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List and Glossary of Nautical Terms

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Nautical Glossary - Maritime Terminology

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Aback
Condition of sail when the wind pressure is on the leeward or forward side, with sails backed or trimmed to windward (wind on the wrong side of the sails) Also known as "backwinded"
Abaft
Behind or aft of; on the after side of; towards the stern relative to some other object or position.
Abaft the beam
Any direction between the beam and the stern, more behind a vessel than in front of it. Behind a perpendicular line extending out from the middle of the boat
Abeam
At right angles to the the fore and aft line of the boat, or beside, the boat; on the beam; also Abreast.
Able Bodied Seamen
A member of the deck crew who is able to perform all the duties of an experienced seamen; certificated by examination; must have three years sea service. Also called Able Seamen and A.B.
Aboard
On or in a vessel. Close aboard is close to another ship or an obstruction
About
Across the wind in relation to the bow. When a sailboat tacks across the wind to bring it from one side to the other, she is said to go about.
About Ship
The order to tack the ship
Above-Board
Above the deck, and therefore open and visible. This gave rise to the term used to denote open and fair dealing.
Above Deck
On the deck (not over it; see ALOFT).
Abox
To lay the head-yards abox in a square rigged sailing vessel was to lay them square to the foremast in order to heave-to.
Abreast
Alongside of; on the beam.
ABS
American Bureau of Shipping: A U.S. based private classification, or standards setting society for merchant ships and other marine systems.
Abyss
That part of the ocean lying below 300 fathoms from the surface.
Access Hole
A hole through casing, bulkhead, floor or deck to enable one to reach work or gear.
Accommodation
A cabin fitted for the use of passengers.
A-Cockbill, A-Cockbell
Describing an anchor when it hangs by its ring at the cathead or from the hawsehole ready for letting go.
Addendum
Additional terms at the end of a charter party.
Admeasurement
The confirmed or official dimensions of a ship.
Admiral
The title of a commander of a fleet or a subdivision of it.
Admiralty Law
The law of the sea; jurisdiction over maritime causes.
Admiralty Sweep
A large, cautious turn made to approach a gangway or to come alongside a vessel or jetty in a boat.
Adornings
The gingerbread woodwork on the stern of old sailing ships.
Adrift
Floating free with the currents and tide; said of a free floating object or boat which can not move by its own power; floating at random.
Advantage
Method of reeving a tackle in order to gain the maximum increase in power.
Advection Fog
Can occur any time warm, moist air blows over a surface cool enough to drop it's temperature below the dew point.
Adventure
Consignments of cargo sent abroad in a ship to be sold or bartered by the master to best advantage or when the opportunity arises.
Aerodynamic
Having a shape that that is not adversely affected by wind flowing past it.
Aft
At, near or towards the stern; to move aft is to move back
After Bow Spring Line
A mooring line fixed to the bow of the boat and leading aft where it is attached to the dock. This prevents the boat from moving forward in its berth. Its opposite, the forward quarter spring line, is used to keep the boat from moving aft in its berth.
After Hatchway
The hatchway nearest the stern.
After-leading
Said of a line that leads from its point of attachment towards the stern of the ship.
Aftercabin
In a ship with multiple cabins, the cabin closest to the stern.
Aftermast
In a sailing ship carrying multiple masts, the mast set closest to the stern.
Aftermost
The farthest aft.
Afterpart
The part of the boat behind the beam.
Against the Sun
Anti-clockwise circular motion. Left-handed ropes are coiled down in this way.
Age of the Tide
The interval between full moon and change of moon and the highest high tide.
Agency Fee
A fee charged to the ship by the ship's agent, representing payment for services while the ship was in port. Sometimes called attendance fee.
Agent
See Ship's Port Agent
Agonic Line
Lines on the Earths surface joining point where there is no magnetic variation.
Aground
When the hull or keel is touching or fast to the bottom of any body of water; on or onto the shore.
Ahead
In front of the vessel, forward; in a forward direction; opposite of astern.
Ahoy
Seaman's call to attract attention.
AHT (Anchor-handling tug)
Moves anchors and tow drilling vessels, lighters and similar.
