Language: jargon: sailing

Gammon: Naut.

  1. The hole through the bulwarks, metal fitting, chain loop, or other rigging through which the bowsprit renders.
  2. A gab/gossip session, especially amongs old sailors telling tall tales.
  3. A social between the crew of two or more boats
  1. To gossip or tell stories
  2. To lie.

At the bow of a sailing ship, the bowsprit was fixed to the hull by the stays at the outboard end, pins at the inboard end, and usually some form of a gammon at the edge of the hull. The gammon served as a fulcrum, transfering the the force from the sail to the hull. In early and simple rigs the gammon might be a simple eye in a line, but in later rigs developed into complex stemhead fittings made in cast metals, and usually called a gammon iron. The gammon was not always on the centerline, but often offset to port or starboard for ease of construction or strength at the stemhead.

In the days of commercial sail, but especially among whaleboats who might spend months between landfalls, when two ships met at sea they might come near each other and heave-to in order to exchange news. Captains would often visit aboard each other's boats, and to make the ferrying as short as possible would put their ship's bow as close to the other's as safety, and nerves, would allow, thus getting the ships' gammons so close it might appear the ships were conversing as well.

These social events had many forms. Usually just two vessels, but on occasions more than half a dozen might arrange to meet. Often the captains would drink and smoke, sometimes spending nights aboard each other's ships. Captains who sailed with their wives and family would plan rendezvous with other boats similarly crewed. Usually few of the sailor crew would visit the other boats, but some wild parties are recorded in logs with crew passing back and forth, berths being bartered and captains swapping sailors and even betting them in games of chance. A long history of storytelling is associated with such meetings, and in the sailor's dialectic "You ain't gammoning me, is ye?" was equivalent to "You aren't lying?"

  • Edwards, Fred; Sailing as a Second Language; International Marine Publishing Company; © 1988 Highmark Publishing Ltd.; ISBN 0-87742-965-0
  • Twain, Mark; Following the Line: Innocents Abroad