Have you ever wondered where some of the silly names in regards to the boating world have come from?

If so, I’ve done some research and found the answers you are looking for (Probably just so you can annoy your friends and family with useless information like I do on a daily basis).

So Read on and Enjoy!


In the early days of sailing ships, the ships records were written on shingles cut from logs. These shingles were hinged and opened like a book.
The record was called the “log book.” Later on, when paper was readily available and bound into books, the recorded maintained its name.


In the very early days, this phrase was written on a seaman’s discharge to indicate that he was still a novice.  All he knew about being a sailor was just the na,es and uses of the principal ropes (lines). Today, this same phrase means the opposite – that the person fully knows and understands the operation (usually of the organization).


The raven, or crow, was an essential part of the Vikings’ navigation equipment. These land-lubbing birds were carried on aboard to help the ships navigator determine where the closest land lay when weather prevented sighting the shore. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird’s flight path because the crow invariably headed towards land.

The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast. Later on, as ships grew and the lookout stood his watch in a tub located high on the main mast, the name “crows nest” was given to this tub.


The “head” aboard a boat is the bathroom. The term comes from the days of sailing ships when the place for the crew to relieve themselves was all the way forward on either side of the bowsprit, the integral part of the hull to which the figurehead was fastened.


The origin of the word “scuttlebutt,” which is a nautical parlance for rumor, comes from a combination of “scuttle” – to make a hole in the ship’s hull and thereby causing her to sink – and “butt” – a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water.

The cask from which the ships crew took their drinking water – like a water fountain – was the “scuttlebutt”. Even in todays Navy a drinking fountain is referred to as such., But, since the crew used to congregate around the “scuttlebutt”, that is where the rumors about the ship or voyage would begin. Thus, then and now, rumors are talk from the “scuttlebutt” or just “scuttlebutt”.


Today it means to be dull or without pep. This term comes from the days of sail when a ship was becalmed and rode on an even keel…without the port or starboard list experienced under a good breeze.  Meaning, No wind, no list; no list, lifeless. Now you know.


The word “port hole” originated during the reign of Henry VI of England (1485.) King Henry insisted on mounting guns too large for his ship and the traditional methods of securing these weapons on the forecastle and aftcastle could not be used.

A French shipbuilder names James Baker was commissioned to solve the problem. He put small doors in the side of the ship and mounted the cannon inside the ship. These doors protected the cannon from weather and were opened when the cannons were to be used. The French word for “door” is “porte” which was later Anglicized to “port” and later went on to mean any opening in the ships side, whether for cannon use or not.


“Mayday” is the internationally recognized voice radio signal for ships and people in serious trouble at sea.  Made official in 1948, it is an anglicizing of the French m’aidez, “help me.”


One of the hazards faced in days of sailing ships has been incorporated into English to describe someone who has been jolted on unpleasant news.We say that person has been “taken aback.” The person is at a momentary loss; unable to act or even to speak.

A danger faced by sailing ships was for a sudden shift in wind to come up (from a sudden squall), blowing the sails back against the masts, putting the ship in a grave danger of having the masts break off and rendering the ship totally helpless. The ship was “taken aback”.


“No quarter given” means that one gives his opponent NO opportunity to surrender. It stems from the old custom by which officers, upon surrender, could ransom themselves by paying one quarter of a year’s pay.


The Vikings called the side of their ship its board, and they placed the steering oar, the “star” on the right side of the ship, thus that side became known as the “starboard.” Its been that way ever since. And, because the oat was in the right side, the ship was tied to dock at the left side. This was known as the loading side or “larboard.”

Later, it was decided that “larboard” and “starboard” were too similar, especially when trying to be heard over the roar of a heavy sea, so the phrase became the “side at which you tied up to in port” or the “port” side.

Another version is that, in the olden days before the advent of maps, navigation was done by following the arrangement of the stars in the sky. Usually old sailing ships had long masts and sails which disturbed the visibility of the helmsman and the sailors arranged a deck extending out on the right side to watch the stars and continue sailing.

So one person on the ship used to read the location of the stars sitting on the deck and convey the same to the Helmsman. The deck that was used to look at the stars and decide the sailing route was termed as starboard deck. Because of this extended deck on the right side, only the other side of the ship could be brought towards the port and so it was named the port side.

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