Abaft: behind or farther aft;
astern or toward the stern.
Abeam: at right angles to the
centerline of and outside a ship.
Accommodation ladder: a portable
flight of steps down a ship's side.
Adrift: loose from moorings, or out
All hands: entire ship's company,
both officers and enlisted personnel.
Amidships (or midships): in middle
portion of ship, along the line of the keel.
Anchor detail: group of ship's
personnel who handle ground tackle when the ship is
anchoring or getting under way.
Athwart, athwartships: at right
angles to the fore and aft or centerline of a
Avast: a command to cease or desist
from whatever is being done.
Bail: to dip water out of a boat with
a bucket. A hoop or ring; a half hoop or yoke.
Bear a hand: speed up the action;
lend a helping hand.
Belay: to cancel an order; to stop;
to firmly secure a line.
Bend on: to secure one thing to
another, as bend a flag onto a halyard.
Bight: middle part of a line as
distinguished from the end and the standing part; a single
complete turn of line; bend in a river or
Billet: a crew member's assigned
duties within the ship's organization.
Bitt: strong iron post on ship's deck
for working or fastening lines; almost invariably in
Bitter end: the utmost end of a
Boat fall: rigging used to hoist or
lower ship's boats.
Boat gripe: lashing used at sea to
secure a boat hanging from the davits against the strongback
and away from the ship's side.
Boat painter: rope attached to the
stern ringbolt of a boat; used for securing it. Also a short
piece of rope secured to the bow of a boat; used for towing
or making fast. Not to be confused with the sea painter,
which is a much longer rope.
Boatswain: warrant officer in charge
of deck work. Pronounced "bosun".
Boatswain's pipe: small, shrill
silver whistle used by boatswain's mate to pass a call or
pipe the side.
Bollard: wooden or iron post on a
pier or wharf to which mooring lines are secured.
Bow: forward section of a
Break out: to unstow or prepare for
Bridge: raised platform from which
ship is steered, navigated, and conned; usually located in
forward part of the ship.
Bridle: span of rope or chain with
both ends secured.
Broad on the starboard or port beam:
bearing 090 degrees or 270 degrees relative to the bow of
Broad on the starboard or port
quarter: bearing 135 degrees or 225 degrees relative to
the bow of the ship.
Brow: large gangplank leading from a
ship to a pier, wharf, or float; usually equipped with
rollers on the bottom and hand rails on the side.
Bulkhead: one of the vertical
wall-like structures enclosing a compartment.
Bull nose: a closed chock at the head
of the bow on the forecastle deck.
Bulwark: raised plating or woodwork
running along the side of a vessel above the weather deck.
Helps keep decks dry and prevents crew and gear from being
Camel: large fender float used for
keeping vessel off wharf, pier, or quay; usually of one or
Cargo whip: rope or chain used with a
boom for handling cargo. One end has a heavy hook; the other
end is rove through a block and taken to the winch. Also,
called cargo hoist or cargo rope.
Carry away: to break loose, tear loose,
or wash overboard.
Cast off: to throw off; to let
go; to unfurl.
Chains: platform or a general area on
either side of forward part of a ship where leadsman stands
as he or she takes soundings.
Check: to slack off slowly; to stop a
vessel's way gradually by a line fastened to some fixed
object or to an anchor on the bottom; to ease off a rope a
little, especially with a view to reducing the tension; to
stop or regulate the motion, as a cable when it is running
Chock: steel deck member, either oval
or U-shaped, through which mooring lines are passed. Usually
paired off with bitts.
Clamp down: going over a deck with
damp swabs; a lesser form of swabbing down.
Cleat: (1) a small, metal deck
fitting with horns; used for securing lines; also called
belaying cleat. (2) Short piece of wood nailed to brow of
gangplank to give surer footing.
Close abroad: nearby.
Colors: national ensign;
distinguishing flag flown by a vessel to indicate her
nationality. Also, the ceremonies performed at a naval
activity when colors are hoisted at eight o'clock and hauled
down at sunset.
Companionway: set of steps or ladders
leading from one deck level to another.
Conn: to direct helmsman as to
movement of helm, especially when navigating in narrow
channels or heavy traffic. (For example, to conn the
Coxswain: enlisted man in charge of a
boat; acts as helmsman. Pronounced "koksun."
Cradle: a stowage rest for ship's
Davit: shipboard crane that can be
swung out over the side; used for hoisting and lowering
boats and weights. Often found in pairs.
