Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

a nautical bestiary


bee

- a ring or hoop of wood or metal.

bitching

- not exclusively nautical, but rare is the ship without this; sounds like:
“I dont %&$&# LIKE sailing! Why don’t I go to the crafts festival and just take the train and meet you at the next %&$&# port?”
or “The hosting yacht club is serving ¿%&$&#what???”
or %&$&#! %&$&#! horse cock for dinner again??”

camels

- wooden (usually) platform buffers between a ship and a pier; way deeper and heavier to move than you think. On this camel by Passenger Ship Terminal pier 90, rope was shredded into a soft nest, eggs were laid, and the parents-to-be waited while warships of Fleet Week 2009 tied up a few feet away.

cathead

- a heavy beam projecting from each bow of a ship for the purpose of holding anchors.

clamshell dredge

cockbill

-an anchor is said to be cockbilled or a-cockbill when hung vertically by its ring stopper from a cathead ready for use, or, temporarily, during the recovery process.

constrictor knot

- not well known, but according to Hervey Garrett Smith, author and illustrator of the wonderful book, The Arts of the Sailor (1953), the constrictor knot is superior to most comment seizings or stoppings: “…quicker, neater, and can be drawn up more tightly. The harder you pull the two ends the tighter it grips, and it will not slacken when you let go…It can be set up so tightly that is is almost impossible to untie, and makes an excellent whipping. (The slipped version is easy to untie.) …Its superior construction and usefulness leads me to believe that it ultimately will achieve the popularity it rightly deserves.”

cow hitch

- also known in days of old as a lanyard hitch, the cow hitch is today more associated with any knot which is not a recognized maritime knot as used at sea; a lubberly hitch. Folks must be forgetting to use those lanyards.

crabbing

- sideways maneuvering into a cross current or wind to compensate for drift.
To “catch a crab” is to make a faulty stroke in rowing that causes the blade of the oar to strike the water on the recovery stroke.

cranes

crow feet

crow’s nest

doghouse

dogwatch

dolphins

- pilings lashed together with heavy cable upon which vessels land to moor. Usually, one piling is called a dolphin, a group of more than one pile is called a cluster, as in “put out a line over the second cluster off the bow.”  When neglected, provides fine nesting for birds of the harbor.

donkey engine

- a steam-powered winch to hoist sails and anchors on old schooners; an auxiliary engine on a sailing craft (which does propel the vessel) is still sometimes informally known as the donk.

elephant foot

elephant table – (help! cannot find this one!)


fishplate

fish tackle

- a large hook used to assist in maneuvering the anchor from under the cat-head, and brought to the side or gunwale, or to launch and recover boats.

flounder plate

- a triangular steel plate used as a central connecting point for the tows, bridles, and towline.

fluke

- the wedge-shaped part of an anchor’s arms that digs into the bottom. Sometimes painted yellow to lure full frontal admirers.

fox

- made by twisting together two or more rope-yarns. A Spanish fox is made by untwisting a single yarn and laying it up the contrary way. (But, why? ¿por qué?)

gooseneck

goosewing

hogged

- the state of a vessel when, by any strain, she is made to droop at each bow and stern, bringing her center up. Opposite of sagging.

horse

horse cock

- “phoney baloney”. Mmmmm.

hounds

leech

marlinspike, a marlinspike hitch

- a tool for opening the strands of a rope while splicing.


monkeyfist

- a weighted knot wrapped around lead or a ball, found at the end of a heaving line. Illegal in NYHarbor. ME variety is especially lethal: you really won’t know what hit you.

mousing

- a seizing to prevent hooks from unshipping. Sling hitch on the hook’s back, go around the bill, make turns, wrap with frapping turns, then a set of riding turns, finish with a square or reef knot. Notice how Hervey Garrett Smith draws the same hook three times; that is love.

pelican hook

- a hook-like device for holding the link of a chain or similar, and consisting of a long shackle with a hinged rod which is held closed by a ring.

pigtail hook

- a screw hook having an eye in the form of a spiral for holding a loop, chain link, etc., at any angle. I am not fooled: this was designed to snag my sweaters.

ratlines

- rope running across the shrouds horizontally like the rounds of a ladder and used to step upon in going aloft.

roach

- curved cut in edge of sail for preventing chafing

rhino horn

- slips through a hole in the bow ramp of the LCU or LCM to hold the landing craft in position while vehicles embark/debark.

sea cock

- a valve to open a pipe to allow suction of sea water into your vessel either to supply fire pumps or for cooling if your engine is cooled with raw water. Also used generically.

sheep-shank

- a kind of hitch or bend, used to shorten a rope temporarily.

sole

snaking, snaked whipping

- snaking protects against chafing of turns on whippings at the end of ropes.

whales

- fenders that were once upon a time real whale bodies, but today, are BIG black, heavy industrial strength rubber bumpers. One captain’s fender story is here.

wildcat

- oops. another wildcat coming up…

worming

- rigging of old ships were wormed, parcelled and served and lasted as long as the ships, or longer. Worming is the laying in of small-stuff between the strands of rope to fill in spaces to prevent moisture and rot. Parcelling is spirally wrapping rope with narrow strips of old canvas soaked with rigging tar, overlapping to repel moisture. Serving covers the rope by tightly winding marline or hemp against the lay. Heavily tar, and maintain regularly.

Worm and parcel with lay
Turn and serve the other way

zinc fish

- a “sacrificial anode.”  Metals (e.g. your propeller) in salt water, experience a flow of electrical current. The slow removal of metal is called “electrolysis”. Zinc is used as it has a higher voltage in the water so the current will tend to flow from it than from your props.

beasts of weather and water conditions:

dog days, ox-eye, mackerel scales, mares’ tails, white horses…

other waterborne beasts:

frogma, peconic puffin, the beagle project, the horse’s mouth (if any otters I missed, please do drop a lion.)

Look here for a beautiful post of hardworking animals here on the USCGC Escanaba!

Thank you, again for everyone’s help! drawings will be added, and please report any missing strays. Thank you!

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