Pirate Lingo

Aft: The rear (stern) of a ship.

Amidships: The ship’s center.

Ballast: Weight placed in the lower middle of a ship to help keep it steady in water.

Bilge: The broadest part of the hold at the bottom of a ship. Pumps are often placed here to evacuate water from leaky vessels.

Bow: The front of a ship.

Bowsprit: The beam that extends out from the front of the ship.

Buccaneer: Originally a term for those who cooked with “barbecues” called “boucans,” given to early European settlers of the Caribbean by Arawak Indians. Eventually, pirates of the Caribbean region became known as buccaneers.

Bulwark: The “rim” of the ship that runs around the top of the upper deck.

Capstan: A large wheel around which is wound the anchor chain.

Cartagena: A town in present-day Columbia that was home to a famous pirate prison. The prisoners staged a famous escape from this hell-hole in 1640.

Corsairs: Privateers operating in the Mediterranean. Most were French or Turkish, though the Knights of Malta were also notorious for attacking Moslem ships (and vice versa), and thus became known as corsairs as well.

Crow’s Nest: A lookout “basket” high atop the main mast.

Forecastle: The raised platform at the front of the ship designed to provide a high fighting platform during close quarters.

Hold: The large space in the center of the ship used for storing cargo.

Keel: The central bottom beam that forms the “spine” of a wooden ship.

Knot: A measurement of ship’s speed. One knot is equal to one nautical mile an hour.

Main (Yard): The crossbeam from which a ship’s main sail hangs.

Mast: One of the towering poles upon which the ship’s sails hang. The large one inthe central is the mainmast, the rear-most is the mizzen.

Native: A race unique to Caribdus. Any nonhuman. Even humans born on Caribdus are “visitors.”

Poop Deck: The rear raised area of a ship designed to provide an elevated fighting platform during boarding actions or close combat. Also called the sterncastle.

Port: The left-hand side of a ship as it faces forward.

Privateer: Officially, privateers were captains given official (royal) “letters of marque” to attack nations currently at war with the home government. Many privateers exploited their commission and attacked whatever targets they could find, exploiting loopholes or outright lying to capture foreign prize ships.

Prize Ship: A captured ship. A ship loaded with treasure could provide booty for entire crews to retire for life—but amazingly most squandered their ill-gotten gains on wine and women in only a few short weeks.

Rigging: The various ropes used to operate and secure the various sails and masts.

Spanish Main: The “Spanish Main” refers to parts of Central and South America, from upper Mexico to lower Peru, conquered by the Conquistadors. Spanish ships of the Main were often rich prizes for pirates—loaded with gold stolen from the Aztecs and Mayans.

Spritsail: A small sail sometimes attached to the bowsprit.

Starboard: The right-hand side of a ship as it faces forward.

Stem: The thin forward area of the ship that parts the water before it.

Sterncastle: See Poop Deck.

Visitor: A human from Earth, regardless ofwhere they were born.

Whipstaff: A long stick used to steer before the addition of captain’s wheels.

Yard: A pole from which sails are hung.

Pirate Lingo

The Seas of Caribdus rma1979