Glossary of Nautical and Whaling Terms
Moby-Dick is rich in a maritime language that was familiar to many readers of his day and largely unfamiliar to us today. To help his readers along, Melville defined many whaling and some nautical terms as his novel unfolded. But since today’s readers are not likely to retain them, the Glossary is a ready guide that focuses on usage in the context of Melville’s narration.
MEL’s digitized Glossary is an augmented and updated version of its Longman source. Nautical and whaling terms used in a definition, which are defined more fully elsewhere in the Glossary appear in bold. Synonyms and related usages are italicized. The sources for MEL’s definitions are standard dictionaries as well as nautical word lists by such sailor-authors as Dana, Falconer, Russell, Smyth, Lever, and Bradford, and they are cited parenthetically by name when quoted. Eventually, these references will be linked to full citations in MEL’s Bibliography, presently under construction. Also under construction are reciprocating links between glossary entries and the first (or most relevant) iteration of the word in MEL’s Moby-Dick Reading Text.
aback A sail is aback when the wind strikes its forward surface. Applied to a person, “taken aback” means to be shocked or surprised. [Ch. 29, “taken all aback”]
abaft Behind; toward the stern.
abeam At 90 degrees to a vessel’s midsection.
about As a command, to reverse a ship’s direction, making the wind come over the opposite side. [Ch. 135. Explained there]
above hatches On deck.
afoul Tangled up or dangerously in contact with, as in coming afoul of or got foul of and ran foul; see also foul.
aft Toward, to, or at the rear.
after-oar The oar in the whaleboat closest to the stern.
anchor-watch The short night watch, kept by fewer men than usual, when a whaling vessel is tethered to a whale carcass; it is named by analogy to the practice on non-whaling vessels, which keep a reduced watch while at anchor.
apeak Pointing upward. The oars’ handles are placed in notches in the flooring on the opposite side of the boat, leaving the oars pointing up into a V shape; also peaked.
argosy Large merchant vessel.
articles Seamen’s contract with the owners.
athwartships Across, crosswise; also athwart.
avast “Stop,” or “stop that!”
away from the wind With the wind directly behind.
back Turn the spar holding a sail so the wind strikes the front of the sail (and slows the vessel), as in “back the main-yard”
backstays Strong ropes supporting a mast, leading from it, rearward, to the sides of the ship.
baleen Long, fringed plates in the mouth, with which certain whales strain their food from seawater. Also called whalebone; they are not bone but are made of keratin, the main component of teeth and hair.
ballast Heavy materials such as iron or stones placed in the hold of a vessel to keep it from capsizing.
bands 1) Ties fastening whaleboats to their ship. 2) Iron collars near the ends of the yardarms, to which the supporting lifts are shackled. Also meaning strips of canvas sewn across the top of a sail to strengthen it. Reef bands are narrow strips of strengthening canvas sewn across a sail to hold a line of reef-points, the short ropes with which a sail is partly tied up to reduce its area.
banks Large elevated area of the sea floor, usually rich in fish and other marine life.
barrel An inexact measure; in Moby-Dick there are ten barrels to the ton of sperm oil (Ch. 68), and six barrels to an oil cask (Ch. 98).
batten Also batten down. Seal tightly with canvas and battens, pieces of wood, as in “batten the hatches.”
before the mast Quarters for the ordinary sailors, forward of the foremast.
belay Secure a rope to a belaying pin. Also “stop that,” avast.
belaying pins Often shortened to pins. Tapered bars of wood or iron (but of whale ivory on the Pequod) in various places on deck, to which ropes of the running rigging are secured.
bells To mark time, a bell is struck every half-hour with one added strike for each successive half hour, over a four-hour period, after which the sequence is repeated. Thus, 12:30 a.m. is one bell; one o’clock, two bells, and so on to four a.m., or eight bells. Eight a.m., noon, four p.m., eight p.m., and midnight are also eight bells. “Eight bells there below! Tumble up!” (Ch. 40).
bible leaves Thin slices (like pages in a Bible) into which horse-pieces of blubber are cut with mincing knives.
bilge pump Device to flush with clear water the foul-smelling fluid that collects in the lowest part of a ship’s hull.
binnacle Box at the helm for the two compasses. A binnacle lamp shines on the compass cards; a binnacle watch is a timepiece placed there.
blocks…sheaves A block houses a sheave, a roller or wheel; together they make a pulley.
bluff bows Rounded, full front, as in the architecture of a whaleship.
boarding-sword Long, two-handed, double-edged knife used in the work of peeling blubber from the whale and bringing it on board; thus the name. Also boarding knife.
boat-hook Pole with an iron hook at the end, used for pushing off from or holding on to objects when in a boat.
boat-knife Knife kept at the bow of a whaleboat, used for cutting the whale line in an emergency; also called line-knife.
