The word haul, as the Sailor’s Word Book notes, is “an expression peculiar to seamen”. In general shipboard parlance it means to pull on a rope which is not attached to block and tackle. The order to “haul” can be used in numerous ways depending on the situation.
Most orders using the word haul apply to a ship’s sails. One may haul aft a sheet, in which case a sail is trimmed more toward the wind. Haul aboard the fore and main tacks: trim the sails mentioned down and forward on the weather side. Haul of all: brace around all the yards at once. This last is a tricky maneuver used on a sudden change in wind as in dirty weather and sometimes in tacking. In a large ship it is a significant event and requires a seasoned, capable crew.
Haul can also refer to the wind and the ship and her sails in relation to it. A ship hauls her wind by trimming the yards and sails so that she may sail nearer to said wind. In such cases the ship and sails are turned to that her head is closer to the wind. To haul in is to sail close to the wind so that the ship can approach another ship or other object. To haul off is the opposite; sailing closer to the wind to get away from something. Haul round is mentioned when the wind is shifting, or it may be an order to skirt or go around a particular danger such as a rock, iceberg, etc. Hauls aft indicates the wind direction changing to stern while hauls forward means the wind changed to the fore.
Of course, as is usual with any seagoing term, sailors use haul in some fairly creative ways. Hauling sharp indicates the crew is sailing on a half allowance of food. A sailor who walks away from a fight or other problem is said to be hauling his wind. Hauling down vacancy is a reference to an admiral leaving a ship – and in the action hauling down his flag – usually leading to the promotion of a flag-lieutenant and thus leaving a post vacant. The very old term haul-bowlings was used for an able seaman in Drake’s England. At the same time a hawser, a middle grade large rope, might be called a haulser and halliards, the ropes and tackles used for hauling sails on their yards, would be known as haulyards.
Haul away then, Brethren, and a happy Saturday to the entire crew!
Header: USS Constellation by Antoine Roux c 1805