This page is provided to explain the terminology used in connection with Thames Sailing Barges, their construction, their sail plans and their rigging.


Behind in the sense of being nearer the stern of the barge.

Anchor Winch

The horizontal capstan in the bow used for weighing anchor (also called windlass).


A vertical timber inside the stem to which the ends of the planks are fastened.


Another name for the top mast shrouds.

Batten Studs

The metal clips on the side of the hatch coamings in which are wedged the battens securing the hatch cloths.

Bear Away

To turn the barge down wind.

Bear Up

To turn the barge upwind.


A knot for joining 2 ropes or to attach a rope to an object.


Loop made in a rope


The space between the bottom of the barge and the ceiling of the hold. (Floor)


Strong vertical timber members or iron bitt heads fastened through the deck beams.


A pulley with one or more sheaves.


Flag mounted on topmast truck bearing owner’s logo or colours, used to indicate the wind direction.


The stay which supports the bowsprit against the lift of the sails set upon it.


Ketch rigged barge. A barge rigged with gaff and boom to both main and mizzen sails.


A spar extending forward of the stem on which the jib and staysail may be set. The spar is pivoted so that it may be raised in port.


Ropes that are used to furl the mainsail and mizzen


A method of waterproofing by ramming fibre such as horse hair between two adjacent pieces of wood and sealing with pitch.

Ceiling (Sealing)

The caulked floor of the hold.


A cast iron steering wheel.

Chain Plate

A metal strap attached to the hull to which the shrouds and other rigging are attached.


The angle between the side and the bottom.


Wood or metal projecting arms which ropes are made fast round.


The back bottom corner of a sail.

Clew Lines

The ropes attached to the clew of the topsail. Used to reduce and stow the topsail.

Claw (Or Dog)

A cast iron hook for holding the anchor chain temporarily while adjusting the chain on the barrel winch.


A part freight.

Covering Board

The board forming the outer edge of the deck.


Winch used for raising leeboards etc.


A rope loop, normally made round a thimble, which may be worked into or attached to the bolt rope of a sail.


Lateral spreaders for the topmast shrouds which on a barge are called standing backstays.


Rig with small mizzen abaft the steerage.


To run dart is to sail dead before the wind.


A circular turned block of hardwood which is grooved around its circumference and pierced with three holes, used in pairs to secure the shrouds to the chainplates.

Dolly Winch

Small winch over the anchor windlass, used for handling a light line in warping, and for the main brails in a stackie when the brail winch is covered by a stack.


A loop formed in the end of a rope or cable by splicing; hence eye splice.

Eye Bolt

A bolt forged at one end to form an eye or loop. Fixed to provide a securing point for lines or tackle


A means of diverting the run of a rope or mooring line to the most convenient direction for working and to minimise wear at the turn.


To secure a rope to a cleat or similar – make fast.


Clothing made from thick woollen cloth


A flexible barrier inserted between vessel and quay or another vessel to prevent damage

Flushing Or Fashion Boards

Loose boards which slide in grooves to close a companion scuttle or cabin entrance.


A transverse structural timber to which the bottom planking is fastened. The ends of the floor timbers are joined to the bottom of the frames. The keelson is fastened on top of the floors and the hold ceiling is fastened to the top of the floors.


Bottom edge of sail.

Fore & Afters

Removable wooden beams running along the centre of the hold to support the hatches.

Forecastle (Fo’c’sle)

Space below deck in the bow of the vessel used for the mate’s accommodation or storage.

Fore Horse

A transverse wooden or metal circular beam fitted forward of the mainmast. The foresail is attached to this via a sliding ring allowing the sail to traverse freely.


A triangular sail set on the forestay.


The wire which supports the mainmast in a forward direction.


A rope used to secure a sail when stowed, particularly the topsail.


The barge’s sails & rigging.

Gunwale (Gunnel)

The top timber rail around the outer edge of the deck.

Gybe (Jibe)

Bring the sails from one side to the other as the vessel’s course is altered to bring the wind from one quarter to the other.


Ropes used to hoist the sails.


The top corner of a triangular sail.

Head Rope

The part of the bolt rope at the head of the mainsail and mizzen including the rope from the mast to the sprit which supports the sail.


The collective name for sails set before the mast

Head Stick

The spar laced to the top of the topsail.


The steering – a steering wheel or tiller.


The wooden or metal rings by which the topsail is attached to the topmast.


The shaped ends or chocks to which the main horse is bolted.

Horse [1]

A transverse member on which the sheet traveller runs.

Horse [2]

A sand bank or shoal lying in mid channel.


Shoulders where the shrouds rest near the masthead.

Hoy Barge

A vessel making regular passages with mixed cargoes.


A pilot or extra hand employed to assist in getting the vessel up difficult rivers and creeks or through bridges.

Jack Stay

The iron rod bolted clear of the main mast to which the luff of the mainsail is attached.

Jib Sail

A triangular sail set between the end of the bowsprit and the head of the mainmast.


Stout longitudinal member running from stem to stern inside the barge’s bottom, forming the “backbone”

Kicking Chain Or Strap

Chain rigged from rudder to quarter to prevent the rudder kicking when at anchor.


After or back edge of a sail.


The side of a vessel away from the wind.


Large wooden boards hanging from the side of the barge. the leeward one is lowered when the barge is heading towards the wind to prevent leeway being made.


Being blown downwind instead of making progress into the wind.

