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Thread: The demise of boat language

  1. #1
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    Default The demise of boat language

    I've noticed that more and more yachtsmen (boaters) don't use nautical terms as much as they used to. When I got into sailing as a kid I enjoyed learning and using the rich language that accompanied it. Rarely anymore do I hear "forward, aft, amidships, stern" and etc. "Port" and "starboard" are hanging on. Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon, but I'm bothered when I hear, "the back of the boat," often from people who are otherwise careful and experienced boaters. Boating is one of the few sports with ancient roots. I hate to hear it's unique language die.

    Another example: I grew up hearing "half mast" in reference to flag etiquette. With McCain's recent funeral I noticed that phrase has been replaced by, "half staff." I suppose either is correct and the meaning is the same, but come on...the senator was a "navy man."

    Sorry if this subject has already been discussed here.

    Bob
    Last edited by Bflat; 09-03-2018 at 03:20 PM.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I tell new crew that I use the Berlitz-American Tourist approach to nautical nomenclature.

    Berlitz - Total Immersion. I'll only say, for example, "Trim the staysail sheet, please." Never, "Pull that line on the left side of cabin, please."

    And American Tourist - More loudly and slowly:

    "TRIM

    THE

    STAYSAIL

    SHEET,

    PLEASE."

    By the way, MaryEllen used to claim that I could inflect "please" with a dozen levels of nasty obscenity.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I have noticed the same trend, and been similarly dismayed by it. I got a completely blank look the other day when I described something as being "just abaft the mainsheet horse." It was someone I would have expected to understand, too. Very depressing.

    Alex

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    By the way, MaryEllen used to claim that I could inflect "please" with a dozen levels of nasty obscenity.
    ...
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Bflat View Post
    I've noticed that more and more boaters don't use nautical terms as much as they used to. When I got into sailing as a kid I enjoyed learning and using the rich language that accompanied it. Rarely anymore do I hear "forward, aft, amidships, stern" and etc. "Port" and "starboard" are hanging on. Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon, but I'm bothered when I hear, "the back of the boat," often from people who are otherwise careful and experienced boaters. Boating is one of the few sports with ancient roots. I hate to hear it's unique language die.

    Another example: I grew up hearing "half mast" in reference to flag etiquette. With McCain's recent funeral I noticed that phrase has been replaced by, "half staff." I suppose either is correct and the meaning is the same, but come on...the senator was a "navy man."

    Sorry if this subject has already been discussed here.

    Bob
    think you’re hanging out at the wrong places, in my real world we still all the correct terms, I am involved in training and coaching. In the virtual world we are becoming more expansive - aka, vaka, ama

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I shudder each time I hear the term "Boater" used! To me that is a form of straw hat! Anyone who is aboard a boat, no matter what size or of what material, that is used for pleasure is a "Yachtsman"!

    I grew up with sea speak because my family has gone down to the sea in ships for over five generations. My father was an officer in the Coast Guard during WWII and also on a supply ship after the war. My granfather many times removed came to America with Lafayett on the "Hermoone" to aid us in fighting the Brittish.

    When I was a kid, there were no walls, ceilings or closets in our house, just bulkheads, overheads and lockers. However when I was in the Navy, we used one set of terminology that is less confusing when maneuvering a ship or boat when speaking to the helmsman that I find to be really logical, "Come right or come left or steady as you go". It makes sense to any one who understands English and that is what I use with my crew when we are underway. Come right to two two zero and so on is easy to understand.

    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 09-03-2018 at 02:11 PM.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    I shudder each time I hear the term "Boater" used! To me that is a form of straw hat! Anyone who is aboard a boat, no matter what size or of what material, that is used for pleasure is a "Yachtsman"!
    some of us are fishermen, no?
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I am dyslexic (probably explains many of my posts) for the life of me I can’t tell my left from right. I never have the same issue with port and starboard as I instantly see my self on the bridge of a ship.

    More on topic, somethings however are best left in museums, learning compass points to 64 points is a skill I rarely use - North East by a half East is a direction I don’t travel.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by tink View Post
    I am dyslexic (probably explains many of my posts) for the life of me I can’t tell my left from right. I never have the same issue with port and starboard as I instantly see my self on the bridge of a ship.

