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Help me translate a book

Hi everyone. I am translating a book from German into English and the characters often travel in a schooner. I want to make sure I have the correct phrasing and vocab when I write about their sailing adventures. Anyone want to help?

Today I have questions about the phrase "to set sail" and how to describe wind.

My impression is that "set sail" originally means to place the sails in the right position for going where you want to go. But nowadays people use it casually in a much more general sense. Translated literally, the passage I'm working on says the character "set the sails and used the weak wind to continue sailing westward." Questions are:

1. Can I say "he set sail" (meaning that he put the sails in position) or should I expand the phrase (e.g. "he set the sails")?

2. How would you describe a "weak wind" in a sailing context? Low breeze? Slight wind? Light wind/breeze? Something else? Suggestions welcome.

Thank you!
 

Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
"Achtung! Rauchen verboten!" :eek:

Oops, got carried away there for a moment... ;)

I vote for "set sail"---it covers a lot of nautical ground. The other way sounds too stilted. Weak wind sounds ridiculous, go with "light airs" or "gentle breeze." :rolleyes:

Let your readers use a little imagination as you translate the book... that's my $.02 and I'm stickin' to it, lol. :cool:
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
'Setting sail' is a general term often used for 'leaving' the harbor or an anchorage. But 'setting the sails' is more restrictive and indicates (to me at least) 'raising the sails'.
I agree with CC that 'a gentle breeze' or 'light air' are appropriate sailing terms.
 
Does this sentence make sense to you? (It's about the schooner sailing in the tropics in oppressive heat): "The sun sails were spread over the whole ship and the gaff sails were taken down to reinforce them."
 

Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
No, it doesn't make sense... the author's original meaning was lost in the translation. The author obviously was referring to some sort of overhead cover set up to provide shade on deck, in the nature of an oversized Bimini top, perhaps using spare sails lashed into place. A gaff (or gaff spar) might be used for reinforcement, same way poles are used to set up circus tents, but that doesn't make much sense either, since a gaff would still be needed at the head of any quadrilateral sail in use on the rig. Maybe the author meant fishing gaffs, lol... gotta watch the hooks. :eek:

Sounds like the translation is a bit out of whack... but the idea of using spare sails to provide overhead cover or shade is not a new one. However, the schooner would still need sails rigged to provide propulsion, unless the skipper & crew planned on drifting around for awhile. The bit about "gaff sails" makes no sense: perhaps what the author meant was that GAFF-TOPSAILS were doused and used as part of the makeshift Bimini top or overhead cover, those smaller sails would be ABOVE any gaffs or gaff spars, aye? That's the way I read the author's original meaning, despite the bad translation. ;)

A spare sail or two (including gaff topsails) could be used to provide such overhead cover or shade on deck, and they'd be more manageable than, say, a large and heavy mainsail. I've actually seen old(er) sails used as makeshift Bimini tops aboard craft in San Diego... usually while riding at anchor or riding at a mooring buoy. But a crew could lash sails into place to provide overhead cover, using standing rigging for support wherever possible, perhaps even some running rigging: the trick would be to not interfere with operation of the schooner while under way. :rolleyes:

THAT'S MY $.02 AND I'M STICKING TO IT... I'D GO BACK AND READ THE ORIGINAL PASSAGE WITH ALL THIS IN MIND, MAYBE THE TRANSLATION WILL TURN OUT DIFFERENTLY, LOL. CHEERS!!! :cool:
 
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Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
Das ist ja ganz schwierig!
It looks like sails were used to protect the sailors from the sun, as CC already pointed out
With respect to the gaff sail, you can just write that it was taken down. Other, smaller, sails could still propel the boat, albeit more slowly.
 
Hello, I'm back with many questions.

1. Can you call a ship with two masts "a two-master"? (like "a four-wheeler")

2. Do ships "run into" harbors? Do they "run" in general? (Running at certain speeds or to certain places)

3. Is "lying" the ship equivalent of a car being parked? Would you say "The ship was lying in the harbor"? What about a port city? "The ship was lying at Manila?" Is "lying at anchor" a correct phrase?

4. "Draft" - Does it make sense to say "They could not enter the cove because their draft was too big" or should it be "too low" or "too heavy"?

5. I looked up a word and the definition was "upper main topsail yard." Which would give me the following sentence: "The captain went up into the upper main topsail yard and looked through his spyglass." Do I really need all those words? Or can I say e.g. "The captain went up into the topsail yard"? And should it be "onto"?

Thanks, experts!
 

Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
My answers:

1) Yes, you can call it a two-master.

2) Better to say that ships ENTER harbors... the term 'running' can confuse matters, particularly between sailing craft and ships with engines.

3) The phrase "lying at anchor" is the one you want to use. Example: "The ship was lying at anchor in Manila."

Or: "The ship was lying at anchor in Manila Bay."

Or: "The ship was lying at anchor in the port of Manila."

4) Personally, I would say the draft was too deep.

5) "The captain ascended to the main topsail yard."

Or: "The captain climbed to the main topsail yard."