Dead reckoning: navigator's estimate
of ship's position from the course steered and the distance
Deck: on a ship corresponds to the
floor of a building on land.
Deep: the distance in fathoms between
two successive marks on a lead line, as "By the deep,
Deep six: slang meaning to dispose of
by throwing over the side. Also, when referring to lead line
use, a depth of six fathoms of water.
Dip: lowering a flag part way in
salute or in answer, and hoisting it again. A flag is "at
the dip" when it is flown at about two-thirds the height of
Dog: metal fitting used to secure
watertight doors, hatch covers, scuttles, etc.
Dogwatch: one of the two-hour watches
between 1600 to 2000.
Dolphin: cluster of piles for
Double up: to increase the number of
ship-to-pier turns of a mooring line.
Ease off: to ease a line; slacken it
Easy: carefully, gently.
Fairlead: an eye, block, or fitting
furnishing a clear lead for a line.
Fairway: in inland waters, an open
channel or midchannel.
Fake down: coiling down a line so
that each fake of rope overlaps the one underneath and makes
the line clear for running.
Fancy work: intricate, symmetrical
rope work used for decorative purposes.
Fantail: main deck section in the
after part of a flush-deck ship.
Fast: snugly secured; said of a line
when it is fastened securely.
Forecastle: upper deck in forward
part of the ship. Pronounced "foke'-sul"; abbreviated
Frap: to bind lightly by passing
lines around; to draw together the parts of tackle or other
combinations of ropes to increase tension.
Galley: the ship's
Gangway: opening in the bulwarks of
the rail of the ship to give entrance at the head of the
gangplank or brow; an order to stand aside and get out of
General quarters: battle stations for
Gripes: metal fastenings for securing
a boat in its cradle; canvas bands fitted with thimbles in
their ends and passed from the davit heads over and under
the boat for securing for sea.
Handsomely: to ease a line gradually;
to execute something deliberately and carefully, but not
Head: compartment of a ship having
Heave 'round: to revolve the drum of
a winch or windlass so as to pull in a line or anchor
Heave to: to bring the ship's head
into the wind or sea and hold her there by the use of
engines and rudder.
Holiday: an imperfection or vacant
space in an orderly arrangement; spots in painted work left
Hull down: said of a distant vessel
when only her stack-tops and mast are visible above the
Jack: flag similar to the union of
the national ensign; flown at the jackstaff when in port;
plug for connecting an electrical appliance to a power or
Jacob's ladder: light ladder made of
rope or chain with metal or wooden rungs; used over the side
Jury rig: makeshift rig of mast and
sail or of other gear, as jury anchor, jury rudder; any
Knife edge: smooth, polished edge of
the coaming against which the rubber gaskets of watertight
doors and scuttles press when closed; furnishes better
Knock off: to cease what is being
done; to stop work.
Ladder: in a ship, corresponds to
stairs in a building.
Lee: direction away from the
Liberty: any authorized absence
granted for short periods to provide respite from the work
environment or for other specific reasons. Liberty is not
chargeable to the member.
Locker: small metal or wooden stowage
space; either a chest or closet.
Lucky bag: locker for stowage of
personal gear found adrift.
Mark: fathoms in a lead line that are
Marry: placing two lines together, as
in hoisting a boat; to sew together temporarily the ends of
two lines for rendering through the block.
Mess: to eat; group of crew members
eating together; the compartment or location for the dining
of a select group aboard ship, such as the CPO
Messenger: light line used for
hauling over a heavier rope or cable; for example, the
messenger is sent over from the ship to the pier by the
heaving line and then used to pull the heavy mooring lines
across. Also, an enlisted crew member who runs errands for
Monkey fist: a knot, with or without
a weight enclosed, worked in the end of a heaving line to
form a heavy ball to facilitate throwing the
Mousing: small stuff seized across a
hook to prevent unhooking.
Oscar: Traditionally, the name given
to the dummy employed for ship's "Man overboard" drills; the
flag hoisted by a ship to indicate a man/woman
Overhead: on a ship, equivalent to
the ceiling of a building ashore; ships have overheads
rather than ceilings.
Pad eye: metal eye permanently
secured to deck or bulkhead.
Painter: a line in the bow of a boat
for towing or making fast.
Pass the word: to repeat an order or
information to all hands.
Pelican hook: hinged hook held in
place by a ring; when the ring is knocked off, the hook
Pelorus: navigational instrument used
in taking bearings; consists of two sight vanes mounted on a
hoop revolving about a dumb compass or a gyro
Pollywog: person who has never
crossed the line (equator).
