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Barquentine: A vessel square rigged on the foremast only, the main and mizzen masts being fore-and-aft rigged. 

Ballast: Heavy material, such as iron, lead or stone placed in the bottom of the hold to keep the vessel steady. 

Beam: 1.The extreme breadth of a vessel 2.One of the transverse members of a ship's frames on which the decks are laid. They are supported on the ship's sides by right angles timbers known as knees. 

Beetle: A heavy iron mallet used to drive wedges into the seams of wooden ships to open them before caulking. 

Belaying Pins: Short lengths of wood, iron or brass set in racks at convenient placeson the ship where the running rigging can be secured. 

Binnacle: The housing of the ship's compass, its corrections and the binnacle light. It was placed so that it could be viewed by the man at the wheel. 

Block: A wooden or metal case in which one or more sheaves (rollers) are fitted through which lines can run, either to increase the purchase or to change the direction of the line. They are commonly known as pulleys. 

Boom: A spar used to extend the foot of a sail. In fore and aft rigged vessels (ie schooners) the boom is a permanent and important spar at the foot of the mainsail and also of the foresail and the mizzen. It is pivoted at the fore end to the mast by a gooseneck. In square rigged vessels booms were temporary extensions to the yardarms to allow the rigging of studding sails. 

Bow: The fore end of a vessel. 

Bowsprit: A large spar projecting over the stem of a vessel to carry the stays for the fore-topmast and from which the jibs are set. 

Brig: A two masted vessel, square rigged on both masts. 

Brigantine: A two masted vessel with square sails on the fore mast and fore and aft sails on the main mast. 

Bulkhead: A vertical partition, running either fore and aft or athwartships, dividing the hull into separate compartments. 

Bull Rope: A rope used for hoisting a topmast or topgallant mast in a square rigged ship. 

Bulwark: The planking or woodwork along the sides of a ship, above her upper deck to prevent seas washing over the gunwales and to prevent persons from falling or being washed overboard. 

Bunk: A built-in wooden bed on board ship, often built in tiers, one above the other. 

Burthen: A older term used to express a ship's carrying capacity. 

Buttock: The width of a vessel where the hull rounds down to the stern. 


Cabin: A room or space partitioned off by bulkheads to provide a private apartment for officers, passengers and crew members for sleeping and/or eating. 

Cap: The wooden block at the top of a mast through which the mast is drawn when being stepped or lowered. 

Capstan: A cylindrical barrel fitted on the forecastle deck used for heavy lifting. It is placed in the centre line of the ship and on sailing vessels was usually worked by manpower. Work at the capstan was often accompanied by singing of capstan 'shanties' which set the time for the men to take the strain. 

Carvel Built: A method of boat building in which the planks are laid flush with the edges laid close and caulked to make them watertight as opposed to clinker built where the side planks overlap. Generally only small boats were clinker built. 

Cat: The name of the purchase by which the anchor was hoisted to the cathead in preparation for stowing or letting go. Also the process of hoisting the anchor by its ring to the cathead. 

Cathead: A heavy piece of curved timber projecting from each side of the bow of a vessel to hold the anchors in position preparatory to letting go or securing them in their bed after they are weighed. 

Caulk: The process of driving material into the seams of the ship's deck or sides to make them watertight. The tools used were caulking irons and mallets. 

Ceiling: The inside planking in the holds of a vessel, laid across the floors and carried up the sides of the holds to the beams. 

Chainplates: Strips of iron with the lower ends bolted to the ships sides and on the upper end carrying deadeyes to which the standing rigging (ie shrouds) supporting the masts are secured. 

Clew: The lower, aft corner of a fore and aft sail; in a square sail, the two lower corners. 

Cloaming: The framing around openings in the upper deck such as hatches, usually about 15-20 cm. high which prevents water on deck from running into the space below. 

Coppered: The hull of a wooden vessel sheathed below the waterline to prevent the damage caused by ships' worms and also the buildup of weed and barnacles which lessened the ships speed. 