Commander of a whaleboat, usually a mate, who kills the harpooned whale.
boat-spade Short-handled tool usually used to cut a hole in the dead whale through which to pass a towing line.
boatswain Pronounced “BOH-suhn.” A subordinate officer in charge of rigging, cables, anchors, and supplies.
bone in her mouth A fast-moving vessel creating a white bow wave is said to have a bone in her mouth.
boom 1) The heavy pole extending from the mast along the foot of a fore-and-aft sail. 2) A small spar rigged to extend the length of a yard to permit adding a small stunsail beside the square sail, thereby extending the total sail area. 3) Other booms, also attached to the masts, are used in moving cargo or bringing aboard parts of the butchered whale.
bow Rhymes with cow. The front of a vessel. The bows signifies the entire rounded front part.
bowline Pronounced “BOH-luhn.” A fixed loop made in a line as part of a knot of that name. Also a “rope leading forward from the [vertical edge] of a square sail to keep [it extended]” (Dana).
bowsman Rhymes with cowsman. The man who pulls the second oar, after the harpooneer, and is later directly behind the mate who has come to the bow to lance the whale.
bowsprit The pole projecting from the bow of a vessel to which lines securing forward sails are attached.
box-line A section of harpoon line coiled in the bow of the whaleboat. Defined in Ch. 60.
brace up Using the braces, sailors pull the yards as far as possible toward the fore-and-aft position, thereby pointing the ship as closely into the wind as it can sail. Also brace sharp up, brace hard up.
braces Long ropes attached to the ends of the yardarms and leading to the deck. Pulling on them, sailors change the angle of the sails to the wind.
break out Remove objects from the hold.
breakers 1 Cresting waves coming in to shore.
breakers 2 Small barrels for liquids (Ch. 115).
brig Two-masted, square-rigged vessel.
bright waist A broad band of white paint encircling the hull. On it black squares were sometimes painted to deceive pirates, who, from a distance, might mistake them for gun-ports and believe that the vessel was armed with cannon.
brit Tiny marine organisms, including crustaceans, the food of baleen whales; defined in Ch. 58.
broad Something’s direction or location when it is between 45 degrees and 90 degrees from directly in front of a vessel. [Ch 87, “broad on both bows”]
brought by the lee Unintentionally turned the vessel so the wind hits the lee side of its sails and may possibly cause it to capsize, as in Ch. 96.
bulkhead A partition wall below deck.
bull’s eye Thick, rounded piece of glass set in the deck to let light below; also a small block of strong wood with a hole through which a rope may pass.
bulwarks Pronounced “BUL-uhrks.” The part of a ship’s side above the deck.
Burtons Hoisting tackles for moving items into or out of the hold.
butt Barrel, cask.
by the board Over the side, overboard.
Cape-Horner Large, square-rigged ship built to withstand the rigors of a Cape Horn passage.
capstan Large, upright cylindrical device, turned by men pushing on long, spoke-like bars, and used for heavy tasks, such as raising the anchor. See windlass, which serves the same functions, and appears twice as often in Moby-Dick.
capstan-head The rounded top of the capstan.
card Short for compass card.
carlines Carlings; fore-and-aft timbers between the deck beams, which in the cabin are ceiling beams.
case In the head of a sperm whale, the reservoir containing spermaceti. Also, the spermaceti itself. [Ch. 94, “squeeze case”]
cask Containers varying greatly in size used for different purposes. An oil cask contains six barrels (Ch. 98), though a barrel is also an inexact measure.
chains Combination of rigid links of chain and narrow wooden platforms called channels, fastened to the sides of a ship to take the strain of the rigging supporting the masts.
