Saturday, April 13, 2013
Sailor Mouth Saturday: Break
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