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Sailors and TradersA Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples$

Alastair Couper

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832391

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832391.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HAWAII SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hawaii.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hawaii University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HSO for personal use.date: 29 June 2022

Nautical Glossary and Abbreviations

Nautical Glossary and Abbreviations

Sailors and Traders
University of Hawai'i Press

  • altitude

    The angle between a celestial body and the sea horizon below it.

  • azimuth

    The magnetic compass bearing of a celestial body, when compared with the true azimuth (bearing) derived from the annual Nautical Almanac, gives the error of the magnetic compass for the course being steered.


    Baltic and International Maritime Council.

  • boatsteerer/harpooner

    The crewman who first harpoons a whale and then takes over steering the boat while the mate does the killing with a lance.

  • fathom

    6 feet (1.829 meters).

  • furling

    Taking in sails and securing them to the yards by line gaskets.

  • ISF

    International Shipping Federation.

  • ITF

    International Transport Workers’ Federation.

  • master

    The captain of a merchant ship; in the eighteenth century a noncommissioned officer in the British Royal Navy.

  • missed stays

    Failure to go from one tack to another, when the head hangs and falls back on the previous tack. Dangerous when there is little sea room or when tacking away from a lee shore.

  • (p.xii) nautical mile

    6,080 feet (1.853 km). Unless otherwise stated, all sea distances in this book are in nautical miles.

  • navigator

    Taken as synonymous with the “captain” of an indigenous vessel, e.g., tia borau (Kiribati), rimedo (Marshalls), pelu (elsewhere in Micronesia), and tou tai and variations (Polynesia).

  • ratings

    Usually there are three departments on a cargo vessel: deck, engine, and catering. Each has three levels of crewing: officers, petty officers, and ratings. On-deck ratings comprise mainly ordinary seamen (OS) and able-bodied seamen (AB); in the engine room they are mainly motormen (MM), firemen, and greasers; and in catering, various assistants. Some of these designations have changed with technology and minimal crewing, but AB and MM have been retained.

  • reefing

    Shortening sail by gathering it up and tying it with line reef points.

  • scudding

    Running before a gale when the speed of the vessel equals the speed of the following sea. Creates the danger of losing steering and of a heavy sea coming on board astern (pooping).

  • SPC

    Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Has consultative and advisory roles in maritime affairs.

  • stability

    Ability of a vessel to return to an upright position when it heels over. Determined by a righting lever, which is a function of the relationship between the center of gravity and the center of buoyancy. The distributions of cargo, passengers, and free water surfaces can be crucial.

  • (p.xiii) supercargo

    The superintendent of the cargo and the trade room. Knows products and customs of the trading areas (Fijian: vunivola ni waqa).

  • tonnage

    Before the late eighteenth century the tonnage of merchant ships was usually expressed as the weight of the cargo and stores carried (tons burden). For warships the weight of the ship was added to the total contents (tons displacement), as it still is. The tonnage of modern bulk-carrying ships is expressed by the weight of the cargo, fuel, and stores carried (tons deadweight). The tonnage of the general cargo and passenger ships is, at its basic, expressed as the gross tonnage (GT)—the volume of the total enclosed space of the ship in cubic meters, multiplied by a constant. (p.xiv)