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Tips and Nautical Terminology

Look here for boating tips. Shared boating tips help fellow boaters. Please leave your comments so others can benefit.

Posts of different nautical terms will appear from time to time giving you a chance to leave your explanation of the meaning and history. It is interesting to see the different explanations of the terms and the origin. Feel free to add your comments.

YCowboy Lasso Dock Cleatour First Mate doesn't have to be a Cowgirl lassoing the dock cleat from the bow of the boat.

Put away the lasso and use a FLIPP Line. Easy and safe.

To learn how, see Docking Lessons

non-skid-fabricPam and her husband enjoy boating often in their mini cruiser on Ontario waterways, putting hundreds of hours of running time on their boat.

They like to use their paper charts to keep track of where they are at all times, being able to also see the “big picture” and know where they are relative to everywhere else.

Like many cruisers and cuddy cabins,

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BobDo you know what Bob is doing on his boat? Why is he doing it?

If you know, please leave your comments below.

What does "Toe the line" (not tow the line) mean and what was it's nautical origin?

According to the US Navy, the space between each pair of deck planks in a wooden ship was filled with a packing material called "oakum" and then sealed with a mixture of pitch and tar. The result, from afar, was a series of parallel lines a half-foot or so apart, running the length of the deck. Once a week, as a rule, usually on Sunday, a warship's crew was ordered to fall in at quarters - that is, each group of men into which the crew was divided would line up in formation in a given area of the deck. To insure a neat alignment of each row, the Sailors were directed to stand with their toes just touching a particular seam.

Another use ....

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What is a "smoking lamp", what is it's nautical origin, and how does it tie in with everyday living for some people today?

Naval History says the exact date and origin of the smoking lamp has been lost. However, it probably came into use during the 16th century when seamen began smoking on board vessels. The smoking lamp was a safety measure. It was devised mainly to....

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What does Port and Starboard refer to, and more importantly, what was the nautical origin?

Ron and Greg, you are right.

The explanation we found:

Port and starboard are the left and right side of the ship, respectively. How did these names come about?

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What does the nautical term "Keelhaul" mean and what is it's origin?

Dennis, Jeff and Anthony are all dead on--so to speak.

According to the navy, a naval punishment on board ships is said to have originated with the Dutch but adopted by other navies during the 15th and 16th centuries. A rope was rigged from yard arm to yard arm, passing under the bottom of the ship, and the unfortunate delinquent secured to it, sometines with lead or iron weights attached to his legs. He was hoisted up to one yard arm and then dropped suddenly into the sea, hauled underneath the ship, and hoisted up to the opposite yard arm, the punishment being repeated after he had had time to recover his breath. While he was under water, a "great gun" was fired, "which is done as well to astonish him so much the more the thunder of the shot, as to give warning until all others of the fleet to look out and be wary by his harms". 


Mind Your P's and Q's. What does this mean and what is it's nautical origin?

Damon and Dennis have some great explanation as to the origin of this expression.

Another is this. In the days of sail when sailors were paid a pittance, seamen drank their ale in taverns whose keepers were willing to extend credit until payday. Since many salts were illiterate, keepers kept a talley of pints and quarts consumed by each sailor on a chalkboard behind the bar. Next to each person's name a mark was made under "P" for pint or "Q" for quart whenever a seaman ordered another draught.

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jacobs-ladder-riggingWhat is "Jacob's Ladder"? Leave your answer and comments below:

Thanks to Frank and Gunter for their answers.

We found a little more nautical detail on Jacob's Ladder as follows:

A jacob's ladder is a portable ladder made of rope or metal and used primarily as an aid in boarding ship. Originally, the jacob's ladder was a network of line leading to the skysail on wooden ships. The name alludes to the bibilcal Jacob reputed to have dreamed that he climbed a ladder to the sky.

Anyone who has ever tried climbing a jacob's ladder while carrying a seabag can appreciate the allusion. It does seem that a climb is long enough to take one into the next world.

Wikipedia has more info as well. The picture above is from the Wikipedia Jacob's Ladder page.


If you know the meaning and origin of "Ditty Bag" is, leave your comments below.

Thanks to "AA" for his response. He is correct.

We have found two meanings for "Ditty Bag".

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