Ahull
Lying almost beam on to strong winds and being driven before them while under bare poles (without sails up). The helm is lashed so as to point the vessel into the wind, but it continually falls away because of the pressure of the wind. It is a technique for riding out storms.
Aid to Navigation (AtoN)
Any fixed object that a navigator may use to find his position, such as permanent land or sea markers, buoys, radiobeacons, and lighthouses, and to indicate safe and unsafe waters.
Aladdin Cleat
A cleat that attaches to the backstay over the cockpit, usually used for hanging a lantern
Albatross
Large and long-winged seabird of the southern hemisphere capable of long flights. It was believed among seamen that albatrosses embodied the souls of dead sailors, and it was considered unlucky to kill one.
Aldis Lamp
A handheld electric lamp with a finger operated shutter used for the sending of signals at sea.
Alee
Away from the direction of the wind; the side away from the direction of the wind.
All Aback
With all sails filling from the opposite side from which they are trimmed.
All Hands
The entire crew; an order on board ship for all seamen to muster on deck immediately.
All-Around Light
A light showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 360 degrees. An anchor or riding light is an all-round light.
All in the Wind
When a sailing vessel is head to the wind and all of her sails are fluttering.
Allison
The act of striking or collision of a moving vessel against a stationary object.
Almanac (Nautical)
Annual publication of astronomical data for the use of navigators.
Aloft
Above the deck, usually overhead on the mast or in the rigging.
Alongside
Close beside a ship, wharf or jetty.
Aloof
Old expression meaning to "keep your luff", or sail as close to the wind as possible.
Alow
Down or downwards; as in "Lay alow!"; opposite of Aloft.
Altazimuth
Instrument for establishing the altitude and azimuth of stars and planets.
Altitude
The angle a celestial body makes with the horizon.
Amain
An old maritime expression meaning "immediately", as "let go amain" (drop the anchor at once!).
Amas
The outboard hulls of a trimaran.
Amidships
In or toward the part of a boat or ship midway between the bow and the stern; also midway between port and starboard sides; toward the middle of the ship or boat.
Ammeter
An instrument for measuring electrical current in amperes.
Amplitude
(1) In navigation, the angle between the point at which the sun rises and sets and the true east and west points of the horizon. (2) Wave height. 1
Anchor
(1) A heavy metal object, fastened to a chain or line, to hold a vessel in position, partly because of its weight, but chiefly because the designed shape digs into the bottom. (2) The act of using an anchor.
Anchor Ball
A black ball visible in all directions, displayed in the forward part of a vessel to indicate that the vessel is anchored.
Anchor Bed
Chocks which hold and anchor in place either in a locker or on deck.
Anchor Bend
A type of knot used to fasten an anchor to its line.
Anchor Buoy
A small buoy that is used to mark the position of an anchor. It is attached to the base or crown of an anchor and can be used to recover the anchor if it has to be cast adrift, or to trip it if it becomes wedged.
Anchor is Apeak
The anchor is under the hawse .
Anchor is Aweigh
Anchor is off the sea bottom when being heaved in .
Anchor is Foul
Anchor cable is caught around the fluke or an object is caught around the anchor .
Anchor Light
A white light, usually on the masthead, visible from all directions, used to indicate that a vessel is anchored.
Anchor Warp
A hawser or line attached to an anchor.
Anchor Watch
A member or members of the crew that keep watch and check to see whether the anchor is dragging and the the drift of the ship. This is prudent when anchored in heavy weather, or where wind direction may change dangerously.
Anchor Windlass
A windlass is a winch-like device used to assist in the raising of the anchor.
Anchorage
A sheltered place suitable for anchoring in relation to the wind, seas and bottom.
Anemometer
An instrument for measuring wind speed
Aneroid Barometer
A mechanical barometer used to measure air pressure for warnings of changing weather.
Angle of Attack
The angle between the sail and the apparent wind or the rudder or centerline and the water flow.
Angle of Cut
In navigation, the smaller angle at which two position lines on a chart intersect. The fix will be more reliable as the angle approaches 90°.
