K   Kilo

You should stop your vessel immediately


A small fully decked boat,  for one or two people,  between 10 and 20 feet long and 20 to 30 inches beam,  propelled by one or two double ended paddles.


n  A small anchor,  usually deployed at the stern.

v   to kedge;  to use the kedge anchor to move the boat from place to place.



n   The central,  underwater,  ‘backbone’ of the boat,  from the stem to the stern.

n   A fin projecting down below the boat,  which acts against the water to inhibit sideways movement (leeway) of the boat and which may be weighted to keep the boat upright.

There are many forms of leeway-resisting keel.

A fin keel has a high aspect ratio:  it is deeper than it is long.   For a given area a higher aspect fin keel is more efficient (at leeway resistance) than a lower aspect ratio.   It tacks quickly and easily but does not hold its course.

A long keel has a low aspect ratio:  it holds its course better than a fin,  but is more difficult to turn and to tack.

There is a spectrum between extreme fin keels and long keels;  boats can be seen representing all points on the spectrum.

Twin keels and bilge keels are useful where boats need to take the ground at their half-tide moorings.

Bilge keels

Bilge keels

Twin keels

Twin keels

Daggerboards,  centreboards and leeboards are all leeway-resisting forms of keel.

n   The Humber Keel, a flat-bottomed boat,  with a single square-rigged sail and two big leeboards but no keel(!)*,  once used to transport goods on the Humber.   Although square-rigged they could sail close to the wind.

*  Although Chatterton wrote that the keel had a detachable keel,  which could be unshipped when the vessel came to shallow water.

Humber Keel


An open boat,  a day-sailor,  with a deep fin keel,  usually with a bulb of lead at the bottom.

The National Squib and the Crouch One-design are both keelboats.


Severe,  often capital,  punishment for shipboard crimes,  especially in the Dutch Navy.

The criminal would be suspended from a yardarm with weights tied to his legs.   He would be dropped into the sea and then hauled under the ship up to the opposite yardarm.


A timber in the interior of the ship bolted on over the keel and floor timbers.



v   To maintain a distance or position.

"To keep a mark to starboard" is to ensure that the mark (or buoy) passes down the starboard side of the vessel.

"To keep the land" is to ensure that the land remains in sight.

"To keep the luff" is to ensure that the vessel stays close to the wind,  but not so close that the sails become a'back.


A weight hung from the anchor rode to make the pull on the anchor more nearly horizontal.   See Angel,  Chum.

See Sentinel.


The slit made in a piece of wood by a sawcut.


Sailing boats are now (early C21) defined by their rig.   In earlier centuries they were defined more by their purpose or size.   As the purpose,  size and rig evolved over decades and centuries names tended to linger,  so that in two different centuries boats with the same type-name might be very different.


A ketch has two masts,  the mizzen mast being shorter than the main mast.   Both the mainsail and the mizzen sail may be Bermudan or gaff-rigged;  rarely with a gunter.   The mizzen mast is stepped well forward of the rudder head:  the mizzen sail,  though smaller,  is of a significant size compared to the mainsail.



Strong pieces of wood,  attached to the side of a ship,  to which the sheets and tacks are belayed.

Kevel-heads were the upward extensions of the frame timbers for the same purpose.

Modern-day (early C21) yachts use wooden,  metal or plastic cleats.



n   See Quay.

n   Rocks and islands,  low in the water or just below water,  in the West Indies.

n   A small portable device for locking and unlocking cupboards,  lockers,  doors,  hatches,  padlocks.

Kicking strap

A line,  or a strut,  between the boom and the heel of the mast on a Bermudan rigged boat.   It pulls the boom downward,  flattening the mainsail,  tightening the leech,  reducing twist and,  possibly,  bending the mast.

Gaff-rigged boats do not,  usually,  have a kicking strap;  the boom is heavy enough to keep the sail flat and to reduce the effects of a 'Chinese gybe'.

On a lug-rigged boat the work of the kicking strap is done by the tackline or tack purchase.

In the USA a kicking strap is called a boom-vang (see vang),  and a tackline or tack purchase might be called a 'downhaul'.


The centreline plank of a laid (planked) foredeck.   It is often a structural component linking the stem with the deck beams.


A twist or a turn which causes a few turns of a line to become unlayed.   See Grockle.

Kissing the gunner's daughter

Bending over the barrel of a gun (cannon),  to be beaten on the buttocks with a cane or belt.

Kitchen rudder

A hinged cowling around a fixed propeller.

The drive can be directed from side to side,  augmenting or replacing the rudder.

The drive can also be directed forward so reversing the vessel without slowing or stopping the propeller.


A brace,  often of wood,  which connects a beam or a thwart to the planking.


This massive wooden knee links the deck beams of Victory,  a ship of the line,  Nelson's flagship,  to the planking.   It is a 'hanging knee'  because it appears to hang below the beam.   Similar braces placed horizontally between beam and planking or shelving would be 'lodging knees'.

(The electrical wiring is C20)



The timbers on each side of the stem which contain the bowsprit between them,  and to which the gammoning is secured.

Knight-heads were also used to support the spindle of the anchor windlass,  when the upper parts became bitts to secure the rode.

Their tops were often carved to resemble human heads,  hence their name.



See Nettle.


When a sailing boat is struck by a sudden (unexpected) gust of wind it may heel so that its mast is horizontal,  flat on the water.


n   A method of fastening or securing linear material such as rope by tying or interweaving.

A knot joins two parts of the same line,  as,  for example,  the knot which creates a bowline loop.

A bend joins two different lines together,  as,  for example,  a sheet bend which joins two lines of different thicknesses.

A hitch joins a line to a spar,  as,  for example,  a ha'lyard hitch.

The different terms are widely misused.   For example,  a sail may be bent to a spar.

See http://www.animatedknots.com/

n   A measure of the speed of a boat,  aeroplane or the wind:  one knot is one nautical mile per hour.  


When the log (a triangular piece of wood) was cast from the stern of the ship a string,  with knots every 47ft 3in,  was run from a reel through the midshipman’s hand.   The number of knots which passed through his hand in 28 seconds was the speed of the vessel,  in nautical miles per hour (knots).   See also Log.


In the 21st century ship's logs are electro-mechanical or acoustic.

n   The hard, cross-grained mass of wood at the place where a branch joins the trunk of a tree.

n   A dumpy, short-legged, stocky wading bird. In winter, it is grey above and white below; in summer the chest, belly and face are brick-red.


John Starkie

December 2017

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