On many sailing ships, shrouds supporting the
masts were secured to links of chain attached to
the ships sides. To get a better lead for the
shrouds and to keep them from bearing on the
bulwarks, a ships leadsman led the chains up
around thick planks jutting from the ships sides.
These planks made convenient platforms from
which the leadsman could heave the lead, and the
leadsman was in the chains. Later, as now,
shrouds were secured on deck inboard of bulwarks
or lifelines. Special platforms were built for the
leadsman, but the term chains was retained.
The term Charlie Noble refers to the galley
smoke pipe. While its origin is obscure, it is
generally believed to have been derived from the
British merchant skipper, Charlie Noble, who
demanded a high polish on the galley funnel. His
bright copper galley funnel became well known
in the ports he visited.
CHEWING THE FAT
God made the vittles, but the devil made the
cook, was a popular saying used by seafaring
men in the last century when salted beef was staple
diet aboard ship.
This tough, cured beef, suitable only for long
voyages when nothing else was as cheap or would
keep as well, required prolonged chewing to make
it edible. Since men often chewed one chunk for
hours, just as if it were chewing gum, they
referred to this practice as chewing the fat.
Today this term is used to describe a conversation.
This term refers to almost any sort of paper
used in everyday business transactions. Derived
from the old East India Company and the hindu
CHRISTENING A SHIP
Launching ceremonies have had a religious
significance from the earliest days. The christening
ceremony originated as an appeasement to the
gods of the elements. In some countries as recently
as a hundred years ago, a launching frequently
resembled a baptismal ceremony and was per-
formed by priests.
Early in the 19th century, women and those
other than the clergy and high officials began to
take part in the ceremony of launching ships.
Today the ceremony usually consists in the
naming of the vessel by a sponsor and the
breaking of a bottle of wine against the ships bow
as it slides into the water. People have been known
to miss the ship entirely; so today the bottle is
secured by a lanyard to the bow of the shipas
a safety measure for spectators.
The origin of the commission pennant is said
to date back to the 17th century. When the Dutch
were fighting the English, Admiral Tromp hoisted
a broom at his ships masthead to indicate his
intention to sweep the English from the sea. The
gesture was soon answered by the English admiral
who hoisted a horsewhip to indicate his intention
to chastise the Dutch. The British carried out
the admirals boast. Ever since, a narrow pennant
has symbolized the original horsewhip as the
distinctive mark of a vessel of war.
The commission pennant, as it is called today,
is blue at the hoist, with a union of seven white
stars; it is red and white at the fly, in two
horizontal stripes. The number of stars has no
special significance but was arbitrarily selected as
providing the most suitable display. The pennant
is flown at the main by vessels not carrying flag
officers. A vessel carrying an admiral, a squadron
commander, a group commander, or a high-
ranking civil official flies that persons personal
flag or command pennant in lieu of the com-
To conn means to control, or direct by
rudder and engine order telegraph, the movements
of a ship. When someone has the conn, it indicates
that person is the one and only person who can
give orders to the wheel and engine order
telegraph at any one time. The exact derivation
of the word conn is not known.
This term is derived from cock, a small
boat, and swain, a servant. It signifies an
enlisted person in charge of a boat in the absence
of a line officer. Pronounced cox-un.