There are a million ways to use the word water when one is aboard ship. Not the least of these simply refer to the color or character of the sea around you. Green water, clear water, blue water, choppy water, calm water, angry water; one could go on forever. The specific uses of the word, though, are quite interesting and are the stuff of more than one post. So let’s begin here and come back to the subject at a later date as well, shall we?
To water a ship is to fill her casks with fresh water for drinking. Finishing this task is called completing her water. In more recent history, when tanker ships used sea water as ballast, the act of filling the ship’s tanks for an unladden voyage was also called watering. In this case she was carrying water-ballast, a particular favorite in ships like colliers which would carry coal on the outgoing voyage, unload and water, then drain their tanks upon arriving in their home port and start the whole process over again.
Waterage is a charge for using boats which ferry men, arms and supplies from land out to ships at anchor. A water-bailiff is a port officer who searches vessels for smuggled or other illegal cargo. In New Orleans during the days of the Laffites’ Baratarian and Galveston empires, the city’s chief customs inspector, and therefore head of the “water-bailiffs”, was a man with the unusual name of Beverly Chew.
A water bark is a ship that carries fresh water either between points of land or out to ships at anchor or even at sea. Traditionally they are small, two-decked vessels with a minimum crew which insured plenty of room for the barrels that held the water. A water battery is a range of cannons set virtually at sea level. To again revisit the Laffites’ strongholds, both Grande Terre and Galveston – which are islands only nominally above the level of the Gulf of Mexico – sported water batteries making them difficult for vessels to close in on.
Water-bewitched is a derogatory term used in the Royal Navy to mean tea or, in particular, grog that is comprised more of water than tea or rum. Another term for such is five water grog. Water borne refers to anything, man, beast or goods, that is transported over water including lakes and rivers.
Animals frequently come into play when speaking about water at sea. A water crow is the sailor’s term for the cormorant known as a shag is Britain. A water dog refers to the halo that forms around clouds or distant large objects when it is raining far away from the person looking at is. A water dog is a bad omen denoting certain stormy weather. Water-fleas are small crustaceans scientifically known as Entomostraca which can do damage to the hull of a wooden ship that is uncoppered.
We’ll end here for today as, looking back on it, that seems like quite a lot of etymology for one word. More on water another time. For now, though, enjoy the beautiful DS painting at the header entitled “Ode to the Sea” and done by my extremely talented friend and fellow lover of corvids, Munin. Click over to his sketch blog to see more of his incomparable work.
Cheers, mates! See you tomorrow for Seafaring Sunday.