Adze: A carpenter’s tool used for shaping wood.

Aft: Toward the back of the ship.

Ahull: To allow a ship to ride without sails during a storm.

Ark Royal: British Royal Navy, Aircraft Carrier, launched in 1950.

Ballast: Mayflower II carries 133 tons of ballast consisting of cast iron and cut-up railroad track.

Battens: Horizontal strips of wood lashed to the shrouds.

Beak: The wooden structure projecting from the front of the ship. It has the appearance of a bird’s beak.

Belay: To tie off a line to a belaying pin, cleat or other secure part of the ship.

Belaying Pin: A wooden pin to which lines on the ship are tied.

Binnacle: A structure housing the compass, usually made of wood or non-magnetic metal.

Block and Tackle: A set of ropes and pulleys used on ships to help lift heavy objects.

Bosun: A contraction for "boatswain." The bosun is responsible for rigging and painting.

Bow: The forward part of the ship.

Bowsprit: The spar that extends out from the front of the ship. The spritsail hangs below the bowsprit.

Brixham: Town in Devon, in the southwest of England, where Mayflower II was built.

Bulwark: A solid wooden rail at the side of the ship.

Cat’s-paws: Ripples on the water caused by light winds on a calm day.

Caulk: To force cotton, oakum or other fibers into seams preventing water from leaking through.

Chippy: Term for ship’s carpenter.

Clew Garnet: Block and tackle used to raise the corner of a square sail.

Diesel Launch: Small wooden power boat used as a tender on Mayflower II, propelled by a diesel motor.

Distance in Nautical miles: A nautical mile equals 6,000 feet. A land mile equals 5,280 feet.

Distance per log: The distance a ship sails according to a device towed through the water.

Dry dock: A structure, dug into land at water’s edge, into which a ship is floated. The structure can be sealed and the water pumped out leaving the ship high and dry.

Even Keel: An expression meaning level and stable.

Flying fish: A type of fish common to tropical and sub-tropical waters. It appears to fly with its wing-shaped fins while leaping out of the water away from prey.

Fo’c’sle: A contraction for “forecastle”, the forward most cabin on the ship. Customarily, the common crew lives in the forecastle.

Fore Course Sail: The large, lower square sail on the foremast.

Foremast: The forward-most mast on Mayflower II.

Foretopsail yard: The upper yard on the foremast to which the foretopsail is rigged.

Forward: Toward the front of the ship.

Frank: To stamp a letter for postage.

Gangway: Planks used to walk aboard a ship while it is tied to a dock.

Gaskets: Small ropes, sometimes braided, used to tie up sails on the yards.

Half-Deck: The deck above the main deck on Mayflower II. It is approximately half the length of the ship.

Hawseholes: Openings in the bow through which the anchor line runs.

Heads: The bathroom on ships. Derived from the ancient practice by sailors of using the bow of a ship as a toilet.

Helm: The system used to steer a ship.

Helmsman: The person who steers the ship. The crew takes turns acting as helmsman.

Jacob’s ladder: A rope and wood ladder hanging over the side of a ship.

Life-lines: Ropes rigged in various places on the ship for the sailors to hold onto in rough weather.

Main Course Sail: Large lower square sail on the main mast.

Main Knighthead:  A wooden post near the main mast used to belay large lines.

Mainmast: The largest mast on Mayflower II. It carries two square sails, the main course and the main topsail.

Maintop Sail:  The upper sail on the main mast.

Maritime: Pertaining to the sea.

Maul hammer: Large sledgehammer.

Mine sweeper: Naval vessel, often made of wood, used to look for floating explosive devices.

Mizzenmast:  The aft-most mast on Mayflower II. It carries one trianglular sail, the mizzen sail.

Oakum: Hemp yarn, soaked in tar, used for caulking.

On watch: The sailor’s day is divided into a series of four-hour segments. When he is working the sailor is said to be “on watch.”

Quarterdeck: The command deck of a ship.

Pin-rail: A wooden rail fastened to the inside of the bulwarks for belaying pins.

Pitch: Plunging forward motion of the ship in large waves.

Pitch: Distilled product made from pine resin, used for filling seams during the caulking process.

Rigging: All rope and line used to secure and control spars and sails.

Scuppers: Openings in the deck through which excess water can run out.

Sea trial: Preliminary voyage to test a newly-built vessel.

Set (sails): To open, or unfurl sails.

Shallop: A 17th-century style open boat that can be rowed and sailed. Shallops were often taken apart and carried aboard larger sailing ships.

Ship’s wheel: The device with which the helmsman steers a ship.

Skiffle: A form of music popular in England in the 1950s in which the vocal part is supported by a rhythmic accompaniment of guitars or banjos.

Spars: Wooden poles used to support the sails. The yards, masts and bowsprit are all spars.

Spritsail: The square sail that hangs down below the bowsprit on Mayflower II.

Sprit Yard: The yard that supports the spritsail.

Square Sails: Sails that are perpendicular to the centerline of the ship.

Stern: The back part of the ship.

Stowaway: A person who attempts to hide aboard a departing ship hoping for free passage.

Topmen: The sailors who climb in the rigging and work on the upper sails.

Trade winds: A wind pattern found in tropical waters that provide strong, consistent breezes.

True course: The actual course of a ship not accounting for variation and deviation.

Trawler: A type of fishing vessel that drags nets through the water.

Variation: The difference between true north and a magnetic north for a specific location.

Waist: The middle part of the main deck of the ship. 

Whipstaff: A pole attached to the tiller.  Used on 17th-century ships for steering. 

Yacht: A vessel intended for pleasure use.

Yard: A horizontal wooden pole supported by a ship’s mast from which a sail hangs.


Reprinted with permission from the book Felix and his Mayflower II Adventures by Peter Arenstam. Available in our Museum Shops.