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.

This list was compiled over the years and was finally published in 2014 as "Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy (2015 edition)" In 2018, a completely revised 2nd edition will be released. The 2018 edition features expanded and revised definitions, many more example sentences, and over 400 new terms.

Index: 0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

"A" Terms

A & A
Alterations and additions to the structure, rigging and equipment of a warship.
A'Cock Bill
1. Out of alignment or awry.
2. May also refer to the anchor cleared of the hawse, up and down and ready for letting go.
A.J. Squared-Away
The mythical sailor of the USN that is always well organized.
Anti-Air Warfare.
1. Turning a sailing ship so the wind hits the forward face of the sail. Done to create a braking effect to a sailing ship. It is detrimental when a sailing ship accidentally goes aback when tacking as it quickly loses its momentum.
2. A sailor might be said to be "all aback" if he/she is confused or surprised.
Toward the stern, relative to some object ("abaft the fore hatch"). Never use the term Aft of
Abaft the beam
Further aft than the beam: a relative bearing of greater than 90 degrees from the bow: "two points abaft the beam, starboard side" would describe an object lying 2
2.5 degrees toward the rear of the ship, as measured clockwise from a perpendicular line from the right side, center, of the ship, toward the horizon.
The acronym for "Atomic, Biological, Chemical". This term was eventually replaced by "NBC" (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical)
On the beam, a relative bearing at right angles to the centerline of the ship's keel.
Able Seaman
The rank of Able Seaman is the equivalent of Private in the Army or Air Force, with rank insignia of a single chevron. Derived from the term "Able Bodied Seaman".
On or in a vessel.
To go about is to change the course of a sailboat by tacking. Ready about, or boutship, is the order to prepare for tacking.
Above board
Anything that is on or above the deck, and in plain view. Its meaning is to be open and not be hiding anything.
Above-water hull
The hull section of a vessel above the waterline, the visible part of a ship. Also, topside.
Absentee pennant
Special pennant flown to indicate absence of commanding officer, admiral, his chief of staff, or officer whose flag is flying (division, squadron, or flotilla commander).
Absolute bearing
The bearing of an object in relation to north. Either true bearing, using the geographical or true north, or magnetic bearing, using magnetic north. See also bearing and relative bearing.
Accommodation Ladder
A ladder against the side of the ship to provide access when in harbour but not alongside the jetty or if the ship is at anchor.
Accommodation Ship
A ship or hulk used as housing, generally when there is a lack of quarters available ashore.
Backgammon, a board game traditionally played in off-duty hours.
Act of Pardon or Act of Grace
A letter from a state or power authorizing action by a privateer. Also see Letter of Marque.
Acting Sub-lieutenant
The most junior of the commissioned officers, and is equivalent to Second Lieutenant in the Army and Air Force. The rank insignia of an Acting Sub-Lieutenant is a single standard stripe.
Directive to initiate a tactical sequence or maneuver.
Action Messing
The process of feeding the ship's company very quickly while at action stations.
Action stations
The highest state of readiness in a warship. Ordered when action with the enemy is imminent, requiring all hands closed up.
Action Up/Action Down
Markings on Ship's ladders which indicate one way traffic in the event of Action Stations.
The rank of admiral indicates the commander-in-chief of the navy, a senior officer in command of a fleet or squadron, or of a command ashore. In ascending order of seniority, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, Admiral and Admiral of the Fleet (Royal Navy).
Admiral's Barge
A boat at the disposal of an admiral for his or her use as transportation between a larger vessel and the shore or within a harbour.
A high naval authority in charge of a naval component.
1. When referring to a vessel it implies that it is not under control and therefore goes where the wind and current take her. 1. Improperly secured or stowed. Out of place.
2. Officially AWOL or simply missing from your place of work.
Advance and Transfer
Terms used when describing a ship's turning ability. Advance is the forward progress made between the time that the rudder is put over and the time the ship is steady on her new course. Transfer is the horizontal displacement of the ship during the same period of time.
Advance Party
The group that arrives at a port, or an exercise location, early so as to make logistical preparations for the pending visit.
