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V   Victor

You may pass ahead of me

Vang,  Variation,  Varnish,  Vector,  Veer,  Vessel,  VHF,  Visibility,  VLCC,  Voyage,  Voyol


line used for controlling a gaff or sprit.   Vangs may extend from the peak of a gaff or sprit  (spreet) to the quarters.

When a Thames barge,  sprit-rigged,  is hard on the wind the peak of the spreet tends to sag away to leeward,  carrying the clew of the topsail with it.   The windward vang is used to haul the peak of the spreet to windward and improve the efficiency of both the mainsail and the topsail.

With vangs correctly used both sprit- and gaff-rigged vessels are able to sail almost as close to the wind as a Bermudan-rigged vessel.


In the USA a kicking strap (strop),  which extends from the heel of the mast to the boom,  may be called a vang.

The confusion may have arisen because a balanced lugsail is said to be 'self-vanging':  the tack line pulls taut both the luff and the leech of the balanced lugsail,  keeping the boom and the yard almost parallel.   The peak of the yard does not need a vang to prevent it sagging to leeward.

By contrast,  the peaks of both gaff sails and sprit sails need vangs to pull them to windward.



The angular difference between the direction to the true North pole and the direction to the magnetic North pole from the observer.   On a large scale chart the Variation is recorded on each of the compass roses on the chart.   On a small scale chart Variation is recorded as curved lines across the chart.

Charts are orientated to True North,  but a magnetic compass (in the absence of deviation) points to Magnetic North.   A course plotted on a chart must be converted from True to Magnetic (and then to Compass);  a course measured by compass must be converted to Magnetic and then to True before being recorded on the chart.

For these two conversions a useful mnemonic is 

Error West,  compass best,

Error East,  compass least.

‘Error’ refers to Variation;  ‘best’  means that its numerical value is higher;  ‘least’  means that its numerical value is lower.


n   A clear,  or mildly pigmented,  viscous or semi-viscous liquid used to coat,  or cover the surface of wood or (occasionally) metal to enhance its appearance and to prevent or retard degradation by environmental factors,  especially ultra-violet light.   With time and either oxidation or polymerisation varnish becomes more or less hard and impenetrable.

v   To apply a thin layer of varnish to a surface using a brush,  roller or foam pad.

The process of applying varnish is an arcane art about which many books and articles have been written and videos published.

Woodwork which has been varnished,  and metalwork which has been polished,  is referred to as 'brightwork'.

See paint,  coat.



A line,  drawn on a chart,  which represents both direction and speed.   The Water Track (heading & speed through the water),  the Ground Track (course over the ground and SOG) and Tide vector (set and drift) make up a Triangle of Vectors.

Strictly,  a vector is a line which represents direction and magnitude:   magnitude,  on a chart,  refers to speed:   all three vectors in a triangle of vectors must have the same time (usually the one hour of the tidal hour),  so magnitude refers to distance (travelled in the time period),  and is,  therefore  equivalent to speed.



The wind veers when it changes direction in a clockwise manner,  eg from Westerly to Nor’westerly.

It backs when it changes direction in an anti-clockwise manner.

The meaning has changed over the centuries,  as meteorology has become more scientific and formalised.   To Falconer,  in 1815,   veering the ship meant the same as wearing ship;  that is,  changing tack by turning downwind,  either to port or to starboard.   When Falconer's wind veered,  it became more fair for sailing,  ie,  it moved aft,  either clockwise or anticlockwise.  When a line was veered,  it was eased slowly,  and not let go.

See back.

In 1580 'to veer' meant "to change direction" (originally of the wind; in 1610, of a ship), from Middle French virer "to turn" (12c.)



A floating object for moving people or cargo.

There are very many types of vessels,  of which the following are a few.

Ballatoon,  Ballinger,  banker,  barca-longa,  bargebark (barque),  barquentine,  bawley,  bean-cod,  bilander,  billy-boy,  Blekingseka,  boat,  brigbrigantine,  bugalet,  canoe,  caragues,  caravelcarrackcatamarancatboat,  ceol,  champan,  chasse-maree,  chebacco (dogbody),  clipper,  coble,  cock-boat,  cod-fisher,  cog,  collier,  coracle,  corsair,  corvette,  cruiser,  cruise linercutterdhowdinghy,  dogger,  drifter,  DUKW,   felucca,  ferry (roro),  fifie,  fishing,  fluyt,  flyboat,  freighter,  frigate,  galiote, galleas,  galleongalley,  gig,  gondola,  hooker,  houarios, hovercraft,  hoveller,  howker,  hoy,  hydrofoil,  jolly boat,  junkkeelketch,  knockabout,  koff,  launchlighter,  liner,  longboat,  longship,  lugger,  man-o’-war,  moses,  mule,  Oselver,  packet,  periagua,  peterboat,  pilot boat,  Pink,  Pleasure,  polacre,  pontoon boat,  privateer,  punt,  raft,  razee,  runabout,  sampan,  schooner,  scow,  Schuit,  semaque,  ship,  shallop,  skaffieskiff,  skipjack,  Skuta,  sloop, smack,  snow,  submarine,  tendertrimaran,  trireme,  Una,  VLCC,  WIG,  whammel,  wherryxebecyawlzulu



Very High Frequency.

A compound adjective describing a form of radio communication using very high frequency ( between 156.0 and 174 MHz) radio waves.   VHF radios may be small (handheld and pocket-portable) or may be permanently mounted at the chart table of a vessel.   They are ubiquitous.

Digital Selective Calling (DSC) radios are gradually evolving from simple VHF transmitters/receivers.


Good visibility is when you can see for more than 5 miles.

Moderate visibility is when you can see for more than 2,  but less than 5 miles.

Poor visibility is when you can see for less than 2 miles.

Fog is when you can see for less than 1000m.

Good visibility implies clear air and no precipitation,  fog or haze.   Weather forecasts imply a nominal maximum visibility of 5 miles,  but the actual distance depends on the height of the observer's eyes above sea level.   The terms 'good',  'moderate' and 'poor' are precise terms used in the Shipping Forecast.

Many factors,  including pollution (haze),  precipitation and fog can reduce visibility.

In reduced visibility IRPCS Rule 19 applies.


Very Large Crude Carrier.

A vessel which carries large amounts of crude oil.


Velocity made good (to windward).

Sailing vessels always sail at an angle to both the true and the apparent wind.   The wind speed and direction are measured by sensors at the top of the mast and relayed to screens at deck level.

Speed through the water is measured by the log;   speed over the ground is measured by the GNSS instrument.

The instruments may be connected together (often wirelessly) by NMEA 2000.

By measuring the speed over the ground,  and the relative angle of the wind the instrument can calculate the velocity made good to windward.



n   A journey by water on or in a vessel.

v   To travel by water.



A large endless rope used to heave up (or weigh) the anchor of a ship by transmitting the effort of the capstan to the cable.

The anchor cable of a ship of the line was too large to wind around the capstan,  so it lay in a more or less straight line from the hawse hole along the deck and then down to the cable tier.   The voyol was wound around the capstan and laid alongside the cable,  to which it was nipped by lengths of braided line.   As the capstan was turned it moved the voyol which,  being nipped to the cable,  pulled the cable.

As the nipped cable approached the capstan the nipper was removed and one of the ship's children (a nipper!) carried it back to one of the nipper-men who nipped a fresh part of the voyol to a fresh part of the cable.

See Messenger


John Starkie

April 2024

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