Nautical Nomenclature of the MARY A WHALEN

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The names of things on ships are different than buildings on land. Here are some key words using PortSide New York's MARY A WHALEN as the example.

Ship parts:

beam: width of the boat

bow: front end

bulkhead: wall

bunk: bed

cabin: bedroom

cowl vent: chimney to catch the wind and funnel air into the boat, shaped like an empty cowlneck sweater. They can be turned to catch wind or avoid rain.


 a specific sort of door.  Generally speaking hatches are on horizontal surfaces (decks) whereas "doors" are vertical. Some doors (cabin doors) look like house doors are called doors. Other "doors" are watertight doors and have spinning handles (dogs) that seal them tightly.  Hatches are also constructed to be watertight and are "dogged down" to seal them.  

 bathroom, and sometimes specifically the toilet

a storage area. A hanging locker is a clothes closet with hangers.

 the ceiling

  the round windows characteristic of boats. Their small size, shape and stout construction prevents their being smashed by waves. In this day and age, wheelhouse windows are rarely round as the person steering needs to see in a wide arc, but the MARY's large rectangular wheelhouse windows are protected by being higher up on the vessel than you ever want to have waves hit.  The MARY's wheelhouse windows are effectively three stories high. 

 essentially pilings that pierce the vessel, usually barges.  They pin a vessel in place while allowing it to float up and down with the tide. (New York Water Taxi docks are spud barges.) The spud fits in a spudwell (a sleeve) that prevents the water from entering the main body of the vessel. In comparison, an anchor allows the vessel to swing in an arc. We are being spudded since many neighborhoods lack piers, or have piers without cleats and bollards (things to tie ships to). 

 back end of the boat.

 the driver's seat; where the boat is steered

 or "sacrificial anodes" are attached to the hull and other important metal pieces (rudder, shaft) to protect the metal from corrosion that results from electrical action in the water. The zinc is a weaker metal than the steel or bronze of the boat you are trying to protect, hence it is  consumed by the electrical, corrosive energies first and is "sacrified" as a way to save your necessary metal stuff.  The MARY will need about 32 twenty-five pound zincs.

Spatial orientation:

aft: in the back (the galley is aft) or behind something (aft of that porthole)

 off the boat and opposite the middle of the boat (the rock was abeam us when we saw it.)  Compare to midships.

 behind the boat

 in front (life rafts are forward) or in front of something (forward of that porthole)

when a boat leans over on its side (as sailboats do most of the time). Boats all rotate in space, unlike houses; and there is an extensive vocabulary (heel, trim, pitch, roll, yaw, heave) to describe their movements along different axis, but we won't tackle that all now. 

 in the middle of the boat (your cabin is amidships). Compare to abeam.

left (as in left or right side; or port and
starboard on boats).

right (as in left or right side; or port and starboard on boats).

Ship Lifestyle:

paperwork: dreaded; one of the things you went to sea to avoid, "that's for office people."


logbook: where all activities of the boat are recorded daily.  Weather, nature of the work, course (the ship's direction), visitors and exceptional events are all recorded.  On large vessels (tugs, tankers, other ships) a separate log is often kept for the engine room.  When there is an accident, the first thing the Coast Guard wants to see is the log book. (Compare to airplanes' "black box" recorders except that aboard a vessel, the officers control what's written.)

 a never-ending activity.

 your work shift. You stand watch, you don't work your watch.  On NYC tugs, captain's watches are from 6am-noon, and 6pm to midnight.  The mate gets the tougher midnight-6am and noon-6pm slots, though they refer to it with the 24 hour clock system not a.m. and p.m. as landlubbers do. 

weather:  often means bad weather, as in "we had some weather."

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