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come sail away

A boat is called "she" because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about; she has a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her looking good. It is not the initial expense that breaks you, it's the upkeep. She can be decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly, and without a man at the helm she is uncontrollable. She often shows her bottom and when coming into harbour always heads for the buoys.

i went sailing yesterday.... mignon, my baby, had her maiden voyage with me. she sails sweetly. for august in new orleans, yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day. there wasn't much wind, but that is good for a learner :) and i learned a lot. it surpises me how many everyday terms we have taken from sailing.

3 sheets to the wind: one would think sheets here are sails, but they are not. a sheet is a rope that controls a sail. on 2 sailed boats there are three sheets. three sheets to the wind, in sailing, means that the sails are not drawing wind and the boat won't go forward, but will instead drift downwind. if the three sheets are loose and flapping around, she is three sheets to the wind and the sailor is out of control.
footloose: the foot is the bottom of the sail - the part tied to the boom. when the foot is loose (footloose) it moves around freely and wildly in the wind.
fly by night: a large sail for sailing downwind at night. it matches its everyday term because the sail could only be used downwind so it wasn't seen often.
aloof: the luff is the front part of the sail that meets the wind. a ship sailing a-luff holds its speed quite well and stands a-luff from others.
now you're talking!: when sails are rigged correctly and everything is balanced sailors used this term to commend their ship :)
put a new slant on things: reducing sail when conditions change to have the best heel angle
hasn't got a clue: (this one surprised me!) the clew is the corner of the sail where a brass ring is sewn in to attach the sail. if the clews come undone, you haven't got a clue!
under the weather: when a sailor is at the bow, being pitched by the water and sprayed in the face, he is under the weather.
allow a little leeway: to allow some room downwind
hold off: keep away from the wind. i heard this one a lot yesterday!
bamboozled: to trick another ship about your nationality by flying a flag other than your own, a common practice of pirates.
bitter end: when a sailor has dropped out all the anchor rope until he reached the bitter end. it was also the knotted end of a rope used for punishment on board.
to be pooped: from the aft poop deck....to be swamped by a high sea
son of a gun: back in the olden ship days the gun decks were used for childbirth on board. naturally children born on a ship couldn't be sure of their paternity and were entered into the ship's log as "son of a gun".
drifter: anything undone or not quite right was said to be adrift, thus came the word drifter.
square meal: square wooden platters off which sailors ate.
a clean slate: everything was recorded on a log slate. each new watch would start with a clean slate if everything was going well.
know the ropes: a sailing vessel has only 3 ropes (the rest are lines or sheets), the maprope, the bolt rope and the boat rope. ropes can only be determined by where and how they are secured. a good sailor knows his ropes.
junk: old rope that doesn't have much use anymore, except to make mops.
posh: wealthy travellers booked cabins on the coolest side of the ship, Port Out, Starboard Home, or POSH
rub salt into wounds: part of the salary for roman sailors was salt (by the way, sal is latin for salt, as in sal in SALary). a sailor hated to lose part of his salary after a battle.
let the cat out of the bag: sailors saved up their liquor rations to really tie one on at one time. but if a sailor was drunk on duty, he would have to make his own cat o' nine tails and put it in a leather sack. as punishment, on Blue Monday - punishment day, he would have to let the cat out of the bag. for my BDSM friends, when one runs his fingers through the cat o' nine tails to separate the tails before each stroke, it was called combing the cat.
another blue term is feeling blue: if a ship lost her captain or any officers during the journey, she would fly blue flags and a blue band would be painted along her hull when she returned home.
all washed up: when a ship ran ashore without any support to get back out to sea.
above board: the planking boards, which make up the deck, are in plain view to everyone. pirates used to hide most of their crew below deck. a captain with all his crew on deck, or above board, was an honest captain.
by and large: full sailed by the wind. the best sailing. also sailing as close to the wind as possible is called chock full :)
a clean bill of health referred to ship, not a person, meaning it came from a port with no diseases.
field day: the day the whole ship was cleaned.
skyscraper: (who really knew this???) a small, triangular shaped sail, that was set above the mains on the old square-riggers, to try to scrape -catch- more wind in areas of calm air.
taken aback: the wind blowing on the wrong side of the sails
gripe: too much sail aft or a keel too balanced forward is said to gripe upwind. her sails flap around and she isn't moving forward. it is said, too, that a griping vessel and a tired helmsman make a dangerous combination and lead to a taken aback vessel. :)
cranky: an unstable boat due to imbalance causing a crank to heel too far to the wind.
between the devil and the deep blue sea is where a sailor is when he (or she!) has been knocked down by a wave
by and large: sailing close, but a few points off the wind. a few more points off, holding the course below the wind, and she fetches her destination in one tack.

i did a search for more and found these:

The whole nine yards: If you look at a typical "square-rigger" you will see that there are three masts with three yards on each mast. So if you had all of the square sails aflying on board, you would have the whole nine yards in operation. ie. everything.

