwork

Satelite Navigation / Satnav

A system of computers and satellites used in position finding and navigation


Boxmoor Top Lock No 6 on the GU main line


To make a sail on a gaff rig immediately ready for use


A set of fixed dimensions in shipbuilding


A tapered joint connecting two boards which retains almost the same strength as a single board


(1) To pitch or plunge deeply into the trough of the sea

(2) The gap between a vessel's bottom and the waterbed


A vessel with two or more masts with fore-and-aft rigging


A wooden shovel used to bail water out of the hold of a narrowboat


The length of cable at which a vessel rides its anchor


(1) A swift deep current; a rapid.

(2) A mudbank caused by flow of water


The clearing out of a waterway or canal


A large flat bottomed square ended boat


Another name for a vessel's propeller


Loose, vapoury clouds driven swiftly by the wind


Running fast before a gale with little or no sail spread


(1) One of a pair of short oars used by one person to propel a boat.

(2) To propel a boat with oars


The forward propulsion of sailboat with transom mounted rudders effected by a side to side tiller movement


(1) To paint something with a grain so that it resembles wood

(2) To prepare for repainting


Holes or tubes through a ship's side to carry off water from the deck


A hole with a moveable lid or hatch in a wall or roof or the deck or side of a ship


A cask of drinking water usually with a hole for dipping through kept on deck


Cutting holes through the sides or bottom of a ship; sinking a ship by means of such holes

Sea Anchor

A stabiliser which acts as a brake in heavy weather keeping the hull in line with the wind

Sea Chest

A watertight chest on the hull of a vessel into which sea water enters which can then be piped on board and used for firefighting, ballast and engine cooling

Sea Room

Room to handle a ship without danger of running ashore or of collision

Sea Trials

Trials conducted during the boat building process which enable the owners to check that the boat is up to spec


Otherwise known as sailing wellies, a waterproof boot


A valve through which the sea can be admitted into the hull


A sailor especially one below the rank of officer


Everything involved in handling a vessel at sea

Seat Locker

The locker beneath the seat of a cockpit


In a fit state to go to sea


To make fast

Seizing Chain

The method by which fen lighters are attached to each other stem to stem when in a chain

Self-bailing Cockpit

A cockpit equipped with self bailers making it watertight


A sail that adjusts itself when a vessel is tacking


Vernacular term for a vessel of the Great Lakes

Self Bailer

A mechanism by which any accumulated water can be released without allowing any water to enter the vessel

Semi-displacement Hull

A design of hull which allows a vessel to operate economically at low speeds


A style of narrowboat

Sennet Whip

An instrument for punishment made from braided cordage


(1) To hoist, to spread a sail

(2) The direction of the current

Severn Tanker

Steel barges that formerly operated from Stourport, Worcester and Gloucester until the mid 1960s

Severn Trow

A type of vessel formerly used in the Severn Estuary


A narrowboat manufactured by the Severn & Canal Carrying Co


An instrument used in navigation and surveying for measuring angular distances


A coupling link shaped like a U

Shalf Alley

The area housing a ship's propulsion shaft from the engine room to the stuffing box


A long pole of punt


Similar to legging, shafting involves the use of a long pole to propel a boat through a tunnel.


When barrels are broken into pieces to save space, those pieces are referred to as shakes

Shear Pin

A safety pin which breaks if the propeller hits something hard


The planks that line the inside of a vessel


(1) The upward curvature of vessel towards the bow and stern.

(2) The position of a ship riding at a single anchor

Sheer Clamp

A long piece of wood that runs along the sheer line on the inside of a boat

Sheer Plan

A drawing which illustrates the elevation of a ship's steer used in shipbuilding

Sheer Strake

The topmost plank on the sides of a hull


The line along the top edge of a hull running fore and aft


A rope attached to the clew of a sail for moving or extending it

Sheet Bend

A type of knot used to join two ropes

Shift Colors

To change the flags and pennants displayed by a ship according to whether she is moored or putting to sea

Shift Tides

With the use of a sextant, sight the sun and moon positions to determine, with aid of a nautical almanac, their effect on the tide


A large sea going vessel

Ship's Log

The record kept by a Captain of all relevant information regarding the ship's travels

Ship's Stability

A ship's seaworthiness particularly with regard to her ability to stay upright

Ship's Bell

The bell used to indicate the passage of time particularly in regard to watch periods

Ship's Company

The entire crew of a vessel


(1) A shallow of little depth (less than 16 fathoms.