Counter: The overhang of the stern above the waterline. 

Courses: The sails set on the lower yards of a square rigged ship. 

Cradle: The timber frame constructed around the hull of a ship while she is on the launching ways during the building . At the launch the cradle slides down the ways with the ship. 

Crank: A ship which, either by her construction or the stowing of her cargo could not carry a great deal of sail without the danger of capsizing. 

Crosstrees: Light timber spreaders fixed athwartships across the trestle trees at the upper ends of the lower mast and top mast. They supported the topmast and topgallant mast shrouds. 


Deadwood: The solid timbers in the bow and stern, just above the keel where the lines narrow down so that separate side timbers will not fit. They are firmly fixed to the keel to add strength. 

Deals: Boards cut from pine or fir of a specified size. 3" x 9" x 12' was the most common. 

Decks: The horizontal platforms in vessels that correspond to floors in buildings. 

Dolphin Striker: The short perpendicular spar under the cap of the bowsprit used to counteract the upward pull on the jibboom of the fore top-gallant stay. 

Draught or Draft: The depth of water required to float a ship. 


Earing: A rope used to fasten the top corners of a square sail to its yard. 

Entry: The form of the fore part of the ship as it cuts through the water. 

Even Keel: Floating upright in the water, not listing on either side 

Eye: A circular loop on the end of a shroud or stay 


Fairlead: A means of leading a rope in its proper direction 

False Keel: An extra keel outside the main keel either as a protection in case of grounding or to increase the draft and improve the sailing quality. 

Fashion Pieces: The aftmost timbers in the underwater hull of a ship forming the shape of the stern. 

Fay: To fit together two pieces of timber so there is no perceptible space between them 

Fid: A bar of wood or iron which takes the weight of a topmast when it is stepped on the lower mast. A hole in the topmast corresponds with a hole in the lower mast and the fid is driven through to hold them together. 

Fiddlehead: The scrolled stemhead of a vessel lacking a true figurehead. 

Figurehead: An ornamental carved and painted figure on the stem, below the bowsprit generally expressing some aspect of the ship's name. 

Flush Deck: A continuous deck of a ship laid from stem to stern without any break 

Foot: The bottom edge of a sail 

Footropes: Ropes in square rigged ships suspended below the yards on which the topmen stand when furling sails 

Forecastle: Pronounced fo'c'sle. The space between the short raised forward deck. Also a generic term for the living space of the crew in sailing vessels. 

Forward: Toward the bow. 

Frame: The timber or rib of a ship running from the keel to the side rail. The frames form the shape of the hull. 

Freeboard: The distance from the waterline to the upper deck level, measured at the centre of the ship. 

Furniture: The whole moveable equipment of a ship, rigging, sails, spars, anchors, etc. 

Furring: Replanking a vessel to give her more beam and freeboard. This corrects an error in design. 

Futtock: The separate pieces of wood that together form a frame in a wooden vessel. Usually there were four or five futtocks to a rib. 

Futtock Shrouds: Short shrouds supporting the top mast on the lower mast, running from the futtock plates on the sides of the top mast downwards and inwards to a futtock band around the mast or to the lower shrouds 

Gaff: A spar to which the head of a four sided fore and aft sail is laced and when it is hoisted carries the sail up with it. It takes two sets of halyards to hoist a gaff-rigged sail. 

Gammon Iron: Circular band of iron used to hold the bowsprit to the stem of the vessel 

Garboard: The first plank on the outer hull next to the keel. 

Gimbals: Two concentric metal rings for mounting and suspending articles (especially the compass) aboard ship allowing the object to remain level despite the rolling and/or pitching of the vessel. 

Gooseneck: A metal fitting attaching the boom to the mast of a fore and aft rigged vessel allowing the boom to swing sideways. 


Half Beams: Short beams running from the ships side to the coamings of hatches. 

Half-Model: A scale model of the hull of a proposed ship showing the hull from stem to stern. It was made in layers which when taken apart served as models for the full scale plans. 

