An occurrence that would take a great deal of luck.
Early ships’ guns tended to be inaccurate. If a shot made impact from a great distance, or a “long shot,” it was considered out of the ordinary.
Odds and ends.
While the words flotsam and jetsam are often used together, they have different meanings. "Flotsam" (from the word "float") describes items that weren't deliberately thrown overboard, while "jetsam" (from the word "jettison") describes items that were deliberately thrown overboard.
Make a small amount last until a larger amount is available.
Not to be confused with "tied over," this phrase has its origins in seafaring. When there was no wind to fill the sails, sailors would float with the tide until the wind returned. They would "tide over."
Experiencing feelings of sadness or melancholy.
If a captain or officer of a ship died while at sea, the crew would fly blue flags and paint a blue band along the ship’s hull. Over time, this symbol of grieving was equated with feeling sad or melancholy.
Startled or surprised.
The sails of a ship were described as “aback” when the wind blew them flat, or back, against their supporting structures.
A person's general appearance.
A jib is a type of sail. At one time countries would display their own unique jibs, allowing outsiders to instantly know the ship’s origin, and form an impression of it by the cut of its jib.
A request or command to be quiet.
Ship crews received a variety of signals from the boatswain’s pipe. One signal was “piping down the hammocks,” which instructed the crew to go below decks and prepare for sleep.
To conform to the policies of a group.
Members of the British Royal Navy were required to stand barefoot and at attention for inspection. While at attention they lined up along the seams of the planks of the deck with their toes touching the line. This became known as "toeing" the line.
To take control of.
To take over, or control, the navigational duties on the bridge of a ship.
Depressed or listless.
The "doldrums" refers to the belt around the Earth near the equator. Because there is often little surface wind for ships' sails to use in this geographic location, sailing ships got stuck on its windless waters. Over time, people equated the calmness of the doldrums with being listless or depressed.
Nautical terms are peppered throughout modern-day English. But did you know that there is an entire language devoted exclusively to sea navigation? It’s called Seaspeak, and it’s used to facilitate clear communication on the seas, regardless of the navigator’s native tongue.