chock a’ block 1) The situation when the two blocks of a tackle come together, at the limit of its use. 2) Full to the brim, said of the hold or a container, as in Ch. 119.
chocks Lead-lined grooves in the prow of a whaleboat through which the harpoon line travels.
chronometer Exceptionally precise timepiece set to Greenwich Mean Time, and used in finding a ship’s longitude.
close-reef Partially tie up a sail to reduce its surface area and minimize its exposure to the wind.
clumsy cleet Brace in the bow of a whaleboat, in which the harpooner or the lance-throwing mate places his knee for stability.
coasting smack Fishing boat that stays close to shore.
cockpits Properly cockpit. Low-ceilinged space below the waterline in a man-of-war, used for treating the wounded; see Ch. 3.
coffer-dam A watertight structure within which repairs can be made below water level.
coming afoul of Coming dangerously in contact or getting tangled with.
companion-way Protected staircase between the deck and the level below.
compass-card Pivoted horizontal disk marked with the points and degrees of the compass. Also simply card.
cooper’s club hammer Axe-like hammer used by the cooper (barrel-maker).
copper Sheathing on a wooden hull to protect it from boring worms.
copper-pump Device used to pump whale oil from one barrel to another.
cranes Hinged, triangular wooden supports that swing out to support the whaleboats when they are hanging from the ship’s side.
cross-trees Light, horizontal timbers attached high up on a mast. In Ch. 35 Ishmael stands on the t’gallant cross-trees, on the lookout for whales.
crotch A support in the bow of the whaleboat for the wooden ends of the harpoons; defined in Ch. 63.
crowd sail. Raise as many sails as possible.
crown The place where the arms of an anchor join its shank.
cruising ground An area of the sea where, expecting to find whales, a whaler will slowly sail back and forth.
cutting stage Narrow platform hung over a ship’s side for men to stand on while removing (cutting in) the whale’s blubber.
cutting tackles Heavy, multiple block-and-tackle arrangement with a large hook, used in the process of stripping off the whale’s blubber. See Ch. 67.
cutting-in Removing the whale’s blubber.
Davy Jones Davy Jones’s Locker at the bottom of the sea, the destination of the dead in sailor folklore.
dead reckoning “Dead” is a corruption of the abbreviation “ded.,” meaning “deduced”; dead reckoning deduces a ship’s approximate position relative to its previous one by multiplying speed by time elapsed to give distance covered, by observing the compass courses steered, and by estimating the effects of drift caused by winds and currents. It is much less precise than celestial navigation.
dog-vane Small flag or streamer indicating wind direction.
double-banked Two men to an oar.
douse sail Lower sails in a hurry.
down helm Push the tiller away from the wind, thereby turning the ship itself toward the wind. A wheel is turned toward the wind to achieve the same effect.
draw Require a certain depth of water in order to float; said of a vessel.
eye-splice Loop made by weaving the strands of the end of a rope back into its body.
fathom Six feet in length or depth.
fiddle-headed beak Decorative block of wood carved like the head of a violin; an economical alternative to a figurehead.
fore 1) Forward part of a vessel and the opposite of aft. 2) Short for foremast.
fore-and-aft sails Sails (mostly triangular) set from masts or stays rather than from yards. “All sails which are not set to yards” (Smyth).
fore hatchway Opening in the deck above the forward hold.
forecastle Pronounced "FOHC-suhl." 1) The sailors’ living/sleeping quarters, below decks in the bow of the ship. 2) Short for the forecastle deck.
forecastle deck That part of the deck above the sailors’ quarters, forward of the foremast; sometimes also called, confusingly, the forecastle.
forecastle scuttle Stairway from the deck to the forecastle below.
foremast The first mast, closest to the bow.
foul 1) Entangled or dangerously touching, as in “got foul of,” or “a foul line.” 2) Unfavorable or contrary, as “foul weather” or “a foul breeze.”
from stem to stern From front to back, end to end.
furl Roll up and secure a sail on its yard or boom.
gaff Hooked tool used for moving pieces of blubber.
galliot Dutch or Flemish cargo vessel with rounded sides and flattened bottom.
gam “A social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships” at sea. (Melville’s definition, Ch. 53.)
gangway On the Pequod, the passageway between the deck and the stern cabin below.