(2) A shallow submerged sandbank

Shoal Draught

A vessel with a shallow or shoal draught enables it to sail in very shallow water


A cable connecting electricity supply from the shore side

Short Stay

An anchor chain which relatively slack

Short Ton

A measurement referring to 2000 pounds

Shroppie Fly

A type of narrowboat used on the Shropshire Union Canal which was towed by two galloping horses


Ropes extending from the lower mast-heads to the sides of the ship, serving to steady the mast

Shutts or Shoots

The false floors of the hold of a narrowboat

Sick Bay

The area where the sick receive attention

Side Cloths

Stout covers on the sides of a barge used to protect the cargo

Side Lock

A lock which links two parallel waterways running side by side

Side Ponds

Used as a water saving device, these reservoirs took water to and from a lock


The coloured lights used by a ship at night located on its side

Sill or Cill

The brickwork beneath the metalwork of lock gates

Single Lever Control

A lever which controls both steering and throttle speed


An apparatus for producing a loud sound by means of a rotating perforated disk through which compressed air is emitted


A knee uniting the stern-post and keel of a boat

Skin Tank

A steel tank inside the hull through which coolant passes


A vessel's captain


A light sail set above the royal in a square rigged ship


A triangular skysail

Slab Reefing

A type of reefing that reduces the mainsail area by partially lowering it and reattaching the new foot to the boom with light lines


Not drawn tight, loose

Slack Boards

Planks placed on the side of a vessel to prevent the cargo of slack or coal from falling into the water

Slacker or Slat

A small aperture which is used to control the flow of water through a lock


A hatch cover which opens by sliding found on top of a stern cabin


A slip for the repair or laying up of vessels


A fore and aft rigged vessel with one mast


Ready made clothing and bedding etc sold cheap to sailors

Slop Chest

The store of clothing, bedding and other goods offered for sale to the crew


The degree of inclination of the fall of a river as expressed in feet and inches per mile

Slope Holes

The marks on each side of the course of a canal roughly two to three chains' distance apart and made by grooves in the ground

Slub or Slutch

Dredged mud


The term used in the Fenlands for a lock


(1) A greasy substance, made from boiling up the fat left in meat storage barrels, used to grease the running rigging parts

(2) Royal Navy cooks used to sell the slush

Slush Fund

The amount of money made by the ship's cook from selling slush

Small Bower (anchor)

One of two anchors carried in the bow

Small Commercial Vessel Codes of Practice

The code of conduct governing vessels with under 24 meters load line which sail at sea and are not pleasure boats

Small Craft Warning

A weather warning given when winds of 40 to 60 km an hour are forecast or if there is more than a 50% risk of thunderstorms


A rope of short length used for towing

Sniff Test

Using the sense of smell to detect fumes


Vernacular term for a midshipman


A brig rigged vessel with supplementary mast just abaft the mainmast carrying a trysail


The lengthy ropes used when towing a butty

Snubbing Post

A term for a strapping post used on the Chester Canal

Soap Holes

Storage slots in the bulkhead of a cabin

Soar Pin

A shouldered pin attached to the top of the cabin to which tow ropes are attached


Abbreviation for Speed over Ground

Solar Panel

A panel which converts sunlight into electricity


Abbreviation for Safety of Life At Sea Convention


The floor or bottom of a space or area

Son of a Gun

Refers to a child who was the product of a tryst between a sailor and his wife or a prostitute in the space between the guns


A detection systems using sound pulses


A sluice or floodgate


A water channel used for draining


The act of measuring the depth of water


(1) A wind from the south west.

