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The Patrick O'Brian Newsletter: Volume 3, Issue 2

September 1994


Editor's Column

On July 10 many of Patrick O'Brian's fans, along with millions of his future admirers, got their first glimpse of the author when CBS Sunday Morning aired its long-awaited interview, filmed during the publicity tour last November. O'Brian was shown reading from his work at a book shop in New York and at the National Archives in Washington, D. C., admiring scarlet ibis at the Bronx Zoo and a narwhal tusk at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and discussing the background to his work with host David Culhane. To order a tape of this July 10, 1994 show, log on to the CBS Store or call 1-800-242-7747.

While you are awaiting the publication of Aubrey/Maturin #17 (the manuscript is on my desk right now) you should visit your local book shop to sample the O'Brian-related titles that have appeared since the last newsletter: The Golden Ocean, the first sea story O'Brian ever wrote, and a precursor, chronologically, to the series; O'Brian's magnificent biography of Picasso in a paperback edition; and, from the British Library, a fascinating volume of critical essays about the author, including reviews and bibliographical information, entitled Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography.

The 1995 Patrick O'Brian Calendar, with new illustrations by Geoff Hunt, will be available soon at your local bookseller. Of particular interest here is the striking photograph of a Nile Medal awarded to an ancestor of Mrs. O'Brian's who participated in Nelson's great victory over the French fleet. Later this fall we will offer The Wine-Dark Sea in paperback and, for the collectors among you, hardcover editions of the entire series.

To return to the subject of Aubrey/Maturin #17: it is entitled The Commodore and publication is scheduled for April 1995. The subject is an expedition to suppress the slave trade off the west coast of Africa, and as the author explains, Jack and Stephen come home to find their respective spouses "not quite as they left them."


Thoughts on Pudding

The genus may be divided into three species, the first being the almost obsolete dish called ball, or herb-pudding, a solid object made of flour and suet, with thyme, rosemary, marjoram and the like sprinkled through its substance, the whole being wrapped in a cloth and boiled for some hours before being brought to the table earlier than anything else, since its function was to take the edge off extreme appetite before the appearance of better and more costly things.

Pudding!The second is made up of those which form the main substance of the meal, haggis, Burns's great chieftain of the pudding race, being a good example: though there is also a great deal to be said for steak and kidney pudding, in which the obvious ingredients (and occasionally larks) are enclosed in an envelope of paste or dough made of flour, water and suet and then boiled, wrapped in a pudding-cloth, for a great while.

But the third, and for many the most delightful, is that which appears when the meat has been taken away—the end and the crown of a dinner, reaching its apotheosis at Christmas, when the plum-pudding, a wonderful mixture of dried currants, raisins, rum, candied peel, spices, small silver charms, and of course the essential suet, comes to the table, blazing with brandy and topped with holly. Second only to that of Christmas we find a series of others, all founded upon that happy marriage of flour (two parts), suet (one part) and sugar consummated in a cloth or basin surrounded by boiling water. In Spotted Dog, for example, the dough is liberally sprinkled with fine bold currants and the cloth is tied tight, so that when the pudding is turned out on the dish its exterior is firm and relatively dry; in the version known as Drowned Baby, on the other hand, the cloth is somewhat looser, so that the resultant surface is agreeably glutinous. Plum duff is much the same, but prunes, sultanas or even dates take the place of currants (when it is made with raisins it is known as figgy-dowdy in the West of England). Then there is roly-poly, in which the dough or paste is rolled out, spread with jam and rolled up again before being put into its cloth and boiled; and to this day a square in Lisbon is called after it, because the elegant paving has much the same pattern.

Other sweet dishes sometimes reach the table at the end of the meal, and by extension they too are called puddings; but although there are respectable tarts, pies and preparations based on rice, most of the custards, sillabubs, flummeries and other kickshaws do not deserve the name at all, which should be reserved for nobler objects altogether, the true heroes' delight.


Useful Terms: A through LM through SpSq through Z

Abaft the Beam Behind a horizontal line drawn through the middle of the ship, at right angles to the keel.

Afterguard The seamen who are stationed on the poop and quarter deck of the vessel, to attend and work the after sails etc.

