"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

August 8, 2017

Why is the Head a Head?

“When I forget how talented God is, I look to the sea.” —Whoopi Goldberg

We've had our grandson come stay with us on The Pearl several times this summer. He's very inquisitive..."why" is his favorite word. He wants to know everything about the boat, how things work and why certain things on a boat are called what they're called. You know the head, the galley, stateroom, berth...so it got me thinking the same thing, why do we call it the head? What's the history of these words and where did they originate?

Head - The lavatory aboard a ship is known as the "head". The expression comes from the fact that the toilet on old sailing ships was located forward, close to the figurehead or the "head" of the vessel.
Galley - The galley is the kitchen of the ship. The best explanation as to its origin is that it is a corruption of gallery. Ancient sailors cooked their meals on a brick or stone gallery laid amidships.
Port and Starboard - Port is the nautical term for left and starboard means right. Originally the words come from the old sailing ships that did not have a rudder and were steered using a board on the right side which became known as the "steerboard" side, the other side of the vessel was called the port side as the boat was docked on this side so as to not interfere with the steering board.
Saloon - pronounced “salon” is the social area of a large boat used for entertaining, eating and relaxing. Research indicates saloons were in boats before they were in bars.      
Stateroom – Boats don’t have bedrooms, they have staterooms. This is thought to originate from the days when only officers or important people “of state” or status had private rooms on a ship.

Berth - A berth is a built in bed or sleeping accommodation on a vehicle. They are usually stacked on top of each other or fitted into a small space and are smaller than a normal bed.   
Helm - Helm is the term that refers to the area from which the boat is steered and otherwise commanded. The term comes from an older English word that means “rudder.”
Why is a ship referred to as she? - This old tradition is thought to come from the fact that in the Romance languages, the word for "ship" is always in the feminine. For this reason, Mediterranean sailors always referred to their ship as "she", and the practice was adopted over the centuries by their English-speaking counterparts. But a more entertaining answer to the question is this…“A ship is called a she because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about; she has a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her good-looking; it is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep; she can be all decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly; and without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable. She shows her topsides, hides her bottom and, when coming into port, always heads for the buoys.”

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