nautical glossary

Discuss word origins and meanings.

nautical glossary

Post by luckycanucky » Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:36 am

the term tacking, to tack the boat. anybody know where the term originated?
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:57 am

Webster's shows tack to come from the old French tache meaning a nail, fibula. The verb form you ask about appears to have come from the name of the rope used to secure a sail whereby is maintained an oblique course against the wind.
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Post by tony h » Wed Jun 14, 2006 10:36 pm

To Tack is to put a ship about, so that from having the wind on one side, you bring the wind round on the other side by the way of her head. This is the opposite of wearing.

A vessel on the starboard tack has her starboard tacks on board. This happens when she has the wind on her starboard side.
The tackle or rope by which the weather clew of a course is hauled forward and down to the deck. Being the lower forward corner of the sail
On a fore-and-aft sail the tack is the rope that keeps down the lower forward clew; and for a studdingsail it is the rope that holds the lower outer clew. The tack of the lower studdingsail is called the outhaul.
Tackleis also the purchase (grip) formed by a rope rove through one or more blocks.


regards
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nautical glossary

Post by haro » Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:02 pm

Please note that the words 'tack' and 'tackle' do not seem to be related to each other, a least not if gdwdwrkr's etymology of the former truly holds water. The etymology of 'tackle' seems to be much more complex that the one of 'tack,' and much of it seems to be pretty obscure. The term crossed the North Sea several times from the Netherlands to the UK and back to Northern Germany.

I just wonder if 'tack' as in 'thumbtack' and 'tack' as in 'mainsail tack' and 'tacking a vessel' really have the same etymology. Ken?

Tony, your definitions sound like excerpts from a 19th century nautical glossary. Only very few sailors of the 20th, let alone 21st, century know what a studdingsail is. I happen to know it because I sail old schooners and own a vintage gaff cutter. The term 'outhaul' has a much wider meaning than just the tack of a lower studdingsail. It applies to many ropes that are used to outhaul many kinds of sails, i.e. to pull them outwards, 'abeam' of the mast.

By the way, am I right in assuming that what you spelled 'wearing' actually ought be 'veering'? Never heard of 'wearing' in that context in 35 years of sailing traditional sailships. And the opposite of tacking is gying / gibing / jibing, neither wearing nor veering, see http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?t=18468.
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nautical glossary

Post by Shelley » Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:15 am

haro wrote: I just wonder if 'tack' as in 'thumbtack' and 'tack' as in 'mainsail tack' and 'tacking a vessel' really have the same etymology. Ken?
haro, it all seems to line up neatly to me: tack = fastener = rope that fastens a corner of a sail = manipulating said rope to change direction of a vessel = altering course = taking a different angle on a problem = trying a new tack. I realize it's only meandering. So, are you wondering if the terms evolved separately from a common root, instead of lineally?
My Webster's has: M.E. takke; O.Norm. Fr. taque; O.Fr. tache; nail fibula.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jun 16, 2006 4:01 am

Hans Joerg, Shelley has the right idea except for the order in which they occurred. According to the OED (and this is a distillation of a whole lot of verbiage) most of the senses of the noun TACK, including a small nail (1463) – short for ‘tack-nail’ (relative of the thumbtack) and the sense of the nautical, ropes, wires, lashings, or chains used on a sailing vessel (1481-90) were derived from the verb meaning to fasten (1387), but the nautical senses of the verb (1557) arose out of nautical sense of noun (ropes, wires, lashings, or chains . . .), which in turn gave rise to the noun sense of the act of tacking (1614).

(Oxford English Dictionary)
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Post by tony h » Fri Jun 16, 2006 7:29 am

Haro my comments were from my Grandfathers notes who sailed with his father a Clipper Captain, they do have the look of having been copied out for learning. It was just an odd page amongst some photographs. It seemed to me quite feasible that the the words for the original activities led to their current usage.

A gaf rigged cutter - I need to placate the green eyed god.
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Jun 16, 2006 10:47 am

Wearing didn't jibe with me, but I'm a landlubber, ain't no two ways 'bout dat!
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Post by tony h » Fri Jun 16, 2006 11:50 am

Don't mistake me James. I stay solidly on terra firma but am quite capable of more than admiration.
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Jun 16, 2006 12:04 pm

I have tacked, and jibed, a "sunfish", but admiration is the limit of my capability. I get squeamish just looking at those old oil paintings of ships at sea...when the waves....uuuuggghhhh. Plein air? I doubt it.
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Post by Shelley » Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:15 pm

Oh, so many years ago, I had the distinction of holding the record for overturning my sunfish in the lake at camp. The advantage was: I got very good at righting the boat, again!
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Jun 16, 2006 3:03 pm

I silvered.
Also diagnosed with daggerboard-loss anxiety.
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Post by haro » Fri Jun 16, 2006 8:16 pm

Ken, Shelley, your pedigrees of the word 'tack' sound reasonable as long as you don't have to sail a real vessel. The tack belongs to the part of a sail that is attached to the mast or stay. The tack tackle keeps it as close as possible to the mast or stay. So far it all makes sense. However, the tack is not even touched while tacking the vessel. The ropes that play the most important role while tacking a vessel are the sheets and, on a square-rigger, the braces. The tacks aren't involved at all. That's what keeps puzzling me.

Tony's studdingsail is one of the exceptions. It is used in very low wind, flown from an extension of a yard on a square-rigged sailship, on the outboard side of a yardsail where there is nothing to attach it to. Classic European clippers were square-rigged, so tony's remarks on the origin of the notes he quoted explain a lot. Thanks tony for sharing your family's memories. American clippers usually didn't have studdingsails because most of them were gaff-rigged schooners, i.e. they had fore-and-aft sails. Some of them had studdingsails on yard topsails, though.
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Post by Shelley » Fri Jun 16, 2006 8:38 pm

The rope is the sheet. (Somewhere in the back of my brain, I knew that.) So when I said "manipulating said rope to change direction of a vessel" -- well, that was a major gaff. I see the puzzlement. Maybe just one of those things . . . a linguistic quantum leap. Maybe because the sail pivots at the point where the tack fastens the sail to the mast? Have I pictured it correctly?
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Post by haro » Sat Jun 17, 2006 12:06 pm

Shelley, you are pretty close to it. A fore-and-aft sail pivots at the luff, i.e. the edge that's fastened to the mast or a stay. The tack is the corner of the sail at the lower end of the luff. Square sails don't have tacks since both lower corners can be moved and adjusted by sheets, braces and, depending on the type of rigging, additional ropes for fine tuning. The lower corners of a square sail are called clews. On a fore-and-aft sail, the movable lower corner is called clew too, but there is only one, the other lower corner being the tack.
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