Skipper’s Tips #20 – Jack Speak

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Happy New Year everyone!

So, I’m feeling frivolous today. Despite being the easy-going fellow you all know and love, I’m going to get on my high-horse and spout off about something.  I don’t know why I get gripped by this sudden urge to make myself heard, probably a sense of seamanship or the like, but when I hear the Union flag – our national flag – referred to as the ‘Union Jack’, I just have to speak up. It’s right up there with the word ‘Like’ being liberally sprinkled throughout certain people’s sentences. Also, when the word ‘Something’ (with a ‘g’ on the end) somehow becomes ‘Sumfink’ and horror of horrors, the letter ‘h’ (spelt and pronounced ‘aitch’, look it up in a dictionary if you don’t believe me) is childishly pronounced ‘hay-ch’.

Anyway, I digress, that’s a totally different hobby-horse altogether.

OK, let’s get something straight right now, there is no such thing as a Union Jack!

The Union flag, when flown from the front of a Royal Naval vessel, is flown on a Jack Staff.  This, I think, is where the confusion comes from.  Private vessels may fly a Union flag on the bow but only in the form of a Pilot Jack – a Union flag with a white border around it.

It sounds pedantic, I know, but using the correct terminology can save an awful lot of heartache and or embarrassment.  For example, when approaching a navigational mark, which is round and therefore doesn’t have a side, it would be much clearer to tell the helmsman to, ‘leave the mark to our port side’, rather than the ‘right side’ of the buoy. There is only one ‘port side’ and one ‘starboard side’ on a boat so, by using the correct terminology there cannot be any confusion as to which course the boat should take.

Using ‘jargon’ will help both you and your crew when instructions are being issued, especially in the heat of the moment.  The last thing any boat owner wants is to come alongside a solid, GRP scrapping pontoon without any fenders hanging down the side of the boat.  If you shout, “Throw the fenders out”, to an ill-informed crew, there is every possibility you will get a trail of white, plastic, sausage-shaped balloons floating behind you as you approach your berth – clearly, this is not what you had in mind and you would only have yourself to blame, for the last minute change of plan to that mooring manoeuvre you’ve been fretting about ever since leaving the previous mooring.

And by the way, they are ‘Charts’, not ‘Maps’ and ‘Port side to’ does not mean two fenders on the port side!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not in the office dreaming about delivering a boat or teaching Yachtmaster and Day Skipper courses then I’m probably off somewhere exotic on holiday!  Whichever it is, I will still be adding my adventures and skipper’s tips so click follow and you will never miss another update.

 

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