Halyards: The ropes used to hoist sails. 

Hawse Hole: Hole in the bows of the chip through which the anchor cable passes. 

Head: 1. A general term meaning top or forward 2. The top edge of a four sided sail. 

Heads: The ship's lavatory, originally the area forward of the forecastle and beak. 

Hermaphrodite Brig: A two masted vessel, square rigged on the foremast and fore and aft main sail with a square topsail set above it. 

Hold: A large compartment below decks for the stowing of cargo and stores. 

Hoop: In fore and aft rigged vessels the wooden hoops that secure the luff of the sail to the mast and slide up and down it when the sail is hoisted or lowered. 

Horns: The fixtures securing a gaff to the mast. Unlike a gooseneck which secured the boom, horns could slide up and down the mast . 

Horsing Iron: A shipbuilding tool. A caulking iron used when caulking deck seams. 

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


Jackyard Topsail: A triangular topsail set above the mainsail in a gaff rigged vessel. 

Jeers: Heavy tackle used for hoisting the lower yards in square riggers. 

Jib-Boom: A continuation of the bow sprit used to stay the foot of the outer jib and the stay of the top gallant mast. A flying-jib boom is a further extension to which the tack of the flying jib is fastened. 

Joggle: A notch cut in the edge of a plank to take the butt of the next when planking a wooden vessel. 

Jumper: A stay leading from the outer end of the jib-boom to the dolphin striker. 


Keel: The lowest and most important timber of a wooden ship to which the stem, sternpost and the ribs are attached 

Keel Blocks: The line of blocks on the floor of the slip on which the keel of the ship to be built is laid. 

Keelson: A timber bolted to the keel to provide additional strength 

Ketch: A two masted sailing vessel with the mizzen mast stepped forward of the rudder head.. They were usually fore and aft rigged but could have square sails. 

Knight Heads: Two large timbers on either side of the stem of the vessel which rise above the deck and support the heel of the bowsprit between them. In smaller vessels they were called bitts. 

Larboard: The old name for the left hand side of a ship. It was officially changed to 'port' in 1844. 

Launch: The process of sending the hull of a newly built vessel from the shipyard where it was built into the water. 

Launching Ways: Beds of timber blocks sloping toward the water which support the sliding ways of the cradle holding the ship. The launching ways are well greased to facilitate the sliding of the hull into the water. 

Leech: The after side of a fore and aft sail and the edges of a square sail 

Lifts: Ropes in square-rigged ships led from the mast heads to the two ends of the yards to support them. 

Limber Holes: Holes cut in the timbers on either side of the keelson to allow bilge water to run freely to the pump well. 

Limber Rope: A rope threaded through the limber holes, running the length of a ship. Pulling it back and forth kept the holes from becoming plugged. 

Lines: The designer's drawings of a ship. There were normally three; the sheer plan showing the longitudinal vertical section, the body plan, showing the vertical cross section and the halfwidth plan showing the longitudinal transverse section at various depths between the deck line, waterline and bottom. 

Loose-Footed: A fore and aft sail that is set without a boom. Most jibs are loose footed. 

Lubber's Hole: The opening in the floor of the tops on the fore, main and mizzen masts of square rigged ships to give access to the topmasts from below. Unsure seaman preferred going through this hole rather that over the futtock shrouds as the more experienced sailors did. 

Luff: The leading edge of a fore and aft sail 


Mainsail: The principal sail of a sailing vessel. In square-rigged ships it is the lowest sail on the main mast. 

Manger: A small space in the bows of a ship astern of the hawsepipes and enclosed by a coaming to prevent water that came in the hawsepipes from running along the deck. 

Martingale: A stay running from the end of the jib-boom to the dolphin striker, which holds the jib-boom down against the pull of the fore topgallant-mast stay. 

Mast: A vertical spar set in a vessel. They are taken through holes in the decks and fitted into 'steps' in the keelson. A mast made from a single tree trunk was called a 'pole' mast. In later years when there were no tall trees left, masts were 'built ' of several pieces of timber, scarfed and glued. 