give way Command to begin rowing or to row harder.
grapnel Small, anchor-like device with several arms, used for dragging the sea floor and for holding on to objects.
green-hand Inexperienced crewman.
ground-swell Long, rolling waves.
ground-tier butts Bottom layer of large oil casks in the hold.
gunwale Pronounced "GUN-uhl." Strip of wood along the top of a vessel’s side.
halyards Ropes for raising and lowering sails.
hamper 1) Spars and rigging aloft; also top-hamper. 2) Tangled ropes and other gear.
handspike Lever used for turning a windlass.
hard down Command to a helmsman to steer into the wind, bringing the vessel more or less to a stop.
harpoon Barbed spear used to fasten the whaleboat to a whale; the fishhook of whaling.
hatch Covering for a hatchway (also called a hatch), an opening in the deck of a ship.
hatchway Square or rectangular opening in the deck, giving access to the deck below or to a hold.
hawser Thick rope used for towing and other heavy work.
head sea Waves running directly against the course of a vessel.
headsails triangular fore-and-aft sails at a vessel’s bow.
head-wind Wind blowing from the direction of a vessel’s intended course.
headway Forward progress through the water.
heave-to Make a pause on the sea by adjusting sails to counteract one another and so keep the vessel relatively still; past tense hove to.
heave down Tip a vessel over on one side for repairs, careen. Also heave out. (Past tense, hove down.)
helm 1) Steering position. 2) The steering gear (wheel, tiller, rudder).
helmsman Sailor at the helm, steering the ship.
hogshead Large barrel holding at least 63 gallons.
hold Large storage compartment; a whaleship might have three.
hornpipe Lively sailor’s dance.
horns Ends of the cross-trees.
horse-pieces Blocks of blubber about 10 inches wide and 2 feet long (Browne), so called because they were placed on a wooden bench called a “horse” to be sliced.
hove out Tipped up on one side.
hove over Leaning.
Indiaman Large cargo vessel trading with the East Indies (which includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and India).
jib Triangular sail rigged to the jib-boom and jib-stay.
jib-boom “A Spar supported by the bowsprit, and extending beyond it” (Russell).
jib-stay The support line leading from the foremast to the jib-boom, on which the triangular jib sail is strung.
jolly-boat A small work boat, usually carried at the stern of a vessel and sometimes called a yawl.
jury-mast Temporary replacement for a lost or badly damaged mast.
keel The lowest timber of a vessel, and its backbone.
keel up Capsize.
kelson Long, strong timber bolted to the ship’s keel for reinforcement.
kentledge Pig iron ballast, laid along the kelson, or keelson.
King-Post “Short, square timber known by that name in Arctic whalers [serving]…to brace the ship against the icy concussions of those battering seas” (Melville’s definition, Ch 27).
knight-heads Strong timbers coming up vertically through the deck in the bow of a vessel; they support the bowsprit.
lance Spear used to kill the whale by striking a vital organ.
larboard Left, or the left side when facing forward on a ship. The now-common term port is not used in Moby-Dick.
lash the helm a’lee Fasten the steering mechanism so the ship remains pointed into the wind, stopping its forward motion. Also a-lee the helm.
lashing Rope fastening one thing to another.
lead Lead weight attached to a marked line, used for measuring water depth beneath a vessel; also short for lead line, the line and weight together.
league Three nautical miles, each of which is 6,080 feet. One degree of latitude equals 60 nautical miles or 20 leagues.
lee 1) The side protected from the wind. 2) The direction opposite to that from which the wind is blowing; also leeward. See also bring by the lee.
lee coast A shore on a ship’s lee side (to leeward) close enough to be a danger because the wind may blow the vessel ashore.
lee-beam At a right angle to the middle of the ship, on the lee side.
lee-way The distance a ship is pushed to leeward of its course by the wind.
leeward Pronounced “LOO-uhrd.” Downwind.
lifts Ropes leading from each mast-head to its yardarm ends, supporting the weight of the yards.
line-of-battle ship The largest warship of the time, carrying seventy-four or more guns.
locker Storage chest or closet.
log Log book, a daily record of all navigational details and other observations.
