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Learning ‘Sailingo’

It’s easy for longtime sailors to forget how hard the ‘lingo’ can be for newcomers to learn. We were reminded of this recently when a newbie made the following observations:

“A rope is a rope until you bring it aboard a boat. Then it’s a line. Unless it’s used to pull sails, then it’s a sheet. Cut it into pieces and it can become a guy — but never a girl. Or a vang, outhaul, downhaul, gasket, topping lift, jackline, halyard, twing, reef point, traveler, or probably a bunch of other stuff. When you’re done sailing, that same bit of . . . cordage . . . can become a dockline or a spring. But as soon as you coil it up and step onto the dock, it’s a rope again.

“Isn’t that right?” he asked.

"Um, well . . . yeah. But it can still be a line . . . .”

“And you guys are writers, yet you never correct things like ‘down below’ and ‘up forward’. Aren’t those phrases redundant?”

By golly, he was right about that, too.

“And I’ve seen ‘anchors away!’ used lots of times to mean letting the anchor drop. I’ve also heard it used to mean raise the anchor. Which one’s right?”

"Well," we said loudly (relieved to finally get a question we could answer without sounding like dorks), "technically, ‘anchors aweigh’ — meaning to raise the anchor — is proper. But yes, we’ve often seen them confused, probably because ‘aweigh’ sounds just like ‘away’."

He took us to task on a couple other points, but frankly we have no idea why the place where the shrouds and forestay attach to the mast is called the hounds — or why it’s plural. Or why ‘fetch’ has nothing to do with any kind of, er, hound bringing back a stick you’ve thrown. But we were able to confirm that a winch has nothing to do with a wench. Even though some nonsailors also get those two mixed up sometimes.

There was more. No, on sailboats, mast cranes aren’t used to lift anything, and tabernacles have nothing to do with Morman choirs. When he started in on why ‘ceilings’ and ‘floors’ had nothing to do with their shoreside counterparts, we glanced nervously at our watch. Oh wow, look at the time! — we were, um, late for a meeting. Nice talking to you . . . bye.

Sheesh. Okay, okay. Points taken. Some ‘sailingo’ doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It’s still easier to understand than Australian.

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Okay, so we know we already showed you video of the AC45’s first sail in Monday’s ‘Lectronic.