Notes on the text

Notes by David Page. The page and line numbers below refer to the Authorised Edition of Abaft the Funnel published by Doubleday and Page, New York, in 1909.


[Page 72, line 2] latitude and longitude the position of the ship on the earth’s surface. Latitude is the position north or south of the equator, and longitude is that east or west of Greenwich, England.

[Page 72, line 3] Sherry cobbler a mixed drink usually made from sherry, sugar or sugar syrup, lemon or orange and soda water. Sherry is the one constant ingredient.

[Page 72, line 5] turned towards China having rounded the Malay peninsula, the ship’s head was turned approximately north-north-east towards China and Hong Kong.

[Page 72, line 6] nearer East that part of the Orient that is nearer to England, i.e. India in this case.

[Page 72, line 7] Hongkong in SE China at the mouth of the Pearl River, was first occupied in part by the British in 1839 before being ceded by the Chinese in 1841. The New Territories, which include Hong Kong, were leased to Great Britain for 99 years in 1898. [Webster’s New Geographical Dictionary]

[Page 72, line 13] The China seas are part of the Pacific Ocean reaching from Japan to the Southern end of the Malay Peninsula. This sea area borders China and is split by the island of Taiwan into the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It runs from the Equator to 35º N.

[Page 73, line 5] tidal-wave also now known as a tsunami. They are caused by a disruption of the seabed such as occurs in an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or landslide.

[Page 73, line 14] fo’c’sle forecastle, in the bows of a ship.

[Page 73, line 16] Bo’sun Boatswain. The warrant officer or petty officer in charge of sails, rigging, anchors, cables, deck crew, ship’s boats, etc.

[Page 73, line 17] “how’s her head?” ‘in which direction is she heading?’ meaning the direction in which the compass is pointing.

[Page 73, line 18] “Direckly in front of her” this takes another meaning of the word ‘head’, which refers to the bows of the ship.

[Page 73, line 20] head-sea a sea in which the waves meet the ship head-on, thus causing the vessel to pitch, rather than from the side which induces rolling.

[Page 74, line 4] minnow among Tritons a small fish among Tritons. Triton was an ancient Greek sea deity, son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. In the plural, Tritons are usually depicted as half-man half-fish, and are equipped with a conch shell as a trumpet which they sound at Poseidon’s command to smooth the seas.

[Page 74, line 13] the old hooper a reference to the ship. Probably a misprint for ‘old hooker’, which was a name that could be used for any vessel that was past the first bloom of her youth, sometimes affectionately, sometimes contemptuously.

[Page 74, line 21] claret a red wine from Bordeaux, France, a region on the Atlantic coast. This wine has always been very popular with the English.

[Page 75, line 14] steward the term for a waiter or ship’s servant.

[Page 76, line 2] cut-water the forward curve of the stem or bow.

[Page 76, line 6] till six feet of the red paint stood clear above the blue—from twenty-three feet to eighteen. The lower part of the ship was painted red from the normal waterline on this ship—i.e., she normally drew 23 feet. As the stem rose, more and more red showed above the blue sea, but perhaps it was not quite six feet, for there are only 5 feet from the 18 foot mark to the 23 foot mark.

[Page 76, line 24] tiffin Hobson-Jobson defines this as ‘Luncheon, Anglo-Indian and Hindustani, at least in English households.’ Thus it would be a repast taken around midday. One apposite citation from 1850 that is given is as follows:

‘A vulgar man, who enjoys a champagne tiffin and swindles his servants . . . may be a pleasant companion to those who do not hold him in contempt as a vulgar knave, but he is not a gentleman.’
[Sir C. Napier, Farewell Address].

[Page 77, line 1] quarter-deck the aftermost part of the ship, used in this case by the first-class passengers.

[Page 77, line 3] their faces were averted, etc. [Genesis 3,7-10].

[Page 77, line 11] Cat and mouse, puss-in-the-corner, hide-and-seek Nursery parlour games in the home. [ORG]

[Page 77, line 14] long chairs semi-reclining chairs with an extension on which to rest the legs.

[Page 77, line 19] gin cocktail it is not clear which one of the many gin-based drinks is referred to here. Since it was ‘sucked by the side of the strong man’ it was probably a long drink such as a gin-and-tonic.

[Page 77, line 16] In heaven above or the waters beneath The Second Commandment prescribes: “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth”, [Exodus 20].

[Page 78, line 2] cheroot Hobson-Jobson defines this as: ‘a cigar; but the term has been appropriated specially to cigars truncated at both ends, as the Indian and Manilla cigars always were in former days’. [See also the notes to “A Smoke of Manila”, Page 25, lines 5 to 17].

[Page 78, line 9] a shambles a mess or a muddle.


©David Page 2006 All rights reserved