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Glossary of nautical terms

This is a glossary of nautical terms; some remain current, many date from the 17th-19th century.
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Above board – On or above the deck, in plain view, not hiding anything.
Act of Pardon / Act of Grace – A letter from a state or power authorising action by a privateer. Also see Letter of Marque.
Abaft – Toward the stern, relative to some object ("abaft the fore hatch")
Abaft the beam – A relative bearing of greater than 90 degrees from the bow. e.g. "two points abaft the port beam."
Abandon Ship – An imperative to leave the vessel immediately, usually in the face of some imminent danger.
Abeam – 'On the beam', a relative bearing at right angles to the centerline of the ship's keel.
Abel Brown – A sea song (shanty) about a young sailor trying to sleep with a maiden. [1].
Aboard – On or in a vessel. Close aboard means near a ship.
Absentee pennant – Special pennant flown to indicate absence of commanding officer, admiral, his chief of staff, or officer whose flag is flying (division, squadron, or flotilla commander).
Accommodation ladder – A portable flight of steps down a ship's side.
Admiral – Senior naval officer of Flag rank. In ascending order of seniority, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, Admiral and Admiral of the Fleet (Royal Navy). Derivation reputedly Arabic, from "Emir al Bath" ("Ruler of the waters").
Admiralty – A high naval authority in charge of a state's Navy or a major territorial component. In the Royal Navy (UK) the Board of Admiralty, executing the office of the Lord High Admiral, promulgates Naval law in the form of Queen's (or King's) Regulations and Admiralty Instructions.
Admiralty law – Body of law that deals with maritime cases. In UK administered by the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice.
Adrift – Afloat and unattached in any way to the shore or seabed. It may also imply that a vessel is not anchored and not under control, therefore goes where the wind and current take her, (Loose from moorings, or out of place). Also refers to any gear not fastened down or put away properly. It can also be used to mean "absent without leave"
Advance note – A note for one month's wages issued to sailors on their signing a ship's articles.
Aft – Towards the stern (of the vessel)
Afternoon watch – The 1200-1600 watch.
Aground – Resting on or touching the ground or bottom.
Ahead – Forward of the bow.
Ahoy – A cry to draw attention. Term used to hail a boat or a ship, as "Boat ahoy!"
Aid to Navigation – (ATON) Any device external to a vessel or aircraft specifically intended to assist navigators in determining their position or safe course, or to warn them of dangers or obstructions to navigation.
All hands – Entire ship's company, both officers and enlisted personnel.
All night in – Having no night watches.
Aloft – Above the ship's uppermost solid structure; overhead or high above.
Alongside – By the side of a ship or pier.
Amidships (or midships) – In the middle portion of ship, along the line of the keel.
Anchor – An object designed to prevent or slow the drift of a ship, attached to the ship by a line or chain; typically a metal, hook like, object designed to grip the bottom under the body of water.
Anchorage – A suitable place for a ship to anchor. Area of a port or harbor.
Anchor's aweigh – Said of an anchor when just clear of the bottom.
Anchor ball – Black shape hoisted in forepart of a ship to show that ship is anchored in a fairway.
Anchor buoy – A small buoy secured by a light line to anchor to indicate position of anchor on bottom.
Anchor chain or cable – Chain connecting the ship to the anchor.
Anchor detail – Group of men who handle ground tackle when the ship is anchoring or getting underway.
Anchor light – White light displayed by a ship at anchor. Two such lights are displayed by a ship over 150 feet in length.
Anchor watch – Making sure that the anchor is holding and the vessel is not drifting. Important during rough weather and at night. Most marine GPS units have an Anchor Watch alarm capability.
Andrew – Traditional lower-deck slang term for the Royal Navy.
Arc of Visibility – The portion of the horizon over which a lighted aid to navigation is visible from seaward.
Armament – A ship's weapons.
Articles of War – Regulations governing the military and naval forces of UK and USA; read to every ship's company on commissioning and at specified intervals during the commission.
Ashore – On the beach, shore or land.
Astern – Toward the stern; an object or vessel that is abaft another vessel or object.
Asylum Harbour - A harbour used to provide shelter from a storm.
ASW – Anti-submarine warfare.
Athwart, athwartships – At right angles to the fore and aft or centerline of a ship
Avast – Stop! Cease or desist from whatever is being done.
Awash – So low in the water that the water is constantly washing across the surface.
Aweigh – Position of an anchor just clear of the bottom.
Aye, aye – Reply to an order or command to indicate that it, firstly, is heard; and, secondly, is understood and will be carried out. ("Aye, aye, sir" to officers)
Azimuth compass – An instrument employed for ascertaining position of the sun with respect to magnetic north. The azimuth of an object is its bearing from the observer measured as an angle clockwise from true north.
Azimuth circle – Instrument used to take bearings of celestial objects.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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