Nautical Terms

Alabama = One of the Confederate Raiders operated by the South during the Civil War.

Ballad = a song that tells a story.

Bilge pump = a cranked machine to pump water out of the bilges (lowest part of the ship).

Boney = Napoléon Bonaparte, an infamous despot.

Capstan = the turnstile that is used to winch up the anchor and perform heavy tasks.

Chantey = Shanty = a call and response song to perform the many heavy, laborious, and boring work aboard a sailing ship.

Donkey Riding = Not sure. Either it’s the sailors making fun of the steam donkey engine used to assist in hauling lines, or simply riding a donkey for fun in port.

Fore and Aft = towards the front (bow) and towards the rear (stern) of a boat.

Forebitter = a song sung during a sailor’s leisure time.

Forecastle = foc’s’cle = the place below decks in the bow where the sailors slept.

Grog = watered down rum.

Heave = push.

Halyard = the line to haul up the yards (booms).

Haul = pull.

Old Horse = A ceremonial horse made of old canvass and straw. Thrown overboard to commemorate sailors paying off the cost off their gear and crimp (agent on shore).

Pawl = A metal lever that rides over sprockets to prevent backlash in mechanisms like the capstan.

Poop, Break of the Poop = No, it’s not what you think. It’s the bulkhead (wall) that separates the aft (rear) quarter of the ship. Above it is the Poop Deck and above this deck is the Quarterdeck.

Rio Grande = Not in Texas nor the Amazon, but the Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil.

Short drag = a song to do quick hauls, tension lines, etc. Also known as hand-over-hand.

Sweating up = adjusting the sails.

Towboat = A shallow-water work boat that pushes its load, usually upon a river. Has two knees on the bow to push its barge.

Tugboat = A deep draft work boat with a pointed bow, deep propellers, and heavy winches. Used in harbors and on the high seas.

Valparaiso = a port city of Chile. The first big port on the western side of South America nearest to Cape Horn.

Western Ocean = the body of water west of the British Isles, i.e. the Atlantic.