I once ascended to the main royal yard of the Star of India in San Diego... a three-masted bark with foremast, mainmast & mizzenmast. A friend and I were returning to Coronado from a raging party in Pacific Beach, and we took the scenic waterfront route downtown. Pulled up and parked by the Star, then crept up the bow line, hanging upside-down like monkeys, to reach the foredeck... from there, we made our way to the starboard ratlines of the mainmast, and up we went. Fine view of the city and the bay from the main royal yard. We were both drunk, of course, and following our descent, my friend committed the grievous error of leaping from the rail to the deck, with a loud thump as the fool landed. This brought the security guards up from below, and we were escorted down the gangplank and given our walking papers. Our bloody cutlasses & piratical dispositions were no match for their flashlights & security badges, you understand. Meh, ya win some, ya lose some... lol.

Gotta grab dinner and possibly a nap before I pull yet another exciting graveyard shift downtown... good news is that I'm employed, and I just applied for some better jobs with two excellent companies, so graveyard shift it is until I get another offer. Truth be told, I'll be glad to get back to a normal daytime work routine, this sleeping during the day like a friggin' vampire is for the birds... cuts into my goldurned party time too! But I'll get gloriously drunk tomorrow night, since today is my "Friday." WAHOO!!! :rolleyes:
 
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Thanks, so are ships never just "lying"? They have to be "lying at anchor"? Is there any other way to say, in essence, "parked"? What if it's a boat with no anchor?
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
Port Authority might be OK.
Alternatively Customs Office, if arriving in another country.
Harbor Master is another official controlling coming and going in smaller places (I think)
 

Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
Well, you can say a boat is moored, which can mean she is secured by anchor or mooring buoy, or even dockside nowadays. Alternately, you have a very useful maneuver known as "heaving to"---which keeps a sailing ship stationary in a manner of speaking, but she is still at the mercy of wind & tide, albeit rather slowly. When sailing larger craft with my friends, I'd occasionally heave to so I could demonstrate some courtesy to skippers of working craft (tugs, ferries, warships, etc.), and also demonstrate the usefulness of the maneuver itself to all aboard the boat I was steering. Picture a hummingbird hovering in midair: heaving to allows a skipper to "hover" at sea in one general location for a period of time, or to slowly drift for a set purpose. Say, outside a harbor entrance or channel while waiting for the tide to turn... or if a ship made landfall at night but the skipper wanted to wait until dawn to actually land (or enter a harbor), then heaving to was a good option.

In the Royal Navy, back when England was "terrible at sea" (which means FORMIDABLE, not CLUELESS or INCOMPETENT, lol), ships would often heave to for such set purposes: to allow smaller boats to carry dispatches and mail from ship to ship; to allow a newly-arrived skipper to report to the squadron commander; to transfer supplies or stores in those same small boats I mentioned (after the more important dispatches & mail were delivered). They would also heave to for naval or tactical purposes: on blockade duty, ships would often heave to as they waited for blockade runners to make their attempts at getting through the screen. The ships would drift with crew & watch still alert, just waiting like a cat to pounce on a blockade-running mouse, lol. Thing is, some of those mice had fast sloops & schooners, so they still broke out, the pesky varmints! This is why smugglers and spies often chose fast ships, because their necks depended upon boat speed, lol.

Looks like Wavedancer already addressed one question, and yes, you can go with Port Authority, Customs, or Harbor Master, those all fall into the category of officials you described. As for a boat "lying"---well, every boat I ever owned LIED to me at one time or another, lol. One said: "You can do it, you can point THAT high!" And of course, other factors kicked in and pointing that high was impossible. Another boat said: "You can land on this reef without incurring any damage!" So I did, and I tore the $h!t outta the gelcoat, lol. A third boat said: "You can do it, you can cross this shoal, there's still enough water under your keel at this point in the ebb tide!" And we ran aground, but we were able to quickly free ourselves, lol. THIS is how boats LIE to skippers, don'tcha know? Meh, it could be worse, the boats could give odds on the Chargers winning the Super Bowl, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Damn, now THAT would be some SERIOUS LYING, aye?

HOPE THIS HELPS, AND I HOPE YOUR TRANSLATED WORK GETS PUBLISHED... I HAD HALF A DOZEN ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN THE SAN DIEGO READER A LONG TIME AGO, AND IT'S A COOL FEELING TO SEE YOUR WORK GAIN SOME RECOGNITION. CHEERS!!! :cool:

Edit: It's not even 0900 yet, and I'm getting GLORIOUSLY DRUNK after a long week of graveyard shift action, lol. My feet have been killing me on this job, as well as my lower back... it's definitely a younger man's job, and the whole graveyard aspect ain't helping any, I can't WAIT to get back to a normal daytime work routine. But for now, since this Wednesday morning is like my Friday night, I'm gonna drink some vino to relieve the foot pain, then crash out for awhile before I wake and do it all over again (with the vino, not the stinking job, lol). Ah, yes, this bachelor life is rough, but SOMEBODY has to DO IT!!! Maybe I can order one of those nagging shrew-like wives or girlfriends on the web... might as well make her ugly, since she'll be drop-kicked PRONTO like I'm STARRIN' in the NFL, LOL. Cheesy celebrity marriages will have NOTHIN' on mine for brevity, I assure you. Damn, sometimes I slay myself... but it's all good, no worries, lol. :rolleyes:
 
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Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
Essentially no difference, though in this day & age sailors are probably more familiar with "heave to" as an expression. "Hove to" is indeed the past tense of "heave to"---may sound a little odd, but that's what it is. I'm back to the cool freshness of a high desert morning, my favorite time of day once summer approaches... gotta go to Whetstone today to see about driving a truck, I may not be done with my license after all. Cheers!!! :rolleyes:
 
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