To turn a blind eye to: Admiral Nelson, at the battle of Copenhagen, ignored signals from his own fleet commander, not to attack the Danish fleet at anchor by putting his telescope up to his blind eye and saying "I see no signals." Hence the saying today "to turn a blind eye" to something; to deliberately ignore a situation. By the way, what Nelson said is often erroneously reported a "I see no ships." Then there's the joke: "I see no ships only hardships."
Blood is thicker than water: A well known saying attributed to commodore Josiah Tattnail, U.S.N., when justifying his intervention in the British attack on the Peiho forts in June 1859 during the second China war (1856-9). He used his ship, the Toeywan, to tow the British boats from the shore with the survivors of the land attack, and is credited with using this expression in conversation with the British commander-in-chief, Sir James Hope, the following day.

Blood Money: Originally known as bounty money, it was the financial reward for sinking an enemy ship. The amount of the reward, however, was not based on the size or importance of the ship but on the number of crew members killed.

Holy Mackerel: Because mackerel is a fish that spoils quickly, merchants were allowed to sell it on Sundays despite blue laws in the 17th-century England. Hence the phrase "Holy Mackerel!"

Mind your P's and Q's: (not at all what i thought) Sailors would get credit at the waterfront taverns until they were paid. The innkeeper kept a record of their drinks, and he had to mind that no Pints or Quarts were left off of their accounts.

Shake a leg: Originally show-a-leg. Since women were allowed aboard while in harbor, it was necessary in the mornings to have the occupant of a hammock put a leg out for identification - and the men had to get up and go to work. Alternate: Hurry up with what you are doing. Jump out of bed and be sharp about it. To call the hands out of their hammocks.

Hunky-Dory: The term meaning everything is O.K. was coined from a street named "Honki-Dori" in Yokohama, Japan. Since the inhabitants of this street catered to the pleasures of sailors, it is easy to understand why the street's name became synonymous for anything that is enjoyable or at least satisfactory. And, the logical follow-on is "Okey-dokey."

Showing your true colours: Early warships often carried flags from many nations on board in order to elude or deceive the enemy. The rules of civilized warfare called for all ships to hoist their true national ensigns before firing a shot. Someone who finally "shows his true colors" is acting like a warship which hails another ship flying one flag, but then hoisted their own when they got in firing range.

Cup of Joe: Navy lore: Josephus Daniels (18 May 1862-15 January 1948) was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Among his reforms of the Navy were inaugurating the practice of making 100 Sailors from the Fleet eligible for entrance into the Naval Academy, the introduction of women into the service, and the abolishment of the officers' wine mess. From that time on, the strongest drink aboard Navy ships could only be coffee and over the years, a cup of coffee became known as "a cup of Joe".

Hand over Fist: Climbing into the rigging of the old sailing ships was done hand over hand, and the more descriptive "hand over fist" portrays someone hauling in and rapidly ascending up the ropes, just as in the business world when someone has risen rapidly and is hauling in money. Alternate: Hand over hand was a British term for the act of moving quickly up a rope or hoisting a sail, which was a matter of pride and competition among sailors. It is thought that American sailors changed this term to 'hand over fist', and the term now means to advance or accumulate rapidly.

more here, if interested :)

by the way, sails don't flap in the wind. they flog. i knew i was drawn to sailing for some reason ;)

condom stuffing at CAN today, from 2 to 4. come join us!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 23rd, 2003 09:50 am (UTC)
I knew a lot of those terms, having grown up reading Hornblower novels...

and now you have me thinking of flogging...i guess i'm definitely going to have to write a spanking story this afternoon... :-)
Aug. 23rd, 2003 11:04 am (UTC)
Re: neat!
oh, please do!

....stepping out for ice cream ;)
Aug. 23rd, 2003 04:49 pm (UTC)
This is my favorite picture yet of you! :)
Sep. 2nd, 2003 09:28 am (UTC)

The "devil" is the seam where the deck meets the side of the ship, so to be, "Between the devil and the deep blue sea, was to be in a sad and sorry place.

The other phrase, which comes from that seam is, "The Devil to pay, and no pitch hot." which was to have a task of an almost undoable nature. To keep the seam caulked was done by pounding oakum (old bits of junk rope) and pitch into the gap.

As for, "by and large," if I recall aright, they are the opposite tacks, with Large having the wind a bit abaft, and By being heading up.

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


don't fear death
melissa muses (or maia, you choose)


wandering does not make you a "gypsy."
why would you call yourself
after those who have no home?
long skirts and hoop earrings
do not make you a "gypsy."
why do you call yourself after
those who have no clothes?

"gypsy" is pejorative. please don't perpetuate the stereotype. educate yourself on what it really means to be a "gypsy" in this world.

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