Friday, 15 July 2016

Nautical Terms

The Merman's Children.

The cog "...can tack." (p.77) "...tack..." is one of those words that I read in context, get some idea of what it means, then forget about it.

"...he had...the sail struck." (p. 77) Another one.

"...he could ray for an end to the blow..." (ibid.) That one is unfamiliar.

"...amidst hail and scud." (pp. 78-79)

"Hatch coamings sprung..." (p. 79)

"'...the sea is shoaling...'" (ibid.)

"...the forestay parted." (ibid.)

"...a wrack flew low overhead." (ibid.)

"...well-nigh on her beam ends." (ibid.)

"The ship rolled back and forth toward a more even keel. Water torrented through her scuppers." (ibid.)

We learn that the selkie are were-seals.

"...spars fetched from below..." (p. 82)

"...raised the yard..." (p. 83)

"...he took the helm..." (ibid.)

"'...first we maun caulk..." (p. 84)

"Bast for that purpose was stowed aboard. Ordinarily the ship would have been careened..." (ibid.)


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    This skillful and correct use of technical terminology shows how carefully Poul Anderson did his research before or during his writing of THE MERMAN'S CHILDREN. A trait share as well by S.M. Stirling.


  2. Paul:
    I think "ray for and end to the blow" may be an error for "pray for an end to the blow." Whether it was PA's slip of the (figurative) pen, or a typesetter's, I don't know. But I come across such mistakes all the time, in works by even the most erudite writers (not to mention committing them myself).

    Another nautical term for which I had a vague notion of the meaning: "wear ship." I could tell it meant "turn"; when I finally looked it up, it specifically means "turn away from the wind."

  3. Addition to my last:
    And, with great irony, my post just included such a slip of the keyboard, when I used "and" where I meant "an" in my first quote of PA's line. In the words of Harlan Ellison, "Aaaarrrgh, I aaaarrrghed."