L – Lima

If someone flashes this at you in Morse code, .- •• it means, ‘You should stop your vessel immediately’. For radio-telephone work it is Lima, with the Li pronounced Lee.

Lacing eye (and hook)

A lacing eye is a small bridge-shaped metal fitting with a hole at each end to attach it to coaming, deck or whatever. A lacing hook is half a bridge, or finger, with two screw holes to hold the foot.

Laid deck

A deck made of narrow planks of teak, each about two inches wide, and caulked between with black Marine Glue. Lovely to behold, kind to bare feet, and rather tedious to maintain. (Anyway, I can’t afford it.)


To make a wooden component, usually curved, by gluing together relatively thin strips or sheets of wood. Or to build up a composite structure of glass-reinforced resin by putting down successive layers of glass material and impregnating them with the resin. A ‘laminator’ in modern parlance is one who earns his living (and earns is right) by doing this messy work with resin and glass. Laminate As a noun, a sheet of material, usually resinglass, made by laminating.


Made from the initial letters of Large Automatic Navigational Buoy, this word defmes a type of buoy which is steadily replacing light-vessels. Big enough to provide refuge for seamen in distress, such a buoy houses a diesel generator and a variety of sophisticated equipment, much of it controlled by radio from the shore.


The overlapping part (or ‘lap’) of two planks in a Clinker-built boat. (Alternatively, the place which lovers of the sea so frequently yearn for.)

Land breeze

Please look up Sea breeze.


The land which is first seen or met at the end of a sea passage. A Landfall buoy is one with a tall superstructure sited a mile or so to seaward of a harbour or channel to help mariners locate it.


A grease extracted from sheep’s wool which protects human skin, wire shrouds, ironwork and other metal components. Very thick and heavy in its natural state, it is easily applied if first dissolved in warmed white spirit. But take care to buy only anhydrous lanolin, which is free from water. (Cosmetic lanolin ‘creams’, by contrast, have been deliberately emulsified with water, and apart from being poor value, are useless as a protective for metals.)


A short length of cord or rope, used as a safety line to prevent loss of an object overboard, as a line to raise a bucket of water from the sea, to secure a whistle or knife, and especially to set shrouds taut with Dead-eyes. Before the introduction of Rigging screws, lanyards and dead-eyes were always used for that purpose, and some owners still prefer them for their lightness and low cost.


A form of hull planking where each Strake (plank) overlaps the next plank below. In England this construction is now more commonly know as Clinker, though lapstrake is still normal term in some parts, as it is in the USA.


A useful word that seems to have been forgotten. ‘Sailing large’ is to have the wind somewhere between the beam and dead astern. The nearest common term is Broad reach.


Lowest Astronomical Tide. (Please see Height of Tide.)


A triangular sail with the foot more or less horizontal, and the leech more or less vertical. The luff is laced to a long spar which extends forward of the mast and slants upward toward its after end. Seen on the Nile boats and Red Sea dhows, and on some European dinghies, though its former popularity in the West has waned.


In weather forecasts it means ‘arriving after a lapse of twelve hours at least.’ Please see Imminent.

Lateral buoyage

A fairway or ‘street’ system of buoyage, with flat-topped red buoys to port, and conical green buoys to starboard, when you are moving in the same direction as the Flood tide. (Please see IALA buoyage system.)

Lateral plane

The projected underwater area of hull, keel and rudder as it would be seen on a flat drawing of the side elevation. It is the total area available to resist Leeway.

Lateral resistance

The ability of a hull to resist Leeway, or sideways movement through the water. It is especially desirable in sailing craft because of the lateral force of the sails.


The position of a place on the earth’s surface, measured as an angle from the equator. (See Longitude.)


A small open boat driven by mechanical power at displacement speed. A launch is invariably of traditional character, and usually of some elegance.


Lay of a rope or cable, is the spiral twist of the strands which compose it. In making a splice the strands tucked in may spiral in the opposite direction, ‘against the lay’, or in the same direction, ‘with the lay’.

Lay up, to

(1) To take a boat out of service. She may be laid up either ashore or afloat, and with or without her mast stepped and fuel in her tanks. But she will not be in her normal state of readiness for sea-going. An insurance company charges less to cover a laid-up boat, but the company will not consider her laid up if you are cooking and sleeping aboard. (2) To make a laminate of glass fibres and resin. The ordinary process of making a fibreglass shell or component.

