A word that had, and has, many maritime meanings, such as to escape from, to unload, to empty, to prepare. To clear for action, to prepare for battle by securing everything on board, testing all communications in connection with the ship's armament, rigging fire hoses, piping the ship's company to their action stations, etc. In wooden sailing warships the order entailed also the rigging of additional chain slings to the yards as a precaution against their being shot away by gunfire, the dismantling of officers' cabins, the striking of all cabin furniture below decks, the hoisting out of all boats, which were towed astern during battle, and the rigging of protective nets above the upper deck to safeguard men working on deck against falling masts and spars.
The term is also used in navigation, as, for example, to lay a ship's course to clear a headland, a rock ledge, etc.
Subjects: Maritime History.