(2) A waterproof hat with a wide brim hanging down behind


A fore and aft sail set by two spars on the after-side of the mizen -mast


On a fore and aft vessel, the aft most mast

Spar / Spar Poles

A round timber pole used as a mast, yard, boom, shears etc

Speaking Tube

A communication tube

Spider Band / Spider Hoop

A band around the bottom of the mast which holds iron belaying pins


Copying the shape of a plank exactly onto a thinner piece of wood in order to make an accurate replacement plank


Fine spray blown up from the surface of the water


The core structure of a vessel


A large jib shaped sail carried opposite the mainsail on the mainmast of a racing yacht

Spinnaker Pole

The spar which controls the spinnaker


A spar which supports the spritsail


The inside planking between the top of the water-ways and the port-sills


A guard formed by a raised portion of the hull which protects the cockpit from water


To unite two ropes by interweaving the strands of the ends

Splice the Mainbrace

To serve an extra rum ration


A projection from the sides of a vessel for a gun on a warship or to support a bearing etc

Spotting Top

The platform on a mast formerly used to assist with the positioning of weapons


A pole or shaft in Fenland vernacular


The spar on a sailing vessel which is used to deflect the shrouds

Spring Line

A rope that stops a vessel from moving forward


A pole or shaft in Fenland vernacular


A sail which is extended by a sprit

Spurling Line

A line from the steering wheel to the telltale in the cabin

Spurling Pipe

The pipe connecting to the chain locker through which the anchor chain appears on to the deck of a ship's bow


A sudden violent gust or succession of gusts of wind often accompanied by rain, hail, snow etc

Square Knot

A type of knot, also called a reef knot

Square Meal

An ample serving of food

Squared Away

With the yards of a vessel held to the masts at right angles to the plane of the keel


What happens when forward power is engaged and a vessel's stern sinks lower into the water

Squat Effect

When a fast moving vessel in shallow water lowers the pressure under its keel which reduces its buoyancy causing it to squat in the water

Staircase Locks

Locks forming a staircase with no intermediate pounds

Staith or Staithe

A landing stage or wharf more specifically one laid with rails from which coal wagons discharge loads onto vessels


A term used for mooring in the Fenlands

Stakie Barge

A type of swim headed barge seen on the Thames prior to the 1920s


A vertical post on the edge of a deck that supports the lifelines

Stand-on Vessel

The vessel which assumes the right of way over another at a meeting, crossing or when overtaking

Standed Boat

A vessel which is left unattended during loading and unloading

Standing Part

The section of a line which is made secure rather than the bight or the end

Standed Rigging

The fixed ropes and chains by which the masts etc are secured


To keep on the same course

Stand-on (vessel)

The vessel which has right of way according to the Navigation Rules


The uprights on a narrowboat which support the top planks and side cloths


A temporary dam put in place to drain a section of a waterway to carry out repairs and maintenance

Star Class

The GUCCC vessels which were named after stars

Starboard or Starboard Side

The right hand side of a vessel looking forward

Starboard Tack

A vessel sailing with the wind at the starboard side


Those who are on starboard watch


An instrument of punishment


A type of cigar shaped boat used in underground colliery operations at Worsley

Station Boats or Railway Boats

Narrowboats employed by railway companies to transport goods between railway basins

Statute Mile

A nautical measurement equal to 5280 feet

Staunch or Stanch

A type of weir with a single gate allowing navigation. Also referred to as a navigation lock


(1) A rope supporting a mast or spar

(2) Rigging running from a mast to the hull


A sail extended by a stay

Steam Shovel

Machinery akin to a modern day backhoe.

Steering Flat

The area of a vessel housing the steering gear

Steering Oar or Steering Board

The oar at the stern used to steer vessels

Steering Pole

(1) A light spar running from the bow of a straight deck vessel which helps the wheelsman steer

(2) In a gang of fen lighters, the pole by which the man on the first lighter steers all the vessels behind


The helmsman


(1) A spar or derrick for stowing cargo

(2) To have a certain angle of elevation (of a bowsprit)


In shipbuilding, the upright piece of timber or iron at the fore end of a vessel to which the sides are joined

Stem Post

A vessel's forepost which forms the apex of its bows


The description of a vessel that has run aground on a mudbank


A curved timber behind a vessel's apron

Step the Mast

To make the mast ready for rigging


The hind part of a vessel

Stern Chaser

A gun mounted at the stern used for attack or defence

Stern Gear

All of the propulsion equipment behind the gearbox, i.e. shafts, shaft couples and tubes, glands and propellers

