Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Club

Today's word is used at sea in reference to everything from hairstyles to tricky maneuvers.  A more versatile word, one might say, you could rarely find.

In the hairstyle way, we first must mention that many sailors during the 18th and early 19th century were averse to cutting their hair.  Like Samson, they felt that a certain amount of their virile nature was carried in their flowing locks.  Of course aboard ship, where rigging and blocks can catch and tear at one's tresses, simply allowing long hair to flow free was out of the question. 

To remedy this, men wore their hair braided down their backs often asking a mess mate to braid it for them after it had been washed.  Sometimes the braid was tarred to make it even more resilient.  When these braids were very long, they were still a hazard and men turned to "clubbing."  Much like dandies at European courts, who doubled their long ponytails at their necks, a sailor would fold his braid in half and tie it up at the nape of his neck.  This insured that it was both out of the way and safe from quite literally being ripped out at the roots.  Triple P's favorite literary Captain, Jack Aubrey, wore his long, blond hair clubbed - though not usually braided - throughout the O'Brian novels despite the vogue for short haircuts a la Napoleon at the time.

Club law was the British and Colonial American term for the rule of strength.  He who carried the biggest club, and was unhampered by empathy for those he wielded it against, was in charge. Rarely the case aboard naval ships or privateers, one might imagine this type of superiority finding a place at the docks.  Or aboard the occasional pirate vessel.

Clubbing was the term given for drifting along a current with an anchor out.  Clubbing the fleet was an English term for placing the first division of a squadron to the windward.

The maneuver known as club hauling was made famous in the Royal Navy in 1814 by one Captain Hayes in HMS Magnificent of 74 guns.  It would be a shame for me to try to paraphrase Admiral Smyth's description of both the maneuver and Hayes' brilliant move, and thus I quote from The Sailor's Word Book:

A method of tacking a ship by letting go the lee-anchor as soon as the wind is out of the sails, which brings her head to the wind, and as soon as she pays off, the cable is cut and the sails trimmed; this is never had recourse to but in perilous situations, and when it is expected that the ship would otherwise miss stays.  The most gallant example was performed by Captain Hayes in HMS Magnificent, 74, in Basque Roads, in 1814, when with lower-yards and top-masts struck, he escaped between two reefs from the enemy at Oleron.  He bore the name of Magnificent Hayes to the day of his death, for the style in which he executed it.

And you really can't argue with that.

Finally, on a personal note, today is Triple P's anniversary.  It was July 28, 2009 when I began this labor of love, and I love it to this day.  Enjoy your Saturday, Brethren, and be sure to stop in on Monday when we'll have a delicious treat from generous and talented writer, scholar, blogger and long time friend of Triple P, the radiant Undine.  You won't want to miss it.

Header: Engraving by C. Hunt of HMS Magnificent c 1813 via Wikipedia


Timmy! said...

Happy Saturday, Pauline. And congratulations on the third anniversary of Triple P!

Club does seem to have a variety of uses. I think club law sounds like it still applies to a lot of situations...

Pauline said...

Thankee, Timmy! It's a good feeling to have three years under Triple P's belt!

And yeah, club law; it certainly still applies in school, as an example.

Capt. John Swallow said...

Three years? Most hearty congratulations! Does that make it three sheets to the wind? ;]