Saturday, May 7, 2011
Sailor Mouth Saturday: Limb
As the Brethren are well aware, astronomy plays a big part in navigation; or it did before the dawn of radar, sonar, GPS and what have you. At sea, a limb is the graduated arc of a surveying instrument used to measure the location of planets, the moon and the sun, such as a quadrant. In astronomy proper a limb is the edge of the disc of these heavenly bodies. Thus the sun, a planet, or the moon are said to have reached a limb-tangent when their edge appears to just touch the Earth’s horizon.
The limber boards (or plates) of a wooden ship are those planks closest to the central keelson which are easily removed for cleaning of the area just beneath, known generally as the limber passage. This is where water pushed out by the ships pumps finds passage to the scuppers and off the ship. The limber is known to become clogged with detritus that must occasionally be cleaned out for the pumps to work adequately. A small chain stretching through this passage and known as a limber clearer is hauled back and forth for more frequent loosening of smaller particulate. Needless to say, on an ill-kept ship this area can fester and become not only distasteful in its perfume but a health hazard as well.
A limber is the familiar two wheeled carriage on which a piece of field artillery can be mounted to make it mobile. Limber boxes (or trunks) are attacked to the limber and used for holding ammunition in the case of smaller guns. Interestingly, particularly when we consider the use of the phrase in modern parlance, the order “Limber up!” was given when it was time to raise the cannon and then seat and attach it to the limber. In the case of a large gun, the gun crew would indeed need to be “limber”.
Finally limbo was a word used at sea not to illustrate any specific theological point but to mean being under arrest as in chains or bilboes.
A good Saturday to one and all. Stay limber, mates; it’s good for your health.
Header: One of the blue cannon, on its limber, at Chalmette National Park south of New Orleans, LA