Stern Gland

The opening where the drive shaft connects to the propeller

Stern Line

A docking line attached to the stern of a vessel

Stern Stud

A tee shaped stud on the stern of a barge or butty

Stern Tube

A tube in the hull where the propeller shaft passes through


A propeller driven system with an engine located inside the hull


Refers to the propeller, propeller shaft, stern tube etc


A timber or iron post forming the central upright of the stern and usually carrying the rudder


The area at the stern of a vessel which houses seating called stern benches


The movement of a vessel backwards


One whose occupation is to load and unload ships


Extra support on a narrowboat for the top planks


The compartment where furnaces are tended


An instrument of punishment

Stop Gates

Used to dam a canal for repairs and maintenance, similar to lock gates

Stop Grooves

The place where stop planks are fitted in order to dam a canal for repairs and maintenance

Stop Lock

A lock which demarcates the water supply of one canal company from another

Stop Planks

If a canal has a leak or is in need of repair, it can be dammed with these wooden boards which are inserted into the stop grooves

Stop Water

A wooden dowel inserted into a hole in the rabbet which swells when wet thus stopping water entering the hull


Refers to a waterway being temporarily closed for repairs and maintenance

Stopper Knot

A rope, plus, clamp etc for checking the motion of a rope or cable


A type of railway narrowboat which ran between Wolverhampton and Stourport

Stove or Stove In

To break a hole in (a boat, cask etc)


To store an object in is designated place


The way in which cargo is loaded, unloaded and stowed which maintains the stability of a vessel

Stowage Factor

The cubic space of a vessel


One who conceals himself on a vessel in order to get a free passage


The planking running along the hull of a wooden boat from bow to stern


The rope attached to a vessel which is wound round a bollard in order to stop the ship

Strapping Post

The post at the side of a lock or its gate which holds the strap of a boat when it enters the lock


(1) A cross piece in a boat for a rower to press his feet against.

(2) The crossbar where a rope is attached for horse towing


In order to make a vessel longer, it is bisected and a completely new section is inserted


Thames vernacular for a galley beam


A long horizontal member in the structural framework running fore and aft


The thin rope securing the sides and top cloths of a working boat


The aftermost oarsman in a boat who sets the time of the stroke for the rest since they can all see him

Strong Wind Warning

A warning given when winds of over 25mph are forecast


(1) A solid support employed when attaching moulds during the boat building process

(2) The part of Beetle Car boat connecting the yoke to the centreboard

Stroudwater Barges

Vessels which were used on the Stroudwater Canal and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal


Wooden stays that support a narrowboat's top planks and covering


A cleat to which mooring ropes are attached at the front or rear of a narrowboat

Studding - Sails (pronounced 'stunsail')

An additional sail set beyond the leech of a square sail in light winds

Stumpy Barge

A type of Thames barge of the early nineteenth century


An officer who superintends business affairs


Any structure on or above a vessel's main deck excluding the masts and rigging


(1) The motion of a vessel in the fore and aft directions.

(2) A large wave


The vernacular term used in the Fenlands for a guillotine lock gate

Suttons Stop

The point at which the Oxford Canal and the Coventry Canal join, also known as Hawkesbury Junction


A support that works in the same way as a chain plate


To cause a boat to be filled with or sink in water

Swans Neck

A steel bar shaped like a S attached to a rudder post to which the tiller bar is fitted


(1) The side to side motion of a vessel

(2) To haul or hoist

Sweat and Tail

To haul a halyard in order to raise a sail or spar (sweat) and to secure the running end of the halyard (tail)


A long oar used to propel barges or sailing vessels in a calm

Sweeps Two

Berkhampstead Locks Nos 54 and 55 on the GU main line


Taking up the slack on a dockline, anchor line or halyard with a single turn around a cleat


(1) To float a ship

(1) The shape of a vessel's hull which dictates how good the flow of water around it is when in motion

Swim, To

A vessel which responses to the helm quickly is said to swim well


A type of vessel with a flat square end which overhangs the water at 45 degrees, i.e. the end is seen to swim

Swinging the Compass

Checking the accuracy of a magnetic compass so that it can be adjusted if necessary sometimes carried out by turning a vessel around to take bearings from fixed reference points

Swinging the Lead

(1) To measure the depth of water using a line weighted with lead.