Lay, to

When one draws a course on a chart, following the appropriate calculations, one is said to ‘lay it off on the chart’. If the boat subsequently sails to that course she will be said to be ‘laying her course’. (Compare with Fetch.) If the wind is in the wrong direction you may find that ‘she can’t quite lay the course’. As a result of that, she won’t ‘fetch her mark’ either. But when she finally reaches harbour, her skipper will use the verb in quite another way, and will say, ‘I’ll lay her alongside the quay’. By that he means that he will bring her to rest at the quay, and nothing more. The next step will be to moor her, the laying alongside having ended when she comes to a stop. Nevertheless, she may thereafter lie at (or to) the quay for the next two or three weeks. (and see Lie.)


A laminate of glass and resin. ‘The lay-up is uniform and free from bubbles, but it looks a bit thin to me … .’

Layout, to

To take an anchor out from your boat, in a dinghy or across the beach on foot, as distinct from dropping it underfoot, from the boat herself.


A locker in the stern.

Lazy block

A block fitted to a deck-plate so that it is upright when loaded, but will lie down when not actually working (the type of block commonly used for genoa sheets). If possible a lazy block should be held upright by a length of shock¬cord leading to the guard rail or other convenient point. Alternatively the eye may be bound with rubbery tape. At all events it is very irritating to those below if it is free to keep thumping the deck.

Lazy guy

Where separate spinnaker sheets and guys are used, the guy that is not in use, ie the leeward one.

Lazy jacks

A pair of ropes passing from the mast down each side of the mainsail to a point somewhere inboard of the end of the boom. Their purpose is to gather the sail as it is dropped. Several lazy jacks may be used together, spaced along the boom as in the junk rig. Lazy jacks are much appreciated on gunter-rigged boats where the yard might otherwise clout somebody on the head if lowered without great care. The same term is used of the set of lines which may be looped between mast and forestay so as to prevent a spinnaker from wrapping itself around a stay. (see also Anti-fouling net.)

Lazy lead

A free swivelling block for wire rope, used in steering gears and held up by the tension in the cable. Like a lazy block, it will fall down if not kept at work.

Lazy sheet

A sheet that is unused on the current tack.


Length Between Perpendiculars is a term rarely used in full, indeed rarely used at all nowadays, though one may come across it in reading. It is the length between a perpendicular dropped from the stemhead of a hull and another dropped from the after face of the stern post. You will see that we are talking of timber construction, and you have to remember that many a boat had a counter extending aft of the stern post and rudder. The counter was a sort of elegant addendum to the basic fishing-boat type of hull, and, when added, it made the distinction between Length Over all (LOA) and LBP. The significance of LBP is that it was the figure used for the calculation of Thames Tonnage.


(1) Lump of.. for taking soundings; (2) Direction in which rope runs

The lead (1) is a lump of lead, attached to a light line and used for taking Soundings. Naval practice specifies the precise weight of the lead, and the manner in which the line is to be marked, but that has little value for small craft. It is better to make up your own mind, in accordance with your own needs. Even though you have an Echo sounder, it is prudent to carry a lead-line aboard. Even if the echo sounder does not go wrong, its transducer is located at a single point. With the lead-line you can sound all round the boat and so know whether the bottom is level or if you are about to ground on a bank that slopes at forty-five degrees.

(2) Pronounced ‘leed’, refers to the direction in which a rope runs, a matter of some importance on boats where ropes are so much used. To get a fair lead, with minimum chafe and friction is the objective, and fittings called Fairleads are made for that very purpose.

Leading marks (or lights)

Navigational beacons

Clearly seen objects, natural or artificial, which lead a vessel on a safe course when kept in alignment, or in Transit.

Leading wind

The same thing as a Following Wind. Sounds silly, perhaps, but please see Following Wind.


Both noun and adjective. A lee is shelter from the wind, so you may anchor close under a wooded shore to get a lee. Qualifying something else it means on the side, or in the direction, towards which the wind is blowing. Driftwood blows up on to a lee shore: a lee-going tide is a tidal Stream running in roughly the same direction as the wind. But usage is not simple; a lee shore is to Leeward of the viewer; it therefore has he full force of the wind blowing on to it. (Leeward is pronounced ‘loo-erd’, by the way.) Please also see Weather.

