GLOSSARY OF NAUTICAL TERMS
A section specific guide to common nautical terms used in model shipbuilding.
Abaft: Behind, toward the stern relative to some other object or position.
Aft: Toward the stern.
Amidships or midships: Midway between bow and stern.
Athwartships: Across the ship from side to side.
Beam: Width of the ship.
Bow: Forward part of a ship.
Bright: Stained or varnished wood; not painted.
Draft: Depth of water a ship displaces.
Fantail: A ship's aft section. This is an American term.
Fathom: Six feet. How depth or a length of anchor cable is measured.
Forward: Toward the bow.
Freeboard: Vertical distance at amidships from the upper seaworthy deck or bulwarks to the water.
Knot: A measure of speed. A knot is 1-1/8 miles per hour.
Larboard: Old term for port (left) side.
Leeward: Away from the direction the wind is blowing. It's the ship's sheltered side.
Longitudinal: Structural members running fore and aft.
Port: Left side of a ship looking forward.
Sheer: Curve of the deck line from bow to stern.
Starboard: Right side of a ship looking forward.
Stern: Aft part of a ship.
Transverse: Structural members running athwartships.
Waist: Midships or widest part of a ship's upper deck between the forecastle and quarterdeck.
Windward: Direction from which the wind is blowing.
HULL STRUCTURE, PLANKING, AND DECKING
Beam: Athwartships timber upon which deck planks are laid.
Bearding Line: Intersection of the hull planking's interior surface with the keel, stem, or sternpost. A bearding line is part of the rabbet.
Belts: A group of hull planks. Belts are laid out using battens (temporary, flexible wood strips). A ribband is also a batten. It supports and holds the frames in position during hull planking. Ribbands are removed as planking progresses.
Billethead: Simple, scroll-like ornament used in place of a figurehead.
Binding Strake: Plank inboard of the waterway on a clipper ship. It's thinner than the waterway, but thicker than deck planks.
Breasthook: Large, horizontal knee across the inboard bow.
Buffalo or Spray Rail: Small rail on top of the main rail at the bow.
Bulkhead: Vertical partitions in a ship.
Bulwark: Planking around the weather (upper) deck serving as a breakwater. It also prevents sailors from being swept overboard in high seas.
Bulwark Stanchions: Vertical timbers supporting the bulwark planks. These can be separate timbers, an extension of the frames, or timberheads.
Butt: Where the end of two planks meet.
Buttock Lines: In drafting, the longitudinal sections cut vertically through a hull to define its shape.
Camber: Athwartships crown of the deck or deck structures.
Cant Frames: Bow and stern frames not square with the keel.
Carlings: Fore-and-aft timbers between deck beams to enclose openings such as hatches. You may see this term spelled Carlin.
Caulk: Oakum and fibers driven between plank seams to make them watertight.
Ceiling: Internal hull and bulwark planking.
Cheeks: Two lowest timbers at the head rails. Shaped like a knee, they fit against the stem and hull. The area between the cheeks was ornately decorated on period ships. The lower ends of the head timbers sit on the upper cheek. Most often, the hawse pipes come out between the two cheeks.
Clamp: Heavy fore-and-aft timbers supporting the ends of deck beams.
Coaming: Raised deck timbers around hatches and cabins. Coamings support other structures and prevent water from running below.
Coppering: Applying copper sheathing to a ship's hull.
Counter: Underside of the overhanging part of the stern.Covering Board: Planks covering the top of frames like a waterway or planksheer.
Cutwater: Forward side of the stem. On small craft, a deep stem.
Diagonal Lines: In drafting, the longitudinal sections cut diagonally through a hull to define its shape.
Drift Bolt or Drift: Metal spike used to attach planking and other structural timbers.
Edge bending: To bend or spring a plank edgewise.
Fair: Straight, smooth hull curves.
Fashion Piece: Timbers forming the shape of the stern and usually covering the end grain of the transom planking.
Figurehead: Ornamental figure at the bow.
Forecastle: Raised weather deck at the bow or a crew's living quarters.
Frames: Traverse timbers forming the skeleton of a ship's hull. Hull planking is attached to them. Frames contain floors (bottom sections), futtocks (mid sections), and timberheads (portion projecting above the upper deck). Frames were double (made in two halves) with overlapping joints.
Freeing Ports: Large openings in the bulwark to clear a swamped deck. Port doors were hinged at the top and forced outboard by water pressure at the bottom. Large ships had one to three freeing ports per side.
Galley: Where meals are prepared on a stove that exhausts through a stovepipe or stack.
Gangway: Opening in the bulwark for leaving the ship via a ladder or ramp. Also, a platform connecting the forecastle and poop decks.
Garboard Strake: Length of plank adjacent to the keel.