    More on topic, somethings however are best left in museums, learning compass points to 64 points is a skill I rarely use - North East by a half East is a direction I don’t travel.
    I'm sure you have - you just didn't know it.

    I agree on many folks ignoring nautical terms. I'm a strict constructionist when it comes to terms onboard (well - at least the ones I know!). If people complain, I explain that things have a specific name for a reason: safety - so when it hits the fan no one is confused by someone saying "Pull on that rope to your left".
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Mostly, our guests are along to enjoy themselves, not be lectured. So my wife and I do pretty much everything with just a look between us. Of course, that's one of the reasons we married. Also, she's WAY better and more patient at explaining nautical concepts and language than I am. I tend to go on too long. Boring. Pretentious.
    If I had a dollar for every girl who found me unattractive, eventually they would find me attractive.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I love boxing the compass. I have a wonderful relic that needs rebuilding - will I ever? - with a great 8" card marked in degrees (all 360 little ticks) and all points and quarter points. To use that for steering, I need to add a flat glass cover with verge ring around the perimeter and two parallel cord lines just each side of the center that are half blue and half red. For easy steering, get on course, turn the verge such that the cords line up on either side of the N and S (blue N) and just keep things orderly. Very easy to keep a course.

    My compass only has 32 points: N, NxE, NNE, NExN, NE, NExE, ENE, ExN, E et cetera.

    But, more to points without all those peculiar names. If you make a fist, bend your wrist up, and hold your arm out, that fist will subtend just about a point. Four fists make four points make forty five degrees. Once I teach someone to eyeball angular measure that way, it becomes easy to point out something ("Mind that outboard three points abaft the starboard beam.") or give steering directions ("Bear off two points, please.")

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I often explain "port and starboard" to people who go sailing with us by saying, If the left side of the boat were painted red and the right side were painted green, they would be the same whether you face forward or aft. "Aft" is the ass end of the boat!

    I learned to box a compass from my father by quarter and half points as well as N,N by East a quarter point ect. Trouble is that no one understands either any longer! I think I have forgotten it as well. I gotta practice Ian!
    Bird
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 09-03-2018 at 02:59 PM.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I still say ' excuse me while I go to the head ' even when on land. And saying something is aft of something else is as natural as breathing.

    Speaking of nomenclature, this will kill you: when I was building my 15' sail-n-oar Lincolnville Salmon Wherry, a woman passed by the open door to my garage shop and looked in. She complimented me on the look of the boat, and asked if it was kind of boat that had a tube. " A tube ?", I asked. She heard the confused wonder in my voice. "You know ", she said, " the tube that sticks up ". Ah, the mast. Well, yes, it has a mast too, I said.

    No lie.
    Gerard>
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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    We try to use starboard and port in the wherry, because then we know we are talking about the boat, not the rower. Having been a dingy sailor, canoe paddler and cruising boat skipper for over 60 years, I still use mostly sailing terms. I'm just learning the specialized terms that go with oars.

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    Red face Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    I shudder each time I hear the term "Boater" used! To me that is a form of straw hat! Anyone who is aboard a boat, no matter what size or of what material, that is used for pleasure is a "Yachtsman"!

    I grew up with sea speak because my family has gone down to the sea in ships for over five generations. My father was an officer in the Coast Guard during WWII and also on a supply ship after the war. My granfather many times removed came to America with Lafayett on the "Hermoone" to aid us in fighting the Brittish.

    When I was a kid, there were no walls, ceilings or closets in our house, just bulkheads, overheads and lockers. However when I was in the Navy, we used one set of terminology that is less confusing when maneuvering a ship or boat when speaking to the helmsman that I find to be really logical, "Come right or come left or steady as you go". It makes sense to any one who understands English and that is what I use with my crew when we are underway. Come right to two two zero and so on is easy to understand.