Angle of Heel
The number of degrees of list a vessel has. The first indication that a vessel may need to reef is when there is too great an angle of heel.
Annual Variation
The amount by which magnetic variation changes up or down each year in a particular area. The annual increase or decrease is printed in the compass roses on each chart and may make a significant difference over a number of years.
Anticyclone
Area of high barometric pressure where the wind circulates clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, and counter-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. These are fair weather systems with light or moderate winds.
Antifouling Paint
A paint applied to the boat's bottom below the waterline which contains "poisons", such as copper, to inhibit the growth of marine life such as weeds or barnacles.
Anti-Gallicans
A pair of additional backstays temporarily rigged to provide extra support to the masts of square rigged vessels when sailing downwind.
Apeak
Said of an anchor when the cable is taut and vertical.
Apostles
Large bollards affixed to the main deck near the bow of a square rigged vessel around which hawsers or anchor cables were belayed.
Apparent Wind
The direction and speed of the wind as it appears to those on board, relative to the speed and direction of the boat; combination of the true wind and the wind caused by the boat's movement through the water.
Appendage
A rudder, keel, centerboard, or skeg.
Apron
A strengthening timber behind the lower part of the stem and above the foremost end of the keel in a wooden vessel.
Aqualung
A device invented by Captain Jacques Cousteau in 1943 to enable a diver to operate underwater independent from an air supply from the surface.
Arbitration
Method of settling disputes which is usually binding on parties. A clause usually in a charter party.
Aries
The point at which the Sun , traveling in the Ecliptic , crosses the Equinoctial when going from South to North declination.
Armstrong Patent
Slang expression to indicate that a ship was not fitted with any mechanical aids, and that all the work of the ship had to be done with the strong arms of the crew.
Articles of Agreement
The document containing all particulars relating to the terms of agreement between the Master of the vessel and the crew. Sometimes called ship's articles or shipping articles.
Articles of War
Disciplinary code in which maritime crimes and punishments are specified.
Artificial Horizon
An aid to taking as astronomical sight with a sextant when the sea horizon is obscured through haze, fog, or darkness.
Ashore
On the land or aground.
Aspect Ratio
The relationship (ratio) between the sails height (luff length) and length along the foot. High aspect ratio means a sail that is tall and narrow, low aspect ratio is a short, squat sail. A high aspect ratio sail is very efficient in sailing close to the wind.
A-stay
Said of an anchor cable when its line angle approximates a continuation of the fore stay line .
Astern
Backwards, somewhere behind the vessel, towards the stern; in the direction of, or behind, the stern; opposite of ahead.
Astrolabe
A precursor to the sextant. An old navigational device for checking the altitude of the sun or stars.
At Sea
In marine insurance this phrase applies to a ship which is free from its moorings and ready to sail.
Athwart
Lying along the ship's width, at right angles to the vessels fore-and-aft line (centerline). Same as abeam.
Athwartship
A member or dimension running from port to starboard.
Athwartships
From one side of a ship to the other.
Atoll
A horseshoe-shaped or circular reef of coral surrounding a lagoon.
A-trip
(1) Said of an anchor immediately when it is broken out of the ground. (2) In square-rigged ships topsails are a-trip when they are fully hoisted and ready for sheeting.
Auster
Old Latin name for the south wind.
Autopilot
Electro-mechanical steering device; an instrument designed to control automatically a vessel's steering gear so that she follows a pre-determined track through the water.
Auxiliary
(1) A second method of propelling a vessel. On a sailboat this would be the engine. (2) Machinery fitted in steam and motor vessels which is not part of the main propelling machinery. (3) a support group, e.g., Coast Guard Auxiliary
Avast
A command to stop or cease immediately what one is doing.
Awash
Water washing over; the situation of an object when almost submerged.
Aweigh
To raise an anchor off the bottom; the position of anchor as it is raised clear of the bottom.
Awning
A sail or canvas set like a canopy to give shade from the sun .
Aye
Yes. "Aye aye sir" is a reply on board ship on receipt of an order.
Azimuth
The bearing of a celestial body from an observer's position.
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