There’s a lot of sailing terminology used in Song of the Current, mostly because I wanted the book and Caro’s voice to feel authentic. But people said they wanted a glossary, so here it is! Below are some terms that are used in the book. Also if you would like a (kind of crap) diagram of Cormorant, to get an idea of what things look like, you can click here.
amidships – in the middle part of the boat
aft – toward the stern, or back of the boat
astern – behind the boat
awning – a canvas cover draped over the sail to make a tent. In this book, to protect Cormorant‘s sail from the rain
bark (Antelope)– a sailing vessel with three or more masts, rigged with square sails
beam – the vessel’s widest point, the middle
berth – a place at a dock for a boat to tie up
block & tackle – pulleys with rope threaded between them
boom – the spar (wooden pole) along the bottom edge of the sail.
bow – the front end of a boat
bowsprit – a wooden spar extending forward from the front of the boat, to which the forestays and foresails are fastened
cabin – enclosed living space below the deck of a ship.
canvas – another word for sails
cleat – piece of wood or metal on a boat to which ropes are attached
cleat off – to tie a rope around a cleat
close-hauled – when a ship is sailing against the wind, usually tipping a bit
cockpit – the open area at the back of the boat where you sit to steer
crosstrees – two horizontal pieces of wood that spread the rigging at the upper part of a mast
cutter (Victorianos)– one masted vessel designed for speed, with two or more foresails and a bowsprit.
deck – the floor, on a ship
dinghy – a small rowboat, often carried or towed for use as a ship’s boat by a larger vessel
dory – a small rowboat
following sea – when the waves are going the same direction you’re sailing
foresail, headsail – any sails set in front of the mast
forestay – a rope leading forward and down from the mast, supporting it
four-pounder – cannon that fires four pound cannonballs
furl – to stow or roll up the sail
gaff – a spar (wooden pole) at the top of the sail
gangplank – a movable plank used as a ramp to board or disembark from a ship
halyard – the rope you use to raise and lower the sail
head up into the wind – turn the boat so it’s pointed toward where the wind is coming from. This stops the boat, but it also makes the sail flap around a lot.
heel, heeling (v.) – tilting over to one side due to the wind
helm – where you steer the boat from. Also a verb, which means to steer the boat.
helmsman – the person steering the boat
hold – the place below the deck of a boat where cargo and supplies are stored
hull – the main body of a ship, the outside structure
jib – a triangular staysail set in front of the mast
jibe – to change course by swinging the sail across to the other side when you’re sailing with the wind behind you. Can sometimes be dangerous if you do it by accident.
keel – the very bottom of the boat, underwater
long nines – cannons that shot nine pound cannonballs
luff, luffing – when the sail is loose, flapping around. Usually to slow down or stop the boat.
mainsail – the biggest sail on the ship
mainsheet – the rope used to control the mainsail by letting it out or pulling it in, depending on the wind
moor (v.) – to stop and tie up the boat or anchor. Also (n.): any place where you can moor a boat.
mooring warp – a rope that’s used to tie up the boat
make fast (v.) – to tie off a rope, fasten it
mast – vertical pole that carries all the sails and spars
pin rail – a rail at the side of the deck on a ship, holding pins and cleats that the rigging is tied to
port – the word for left, when you are standing facing the front of the boat
reach, on a reach – sailing pretty much perpendicular to the direction the wind is coming from
reef, take a reef (v.) – to roll up and tie the sail during a storm, making it smaller and making the boat easier to handle.
rigging – the system of ropes that support a ship’s mast and control the ship’s sails
rudder – a big fin underwater that the tiller is attached to. Moving the tiller moves the rudder and steers the boat.
running – sailing with the sail perpendicular to the boat and the wind behind you
sail – sheet of canvas used to harness wind power and propel a sailing ship forward
schooner (Busted Steed)– a sailing ship with two or more masts, the front mast being the shortest. (If you’re wondering if you missed the Steed in the book, don’t worry–it’s in Book 2!)
sheet in – to tighten the mainsheet, pulling the sail in
slip (n.) – a place at a dock for a boat to tie up
sloop (Alektor, Conthar)– a one-masted sailing vessel, usually with one or more headsails
spar – any wooden pole that holds a sail on a ship
square-rigged ship – a ship with lots of small square sails (see the picture for staysail, below)
starboard – the word for right, when you are standing facing the front of the boat
stay – ropes on a sailing shop used to support the mast.
staysail – a triangular sail in the front of a boat, affixed to a stay extending forward from the mast. Some ships have many of them.
stern – the back end of the boat
tacking – switching the sail to the other side of the boat, when you are sailing against the wind in a series of zigzags.
tiller – the wooden handle you hold to steer the boat
topsail – a sail set above the gaff, the highest sail on a ship. Can be triangular or square.
trim (v.) – to loosen or tighten the sail, keeping the boat sailing at its most efficient
transom – the square back end of a ship
unfurl – to unroll the sails on a ship
wherry (Cormorant)– a shallow one-sailed ship historically (in our world) used to haul cargo on the Norfolk Broads in England. Cormorant is based on these boats.