Alyssa Alexander here! I’m doing some research for a new series taking place in the Age of Sail. Because pirates never get old, right? Witness the Dread Pirate Roberts of Princess Bride fame. Or Captain Jack Sparrow. Yum.
In my delvings into the deep dark hole of research I came up with some interesting nautical phrases. Many make sense, of course, but there are others I stare at and for the life of me, I can’t figure out what they mean.
So I made up my own meanings. Because if you’re going to fall into the rabbit hole of research, you might as well have fun.
Abaft: Toward the stern. Or, I spent too long abaft and now my fingers are pruney.
Aft: Behind the middle of the boat. Or, if I eat too much pizza, the aft of me gets bigger.
Bar pilot: The sailor who navigates a ship over dangerous sandbars at the entrance to rivers or bays. Or, the bartender at the swim-up-bar at my favorite Caribbean resort.
Bear down: Turn away from the wind. Or, what I recall nurses telling me do during labor.
Cringle: A rope loop. Or, that moment when you see someone get hurt and you cringe, but at same time it’s funny and you laugh a little, a la America’s Funniest Videos. That’s a cringle.
Double shot: Loading a cannon with two balls. Or…well, it seems to me that should have originated in a dockside tavern.
Foulies: Slang for oilskins. Or, you can’t make a foulies out of me. I can spellz.
Gin-Pole: A pole used as a lever to raise the mast. Or, one of those extendable arms with the claw at the end for reaching things far away, such as the bottle of gin in the hold of a ship (or the top shelf of the liquor cabinet).
Kraken: A sea monster. Or, what happens when I make muffins. The centers kraken and I serve imploded muffins.
Longsplice: Sailor’s word for marriage. Or, a sailor’s wife’s reminder that he better not have a girl in ever port, or some bits might be spliced.
Lugger: A ship with lugsails, I guess. Or me, at the grocery store with a small child, a post-surgery Franken-Foot, a shopping list longer than my arm because there is nothing in the cupboard or fridge, and two carts because one isn’t big enough.
Offwind: Sailing away from the wind. Or, that moment when you open the fridge and the smell of something rotting wafts out. (Not that I have ever found unidentifiable substances in the back of my fridge.)
Rhumb Line: A compass line between two points. Or, a line of pirates arm in arm dancing the rhumba.
Scantlings: The dimensions used for shipbuilding. Or, those tiny words you delete when editing. This, that, but, just, only. They are scantlings. You don’t need them, though they sound great when you write them.
Vang: A rope that prevents the gaff or wood holding up various sails from sagging. Or, the sound a vampire makes when zeroing in on his prey. Like “bang”, only, you know. Vampire teeth. “VANG.”
Yeah, I know. I should just take the original definitions and roll with them. But who doesn’t enjoy a bit of fun now and again?
P.S. Many thanks to the Brethren of the Coast for their piratical definitions. They are available here: http://brethrencoast.com/Pirate_Glossary.html. I make no statement as to authenticity, though I do offer thanks for making the information available online. If it were not for those willing to share information, the world would be a much dimmer place. Right ho, mateys!