Light Irons

Iron bars mounted in sockets by the main shrouds which support the light screens in which the port and starboard navigation lights are hung.

Light Screen

A board on which the navigation lights are hung.


A short length of rope with an eye spliced in one end to hold another rope in position, as in the case of the mainsail’s lower brails. (Also known as a Stirrup).

Loose Footed

The lower edge of the sail when it is not attached to a boom; eg: the mainsail as opposed to the mizzen.


The lower brails of the mainsail.


Forward or leading edge of the sail.


The main brails of the mainsail.

Mast Case

(See Tabernacle) Steel case in which the heel of the mast is mounted.


The brails below the mains and above the lowers.


Small sail set on a mizzen mast aft. It can be sprit or gaff rigged.


Several turns of light line round the mouth of a hook to prevent it unhooking accidentally.


A barge with Sprit mainsail and gaff boom mizzen instead of a sprit mizzen.


The iron band which, with its links holds the sprit heel to the mast.


Weak or low high tides occurring when the sun & moon are in opposition. (High water at London Bridge around 9.00 o’clock).


Throat of the mainsail.


Iron fingers fitted on the windlass and winches that engage in the barrel teeth to prevent the winch from turning backwards under load.


The top back corner of a four-sided sail.


The uppermost brails above the mains. (also called uppers)


A short length of wire or chain hooked on to a tackle.


The left side of a vessel when facing forward.

Pump Socket

A deck level fitting into which the bilge pump is shipped.

Ready About

The order given to prepare the crew that a barge is about to change tack.


To shorten sail by tying up the foot of the sail to reduce the wind pressure.


Thin lines hitched to the shrouds to provide steps for reaching the hounds.

Rib Tickler

The barge’s tiller.

Riding Light

The oil lamp hung from the forestay at night to signify the barge is at anchor.

Rigging Chocks

Thick blocks of wood fastened outside the rails to take the chain plates for the shrouds.

Rolling Vang

Fitted port & starboard in addition to the vangs, they are led from the sprit head to the rail near the bow and are set up in a seaway to give further control of the sprit.


The serrated iron ring fitted to the barrel of an anchor winch into which the pawl drops to prevent the chain running out.


London river term for a sailing barge or a bargeman.

Sealing (Ceiling)

The caulked floor of the hold.


Vessels that rely on fixing their own freights instead of carrying the owners’ own goods.


The covering of wire or rope with thin line to protect it.


A “U” shaped iron with a pin used to join chain or ropes.


The wheel in a block that turns as a rope runs through.


The curve formed by the deck line.


The rope(s) which control a sail.


Standing rigging which supports the mast laterally.

Snug Loaded

Having all the cargo below hatches without deck cargo.

Spider Band

An iron band on a spar with eyes to which rigging or fittings may be attached.


A head sail spread out on the opposite side of the mast to the mainsail when running before the wind.


Mooring rope leading from either aft from the bow or forward from the stern of the vessel and secured to prevent the vessel moving to and fro when tied up against a wharf or another vessel.

Spring Tide

The big high tides occurring when the sun & moon are in unison. (High water at London Bridge around 3.00 o’clock).


(Pronounced Spreet) The spar which extends diagonally across the mainsail or mizzen to extend the peak. It is fastened near the base of the mast on the starboard side by the standing lift (stanliff) and the head rope of the sail.


A spritsail rigged barge.


A sail extended by a sprit.


A barge loaded with hay or straw. A barge built expressly for this purpose.

Standing Lift

(Stanliff) – a wire rope which supports the sprit from the heel band.


The right hand side of the vessel when facing forward.


A flexible wire rove through a pair of large blocks. The lower being attached to the stem head and the upper to the end of the forestay forming a tackle by which the mainmast is raised or lowered.

Stayfall Tackle

The tackle connecting stem head to forestays, used to raise and lower the gear.


A triangular sail which may be set in three ways: from the bowsprit to the topmast head over the jib; from the stem head to topmast over the foresail; and as a spinnaker for running before the wind. In this case the sail is set up and down the mast with the tack tackle hooked to an eye at the bottom of the mast case.


The foremost timber member of the barge set vertically from the keel to the rail, the head of which (Stem Head) carries the forestay and other rigging.


A rope used to prevent another coming loose or unreeving

Stumpie (Stumpy)

Barge without a topmast.


Barge with square overhung bow like that of a London lighter.


A frame or case to support the heel of the mast or bowsprit.

Tack [1]

The forward bottom corner of a sail.

Tack [2]

To go to windward by sailing at an angle to the wind.


The loose end of a rope which has been wound round a winch or cleat.


A set of pulley blocks and ropes used to gain a mechanical advantage.


(See nock) The forward top corner of a four-sided sail.


Formed of lateral members fastened inside the sternpost to which the hull and deck planking is fastened.


The iron ring which travels along the main horse. It is fitted with an eye to which is attached the main mast sheet block.

Topmast Pole

That part of the spar between the hounds and the truck.


The circular wooden cap at the top of a barge’s topmast or mizzen mast.

Under Way

The description of a vessel which has movement. (Sometimes written as “under weigh”).


The brails above the mains. (See also “peaks”)


To pull a rope from a sheeve or block.


(Pronounced Wang) Wire rigging from the top of the sprit to each side of the deck to control the sprit. The vang fall is the tackle rigged on the lower end of the vang.


A powerful hand operated winch mounted on the bow of the barge. Used primarily for raising the anchor and raising and lowering the mainmast.