nautical glossary

Discuss word origins and meanings.

nautical glossary

Post by daverba » Tue Jun 20, 2006 5:19 pm

Following from Ken Greenwald --

It makes sense that the term tacking originates from the noun tack originally meaning nail, peg, spike, etc.

Sailors would have given the name to the line applied to such fasteners and attached to the weather clew of a sail to hold it at a particular angle. Sailors set sails at particular angles based on the direction of the wind and the course of the vessel.

Sailors then would have given its name to the course of the vessel relative to the direction (starboard tack or port tack). Then sailors transformed the noun into a verb meaning to change the vessel's tack.

Thus, tacking would originate from Old French tache or Old Norman French taque which seem to have a Germanic source.

To Haro --

Sailors aboard square-rigged ships would only want to wear and not jibe.

Jibing means turning into the wind with enough speed to turn the vessel smartly onto the other tack even though the sails luff. Done in a square-rigged ship without sufficient speed, it can cause the ship to miss stays and be in chains. And instead of the sails merely luffing, they back -- the wind forces them back against their masts reducing the ship's speed and perhaps stopping it entirely. Little or no speed means no steerageway (no ability to steer). Sailors must then work hard to escape the situation. In a battle, you're literally 'dead in the water.'

Except in emergencies, square-rigger sailors want to wear. This involves turning away from the wind, heading downwind, and coming around on the other tack. It wastes time, distance and effort, but carries much less risk.

Nearly 200 years ago, Captain John Hayes commanded the HMS Magnificent involved in a chase with the French at Oleron, and he wanted to escape down a river -- but the river hooked just before debouching into the sea. Due to the direction of the wind, he would need to wear in order to tack and escape to sea, but wearing would give the enemy time to catch him and attack.

Instead, Hayes prepared to perform an emergency maneuver called a club haul -- a kind of jibing maneuver -- and he ordered his men to the anchor with axes at the ready. At the right moment, he ordered his men to drop the lee anchor which then gripped the bottom of the channel and held the head of his ship as momentum swung the ship around in a daring jibe of a square-rigger. Once on opposite tack, he ordered the anchor line immediately cut with the axes and the sails trimmed. In the end, he jibed successfully, and Hayes, his men and the Magnificent escaped to sea -- all at the cost of an anchor!

From that time onward until his death, people knew him as 'Magnificent Hayes' for his fine execution of that maneuver.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "Say any word, and I'll tell you how the root of that word is Greek." - Gus Portokalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

nautical glossary

Post by haro » Wed Jun 21, 2006 12:52 am

Dave, I still can't quite see the logic. Simply put, the tack and the luff of a fore-and-aft sail are just about the only parts of the rig that are NOT involved in tacking or setting sails at particular angles. Pretty much everything else - yards, booms, gaffs, sheets, braces, preventers, bowlines (not to be confused with bowline hitches) and lots of other components are involved, but the tack and luff are just sitting there doing what they always do, i.e. holding the sail close to the mast or stay. As on old salt, am I missing something?

I appreciate your interesting remarks on certain particularities of sailing square-rigged ships. Only few nautical dictionaries list the term 'to wear' these days. Those that do usually say it's just another term for jibing, mostly used on square-rigged vessels, while jibing refers mainly to fore-and-aft sails. Wearing a ship means moving her stern through the wind, and that's what jibing a fore-and-aft-rigged vessel is about too.

Since all the boats and ships I sail are of the latter kind, the square-rig section of my library is very small. What you wrote makes me conclude that jibing is a term that originally is applied only to a sail, not to a vessel. In other words, when a square rigger moves her stem through the wind (what we fore-and-afters would call tacking), her sails are jibed. Right?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Hans Joerg Rothenberger
Switzerland

nautical glossary

Post by Shelley » Wed Jun 21, 2006 1:51 am

Hey! You two -- this site is about English! Not some foreign language like what you be talkin'. Aaargh.
haro, thanks for trying to enlighten me with regard to the exact role of a tack. I gotta say, though, I'm in a fog. It's ok . . . you just go on ahead. I won't catch up.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

nautical glossary

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jun 21, 2006 2:08 am

Shelley, I just know you've taken advantage of the sea mist to slip into Starbucks! You can't fool us all, you know!
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

nautical glossary

Post by daverba » Wed Jun 21, 2006 3:43 am

Yeah ... well ... this is what I get for trying to scrape some decades-old crud off the inside of my skull without refreshing my memory. (Please forgive any over-descriptive wording that I included for the benefit of others who might read this.)

Yes, jibing is to a marconi rig as wearing is to a square rig, and I should have written tack where I wrote jibe. And, yes, a sailor doesn't want to jibe in a marconi rig; I see the potential for serious injury, damage and/or capsizing.

