Saturday, April 6, 2013
Sailor Mouth Saturday: Lee
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