Master: The captain of a ship. 

Master Builder: The head workman in the shipyard. In many smaller shipyard, he was the designer of the ship as well. 

Metacentre: The point of intersection of a vertical line drawn through the centre of gravity of a line drawn through the centre of buoyancy when she is heeled. To ensure that a ship will come upright when she is heeled the metacentre must be above the centre of gravity. 

Mizzen: The name of the third , aftermost mast of a square rigged ship or a three masted (tern) schooner. 

Moonraker: A small light sail set above the sky sail of a square rigged ship. 

Moulding: A term describing the depth of any member of a ships construction such as frames, keelson, beams, sternpost, etc. 

Mould-Loft: A large building where the lines of a ship could be laid-out in full size. 

Moulds: The thin lengths of wood used to form the patterns from which the timbers are shaped. 


Number: The group of four letters assigned to every merchant ship for identification purposes. 


Oakum: Tarred hemp fibers used for caulking the seams on the decks and sides of wooden ships. It is produced by picking apart old ropes. 

Oar: A wooden lever used to pull a boat through the water. It has three parts, the blade which makes contact with the water; the shaft , the main length of the oar and the loom, the end on which the rower pulls in an action called rowing. 

Orlop: The lowest deck of a ship laid directly over the bilge. 

Outrigger: In sailing vessels an extension to each side of the crosstrees to spread the backstays. 

Parish-Rigged: A vessel which because of the meanness of the owner had worn or bad gear aloft. 

Parrel: An iron collar holding the yards of a square rigged vessel to the mast so that they could be braced around to the wind. Some of the lighter, upper yards were held with ropes called parrel lashings. 

Partners: A plank framework attached to the deck around the holes through which the masts are stepped, strengthening the deck in these places to take the strain when the ship under a press of sail. 

Pawls: A series of metal dogs, hinged at one end at the bottom of the barrel of the capstan to ensure an even speed when hoisting a heavy load. 

Pay: To pour hot pitch over a freshly caulked hull or deck to waterproof the oakum. 

Peak: The upper, aft corner of a four-sided, gaff rigged, fore and aft sail. 

Pillow: A block of timber fixed to the deck of a sailing vessel just inside the bow on which the inboard end of the bowsprit rests. 

Pitch: A mixture of tar and coarse resin. 

Plimsoll Line: A mark painted on the sides of British merchant ships indicating the draught levels to which the ship may be loaded. Under varying conditions. It was made compulsory in 1876 after many ships were lost due to being overloaded. 

Poop: The short, aftermost deck raised above the quarterdeck of a ship. It usually formed the 'coachroof' over the area where the master had his cabin. 

Port: The left hand side of a ship. 

Ports: Square holes cut in the hulls of vessels. Timber ports allowed for the loading of long lengths of wood cargo. When not in use they were closed by port-lids. This term is incorrect when applied to the circular round holes which serve as windows. These are properly called scuttles. 

Pump: A mechanism for emptying the bilges of water. 

Purchase: A mechanical device consisting of blocks and tackle to increase the mechanical advantage when hoisting heavy spars or sails 


Quarter: The after parts of the ship on each side of the centerline 

Quarterdeck: The part of the upper deck of a ship abaft the mainmast and the part of the ship from which the captain issued his commands. 


Rabbet: A notch in a piece of timber made to receive the ends or sides of planks which are to be secured to it. The keel is rabbeted to receive the sides of the garboard strakes 

Rake: The angle the ship's masts make in relation to the perpendicular. 

Ratline: One of a series of rope steps between the shrouds of the mast. They form a ladder by which the crew and reach the yards when working aloft. 

Reef: To take in or lessen the area of a sail without furling it. 

Reef Bands: A strip of extra canvas attached across a sail to strengthen it where the reef points are located. 

Reeming Iron: Iron wedge used to open up seams before caulking. 

Rig: The characteristics of a sailing vessel's masts and type and number of sails by which the type is determined ie. square-rigged or schooner rigs. 