Gunwale (pronounced gun-el): Uppermost plank in a hull. Also, the upper edge or rail of a small boat.
Head: Area forward of the hull containing the crew's toilets, square wooden seats (also called seats of ease). Landlubbers adapted the phrase to mean the men's lavatory.
Head Rails: Fancy curved rails at the head for supporting a long stem.
Head Timbers: Transverse supports from the stem to the head rails.
Keel: Ship's backbone. Longitudinal timber or timbers at the bottom of the hull.
Keelson: Timber(s) bolted on top of the keel, or the frames above the keel, to reinforce it.
King Plank: Thick deck plank or planks on a ship's centerline.
Knightheads: Two heavy, vertical timbers, one on each side of the bowsprit. A knight's head was often carved into the top of these timbers; hence, the name.
Lashing Rail: Batten nailed to the inside of the bulwark stanchions for belaying lines. Common aboard whalers.
Main Deck: Uppermost deck. Also called the weather or spar deck.
Main Rail: Largest topside rail on a bulwark.
Margin Planks: One or two continuous deck planks alongside the bulwark. The inboard margin plank is usually the nibbing plank.
Middle Line: Line between the rabbet line and bearding line.
Molded and Sided Dimensions: Plans may show a timber molded 12" and sided 6". The molded dimension is the depth of a beam, the keel, or a perpendicular frame. The sided dimension is their width (a longitudinal or transverse measurement). However, a structural member molded 6" and sided 12" is wider than it is deep. Don't think a beam should be deeper than it is wide. Doing so creates confusion.
Molding or Moulding: An embellished wooden strip used to decorate around the top of cabins or other structures.
Monkey Rail: Light rail on top of the main rail (monkey board) aft of the deck step at midships. Although similar to a topgallant rail, the term is used only on fishing schooners.
Nib: Pointed end of a tapered plank. Because nibs rot first, shipwrights squared them off, then notched the margin plank (covers outer edge of deck) to accept the butts. Consequently, they called the margin plank the nibbing plank.
Nibbing: Process of seating the squared, tapered end of one plank into the edge of another. Nibbing generally applies to decks, but sometimes hull planks, especially at the bow, are nibbed. The British call this procedure joggling.
Partners: Slightly raised timbers strengthening the deck where a mast, capstan, pump, or bowsprit pierces it. Partners close the opening.
Plank: Single length of wood fastened to the outside of a ship's frames or to beams to form decks. A planking strake is a continuous line of planks butted against each other from bow to stern.
Planksheer: Large timber placed over waterways in clippers and other large vessels, but may replace waterways on smaller ships.
Poop Deck: Raised deck at the stern.
Quarter: Part of a ship's side forward of the stern and aft of the mizzen rigging. Quarterdeck is that part of the upper deck from the mainmast to the poop (also called the poop).
Rabbet: Groove cut into the keel, stem, or sternpost to receive planking. The rabbet line is the intersection of the planking's outer edge with the keel, stem, or sternpost (also see bearding and middle line).
Rail: Timber covering the top of the bulwarks.
Scantling: Dimensions of timbers forming a ship's structure.
Scarf Joint: Beveled joint. It's stronger than a butt joint.
Sheathing: Wood or copper covering on a vessel's bottom to protect it from marine borers.
Sheer Strake: Uppermost line of planking on a hull.
Shoe: Plank projecting from the bottom of the keel. It isn't always completely painted during dock, so may start to rot and is therefore replaceable.
Spar Deck: Upper or weather deck of a naval vessel.
Spiling: Marking and cutting a plank's edges to a given shape.
Station Lines: In drafting, the vertical sections cut transversely through a hull to define its shape.
Stealer: Plank inserted into another plank or between two adjacent planks to reduce their width. Or, when two planks taper toward a narrow end, both may have to be cut off and a wider plank substituted to leave enough wood for fastening to the frames.
Stem: Foremost timber in a vessel. It is joined to the keel and usually tapers upward.
Sternpost: Vertical timber erected on the aft end of the keel. The rudder is attached to it.
Stringer: Longitudinal stiffener in a ship's hull.
Thick Plank: Thicker deck planking reinforcing heavy load areas. Doublers over normal planking do the same thing.
Topgallant Rail: Short rail with vertical section above the main rail and extending the freeboard. Timberheads or bulwark stanchions may extend above the main rail, and the stanchions planked to form the sides of the topgallant rail. The cap rail is then placed on top.
Transom: Curved or flat portion above the counter.
Treenail: Wooden pin for attaching hull planking to the frames or for joining any two timbers.
Wale: Heavy strake running below the sheer strake. Several plank thicknesses may compose the wale or wales.
