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barge


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Probably from the Latin barca, which would make it the equivalent of bark or barque. In its oldest use (1), this is probably the case, as it was the name given to a small seagoing ship with sails, next in size above a balinger. From about the 17th century onwards the names barge and bark diverged into separate meanings. (2) A ceremonial state vessel, richly decorated and propelled by rowers, used on state occasions and for river processions. Such was Cleopatra's barge described by Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra (Act II, sc. ii), which… like a burnished throneBurn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold:Purple the sails, and so perfumed, thatThe winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver;Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and madeThe water, which they beat, to follow faster,As amorous of their strokes …Cleopatra's was probably carried a bit to extremes, but most state barges were immensely ornate even if their oars were wooden not silver. Shakespeare must have seen such barges on the Thames in Elizabethan times, and they continued in use down to the 19th century. (3) A modern derivative of the barge as a ceremonial vessel is an admiral's barge, used by naval officers of flag rank for harbour transport. When in commission, the royal yacht, HMY Britannia, had a motor boat known as the Royal Barge, as does the Port of London Authority. (4) A large flat-bottomed coastal trading vessel having a large spritsail and jib-headed topsail, a fore staysail, and a very small mizzen; occasionally a jib was set on the bowsprit. They were fitted with leeboards in place of a keel so that they could operate without difficulty in shoal water. This type of barge was normally only found in the River Thames and estuary, and on the south-eastern coast of England. Those still afloat have been turned into recreational sailing vessels or houseboats. (5) In the days of sail, the second boat of a warship, a double-banked pulling boat with fourteen oars; later, the largest boat of a battleship, with mast, sails, and a centreboard but also fitted with fourteen oars. (6) In the USA, a double-decked vessel without sail or power, for carrying passengers and freight, towed by steamboat. See also dumb barge. (7) The name given on board ship to the wooden dish in which bread or biscuit is placed on a mess table.

(1), this is probably the case, as it was the name given to a small seagoing ship with sails, next in size above a balinger. From about the 17th century onwards the names barge and bark diverged into separate meanings. (2) A ceremonial state vessel, richly decorated and propelled by rowers, used on state occasions and for river processions. Such was Cleopatra's barge described by Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra (Act II, sc. ii), which

(3) A modern derivative of the barge as a ceremonial vessel is an admiral's barge, used by naval officers of flag rank for harbour transport. When in commission, the royal yacht, HMY Britannia, had a motor boat known as the Royal Barge, as does the Port of London Authority. (4) A large flat-bottomed coastal trading vessel having a large spritsail and jib-headed topsail, a fore staysail, and a very small mizzen; occasionally a jib was set on the bowsprit. They were fitted with leeboards in place of a keel so that they could operate without difficulty in shoal water. This type of barge was normally only found in the River Thames and estuary, and on the south-eastern coast of England. Those still afloat have been turned into recreational sailing vessels or houseboats. (5) In the days of sail, the second boat of a warship, a double-banked pulling boat with fourteen oars; later, the largest boat of a battleship, with mast, sails, and a centreboard but also fitted with fourteen oars. (6) In the USA, a double-decked vessel without sail or power, for carrying passengers and freight, towed by steamboat. See also dumb barge. (7) The name given on board ship to the wooden dish in which bread or biscuit is placed on a mess table.

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Subjects: Maritime History.


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