Thursday, April 12, 2007

all things nautical

The Secretary of Defense announced yesterday that all Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are now 15 months in length and announced a few weeks ago that standard Navy deployments are now extended to 9 months. Military families has been subjected to intense strains during the last 5 years with many damaged and destroyed lives as a result.
The only deployment I have had to experience as a Navy wife was at the start-up of the war and began with me dropping off Tim on the pier enormously pregnant with 2 and 4 year olds in the backseat. Nine months later, the three children and I waited joyfully for him to return to us safe and sound. Two members of the crew sadly did not return to their families.
I didn't worry about our marriage falling apart while we were apart, and in fact grew stronger due to daily emails and phone calls. We are both mature and strong individuals and each tries to put the other person first, but many couples are young, inexperienced in decision making, and immature and end up destroying their relationship. Even a colleague of Tim's, in a 20 year marriage found a "Dear John" letter in his email one day while he was 1/2 way around the world and unable to prevent his soon-to-be ex-wife from filing for divorce and full custody of their children.
In the spirit of extended deployments and tours, I thought I would share a few explanations of nautical phrases in our everyday language. Most came from a British book, The Real McCoy I picked up at the library this week.
"to be taken aback: If a person is taken aback they are shocked, but a ship is taken aback when a sudden wind blows directly against its sails from the front and forces them against the mast. This prevents the ship from moving forward and also puts the masts at risk of being snapped in two."
"three sheets to the wind: an informal term for drunk, but on a ship 'sheets' are ropes attached to the lower corners of a sail, used to secure it or alter its direction. If they are 'to the wind' they are loose, and so the ship is impossible to control (as is a person who is drunk)."
"no room to swing a dead cat: describes a small or confined space. A flogging for serious offenses was likely to be carried out with whip with knotted cords, known as a cat-o-nine-tails. Conditions on board ship were of course cramped, making it difficult to use this sort of whip with the desired force."
"son of a gun: a friendly way of referring to a male friend. This term got its start with babies born at sea to women who had been allowed to accompany their sailor husbands on a long voyage. The baby would have been born between the cannons on the gun deck, where the ordinary sailors often slept."
My grandmother often stated "pull up the ladder Jack, I'm aboard" to my brother or myself as we were growing up. This nautical expression refers to boarding a ship from the side using a bosun's chair and ladder from a smaller boat. When one of us helped ourselves and then selfishly did not see if anyone else needed the same item, Grandmother would snap, "Pull up the ladder Jack" and we knew we were in trouble. I now use it with my children and perhaps the phrase will continue down through many generations.
May God bless all military families. Please keep them safe, calm their fears, and give them strength in these troubled times.

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