(2) To make up an excuse for evading work


A type of towing stretcher



A socket or hinged post for unstepping the mast on a riverboat


An instrument for indicating the speed of rotation of a revolving shaft


(1) A rope by which the forward lower corner of certain sails is fastened

(2) The part of a sail to which such rope if fastened.

(3) The course of s ship as determined by the position of her sails.

Tack String

An additional line attached to the towline of a horse boat


Changing direction to take advantage of a side-wind etc

Tacking Duels

The upwind leg of a sailboat race where boats fight for the aerodynamic advantage


(1) Apparatus of ropes, pulleys etc for lifting, hoisting or working spars and sails; a windlass or winch.

(2) Boatmen's term for a boat horse's harness etc


The rail around a ship's stern


The area beneath the bottom gates of a lock


A shaft which holds the propeller and connects to the engine

Taken Aback

When a helmsman is taken unawares and the wind is allowed to blow backwards into the sails which causes a sudden shift in their position which could be dangerous

Taking the Wind Out of his Sails

When sailing, to take the wind from another ship


Stoke Hammond Lock No 23 on the GU main line


To put a sheet, sail etc aft

Tan Pin or Gudgeon

The metal journal-piece at the end of a wooden shaft, i.e. one fitted on the post of a lock gate allows it to turn


(1) A metal fitting by which to attach rigging to a spar or hull

(2) A type of seaweed


A rope used in the application of punishment

Tell-tale (sometimes tell-tail)

An index in front of the wheel or in the cabin to show the position of the tiller

Temperance House

A hotel or other establishment which does not supply alcohol


A dinghy or other small craft usually attending a larger vessel to supply provisions etc

Terminal Building

The building at a port which houses the ticket office through which passengers and freight pass

Thames Sailing Barge

As well being used on the Thames & Medway trading with ports on the East coast, this sailing barge had the ability to cross the North Sea

Thames Wherry

A vessel popular before WWW1 which was pointed at either one or both ends

The Doldrums or Equatorial Calms

Part of the ocean near the equator between the regions of the trade-winds where calms and variable winds prevail

The Ropes

General term for the rigging of a vessel


Refers to a waterway which has a lot of locks close together


A pin in the gunwale of a boat serving as a fulcrum for the oar

Three Sheets to the Wind

Refers to a three masted ship whose sheets on the lower three courses are loose meaning that the vessel drifts downwind


The control which governs the speed of an engine


A transverse plank in a boat serving as a seat for a rower


Across the vessel


The alternate rise and fall of the sea

Tide Lock

A lock located between fresh water and tidal water

Tight Seamed Planking

Very tight fitting plank to planking which can resist water without caulking


The lever on the head of a rudder by which this is turned

Tiller Arm

A lever by which to control an outboard motor's steer and throttle

Tiller Bar (or extension)

Provides extra leverage on the tiller of a motor boat


One of the curved pieces forming the ribs of a ship


(1) A timber rising above the deck for belaying ropes.

(2) On certain types of regional narrowboats, a wooden bollard


A rope or spar stretched across a space to prevent fouling of rigging


A helmsman or one on lookout who directs a helmsman


A thin patch affixed as a temporary measure


A fender to the stern

To go Astern

To engage a vessel into reverse as a means to stop it


An embankment's bottom

Toe Rail

The rail around a deck edge which crew use to brace themselves in order to keep their footing

Toe the Line or Toe the Mark

To stand in line on parade, originally referring for the need for sailors to place their toes in line with a deck's seam


A rope used in the application of punishment


Tolls on canals are calculated based on the distance travelled

Tom Pudding

Boats formerly used on the Aire & Calder Navigation which were joined into a train and pushed or pulled by a tug


A stopper for the mouth of a gun. Also called a tampion

Top Bend

The top planks on a wooden narrowboat constructed curved in two directions

Top Planks

The planks forming the gangway in the hold or cargo space of a narrowboat

Top Strake

The upper part of the hull on a narrowboat


The mast, rigging and sail next above the topmast


The mast next above the lower mast

Topgping Lift

When a boat is moored or anchored, the line used to support the boom


A square sail next above the lowest sail on a mast; the fore-and-aft sail above the gaff

Touch and Go

(1) Refers to the bottom of a vessel touching the bottom without grounding.

