Saturday, April 27, 2013

Meta: A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

It has been rather a troublesome week here at chez Pauline and, along with that, I am preparing for a licensing exam on Tuesday so just a brief post today. I wanted to share this gorgeous frigate whose picture I found over at the always engrossing Naval Architecture. The first picture today is equally as lovely and daydream inducing. Fair winds to all!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Seafaring Sunday: Doctor van Riebeeck

April 21, 1619: Jan van Riebeeck is born in the Netherlands. Van Riebeeck will follow his father into the physician's trade. He became a naval surgeon and was instrumental in the founding of what is now Cape Town in South Africa. The stop, complete with van Riebeeck's brainchild the Fort of Goede Hoop (Good Hope), would give sick and injured seamen a resting point on the long, arduous cruises undertaken by the Dutch and later the British East India Companies.

Header: Contemporary portrait of van Riebeeck by an anonymous artist via Wikimedia

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Steer

Most of us are familiar with today's word. We steer our cars, our bicycles, our skateboards, our lives; and steer at sea has similar meaning. Not surprisingly perhaps, it has different ones as well.

Steering, according to the oft-quoted Admiral Smyth, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word steoran. To quote the Admiral once again:

The perfection of steering consists in a vigilant attention to the motion of the ship's head, so as to check every deviation from the line of her course in the first instant of its commencement, and in applying as little of the power of the helm as possible, for the action of the rudder checks a ship's speed.

Thus a skilled helmsman is capable of keeping a ship at her optimal speed while staying on her optimal course. A helmsman might also be called a steersman for this very reason. As an aside, the word for helmsman in French is timonier, from the French word for helm: timon. Thus in the Cinque Ports era and somewhat beyond, the word timoneer might be used for the steersman.

To steer large is to allow her to go free or to steer her loosely. To steer her small is the opposite; as the Admiral puts it "to steer well and within small compass, not dragging the tiller over from side to side." To steer her course is to go with a fair wind, allowing it to move the ship along on her charted course. Steerage way indicates the ship has enough room to use her helm effectively for steering.

An old, and the Admiral notes incorrect, term for studding sails is steering-sails.

Steerage, that fateful term so familiar to many an American whose ancestors came over in it, originally meant the act of steering. Steerage, when one spoke of the decks of a fighting ship, often referred to where the mechanisms of the helm worked their way to the tiller. Thus, the deck below the quarter and immediately before the bulkhead of the great cabin was steerage. Sometimes, the Admiral's cabin on the middle deck of a three-decker was known by this name. When passenger ships came into vogue in the late 19th century, steerage acquired its less-than-savory reputation as the lowest deck before the bilge where the least of the passengers were crammed together like the rats among them. It is only one such as Jame Cameron, in his high fantasy film Titanic, who would have the temerity to portray this steerage as the most delightful and carefree deck aboard a liner.

And finally, on a similar note, there is the word steeving, which applies to the painting above. In this now mostly archaic form of rigging, the bowsprit's angle was some 70 or 80 degrees above the horizon. This made it a proper mast upon which a sail could be rigged as shown.

And with that, I wish you a happy Saturday once again and all steerage way upon your cruises, Brethren.

Header: HMS Surprise by Randal Wilson via NAVART

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

History: Aboard The Terrible

April 15: Light Aires and Fair Weather: at 7 PM saw 2 Sails Bearing NbE: to the SoWard at 5 AM Saw a Sail on the Lee Quarter Ware and gave Chace Sett all Sailes & Chace bore away and Set all Sailes She could Perceived her to be a Brigg At 9 saw a French Man of War to Windward She hoisted her Colours We hoisted ours we in full Chace at 12 hoisted our colors and fired a Shot at the Chace at 12 she hoisted American Colors fired several shots at her at noon she fired two stern Chaces at us, continued the Chace

April 16: Still in Chace Fired several shots at her 1 Chace struck her colours and Shortened Sail, we began to take in our Sailes brought to as did the Chace Hoisted out a Boate and sent an Officer on Board She proved to be an American Privateer Brigg called the Rising States, Capt Thompson Commander Carr, 12 six pounders eight of which she had hove overboard chased and 61 men She had taken three English vessels

~ copied verbatim, including spelling and punctuation, from the log of Captain Richard Bickerton, HMS Terrible of 74 guns, in the English Channel, 1777

Header: Towing a Privateer by A. Roux c 1806 via Naval Architecture

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seafaring Sunday: Royal Navy Uniform

April 13, 1748: The first official uniform was prescribed for officers in the Royal Navy of Britain. The standard included a white waistcoat, breeches and stockings, a blue coat with cuffs and gold buttons, and a black, tricorn hat with gold lace and cockade.

For a more in depth discussion of this milestone, see this excellent post at Not By Appointment, where the above example of the original captain's undress uniform came from.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Break

While the word break generally makes lubbers think - when they think of the sea at all - of those rocks upon which the ocean waves so noisily crash, it has and had many more meanings to men and women who belong to the sea.

Breakers are indeed those reefs, rocks and so on that stop the mighty ocean waves, particularly at shallower points along the shore. Admiral Smyth describes this situation most poetically in The Sailor's Word Book:

... those billows which break violently over reefs, rocks, or shallows, lying immediately at, or under, the surface of the sea. They are distinguished both by their appearance and sound, as they cover that part of the sea with a perpetual foam, and produce loud roaring, very different from what the waves usually have over a deeper bottom. Also, a name given to those rocks which occasion the waves to break over them.