A kind of dispatch boat or advice boat, most predominant in the French navy. Equivalent to the modern sloop.
Aqueous Film Forming Foam. A fire-fighting agent which is mixed with water and sprayed on flammable liquids fires. Pronounced "A Triple-F". Also known as "Light Water" for the foam's ability to float on oil or gasoline.
Of a vessel which is floating freely (not aground or sunk). More generally of vessels in service ("the company has 10 ships afloat").
In, on, or toward the front of a vessel.
The portion of the vessel behind the middle area of the vessel. In the direction of the stern.
After Supper Sailor
Reservist who conducts training on weekday evenings. Also see "Weekend Warrior".
Afternoon Watch
The 1200 - 1600 watch.
Ship designation for Auxiliary, Intelligence Gathering. In the past this term was mainly used in reference to USSR based spy-ships.
Resting on or touching the ground or bottom (usually involuntarily).
Forward of the bow.
A cry to draw attention. Term used to hail a boat or a ship, as "Boat Ahoy!"
Aid to Navigation
(ATON) Any navigational device external to a vessel or aircraft specifically intended to assist navigators in determining their position or safe course, or to warn them of dangers or obstructions to navigation. A good example might be a buoy or a lighthouse.
An ornamental braided cord most often worn on the uniforms of officers who are acting as an Aide de Camp. Derived from the Army, where the general's aide de camp wore wooden pegs over his shoulder, which he used to hobble the generals horse.
Air Start
The process of starting a large diesel engine using compressed air to turn the engine over.
Aircraft Carrier
A warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase.
Vague or impractical suggestion.
Assistant Judge Advocate General. A military lawyer.
The brand name of a handheld signaling lamp.
1. On the lee side of a ship.
2. To leeward.
All about
To be clever, snappy and efficient.
All for George
One who holds by his duties and carries them out to the letter is said to be all for George. Common during World War II, but since King George VI's death in 1952, the phrase has fallen out of use; no subsequent variation for Queen Elizabeth II seems to have evolved.
All gate and gaiters
Gate as a slang term for talk and gaiters being the lower leggings worn by sailors. The phrase is used to describe someone or something that is all show with no real substance.
All Hands
Entire ship's company, both officers and enlisted personnel.
All Night In
Having no night watches. Also referred to as "All Nighters".
All Standing
To bring to a sudden or unexpected halt.
1. In the rigging of a sailing ship. Above the ship's uppermost solid structure; overhead or high above.
2. Above the ship's uppermost solid structure.
3. Overhead or high above.
In harbour. By the side of a ship or pier.
In the middle portion of ship, along the line of the keel. The centerline of the ship.
Amp Tramp
Ship's electrician.
An interview without coffee
A discussion with a senior CPO or Officer during which one's "horoscope" is likely to be read.
1. An object designed to prevent or slow the drift of a ship, attached to the ship by a line or chain; typically a metal, hook-like or plough-like object designed to grip the bottom under the body of water (but also see sea anchor).
2. The act of deploying an anchor ("She anchored offshore.")
Anchor Ball
Round black shape hoisted in the forepart of a vessel to show that it is anchored.
Anchor Buoy
A small buoy secured by a light line to an anchor to indicate position of anchor on bottom.
Anchor Cable
The chain connecting the ship to the anchor.
Anchor Clanker
1. Boatswain or Boatswain's Mate.
2. (RN) Ordinary seaman.
Anchor Home
When the anchor is secured for sea. Typically rests just outside the hawsepipe on the outer side of the hull, at the bow of a vessel.
Anchor Light
White light displayed by a ship at anchor. Two such lights are displayed by a ship over 150 feet (46 m) in length.
Anchor Pool
A betting pool on the actual time the ship will drop anchor or tie up.
Anchor Tattoo
A tattoo that is worn by a sailor that has crossed the Atlantic. Crossed anchors on the web between the thumb and index finger indicates the sailor is a Boatswain.
Anchor watch
A special watch while at anchor, especially during a storm, to detect if the anchor is dragging.
Anchor's Aweigh
1. What is said of an anchor when it is just clear of the bottom.
2. (USN) The name of the fight song of the United States Naval Academy, and as a result, the song is strongly associated with the USN.
Anyone who is enthusiastic about the Navy.
A suitable place for a ship to anchor. Area of a port or harbour.
(RN) Traditional lower-deck slang term for the Royal Navy. Refers to press gang leader Andrew Miller who, it was said, owned the Royal Navy.