Lee helm

Describes necessity to hold helm to windward when attempting to steer a straight course

A sailing boat which has ‘lee helm’ must have the helm held down to Leeward to maintain a straight course when on the wind. Lee helm is necessary because she is trying to Payoff, or Bear away; the rudder must hold her head up to the wind. Designers avoid lee helm because any increase in wind speed tends to turn the boat more across the wind, increasing the heeling force. This may be dangerous, whereas Weather helm works in the opposite sense and is a safety feature. Some boats show a modest amount of lee helm when the wind is very light, but change to weather helm as soon as the wind is fresh enough to cause a few degrees of heel. That is quite acceptable, of course.

Lee rail under

Sailing hard to windward

The sort of chap who likes to be awash with beer likes to tell you how ‘We had her lee rail under, old boy’, because he thinks it sounds a bit dashing. The Rail from which the term originates was the capping timber along the bulwark, but is now more likely to be the narrow outboard plank forming the deckedge, or the Toe-rail. Few boats sail well with this part under water.

Lee shore

A shore towards which the wind is blowing. A natural place of danger, since a vessel tends to be blown on to it.


Sailing on a tack such that the tidal stream is carrying the boat towards the wind. This makes possible a track closer to windward and also increases the relative wind speed of the boat. There is a corresponding term ‘weather-bowing’ for the other tack where the stream takes you downwind.


Signal to crew to tack the boat

Before tacking, the helmsman gives the warning call ‘Ready about’, fol¬lowed after a sufficient interval by ‘Lee-oh’ as he puts the helm down to leeward.


Hydrofoil to resist leeway

Normally in pairs, port and starboard, though a small boat may have a single one that is shifted to the leeward side as required. Most commonly seen on Thames barges, and the wide variety of flat-bottomed Dutch boats, the leeboard is pivoted on the side of a shallow hull so that it can be lowered into a more or less vertical position where it acts as a hydrofoil to resist Leeway. It has the same function as the Centreboard in a sailing dinghy, but avoids the problem of building a centreboard trunk and leaves more space free for fish or cargo. The plan form of leeboards varies from broad to narrow, but long before aerodynamicists had studied wing sections, simple boatbuilders were making their leeboards with cambered aerofoil sections to generate lift to weather. The pressure so generated holds the leeward leeboard firmly against a heavy Wale on the hull side. There is much more that could be said about the design and use of lee boards, but its practical value would be limited to the one boat owner in ten thousand whose boat may be so equipped.


Extreme after edge of a sail

Probably originally ‘lee edge’, this is the extreme after edge of a sail ¬what aircraft people would call the ‘trailing edge. (See Luff and Foot.)


Adjusts tension and curvature of sail’s leech

A light line passed through the hollow hem of a sail’s leech for the adjustment of its tension and curvature.


Opposite of windward

Downwind. In the direction toward which the wind is blowing. The opposite from Windward. Strangely, it is pronounced as if spelled loo-ard. But the lee side of the boat is not called the loo-side …


The sideways movement of a sailing boat

The sideways movement of a sailing boat when sailing on the wind. When close-hauled in a calm sea it may be slight, so that the difference between her Heading and her Track may be less than five degrees. But this Leeway angle becomes greater as the sea becomes rougher. Much also depends on the form of hull and its Lateral plane. It is no simple matter for the navigator to estimate leeway, even though he may know his boat well, for the helmsman will often tend to steer slightly Higher when going to windward. Attention to the compass will show whether variations of heading tend more to the weather or to the lee side – or they may reveal that you have (or are) a perfect helmsman, maintaining a correct average heading.

Left bank

Of a river, is on the left when facing downstream, but the ‘port hand’ would normally mean to port when facing upstream – Le. the right bank.


Anti-clockwise prop rotation; strands of a rope

Of a propeller, turning anti-clockwise when viewed from the rear -ie. the upper blade moving towards the left. Of a rope, with the strands slanting upward and to the left when you hold the rope vertically before your eyes.


A tack to windward; or a metal support strut

(1) A tack to windward, as ‘we made a long leg on port, followed by a short one to starboard’. One side of a racing course. (2) A strut of timber or metal which can be shipped on the side of a boat to hold her upright when she dries out. Usually in pairs, held to the hull by bolts passing into plates in the hull-sides, and braced fore and aft by rope guys.


