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S/V Blue Dawn of Sark: Circumnavigation I & II
Sea's Reflections
Sailor's Talk, Prayers at Sea!

Sea's Prayers

Short Prayer in respect of a Storm.
THOU, 0 Lord, that stillest the raging of the sea, hear, hear us, and save us, that we perish not.
0 blessed Saviour, that didst save thy disciples ready to perish in a storm, hear us, and save us, we beseech thee.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
0 Lord, hear us.
0 Christ, hear us.
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, have mercy upon us, save us now and evermore. Amen.


Sailor's Talk
Sailor's Talk, Superstitions

Some Sailor's Superstitions
Sailors believed that if a cat licked its fur against the grain it meant a hailstorm was coming; if it sneezed, rain was on the way; and if it was frisky, the wind would soon blow.

Superstion states that it is unlucky to kill a gull, as these birds are said to carry the souls of sailors lost at sea.

Horseshoes on a ship's mast help turn away storms.

Sailor wearing an earring cannot drown.
Scottish law once required fishermen to wear a gold earring, which was used to pay for funeral expenses if they were drowned and washed ashore.


Sailor's Talk
Sailor's Talk, Weather's Proverbs

Weather's Proverbs

"Red sky in the morning is the sailors warning."
"Red sky in the night is a sailors delight."

"Orange or yellow can hurt a fellow."

"Mackerel scales and mares' tails make tall ships carry low sails."

"The evening red and morning gray
Are sure signs of a fine day,
But the evening gray and the morning red,
Makes the sailor shake his head."

"When a halo rings the moon or sun
Rains approaching on the run."

"Rainbow to windward, foul fall the day
Rainbow to leeward, rain runs away."

"Sun sets Friday clear as bell,
Rain on Monday sure as hell."

"If clouds are gathering thick and fast,
Keep sharp look out for sail and mast,
But if they slowly onward crawl,
Shoot your lines, nets and trawl."

"When the wind is blowing in the North
No fisherman should set forth,
When the wind is blowing in the East,
'Tis not fit for man nor beast,
When the wind is blowing in the South
It brings the food over the fish's mouth,
When the wind is blowing in the West,
That is when the fishing's best!"

"When rain comes before the wind, halyards, sheets and braces mind,
But when wind comes before rain, soon you may make sail again."

"No weather's ill if the wind be still."

"When sea-gulls fly to land, a storm is at hand."

"Sharks go out to sea at the approach of a wave of cold weather."

"When porpoises sport and play, there will be a storm."

"When grass is dry at morning light
Look for rain before the night."

"The sudden storm lasts not three hours
The sharper the blast, the sooner 'tis past. "

"The higher the clouds the better the weather. "

"When the sun shines while raining,
it will rain the same time again tomorrow."


Sailor's Talk
Sailor's Talk, A Dictionary

We are trying to make a fun little sailors' reference guide, so if anyone knows some more proverbs, sayings, chants or interesting definitions, please add them which we would appreciate very much!

Davy Jones's Locker
A fictional place at the bottom of the ocean. In short, a term meaning death. Davey Jones was said to sink every ship he ever over took, and thus, the watery grave that awaited all who were sunk by him was given his name. To die at sea is to go to "Davey Jones's Locker".

Walk the Plank
Perhaps more famous than historically practiced, walking the plank was the act of being forced off a ship by pyrates (as punishment or torture) into the watery grave below. History suggests that this might have happened once that can be vaguely documented, but it is etched in the image of the pyrates for its clearly dastardly content.

A term given to one fond of land as opposed to sea. The terms doesn't derive from "land lover" but rather from the root of "lubber" which means clumsy or uncoordinated. Thus, a landlubber is one who is awkward at sea for familiarity with the land. Of course, this terms was used to insult the abilities of one at sea.

Crow's Nest
The raven, or crow, was an essential part of the Viking's navigation
equipment. These landlubbing birds were carried aboard to help the
ship's navigator determine where the closest land lay when the weather
prevented sighting the shore. In case of poor visibility, a crow was released
and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird's flight path
because the crow invariably headed toward land.
The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast.
Later on, as ships grew and the lookout stood his watch in a tub located
high on the main mast, the name "crow's nest" was given to his tub.

Old traditional greeting for hailing other vessels was originally a Viking battle cry.

Gun Salutes
Gun Salutes were first fired as an act of good faith. In the days when it took so long to reload a gun,
it was proof of friendly intention when the ship's cannon were discharged upon entering port and thereby
proving that the weapons were not cocked and ready to fire.

Log Book
In the early days of sailing ships, the ship's records were written on shingles cut from logs. These shingles
were hinged and opened like a book. The record was called the "log book". Later on, when paper was readily
available and bound into books, the record maintained its name.

Mayday is the internationally recognised voice radio signal for ships and people in serious trouble at sea.
Made officially in 1948, it is an anglicising of the French m'aidez, "help me".

Keel Haul
Another term made famous by pyrates. This is the act of throwing a man overboard, tied to a rope that goes beneath the ship, and then dragging him from one side to the other and hauling him out. Besides the torment of being dragged under water, this would drag the victim across the barnacle studded ship's hull and cause great pain and injury. This was a serious punishment and not administered lightly.

Shiver me Timbers
This term was used to express shock or surprise. The idea of timbers shivering comes from the vibration set up in the mast (timbers) by either running aground or a solid hit from a larger gun. The suggestion is that something has shaken the speaker from a state of less awareness.