Waterlines: In drafting, the horizontal sections cut through a hull to define its shape. A ship floats at the waterline or load waterline.
Waterway: Thick wooden gutter along the side of the deck. It catches and carries off water through scuppers (drains) at its base.
Weather Deck: Uppermost deck. Also called the spar or main deck.
Air Port, Port Light, or Port Hole: Round openings with glass windows. Some open; some don't.
Belfry: Structure from which the ship's bell is suspended.
Bilge Pump: Brings up bilge water. Brakes (handles) on large pumps are secured to the fife rail or a separate frame. Pumps can have from one to six chambers.
Binnacle: Box or nonmagnetic metal container for the ship's compass. Originally, lanterns lit the compass, while vents exhausted the smoke.
Bitt: Wood or metal post for securing mooring lines, rigging, or anchor cables. Usually fitted in pairs. Steel bitts may have a single, double, or triple post on a common base. Bitts are named by their function, so you may run into terms such as Quarter Bitts (mooring bitts aft), sheet bitts (for belaying topsail sheets), and Riding bitts (for securing anchor cable).
Bollard: Mooring bitts used on a ship or on a wharf. Usually metal.
Cabin Trunk: Extension of a cabin above the deck.
Channels: Broad, flat boards projecting horizontally from the ship's sides to spread the shrouds and hold the chain plates away from the hull.
Charley Noble: Nickname for the galley's smokestack.
Chock: Iron casting for leading lines over a rail. Can be an open (cut out on top), closed, or roller chock.
Cleat: Wood or iron fitting with two horns for belaying rigging and mooring lines.
Companionway: Protective structure covering a stairway or ladder leading below decks. It may have a door or sliding top.
Deck Lights: Small prisms in the deck to let light into the ship.
Fife Rail: Rail around masts with pins for belaying rigging lines. The crosspiece or fife rail was attached to heavy bitts or supported by round or square stanchions.
Gallows: Bitts with crosspieces for supporting spare spars stowed fore and aft on a weather deck. May also support ship's boat and be called Boat Gallows.
Garland or Shot Rack: Rack for stowing cannonballs.
Grating: Openwork covering hatches to allow air circulation throughout the ship. Gratings also were used over the galley stove opening to exhaust smoke.
Gudgeon: Yoke bolted to the sternpost with an eye to receive a corresponding pintle on the back of the rudder.
Hammock Rails: U-shaped iron cranes mounted on a naval vessel's main rail. Railings were of rope or wood into which an open net was secured and the crew's hammocks tightly packed. This protected the men against musket balls and caseshot fire.
Horse Block: Small, elevated platform on a naval vessel's quarterdeck from which the officer of the watch gave orders and viewed enemy action.
Ladders: Vertical, inclined, or curved steps for proceeding below deck, to cabin roofs, or over the bulwark.
Pin Rail: Horizontal rail on the bulwarks with pins for belaying lines.
Pintle: Yoke bolted to the back of the rudder with a vertical pin that fit into a corresponding gudgeon. This formed a hinge on which the rudder pivoted.
Preventer: Chains attached to the hull and rudder to prevent a heavy sea from sweeping it away.
Quarter Gallery: Balcony projecting from the quarter of a sailing naval vessel or large merchantman. Has windows and may contain the officers' head.
Riding Bitts: Large wood or metal posts to which the anchor cable was secured. Used before the windlass was invented.
Samson Post: Vertical timber inboard of the bowsprit. Often has a windlass secured to it.
Scuppers: Drains in the waterways of the main or weather deck.
Sea Steps: Steps on the side of the hull for climbing on board from a boat.
Ship's Wheel: Spoked wheel with handles for operating the rudder through various steering mechanisms.
Skylight: Deck structure with windows in the roof or sides for allowing light and air below. It is often covered with closely spaced bars to protect the glass.
Stanchions: Vertical, round or square pillars for supporting rails or the bulwarks if timberheads aren't present.
Sweep Ports: Openings in the bulwark for sweeps (long, heavy oars). Sweep ports are smaller than gunports.
Taffrail: Ornamental rail along the upper edge of the stern. It's usually supported by square or round stanchions.
Tiller: Wooden or iron bar for turning the rudder.
Trailboards: Carved boards leading aft from the stem to either side of the hull. They replaced the head cheeks when ostentatious figureheads fell out of vogue. Today, trailboards sometimes decorate the bows of modern sailing yachts.
Ventilators: Pipes for directing air into the hull.
Boarding Pikes: Spear-like weapons designed to repel an enemy boarding party. Pikes were stowed in racks around masts or elsewhere on the ship.
Breeching: Heavy line seized to ring bolts in the ship's side to absorb a cannon's recoil when fired.
