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Aback -- A sail's condition when the sheet is to windward and it drives the vessel astern.

Abaft -- The position toward the stern of any object or point such as "abaft the mast" or "abaft the binnacle."

Afore -- The contrary of abaft.

Ahoy ! -- An interjection used in hailing a vessel such as "Vigilant ahoy!"

Athwart -- Across the keel.

Atrip -- When the anchor is broken out of the ground.

Avast -- Stop, discontinue. As "avast hauling " (stop hauling).


Balance reef -- A diagonal reef in a fore-and-aft sail extending from throat to clew.

Batten down -- Covering hatches with tarpaulins and securing them with battens.

Beam ends -- A vessel is said to be on her beam ends when knocked down by a squall to an angle of about 45 degrees.

Belay -- To make fast a rope or fall of a tackle.

Below -- Greenhorns call it "downstairs" and seamen laugh at them.

Bight -- A loop of a rope.

Bilge -- The round in a vessel's timbers where they turn from her sides toward the keel.

Binnacle -- A case in which the compass is contained.

Block and block -- When the blocks of a tackle are hauled close together.

Bolt rope -- The rope sewn round the edges of sails. It is made of the best hemp.

Bonnet -- An extra piece of canvas laced to the foot of a jib or foresail, taken off when it blows hard.

Box the compass -- To call over the points of the compass in correct order.

Break off -- When a vessel sailing Close-hauled is headed by the wind and is unable to lay the course she was steering.

Bring up -- To anchor.

Broach to -- To come to against wind and helm.


Capsize -- To turn over.

Carvel built -- Constructed with the planks flush edge to edge and the seams caulked and payed.

Caulking -- Driving oakum into the seams of a vessel with a mallet and a blunt chisel called a caulking iron.

Clews -- The lower corners of square sails; the lower after-corners of fore-and-aft sails.

Clinch -- To fasten a rope by a half hitch and then seize the end back to the standing part.

Close-hauled -- Hauled as close to the wind as the sails will permit without shaking their luffs. A cutter-rigged yacht with well-cut canvas should lie within four and a quarter points of the wind. Some modern racing craft have done half a point better than this Square-rigged vessels cannot head better than five and a-half points of the wind.

Collar -- An eye spliced in a shroud or stay to go over the masthead.

Comber -- A big wave.

Companion -- The entrance from the deck to the cabin below.

Compass bowl -- The bowl in the binnacle that contains the compass.

Corinthian -- A term in yachting possessing the same significance as amateur; the opposite of professional.

Counter -- That part of a vessel which projects abaft the sternpost.

Covering board -- The outside deck plank fitted over the timber heads. The same as planksheer.

Cracking on -- Carrying a press of sail.

Crank -- Not stiff under canvas; easily heeled or listed.

Cranze or Cranse -- A metal band with eyes on it fitted to the end of a bowsprit or other spar.

Cringle -- A metal thimble worked in the clews and leeches of sails.

Dandy -- A cutter-rigged vessel with lug-mizzen set on a jigger-mast.

Davits -- Iron cranes on vessels to which boats are hoisted.

Deadeye -- A circular wooden block with three holes in it without sheaves, through which a lanyard is rove to set up standing rigging.

Dead wood -- Solid wood worked on top of the keel forward and aft.

Depth of hold -- The height between the keelson and the deck of a single decked vessel.

Displacement -- The quantity of water displaced by a vessel, which in weight is always equal to her own weight.

Dogvane -- A light vane made of bunting or feathers to show the direction of the wind.

Dowse -- To lower a sail suddenly.

Downhaul -- A rope by which a sail is hauled down.

Draught of water -- The depth of a vessel measured from the under side of the keel to the load waterline.


Earrings -- Ropes for fastening the corners of the heads of sails to yards and for reefing.

Ease off -- To slacken a rope handsomely.

Eyelet holes -- Small holes worked in sails for lacings or lashings to be rove through.

Eyes of the rigging -- Collars spliced in the ends of shrouds to go over the masthead and also over the deadeyes.


Fair leaders -- Holes in planks, etc., for ropes to be rove through so that they lead fairly.

Fair wind -- A wind that permits a vessel to steer her course without tacking.

Fall -- The hauling part of the rope of a tackle.

False keel -- A timber bolted to the underside of the keel proper.

Fathom -- A sea measure of six feet.

Fender -- A species of buffer made of wood, rope or other material to hang chafing against a dock, or another vessel.

Fid -- An iron or wooden bar to keep bowsprits and topmasts in place; a conical wooden instrument used by riggers and sailmakers.

Fish, To -- To strengthen a weak or repair a broken spar by lashing another spar or batten to it.

Flare -- To project outwards; contrary to tumbling home.

Flat aft -- When sheets are trimmed as close as possible for effective windward work.

Floors -- The bottom timbers of a vessel.

Flowing sheet -- The sheet eased off to a fair wind.

Flush decked -- Having neither poop nor forecastle.

