It seems fairly simple really. The hull of a ship, like the husk of an ear of corn, is its outer shell and its protection against the elements. In fact our English word hull comes from the Anglo-Saxon word hulu and the Middle English derivative hulga, both of which meant an external covering. The obvious permutations from shucking pods off peas to taking the stems out of strawberries spring readily to mind. At sea, though, things are different.
A ship’s hull is of course the ship itself minus all masts, rigging, sails etc. A ship can be said to be hull afloat when she is moving in the water in just such a circumstance basically at the mercy of tide and wave. To strike hull in a storm is to take in all sails and lash down the helm in the hope of riding out the worst of it. In this case a ship is said to lie a-hull or to be hull-to.
To hull a ship is to hit its hull with shot. This can also be termed hulling which, in another situation, can mean lying in wait for an enemy with all sail taken in.
Along the same lines a ship is hull-down when she is so far away that only her masts and sails can be seen due to the curve of the globe. A ship giving chase but wanting to remain unseen would do this throughout the day and then pull up on its prey at night, for instance. Put this concept in your novel and watch the next editor perusing it go into the “that’s impossible” rant. Good times.
A hullock of a sail is the portion that has been partially lowered in a gale. A hully is a wicker trap used for catching eels. You will remember, of course, that eels were a favorite of wealthy diners throughout the 19th century and naval officer and sailors alike enjoyed them with gusto.
And that is all about hulls for now. As noted yesterday, Triple P will resume regularly scheduled programming on Monday. Cheers until then.