    Jay
    I've edited my OP to include, "yachtsman." I'll leave, "boater" in my edit to include others who may not identify as yachtsman. Come to think of it, I wonder if the trend I've observed is noticed among commercial seaman.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I have an autographed copy of Taylor's Elements Of Seamanship in which one chapter is titled "Keeping A Civil Tongue At Sea". Peter Duff, co-owner and CEO of Edey & Duff encouraged owners of his boats (Stone Horse, Dovekie, and Shearwater among them) to buy the book from him in order to obtain Taylor's autograph. More than once Peter would say, or write, that "the language of the sea has been developed over 2000 years for concise, precise communication aboard vessels at sea., and as such, was well worth practicing and maintaining". (I may have paraphrased words here and there) It's just one example of several things Peter Duff said which I will never forget.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Taylor endorses vessels steering "right" or "left". One thing I found interesting is that when referring to another vessel's maneuvers or activity, it is always "He is steering right", or "Keep him to Port", regardless of whether the other Skipper might be female.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    When my wife joins me for a sail in my little sail and oar boat I have to remember that I also need to explain the terms to her as she had never been on a sailboat before we met. The first time she came out with me on the little boat it was windy and the water was rough and she couldn't understand most of what I was saying. It took some convincing to get her go out again. She's slowly learning the terminology that I know.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I think it's important to properly name a sail control line, the location of a leak, a needed repair, etc. And, though I personally use the terms, it's less important for terms such as port/ starboard, or bow/stern or athwartships, IMO.

    Sure there's a safety aspect --a.k.a, " my left versus your left,"--but, should gull guano hit the bilge blower I doubt anyone I just taught port and starboard at the beginning of an outing is going to react without confusion sometime later in the day. Those who already know, know. So, as in any communication, I tailor my delivery to the audience at hand.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Pitsligo View Post
    I have noticed the same trend, and been similarly dismayed by it. I got a completely blank look the other day when I described something as being "just abaft the mainsheet horse." It was someone I would have expected to understand, too. Very depressing.

    Alex
    Would 'just aft of the mainsheet horse' have meant the same thing?
    There is nothing quite as permanent as a good temporary repair.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    It takes time to teach a new sailor all the ropes, so I try to explain each item/action a few minutes preceding the event. Eventually everyone is up to speed.

    If they are not on my boat, there's no point in worrying about how other people speak.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    I'm usually alone on my boat and the language I use when talking to myself isn't permitted on this forum.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    My biggest issue is not the terminology, it is the erratic behavior, like stepping right in front of my line of vision (I guess so they can see better) as I approach a dock, or taking a nicely coiled dock line from me and then quietly knotting is so that it cannot be deployed in a timely fashion. My friends are all lubbers and scrubs, but I love them anyway.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Schizoid

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    My late father’s test was, “Let fly the lee runner!”

    If you understood that, you could progress to:

    “For he who strives, the tempest to disarm,
    Will never first embrail the lee yard arm!”

    And if you could tie a bowline behind your back you were fit to go sailing.

    Crewing for my younger son in his keelboat yesterday I was pleased to hear him say, as we were beating through moorings, “She won’t go where she looks, with this tide - I’ll go under the white one!”
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 09-03-2018 at 06:19 PM.
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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Bflat View Post
    I've edited my OP to include, "yachtsman." I'll leave, "boater" in my edit to include others who may not identify as yachtsman. Come to think of it, I wonder if the trend I've observed is noticed among commercial seaman.
    Amongst British merchant ship officers of my generation there was a vogue for using “wrong” terminology - “we’ll go up the road after we’ve parked!” “Go and take a look down the blunt end” and so on but it was very much done in fun.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    Amongst British merchant ship officers of my generation there was a vogue for using “wrong” terminology - “we’ll go up the road after we’ve parked!” “Go and take a look down the blunt end” and so on but it was very much done in fun.
    "Left hand down a bit"!

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    #20... No, when on board a vessel, nothing is aft of anything, it is always abaft something. Except the boat. The man overboard is never abaft the boat, he's astern of the boat.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
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  29. #29
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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    But, more to points without all those peculiar names. If you make a fist, bend your wrist up, and hold your arm out, that fist will subtend just about a point. Four fists make four points make forty five degrees. Once I teach someone to eyeball angular measure that way, it becomes easy to point out something ("Mind that outboard three points abaft the starboard beam.") or give steering directions ("Bear off two points, please.")
    That's a neat trick. I need to remember that one.

    I have a wonderful relic that needs rebuilding - will I ever? - with a great 8" card marked in degrees (all 360 little ticks) and all points and quarter points.
    My father *hates* steering by degrees. I recently found him a 2-1/2" compass with both degrees and proper points and rebuilt it for him, for use in his Beetle Cat. He was ecstatic. I'm fine with degrees, myself, but points do make for a pretty compass.



