Business - Historic Boating
Historic boating jargon is a very niche area that was probably started at the birth of boating.
Fortunately historic boating jargon can be pretty practical in its interpretation as a lot of the jargon
terms make perfect sense when explained.
Much of the historic boating jargon refers to carpentry and joinery as most of the historic boats were
originally made from wood. Master boat builders over time evolved their own boat building jargon that we now refer
to as historic.
Historic boat building jargon simply adds to the fascination many people have with boating in
general. It is said that owing and enjoying a boat is like having a money pit so understanding the historic boat
building jargon is vital.
The Historic Boating Jargon.
ADMIRAL BOATS; Some of the last boats built for British Waterways commercial carrying fleet, 1959 to 1960. Built
either by W.J.Yarwoods, or Isaac Pimblott of Northwich, all boats were welded, and named after Admirals of the
ANSER PIN; Positioned on the top stern plank of a butty, below the hatches, or on the stern gunnel of a
motorboat, and used for connecting ropes to control or tie up the boat.
BACK CABIN; The cabin at the stern of the boat, usually around 8ft 6" in length.
BACK END; The space immediately in front of the back cabin.
BACK END RAIL; The iron bar with sliding ring fixed to the front bulkhead of an engine room.
BEAMS; The three beams that span the hold, and support the mast and two stands.
BEAM BRACKETS; Made of iron, and bolt under the gunnel to support the beams.
BLOCKING HOOK; Positioned on a lock side, at the tail of a lock to position a line when starting a horseboat out
of the lock to give a 2:1 reduction, (line through a pulley on the mast).
BLUE TOPS; All steel welded boats built either by the Thames Launch Works Ltd of Teddington, or E.C.Jones of
Brentford. Built between 1957 and1961,they were all named after 3 letter rivers. The usual boatman's name for
these; Dustbin boats!
BOLLARD; Used for tying up a boat on a mooring.
BOW LOCKER; The area below the foredeck, used for storing ropes etc.
BOW FENDER; Front fender hanging from the T stud. It should lift off easily, and be held with lines that can
break if it gets caught on part of a lock.
BRAITHWAITE; A boat built by Braithwaite and Kirk of West Bromwich; typically some FMC butty boats.
BUCKBY CAN; A water can specifically purchased from the lockside shop at Buckby.
BULK CRATCH; A type of cratch that overhangs the foredeck, made from timber and canvas.
BULKHEAD; A vertical partition that divides the boat into sections.
BUTTY BOAT; Either built as a boat to be towed, or as a horseboat subsequently towed; no engine fitted.
CABIN BLOCK; Sits on the front of a back cabin, and supports the top plank.Usually castles painted both
CAULKING IRONS; Used to force the oakum into the seams of wooden boats.
CANTS; The timbers at the edge of the the counter and foredeck; used as a safety edge and about 2" high.
CHECKING POST; Usually around locks; used to check or control the movement of a boat.
CHINE; The bottom 10 to 12 inches of a boat side, that is angled in to the boat centre.
CHINE ANGLE; The angle iron that connects the chine to the boat bottom.
COMPOSITE BOAT; A narrowboat with iron or steel sides to the hull, and a wooden hull bottom.
COUNTER; The rear deck on a motor boat.
COUNTER BLOCK; A large timber that forms the curved shape of the counter on a wooden boat.
CRATCH; The whole wooden structure at the front of the boat, designed to keep water out when the boat is both
deeply loaded, and when ascending locks.
CRATCH BOARD; The wooden board that is the front of the cratch that sits on the deck beam.
CROSS STRAPS; Two lines around 5 ft in length, used to connect an empty butty T stud to the towing
CUTTER; Band of brass across the top of en exhaust pipe to break up the blast from the engine.
DECK BEAM; A wooden beam across the width of the boat, at the rear of the foredeck.
DECK LID; The lid on the foredeck to gain access to the bow locker.
DOLLY; Two of on the stern of a motorboat, used for tying up and pulling with.
FALSE CRATCH; The structure to the rear of the cratchboard to support the canvasses and strings.
FLOATS; The horizontal timbers on a butty rudder.
FOREDECK; The front deck of a boat, usually with a lid for access to the bow locker.
FORECABIN; A smaller cabin at the front of the boat, usually used by children, which replaced some of the
GAS BOAT; Boats owned by Thomas Clayton of Oldbury, and used to transport liquid fuels.
GUNNEL; Wooden timbers 5"x 2" that form the top of the boat sides.
HATCHES; The standing area on a horseboat or butty, to the rear of the cabin, or forward of the counter on a
HOLD; The cargo space on a narrowboat, between the foredeck and back cabin.