Distance from bow to stern including bowsprit and extras

The length of a boat is her length. Obvious enough, but boating jargon is not so rational as that. With that strange human desire to use three words where one would do, we tend to say ‘length over all’ to mean the length from stem to stern, when you might reasonably think that it would mean the length over all ¬including bowsprit, bumkin and any other extras. But it does not. This silly term is abbreviated as LOA and is nearly always found in the company of LWL, which is length of the hull at the waterline when the boat is loaded to her average working weight.

Let draw, to

Order to sheet jib to leeward side after a tack

When going about, there comes a point when the headsail sheet must be let fly so that the sail can pass to the other tack. When that is to be done the order is, ‘Let draw’, whereupon the old sheet is let fly and the new one is trimmed as quickly as possible. Probably very few pleasure sailors bother with orders of this kind, since they can rely on each other to do the right thing. But there are times, especially when leaving an anchorage or manoeuvring in close quarters, when the headsail must be held aback for a period in order to force the boat’s head round smartly. ‘Let draw’ then find its use.

Lie a hull

To lie in a heavy sea with all sail lowered and stowed.

Lie alongside

A boat lies alongside another in a harbour berth, but husband and wife rarely get a chance to lie alongside in a berth below decks, a deprivation for which yacht designers must take the blame.

Lie, lie-to

A boat which is stationary lies. In the open sea in heavy weather she ‘lies-to’ under bare poles. In harbour she lies alongside a wall or another ves¬sel. In winter she lies in a mud berth, and if you are buying and want to view a boat, the broker will tell you she is ‘lying Exmouth’ in the jargon of his trade.

Lifebelt and Lifebuoy

These terms tend to become confused, but since the ring­type has largely given way to the horseshoe type, perhaps buoy is the better. If you do get a ring type, take care to get a man-sized one of 30 inches (760 mm) diameter. The object of the exercise is life-saving, not neat appearance or easy stowage.


Ships carry lifeboats (also called ship’s boats), and lifeboats of quite different type are owned and manned by the Coast Guard in the USA, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Britain, and equivalent bodies in other countries. Private pleasure craft are not big enough to have dinghies which can serve as lifeboats, though the better-quality inflatable dinghies are a good compromise. The true ship’s lifeboat for a yacht is the inflatable Liferaft


A vest or jacket worn like a garment and giving buoyancy. To earn its name it must be designed in such a way that the wearer naturally floats on his back, with mouth and nose held up clear of the water. A distinction is made between a lifejacket proper, and various kinds of buoyant waistcoats and vests giving lesser degrees of buoyancy (but greater freedom of movement). It all depends on the type of boating you do. In the USA the generic term is PFD (Personal Flotation Device). Several grades of PFD are approved by the US Coast Guard, for differing circumstances.


Sometimes the guard rail around the deck, sometimes the short line linking your personal harness to the boat, and sometimes the Jackstay along the deck to which you can attach your lifeline.


The modern liferaft is an Inflatable, experience in the Second World War having indicated that the inflatable raft, with protective canopy, is a better life-saver than the rigid lifeboat.


A line of wire or rope giving support to a part of the rig. The Topping lift supports the boom, and can usually lift it. But a lift may be static – for example a short wire stay above a spreader to ensure that it cannot drop down to the wrong angle.

Light-vessel (or lightship)

A moored, and usually engine less vessel fitted with a lamp powered by generators and manned by a crew, marking a hazard. No longer in use.

Lignum vitae

A hard wood, traditionally used for Parrel balls, for Blocks and for Fairleads.

Limber hole

One of a series of holes made in the frames (or floors) where they meet keel, hog, or perhaps keelson so that water can drain aft to the bilge-pump


Generally the smaller sizes of rope carried aboard

Line start

In racing, a start across a line lying between two fIxed points. (See also Gate start)


A boat’s lines are simply the lines drawn on paper to show her hull shape in plan, end elevation and side elevation including waterlines, buttocks, sections (at stations) and diagonals

Link shackle

A shackle in the form of a C, whose opening is closed by a screw­nut

List, to

To List – see also to heel


A short length of rope with a hard eye spliced into one end. The other end can be hitched to another rope or chain, say, and by passing a fur­ther rope through the eye you can get the purchase of a single whip for a good heave. It may also prove useful as a temporary Fairlead.