    Would 'just aft of the mainsheet horse' have meant the same thing?
    No, when on board a vessel, nothing is aft of anything, it is always abaft something. Except the boat. The man overboard is never abaft the boat, he's astern of the boat.
    My understanding is as Sailor describes.

    Alex

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    When we were growing up people were “boatmen”. People who used the term “boater” were only those who didn’t know any better and were inexperienced. That was until about 1972 - 1974 and the women’s lib movement. There were actually articles and editorials in the boating magazines of the period talking about the trend and questioning the need to change from boatman to boater. There was comparison to the then discussed idea of changing “man hole covers” to “people hole covers”.

    some of the worst that I hear are when people talk about “turning the bilge on”, and when they “park” the boat. The list is so long.....

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    So, as in any communication, I tailor my delivery to the audience at hand.

    Kevin
    Pretty much my approach. The terminology I use depends on the circumstances. When I'm racing with a well-drilled crew terminology remains quite nautical. When we're daysailing with guests (especially ones I'd like to come back) I use nautical terminology tempered with an explanation.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    NE by E , if N is 0 degrees and E is 90 then NE is 45 and NE by E is 77 1/2 degrees ?
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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    "Boating is one of the few sports with ancient roots."

    What a nice definition. In mediterranean there is nice boating language which was developed by the sailors who were sailed that acient times.

    some of them maybe interesting for you guys. For example ;

    " neta " means orgnise the everything properly and immediately in defined area.

    if you say , " Neta " the cockpit , means take the glasses to the kitchen, remove the ropes properly, etc. Means that organise everything in the cockpit that potentially causes the problem during the sail.

    This language is important because sometimes yo can not find the time to say with daily language. But in boating language one word covers more meanings or contains more than one order. This is the reason that boating language should be used.

    The second benfit is these words so simple to say and easy pronunciation. Think that during the ancient times the sailors from different places and used different languages. But boating language was common for all nationalities , Venezians, Ottomans, Arabs, and Egyptians.

    and another important benefit of boating language is prepared for foolish sailors. Order is so clear and immposible to argue. Why we use satarboard instead of right. ?

    Because right as a word is meaningless. İt is a voice. But if you say starboard first it contains the name of a object. If you say "look the starboard " it is impossible to confuse. But if you say , "look to the right size " this can be confuse.

    I saw some sailors that confuse the right and left size during the panic times. : )

    Here are some ancient words from Medditerenan ;

    İskele : stern , port side of the boat.
    Sancak : starboard , flag side of te boat.
    Alesta: be ready for everything
    Alarga : Stay on anchor. The root is comming from Italy " largo" means stay out of the port. on anchor.
    Apiko : bring the boat just on anchor.
    Camadan : reef
    Civadra : bow sprit
    Seren : gaff
    Funda/fundo : leave the anchor properly

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Stiletto View Post
    Would 'just aft of the mainsheet horse' have meant the same thing?
    Funny thing is I've normally seen it written as hawse.

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    Default Re: The demise of boat language

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    Amongst British merchant ship officers of my generation there was a vogue for using “wrong” terminology - “we’ll go up the road after we’ve parked!” “Go and take a look down the blunt end” and so on but it was very much done in fun.
    Still very common with the people I race with. I'm not sure if boat language is fading - it may just be changing. Many's the time I've been BMAXing under the three daughters when it started to get kingy and a bit snouty, so we peel to the halfy by doing a letterbox and then bow and sewer get it wrong, the afterguard get excited back in fantasyland and fill the cockpit with dummies and tell us to mexican the kite, then because we're going bare headed someone forgets to de-fraculate so the prefeeder is fouled and the Three Day Life Code One snags in the Tuff Luff.

    For some odd reason, when you tell people all that, some of them get confused. And that's in an old-style mono. Talk to them about modern stuff like Wild Thinging versus double stringing when you're flying an assy off the dork or doing a spock, flaka or cheese roll and they have no idea. It's all very odd. Mind you, some people still don't know what a Golden Dazy blooper gybe or an Everoll is, or why you do the latter on a wally and not a sinker.
    Last edited by Chris249; 09-04-2018 at 06:23 AM.

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