Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Card/Careen

The card was intimately familiar to our sailing ancestors, just as it was only a few short decades ago to anyone trying to find their way in unknown territory. The face of the magnetic compass is and was known as a card and poets have sung its praises for centuries. As Admiral Smyth quotes from Plato in The Sailor's Word Book: "Reason the card, but passion is the gale." Unfortunately, our appreciation for the compass and so the card has at least depreciated in recent years.

Relating to the card are the cardinal points - north, south, east and west - and the cardinal winds which originate from those points. The cardinal signs are those more familiarly known as the zodiac, through which the sun passes. The cardinal points of the ecliptic are those zodiac signs into which the sun enters at the equinoxes - Aries and Libra - and the solstices - Cancer and Capricorn.

Careening, as Admiral Smyth tells us, is:

the operation of heaving the ship down on one side, by arranging the ballast, or the application of a strong purchase to her masts, which require to be expressly supported by the occasion to prevent their springing; by these means one side of the bottom, elevated above the surface of the water, may be cleansed or repaired.

This operation was quite an undertaking and all ships without the benefit of copper sheathing by necessity needed to be cleaned off at intervals. Seamen, and pirates in particular, would covet secluded careening beaches that would allow for not only a thorough overhaul of their ship but also time ashore to bathe, collect fresh water and provisions and all the other simple things that time aboard ship might not allow. There were many such spots in particular around the Gulf of Mexico not the least of which included Matagorda, Isla Mujeres, Galveston, Barataria and various spots on the Florida coast.

The term careening actually comes from careen which is a corruption of the word carina: keel. A ship is said to careen at she when she inclines to one side to such a degree that her keel is seen above the waves.

And that's enough for now, I'd say. May you sit upon a warm careening beach this evening, Brethren, with all the best of everything to your hand.

Header: Harbor Scene by Andrew Andrews via American Gallery


Irwin said...

My understanding is that the copper sheathing protected from the Turedo or shipworm boring into the hull and reduced the need for careening. Ships with copper still needed to be careened and cleaned, or, just to repair the sheathing.

Pauline said...

Irwin: Yes; that's generally what the literature informs. Breaming, or burning the little nasties off the hull, was often done with copper sheeted hulls.

Timmy! said...

A warm careening beach would be nice, Pauline. Maybe if I play my cards right, we'll get there eventually...

Pauline said...

Yep; the future is bright. It's just getting through this right now.