Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Fresh

Tomorrow is Saint Patrick's Day: the day we're all Irish. Aside from corned beef, beer and all things green I always harken back to - and I'm really dating myself here - these very old Irish Spring soap commercials. Making a "strong" man "fresh" was what Irish Spring was about and thus, today's SMS word.

Fresh at sea generally refers to one of three things: water, wind or rigging. Let's look at them in that order, shall we?

Fresh water if, of course, that that is not salt. A ship freshens her water by taking on more casks of same for drinking and cooking but rarely if ever for washing. Other fresh water, particularly that from rain or snow, was used for that purpose. If none of that was to hand one might have the good luck to use the freshening from a local river. The so called fresh shot was the fresh water that came down stream from a large river and emptied into a body of salt water. As Admiral Smyth notes in The Sailor's Word Book, in such cases - particularly after a large dump of rain or with snow melt inland - "... fresh water is often to be found on the surface a good way from the mouth of the river." There is, in similar cases, the freshes which refer to the large deposits of silt and other materials swept into the oceans and gulfs by the world's mightiest rivers. With the Nile, Congo, Ganges, Mississippi and others, the discolorations in the salt waters can be seen from outer space.

In relation to rivers, a sailor with blue water experience may refer to one who works rivers and lakes pejoratively as a "fresh water jack." This was essential an insult and meant that the individual was just this side of a lubber. Samuel Clemens, as an example, might be called a fresh water jack by the likes of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. or Joseph Conrad. Sorry, Mark Twain...

Fresh water seas are those that are so large, they essentially behave like the ocean. Probably the best example of these is the Great Lakes at the U.S. and Canada boarder. Superior, Michigan, Huron Erie and Ontario are all example of lakes that are just as vast - and potentially deadly - as any gulf we know.

A fresh breeze is a brisk and often sudden wind but can also refer to the way a ship is handled in known channels of wind, such as the trades or gulf stream. A fresh gale is just a more powerful form of a fresh breeze. When a ship begins to feel the push of a fresh breeze, she is said to freshen her way. Fresh way is also said of a man who picks up his stride or sets out at a run. Fresh way is slightly different, and refers to a ships increased speed through the water; she gathers fresh way, for instance, after completing a successful tack when her sails once again catch the wind.

One can freshen rigging by adjusting ropes or cable, thus relieving pressure points and potential failure on or of same. To freshen the hawse, for instance, means to relieve the part of the cable that has been repeatedly exposed to friction from the hawse hole. This is necessary in times when a ship sits at anchor for some days. The term freshen the nip follows this rule and essential refers to the same duty. It also has been used to essentially mean "the sun is over the yardarm" for those officers who are ready for a glass.

The ballast is freshened when it is raked and/or moved to better purpose. Fresh grub are new stores taken aboard. A fresh spell means new men to taking on a repetitious task such as turning the capstan. And finally, your mate might be fresh meaning not that he is a bit too friendly but that he is just this side of drunk. As the Admiral puts it delicately, "excited by drink."

So cheers mates and a Happy St. Pat's. Perhaps a Guinness rather than a grog is in order. Slainte!

Header: Merchant's Quay at Newry; photo from the National Library of Ireland via Naval Architecture


Capt. John Swallow said...

May the road rise up to meet ye.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand...and never squeeze too tightly!

Slainté mhaith to the 'Triple P' Crew!

Pauline said...

Thankee indeed, mate. All your kindness is much appreciated as the crew and I continue to sail in dark and uncharted waters. We'll get there, though, and be better for it :)

My thoughts and positive energies to you and Seika as you prepare for Pyrate Week; Huzzah!

Irwin said...

Here's a link to a painting entitled Shipping in a Fresh Breeze from the 1600s:

Timmy! said...

Manly, yes, but I like it too, Pauline!

And now it's time for me to freshen the nip...

Pauline said...

Irwin: thank you; that is lovely!

Timmy! Exactly :)