Angles and Dangles
Operating a submarine at steep angles of ascent and descent, as well as the performance of rapid turns.
Pieces of material or metal left over from a job.
Anti-Rolling Tanks
A pair of fluid-filled, usually water, tanks mounted on opposite sides of a civilian ship below the waterline. Fluid would be pumped between them in an attempt to dampen the amount of roll.
Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment. A naval auxiliary ship with fuel tanks and dry cargo holds designed to replenish other ships with fuel and supplies while underway. See Tanker.
Over to the port side.
Apparent Wind
The combination of the true wind and the headwind caused by the boat's forward motion. For example, it causes a light side wind to appear to come from well ahead of the beam.
Arc of Visibility
The portion of the horizon over which a lighted aid to navigation is visible from seaward.
The plank along the stern where the name of a ship/boat is commonly displayed.
Arm the Lead
To place some wax in the cavity on the bottom of the hand lead-line so that a sample of the ocean bottom can be brought up for inspection.
A ship's weapons.
Armstrong (lever)
A nice way of put the fact that a sailor has to do it by hand, and achieve the task without mechanical aid.
Articles of War
Regulations governing the military and naval forces of UK and USA; read to every ship's company on commissioning and at specified intervals during the commission.
Engineering technician.
As the crow flies
A direct line between two points. When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, Viking ships would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight towards the nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be know as the crow's nest.
As You Were
A command which contravenes a previous command. Usually the term "as you were" is used to correct an erroneous command.
An acronym for early model sonar sets meaning "Allied Submarine Devices Investigation Committee".
An older style depth charge which is cylindrical in shape.
1. On the beach, shore, or land (as opposed to aboard or on board).
2. Towards the shore.
3. "To run ashore": To collide with the shore (as opposed to "to run aground," which is to strike a submerged feature such as a reef or sandbar)
Assisting Officer
The officer assigned to assist the accused in the time of a service tribunal such as a summary trial or court martial. Though assigned to assist, the assisting officer never acts as a lawyer for the accused.
Over to the starboard side.
1. Toward the stern (rear) of a vessel.
2. Behind a vessel.
Anti-submarine warfare.
Asylum Harbour
A harbour used to provide shelter from a storm.
At Loggerheads
A serious difference of opinion. A Loggerhead is two iron balls attached by an iron rod, which was heated and used for melting pitch. Sailors sometimes used them as weapons to settle a grudge.
At the Dip
A flag signal is considered to be at the dip when it is hauled halfway up the halyard. Usually indicates an action which is about to take place. Someone who is ready to do something is "at the dip".
Athwart, Athwartships
Running from side to side. At right angles to the fore and aft or centerline of a ship.
Common term for members of the Australian Navy, or anybody from Australia for that matter.
A method of making an emergency landing in a helicopter which has experienced engine failure.
Auxiliary ship (or auxiliary)
A naval ship designed to operate in any number of roles supporting combatant ships and other naval operations, including a wide range of activities related to replenishment, transport, repair, harbour services, and research.
Stop, cease or desist from whatever is being done. From the Dutch hou' vast ("hold fast"), from houd ("hold") + vast ("fast").
Level with the surface of the sea. So low in the water that the water is constantly washing across the surface.
Position of an anchor when it is just clear of the bottom.
A canvas cover that is rigged over quarterdeck, focsle or flight deck to serve as protection from the sun and rain, especially when the ship is hosting guests.
Axial Fire
Naval gunfire oriented towards the ends of the ship; the opposite of broadside fire.
Aye Aye
1. Reply to an order or command to indicate that it, firstly, is heard; and, secondly, is understood and will be carried out.
2. Technically the correct reply from a boat to a challenging ship on being hailed when there is an officer onboard. If the captain of a ship is in the boat the reply is the ship's name.
Azimuth Circle
Circular instrument which is fitted on top of a compass and used to take bearings of objects.

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Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy
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