The SEA-MAN's Vade Mecum

The SEA-MAN's Vade Mecum:

Containing the most Necessary Things for qualifying Seamen of all Ranks, viz.
I. Vulgar and Decimal Arithmetick, familiarly demonstrated and fitted to the Meanest Capacity.
II. An exact Sea Dictionary.
III. What Winds will carry a Ship from one Port to another, and the Distance and Bearings of those Ports.
IV. The Theory and Practice of Gunnery, fully discuss'd in all its Parts; Together with the Duty of all the Officers belonging to a Ship.
V. His Royal Highness Prince George's Regulations of Officers.
VI. A compleat List of the Royal Navy.
VII. Trigonometry, apply'd to Plain, Oblique and Mercator Sailing.
VIII. An Abstract of all the Acts of Parliament relating to Seamen; together with a Table of Seamens Wages.

Printed and Sold by James Woodward
behind the Royal-Exchange, 1707.

The Maritime Dictionary, explaining most Sea Terms.


Abaft, or Aft, the Stern, or after part of a Ship.

The Mast hangs Aft, towards the Stern.

Amain, Lower your Topsails; or if spoke to an Enemy, signifies Yield.

The Anchor is a Cock-bell, or hangs up and down by the Ship's side.

The Anchor is Apeck, or right under the Hawse.

The Anchor is foul, when the Cable is got about the Fluke.

An Awning, a Sail set up like a Canopy to prevent the scorching of the Sun.


To Bale, to lade Water out of the Ship's Hold.

The Ballast shoots, runs from one side to the other.

Free the Ballast, to divide or separate it.

To Bear with Land, to sail towards Land.

Bear too, to sail before the Wind.

A Gun cometh to Bear, lies right with the Mark.

Bear up, when they would have the Ship sail more before the Wind.

Bear up round, put her Right before the Wind.

Belay, to make fast any Rope.

To Bend a Cable, is to make it fast.

A Burth, a place for mooring of a Ship.

A Bight, a part of a Rope.

The Billage, the breach of the place the Ship rests on when she is a-ground.

The Ship is Bilged, has struck off some Timber, and has sprung a Lake.

A Bittack, that whereon the Compass stands.

The Bitts, two square pieces of Timber, to which the Cables are fasten'd, when the Ship rides at Anchor.

A Bonnet, an additional Sail added to the other Sail.

Lace on the Bonnet, to fasten it on.

Shake off the Bonnet, to take it off.

A Boom, a long Pole to spread out the Clew of the Sail.

Board and Board, when two Ships touch one another.

Board it up, turn to the Windward.

Go a Board, or go into the Ship.

Break Bulk, to take out the first Goods of the Cargo.


Careen a Ship, laying the Ship on one side,to trim and caulk the other.

Caulking, is the driving of Oakham into the Ship's Seams, to keep out Water.

To Chase, is to pursue another Ship.

The Chase, the Ship pursued.

To Cond or to Cun a Ship, is to order the Man at the Helm, how he is to steer.

The Course, the Point of the Compass on which the Ship sails or ought to sail; the Sails are commonly called Courses.

Cut, or unfurl the Sail, is to let it loose and fall down.

Cargo, is the ship's whole Loading.

Caskets, little Ropes which tie up the Sail when it is furled.

How Chear Ye, is how do you all do.


The Deck is flush, afore and aft, is laid from Stern to Stern, without any Heights or Hollows.

Dead Water, the Eddy at the Ship's Stern.

Dispart, to find the difference of Diameters in the Bore of a Cannon.

Disembogue, to go out at a Gulf's Mouth.


End for End, when a Rope is run all out of the Block wherein it was.


To hand or furl a Sail, to wrap the Sail all together, and bind it close to the Yard.

To fish a Mast or Yard, to tie a piece of Plank to the Mast or Yard to make it stronger, and that same Plank is call'd a Fish.

A Fathom, is six Foot.

To strike the Flag, to pull it down, which either showeth Respect, or yielding to the Enemy.

To heave out the Flag, to untie it from the Staff, and let it fly.

Free the Ship, is to put up the Ship dry.

Fore, is towards the Head of the Ship.

Fluke of an Anchor, is the wed which fastens in the Ground.


To Grave the Ship, is to burn off her old Filth when she is dry, by lying a ground.

The Ship Gripes, turns her Head to the Windward more than is requisite.

The Weather Gauge, when one Ship is to the Windward of another.

The Ships Gauge, is her depth of Water, or how many Foot she draws.


Hoa, Hoa, to call to another Ship.

To hail a Ship, to call to another ship to know whether she is bound, or from whence she came.

To hale, is to pull.

The Hause, is the hole at the Head of the Ship through which the Cable goes.

Fresh the Hawse, is to disingage two Cables, when twisted, by veering out more Cable, least the one should chase the other.