Cannon: Large, mounted a naval weapon that fires a heavy projectile. Cannon include carronades, long guns, and mortars. Cannon were generally described by the weight of shot fired, such as a 32-pounder or pdr.
Carronade: Short, light cannon with a large bore used at close range (less than 300 yards). Popular during the 1790s, but out of fashion by 1815. Carronades required a smaller gun crew than the cannon.
Gun Carriage: Wheeled support for a cannon. Long guns usually had a wooden carriage. The carriage consisted of cheeks (sides), front and rear axle trees, trucks (wheels), transom (front support), buffer (front bumper), stool bed (base), bed block (back support), cap squares (metal bands clamping the trunnions to the cheeks), and quoin (tapered, right-angle block placed under the breech to elevate a cannon). Although some carronades were mounted on simplified standard ship carriages, most were on special carriages made by the Carron Company and supplied with the weapon. The bed (upper part) held the gun and enabled it to be elevated and depressed. A bolt attached the bed to the slide or training bed, which allowed it to recoil. The slide rotated on a pivot at its forward end and had two, small iron trucks at the rear.
Gun Deck: On warships, the deck below the weather or spar deck containing the large cannon.
Gunport: Opening in a ship's sides or bulwarks for running out the cannon. Most were covered with a hinged lid.
Gun Tackle: Originally, the lines on a cannon. Also, a purchase (tackle) consisting of two single blocks and the necessary line.
Swivel Gun: Small, breech or muzzle-loading gun fitted on a forked piece of metal with the pin set into a rail or bitt. They were fired over the rail, from the fore and main tops, or from boats. Remained in used until 1815.
Train Tackles: Lines used to maneuver a gun carriage.
Truck: Wheel on a gun carriage.
Trunnion: Projecting pin on each side of a cannon barrel to pivot it backward onto its breech. Cap squares clamp the trunnions to the cheeks.
ANCHORS AND MOORING
Anchor: Heavy iron implement dropped from a ship to hold or alter its position. The anchor's two palms or flukes (flat pointed pads) grab the sea bed. Besides the palms, an anchor consists of the shank (main shaft), crown (part where the arms join the shank), bill (tip of the palm), and a wooden or metal stock (crosspiece at the top of the shank) The stock is at right angles to the palms to force them into the ground when the anchor hits bottom.
Anchor Deck: Forward deck on a whaler similar to a forecastle deck.
Anchor Release: Device fitted on a cathead to quickly release the anchor.
Billboard: Any support upon which the bills or palms of an anchor rest. Prevents chafing the hull or deck.
Bollard: Mooring bitts used on a ship or on a wharf. Usually metal.
Bower Anchor: One of two heavy anchors with wooden stock stowed at the hawse pipe and used primarily for anchoring. They were carried at the starboard and port bows; hence, it's name.
Brakes: Handles on a manually-operated deck pump or windlass.
Cable: Heavy rope or chain attached to an anchor.
Capstan: Vertical drum-like machine to heave rope or chain. Whelps (wood or metal strips) around the spindle grabbed the line, while pawls (hinged pieces of iron) at the base prevented the capstan from rotating backward. Sailors pushing on bars inserted into square pigeon holes in the head manually turned the device. Later, steam or electric power revolved it. Naval vessels usually carried capstans, while merchantmen used windlasses.
Capstan Bars: The eight to 10 wooden bars sailors used to turn a capstan.
Carrick Bitts: Upright projecting timbers, generally with knees, supporting the shaft of a windlass. Also known as windlass bitts or carrick heads.
Cathead: Short, port and starboard wood or iron beams projecting over the bow for raising an anchor.
Cavil: Large, fore-and-aft cleat for belaying heavy lines. Also called kevel, kevil, and cavel.
Chain Pipe: Covered casting in the deck through which the anchor chain led to the locker.
Chain Stopper: Security device to prevent an incoming anchor chain from going overboard should the capstan or windlass fails.
Cleat: Wood or iron fitting with two horns for belaying rigging and mooring lines.
Grapnel: Small, four- or five-pronged anchor dragged to locate objects or anchor small boats.
Hawse Pipe: Iron casting in the bow through which the anchor chains run.
Hawse Pipe Lip: Ring around the exterior portion of the hawse pipe to prevent the anchor chain from chafing.
Hawser: Heavy line (five inches or more) for mooring and towing.
Kedge: Light anchor with an iron stock. Usually the smallest anchor on board, it supports the bower anchor whenever the vessel's stability is threatened. Also used to move a ship from one berth to another (kedging).
Mooring Chocks: Large, oblong, closed chocks in the hull through which mooring lines pass.
Pawl: Short, hinged, iron strut on a windlass, capstan, or winch head. As the machine rotates, the pawl slides over and engages the teeth, preventing the equipment from turning backward.
