Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy

Jackspeak: Certain words or terminology that are commonly used in the Canadian Navy.

The Canadian Navy has it's own terminology and slang that is still evolving to this day. Much of the language used is still derived from the Royal Navy, although as Canadians many local customs and slang have come about.

Please choose a letter from our index:

"L" Terms

Labour - A ship labours when she pitches and rolls heavily.

Ladder - On board a warship, most "stairs" being narrow and nearly vertical, are called ladders.

Lagan - Debris or cargo that has sunk to the seabed. Often it is marked with a buoy with the intention of recovery.

Lagging - Fiberglass insulation blankets commonly attached to pipes and ducts.

Laid Up, Lay Up - Referring to a ship that has been placed in reserve or mothballed.

Laker - Slang for a civilian ship that spends all its time on the Great Lakes.

Lance - NATO codeword for an active shipborne sonar.

Land Lubber - A person unfamiliar with being on the sea.

Landfall - First sight of land after a sea passage.

Lanyard - A lanyard is a rope or cord, typically worn around the neck, shoulder, or wrist to carry an object.

Larboard - An obsolete term for the left side of a ship. Derived from the term "lay-board" which was a wooden ramp that provided access between a ship and the port. Later, since larboard was often confused with "starboard", this term was simplified to the word "port".

Lash Up and Stow - A pipe made to order hammocks to be tied up and stowed. The hammocks were typically stowed in racks inboard of the ship's side to protect crew from splinters from shot and provide a ready means of preventing flooding caused by damage.

Last in First Out - Typical loading decorum for small boats.

Launch - 1. A large motorboat. Traditionally, the launch was the largest boat carried by a warship. 2. To dispatch a ship down a slipway, prior to fitting-out and commissioning.

Lay - 1. To come and go, used in giving orders to the crew, such as "lay forward". 2. To direct the course of vessel, as in "lay a course". 3. The twist in a strand of rope.

Lay Apart Stores - A storage area for kit that's not immediately required.

Lay up - To take a ship out of service for an indeterminate length of time.

Laying Down - Laying the keel of a ship in a shipyard at the beginning of her construction.

Lazarette - A small stowage locker at the aft end of a boat. (also Lazaret or Lazaretto)

Leading Seaman - A Leading Seaman (abbreviated LS) is the naval equivalent of Corporal in the Army and Air Force. The current rank insignia of a Leading Seaman is two chevrons. Traditionally, the Leading Seaman's rank badge was a fouled anchor. See Killick.

Leadline - A heavy lead sinker that is attached to a line, used in sounding depth. Often refered to as a "hand leadline".

Leadsman - A sailor who takes soundings with a hand leadline, measuring the depth of water.

League - A unit of length, normally equal to three nautical miles.

Lee Shore - A shore downwind of a ship. A sailing ship which cannot sail well to windward risks being blown onto a lee shore and grounded.

Lee Side - The side of a ship sheltered from the wind.

Leeward - In the direction that the wind is blowing towards.

Leeway - The amount that a ship is blown leeward by the wind.

Lend a Hand - A request for help. Bear a hand is an order to help.

Length Overall - The maximum length of a vessel's hull measured parallel to the waterline, usually measured on the hull alone, and including overhanging ends that extend beyond the bow and stern.

Let the Cat Out of the Bag - According to naval folklore, this term has its roots in the act of removing the "cat" (cat o' nine tails) from its bag in a preparation to administer a punishment. However, no evidence actually documents that such whips were stored in sacks, or that the phrase "let the cat out of the bag" was even associated with maritime origins or usage.

Letter of Marque - A warrant granted to a privateer condoning specific acts of piracy against a target as a redress for grievances.

Liar's Dice - A type of dice game using five dice, either regular dice or special dice that show the faces of a deck of cards. The player shakes the dice privately in a box, and attempts to form a poker hand. The player then either admits truthfully, or bluffs (lies), the value of the hand to the next player. The next player either accepts the hand or calls the bluff, knowing that they have the task of rolling a higher value hand for the next player. Whoever is caught in a bluff loses the hand.

Liberty boat - The ship's boat carrying members of the ship's company permitted to go ashore.

Lie To - To be as stationary as possible in a gale with the wind and sea ahead.

Lies like a Pusser Menu/Cheap Watch/Flat Fish - A few ways to say that somebody is blatantly not telling the truth.

Lieutenant - The Lieutenant is naval equivalent to Captain in the Army and Air Force; the rank insignia is two standard stripes. The word is from the French language, lieu, "place"; and tenner, "to hold", and means "one who acts for, or in lieu of, a superior officer."

