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devil


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The caulker's name for the seam in the upper deck planking next to a ship's waterways. No doubt they gave it that name as there was very little space to get at this seam to caulk it with a caulking iron, making it a particularly difficult and awkward job. This is the origin of the saying ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’, since there is only the thickness of the ship's hull planking between this seam and the sea.

Devil was also the name given by caulkers to the garboard seam, which was always, when a ship was careened, not only the most awkward to get at but usually the wettest and most difficult to keep above water and caulk. Hence the old seafaring term ‘devil to pay’, meaning something very difficult or awkward, as it was always difficult to pay this particular seam.

Subjects: Maritime History.


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