(2) When a vessel stops at a dock for crew or cargo but does not tie up


To pull through the water by ropes, lines etc

Towing Post

On a boat or barge, the mast used for the purpose of towing

Towing Stud

Fitted on the top of the cabin, the towing line is attached to this within reach of the steering position so that the steerer can easily control the length of the towline

Town Class

GUCCC boats which were named after towns and villages


A track beside a river or canal originally meant for horses towing barges but nowadays used by walkers, runners and cyclists


A hawser or rope used in towing

Trade Wind

A wind blowing from the north or south toward the thermal equator and deflected in a westerly direction by the easterly rotation of the earth

Traditional Style

Type of narrowboat with larger living quarters than standard

Traffic Separation Scheme

The means by which incoming and outgoing vessels are separated with a system of buoys


The board on the bow of a vessel which is usually decorated and carries the vessel's name


The fabric seating between the hulls of a catamaran


A radio with can both transmit and receive


To transfer from one ship, vehicle etc to another


A customhouse warrant authorising the removal of dutiable goods

Transmitting Station

The area on a ship which houses the systems, IT etc used to calculate the range and bearing of a specific target


One of the beams bolted across the stern-post of a ship supporting the after-end of the deck


The apparatus used by a crew member to keep his weight outboard of the hull in order to keep the boat level

Traveler / Traveller

An iron ring sliding on a spar , rope etc


A pin or peg made of hard wood used in fastening timbers


In the building of traditional vessels, this was a peg made of oak used as a fastener

Trench Boat

A very narrow narrowboat used to work on the narrow Shrewsbury canal


To haul or tie up with a rope


A turn at the helm usually half a watch or two hours


(1) To adjust sails, yards etc to the wind.

(2) To adjust by arranging cargo, ballast etc.

(3) The relationship between a ship's hull and the waterline

Trim Tabs / Trim Flaps

Plates used to extend the hull beyond the transom for the purposes of stability and planing and to adjust the pitch of a motorboat


A three hulled vessel

Trimmer, sometimes Coal Trimmer

The crew member responsible for the vessel remaining evenly balanced as cargo shifts or coal is moved and used


The line attached to an anchor used to haul it out if fouled or too deeply bedded

True Bearing

An absolute bearing in relation to true North

True North

The geographical North Pole

True North Pole

The point at 000 or 360 degrees on a compass indicating the north of the earth's axis

True Wind

The real direction from which the wind is blowing


A wooden peg used in shipbuilding to fasten timbers together


A fore-and-aft sail set on a gaff abaft the foremast an mainmast

Tub Boats

Small boats used on the Shropshire and Bude canals capable of carrying up to five tons


The after part of a ship where the ends of the bottom planks meet


The shape of a hull or a cabin where the widest part reduces as it rises if viewed in the transverse

Tunnel Cutter

A ring placed on the top of a stovepipe or funnel which stopped dirt from getting into the pipe and helped to disperse smoke when a vessel entered a tunnel

Tunnel Lamp

A traditional navigation lamp on a narrowboat

Turk's Head

An ornamental knot which resembles a Turk's turban


A single round or coil of rope

Turn to(Two)

To turn one's attention to, to get to work on something


A bottlescrew, a tool for adjusting the tension of equipment particularly lines and stays

Turnover Bridge or Roving Bridge

When a towpath changes sides along a canal, this is the bridge horses or pedestrians use to cross over the canal to join the towpath on the other side

Turns (waiting or working turns)

So as not to waste water by working empty locks, boatmen would wait for a vessel to arrive from the opposite direction, i.e. waiting their turn


An arched structure over the deck of a ship which serves as protection from heavy seas