Pawl Bitt: Large wood or metal post or samson post on the centerline. It supports the windlass' pawl.
Riding Bitts: Large wood or metal posts to which the anchor cable was secured. Used before the windlass was invented.
Sheet and Steam Anchors: The sheet anchor, carried in the waist, was the largest aboard and always ready for use. The steam anchor was a spare.
Staghorn: Another name for a cavil, but shaped like a bull's horns. Used on early ships for belaying lower sheets or mooring lines.
Warping Drums: Portion of the windlass projecting beyond the carrick bitts. Drum head is larger toward the windlass and curved in the middle. Wrapped lines around the drum provided a mechanical advantage. Warping drums were hand operated in the old days, but are electrically powered today.
Whelps: Wooden or metal strips around a windlass or capstan to prevent the anchor cables from slipping or chaffing.
Windlass: Horizontal winch on the centerline for lifting anchors. Whelps were starboard of the barrel, but sometimes a windlass had whelps for chain on one side and for cable on the other. At the center were two large ratchet gears with pawls. Each gear had a quadrant (arm) connected via links to a rocker (pump arm). Rockers and pawl were fixed to a pawl bitt or samson post. Brakes (pump handles) were fitted to the rockers. Windlasses often had warping drums. Carrick bitts with standards (knees) supported the windlass. While most windlasses were originally hand operated, they were modified in later years to run on steam or electricity. Merchantmen carried the windlass, while naval vessels preferred the capstan.
Barge and Yawl: Round-bottomed cargo boats and personnel ferries 25 to 35 feet long with eight to 16 single- or double-banked oars.
Bearers: Vertical lashing posts between davits used to tie off boat gripes. Common on whalers.
Benches: Curved seats in a boat's stern for officers and important people.
Bow or Head and Stern Sheets: Platform or seats at the bow and stern.
Carvel Planking: Flush-sided hull planks set edge to edge on frames and caulked.
Centerboard: Wide, keel-like board hoisted or lowered through a watertight trunk (well) to provide stability and tracking. A leeboard worked similarly, but was suspended from the vessel's lee (port) side.
Chine Log: Longitudinal timber to which the flat sides and bottom of a V-bottom boat were attached. This intersection is the chine. A Chesapeake Bay skipjack is a V-bottom boat.
Clamp: Longitudinal stringer supporting the deck beams, washboard, or cabin beams on a small boat.
Clinker Built or Lapstrake: Lower edge of a hull plank overlaps the upper edge of the one below it.
Cranes: Type of davit made from hinged wooden brackets that swung out to support a whaleboat on an American whaleship. Boats were lashed to the cranes.
Cuddy: Small storage closet under the bow or stern seats in a whaleboat.
Cutter and Pinnace: General purpose, clinker-built, round-bottomed boats that were usually smaller than a longboat or launch. They were 20 to 50 feet long and equipped with a dozen or more double-banked oars.
Davit: Curved or straight-arm crane for lifting, lowering, and storing ship's boats. Stern davits were at the stern and quarter davits were at the aft side of the ship.
Dinghy: Smallest ship's boat. It was generally clinker built, 10 to 15 feet long, and equipped with a pair of oars.
Dory: Small, flat-bottomed, 16- to 20-foot-long boat with angled sides. Used most often by a one- or two-man crew for fishing. Equipped with two or four oars. On fishing schooners, the thwarts were removed and the boats nested inverted on deck.
Double-banked Oars: One port and one starboard rower per thwart.
Floor or Bottom Boards: Longitudinal planks laid in the bottom of a boat over its frames. Spaces between the boards drained water.
Gig: Narrow, fast, 20- to 28-foot-long round-bottomed boat equipped with two or three pairs of oars. When used by a ship's captain, it was called the captain's gig.
Gripes: Flat straps crossing diagonally over the outside of a boat to hold it against its davits.
Griping Spar: Long spar between the davits for securing boat gripes.
Guard or Rubbing Strake: Exterior wooden moulding on the gunwale to protect a boat's hull from chafing when alongside a dock or another vessel.
Gunwale (pronounced gun-el): Uppermost plank in a hull. Also, the upper edge or rail of a small boat.
Launch and Longboat: Largest service boats carried aboard a ship. Round-bottomed, 20 to 50 long, with 12 to 18 double-banked oars.
Lifting Rings: Large rings at the bottom of a boat's bow and stern for hoisting it out of the water.
Oar: Long, thin, usually wooden pole used to row or steer a boat. It consists of a blade (flat extremity in the water), shaft (long, round section), and loom (hand grip) inboard of the rowlocks.
Painter: Line in the bow for mooring or towing a boat.
Quarter Boats: Any boat in the quarter davits.
