Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Pay

The word pay, in the sense of remuneration for work accomplished or yet to come, is dear to every sailor's heart. Dearer still is pay for a prize - the only kind of pay known to pirates. But there are other uses for the word pay at sea, and some have nothing to do with coin in hand.

Pay can also mean the act of caulking a seam on deck. In particular it refers to the pouring of pitch into the seam after the caulking is done. The pitch makes the oakum that seals the seam waterproof. The word pay in this sense derives, according to Admiral Smyth in The Sailor's Word Book from the French word for pitch: poix.

A slight variation on this comes with references to paying a mast or yard or paying a ship's bottom.

In the case of the mast or yard, the wood is anointed with tar or the tallow left over from cooking often referred to as "slush" (thus the nickname for the cook: Slushy). This allows for ease in hoisting and lowering sails and yards, cutting down on the friction and thus wear-and-tear on the rigging. This is a dangerous job, however, as the sailor is dealing with slippery substances while suspended on a bosun's chair. The point was well illustrated in the "Tar Rigger" episode of Dirty Jobs where Mike Rowe was obliged to pay a mast aboard the Star of India.

To pay a vessel's bottom (also known as breaming) involves cleaning the entire hull, not by scraping as in careening but by fire. The hull is thus covered with tallow, sulphur or rosin to discourage the fire from actually burning the ship's bottom.

To pay round is to turn the ship's head in another direction. Paying off is "the movement by which the ship's head falls off from the wind, and drops to leeward" to quote the good Admiral. Pay away and paying out mean the same thing: this is the slackening of rope which allows it to run without hindrance. Paying down is the act of lowing heavy articles down into the hold or to a lower deck.

A paymaster is a 19th century naval invention. This individual did the job formerly taken by a ship's purser as part of his duties. It was up to this person to both provision and pay the crew. Paying off may also mean the final payment to officers and crew when a ship is lost or taken out of commission.

A man who speaks "gandiloquently", according to Admiral Smyth, is said to be "paying it out" among his mates; derogatorily, of course. And as all the Brethren know, the Admiral reminds that:

Pay [is] a buccaneering principle of hire, under the notion of plunder and sharing in prizes, was, no purchase no pay.

You can read the lyrics to, and hear the wonderful Corsairs sing, the shanty of the same name here.

Happy Saturday, Brethren! Fair winds, following seas and full mugs to you all.

Header: Make Sail! Photograph via the Under the Black Flag Team on Facebook


Timmy! said...

I love the "Tar Rigger" episode of Dirty Jobs, Pauline... so many double entendre's (even for Mike), plus the Corsairs... Nice!

And a beautiful picture too... Well done, indeed. You have earned your pay with this post.

Pauline said...

It would sure help out if I did get paid for these posts!

Blue Lou Logan said...

Missy, your dedication to the articles is without question. When that day comes and the likes of the Ganji-i-Sawai is taken, your share will be paid above and beyond. Until then, the promise of the best pair of pistols for service rendered...

Pauline said...

Thankee, mate. I shall continue to do the best allowed me to pull my weight and haul my share.