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Talk Like a Sailor

Not as much fun as "Talk Like a Pirate Day", perhaps, but all good stuff if you plan on spending a lot of time at sea. The following is a list of shipboard terms with my own (quirky) definitions. Some of these are unavoidable (you have to know them to get around the ship), some come up occasionally (for instance if you listen to the Captain's announcements), and some are just for fun. The really common ones are in bold.

Aft: The back part of the ship.

Bow: The pointy part at the very front of the ship that slices through the water.

Bunkering: Fueling the ship, sometimes from the dock, sometimes from a barge. Bunker fuel is the dregs of the refining process, so ships have elaborate filtration systems to keep the engines running smoothly. Ships running on bunker fuel aren't allowed to go to Antarctica.

Bow wave: The wave generated by the bow of the ship as it slices through the water. It spreads out on either side of the ship in a very consistent way (at an angle of about 20 degrees to the direction of the ship). The bow wave is the dominant part of the wake.

Bulbous bow: The funny bump at the very front of the ship just below the waterline. It reduces the size of the wake so the ship uses less fuel.

Forward: The front part of the ship.

Hull: The outer part of the ship that's in (or just above) the water. On most cruise ships the hull ends at the promenade deck.

Keel: A structural component that runs the length of the ship, along the center, at the very bottom.

Larboard: An obsolete term for the port or left side of the ship.

Leeward: The sheltered (or at least less windy) side of the ship.

Midships: The middle of the ship (can also be called amidships).

Pitch: The forward-backward ship motion. That is the motion where the front goes down and the back comes up or vice versa. Most noticeable in rough weather. Sometimes accompanied by a crashing or grinding sound.

Port: The left side of the ship when looking toward the front (toward the bow).

Roll: The side-to-side ship motion. This (usually gentle) motion is mostly what you feel on a cruise ship.

Rudder: The underwater mechanism at the back (the stern) used to steer the ship.

Screw: A really, really big propeller-like thing mounted underwater at the back of the ship to make it go. Cruise ships generally have two. Remember, only landlubbers think ships have propellers.

Scupper: The channel running just inside the railing on open decks that collects water falling on the deck.

Sea: A wave generated locally by the wind. Seas look chaotic because they come in many shapes and sizes due to the gusting of the wind. They travel in the direction of the wind that generated them.

Stabilizer: A fin (usually one on each side) used to smooth out the ship's motion in rough weather. The fins move automatically to counteract the rolling of the ship. They're retracted in smooth weather to save fuel.

Starboard: The right side of the ship when looking toward the front (toward the bow).

Stem: The top part of the bow. It was an important structural component in wooden ships.

Stern: The very back, squarish end of the ship where you can see the water churned up by the ships engines.

Superstructure: The part of a ship built above the hull. This makes up at least half of the height of most cruise ships.

Swell: A wave generated far away. Swells are very regular because the choppier waves have died away as the waves traveled across the ocean. Swells usually come in groups or sets (because of the way they travel).

Thruster: A small propeller used to help the ship maneuver. There are usually two on each side, one near the front and one near the back. Without the thrusters, those big cruise ships wouldn't be able to dock at half the ports of call.

Wake: Waves generated by the ship. These include the bow wave and the water churned up by the ship's engines at the back (or stern).

Waterline: Where the surface of the water meets the side of the ship (or where it would if the sea was flat and the ship wasn't moving).

Windward: The windy side of the ship.

Yaw: The back -and-forth waggle of the front or back of the ship. Cruise ships don't yaw much because of the resistance of the water.