Boom: The word boom, often masculine in the local parlance (“le bôme”), describes a mast crane that can swivel on its base and is held by a set of tackles that can raise, lower or tilt the mast lengthwise. At the head of the boom, a block allows the whip to move in order to heft cargo.
Bow: The front part of the ship’s hull. No 1. The bow is designed to cut through the waves with the least resistance possible. The addition of a bulbous bow often improves the hydrodynamics of the hull, thereby increasing its speed by a few knots and saving on fuel. The bow of icebreakers is the strongest part of their hull. It is solid enough to cut through sea ice a few metres thick.
No 2. The inclined front portion of a schooner. The point were the strakes from both sides of the ship connect. This section of the hull is reinforced with knight-heads, heavy vertical timbers fastened between the bow and the first ribs. The visible front portion of the stem is called the bow plate, which is mounted with a piece of steel sometimes nicknamed the “brise-mer” (litterally, “sea-breaker”, in French).
Caulker: A worker in charge of caulking the ships. During the construction of a schooner, it is the caulker’s responsibility to make sure that its hull and deck are watertight.
Caulking: Using a mallet and irons, tightly packing the seams in the planking with cotton and oakum in order to make them watertight.
Coasting: Navigation in coastal waters, from port to port. A coaster is a ship specialized in this kind of navigation.
Deadweight: A ship’s deadweight is the maximum weight it can safely carry, including cargo, crew, fuel and food.
Gross tonnage: One could be forgiven for believing that gross tonnage refers to a unit of weight. Rather it is a unit of volume corresponding to 100 cubic feet (roughly 2.83 cubic metres) and used to measure the size of a vessel.
Grounding: Running aground.
Growlers: Small floating ice mounds (“bourguignons” in French).
Iron: A handleless tool used to pack oakum. Irons are part of the caulkers toolkit. They are used to drive the oakum between the planking.
Keel blocks: A piece of wood to support the keel or the hull of a ship in a dry dock. In Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, these are usually wooden or reinforced concrete rails placed at regular intervals as supports.
Oakum: Made of hemp and linen, oakum is used to caulk the hull of a ship in order to make it watertight. The oakum, coated with a pitch made of fir sap and oil, is driven between the planking.
Pinne: In French, a derogatory nickname for motor-powered schooners on the St. Lawrence.
Planking: Each of the timbers that make up the exterior of the ship. The whole of the ship’s planking in French is called “le bordé”. The term “bordé” in French can also refer to a single timber.
Refitting: Carrying out maintenance or repairs on the hull of the ship.
Schooner (Charlevoix): Charlevoix schooners were flat-bottom two-masted boats, either ketch-rigged (with the larger sail on the foremast) or schooner-rigged (with the larger sail on the aft mast). Length: between 20 and 25 metres.
With the region having few docks, navigators often had to adjust for the tides and run aground on the tidal flats in order to unload their shipment. They adapted their keel schooners by flattening out the bottom. However, flat bottom schooners were less manoeuvrable in heavy seas.
Splice: Splicing is a technique for binding two ropes by criss-crossing their end strands without using a knot. A splice maintains the strength of the cordage while still allowing it to move freely between blocks or pulleys. Indeed, regular knots would weaken the strength of the cordage by 30 to 50% and end up getting stuck when passing the pulleys’ sheaves. Splicing can be done, either on board, in port, or on the shipyard. As with most skills, rigging maintenance was usually taught by older, more experienced sailors. The splicer is the sailor tasked with splicing.
Voiture d’eau: Literally “water car” in French, this was another name given to schooners on the St. Lawrence in the 1960s. The name was also the title of a 1968 film by Pierre Perreault (Les voitures d’eau) about the decline of wooden schooners. This full-length feature film is the third instalment of a trilogy about l’Île aux Coudres.