One imagines that, in a heavy sea, the rocks pictured above might become breakers. "Breakers ahead!" This call warns the helm of broken water in a ship's direct course.

A break water may be a natural bar or a man-made jetty or mole that protects a harbor or bay from the more violent roiling of the open ocean, thus keeping the ships there safe from being beaten up by waves and wind.

Breakers is also a term for the small barrels used to store water or other liquids, rum for instance. A crew might break such things out; breaking out meaning to pull up stores or cargo from stowage. Thus breakage was the empty spaces where nothing was stowed in a ship's hold. In ocean marine insurance, however, it is the part of the cargo that arrives damaged. Break bulk means to open and unload the hold of said cargo and can allude to the "disposal" of ill-gotten, perhaps piratical gains.

A sudden end to a deck's planking was called the break-beams. A break was the rise of a deck; the break of the poop was where that half-deck aft ended at its fore-point.

At sea, breaking ground means the beginning of the weighing process; breaking the anchor from the ground beneath the water. A ship may break sheer when she is forced toward her anchor rode, or sheer, by the wind.

A gale is said to break when it slows down and gives way to better weather. But the breaking of a gale can mean the mournful howling of the wind through shrouds and rigging. Those sailors familiar with the East Indies would speak of the "break-up of the monsoon", when winds would rage so violently as to literally break a ship caught off guard apart. A ship may break off her course when the wind is such that the direction intended cannot be maintained. Break off is also an order for a sailor or sailors to move swiftly from one chore to another.

A man is said to break liberty when he does not return to his mess after shore leave. To break a man is to "deprive him of his commission, warrant, or rating by court-martial." To break up a ship is to dismantle her when her parts are worth more to the service than she is. All of these instances may be a very sad time indeed.

And that is all for today, Brethren. Fair winds, following seas and full tankards to y'all!

Header: A Maine Windjammer from Isa Bella's Pics via Naval Architecture

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Seafaring Sunday: "A Desperate Fight"

Captain Barry was given command of Lexington, of 14 guns, on 7 December 1775. The Lexington sailed 31 March 1776. On 7 April 1776, off the Capes of Virginia, he fell in with the Edward, tender to the British man-of-war Liverpool, and after a desperate fight of one hour and twenty minutes captured her and brought her into Philadelphia. Barry continued in command of Lexington until 18 October 1776, and captured several private armed vessels during that time.

~ from Naval History and Heritage Command's biography of Commodore John Barry

Header: Commodore John Barry USN by Gilbert Stuart via Wikipedia

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Lee

The word lee is commonly heard in discussing the sea and sea terms. "Have I brought you by the lee," is one of those euphemisms that just about everyone but the dog uses around chez Pauline. But what does it really mean? Let us look closer, shall we?

According to Admiral W.H. Smyth writing in The Sailor's Word Book, the English word lee comes from the Scandinavian loe or laa which roughly translates as the sea. With that in mind, we know that the word always had two feet firmly planted in the water and probably came from our intrepid Viking ancestors. To English speakers, lee has long meant the side of a vessel opposite the side upon which the wind is blowing. Thus leeward versus windward and leewardly meaning a ship unable to keep up with the wind versus weatherly, a ship that is capable in almost any weather.

Larger ships may have a lee anchor; any anchor catted to the leeward side. All ships riding at anchor may refer to their lee anchor if indeed the kedge is to the vessel's lee.

The lee beams are those on her lee side, positioned at right angles to the keel. The lee boards are wooden frames that are attached to the sides of small, flat-bottomed vessels like wings to keep them from drifting to leeward. The lee side of a ship is considered to be the portion of her that lies, as the Admiral describes it, "between the mast and the side farthest from the wind, the other half being the weather-side."

The lee side of the quarterdeck, which is often relatively shielded from the wind, is said to be the prerogative of the captain. It is here aboard the dear Surprise that Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey took his exercise daily on the advise of his physician and particular friend, Stephen Maturin. On men-of-war, the lee side of the quarterdeck was sometimes known colloquially as "the midshipman's parade" since they were often being instructed there by the ship's captain or lieutenants.

A lee tide runs in the same direction of the wind and must be taken into account in navigation as it can push a ship to leeward. Thus the lee gauge refers to being farther from the wind than another vessel, either friend or foe. A ship may take a lee lurch and roll to leeward when struck by a unusual wave on her weather side. The dangerous lee shore is directly on a ship's leeward side with the wind battering her into it.

When a ship is on a lee hitch the helmsman has allowed her to drift to the lee. Being under the lee-gunnel is slang for a ship being troublesomely over taxed by wind, weather, or enemy fire. "Take care of the lee hatch!" This is an order to the helmsman not to get off on a lee hitch.

And then there's that bit about being brought by the lee. A ship is said to be under the lee when she is in water near a weather shore where the wind is coming off the land and the sailing is easier than it might be further out. In the uncomfortable situation known as to lay by the lee or to be brought by or come up on the lee, a ship is run out, brought by the lee quarter and looses the wind in her sails. Thus, when one is brought by the lee, they are speechless, dumbfounded; something a loquacious person like your humble hostess finds very vexing indeed.

Happy Saturday, Brethren. I do apologize for the long absence and hope to have that corrected within the next month. Until than - and in between as well - may your ship be weatherly, and never troubled by being brought by the lee.

Header: The lovely Mouzho on a sunset sail via the wonderful Naval Architecture on tumblr