Thuart the Hause, is the same.

The Ship lies thuart, or cross another Ship's Hause or Head.

The Ship Heats, lies more to one side than another.

To Hitch, is to make a Rope fast.

The Ship's Hold, is the place where they stow all Goods, or Stores in.

To Hoise, is to lift, or hale.

Hulling, is when a Ship is taking in her Sails.


Land Fall, is Expectation of Land.

Land lock'd is circumferenced by the Sea.

The Ship lies Land too, when she can only discern Land.

To lay the Land, to be without sight of Land.

To Launch, is to put a Ship forth out of the Dock.

Launch hoa, hoist no more.

Lee Shore, the Shore that the Wind blows against.

Have a Care of the Lee Latch, or go not too much the Leeward.

The Ship lies by the Lee, or she has her Sails lying against the Shrouds and Mast.


The Masts are shot by the Board, that is, when a Ship has lost her Mats by the Enemies shot, and they lie upon the Deck, or on the outside.

Set the Mizen, or sit the Mizen Sail.

Change the Mizen, or bring the Yard to the other side of the Mast.

Speek the Mizen, put the Yard right up and down.

Spell the Mizen, let go the Sheet and peek it up.

Moor the Ship, is to make her ride at Anchor safely.


Neap Tides, is those Tides which fall when the Moon is in her second and last Quarter, and are neither so high nor low, as Spring Tides.

The Ship is Beneap'd, is when the Water is so low as not make the Ship float.


To overset, is to turn over.

The Ship stands for the Offing, when the Ship stands out to the Sea from the Shore.

Offward, is from the Shore.


To pay a Seam, to lay hot Pitch and Tar on the Seams of the Ship after caulking, without any Canvas.

To parcel a seam, is after the Seam is caulk'd, to lay over a shred of Canvas, and then Pitch it all over.

The Ship Rides a Peck, when the Yards cross.

The Capstern Purcheses, or draws in the Cable a pace.


Quarter Winds, are when the Wind comes in abaft, the Main Mast Shrouds even with the Quarter.

A Quail of Ropes, is when a Cable or Rope is laid round, one fack over another.


A Reach, is the Distance between the two nearest Points of Land, on the same Shore.

To Reve, is to put a Rope through a Block.

To unreve, is to pull a Rope out of a Block.

To Ride at Anchor, that is, when the Anchors keep her from driving.

To Ride athwart, is when the Ship lies a cross of the Tide.

To Ride betwixt Wind and Tide, when the Wind and Tide are contrary, and have equal Power.

To Ride Hause fall'n, is when a rough Sea breaks into the Hauses.

A Road, is a fit anchoring place for Ships to ride at Anchor nigh Land.

Rouse in, is to haul in the Cable or Hauser to make it taut.


To sarve a Rope, is to wrap Canvas or small Cord about it to keep it ftom fretting.

The Ship seels, when on a sudden she lies down and tumbles from side to side.

The Ship spooms, goes before the Wind without any Sails.

To seeze, is to make fast a Rope.

The Ship sends, when her Head or Stern falls deep in the Hollow of the Sea, commonly call'd the Trough of the Sea.

To settle a Deck, is to lay it lower.

The Ship is sewed, when the Water has left her.

The Ship shares, when she sails not directly forward upon the Point design'd, but wavers in her sailing.

Spring Tides, are those at New and Full Moon.

To sound, is to find the depth of the Water.

The Bowsprit steers, or stands too upright.

Soundings, are the several Depths of the Water in Fathoms and Parts.

The Ship hath spent her Masts, when she hath lost them in a Storm.

To splice Ropes, is to untwist two Ends of Ropes, and then twist them both together, and fasten them by binding a string about.

The Sail is split, or blown to pieces.


A Windward Tide, when the Tide runs contrary the Wind.

A Leeward Tide, when the Tide and Wind are both one Way.

To Tide it up, is to go by the strength of the Tide against, or without + Wind.

A Tide Gate, is where the Tide drives strong.

It flows Tide and half Tide, it will be three Hours sooner high Water by the Shore, than at the Offing.

Tack about, bring the Ship's Head about.

Talle aft the Sheets, hale aft the sheets of the Main or Fore Sail.

To Tow, to drag any thing after a Ship.

Traverse, the Ship's way.


Veer out, is to let out more Rope or Sheet.


The Ship is Walt, or wants Ballast.

To wind a Ship, to brings her Head about.

To weather a Ship, is to go to Windward of her.

How does the Ship wind, or upon what Point of the Compass does the Ship's Head lie.

To would, is to bind Ropes about the Mast, to keep a piece of Wood call'd a Fish, about the Mast, to strengthen it.


The Ship yawns, that is, and does not steer steddy.

Younkers, are the young Fore Mast Men.

The Sea-Man's Vade Mecum, 1707

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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.