Foot -- The lower edge of a sail.

Forereach -- To sail faster through the water on a wind than another vessel.

Freeboard -- That part of a ship's side above the water.

Full and by -- To steer as close to the wind as possible, while at the same time keeping the sails full of wind.

Futtocks -- The timbers which join and butt above the floors, called first, second and third futtocks.


Gammon iron -- An iron hoop fitted to the side of the stem, or on top of the stem, to receive and hold the bowsprit.

Garboard -- The strake of plank next above the keel, into which it is rabbeted and bolted.

Gripe, To -- A vessel gripes when she has a tendency to come up in the wind and requires much weather helm.

Gudgeons -- Metal straps with eyes secured to the stern post, into which the pintles of the rudder are fitted.

Gunwale -- The timber fitted over the timber heads and fastened to the top strake.

Guys -- Ropes used to steady a spar or other thing.

Gybe -- To let a fore-and-aft sail shift from one side to the other when running before the wind. To let a vessel go so much off the wind as to bring the wind on the opposite quarter.


Half-mast high -- When a flag is hoisted halfway up as a mark of respect to a person recently dead.

Halyards -- Ropes for hoisting sails.

Handsomely -- Steadily; carefully.

Handy billy -- A watch tackle kept on deck for getting a pull on sheets or halyards.

Hanks -- Rings or hooks for fastening the luffs of sails to stays.

Hard down -- The order to put the tiller a-lee. Hard up, the order to put the tiller a-weather.

Heave to -- To so trim a vessel's sails that she does not move ahead.

Heel rope -- The rope by which a running bowsprit is hauled out or a topmast lowered.

Hoist -- The length of the luff of a fore-and-aft sail.

Horns -- The projections forming the jaws of gaffs or booms.

Hounds -- The projections on a mast that support the lower cap and rigging.

House -- To lower a topmast down within the cap.


Inhaul -- The rope used to haul sails inboard.

In irons -- The condition of a vessel head to wind and with way lost, unable to pay off on one tack or the other.

Irish pennants -- Loose ropes flying in the breeze or dangling over the side.


Jackstay -- A rod of iron, a wooden cleating, or a wire rope for sails or yards to travel on; also a wire rope on the main boom to which the foot of the sail is laced.

Jiggermast -- The mizzenmast of a yawl or dandy.

Kentledge -- Pig iron used as ballast.

Lanyards -- Ropes rove through deadeyes by which shrouds or stays are set up.

Leeboard -- An old-fashioned contrivance to check leeway, still in use on some Dutch vessels and English barges.

Load waterline -- The line of flotation when a vessel is properly ballasted or laden.

Luff -- To come closer to the wind.


Make fast -- To belay a rope.

Masthead -- That part of the mast above the hounds.

Mast hoops -- The hoops to which the luffs of fore and aft sails are seized to secure the sails to the masts.

Miss stays, To -- To fail in an attempt to tack.

Mousing -- A yarn wound round a hook to prevent it from becoming unhooked.

Near -- Very close to the wind.

Nip -- To nip a vessel is to sail her too close to the wind.


On a wind -- Close hauled.

Outhaul -- A rope or tackle by which a sail is hauled out on a spar.

Paddy's hurricane -- A dead calm.

Painter -- A rope spliced to a ring bolt in the bow of a boat to make fast by.

Pay -- To pour hot pitch or marine glue into seams after they are caulked.

Pintles -- The metal hooks by which rudders are attached to the gudgeons.

Pole mast -- A mast without a topmast, but with a long masthead above the hounds.

Put about -- To tack.


Raffee -- A square or triangular sail set flying on the foretopmasts of schooners.

Rake -- To incline forward or aft from the vertical, as raking mast, a raking sternpost, etc.

Reef band -- A strip of canvas sewn across a sail, in which eyelet holes for the reef points are worked.

Reef pendant -- A strong rope with a Matthew Walker knot in one end. It is passed up through a hole in the cleat on the boom, and then through the reef cringle in the sail and down through the hole in the cleat on the other side of the boom.

Reef points -- Short lengths of rope in sails to tie up the part rolled up when reefing.

Reeve -- To pass a rope through a block or a hole of any kind.

Roach -- The curved part of the foot of a sail.

Rockered keel -- A keel whose ends curve upward.

Running bowsprit -- A bowsprit so fitted as to run in or out and reef.


Serve -- To cover a rope with spunyarn.

Shake out a reef -- To untie the reef points and set the sail.

Sheathing -- The copper or other metal nailed on the bottom of a vessel.

Sheave -- The grooved wheel in a block or in the sheave hole of a spar over which the rope passes.

Sheet -- The rope by which the clew of a sail is secured.

Snotter -- An eye strop used to support the heel of a sprit.

Spitfire jib -- The smallest storm jib.



Taunt -- Tall, high.

Taut -- Tight.

Tie up -- A lubber's synonym for moor. You tie up a dog. You moor a vessel.

