Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Chase

A chase was a thing that our seafaring ancestors loved almost as much as booty.  From large navies to rebel privateers, from well-heeled Golden Age pirates to rag-tag buccaneers in leaky pirogues, nothing said potential quite like "chase."

The etymology of the word even speaks to the pursuit of a prize.  According to Webster's, the modern English word derives from the Old French word chacier, to take, which comes from the Latin capiare, to strive to seize.  Nothing is more eloquent then that last definition; a chase is a vessel that another vessel will strive to seize.  The chaser is then the vessel doing the chasing.

To chase is, obviously, to pursue another ship.  Another way to put it would be giving chase.  There are variations of the chase, as Admiral Smyth advises us in The Sailor's Word Book:

A stern chase is when the chaser follows the chased astern, directly upon the same point of the compass.  To lie with a ship's fore-foot in a chase, is to sail and meet with her by the nearest distance, and so to cross her in her way, as to come across her fore-foot.  A ship is said to have a good chase when she is so built forward or astern that she can carry many guns to shoot forwards or backwards; according to which she is said to have a good forward or good stern chase.  Chasing to windward, is often termed chasing in the wind's eye.

And that, Brethren, is some excellent seafaring language for your next piece of piratical fiction.

Chase is just as frequently used in the parlance of ship's guns.  A bow chase is a gun set to the fore, where it can be used for firing on a chase.  The chase-ports are the gun ports right fore and aft on a warship.  Chase guns then are those that are moved to these ports as the situation warrants.  In some cases, chase guns may also refer to small swivels almost always mounted fore or aft.  Chase-stern guns refers specifically to guns pointed astern.  The chase-sight was where the sight of the gun was placed.

A chase, or in this case chasse, was also a ship.  The French chasse-maree, known in English as a lugger, has been discussed here at Triple P in depth.

And so, fair winds and a following sea to all the Brethren this fair Saturday.  May all your chases surrender easy and be packed to the gunnels with rich booty.

Header: Sailing Ships in Stormy Seas by Harvey George Wainwright via American Gallery


Timmy! said...

I prefer booty myself, but chasing it is fun too, Pauline...

Pauline said...

It's all good...

Blue Lou Logan said...

...and then the wind veers and the sea boils, and you don't know whether you're running to capture the prize or because losing speed or changing course will mean being breached and going down. The ship creaks and cries. The cold, cold water comes in a wall from the bow as you smash into the trough, and the men tumble into the leeward lifelines that are already under the foam. Yet you push her on, push the ship, push the crew. You're closing, and if you can just get a few more knots, a few yards closer, the bow chasers could reach the prize's stern, perhaps take out her rudder or just the spanker or just distract the bastards by smashing gallery glass. Hold fast, men. We almost have 'er.

(Just practicing.)

Pauline said...

Absolute chills, Lou; I cannot wait to read the rest. Huzzah!

Charles L. Wallace said...

Well written, Lou!

Nothing so exciting here: 103 Fahrenheit today, so Wendy Poo and I took the kayaks down to Birdneck Launch and paddled about for a while. It was near-enough to low tide that we were able to transit under Laskin Road Bridge and into the lower end of Broad Bay. It was here first time in the Pelican boat, and she performed quite admirably.

Chasing? Already caught her, so that's not the punchline.... power boats and jetskis came blowing by, and I made it a point of turning to face them and chasing down their wakes. Lil' bit of whitewater, eh? Went home, showered, hydrated up (with electrolytes!) and promptly passed out. Wendy kinda snores. True story!