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Nautical Terms - know these terms to speak like a seasoned cruiser.

  • Anchor: a heavy metal device attached to a chain that falls to the sea floor, keeping the ship in place.
  • Anchorage: not the place in Alaska, its a designated area in a harbor where ships may anchor.
  • Azipod: the ship's main propulsion unit, contained within a pod, that can rotate on its azimuth, providing both propulsion and steering.
  • Beam: the width of the ship.
  • Berth: the parking spot for the ship at the pier.
  • Bow: the front, or pointy-end of the ship.
  • Bowthruster: properllers located in the bow, perpendicular to the length of the ship, used to assist in docking.
  • Bridge: a windowed structure on the ship where operations, such as steering the ship are conducted.
  • Bunk: your bed.
  • Companionway: staircases.
  • Davit: a crane, especially those used to handle lifeboats.
  • Deck: the floors on a ship are known as decks.
  • Draft: distance the ship is below the waterline. If the water depth is less than the ship's draft, it will run aground.
  • Fathom: Unit of depth. Equal to 6ft, or 1.8 Meters.
  • Flotsam: Accumulation of junk floating on the water (wreckage, debris).
  • Following seas: when waves of the sea are going in the same direction of the ship.
  • Galley: the kitchen.
  • Gangplank: a ramp allowing access on and off the ship.
  • Head: A toilet. Sgt. Toomey (Biloxi Blues) might have said; "there are no toilets on a ship, only heads".
  • Head seas: when waves of the sea are going in the opposite direction (towards) the ship.
  • Helm: contains the facilities to steer the ship, usually located in the bridge
  • Knot: the measure of speed on a ship. 1 kt = 1.15 Mph. So 20kts is equal to 23mph.
  • List: a ship that leans to one side or the other, more or less long term; as opposed to roll.
  • Muster: life boat drill.
  • Nautical Mile: the measure of distance on a ship. 1 nm = 1.15 statute miles. So 20nm = 23 miles on land.
  • Peek-a-boo Bridge: Bridge with an elevated observation deck where passengers can observe bridge operations.
  • Pier: that at which the ship docks, or berths at.
  • Pitch: periodic front to back motion of the ship while it is underway.
  • Promenade deck: An open deck that extends from bow to stern on both sides, usually where the lifeboats are found.
  • Port: the left-side of the ship when looking forward.
  • Pullman (bed): a rather uncomfortable bed that lowers from the ceiling.
  • Purser: officer of the ship that handles all financial matters.
  • Roll: periodic side to side motion of the ship while it is underway.
  • Ship's time: the time zone aboard the ship, which may differ from the time on the local island.
  • SOLAS: internal maritime safety standard (Safety Of Life At Sea). A direct result of the Titanic sinking.
  • Stabilizers: winglets under the waterline in the ship's hull that reduce roll.
  • Starboard: the right-side of the ship when looking forward.
  • Stateroom: the room you sleep in.
  • Stern: the rear of the ship.
  • Sternthruster: properllers located in the stern, perpendicular to the length of the ship, used to assist in docking.
  • Tender: small craft that transports passengers to and from the ship when it is anchored away from shore.

Ship's horn; what do the blasts mean?

While you are aboard ship, you will occasionally hear different patterns from the ship's horn; they are:

  • One Long Blast: prepairing to leave port.
  • Three Short Blasts: am going in reverse.
  • Five Short Blasts: used to signal danger to craft in the path of the ship.
  • Seven Short Blasts, then One Long Blast: An emergency has been declaired; don your life vest and go to your muster station.

You may hear other patterns as well, such a cruise ships of the same line greeting each other. And on a rare day, you may hear a 5 second blast repeated every two minutes. This is a foghorn pattern and is used whenever fog or low visibility conditions exist. I have heard it on cruise ships even on a hazy day, if visibility is reduced.

Ship's flags.

Depending on where you are, at sea or in port, the ship will display different flags:

If the ship is at anchor, it will display a black round ball rather than a flag.




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