Afternoon Watch The watch from noon until 4 p.m. The nautical day begins at noon.

Aweather Toward the weather or windward side of the vessel. The opposite of Alee.

Back (to) To brace the weather yardarm in so that the wind acts on the forward part of the sail, pressing it back.

Backstays Ropes forming part of the standing rigging. They stretch from mastheads and tend aft from the masts. They serve to support the masts against forward pull and are named according to the mast they support.

Barge A long, narrow, light boat, employed to carry the principal sea officers, such as admirals and captains of ships of war, to shore. They were very unfit for open sea.

Bark (also Barque) In Aubrey's time barque meant barque-rigged, i.e. fore and aft on the mizzen.

Beam The lumbers that run horizontally across the deck from side to side.

Beam-Ends A vessel is on her beam-ends when listed to an angle where her beams are almost vertical, and her righting power insufficient to return her to the upright.

Bear away To put the helm up and run off to leeward. To put before the wind.

Before the mast An expression used to describe the station of seamen who had their accommodations in the forward part of the ship, as distinguished from officers who were berthed aft. Thus a man before the mast meant a common sailor and not an officer.

Binnacle A wooden case or box, which contained compasses, log-glasses, watch-glasses and lights to show the compass at night. There were always two binnacles on the deck of a ship of war, one being designed for the man who steered, the other for the person who superintended the steerage, whose office was called conning.

Boom See under brig.

Blue Peter A blue signal flag with white square in the center, hoisted on the foremast to indicate a vessel is ready to sail. It was a recall to the crew "that they repair on board" and for shoresiders to conclude any business they had with the vessel.

Bowline A rope fastened near the middle of the leech, or perpendicular edge of the square sails, by three or four subordinate parts called bridles. It was only used when the wind was so unfavorable that the sails had to be braced sideways, or close hauled to the wind: In this situation the bowlines were employed to keep the weather, or windward, edges of the principal sails tight forward and steady, without which they would always be shivering, and rendered incapable of service.

Bowsprit A large spar which projects forward from the stem of a vessel. Its purpose is to extend the head sails, thereby counteracting the effect of the after sails and keeping the sail plan balanced. It is also one of the main supporters of the foremast, which is fastened to it by stays.

Box Hauling A method of bringing a close-hauled ship around upon the other tack by throwing the head sails aback, if it refuses to tack and there is no room to wear.

Brace A rope attached to the end of a yard to haul it aft.

Brig A two-masted vessel, mostly square-rigged, but with a fore-and-aft mainsail.

Bring by the lee To incline so rapidly to leeward of the course, when the ship sails large, as to bring the lee-side unexpectedly to windward; and by laying all the sails aback expose her to the danger of upsetting.

Burgoo Various definitions: 1. Oatmeal porridge, 2. hard tack and molasses. It was not considered a fancy dish.

By and Large See full and by.

Cat (to) To heave the ring of a stocked anchor to the cat head.

Catheads Two strong short beams of timber, projecting almost horizontally over the ships bows, on each side of the bowsprit.

Clew (to) To haul a square sail up to a yard previous to furling by means of clew lines.

Clew lines Lines running from the corner of the sail, known as the clew, to the yardarm and down to the deck.

Close hauled See under Bowline.

Club haul A method of tacking, by letting go the lee anchor as soon as the wind is out of the sails, which brings the ship's head to wind, and as soon as she pays off the cable is cut and the sails trimmed. Only resorted to in perilous situations, and when it is expected the ship will miss stays.

Cockpit Compartment on a warship where the wounded and ill were tended. Usage now extends to any well or sunken space in the afterdeck of a small craft, with a coaming of about 6 inches.

Condemnation Confiscation of a vessel or her cargo, or both, as decreed by a prize court of the belligerent.

Dead reckoning The process by which the position of the ship at any moment is found, without any observation of the sun or stars, by applying to the last well-determined position the run that has been made since, using for this purpose the ship's course indicated by its compass, the distance indicated by the log, and taking into account drift and leeway.

Depth measurement See marks and deeps.

Dog Watch One of the two two-hour watches between 4 and 8 p.m. The dog watches permit a shift in the order of the watch every 24 hours so that the same men will not have the same watch every night.

