Boating Glossary

Catamaran: a double hull boat, common in sailboats, and some motorboats, or as two canoes lashed together for stability.

Chines: the transition, usually rounded, from the horizontal aspect of a canoe bottom to the vertical aspect of its sides. "Soft" chines are gradual, "hard" chines more abrupt. They affect performance.

Cutwater: the bow at the waterline. Crucial to speed, efficiency, and stability. A knife edge for flat water racing, but more rounded for waves, white water stability, and handling crosscurrents.

Eddy: a type of backwater, where a portion of the current, moving past a point or obstruction, turns back upstream below the obstruction. Eddies can occur along the shore, or behind an exposed rock in the river, and in high water can become small whirlpools.

Eddy turn: Because crossing an eddy line is dangerous (the current goes from downstream to upstream in a few inches or feet), a canoeist often uses a drawing brace in the front to spin the boat 180 degrees, whether entering or leaving the eddy. See on this site, Testing the Canoes, A Video Essay.

Ferry: to cross the river by heading upstream at about 45 degrees. The most secure and efficient method of crossing. See also on this site, Pictorial Essay, Upstream Ferry.

Finding pegs: Dugout makers frequently drill a few holes in the hull, after the outside is shaped and the inside is crudely scooped out. Then a finding peg, say two inches long, is hammered into the bottom flush with the outside of the hull, and the inside is dug down to that peg, guaranteeing a 2" bottom. The "Spalding canoe," the 1820s native dugout on the Clearwater, had finding pegs. Water expands wood; thus an immersed boat, it is hoped, does not leak around the pegs.

Flare: where the hull, above the chines and especially at the bow, spreads outward to deflect water and spray. Very subtle: even a gunnel sticking out one inch past the side, will visibly deflect water. No one has any idea how the Lewis and Clark carvers handled chines and flare in their dugouts. But they would have considered it.

Freeboard: the amount of hull above the water; at first, the biggest canoeing problem Lewis and Clark faced. A heavy load presses the canoe down. Mackenzie mentions that the loaded voyageur birch boats had only 6" of freeboard and newcomers thought they would sink. We guess that Lewis and Clark might have had only 4-6 inches of freeboard leaving Fort Mandan: less than one open hand span. Now imagine keeping water out, with 3' waves and gale force headwinds and spray. That's why, to lighten the canoes, they had people walking along the bank, as well as people pulling the cords But they all had to cross the river sometimes making the canoes very heavy.

Gunwale: also in America, with appropriate spelling, the phonetic synonomy "gunnel." The top edge of the sides of the canoe, end to end. In a dugout, this might be simply a rounded edge, but some flare can be created. In birch canoes, a strip of wood on top was necessary to protect the birch sides and keep the shape, so this small amount of "flare" at the gunwale was traditional, and was carried into the earliest ribbed and canvas boats and continues in modern canoes. The gunnel also protects the top of the sides when the boat is turned over to empty water, to stay dry for the night, or to shelter cargo or men.

Pirogue: a truly amorphous term, used for boat shapes as diverse as canoes and huge cargo rafts. See also on this site, The Issues, A Pirogue by Any Other Name.

Punt: a small, flat-bottomed and very stable boat with squared ends, whether a rowboat or canoe (using oars or paddles), used locally for fishing—or courting. In this essay, punt is synonymous with "scow," to be distinguished from a traveling boat, longer, leaner, faster and more efficient.

Rake: the slope of the bow. "No rake" would denote a vertical bow; "Much rake" would describe a long sloping bow. Because birch boats had to hold supple wood in tension, the long curve from the water up into a high bow became the iconic "canoe" shape, but almost all canoes will have a curve from the vertical down into some rake, and some rocker (q.v.).

Rocker: the lifting of the bottom at the bow (and stern) before the "rake" begins; a flat water race boat, built for straight tracking, might have no rocker or rake; a whitewater boat, needing to pivot quickly, might have rocker throughout: that is, no straight line on the bottom at all. In common canoe designs, the straight line of a bottom gradually transitions to some lift (rocker) and then to increasing rising (rake) to the bow, creating one long sloping line of an increasing curve from the bottom up past the waterline. That curve, and its shape, like the chines and flare, will determine the boat's performance.

Scow: see Punt.

Sides: the sides of the canoe, lengthwise as seen from above, are usually part of a continuous curve, though less so in longer dugouts of the greatest capacity (since the tree trunk is straight). Seen in cross-section , the sides go from the chines up to the gunnels. Obviously, the sides and chines can transition down into various bottoms, from flat to v shaped to round. See the Wenonah diagrams in Chapter 3 for a variety of hull cross-sections and their performance.

Tumblehome: an inward curve at the top of the sides, towards the center of the boat. Natural in a dugout using the bottom two thirds of a horizontal log. This narrowing of the sides, above the flare, makes paddling easier.

Washstrake: a plank or board on edge fastened to the top of the gunnel, to increase freeboard. Very useful in waves; the seam with the gunwale need not be watertight, because the board will deflect the occasional slosh of water. Certainly in New Orleans, Clark would have seen many dugouts with washstrakes above low dugout hulls, or gunwales. Given the problems they had already encountered with wind and waves, I suspect that at the Mandans they would have wanted washstrakes, but when they found they could not make boards from the cottonwoods for their fort, that option was out.