And, yes, the tack of a marconi-rigged sail is the corner tucked snugly into the boom-mast intersection.
Speaking of misuse of terms, I don't know why sailors use the term luffing when the term 'leeching' seems more appropriate.

As for the tack of a square-rigged sail, it has a somewhat similar purpose in that it maintains the lower corner of the leading edge of a sail forward (as needed), but it has a somewhat different operation than of a marconi-rigged sail. The clews (lower corners) of the upper sails are simply secured by their sheets to the yardarms of the sail directly below them. However, the clews of the courses (the bottom-most sails) must, out of necessity, be secured to the ship itself. For this purpose, the sheets are secured somewhat aft at the rails of the ship in order to keep the clews from blowing up and forward. This arrangement works well when sailing with the wind or on broad reach.

When the ship sails on a beam reach or close hauled (ie, closer to the direction of the wind), however, the sheets have no use in keeping the clews forward or the weather leech taut in order to create a firm leading edge. For this purpose, clews of sails also have tacks which are secured forward along the rail.

You'd probably be hard-pressed to find a depiction of a close-hauled square-rigger on the Internet (I looked). Virtually every site has the sails billowing in a nice following wind. A close-hauled ship seems somewhat strained because they do not do it well.

Ooops, this Wikipedia site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tack_%28square_sail%29 shows a view looking forward of a course with both tack and sheet. The ship is close-hauled on starboard tack, and you can somewhat see how the tack keeps the weather clew down and forward.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "Say any word, and I'll tell you how the root of that word is Greek." - Gus Portokalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

nautical glossary

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:33 am

There is a very clear set of explanations and illustrations of different types of sailing vessels and rigging to be found at http://www.njscuba.net/artifacts/ship_sailing_ship.html .

You don't have to be interested in the intricacies of tacking vs. jibing (let alone wearing) -- the beautiful illustrations alone are worth it.

Completely off-topic, but of interest to anyone who believes that wind-powered vessels may have the potential to contribute to commercial shipping even today (or perhaps particularly today, given the currently high price of oil in world markets), take a look at http://www.mst.dk/default.asp?Sub=http: ... 08_eng.htm . (Copy and paste the entire URL block into a browser -- the forum code is incapable of rendering this kind of link properly.)

To quote the introduction:

"The WindShip project was initiated in 1995 when the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy granted funding for Consulting Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Knud E. Hansen A/S to investigate the feasibility of adding sail assisted power to propel commercial ships. The complete project was subdivided into several phases; the current report is the result of phase 2."

From the abstract of the report:

"Detailed design of the rig.
A new rig concept is developed, using high lift profiles with movable flaps. On a central rotating high tensile steel mast sandwich profiles acting as slats and flaps are hinged on horizontal axes. The mechanical construction is covered in some detail, indicating how the mast profiles are turned, locked etc.

Realistic simulations based on measured and simulated performance.
Measurements include wind tunnel as well as towing tank tests. Simulations are performed using a velocity prediction programme (VPP) developed specifically for the modern WindShip. Weather routing based on real weather statistics is performed as well as finite element modelling (FEM). A computer simulation of the modern WindShip sailing is also included, but not covered in the report.

Economical feasibility study.
A commercial comparison between existing product carriers and the economical performance of the modern WindShip is performed. The comparison uses existing trade routes and patterns, drawing from the weather routing performed above, to calculate with high precision the fuel consumption of a modern WindShip."
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

nautical glossary

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:42 am

Thank you all. Very interesting.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resolute_Desk
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

nautical glossary

Post by tony h » Wed Jun 21, 2006 10:50 pm

I must say that having had those opaque notes from my grandfather I am very much enjoying this discussion - and carried out in such good humour.

But taking Sheley's comments maybe there should be a seperate area for discussions such as this - maybe a naughty forum?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

nautical glossary

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Jun 21, 2006 11:07 pm

ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

nautical glossary

Post by Shelley » Thu Jun 22, 2006 8:31 pm

tony h, it's ok -- this thread began with a question about the origin of the word TACKING in sailing. My comment was just meant to be a humorous jibe at yours and haro's marine lingo. Most conversations end up off-topic at least once. That doesn't mean they don't belong in the Language Discussion Forum. There is a forum for topics NOT language-related: it's Addicts' Corner. If you really want naughty, though, you must go to No Wait. Don't tell me, and find the jokes tagged with two assterisques.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

nautical glossary

Post by haro » Thu Jun 22, 2006 9:37 pm

Yeah Shelley, actually this thread is one of the least off-topic ones this Web site has ever seen. On the other hand, this whole place is a nutty forum.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Hans Joerg Rothenberger
Switzerland

nautical glossary

Post by tony h » Thu Jun 22, 2006 9:46 pm

Shelley, I was only using your remark to get in a rather lame play on nautical.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply