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

"T" Terms

TACtical Air Navigation. A radio transmitter, which provides the ship's current bearing and distance data to shipborne aircraft.
1. A short piece of halyard used as a space in a signal flag hoist.
2. A punctuation mark in a written or voice message, written as a dash.
3. A leg of the route of a sailing vessel.
Equipment used for lifting, usually consisting of pulleys and lines. Sometimes pronounced "tayckle".
A greenhorn. A sailor who has not crossed the Equator, also referred to as a "Pollywog".
A wooden rail at the stern of the boat.
A towed array sonar. Also called a "TAS Tail".
Take charge
To assume control of.
Take Turns
The act of winding a line around an object. Used to create friction and gain mechanical advantage.
Taking a Sight
Thumbing your nose at a senior shipmate behind their back. It is reminiscent of a person taking a sight with a sextant, but it is not meant for navigation.
Taking the Wind Out of His Sails
To sail in a way that steals the wind from another ship.
Talk a good days work
An all talk, no action, type of person.
Talking to Ralph on the Great White Telephone
Vomiting due to seasickness or another malady, either natural or self-inflicted.
The ribbon worn around a sailor's cap indicating his ship.
Tally Plate
A nameplate or label attached to a piece of equipment.
A radio call signifying that an aircraft has gained visual contact.
Friendly term for the RCN's venerable Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) vessels.
Tanker wanker
A nickname for a seaman who has done most of their sailing in the AORs (Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessels).
Target Ship
A vessel, typically an obsolete or captured warship, used for naval gunnery practice or for weapons testing. The term includes both ships intended to be sunk and ships intended to survive and see repeated use as a target.
Tarpaulin Muster
A traditional method of helping a shipmate in financial distress. A tarp is spread out on the deck, and then the ships company files past, dropping donations of whatever they can afford onto the tarp.
Task Force
Temporary naval organizations composed of a group of ships, aircraft, submarines, military land forces, or shore service units. Assigned to fulfill certain missions.
Mission, target, or other objective.
Tight; to haul taut.
Temporary Duty. A temporary posting to a ship or unit.
Teased Out
Well-worn, like the end of a frayed rope.
Tell Off
Detail sailors off for work assignments.
Temporary Loan
A category of loan that is used for kit that is not issued to a sailor for the remainder of his career. For example, a uniform is issued, but a life belt is a temporary loan.
That is All
Traditional phrase to end any pipe that begins with "D'ye Hear There".
Vertical wooden pegs or pin inserted through the gunwale of a boat to form a fulcrum for oars when rowing.
Thousand Miler
A reusable envelope for internal messages and paperwork.
Three Sheets to the Wind
A sailor who has drunk strong spirits beyond his capacity. Derived from the term used for the situation on a three-masted ship when the sheets fly loosely, and cause the ship to meander aimlessly downwind.
Three White Tapes on a Seaman's Collar
On traditional square rig, the three white stripes on the collar are commonly said to commemorate Horatio Nelson's three great battles: the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar. However, it is also said that there is no truth in this. Others say that the three stripes were actually a device to ensure the previous collar with two stripes was no longer used.
A person who lacks basic intelligence.
A pyrotechnic banger used to simulate explosions during shipboard exercises.
A bench seat across the width of an open boat.
Tick in the Box
A routine milestone in a career. eg. "I had to take the course, it was simply a tick in the box".
A special trade qualification.
Tidal Current
Current due to tidal action.
Tidal Rip
A confused, tumbling surface condition, caused by tidal currents flowing over underwater ridges.
Tidal Set
The direction, and the amount, that a tide will "set" the ship in the act of navigating a narrow channel or passage.
Neat or smart; something that must be fussed over.
Tiddley Suit
When the RCN wore square rig, this was a sailor's best uniform, which was often tailor-made and saved for extra-special occasions. Often, it couldn't be worn on parade as it was sometimes illegally altered, however it could be worn ashore when the sailor wished to impress the ladies.
The vertical rise and fall of water caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and moon.
Originally, a term that was short for "artificer". Today, it is the name for the medical man onboard a ship. eg. The "Sick Bay Tiffy".
Tiger Team
A group of personnel tasked with a specific job or purpose. They are usually given this name to increase their prestige within the organization, with the hope that full cooperation will ensue.
Watertight. eg. "The hatch is closed tight."
A lever used for steering, attached to the top of the rudderpost. Common in sailboats and small craft.
Tiller Flats
A space in aft part of the ship where the gear equipment for operating the ship's rudder is located. This space is often fitted with a mechanism that gives the ability to steer the ship, in the case of dire emergency when other methods of steering have been lost.
A white or khaki coloured floppy cap, usually worn by rich old men and Canadian Sailors. "Tilley" is a brand name.
Toast of the Day
A predetermined toast that is made, based on the day of the week. Normally these toasts are used at special occasions and mess dinners, but they may be used at any time. The toast is typically given by the youngest person present at the gathering.
Toe Rail
On weather decks, the raised lip at the deck edge.
