Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Ride

When I was a girl, my father would say, “Let’s go for a ride.” Often that meant piling in the car and just wasting gas (back when you could do that) but sometimes it meant taking the boat to the launch and getting out on the water – usually Lake Washington or Hood’s Canal. Those were the rides I loved. Long before my day, though, ride meant something else again. At least at sea.

Most people are familiar with a ship at anchor being said to “ride”. Though no one is really sure, this probably comes from the fact that a ship does not sit in one place when anchored, like a car in a parking lot. She literally rides around her anchor with the influence of wind, wave and tide. A ship may ride, as noted in The Sailor’s Word Book, “…easily, apeak, athwart, head to wind, out a gale, open hawse, to the tide, to the wind, &c.” It’s the etcetera that really gets you there, making it seem as if there must be hundreds of ways for a ship to ride. And so there are.

A rope or cable can also be said to ride when it kinks on itself or jams the turn of a capstan. Casting fishermen are familiar with this type of action with the line on their rod. Damned inconvenient at best, and a much larger challenge with heavy anchor cable.

Riders are pieces of wood attached to a ship’s decking to correct damage done at sea. They are a temporary measure by and large, although some ships carried riders routinely. Technically, riders run vertically from fore to aft, while stringers fit horizontally across the beam. This is also the term for casks or crates that are stowed on top of others, with only the bottom tier of cargo not referred to as riders.

A riding bitt is one to which rope has been fastened. A ship is said to be riding a port last when her yards have been lowered to her gunnels for repair or in preparation of sitting in ordinary.

Riding down can be one of two things done by crewmen. It may be a sailor putting his weight on a sail head to stretch the canvas out. Or, it can be a sailor coming down a rope or cable from top to bottom while tarring it; an ongoing process on any sailing ship.

And that, as they say, is enough for today. It’s beautiful outside; I may just put on my sailing gear and go for a ride.

Header: Frigate riding at anchor in the Downs from an anonymous engraving c 1805


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! We're definitely going for a ride tonight...

Pauline said...

The night is young, as they say.