log-line A thin line marked with attached knots and wound on a reel. At the line’s end is a chip or log of wood that is thrown overboard. The line unreels for a set period of time, and the length of line that has run out by then indicates the ship’s speed.
loggerhead “[A] stout sort of post rooted in the keel [of a whaleboat], and rising some two feet above the level of the stern platform” (Melville’s definition, Ch. 48).
lubber Nautically ignorant, awkward person.
lubber’s-hole An opening in the platform called the top; the scorned access to the topmast, easier than climbing the supporting ropes (shrouds).
luff Or luff up; bring the bow closer to the wind.
main brace Rope attached to an end of the main-yard, used to control the angle of the mainsail to the wind.
main-mast Of a whaleship’s three masts, the center and tallest one.
main-top The platform at the top of the lower main-mast.
main-truck The round cap on the main-mast.
main-yard The lowest yard on the main-mast.
make 1) To see. 2) To arrive at. 3) Make sail is to set sail. 4) Make fast is to secure.
man-rope Safety line.
marline Pronounced “MAR-lin.” Narrow, two-stranded, tarred rope.
marling-spike Pointed metal tool used in splicing rope; also marlinespike.
mast-head The top of a mast.
men before the mast Those who live in the forecastle, forward of the foremast; non-officers.
mess Group of shipmates who eat their meals together.
middle-watch Midnight to 4 a.m.
midships “The middle part of the vessel, either with regard to her length or breadth” (Smyth); also amidships.
mincing knives Cutting implements over 2 feet long, with a handle at each end; used to slice blubber for the try-pots.
mizen shrouds The fixed rigging supporting the rearmost mast, the mizen-mast.
mizen-mast The third and rearmost mast; commonly spelled mizzenmast.
mizentop Small platform at the top of the lower mizen-mast, the ship’s third mast.
oakum Fibers from unraveled old ropes, impregnated with tar and used to caulk seams in wooden ships.
offing 1) That distant part of the sea visible from shore. 2) A good distance out to sea at the start of a voyage.
on the quarter From the rear, at about a 45-degree angle to the ship’s side.
open 1) To sight. 2) Unobscured.
orlop-deck The lowest deck; also orlop.
packet Vessel making regular, scheduled trips between the same ports.
pike Single-pronged pole used for moving chunks of blubber.
piled-up With all sails set.
pin Short for belaying pin.
plug-hole Drain hole in the bottom of a boat.
pod A school of whales; a group that travels together.
point 1/32 of a compass circle, or 11.25 degrees.
poop Raised section of the deck at the stern.
Post Captain Commanding officer of a ship who also has the naval rank of Captain.
preventer tackles Additional ropes as backup to the rudder tackles.
proa Large Malay war-vessel, propelled by oars and sails.
prow The bow.
quarter The side of a vessel, from the stern forward to the rigging supporting the main-mast (Lever, Dana). See on the quarter.
quarter-boat One of the whaleboats hanging from the ship’s quarter.
quarter-deck The part of the deck to the rear of the main-mast, and special domain of the captain.
raise See and shout out for.
range Come abreast of another vessel or a whale.
razee Cut down, reduce. (Normally in reference to a ship’s hull.)
reef Reduce sail area by tying up part of the sail.
reeve Pass a rope through a hole or over the wheel of a pulley.
riggers Workers hired to prepare the ship’s ropes and tackle.
rigging A vessel’s visible ropes. A sailing vessel has standing rigging, fixed ropes supporting the masts, and running rigging, pulled on to control yards and sails.
ring-bolt Large iron ring bolted through the deck.
rope walk A building in which rope was manufactured; it could be 1,000 feet long or more.
round-house Normally a cabin in the stern large enough to walk around in (thus its name), but in Moby-Dick also the French captain’s privy (Ch. 99).
rowlocks Pronounced “ROHL-uhcks”; spaces cut in a boat’s gunwale for the oars to rest in while rowing.
royal mast The highest section of any mast; also, confusingly, the name given to the top portion of the top-gallant mast; also called in the text t’ gallant mast.
royal mast-head The top of the royal mast.
royal yard The fourth yard from the deck, on any mast.
run A separate area below decks where a ship begins to narrow and curve upward toward the stern.
running rigging Ropes that are pulled on or otherwise adjusted while sailing.
