Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Kedge

A kedge, as the Brethren are well aware, is a small anchor. Anything said of that most useful of ship’s accoutrements can also be said of a kedge. But, just as he is in the deep blue sea, so the Devil is in the details. Let’s shine a light on those, shall we?

In general usage, a kedge is thrown over the side to keep a ship clear of her bower anchor while she is in port. This is of particular concern when the tide is coming in or going out. A kedge anchor is also the go-to tool when the need arises to warp a ship out from one place to another, usually in port but also when the wind is unfavorable or nonexistent. The anchor, attached to a hawser, is rowed out to a point in the general direction one wants the ship to move. The kedge is then dropped and the ship is dragged toward it by means of the capstan, a windless or by men running along the length of the deck with hawser in hand. This last is probably the action that gave the kedge its name as kedg in Old English meant to move or run briskly and was the name of an Anglo-Saxon dance. Used as a verb, to kedge or kedging is this act of warping a ship out via a kedge.

A kedge rope, it probably goes without saying, is any such attached to or used with a kedge. Thus we also have a kedge cable or a kedge hawser.

Kedge anchors were particularly handy on small ships as they could usually be broken down for storage. In the 18th and early 19th century, this was done by means of an iron stock which unscrewed from the top and bottom. Later kedge anchors had joints that allowed them to be folded at various points.

Most interesting of all, at least to me, is the nautical term kedger. A person is said to be a kedger when he is both mean and nosey. As The Sailor’s Word Book puts it, such a man is “…in everybody’s mess but in no one’s watch.” This may be the origin of our modern word codger, a disagreeably grumpy person.

Happy Saturday, Brethren; may the wind and weather be with you all.

Header: Ships Entering Portsmouth, artist unknown, c 1798


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! No wonder sailors were in such good shape, generally speaking.

And I may be old, but at least I'm not a codger, or "kedger" as the case may be...

Pauline said...

That's pretty funny, I think; kedger.