Why do we have a head instead of a toilet on board? In ancient times, there were no sanitary facilities aboard for the passengers or crew. Even the larger boats were small and low enough for people to sit on the top edge of the leeward hull for direct discharge overboard.

As time passed, shipbuilders began adding beakheads forward of the bows. A beakhead was a sharp ram fitted at the bow of a fighting galley. It was used to disable enemy galleys by impaling the rowing tiers and killing the rowers.

By the 10th century the beakhead attained another use. It supported two platforms, one to larboard and one to starboard. The original purpose of the platforms was to provide a place where archers would shoot in battle. They were known as the weather and leeward beakheads, or more simply the weather and leeward heads. Due to their location forward of the bow, the heads were built as a grid. Instead of having the seas beat them to pieces, the grid construction allowed water to flow directly through the platforms. It also kept weight to a minimum.

The heads provided an immediate, although unintended improvement to the crew's sanitary facilities. They were located immediately forward of the crew's quarters. They were suspended conveniently over the water. They were washed by each wave that came up to bows.

Officers and passengers were granted some privacy through the use of porcelain chamber pots or oak buckets, known as private heads. Crew were expected to use the leeward head. Leeward used to be spelled lewward, which explains the correct pronunciation as "LOO'ard". With this pronunciation it's easy to see that "going to the leeward head" survives in modern Britain as "going to the loo".

Port and Starboard
In the days before the rudder was invented, the building of commercial vessels in England was heavily influenced by the dragon ships of the Vikings. These were lapstrake vessels (built with overlapping strakes, or planks), steered by an oar. The builder would fasten two pegs into the top strake of the boat, near the back. The oar would then be placed between the two pegs and secured with leather. The pegs were placed on the right side of the vessel since most sailors were right-handed. Sailors would brace themselves against the top strake on the left side of the boat when working the steering oar. The builders referred to the top strake on the right and left sides of the boat as the steering board ("starboard" in the language of the time) and leaning board ("larboard"), respectively. Sailors extended those terms to reference the right and left sides of the boat.

While boats were relatively small, there was no real difficulty in issuing a command to turn to starboard or larboard. By the 14th century, some boats were large enough that a mate might not be close to the helm. By the end of the 17th century, this was a significant difficulty. When the mate yelled "hard to larboard" in a storm or in the heat of battle, it's not hard to understand why the helm might be turned "hard to starboard" instead. When an alternate term was needed, one was available. Let's see how that alternate term came into use.

As fishermen and traders arrived in the harbor, they would tie up along the side of a roughly built stone landing. The left side of the boat was the preferred side for tying up, because they wanted to protect their steering oar and give it room to sweep from side to side when they were maneuvering close to the landing. Once tied, they would discharge and take on cargo.

To take on or discharge cargo, each piece had to be picked up and carried, or "ported" some distance to or from the warehouse area. The sides of the boats were higher than the deck to help keep sailors aboard in rough weather. To avoid lifting each piece of cargo up and over the side of the boat, builders constructed an opening in the left side of the hull, with its bottom being about level with the deck. This made it easier and faster for the sailors to port the individual pieces of cargo on and off the vessel. This opening (and, by extension, any opening in the hull of a boat) was known as a "port".

Since "port" activities took place on the left side of the boat, it was natural to begin referring to the left side of the boat as the port side. By the middle of the 18th century, this was the common practice. It took much longer for official practices to follow suit (1844 for the British Navy and 1846 for the U.S. Navy).

By the way, "coming in to port" originally meant coming in to open the port to discharge and take on cargo, and "being in port" meant that you were tied up ashore and in the process of porting cargo. In later years, "port" was applied to the destination as well.

While we're on the subject of being in port let's have a brief look at a shoreside term.

Have you boaters ever wondered why we get our nautical supplies at a chandlery? A maker and seller of candles was known as a chandler, and the place where candles were made and sold was a chandlery. How do we get from candles to nautical supplies?

Until whale oil became readily available in the early 18th century, candles provided the only illumination at night. Every boat consumed large amounts of candles on a voyage. To replace those consumed, the captain would have to visit the local chandlery while in port. Captains would want to spend the briefest of time ashore, since they were needed at the boat to supervise porting of cargo. A wise chandler would often stock other nautical goods, such as rope, leather and tar. Using chandlers that carried nautical supplies in addition to candles saved the captain a lot of time and trouble. Consequently, captains would prefer a chandler that carried additional supplies. Over time, captains came to look solely to chandlers as the source for their nautical supplies.

Returning to the ship, let's look at some sail terms related to port and starboard.

Most sailors are familiar with triangular sails. They are set such that the wind always blows across the sail in the same direction, namely from luff (leading edge) to the leach (trailing edge). In terms of the lower corners of a triangular sail, the wind goes from the tack (lower leading corner) to the clew (lower trailing corner).

Square sails and spinnakers are a bit different. The wind doesn't always come from the same edge. When the wind is coming from the left edge of the sail, the lower left corner is the tack. When the wind is from the right, the lower right corner is the tack. Thus, each square sail and spinnaker has a port tack and a starboard tack. Being on "port tack" or "starboard tack" in the old days literally meant that the ship was using the corresponding corner of her square sails, and "changing tacks" meant that the sails were being reset to use the opposite tack.


Sailor's Talk


Trintella 75
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