Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: High

High water, high tide, high and dry; many a lubber has been known to use sea-speak that uses the word "high". But just what do these seemingly familiar terms actually mean to a sailor? So glad you asked.

High flood, high tide and high water are often considered one and the same. I see these terms used interchangeably in sloppy nautical fiction. The fact is that if you're writing about any period prior to the 1950s, you better know the difference here. High flood, or flood tide, referred to not the highest point of a tide but when that tide was coming in. The flux of the tide was its flood whereas the beginning of its rise was a young flood, followed by a quarter flood, a half flood, top of the flood and finally high water. High water then being the very zenith of the tide.

The high water mark is the line made by water on the shore when it has reached the point of high water. This mark indicated where the rule of a country's navy began and the rule of land ended.

High tide, in the parlance of, as an example, Jack Aubrey and his crew, would mean a full purse and a time free of care. Admiral Smyth points up another use of the phrase in The Sailor's Word Book:

Constance, in Shakespeare's King John, uses the term high tides as denoting the gold letter days, or holidays on the calendar.

The call "high enough" indicates that goods have reached an appropriate spot when hoisted up over a ship's side. The term may also be used while utilizing a bosun's chair.

High wind can be said to be synonymous with heavy gale; essentially, a force 10 wind. High latitudes are those areas of the globe above the 50th degree. This applies toward either pole.

In gunnery, high could mean tightly fitting the bore of the cannon. A gun is also said to be laid high when her muzzle is too far elevated.

Finally, high and dry most closely resembles its use on land. It of course signifies a ship that had essentially run aground. As the Admiral puts it so eloquently:

The situation of a ship or other vessen which is aground, so as to be seen dry upon the strand when the tide ebbs from her.

Thus Brethren, I will wish you a constant high tide and that you never find yourself high and dry. Happy Saturday to one and all; fair winds, following seas and endless mugs of grog.

Header: Shore Scene by John W. Casilear via American Gallery


Timmy! said...

You can't have highs without the lows, Pauline.

Or in my case, you could say he must be crazy or high...

But that's another meaning altogether.

Pauline said...

Exactly. It all evens out at the end of the cruise, though. Or we hope it does.