Lloyd’s Register of Yachts

A useful Who’s Who of private pleasure craft, their builders and their owners which was published annually in Britain until 1980. ‘classifIed’ by Lloyd’s means that the boat has been built under the supervision of a Lloyd’s surveyor and that she has been kept up to standard by periodic surveys and appropriate remedial work.


LOA – Length Over All (See also: Length)


A device which holds a rope by bearing down on it with a cam-and­lever. Also called a Stopper.

Loft (and to loft)

Noun and verb, closely related. The large flat floor of a loft was a good place to draw the outline of a sail or the frames of a hull in chalk. The process of laying out and drawing at full scale thus became lofting, no matter whether done in the basement or on sheets of hardboard in the back garden.


(1) Short for log-book, in which all necessary navigational information and ship’s progress is recorded. Was originally a ‘log-board’, taking the form of two black-painted boards hinged together to open like a book, on which the readings of the Log (2) could be written in chalk.

Log (2) Short for log-chip (or log-ship), a fan-shaped wedge of wood, weighted to float upright, which was streamed astern on a line of known length so that the ship’s speed could be determined from the time taken for the line to run out. About a hundred years ago the Patent log began to come into use, streaming a spinner at the end of a plaited line which rotates the mechanism in the recorder onboard, showing distance run which is far more valuable than speed. Rarely used today.

Long in the jaw

A rope which is old and well stretched becomes long in the jaw, the ‘jaw’ being the length occupied by a strand in making one full turn.

Long splice

See Splice for both the Long and Short splice, as well as others.


The position of any point on the earth’s surface measured as an angle east or west of the Greenwich meridian, which is also known as the ‘prime meridian’ and is zero longitude. (see also Latitude.)


Any fore-and-aft structural member of a boat’s hull.


Loom (l) The reflection on the clouds of a light which is too distant to be seen directly because it is below the horizon. Occasionally the loom of a distant light is clear enough to reveal its characteristic, and so offers a useful navigational aid. Also the hazy appearance of land through mist

Loom (2) That part of an oar’s shaft which the oarsman grips – the opposite end to the Blade.


A mainsail is loose-footed when its Clew is extended by a boom, but its Foot is not attached along the length of the boom. There are also boomless mainsails, and these are better so termed to distinguish them from those which have a boom with foot unattached.


A short choppy sea with no weight in it. A term appropriate to sheltered water, whereas a Chop would be found in more exposed water.


LOng RAnge Navigation. A positioning system using low frequency radio transmitters that uses multiple transmitters. The current version of LORAN in common use is LORAN-C, but has been discontinued in the USA.

Lubber’s line Or Lubber line

A reference line against which the compass scale is read


The forward edge of a fore-and-aft sail. What an aviator would call the ‘lead­ing edge’. (See Leech and Foot.)

Luff spar

A slender spar, usually of metal or wood, to which the Luff of a Head­sail is attached. Its purpose is either to give a clean aerodynamic edge, or to per­mit reefing by rolling the cloth around the spare.

Luff tackle

Uses one single and one double block to obtain an advantage of three-to-one.


See also Bolt rope.


A four-sided fore-and-aft sail whose upper edge is attached to a Yard which extends ahead of the mast. The Dipping lug has no boom, and the yard has to be ‘dipped’ and passed round the mast when the boat tacks. The Standing lug has a boom whose forward end pivots at the mast. The Balance lug has a boom which projects forward of the mast but is not attached to it: the boom is Bowsed down with a lanyard. The Chinese lug has a boom and a number of battens ex­tending from luff to leech, all of which, like the boom, extended forward of the mast. These boomed lugsails are not dipped. Some say it’s the best choice for a sailing dinghy: the balance lug for boats up to ten or eleven feet, the standing lug for anything bigger. It is the ideal sail for pleasure boating as opposed to formula racing. (See Gunter lug, and the sketch of the Balance lug, which names the parts of the sail.)


Neither the word not the device is much used these days. It is similar to a tabernacle, but extends below deck level and has one side open to clear the foot of the mast when it is lowered. A lutchet makes it possible to fit a counter-balance weight to the foot of a mast below deck level.


Length, Waterline. The same abbreviation is sometimes used for Load Water Line, meaning the waterline of the boat at her average working weight with stores and crew aboard, and water and fuel tanks half filled. When seen alongside LOA (as it usually is), LWL refers to length, but in books or articles on design the context should reveal whether the author has chosen to use the abbreviation in another sense