Rigger: A shipyard worker who fits or dismantles the standing and running rigging of ships. 

Rigging: All the ropes, wires or chains used to support the masts and yards and for hoisting, lowering or trimming sails. Rigging used to support the masts, yards and bowsprit is called standing rigging. The ropes controlling the sails form the running rigging. 

Rope: All cordage over one inch in diameter. The natural fibers used in ropes on sailing vessels were hemp. Manila, sisal and coir. 

Rowlock: A U-shaped hole cut in the gunwale of a small boat where the oars are placed. 

Royals: The sail next above the top-gallant sail. 

Rudder: The means of giving direction to a ship under way. It is a flat paddle, hung from the sternpost and moving laterally. The movement is imparted by a wheel in large vessels and a tiller in small boats. 


Saddle: A block of wood fixed to a mast or a yard to support another spar attached to it 

Sail: A combination of pieces of cloth, cut and seamed so as to give a particular shape, designed to catch the wind and use its force to drive the ship. 

Sail Burton: The block and tackle that extends from the heads of the topmasts to the deck in square rigged ships, used for hoisting the sails aloft when they are bent on to the yards. 

Scantlings: The dimensions of a timber after it has been reduced to its standard size. 

Scarph: The joining of two timbers by beveling off the edges so the same thickness is maintained throughout. The stem and sternposts of wooden ships were scarphed to the keel. 

Schooner: A vessel rigged with fore and aft sails on two or more masts. 

Scuttle: A circular port cut in the side of a vessel to admit light and air. I has a circular brass or bronze frame with a thick glass window hinged on one side to allow opening. It is tightly closed by butterfly nuts. On the inside is a hinged metal plate, a deadlight that can be lowered to cover the port in very bad weather or when the ships lights must be darkened. 

Sections: Drawings made during the design stage of a ship showing the positions of the frames and their exact curvature. 

Shackle: A U-shaped piece of metal, closed with a pin across the end, used for securing parts of the rigging to each other. 

Sheathing: The covering of thin copper plates on the bottom of wooden ships to protect against wood boring ship worms. 

Sheer: The upward curve of the deck of a ship toward the bow and stern with the lowest point at the waist. 

Sheer Pole: A horizontal steel rod, fitted at the base of the shrouds to keep any turns out of the shrouds while they are being set up. 

Sheer Strake: The top plank next below the gunwale running the length of the vessel. 

Sheet: A single line used for trimming a sail to the wind. 

Shrouds: The standing rigging of a sailing ship that give lateral support to the masts. 

Siding: The width of deck beams, the crosswise members of the ship's frames. 

Skylight: A window set at an angle to the deck of a ship to give light and ventilation to the cabin below 

Skysail: The sail next above the royals in a square rigged vessel 

Skyscraper: A small triangular sail set above the skysail in fair weather. 

Slipway: The sloping foreshore in front of a shipyard. It is fitted with keel blocks and launching ways. 

Spales: Temporary cross beams fixed to support and hold the frames of a wooden ship while under construction. 

Spar: Any wooden support used in the rigging of a ship. 

Spoke: In a ship's wheel the extension beyond the rim which acts as a handle by which the wheel is turned. 

Spreaders: Metal bars fitted to the bow of a square rigged ship to give more spread to the tacks of the fore sails. 

Sprit: A long spar that stretches diagonally across a four-sided fore and aft sail to support the peak. 

Stachions: The upright supports set along the side of the upper deck to carry a guard rail. 

Starboard: The right hand side of a vessel when facing forward. 

Stay: A part of the standing rigging of a sailing vessel that supports a mast in the fore and aft line. Forestays support from forward and backstays support from aft. 

Staysail: A triangular fore and aft sail which is set by attaching it to a stay/ such sails take their names from the stay on which they are set. 

Steeve: The angle of the bowsprit in relation to the horizontal 

Stem: The foremost timber forming the bow of a vessel. 