Thimble -- A heart shaped or circular ring with a groove outside for ropes to fit in. They are used for the eye splices in ropes, the straps of blocks and for the cringles in sails.

Thwarts -- The transverse seats in boats.

Tumble home -- When the sides of a vessel near the deck incline inward, the opposite to flaring.

Tyers -- Ropes that secure a mainsail when stowed.


Unbend -- To cast loose a sail from stay, gaff, boom or yard.

Veer -- To pay out chain.

Wear -- To bring the wind on the other side of a vessel by turning her head from the wind. The reverse of tacking.

Weather gauge -- The condition of a vessel that is to windward of another.

Weather helm -- A vessel is said to carry weather helm when she has a tendency to fly up in the wind.

Weathering -- If one vessel eats to windward of another, she is said to weather on her. Weathering an object is passing it on the windward side.

Whip, To -- To bind the end of a rope with twine to prevent it from unlaying.


Yaw -- A vessel yaws when her head flies from one direction to the other; as, for instance, when her helmsman is unable to keep her steady on her course.

Yawl -- A cutter-rigged vessel with a mizzenmast stepped in her counter.




SINCE the first edition of this book was printed, yacht designers have studied to reduce weight aloft. This has not infrequently resulted in fitting ironwork, blocks, etc., far too flimsy to endure the strain of a stiff breeze. There is always a happy medium between spider-web rigging and rigging uselessly heavy and clumsy, and my advice therefore is not to go to extremes. In racing craft on the freshwater lakes piano wire has been used for standing rigging, and because of its enormous strength and notable lightness has answered well enough. In salt water, however, it should be avoided because of its liability to corrosion.


The principal changes in rig of late years follow: The substitution of turnbuckles and rigging screws for the old fashioned dead eyes and lanyards; the reduction of the length of the bowsprit because of the long overhang forward, which has done away with the reefing bowsprit on all modern craft; the invention of masthead shrouds, bridles on gaffs, and the throat halyard pennant. By means of the three devices mentioned, strains aloft are both minimized and equalized. Large vessels carry double masthead shrouds, and every racing yacht is fitted with single ones. Gaff bridles and throat halyard pennants are also considered to be well-nigh indispensable.

Click for large image.


In the matter of running rigging, flexible steel wire is now much used for throat and peak halyards. Its advantage is that there is little or no "give" to it. The rig of a modern 25-foot waterline sloop with a pole mast is as follows: Bobstay- rod of steel 3/4-inch in diameter, setup with a turnbuckle at the end of the bowsprit; shrouds, two each side, 1-1/8 inch steel wire; forestay set up to stem head, 1-1/4-inch steel wire; jib set flying, hoisted with 3/4-inch 8-stranded flexible steel-wire halyards, set up with a jig purchase ; runner-shrouds of 7/8-inch wire canvassed over; main lifts 3/4-inch flexible steel wire, parceled, served over with white codline and then covered with white canvas sewn on. The throat and peak halyards are of 3/4-inch flexible steel wire. The blocks are all strapped with grommets of flexible steel wire sewed and leathered.


Steel wire is now also used for the leech ropes of racing sails, and is employed largely in the lower canvas of all the big racing yachts. Flexible steel wire is nearly as pliable as new hemp rope of the same strength. The greater the diameter of the sheaves over which it passes the longer it will last. This wire cannot be belayed to a cleat. Therefore, Manila rope is spliced to the hauling end of the wire, which insures its remaining fast after once being belayed. This is a most difficult splice to make.


The accompanying illustrations show the sail plans and rigs of a modern schooner and a modern yawl. When compared with the sloop and cutter rigs on earlier pages, it will be easily seen that many radical changes have been made.


It occurred to me in revising the book for this edition, that it might be wise to omit the directions for rigging a running bowsprit, bending a loose-footed mainsail, and some other devices which in the light of modern improvements might be deemed either archaic or obsolete. On second thoughts, however, I decided to let them stand as written. There is still a goodly fleet of "old timers," cutters and yawls with straight stems and reefing bowsprits-craft some of them half a century old or more, and sound as a gold dollar in spite of severe service. The deadeye and the lanyard, although being pushed hard by the turnbuckle, die slowly, and are yet to be found in brand new vessels of the twentieth century.

Click for large image.

To equalize and minimize strains on main booms, mainsheet bridles are now fitted. Overhangs are growing longer and longer and bowsprits shorter. A quite recent one-design class has a length on deck of 40 feet 7 inches, with a waterline length of 25 feet. The sail area is 1103 feet, and the outside ballast weighs 6100 pounds. The centerboard houses entirely below the cabin floor, the draught being 4 feet 6 inches, and 8 feet with the board down. The aim of the designer is to combine racing and cruising qualities -- a much-to-be-desired combination, never to be completely attained, I fear.


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1.0 07/30/00

Edited by Craig O'Donnell.
Etext & images ©2000 Craig O'Donnell, all the usual whining applies.