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Old 09-06-2009, 03:37 PM   #1
machievelli
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Ship nomenclature, or; It's not a door, it's a hatch blast it!

Shipboard definition

The team entered through the door into the cargo bay, running to the door into the ship. They split, one heading left, another right in the hallway...

What is wrong with that paragraph? If you change the word ship to skyscraper or building not a thing. But on a ship, normal things change and are renamed. As many a writer has joked, sailors came up with new names for normal things just so landlubbers won't feel at home. So let's look at the ship before boarding...

A ship has dimensions as does anything else, but while a building is measured by length breadth and height, a ship is measured by length (Sometimes measured at the keel, sometimes from bow to stern) beam, the widest point of the vessel, and both freeboard and draft. On a seagoing vessel these are the section of the hull above the waterline, and the section below it respectively. These are sometimes combined by keel to truck; the base of the keel to the uppermost portion of the ship. A Star Destroyer for example is 1600 meters long, 1015 meters wide with no Keel to truck mentioned, though this could be figured if you merely look at the side (Plane) view, and measure it working mathematical magic. A Super Star Destroyer in comparison has a length (19,000 meters long) but no beam or keel to truck given.

(Just Added 7 September: As one of the premier writer of modern Naval Science Fiction, David Weber uses draught alone. )

A ship has a bow and stern, the front and rear, and directions aboard are determined by port and starboard, the terms for left of the ship and right facing the bow. They came from old oar driven ships where the steering oar was over the right hand side of the stern, so you had to tie up at a dock on the opposite side, or where the ship met the port as it were. On board a ship it is important to know these terms. the Three Stooges did a constant bit where two men are facing each other after arguing about which left is meant. As each points, they are obviously pointing in the opposite direction. A funny bit if working rapidly is not needed. In a battle, you don't have time to wonder which left or right someone might be talking about.

So let us board, and look a little deeper.

We board at the quarter deck, what used to be an actual partial desk on sailing ships, but now merely is a term meaning where the gangway (The ramp that leads aboard) is. If you land on a Star Destroyer it's actually on one of the lowest decks. Now let's go forward.

When giving directions aboard ship they are fore and aft, port and starboard, above deck and below deck, inboard (Toward the center of the ship) and outboard. Some terms would have fallen out of use. As example, abaft (behind the beam) would mean nothing on a Star Destroyer, because the only thing behind the beam is the engine venturi. A specific place on the ship would be defined by these, and sometimes include a frame number as well. A frame is the rib of the ship and they are numbered from the bow to the stern. So starboard frame 90 say would be an exact location. These are vital especially when sending troops or damage control parties.

Decks are also numbered. When steam ships came into vogue, they could build higher, so you have decks labeled 1 which would be the deck below where you boarded, and counting down, so the next lower is deck 2 etc. On that ship the decks above the hull are number with the addition of 0 before the number, and counting up. So you board at the 01 deck, and if you go to the bridge it would be the 03 or 04 on a smaller ship. On spacecraft they would more likely draw a line down the center of the ship from bow to stern, and mark them as in the above description. This is what was done when aircraft carriers were built, the flight deck is 0 and the decks inside the island are the 0+ decks.

A ship doesn't have rooms, they are called compartments. Like frames, they are numbered fore to aft. You also have passagways rather than halls because they are a way to make a passage from one place to another. A bathroom is called the head, and this came from the fact that when you used such a facility on an old sailing ship, it was a small space at the forward or 'head' of the ship past the hull hanging over the ocean.

You sleep in a berthing compartment because a bed is a berth. The eating area is the mess deck, the windows are called ports, and used to be round. They still are on most ships. If you go from deck 1 to deck 2, you are going below down the ladder rather than the stairs. If you're going up you are going topside. You do not have floors, you have decks, and the deck above you is the overhead.

Some terms are used long after they were worth keeping. The term belay used to mean hold a line tight or tie it off. Now it means stop as in belay that talk, a fancy way to say shut up.

Any questions? Class dismissed.


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Last edited by machievelli; 09-07-2009 at 06:55 PM.
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