ABEAM- anything perpendicular
to the structure of the ship; off the side.
AFT- toward the rear of the vessel
or to the stern.
AMIDSHIPS- in the middle of the
BALLAST- weight placed in the
ship to keep her on an even keel when empty.
BEAM- width of ship at the widest
BEARING- compass direction expressed
BERTH- nautical term for bed
in your cabin or where vessel docks in port.
BOATSWAIN - the warrant officer or petty officer in charge
of the rigging, anchors, cables, and deck crew. Don't pronounce this the way it's spelled. (Say BOW-sen).
BOW- the forward part of te ship.
BRIDGE- ship’s command
center located above and forward of the passenger areas. Passengers are sometimes admitted with special invitation.
DECK- each floor of a ship.
DISEMBARK or DEBARK-
to get off a ship.
DRILL- any exercise ordered by
the captain, like the lifeboat drill on te first evening out.
EMBARK- to board a ship.
FATHOM- a measure of six feet;
used in determining the depth of water by soundings.
FLAGS- ships talk to each other
with flags in an international code of signals that all nations understand. While the flag hosted on a private yacht might
say "Some over for a drink" the signals on a large ship leaving port will show if a pilot is on board and what type of cargo
is carried. Signal flags are never flown at sea, except when a vessel is in distress. The ship’s country of registry
is flown from the stern, and her country of destination appears from the yardarms of the foremast.
FREE PORT- a port not included
in customs territory, or one that is free from import taxes. St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a fee port.
GALLEY- the kitchen.
GANGWAY- the bridge between ship
and shore. Also called the gangplank as historically it was nothing more than a plank of wood.
GROSS REGISTERED TON- a measure
of the size of a ship in terms of displacement. One hundred cubic feet equals one gross registered ton.
HELM- the entire steering apparatus
of the ship.
KNOT- a unit of speed. One knot
equals one nautical mile (6,080.2 feet) or approximately 1.15 land miles per hour. The speed of a vessel is measured in knots.
LEAGUE- a unit of distance. In
English-speaking countries, a league is 3.45 nautical miles.
LEEWARD- the direction toward
which the wind blows.
PILOT- a representative of the
local port authority who comes aboard ship to aid in the final arrival.
PITCH- the rise and fall of the
ship in the water.
PORT- the left side of the ship
(when looking forward); also indicated by he red navigational light.
PORTHOLE- the round window on
REGISTRY- certificate of ownership.
ROLL- the sideways motion of
SHE- ships are always referred
to in the female gender.
STABILIZER- a retractable fin
extending into the water on either side of the vessel to ensure smooth sailing.
STARBOARD- the right side of
the ship (while looking forward); also indicated by a green navigational light.
STERN- the rear section of the
TENDER- a small vessel, sometimes
a lifeboat, used to carry passengers from ship to shore and vice versa.
THRUSTERS- many new vessels have
propellers mounted in the hull sideways so that the ship can pull away from the dock under it’s own power.
WAKE - the trail a ship leaves
in the water.
WEIGH ANCHOR- to raise anchor
and prepare to get underway.
To clear up a few more mysteries-- abbreviations:
MS: Motor Ship
MTS: Motor Turbine Ship
MV: Motor Vessel
TSS: Turbine Steamship
USS: United States Ship
HMS: Her Majesty’s Ship (England)
RMS: Royal Mail Ship (England)
With all this jargon,
you’re ready to embark!