Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Parts of a Ship

Since I post a fair amount of ships on this blog, I figured a tutorial of some of the terms of a ship would be helpful.  I've enlisted a few of my ship pictures to illustrate these terms.
 To people who don't pay attention to ships, some of the terms can be confusing.  Many of these terms go back to the early days of sailing but have stuck around because of general use.  I will go over the terms where appropriate.
 We will start with a head on shot to illustrate the sides of a ship.  Keep in mind, I am using these terms in reference to the ship and not to the observer, so they will be opposite on the picture.

The right side of a ship is called the starboard.  It actually has nothing to do with the stars but more to do with how our language has changes over the years.  Before the invention of the rudder, ships would have steering oars to guide the ship.  Because the majority of the sailors were right handed, these steering oars were affixed to the right of the ship.  In Old English, this was spelled steorbord which meant the side the ship was steered on.  This came from the Old Norse words styri which meant rudder and bord which meant the side of the ship.

The left side of the ship used to be called larboard which came from the Middle English word ladebord.  Lade meant the side the ship was loaded on.  But larboard could easily become confused with starboard, so port came into usage.  The reason it was called port was because ships would have to dock on the left side so that they wouldn't damage their steering oars.  The term port did not officially become a part of the Royal Navy lexicon until 1844 when the captain of the HMS Beagle instilled it in his crew (it was used in the merchant service much longer).

Sometimes you may notice colored lights on ships.  These are always red and green.  The red light indicates the port or left side of the vessel and green always indicates the starboard or right side of the vessel.  These colors are also the same on aircraft.  Next time you are on a plane and if you have a window seat, look out at the wing and notice the color at the tip of the wing.
 The front of a ship is always called the bow.  It also comes from the days of sail.  When ships were made out of wood, the front of the ship would be made out of a curved piece of wood because of it's strength.  The word bow might have its origins in the word bough.  Sometimes you were hear the front of a ship called a prow.  Technically the prow is the portion of the ship that is above the water.  In old nautical terms, this was also place where the foreward guns were placed.
 This part of the ship is called the forecastle.  In old sailing days, the forecastle would refer to any part of the ship in front of the forward mast.  Sometimes you will see this pronounced as "fo'c'sle".  On old ships, is is also where the men would sleep.
 Many ships will have a long pole sticking out in front of the bow.  This is called a steering pole.  It gives the pilot (or wheelsman) something that they can use to tell where the front of the ship is pointing.  Typically there will be a bright sheet of metal at the tip of the pole.
 There are a number of terms for this part of the ship.  I've seen it called the pilothouse, wheelhouse or bridge.  This is basically where the ship is controlled from.  Somewhere in here, you'd have a wheel that is used to steer the ship.  There is also a device called a chadburn telegraph which is used to tell the engine room what speed to set at.  Modern pilothouses will have GPS, radars and other equipment which can be used to guide the ship.  Older pilothouses will have a room where charts are stored.  Typically the term bridge will be used with warships.

On a classic laker, the area below the pilothouse is where the captain and VIPs sleep.
 The middle of a ship is referred to as either midship or amidship.  That term is pretty straigthforward.
 Many modern ships on the Great Lakes will have a crane much like this one.  This is typically referred to as a self-unloading crane.  It allows ships to unload their own cargo and cuts the unloading times down considerably.  If I were able to get a more overhead view, you would see the cargo hatches.  These are typically arranged to standard dimensions and are loaded by hoppers.  A laker without one of these cranes is referred to as a straight decker.
 This is called the deckhouse.  This is typically where the rest of the crew sleep.  This is also where the galley is kept.  Below the deckhouse is the engine room.
The back of a ship is called the stern or aft.  Much like the top portion of the front of a ship is called the forecastle, I've seen this called the aftcastle.   The flag flying on the back of the ship is the country where the ship is registered.  In this case, the Lee A. Tregurtha is registered in the United States.

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