to black-down

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The operation of tarring and blacking a ship's rigging, or of blacking its side. The best mixture was said to be coal tar, vegetable tar, and salt water boiled together and laid on hot. In both cases the object was preservation against the action of salt water on hemp and wood.

During the 18th century some captains of British warships, sent out to cruise independently against the enemy or his seaborne trade, would black-down the entire hulls of their ships. This was done as it was believed that a black ship appeared smaller at sea than it actually was and might therefore attract enemy ships, hopeful of an easy conquest, within range of its guns.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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