Turtleback Deck

A slightly curved deck


When a boat capsizes so that its mast is perpendicular to the surface and its hull is exposed on the surface of the water thus resembling a turtle's shell


A line used to pull the spinnaker guy down closer to the hull

Two Six Heave

A vernacular term for the verb "pull" in the Royal Navy


A chain or rope with one end passing through the mast and tied to the centre of a yard and the other end attached to a tackle. Used to hoist or lower the yard

Tying Point

On a waterway, this is the point where there is least draught and is therefore is an indication of the maximum draught of a vessel able to pass


Una Rig

A single sail rig used mainly in East Angia, shallow and broad in the beams

Unassisted Sailing

A sea voyage which has no intended stops nor any outside physical assistance and is usually singlehanded

Under the Weather

Standing watch on the weather side of a vessel and therefore open to all the elements

Underwater Hull or Underwater Ship

The part of a vessel's hull that is below the waterline


A vessel in motion upon the water rather than one that is moored


To withdraw a rope from a block

Unship the Rudder

Lift the pintles from the gudgeons to remove the rudder


Referring to the slackness of the anchor chain, this denotes it is slack and hanging down from the hawse pipe


To slacken a rope quickly to a belaying point


(1) The direction of a vessel travelling upstream.

(2) Vessels travelling in a westward direction in the Great Lakes


Employees selected for high office

Upper reach

Of a canal, the highest point


Upright timbers between the gunwale and the gang plank on a narrowboat


Against the wind

Uxter Plate

The steel plate on a narrowboat's stern at the pint where it projects over the propeller and rudder



Having no settled residence, a drifter


Having no settled home and with no visible means of support


An embankment in boaters' terms


Either of a pair of guy ropes running from the peak of a gaff to the deck to steady it

Vanishing Angle

(1) The point at which a vessel is unable to regain an upright position in relation to the degree of heel.

(2) The point is which all parallel lines in the same plane tend to meet


The deviation in angle between the magnetic meridian and the actual geographic meridian of a specific place


(1) Of wind, to change its direction especially in the direction of the sun

(2) To let out or slacken (a rope etc)


A device by which air is introduced below decks


A ship or craft of any kind, especially of some size

Vhf Radio

A radio band- Very High Frequency


The particular shape of a vessel in that the hull meets the keel in a straight line

Voice Pipe or Voice Tube

Another name for a communication tube



One of a vessel's signal flags


The part of a ship between the quarter deck and the fore-castle

Waist Rail

The protective strips of rubber of wood placed around a vessel's hull often strengthened with fenders

Waiting (or working) turns

A system to avoid working empty locks and thereby save water where boatmen had to wait for a vessel to come from the opposite direction before entering the lock


The track left by a vessel passing through the water


The planks running along the length of a ship which cover the lower section of its side


Lot Mead Lock number 80 on the GU main line


Unsteady, crank, likely to fall or roll over


A room on a ship for commissioned officers below the rank of commander


To tow or move with a line attached to a buoy, anchor or other fixed point


(1) The motion of a body of water especially the swirling and foaming caused by the passage of a vessel.

(2) The blade of an oar

Wash Lands or Washes

The area of land designed to receive excess water in flood especially that between a river and its flood banks


A board to keep the water from washing over a gunwale or through a port etc


The period of time during which each division of a ship's crew is alternately on duty (four hours except the dog-watches)


A vessel that is fully afloat

Water Evacuation Plug

When a vessel is out of the water, this plug, located in the lowest part of the stern of the hull, allows water to be emptied from inside the hull


Ships, vessels, boats etc

Watercress Bed

Any vessel that is leaking badly


The name given to a staunch n the West Midlands


The line up to which the hull of a vessel is submerged in the water


A boatman plying for hire on rivers


A sail set in very light airs below the sail booms next to the water to enhance downwind performance in racing


(1) A navigable channel

(2) The thick planks along the edge of a deck in which a channel is hollowed for conducting water to the scuppers


After shipwreck, the goods found floating on the water


A term used in conjunction with other nouns to indicate movement through the water, i.e. headway