JOEY; An open day boat, used mainly on the BCN canal network.
JOSHER; Boat owned by Fellows Morton & Clayton Ltd.
KELSON; A timber to join the bottom planks together, running the length of the boat.
KNEES; Made of iron or wood, and join the side planks together, or the sides to boat bottom.
LOOBY or LUBY; The pin used for towing at the top of the middle mast; must fold back to release a line if the
boat over runs the horse.
MAST; The whole mast used for towing a boat, and set around 12ft back of the deck beam.
MAST BEAM; The wooden beam across the hold that takes the pulling force on the mast.
MAST BOX; A wooden box used to house the middle mast; firmly made in wood with steel straps.
MIDDLE MAST or TOPMAST; A sliding section that pulls out of the mast box, to increase the height of the
MONKEY'S FIST; A turk's head on the end of a line to assist with throwing it under a bridge.
MOORING RING; Used for tying up a boat at a mooring.
MOP: Resting on the can on the back cabin roof ( positioned to glide a tow line of a horseboat to a convenient
position to lift over the chimney), painted, and made from the remnants of old jackets.
MOTOR BOAT; Boat built and designed to have an internal engine fitted.
NORTHWICH; Boat built by W.J.Yarwoods of Northwich, Cheshire.
OAKUM; Mixture of woven horsehair and tar used to caulk the seams of wooden and composite boats.
PIGEON BOX; The ventilator over the engine room, made from steel or wood.
RAM'S HEAD; The top part of the motor or butty rudder that the tiller fits into.
RUNNING BLOCKS; Semi circular blocks with holes through, used to guide a towing line, and positioned on top of
the mast and stands.
TALLPIPE; Engine exhaust pipe usually around 3ft in length.
THUMB LINING; Setting a line to the handrail of a gate, from the mast, so that reversing the boat pulls open a
TICH; Small engine exhaust pipe, around 6in high.
TILLER or TILLER BAR; The extending bar user to steer a boat; brass on a motor, and curved ash on a butty.
TILLER PIN; Usually made of old bedstead knobs; to locate the tiller bar on the ram's head.
TILLER STRINGS; Two lines stapled to the inside of the hatches to hold the tiller in a straight position.
TIPCAT; The fender about 6" in diameter to protect the rear of the butty rudder.
TIPPET CLOTH; An extra cloth about 1ft wide running on top of the top cloths.
TOP BEND; The two bends at the front of the boat below the foredeck.
TOP CLOTHS; Large tarpaulin sheets that cover the hold, and overlap the side cloths.
T STUD; The stud at the front of the boat,on top of the stem bar; used for tying lines to.
TUNNEL HOOK; One each side of a butty stern and used for connecting boats together when being towed through a
tunnel, to allow the rudder to be steered.
TURK'S HEAD; Decorative rope fender found in numerous places on all narrowboats.
SALTLEY; Boat built by Fellows Morton & Clayton at Saltley, Birmingham.
SHEARING; Vertical boards of half inch thick oak nailed to the inside of a wooden boat hull.
SHUTTS; The false bottoms of a boat that the cargo rests upon.
SIDE CLOTHS; Tarpaulin sheets,(2 of) about 2ft wide running the length of the hold, and fixed down with wooden
battens to the gunnel.
SIDE STRINGS; Hang down the cabin side, and are used to tie a spare line in a handy place.
SKEG; Iron or steel plate used to support the weight of the rudder on a motorboat.
SKEG BAR; A vertical bar to give additional strength to the skeg.
SLIDE; Covers the hatches on the roof of a back or fore cabin.
SNAKES; Iron guards on the top bends of wooden narrowboats.
SNATCHER; A short thick line for towing a butty along short pounds.
STANDS; Shaped planks that support the top planks; 2 of on a narrowboat.
STATION BOAT; Boat built by W.J.Yarwoods for the LMS railway, for use on the railway interchange work on the BCN
and later converted to long distance by adding a cabin and running gear during the 1950's.
STEAMER; Boat originally designed to be powered by a steam engine.
STEM BAR; The iron bar right at the front of the boat, curved round to the foredeck.
STRAPPING IN; Using a line from the dolly or stud on a boat to pull a top gate closed as the boat moves in.
STRAPPING POST; The post on the top gate an extension of which is used to strap a boat in.
UXTER PLATE; The steel or iron plate above the propellor that is the counter bottom.
WATER CAN; Usually holding 2 gallons, and the drinking water supply on a narrowboat.
WOOLWICH; Narrowboat built by Harland and Wolff of North Woolwich, London.
Z IRON; Alternative name for ram's head on a motor boat.
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