Riser: Longitudinal stringer along a boat's interior for supporting the ends of the thwarts.
Rowlock: U-shaped cutout in a boat's gunwale acting as a fulcrum for the oars. Thole pins, two wooden or metal pins in the gunwale, often replaced the rowlock. The modern U-shaped metal swivel is called a crutch, oarlock, or rowlock.
Single-banked Oars: One man per thwart staggered port to starboard, or one behind the other as in a racing shell.
Skeg: Narrow extension below the keel at the stern and fitting into the sternpost. Generally found on flat- and V-bottomed boats.
Slides: Vertical battens on a boat's hull that prevent it from catching on the rails.
Sole: Cabin floor of a small boat.
Stern Boats: Any boat in the stern davits, usually the captain's gig.
Thwart: Athwartships seat in a small boat.
Washboard: Thin shelf along the sides of the gunwale to prevent water from coming on deck. Most common on small, open workboats.
Whaleboat: Double-ended, round-bottomed, 25- to 30-foot-long service boat equipped with five single-banked oars. Some whaleboats had centerboards. Found on whalers and naval vessels.
Yoke: Transverse board mounted on a boat's rudderhead and fitted with lines to control the rudder. When a yoke was used, the tiller was either absent or very short.
MASTS AND SPARS
Band: Any metal bar around masts, yards, booms, and gaffs with eyes or other fittings for attaching blocks, hooks, futtock shrouds, and other rigging equipment.
Bees: Wooden block on either side of the bowsprit through which the fore topmast stays rove back to the bow.
Bibbs or Cheeks: Heavy wooden knees bolted a short distance below the top of a mast to support the trestletrees.
Bolster: Quarter rounds resting on the trestletrees to prevent the shrouds from chafing or taking too sharp a bend.
Boom Crutch: Vertical timber with a "U" at the top for resting the booms of small fore-and-aft rigged vessels while in port.
Boom Jaw Rest: Wooden ring or partial ring supported by small chocks on a mast for resting the boom's jaws.
Bowsprit: Heavy spar protruding from the bow to support the forestays.
Bumpkin, Bumkin, or Boomkin: Short boom projecting from the ship's side for securing the fore tack block or one of the main brace blocks.
Cap: Two-holed wooden or metal fitting for joining the masthead of one mast to the heel of another, or the bowsprit to the jibboom. The cap can also have eyes and blocks.
Chesstree: Short timbers mounted vertically on each side of the ship for holding the main sheet lead blocks. The term also describes a sheave in the bulwark through which the main sheet roves.
Clapper: Vertical wooden block pivoting on a pin between the jaws of a gaff. Also called a tongue or tumbler, it made the gaff slide up and down more easily and prevented it from jamming. Not all gaffs had one. Clappers were mostly on modern craft such as fishing schooners.
Crane Iron: Iron rod on a mast for holding the throat
halliard blocks. Mostly found on schooners.
Crossjack Yard: Lower yard on the mizzenmast.
Cross-trees: Transverse beams or struts supporting mast tops and spreading shrouds.
Doubling: Area where the heel of an upper mast overlaps a lower mast.
Fid: Slender iron or wooden block inserted in a hole at the heel of a topmast or topgallant mast to support it on the trestletrees.
Futtock Band: Metal band with eyes below the mast top for attaching the lower ends of the futtock shrouds.
Futtock Stave: Rod or batten to which the futtock shrouds seized if they didn't secure to the futtock band.
Gaff: Spar on the aft side of a mast supporting the head of a fore-and-aft sail.
Gooseneck: Swivel that secured a boom to a mast band.
Hounds: Wooden shoulders on either side of an upper masthead supporting the trestletrees.
Jackstay: Wire rope, metal rod, or wooden batten fastened to the upper side of a yard or spar to which the head of a square sail was attached or footropes lashed.
Jaws: U-shaped projection at the end of a boom or gaff that fit against a mast. A rope or rod parrel held the spar to a mast.
Jibboom: Spar secured to and extending forward of the bowsprit. The flying jibboom was another extension.
Lubber's Hole: Large opening in the lower mast top through which running rigging rove. Also, a man could climb through it instead of scrambling over the edge of the top.
Made Mast: Any mast fabricated from several logs tied together.
Martingale or Dolphin Striker: Vertical strut below the bowsprit cap. It increased the downward pulling force of stays going back to the bow.
Mast: Vertical spar supporting yards and sails. The foremast was the foremost one, followed by the mainmast and mizzenmast on a three-masted ship. Each contained a lower mast, topmast, topgallant mast, royal mast, and sometimes a skysail mast.
Mast Coat: Canvas or other material covering the mast wedges and making the deck joint watertight.
Masthead: Portion of mast from the trestletrees to the cap.
