More Nautical Words and Phrases “ To Be Taken Aback” To be Suddenly Surprised. In days of Sail, through a shift in the Wind, or through bad steering. If the wind blew from the front of the square sails and laid them back against the masts, this would cause the ship to move backwards or gather ‘sternway’. So causing great confusion and danger in a gale “ To be Taken Aback”
“ To take The Wind out of Your Sails” “ To Gain a Physical or Verbal Advantage over another” King Henry VIII decreed “that no junior Captain shall “take the wind out of his Admiral”, meaning to cross him to windward and so taking the wind from his sails, and thus gaining an advantage over his Admiral. This ‘ploy’ is still in use today by racing yachts to gain an advantage over the opposition
“ Plain Sailing” From now on, it’s easy, it will be “plain sailing” The basic set of sails used on the centre line of a mast were known as ‘plain sails’ these were relatively easy to handle. Hence ‘plain sailing’ or ‘easy’. However in light winds, more sails were needed to increase the sail area to catch the available wind. The only way to increase the sail area was ‘sideways’ this meant adding studding booms to extend the yards in order to add ‘studding sails’. These were difficult to handle, and it was no longer ‘easy’ or “plain sailing”
“ By and Large” Today it means:- “Broadly speaking, all things taken into consideration” In Nautical terms it was an order to the Helmsman, steering the ship to:- “ steer By the wind, keeping it Large,” i.e steer a course that will ensure that the wind is always blowing from the stern quarter of the ship.
“ Speed in Knots” Before the introduction of Sat- Nav and GPS in Navigation, your speed through the water and thus, how far you have travelled, was very important to early Navigators. The generic term for the instrument that measures the ship’s speed is still ‘The Log’ . Few realise that the the first ‘log’ was in fact ‘a log of wood’ that was tossed overboard from the bow of the ship and the time that it took to travel the known full length of the ship was measured, this gave the ships speed. Not yet though in ‘knots’
“ The Hand Log”:- It was from this method that we derive the term ‘knot’ as a unit of measurement of a ship’s speed. This was a thin line of 150 fathoms (900feet) in length wound onto a hand reel. At the outer end was a quarter circle segment of wood weighted at it’s circular side to ensure it stayed upright and ‘gripped’ the water during the measuring run. When thrown overboard from the stern of the ship, the ‘log’ pulled the line from the reel. When free of the ship’s turbulence, the measurements would begin………
REEL WHITE BUNTING Log The Log Line was marked with a piece of bunting to mark the start of the measurements, then at intervals of 47ft 3 inches a KNOT was put into the line. A sand glass was used to time the measurements, one that ran for only 28 seconds. When the bunting passed through the fingers the glass was turned then every ‘knot’ that passed though the fingers was counted until the sands ran out. This then, was your speed through the water “in knots”
Watch this space for more Words Ron Bannister HMS Victory Corps of Guides 1991 - 2002