Then the starboard watch board the main tack, and the larboard watch lay forward and board the fore tack and haul down the jib sheet, clapping a tackle upon it if it blows very fresh.


When all was right, the bunts were triced well up, the yard-arm gaskets passed, so as not to leave a wrinkle forward of the yard — short gaskets, with turns close together.

are sample sentences from Richard Henry Dana’s 1843 Two Years Before the Mast, which I am currently reading, having found a copy in a secondhand bin for a dime or something.

My wife’s brother lives in Dana Point, which is named after the gent, he having been engaged in “hide droghing” along the coast of California in the 1830’s, which forms the bulk of the book’s narrative.

Great hanks, however, are devoted to old-timey seamanship, and hover on the very precipice of intelligibility; and I find these passages exhilarating. The use of a specialized jargon reflects my own speech when I’m isolating bad ram, for example, or reformatting a hard drive, or performing a low-level diagnostic in an effort to isolate bad sectors.

There’s a sort of poetry of possibility in jargon, and reading it in Mast makes it plain, as it’s stripped of referents for me. I know not a thing about sailing, and thus the language strikes me in a manner similar to a dada or futurist poem – sounds with no literalist meaning available to me, only tributary and referential meanings traversing time into my mind.