Ship Lexicon

Typenaval terminology

Aftrear half of the ship
Beammaximum width of a ship
Bowfore part of the ship
Forefront half of the ship
Mastholds the sails
Portfacing the fore, the left side of the ship
Running the Gauntletpunishment
Starboardfacing the fore, the right side of the ship
Sternaft part of the ship
Yard, or Yardarmscrosspieces holding the sails

For major offenses on the ship, a sailor or convict is subjected to keelhauling. A punishment that often leads to the death of the creature.

A line is passed from one end of the main yard under the ship and up to the other end, and the victim is secured to one end with a deep sea lead tied to his feet, dropped and hauled under the ship and up the other side. The weight of the lead often keeps him clear of the hull. For those unfortunate, the body is thrashed against the ships barnacles, which tear him to pieces, apart from the possibility of being stuck against the keel. For larger craft, the keelhauling can leads to drowning.


In order from fore to aft, the masts on a sailing ship are called the fore, main, and mizzen masts; on a two-master, they are the main and mizzen masts; and, on a four-master, they are the fore, main, third, and mizzen masts.

Running the Gauntlet

One of the worst crimes in a ship is theft: in a ship of the line with 800 or so men on board, the presence of a thief on board could make everyone's life a misery, poisoning the air with suspicion, particularly because most sailors cannot lock up their valued possessions.

For minor offences a thief is made to run the gauntlet. For this, sailors are given rope yarns, which they plaited into knittles, with a half hitch in the end. They then stand in two rows, facing each other and leaving a corridor between them. The thief then has to strip off his shirt and is made to pass along the corridor, the master-at-arms walking slowly backwards in front of him and holding a cutlass at his chest and a ship's corporal following with another cutlass. The sailors then thrash the thief with the knittles as he passes - as he slowly walks, not runs, the gauntlet.