Lieutenant-Commander - The Lieutenant-Commander is naval equivalent to Major in the Army and Air Force. The rank insignia is two standard stripes with a narrow stripe. In 1875, Lieutenants of eight years' seniority were "frocked", or given the 'half-stripe' of commander, and in 1914 the rank of Lieutenant-Commander was officially established.

Lifebelt - The naval equivalent of a personal floatation device.

Lifeboat - 1. Shipboard lifeboat, kept on board a vessel and used to take crew and passengers to safety in the event of the ship being abandoned. (see Liferaft) 2. Rescue lifeboat, usually launched from shore, used to rescue people from the water or from vessels in difficulty.

Lifebouy Sentry - A lookout that stands watch on the quarterdeck primarily to make a report of they witness anyone falling overboard.

Lifer - A career member of the navy, or one who plans on staying in the force for a long time.

Liferaft - An inflatable, covered raft, used in the event of a vessel being abandoned. Usually stored in fiberglass containers which are designed to automatically open and deploy if the ship sinks.

Liferaft Stations - The order that is given prior to abandoning ship.

Light Off - Starting the ship's boilers.

Light Water - See AFFF.

Lighter - A flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships, traditionally unpowered and moved and steered using "sweeps" (long oars), with their motive power provided by water currents.

Lightship - Largely replaced by buoys in the modern era, this was once a permanently anchored vessel performing the functions of a lighthouse, typically in a location where construction of the latter is impractical.

Like Two Bulldogs Fighting in a Sack - A colourful way to describe someone who is walking away from you as their posterior exhibits a well-defined wiggle.

Limbo(s) - Another name for the anti-submarine mortar(s) which were mounted on the St. Laurent Class destroyers.

Line - The correct nautical term for the majority of the cordage or "ropes" used on a naval vessel.

Line Astern - In naval warfare, a line of battle formed behind a flagship.

Line Throwing Gun - A smooth bore gun that is used to launch a rubber-tipped projectile with a light line attached. It is used for passing a line to another ship, or ashore, at greater distances than a line may be thrown by hand.

List - A ship that leans over to the left, or to the right, is said to have a "list".

Living the Dream - A sarcastic term used when things aren't going well.

Loaded to the Gunwales - Literally, having cargo loaded as high as the ship's rail. Also used to refer to someone that is very drunk. Also used as "loaded to the gunnels" eg. "Bloggins returned to the ship and he was loaded to the gunnels."

Lobstergate - A slang term (derived from the US scandal "Watergate") that refers to the incidents of lobster poaching by HMC ships on the east coast.

Long John - Nickname for a sailor that's consistently quoting naval traditions and history.

Long Splice - A joining splice in a line that does not increase the diameter of the line.

Long Stay - The relative slackness of an anchor chain; this term means taught and extended.

Long Tom - A long wooden handle that can be used on a scrub brush or a paint roller.

Loose Cannon - An irresponsible and reckless individual whose behavior (either intended or unintended) endangers the group he/she belongs to. A loose cannon, weighing thousands of pounds, would crush anything and anyone in its path, and possibly even break a hole in the hull, thus endangering the entire ship.

Lose the Bubble - Means to be confused, or to lose track of what is occurring. Nautical sextants have a bubble that must be kept level in order to make a proper sighting. Losing the bubble means that you had no reference to level, and have lost the fix.

Louse Ladders - Sideburns.

Low Grade Codes - Paper based, changing cryptographic codes that are used mainly for radio voice authentication.

Lower Deck - 1. Those members of a ship's company who are not Officers, Chiefs or Petty Officers. Often referred to as "Lower Deckers". 2. Normally, the deck of a ship immediately above the hold.

Lower Deck Lawyer - A know-it-all sailor ready to give other sailors advice, especially when dealing with any legal or disciplinary matter.

Loyal Toast - The Toast to the Sovereign. Traditionally, in the Navy it is given with attendees seated, a custom practised since King William IV, who had served as a naval officer and experienced the discomfort of standing suddenly on board a vessel at sea, authorized all in the navy to toast him while sitting down. This practice is also carried out on board the ships of the Royal Canadian Navy, so long as neither The Queen nor any other member of the Canadian Royal Family is present, in which case the toast is given while sitting only if the royal guest so requests it.

Lubber - A particularly clumsy person.

Lubber's Line - The vertical mark on a compass to mark the ship's heading.

Luffing - Loosening a sail so far past optimal trim that the sail is no longer completely filled with wind, and begins to flap.

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Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy
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