Saturday, 25 November 2017


The river front in Gravesend is not what it was. At one time, not so long ago, the river would have been teeming with craft of many sorts - lighters, tugs, pilot boats, all manner of smaller boats as well as the associated shoreside nautical paraphernalia. Sadly most of this has gone, but I did come across one or two remants including a section of landing stage, the remains of two winches and these gracefully curved structures. They are davits. These were, and still are - you can often see them on the stern of large motor cruisers - used to lift or launch smaller boats. It got me thinking abnout other nautical terms, often used by landlubbers without really knowing their meaning or origin. Here are a handful.

bitter end: The last part or loose end of a rope or cable. The anchor cable is tied to the
bitts; when the cable is fully paid out, the bitter end has been reached.

bitts: A post or pair mounted on the ship's bow, for fastening ropes or cables.

spring: A line used parallel to that of the length of a craft, to prevent fore-aft motion of a boat, when moored or docked.

avast: Stop, cease or desist from whatever is being done. From the Dutch hou' vast - "hold on".

And probably one of the best and most obscure:
baggywrinkle: A soft covering for cables (or any other obstructions) that prevents sail chafing.
“All I ask is a tall ship” | Elizabeth Krall Photos

Finally a term used to mean something that is awkward or requires an inordinate amount of effort:
devil to pay: "Paying" the devil is sealing the devil seam. It is a difficult and unpleasant job (with no resources) because of the shape and postion of the seam. (To pay is to fill a seam between two planks with caulking or pitch).

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