A planned stop on the route of a steamboat


A point on a planned route defined by navigational references


To alter a vessel's course by turning its stern to windward

Wearing Ship

Refers to a square rigged vessel when it tacks away from the wind, taking the wind on the opposite quarter

Weather Deck

The deck of a vessel which is exposed to the wind, weather etc

Weather Gage

When one vessel takes a favourable position over another with regard to the wind

Weather Side / Weatherboard

The side of the vessel which is exposed to the wind etc


An easily manoeuvred vessel that is therefore easy to sail


An instrument which indicates the direction of the wind


The hatch on a narrowboat through which the propeller can be accessed for cleaning

Weigh Anchor

To raise the anchor prior to setting sail

Weigh Dock

Similar to a weighbridge and used to calculate the toll payable by a vessel


The boxed in space of a vessel which holds the pumps


The space enclosed between the fore-castle and poop on some vessels, particularly butty boats


Well appointed, fully armed, furnished or equipped

Welsh Narrowboat

A type of day boat used on the canals of South Wales

West Country Vessel

Vessel mainly used on the Calder and Hebble Navigation, most commonly wooden horse barges

Wey Barge

A type of flat bottomed wooden barge used mainly between London and Wey Navigation


A landing place, usually man-made, for cargoes beside a river, harbour, canal etc usually consisting of a quay, platform or pier

Wheel or Ship's Wheel

The device, connected to the rudder, by which ships are steered


A shelter on a ship for the steersman


A small sailing vessel


A light shallow rowing boat for plying on rivers


A lever on a tiller employed to steer large vessels prior to the invention of a ship's wheel

Whisker Pole

The fixed pole employed to spread the jib on downwind sail


One of a pair of stays attached to the forward end of the bowsprit to stabilise it

Whiskey Plank (aka shutter plank)

The final plank in the building of a boat giving cause for celebration i.e. a whisky

White Horses

Foam crested waves

Wich Barges

Small vessels used for salt trade on the Droitwich Canal

Wide Berth

To allow enough space between two moored vessels that they have the ability to manoeuvre


The bowsprit, a term that refers to the sailors killed having fallen off the bowsprit while working the sails


Wigram's 3 refers to Calvutt Locks and Wigwram's Turn refers to the adjacent Napton Junction


A windlass, a hoisting machine


To turn a vessel around

Wind Surfing

Riding a small fibreglass board upon the waves, usually for pleasure

Wind Vane

A mechanism that keeps a vessel on a course fixed relative to the wind


A vessels' wind resistance


Prevented from sailing by contrary winds

Winding Hole, Winding Place or Winning Hole

The wide part of a canal designed to be used as a place where boats can turn around


A machine consisting of a cylinder on an axle turned by a crank used for hoisting or hauling

Windlass Hole

A cupboard where the spare windlass key is kept on a narrowboat. This key is used for opening locks


A device for generating power by means of small propeller placed on a pole used to convert wind power into electricity


The prevailing condition when the current of the tide and the wind are in opposite directions causing heavy seas


A transparent piece within a sail


The direction from which the wind blows towards that direction

Wing Walls

The brickwork to the sides of the tail of a lock


Said of a fore and aft vessel going before the wind with her fore-sail hauled over to one side and mainsail to the other


Another name for legging boards


A type of boom made up of two separate pieces with one on either side of a sail

Wood Hull

Hulls that are constructed from wood


A picture that has been carved into a piece of wood which can then be printed from


The name given to a narrowboat built in Woolwich by Harland & Wolff. Constructed of steel, Woolwich boats can be both small and large


Vernacular name for a narrowboat in the South Midlands

Working Up

In training

Worm, Parcel and Serve

A method of protecting a rope from chafing belaying ropes



A small three masted vessel with square sails used in the Mediterranean



A light sailing vessel used for pleasure, cruising and racing


A fore-sail most often seen on a bowsprit vessel


A cylindrical spar tapering each way from the middle from which a sail is suspended


Either half of a sail yard from the centre to the end


Similar to aye-aye in that it serves as an indication that an order has been heard and can also signify agreement


To steer out of the direct course; to move unsteadily (of a ship)



A small sailing vessel formerly used on the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula


A sacrificial anode