sail Figure of speech for a sailing ship or ships.
schooner Common type of sailing vessel with two or more masts, fore-and-aft rigged.
scud Blowing mist or low, broken clouds.
scupper-holes Drainholes in the deck’s gutters. Also scuppers.
scuttle 1) An opening in the deck which, in Moby-Dick, is always the entrance to a stairway leading below. 2) Verb meaning to sink a vessel by making or opening holes in its hull.
scuttle-butt Fresh-water cask on deck. From sailors’ conversations there comes the meaning “gossip.”
seas Waves, as in “sledge-hammering seas” (Ch. 135); also singular, as in “a combing sea dashed me off” (Ch. 100).
Season-on-the-Line One of the best places and times to hunt sperm whales in the Pacific was within a few degrees of the equator (the Line) from near the Galapagos Islands off South America to the Kingsmills Islands 90 degrees longitude to the west, and from November or December to April.
seizings Bindings of cord or rope.
seventy-four Large, 74-gun warship.
shallop Small boat.
shears Beams above the quarter-deck on some whaleships, bearing spare or disabled boats; defined in Ch. 131.
sheave See blocks . . . sheaves.
sheet home Spread the sail horizontally as far as possible by pulling on the sheets, the ropes attached to one or both lower corners of a sail.
sheets 1) Ropes controlling the lower corners or clews of square sails and the rear lower corners of fore-and-aft sails (also called clews). 2) The sheets of a boom hold it against the force of the wind in its sail.
ship biscuit Unsalted flour-and-water biscuit baked hard for preservation; hardtack.
ship keepers Crew members who work only aboard ship (not in the whaleboats).
shiver Cause the sails to flutter by steering directly into the wind. [Ch. 133, “Shiver her!” Explained there.]
shoal 1) Large group (usually of sea-creatures). 2) Particularly shallow place in the water.
shooks Bundles of boards, called staves, from which barrels are made.
shorten Reduce sail area by furling and/or reefing the sails set.
shrouds The fixed (standing) rigging supporting the masts.
skiff Small rowboat.
skrimshander Now called “scrimshaw”: incised sperm whale teeth or items carved from whale bone (Melville’s definition, Ch. 57).
sky-sail A small, light square sail above the royal, used in fair weather.
skylarking Fooling; playing tricks.
skysail-poles Detachable upper extremities of masts, rising above the royal masts to support the highest yards and sails, sky-sails.
slip the cable Let go of the anchor cable rather than raise the anchor.
sloop Sailing vessel with one mast.
sogger Meaning “soldier”; in sailor-usage, someone whose supposed hard work is only pretense.
sou’-wester Waterproof sailor’s hat with an extra-wide brim at the back.
soundings Material from the sea bottom brought up by a deep-sea measuring line and lead (as used in Ch. 106); to be on soundings is to be in water shallow enough for the line to reach the sea floor; off soundings means being in water too deep to be measured by the line.
spar Wooden, sail-supporting part of a vessel. “The general term for any mast, yard, boom, gaff, &c.” (Smyth).
speak: Communicate with a ship at sea.
splice 1) Make two ropes into one by weaving their strands together. 2) A joining made by weaving together. See eye-splice.
sprung Strained enough to injure the wood fibers.
square in Turn the yards so that they (and their square sails) are at right angles to the hull of the vessel. Also square the yards.
square-rigged Referring to a vessel with masts crossed by horizontal yards from which rectangular square sails hang.
square sail Four-cornered sail hung from a yard which is suspended at the middle from a mast.
stand away Steer a course, as in “stood away for the nearest harbor” (Ch. 54).
Star—bo-l-e-e-n-s The men in the starboard watch; from starboard and bowline.
starboard Right, or the right side when facing forward on a ship.
stave Smash in or puncture, past tense stove; as in “come a stove boat and stove body when they will, for stave my soul, Jove himself cannot” (Ch. 7).
staves Boards from which barrels are made.
stay Rope supporting a mast segment (as main-topmast stay, fore-t’gallant stay, etc.). A forestay leads straight forward; a backstay leads to the ship’s side, to the rear.
stem The foremost timber in the hull of a vessel.