Parrel or parral: Rope with wooden balls or other devices securing a yard, boom, or gaff to a mast.
Rake: Angle of a mast to the perpendicular.
Saddle or Yoke: Wooden truss on a yard shaped to fit a mast. A parrel held the yard against the mast. Saddles were used after the rope truss went out of style.
Spanker Mast: Separate smaller mast abaft the mizzen. It carried the spanker's mast hoops.
Spar: Any pole used for rigging; i.e., yards, booms, gaffs, bowsprit, jibboom, etc.
Spencer Mast: Separate smaller mast abaft the fore and mainmasts carrying the spencer's (trysail) mast hoops.
Spider Band: Heavy mast band fitted with holes for belaying pins.
Spreader: Spar for spreading the upper shrouds and backstays. On some ships, spreaders and cross-trees were basically the same. However, the spreader was a separate, longer spar extending beyond the cross-trees on a clipper.
Studding Sail Boom Irons: Iron fittings with rings on yards. When not in use, sailors slid the studding sail booms through these rings.
Top: Platform resting on a lower mast's trestletrees and cross-trees. It help spread the upper rigging and, on warships, was where marines stood to fire small weapons at the enemy. Often called the fighting top.
Trestletrees: Short, longitudinal timbers on each side of a lower mast's head. They supported the cross-trees, top, and the heel of the topmast.
Truck: Ball or other object atop the uppermost mast. Often had a sheave or hole in it for the flag halliards.
Truss Iron: Iron rod between a yard and mast band or parrel. It secured the yard to the mast.
Tub Parrel: A lined, circular tub around a mast to which the yard truss was attached. Used mostly on the upper topsail yards of a double topsail ship.
Yard: Spar supporting a square sail.
Yardarm: Outer end of a yard beyond the shoulder or fitting for the lifts.
Bend: To lace a sail to a spar or jackstay.
Boltrope: Reinforcing rope laced around the edge of a sail.
Bonnet: Extension laced to the foot of a sail to increase its size.
Clew: Lower corners of square sail or the aft corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
Course: Lowest square sail on each mast.
Cringle: Iron strop, rope strop, or grommet at the corners of a sail for attaching sheets, tacks, and other running lines.
Crossjack: Another name for the mizzen course.
Furl: To bundle and lash a sail to its yard or boom when not in use.
Gaff Topsail: Triangular sail set from the topmast and gaff of a fore-and-aft rigged ship.
Grommet: Ring and lacing around a hole in a sail.
Head: Top of a square sail or the top corner of a triangular fore-and-aft sail.
Jib: Large, triangular fore-and-aft sail at the bow. A flying Jib can go ahead of the jib.
Leech: Sides of a square sail or the aft side of a fore-and-aft sail.
Luff: Forward side of a fore-and-aft sail.
Reef: To shorten a sail in heavy weather.
Reef Band: Reinforcing canvas band with holes for the reef points.
Reef Points: Short lines in the reef band for tying the sail to its boom or yard.
Ringtail: Extension sail abaft a spanker.
Royal: Square sail above the topgallant.
Seams: Lines where the bolts of cloth were sewn together to form the sail.
Skysail: Square sail above the royal.
Spanker or Driver: Fore-and-aft sail set on a gaff abaft the mizzenmast. Could also have a boom.
Spencer: Fore-and-aft sail set on a standing gaff abaft the fore and mainmasts.
Spritsail: Square sail set on a yard on the bowsprit.
Staysail: Fore-and-aft sail rigged on the mast stays.
Studding Sail (pronounced stun-sul): Light sail added outboard of a square sail to increase its total area.
Tabling: Hem around a sail.
Tack: Forward lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
Topgallant: Square sail above the topsail.
Topsail: Square sail above the course. Some ships had double topsails, two smaller sails in place of a single one. Howe developed this system in the 1850's to permit easier handling of the sails.
Backropes: Ropes that continue from the stays back to the bow after the stays pass the dolphin striker.
Backstays: Lines supporting the masts from fore-and-aft forces.
Baggy Wrinkle: Mat made of rope yarn and wound around rigging lines to protect the sails from chafing.
Becket: Eye on a block for securing a line's standing end.
Belay: To secure a running line to a cleat or belaying pin.
Blocks: Wooden or metal shells with sheaves through which lines rove.
Bobstays: Chains or ropes supporting the bowsprit from upward loads.
Bowsprit Shrouds or Guys: Transverse support lines for a bowsprit.
Braces: Lines attached to the yardarms. They set the angle on a yard and held it taut.
Brails: Lines that pulled a loose-footed, fore-and-aft sail toward the mast for furling.
Breast Backstay: Supplemental shroud with running tackle fitted outside the regular shrouds. Often used to stiffen the topmasts.
