Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Fair

While a fair maid is familiar to us all, for the most part anyway, not all of us are exactly sure what “fair winds” might be. Or, for that matter, how common the use of the word is in shipbuilding. Let us get more familiar today, then, with the word fair as it applies to ships, winds and fish.

Fair in ship building relates to the regularity or evenness with which planking and siding have been cut and applied. This relates to both her curves and lines and applies not only to the functionality but to the attractiveness of a ship as well. The shipwright may cut the timbers fair, leaving them with a straight, soft edge. A line might be used to measure a fair curve at bow or midsection. Fairing is another word for the draught of a ship, speaking as well to the points of her curves and the loveliness of her lines.

One might overhear talk of fair leads and fair-leaders aboard a tall ship. This is in reference to her rope and tackle. Ropes are spoken of as leading fair when they move through a block with the least possible friction upon them. A fair-leader might be a form of iron ring with an outer cavity to hold a rope, otherwise known as a thimble. In other instances, it is a piece of planking drilled with holes which rigging may be run through to keep it separated and easily identified.

Fairway is another name for a channel or river leading in and out of a harbor. In some instances a pilot might be employed to navigate such waterways, turning a common fairway into a pilot’s fairway. A ship is herself said to have fairway when she is moving along the proper course out of such a channel.

Fair weather is the dream of all who sail and means not the landsman’s sunny and bright, but such favorable winds as to require only the common small sails of any given ship.

Fair, in relation to wind, means that it is blowing a ship in the direction of her charted course. Were the winds blowing the other way – making tacking necessary – they would be said to blow foul. A wind blowing fair is distinguished from a wind blowing large. The latter blows more specifically off the beam or quarter of a ship and, while nothing to be sneered at, is less favorable for most sailers than a fair wind.

Finally, the fair maid we first spoke of may not always be the barkeep’s daughter or that lass you’ve stowed on the gun deck. As Admiral Smyth relates, a fair-maid is an English west country term for dried pilchard.

Happy Saturday, Brethren; fair winds to you all, be you aboard a majestic ship-of-the-line or a steadfast pirogue, and safe home again.

Header: Three Frigates by Geoff Hunt


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Happy Saturday and fair winds to you too...

Another beautiful painting as well.

Pauline said...

One of my favorites, I must say. No one can discount the incomperable Geoff Hunt!