stern The rear of a vessel; and as a verb, to row backwards. Used in various expressions, such as by the stern, meaning stern-first, “[the Pequod] profoundly settled by the stern” (Ch. 124); under the stern, meaning close to the stern, “[a boat] pulled round under the stern” (Ch. 48), and also from behind, “a ship . . . bearing down under the stern” (Ch. 100).
stern sheets The space to the rear of the thwarts (rowing seats) in a small boat.
storm-trysail Strong triangular sail used in bad weather.
stove Also staved, staven, or stoven, the past tense and participle of stave; describing anything smashed in or punctured.
strike To lower. Strike down is to lower something into the hold.
stunsail Pronounced “STUN-suhl.” Studding sail, a light sail rigged from a portable extension to a yardarm called a stunsail boom, and set in fair weather to increase speed.
sway up Lift by means of tackles.
sword-mat A yarn mat, named for the sword-shaped wooden slat used in weaving it.
t’gallant-mast Topgallant mast, the third section of a mast from the deck up, pronounced as Melville spells it. The royal-mast is actually the top portion of this mast.
tack Change from one course to another by turning the vessel’s bow through the wind.
tackles Pronounced “TAY-kuhls.” Lifting devices made of ropes and pulleys (see blocks . . . sheaves).
taffrail Curved deck railing at the ship’s stern.
tarpaulins Waterproof hats.
thole-pins Upright pins in the gunwale of a boat that keep the oars in place while rowing.
thwart Rowing seat of a whaleboat.
tiller Steering lever attached to the rudder.
timber head The part of a ship’s rib above the deck, to which large ropes may be tied.
top Platform at the top of a lower mast.
top-block Large single-pulley block used to raise or lower the topmasts.
top-gallant sails Pronounced “t’GAL-uhnt” and sometimes spelled that way in Moby-Dick. The third level of sails above the deck.
top-maul Heavy hammer.
topsails Second layer of sails above the deck.
train oil Oil from right whales, large baleen whales; defined in Ch. 32.
transom A crossbeam in the stern, used as a seat.
tree-nails Pronounced “TRUHN-uhls.” Long hardwood pins joining together the planks and timbers as nails would do.
trick Two-hour turn at the helm (Russell).
trim dish Adjust a vessel’s posture, its trim.
truck Small circle of wood topping a mast; metaphorically, the finishing piece.
try-pots Huge iron pots mounted in the brick try-works on a whaleship’s deck, in which blubber is fried to extract the oil. See Ch. 96.
try-works The brick structure on deck holding the try-pots.
tub Line tub placed in the bottom of a whaleboat, in which the harpoon line is coiled.
Turk’s-head Complex, turban-shaped decorative knot.
turn to! “Get to work!”
turning flukes Said of a whale in the act of diving, and thereby showing its tail flukes.
under weigh A ship is under weigh when the anchor has been raised (weighed). It is under way when it is moving through the water.
up helm Command to move the tiller toward the windward side of the vessel, which would turn it so the wind blows from astern.
waif pole “[A] pennoned pole…which, when additional game is at hand, [is] inserted upright into the floating body of a dead whale, both to mark its place on the sea, and also as token of prior possession…” (Ch. 87).
waist The midsection of the deck, between the forecastle and the quarterdeck.
watch A period of time on duty (usually four hours), and the men in that duty group. The on-duty watch is on deck, while those off duty are referred to as below.
weather side Windward side; the side struck by the wind, opposite the lee side.
weather-sheet Rope on the windward side of a vessel controlling a boom or the lower corner of a sail.
whale-pike Single-pronged pole used for moving pieces of blubber.
whalebone See baleen. Also whale-bone but not whale bone, which is actual bone.
whip Light tackle made of a single rope and single block.
white-bone The white water at the bow of a moving vessel or the head of a swimming whale. See also bone in her mouth.
windlass Horizontal cylindrical machine near the bow, turned with handles or with levers called handspikes, and used, as is a capstan, in raising the anchor and other heavy tasks.
windlass-bitts Two strong timbers protruding from the deck and supporting the ends of the windlass.
working Coming loose.
yard Long, heavy pole, attached at its center to a mast, from which a square sail is suspended. A yard is a type of spar.
yard-arm One of a yard’s two arms, from the mast to its end.
yaw Swing from one side to the other of an intended course.