Toe the Line
On parade, sailors were required to stand in line, their toes in line with a straight seam on the deck.
A block of wood inserted into the barrel of a gun on a 19th-century warship to keep out the sea spray. Also used for covers on the ends of the barrels of more modern ships' guns, the larger of which are often adorned with the ship's badge or other decoration. The term is often bastardized as "tampon".
The size or cargo carrying capacity of a ship.
The dentist.
Top Part
The upper deck area located amidships.
Torch (The)
The name of the main fire fighting training stucture at CFB Esquimalt Fire Fighting/Damage Control School. Referred to as the "Torch", or sometimes simply the "T". It is no longer in use.
A self-propelled weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with its target, or in proximity to it.
A rum ration consisting of a half-gill measure of Pusser's Rum. At one time, it was a daily issue on HMC Ships, however that tradition ened on 30 March 197
Touch and Go
The bottom of the ship touching the bottom, but not be stuck on the bottom (grounding). ie. The ship temporarily went aground, or touched bottom, then continued on its way.
Tow Exercise. Practicing the evolution of towing another ship.
The operation of drawing a vessel forward by means of long lines.
The passing down of knowledge, beliefs, thought processes, and codes of behaviour, usually without writing it down.
Trafalgar Day
The anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) celebrated yearly with parades and dinners.
Traffic Separation Scheme
Shipping corridors marked by buoys which separate incoming and outgoing vessels.
The left and right movement of a gun.
Train Smash
A meal of sausages and stewed tomatoes.
Training Ship
A ship berthed alongside in harbour, and used primarily to train young sailors.
An unintentional sound emitted from a submarine. When heard on sonar it is usually a surprise, especially it the sound source is extremely close in to your own ship.
An imaginary line that intersects two points of land.
The aft vertical board on the stern of a boat. Often the part to which an outboard unit or the drive portion of a sterndrive is attached.
Traveller Block
The wheeled block which is used to transfer goods back and forth during a jackstay transfer.
1. A commercial fishing boat that uses a trawl net or dragnet to catch fish.
2. Naval trawler, a converted trawler, or boat built in that style, used for naval purposes. Commonly used by the Soviets during the cold war as spy ships.
Trg O
Training Officer.
A short spell of duty on a particular job.
1. The tendency of a ship to lie with her decks not in a horizontal position, fore to aft. A ship that lies with her bow too low is said to "trimmed by the bow".
2. A term used to describe a member of the opposite sex, especially in the context of sexual conquests.
Ships electrician.
Tropical Routine
An altered daily routine followed when the ship is situated in a hot climate. The working day starts very early, but ends in the early afternoon, avoiding the midday sun.
True Bearing
An absolute bearing using true north as a reference, rather than magnetic north.
True North
The direction of the geographical North Pole.
True Wind
The direction and velocity of the wind as observed from a statiotary point.
Air-conditioning ducts and electrical cable wire-ways that pass above on the deckhead.
A boat that helps to maneuver other vessels by pushing or towing them.
A specific hull shape where the widest part of the hull is below deck level. Originally used to lower canal toll charges where tariffs are calculated by dimensions at deck level.
The name of the damage control structure at CFB Esquimalt Fire Fighting/Damage Control School. Its actual name was HMCS TUMULT. It is no longer in use.
Turd Herder
Less than complimentary nickname for a Hull Technician, specifically the sailor that has to repair the toilets. Also "Shitter Fitter".
Turk's Head
A decorative knot made on cylinder objects. Also, seen as a flattened version which is placed on decorative knot boards. A notable practical use for the Turk's head is to mark the "King Spoke" on a ship's wheel.
Turn Out
1. The act of attending to a duty.
2. Used to describe the appearance or the standard of dress of individuals.
3. Describes how a boat may be pushed out over the side of the ship by a davit. eg. "The seaboat is turned out and ready for launching".
Turn To
1. Begin working
2. An order meaning "Get to work!".
Turn Turtle
See "Bottlescrew".
An armoured gun installation on a rotating base.
Turtle Tattoos
A Turtle standing on its back legs (shellback) means that the sailor has crossed the equator and has been initiated into King Neptune's Court.
Turtleback Deck
A deck that has slight positive curvature when viewed in cross-section. The purpose of this curvature is usually to shed water, but in warships it also functions to make the deck more resistant to shells.
Two And a Halfer
A Lieutenant-Commander who's rank insignia shows two thick bars with one half bar in the middle.
Two Black Balls
Day shapes hoisted up the mast in this way indicate that the vessel is "not under command". This usually occurs when the ship has a steering gear failure.
Two Blocks
1. When the blocks of a tackle meet. Also referred to as "Block on Block" or "Chock-a-Block".
2. Uptight. Reached your limit.
Two Six Heave
Term of encouragement meaning to pull or lift with full force. Originally, a term meant for two members of a gun crew (numbers two and six) who would run out the gun by pulling on the ropes that secured it in place.
Two Stars Tattoo
Worn by a sailor who is able to perform celestial navigation.

If you have any input to this list, please feel free to get involved. Submit your feedback through our contact form

Buy the Book!
Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy
Buy the Book!