Monday, 26 November 2007


The Port Of Bristol was once famous for importing tobacco, sherry, chocolate and .....slaves. Slave ships smelled and could bring disease. They were not allowed into port until they were cleaned and made tidy (tides are predictable and ordered). Before entering Bristol, slave ships were rigorously inspected so as to be ship shape and Bristol fashion. Even once tied up at the quay, sailors would not be allowed ashore until the vessel had slewed her yards, swinging them inboard so as not to obstruct passing ships and quayside buildings. No cock up crew was allowed ashore until each had cleared his yardarm to a neatly braced order.

In Portsmouth, floozies would come aboard naval vessels to aid ship morale. Shore leave was often forbidden for fear that pressed men (landlubbers who were forced into service by press gangs) would desert. Each morning the petty officer would shout for the occupants of hammocks to show a leg. If the leg was smooth and shapely, the lady was allowed to sleep in; if the leg was hairy, the officer turned out the hammock for the sailor to swab the deck. Hammocks were not really suited to the activities of these ladies and most preferred to work in the spaces between the guns. The gun decks also offered convenient spaces (with suitable rings) for child-birth. Children born on the gun decks could never be certain of their father and were entered in the Deck Log as son of a gun. The gun deck and the four deck rings for each canon were also useful for tying men to be flogged over a barrel. Sailors referred to this predicament as being married to the gunner's daughter, from which there was no respite.

The text above is from a piece I found somewhere on the www when I started studying for international exams.
Not only does it explain what things mean, but it gives you also some insight in where a particular word originated from. (see under FILES: Glossary of Sailing Terms)

Other sites with explanations and glossary:


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