from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adverb nautical Keeping the sails full and steering by the wind.


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  • Sailing into the wind (by), but not as close-hauled as might be possible, so as to be sure that the sails are kept full. This provides a margin for error to avoid being taken aback (a serious risk for square-rigged vessels) in a tricky sea. Figuratively, it implies getting on with the job but in a steady, relaxed way, without undue urgency or strain.

    February 6, 2008

  • "... a term used by seamen, implying the situation of a ship with regard to the wind, when she is close-hauled, and sailing in such a manner as neither to steer too nigh the direction of the wind, nor to deviate to leeward, both of which movements are unfavourable to her course, as in the former her sails will shiver, and render the effort of the wind precarious and ineffectual; and, in the latter, she will advance in a direction widely distant from her real course. Hence, keep her full! is the order from the pilot, or other officer, to the helmsman, not to incline too much to windward, and thereby shake the sails so as to retard the ship's velocity."

    Falconer's New Universal Dictionary of the Marine (1816), 160

    October 13, 2008