Step: A framework of timber or metal fixed to the keel of a vessel to take the heel of a mast. 

Sternpost: The aftermost timber in a vessel, forming the stern of the ship and joined to the keel. 

Strake: Each line of horizontal planking running the length of the ships hull. In small boats this might be a single plank, in large vessels many planks would go to make a skrake 

Studding Sail: An extra sail set on extensions of the yards. 

Sway: The operation of hoisting the topmasts and yards of a square rigged ship. 


Tack: The lower, forward corner of a fore and aft sail. In Square rigged ships, it is the rope used to hold in the lower corners of the courses and staysails on the weather side. 

Tackle: A combination of two or more blocks with ropes used to gain a mechanical advantage. 

Taffrail: The after rail at the stern of a ship. 

Tarpauline: Tainted canvas used for covering hatches, boats and other gear on board ship. 

Throat: The upper foremost corner of a four sided fore and aft sail. 

Thwart: The transverse wooden seat in a small rowing boat 

Tiller: A wooden or metal bar fitted on to the head of the rudder and by which it is moved. This is a steering mechanisms in small rowing or sailing boats. Larger vessels have a wheel. 

Timbers: The frames or ribs of a ship, connected to the keel. They give the hull both its shape and strength. 

Tonnage: The cargo capacity of a ship 

Top: A platform at the masthead of a ship whose purpose is to extend the topmanst shrouds so the give additional support to the topmast 

Topgallent Mast: In a square rigged vessel, the mast stepped above the topmast. It is the third division of a complete mast 

Topgallant Sail: The sail set next above the topsail. Normally it is the third sail in ascending order from the deck. 

Topmast: The mast next above the the lower mast and the second division of a complete mast. 

Topsail: In square rigged vessels the sail set on the topsail yard.. Normally the second sail in ascending order from the deck. Sometimes this sail was divided in tow, a lower and upper top sail. 

Topsides: That part of the side of the ship which is above the upper deck. 

Trail Board: One of a pair of boards fitted on each side of the stem which helped support the figurehead. They were often richly carved and gilded. 

Transom: The crosswise timbers bolted to the sternpost of the ship to give a flat stern. 

Treenails: Pronounced trennels. Cylindrical pins of oak used to secure the planks of a wooden ship to the ribs. They were used instead of metal nails or bolts because they did not rust or loosen 

Trestle Trees: Two short pieces of timber fixed horizontally fore and aft on each side of the lower masthead of a square rigged vessel, used to support the topmast, the lower crosstrees and the top. 

Trysail: Fore and aft sails with a boom and gaff on the fore and mainmasts of a three masted square rigger. 

Tumble Home: The amount by which the two sides of a ship are brought in towards the center above the maximum beam. 


Upper Deck: The highest of the continuous decks running the full length of a ship. 


Waist: The part of the upper deck of a vesssel between the fore and main masts. 

Warp: 1. The measurement and laying out of rigging in the sail loft before cutting to the proper length. 2. A line to move a ship within a harbour. After the launch, vessels were warped into position. 

Waterway: The channel hollowed out in the outboard planks of the ship's deck to allow water on the deck to run off. 

Ways: The parallel platforms of timbers, sloping down the foreshore, one on each side of a ship under construction. The cradle slides down the greased ways. 

Well: A vertical, cylindrical trunk in the ship, running all the way down to the lowest part of the ship. Through it the pipes of the bilge pumps pass. 

Well Found: A vessel that is well built an well equipped. 

Wheelhouse: The deckhouse of a vessel in which the wheel is fitted protecting the helmsman from the elements. 

Whiskers: Short horizontal spars fitted to a bowsprit when the jib-boom in added. 

Whoodings: The planks which are rabbeted into the stem of a vessel. 


Yard: A large wooden or metal horizontal spar, fastened to the masts of a square rigged vessel to carry the square sails. 

Yardarm: The outer quarters of a years 

Yawl: A small two masted sailing vessel with the mizzen mast stepped astern of the rudder post. 


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