Driver Sometimes used for the spanker, sometimes for a studdingsail-like addition to the spanker, but in either case, the aftermost sail in a ship.

First Watch The four-hour watch between 8 p.m. and midnight.

Forecastle (fo'c's'l) The raised platform at the bow of a ship, often armored, for musketeers. In some ships it was the location, ergo the name, of the crew's quarters.

Forenoon Watch A name given to the watch from 8 a.m. to noon.

Forepeak See peak.

Free a ship Running free when it is not obliged to brace its yards sharp up (move them closer to a fore-and-aft position). The converse of close-hauled.

Full and By Said of a sailing vessel when all sails are drawing full and the course steered is as close to the wind as possible. Sometimes known as sailing by and large.

Futtock A name given to the curved pieces of timber which compose the frame timbers. They are named according to their location: first futtock, second futtock, etc.

Gammoning The art of binding the rope (and hence its name) which secures the bowsprit to the stem piece and is passed backward and forward in the form of an X over the bowsprit, to enable it to support the stays of the foremast and carry sail in the fore part of the vessel.

Gudgeon (or Goodgeon) One of the several iron lugs (sockets) projecting from the after side of the stern or rudder post to support the rudder. Each gudgeon is bored out to receive the corresponding pintle fastened to the forepart of the rudder, which thus turns as upon hinges. See also pintle.

Halyard The rope used for hoisting or lowering spars, yards, or sails on their respective masts or stays.

Hard tack See ship's biscuit.

Haul off (to) To alter the course of a ship so as to get further away from an object.

Hawse The general region around the ship's head where the hawse-holes, through which the cables pass, are to be found: it also applies to the air and sea somewhat ahead, where the cables would be if the ship were anchored.

Headsails Generic term for all sails which may be set on the bowsprit, or foremast. As opposed to aftersails.

Heel (to) To stoop or incline to either side due to the action of the wind, waves, a greater weight on one side, etc. Usually temporary.

Hollow Sea A condition usually occurring where there is shoaling water or a current setting against the waves. The line from crest to trough makes a sharp angle, and consequently the sea is very dangerous.

Hull Down Said of a vessel when it is so far away from the observer that the hull is invisible owing to the convexity of the earth's surface, while the masts are still seen. The opposite of hull up.

Hull Up See hull down.

Jury mast A temporary or makeshift mast set up by the ship's crew to take the place of one which has been lost or carried away.

Kites In general, the highest and lightest sails set above royals, such as skysails, moonsails and stargazers; also royal and topgallant studding sails.

Knee A timber with two arms at right angles or nearly so, used to connect a ship's beams with her sides or timbers.

Knot A vessel's rate of speed, a nautical mile per hour. Measured by running out a stern line (or log line) knotted at measured intervals which bear the same proportion to a mile as half a second does to an hour.

Lanyard 1. A line to make an object fast or to aid in carrying it. 2. The line by which a sailing ship's shroud is secured to a chainplate.

Larboard The left, or port, side of any craft when facing the bow. Perhaps derived from the 13th century English word laddebord, or loading side; some suggest it goes all the way back to the Norse word hlada bord of the same meaning.

Large To sail large is to run with the sheets eased off when the wind is from abaft the beam and the bowlines are entirely disused so that the sails receive the full effect of the wind. Also known as to sail free.

Lay aloft Order given to the crew to go up into the rigging.

Leeway The lateral movement of a ship to leeward of her course, estimated from the angle formed between the line of the ship's keel and the line which the ship actually describes through the water, as shown by her wake.

Loblolly boy A surgeon's assistant aboard ship. Loblolly, another form of burgoo, was the name for the gruel or porridge usually served to the surgeon's patient in the sickbay.

Lubber's hole The vacant space between the head of the lower mast and the edge of the top (the platform which rests upon the crosstrees at the head of a lower mast), through which those not wanting to use the futtock shrouds could go further aloft.

Luff (to) To bring a vessel's head nearer to the wind, so the sails start to spill wind, by putting the helm down or increasing the sail area toward the stern. Also the order—as in "luff round!" or "luff up!"—to throw the ship's head into the wind in order to tack.

Useful Terms, continued: M through SpSq through Z


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