Nautical Terms to Familiarize Yourself With

August 26, 2018

Nautical Terms to Familiarize Yourself With

Whether you are a newbie diver or an experienced one who needs a little bit of refresher course, you may want to review these nautical terms to help improve your diving experience.

We’ve listed out some of the most frequently asked questions and the essential terms that you need to know:

Why is a ship’s speed called knots?

Back in the 1800’s, sailors used to measure the speed of their ship with a chip log. The tool is a basic piece of wood that’s attached to a knotted rope, with knots being evenly spaced at 14.4 meters apart. To measure the speed, the sailors would lower wood and started to count the number of knots that paid out for each one turn of 30 seconds. This helped them estimate how far the ship traveled. One knot is equal to one nautical mile per hour.

Why are the directions called port and starboard?

Port refers to the left, while starboard refers to the right. The normal left and right directions may change depending on which way the speaker is facing. However, the sides of the ship will never change, which makes the directions easier to identify when referring to them as port and starboard.

What is a poop deck?

No, a poop deck is not a place where people defecate. In fact, it has nothing to do with bodily waste at all. The term came from la poupe, which is the French word for stern. This deck is actually the elevated area located at the back of the ship. It is where you can find the captain directing his orders to the crew.

What is the head?

The toilet on a boat is called the head. This term came from the olden days, when ships were still powered by wind. Because the air typically flows from back to front, the toilet was often placed at the front part of the ship (or the head of the ship), where the wind would naturally carry the smell away.

Nautical Terms:

Hazing – Contrary to what you might think, this term did not originate from frat boys. It was actually from ship captains in the 1800s, who used to force new crew members to do labor and humiliating acts.

Fathom – In the nautical language, fathom is a unit of measurement to describe the water’s depth beneath the ship. One fathom is 6 feet or 1.8 meters.

Scuttlebutt – Drinking water used to be stored in barrels or butts. A scuttlebutt is a kind of barrel with a hole, so that the sailors would be able to easily reach in and get their drink.

Feeling Blue – When a ship lost an officer or a captain, a blue band will sometimes be painted on its hull. Some also fly blue flags as a sign of respect.

Slush Fund – Back then, fat was considered to be a very valuable item. The cooks would collect the slushy fat off of the boiled meats and store them inside barrels, which will then be sold. The money from the trade is coined slush fund.

Turning a blind eye – During the Battle of Copenhagen, Vice Admiral Lord Nelson ignored a signal to cease fighting. He apparently looked into the telescope but did not see his commander’s retreat signal because he was using his blind eye. Ultimately, the British won the battle.



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