Port: left side of the ship facing
forward; a harbor; an opening in the ship's side. The usual
opening in the ship's side for light and air is also a port.
The glass set in a brass frame that fits against it is
called a port light.
Quarter: that part of ship's side
near the stern.
Quarterdeck: that part of the main
(or other) deck reserved for honors and ceremonies and as
the station of the OOD in port.
Quarters: living space; assembly of
the crew; all hands assembled at established stations for
muster, drills, or inspections.
Rack: a sailor's bed.
Rate: grade of official standing of
enlisted personnel. A rate identifies an enlisted member by
pay grade or level of advancement with a rating; a rate
reflects level of aptitude, training, experience, knowledge,
skill, and responsibility.
Rating: name given to an enlisted
occupational specialty that requires basically related
aptitudes, training, experience, knowledge, and
Reeve: to pass the end of a rope
through any lead, such as a sheave or fairlead.
Relative bearing: bearing or
direction of an object in degrees in relation to the bow of
the ship. The bow of the ship is taken as 000 degrees and an
imaginary circle is drawn clockwise around the ship; objects
are then reported as being along a line of bearing through
any degree division of this circle.
Relieving (the watch, the duty,
etc.): to take over the duty responsibilities, as when
one sentry relieves another. Those who relieve are
Scupper: opening in the side of a
ship to carry off water.
Scuttle: small opening through hatch,
deck, or bulkhead to provide access; similar hole in side or
bottom of ship; cover for such an opening; to sink a ship
intentionally by boring holes in the bottom or by opening
Scuttlebutt: drinking fountain. Also,
a rumor, usually of local importance.
Sea lawyer: enlisted member who likes
to argue; usually one who thinks the regulations and
standing orders can be twisted to favor his or her personal
Secure: to make fast; to tie; an
order given on completion of a drill, exercise or evolution,
meaning to withdraw from the corresponding stations and
Secure for sea: extra prescribed
lashings on all movable objects.
Shellback: person who has crossed the
equator and been initiated.
Shipshape: neat, orderly.
Shore up: to prop up.
Shot: short length of chain, usually
Side boys: non-rated personnel
manning the side when visiting senior officers or
distinguished visitors come aboard.
Single up: to reduce the number of
mooring lines out to a pier preparatory to sailing; that is,
to leave only one easily cast off line in each place where
mooring lines were doubled up for greater
Sound: to measure depth of water by
means of a lead line. Also, to measure depth of liquids in
oil tanks, voids, blisters, and other compartments or
Spanner: a tool for coupling
Spring: mooring line leading at an
angle of about 45 degrees off centerline of vessel; to turn
a vessel with a line.
Square away: to get things settled
down or in order.
Starboard: right side of a ship
Steady: order to helmsman to hold
ship on course.
Steerageway: slowest speed at which a
ship can be steered.
Stem: upright post or bar at most
forward part of the bow of a ship or boat. It may be a
casting, forging, welding, or made of wood.
Stern: after part of a
Stopper: short length of rope or
chain firmly secured at one end; used in securing or
checking a running line.
Stow: to put gear in its proper
Striker: enlisted member in training
for a particular rating.
Swab: a rope or yarn mop.
Tackle: arrangement of ropes and
blocks to give mechanical advantage; a purchase, that is, a
rig of lines and pulleys to increase available hauling
force. Pronounced "take-el".
Taffrail: a rail at the stern of a
Take a turn: to pass a turn around a
cleat, bitts, or bollard with a line and hold on.
Toggle: wooden or metal pin slipped
into a becket; furnishes a rapid release.
Topping lift: line used for topping a
boom and taking its weight.
Topside: above decks.
Trice up: to hitch up or hook up,
such as trice up a rack.
Turn to: an order to begin
Two-blocked: when two blocks of a
tackle have been drawn as closely together as
Veer: to let anchor cable, line, or
chain run out by its own weight. Also, when the wind changes
direction clockwise or to the right, it is said to
Very well: reply of a senior (or
officer) to a junior (or enlisted person) to indicate that
information given is understood, or that permission is
Void: empty compartment below
Wardroom: officer's mess and lounge
abroad a ship.
Watchcap: knitted wool cap worn in
cool or cold weather; canvas cover placed over a stack when
not in use.
Weather deck: portion of main,
forecastle, poop, and upper deck exposed to
Whipping: keeping the ends of a rope
from unlaying, by wrapping with turns of twine and tucking