Shipping Terminology - with a Prince Edward Island Slant!

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Barque Brig Schooner Sloop

Aft: Towards the stern of a vessel.

Articles: A paper that all the members of the crew of a ship signs to say what their position aboard will be. In modern terminology, perhaps, a contract of employment or intent.

Barque: A vessel with three or more masts with square sails on the fore mast and fore and aft sails on the after mast. Generally in the range of 250 - 700 ton capacity.

Barquentine: A vessel with three or more masts with square sails on the foremast, and fore and aft sails on the main and after masts. Generally in the 250 - 500 ton range.

Bowsprit: A spar projecting from the upper end of the bow of a sailing vessel.

Brig: 1. A two masted vessel square rigged on both masts.Generally in the 150 - 200 ton range. 2. A sailing vessel's jail.

Brigantine: A vessel with two or more masts, with fore and aft sails on both masts, normally in the tonnage range of 150 - 250 tons, but some P.E.I. brigantines exceeded 400 tons.

Bulkhead: A wall-like construction inside a ship.

Bulwark: A guard that protects the ship from big waves.

Dogwatch: A way the sailors changed places. Every 4 bells they switched places.

Dory: A small rowing vessel with a narrow, flat bottom and high sides curving outward.

Figurehead: A carved figure or bust on a ships prow.

Forecastle: 1. A superstructure at or immediately aft of the bow of a vessel. 2. The quarters for the crew of a merchant ship.

Fore or Forward: Towards the bow of a vessel.

Forerunner: Maritime legends are ripe with stories of forerunners. They are a harbinger or herald of impending disaster often felt by the family of those lost at sea.

Galley: 1. A sea going vessel propelled mainly by oars used in ancient times. 2. A kitchen in a ship or airplane.

Harbourmaster: A man in charge of a harbour, authorizing entry, and arranging for Pilots to guide vessels into difficult harbours, past underwater obstructions, etc.

Hatchway: A large covered, usually rectangular opening in a ships deck for putting and removing cargo from under the deck.

Helm: A wheel or tiller by which a ship is steered.

HMS A prefix used before a vessel's name to denote that it is owned by the crown, or is His/Her Majesty's Ship.*

Ice Boat: A small boat typically used on P.E.I. for transportation across the Northumberland Strait prior to 1918 during the Winter Months. Typically, they were 5 metres long, and 1.2 metres wide, and were covered with tin to protect the vessel from the ice. Often they had metal runners on the sides of the keel.They were outfitted with sails and oars, and could be rowed or paddle across the Strait. When the ice grew too thick, the crew and male passengers in exchange for a lower rate, would pull the boat across the ice. The vessel was equipped with leather harnesses to attach the crew to the vessel while pulling, also protecting them from drowning when the ice gave away.

Jack: A sailor or seaman.

Jibs: A triangular sail set forward of a foremast.

Keel: The central member on the bottom of the hull, extending from bow to stern.

Keelhauling: A way of punishing sailors by tying them to a rope and dragging them across the bottom of the ship. This was accomplished by lashing together the legs at the ankles by a significant amount of line, then dropping the unfortunate soul head first from the bow, then he was allowed to drift back to the vessel's beam (the widest section) where the Officers or deck crew would take the line from one side of the deck to the other. This would submerge the poor soul in order to bring him up under the ships keel surfacing on the other side.*

Knot: 1. An interlacing of rope, cord, etc, drawn tight into a lump or end. 2. (Naut) A measure of Nautical speed about 1.125 statute miles per hour.*

Log: 1. A device for measuring the speed of a ship. 2. To enter in a log book. 3. A ships written record.

Mast: A spar or structure resin above the hull and upper portions of a ship holding sails, rigging, etc up.

Master: The captain of a merchant ship.

Mate: An officer of a merchant vessel ranking below the captain.

Mutiny: Rebellion against the ship's constituted authority.

Pilot: A trained captain in the employ of a Harbourmaster who's job is to guide vessels into harbours, past underwater obstructions.

Punt: A small square ended rowing vessel.

Quarterdeck: The rear part of the uppermost deck on a ship.

Range Lights: A set of two small lighthouses, aligned so that if a vessel lines them up, they will be guided safely into a harbour, through narrow channels.

Ratline: Any of the small ropes that join the shrouds of a ship horizontally and serve as ships for going aloft.

Rigging: The ropes, chains, etc employed to support and work the masts, sails, etc on a ship.

Rudder: A hinged or pivoted vertical blade or flat that is turned to steer a boat.

Rum Runner: A term applied to a person or vessel employed during prohibition to import alcoholic spirits into P.E.I. from 1923 to 1938. One of the Island's more notorious rum runners was the Nellie J. Banks, who eluded authorities until August 9, 1938. She was the last rum runner seized off Atlantic Canada.

Schooner: A vessel with two or more masts, with fore and aft sails on both masts, normally less than 150 tons, but some of the triple masted schooners built on P.E.I. in the 1880's exceeded 700 tons.

Shallop: A locally used name referring to a vessel with one mast carrying fore and aft sails, normally of less than 25 tons.

Ship: A vessel with three or more masts with square sails on each, often exceeding 500 tons.

Shrouds: Any taut ropes running from a masthead to the side of a ship.

Sloop:A vessel with a single mast, for and aft rigged, of less than 25 tons.

Snow:The largest type of two-masted sailing vessel of the era, the snow, carried square sails on both masts, with a trysail on a jacknast known as a snowmast --which was a spar set on the deck about a foot behind the mainmast and attached at the top to the mainmast. Also: A "Snow Rigged Vessel" or "Snow Rigged Brig" had similar rigging.

Souls: Number of persons aboard a vessel. Used as in: "The schooner went down with 120 souls aboard".

Spar: A stout pole forming a ships mast, yard, gaff, boom, etc.

Starboard: The right hand side of a vessel facing forward.

Steerage:The lowest class accommodations on a passenger ship.

Stern:The rear part of a ship.

Swinging from the Yardarm: A sailor under punishment would be lashed high on the mast. Due to the height, as the vessel rolled, the swing could easily be 50 to 75 feet depending upon the degree of roll. This could last for days on end without food or water. But then who could keep food down under this situation! Capt. Chris states that this, perhaps was one of the worst punishments.*

Tidewaiter:A Customs Officer that watched for ship arrivals so the vessels could be boarded and inspected.

Tonnage: A measurement of the carrying capacity of a vessel. It is what wins in a collision between
two yachts :-) This little footnote from Paul Curtis!

Warfinger: Basically, a man in charge of a docking facility. He authorizes ships to dock, and collects fees from them for docking, and is responsible for arranging for repairs to the dock.

* Items added or corrected by Capt. Christopher M. Dorgan, Oct 28, 2002

This list compiled by my son, Jeffery Hunter, as a school project when he was 12 years old. I have included it due to its usefulness in understanding shipping documents.

Dave Hunter and The Island Register: © 1998
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Last Updated: 10/29/2002 9:19:59 AM