Bowlines: Lines attached to the sides of a square sail to pull it forward. These were used primarily on 18th century and older ships.
Bullseye: Similar to a deadeye except it has one large hole.
Buntlines: Lines that pulled up the belly of a sail for furling.
Catharpins: Lines used to tighten loose hemp shrouds. Catharpins were generally at the intersections of the futtock staves.
Chain plates: Iron bar or rod along the hull that held the shroud deadeyes.
Clew Garnet: A clew line used on the lower yards.
Clew Lines: Lines that pulled up the corners of a square sail.
Clump Block: Oval block for staysail sheets. It didn't tear a sail if it rubbed against it.
Collar: Standing rigging eye passing over the masthead.
Crane Lines: Footropes across the lower shrouds on which sailors stood when furling main staysails and the spanker. These lines were a recent development.
Deadeye: Round wood block with three holes for reeving a lanyard. Metal turnbuckles have replaced deadeyes on modern ships.
Downhauls, Outhauls, and Inhauls: Lines that hauled a sail along a boom, or up and down a stay.
Fairlead: A block with a hole or holes used to lead lines in a certain direction.
Flemish Horse: Short footrope at the yardarms.
Footrope or Horse: Line under yards and bowsprit on which sailors stood to furl the sails.
Futtock Shrouds: Short lengths of ropes or metal rods that supported the topmast rigging. They led from the futtock plate to the futtock band. If they went only to the lower shrouds, they generally tied to a wooden or metal rod called a futtock stave.
Gasket: Short length of line for furling a sail.
Guys: Lines supporting the jibboom and bowsprit from side forces, or any stay such as a boom guy or boat davit guy.
Halliard or Halyard: Line for raising and lowering a sail, yard, boom, gaff, or flag.
Horse or Footrope: Line under yards and bowsprit on which sailors stood to furl the sails.
Jeers: Heavy tackle for hoisting a lower yard.
Jig Tackle: Purchase of blocks and rope at the working end of a rig.
Lacing: Small ropes for lashing sails to booms and gaffs.
Lanyard: Line roving through deadeyes, bullseyes, or thimbles for tightening rigging.
Lashing: To fasten by wrapping with line.
Leechlines: Lines that pulled up the side of a sail.
Lifts: Standing or running lines that angled or lowered yards.
Manropes: Safety lines at the bowsprit and other areas. Usually a line to hang onto rather than walk on.
Martingale Stays: Lines under the bowsprit and jibboom roving through a dolphin striker.
Mouse: Knob of rope that prevented an eye from sliding along a line.
Moused Hook: Lacing around the end of a hook to prevent it from falling out of a fitting.
Parrel or parral: Rope with wooden balls or other devices that secured a yard, boom, or gaff to a mast.
Peak Halliard: Outer line on a gaff.
Ratlines: Footropes on shrouds.
Reef Tackle: Lines that hoisted or lowered a sail to its spar for reefing.
Running Backstay: Movable line with a tackle on deck.
Running Rigging: Lines that moved, rove through blocks, or operated sails and spars.
Seizing: Wrapping small cord around two lines to bind them.
Shackle: U-shaped iron fitting with a removable pin.
Sheaves: Roller in a block or structure over which lines rove.
Sheer Pole: Round or rectangular iron or wood bar seized to the shrouds just above the deadeyes to maintain the shrouds' spacing. A sheer pole was occasionally a belaying point.
Sheets: Lines that held the lower corners of a sail or boom.
Shrouds: Transverse lines that supported the masts.
Sister Block: Double sheave block with the sheaves in line.
Sling: Short, heavy line or chain that took the weight of a yard at the mast.
Standing Rigging: Stationary lines that supported masts and spars. Generally, standing rigging was tarred; hence, it was black or dark brown.
Stays: Fore-and-aft standing lines that supported the masts.
Stirrups: Short lines that supported the footropes.
Strop: Rope or iron bar around a block.
Swifter: Foremost lower mast shroud.
Tack: Line at the lower corners of a sail. On a fore-and-aft sail, the tack was at the forward lower cringle. On a square sail, the tack led forward and the sheets led aft.
Tackle or Purchase: Several blocks and a line providing a mechanical advantage for handling sails and spars.
Throat Halliard: Forward line on a gaff at the jaws.
Topping Lift: Line that held up the boom when the gaff was down or absent.
Truss: Rope or iron fitting that held a yard against its mast.
Tye: Part of a halliard attached to a yard.
Vangs: Port and starboard lines that prevented a gaff from swinging sideways.
Worming, Parceling, and Serving: First, a small line was laid between the strands of a rope, then the rope was wrapped with canvas strips, and finally wrapped with another rope or wire. This process protected standing rigging from chafing