Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Waist

For those of us who pour over nautical fiction, words like waist and waisters come up a good deal. What they are referring to may not be so readily discernable. That said, I fully imagine that the Brethren have no trouble with them but educating a green hand is what we’re about around here, right mates?


The Sailor’s Word Book defines waist as:

That portion of the main deck of a ship of war, contained between the fore and main hatchways, or between the half-deck and galley.

While the right Honorable Admiral Smyth’s book generally deals with men-of-war, explaining the focus of that excerpt, most ships of one or more masts have what is referred to as a “waist”; that is, literally the middle of the ship or midships.

It probably goes without saying that the waist, like any other portion of a ship, comes with its own accoutrement, if you will allow. Thus there is the waist anchor, a spare stowed in the ship’s waist. Waist boards are the notches wherein a ship’s gangway can be secured. Waist cloths are the canvas that cover rolled up hammocks, particularly when preparing for battle. They are often painted to match the ship’s hull colors or chequering. The waist rail is the molding on a ship’s side. A waist tree, more commonly referred to as a rough tree, is an unfinished mast or spar stored in the waist. This is brought out, finished and set as a replacement when a mast is shattered, broken or lost.

And waisters? Well, much as their name implies, these are lubberly or elderly crewmen stationed in a ships waist where they could haul on ropes, swab decks and stay out of the way of able seamen at work. Though not as offensive as lubber, being called a waister is no compliment to a true seaman.

Happy Saturday, mates. I hoist a cup of grog to you one and all, and wish you fair winds and following seas until next we meet.

Header: An August Morning With Farragut by William Heyshand Overend c 1883 (working the great guns in the waist of future Admiral David Farragut’s flagship during his Civil War assault on Louisiana and yeah, that’s him out there on the rigging; he was his father’s son through and through)

4 comments:

Danielle Thorne said...

Thanks for the post! Always love to polish up and learn more sea defs!

Pauline said...

My pleasure, Danielle. Thank you for sailing in company.

Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! As lubberly as I am, I aspire to be a waister...

Pauline said...

Timmy!, you're in!