Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Heave

Today's word shoulders a heavy burden at sea. It indicates things ships and parts of ships do on a regular basis, but it also serves to command and exhort sailors to their work. A lot of store is set by the words heave, heaving and heavy aboard ship even today. So much so, in fact, that it will take two SMS posts to cover them all.

To heave generally indicates one of two things. First, heave means to throw or cast something overboard. In this sense heave should not be confused with start. Heave is something done routinely and out of necessity, as in heaving the lead. Start is something done out of desperation, as in starting water and guns over the side to lighten ship when being pursued by an enemy. Second, heave can mean to drag or pry something out or up, as in heaving the anchor.

To heave should not be confused with to heave to, which, I will point out as an aside, I have seen done disastrously in nautical fiction. A ship is said to heave to when, as noted by Admiral Smyth in The Sailor’s Word Book, she:

[puts herself] in the position of lying-to, adjusting her sails so as to counteract each other, and thereby check her way, or keep her perfectly still.

This is done for various reasons including dirty weather, to meet or bespeak a friend or in response to the command of a dominating enemy. “Heave to and prepare to be boarded,” is a familiar, if universally feared, call of buccaneers, pirates and privateers to their prey.

This in turn is similar to heaving about. A ship is said to heave about when she turns suddenly as in tacking.

Many of the previously mentioned orders using the word have to do with hauling up and dropping anchor as well as pulling on rope or pushing on the capstan bars, which are known as pauls. These exhortations are used for the most part as encouragement; they transmit to the hands doing the work that their efforts are showing results. For instance, heave and awash is called out when the anchor being pulled up finally crests the water and shows its ring. Heave and in sight is a similar call. Heave and aweigh, by contrast, is called out when the anchor has lifted from the cathead and is heading for the water.

Heave and paul is the order to turn the capstan while heave and rally is the order to push with gusto on the capstan bars. This is virtually interchangeable with heave hearty, while heave handsomely is an order to go more slowly thus applying a gentler tension.

Heave and set describes the up and down motion of the ship at anchor. The heave of the sea is the power of waves or swells to drive a ship at sail forward that much faster, either on or off course.

Men are called to get up from their hammocks with “Heave out there!”

One might be ordered to heave the lead (pronounced led); to take soundings of depth with the hand held lead line. This is the same as casting the lead. Similarly, one would determine the ship’s speed by heaving the log; comparing the knots on a log line to the running of the quarter-hour glass.

We will leave it there for now, Brethren, and return with heaving and heavy next time.

Header: Cover art for the paperback publication of Patrick O’Brian’s Desolation Island by the incomparable Geoff Hunt


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! So, this is "Heave, Part I"? I know I usually feel like I need to heave whenever I am out on the ocean... Unfortunately what I need to throw or cast overboard isn't very nice...

I love the painting though.

Pauline said...

Well, there's a reason why they call it sea "sickness" after all.

And the beautiful painting is a hint toward tomorrow's Seafaring Sunday...