An additional thickness of planking secured along the wales, or bends, of a wooden ship about its waterline for the purpose of giving it more stability in the water. It was a common practice in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the art of shipbuilding was still largely experimental, to build ships too narrow in the beam to carry their sail. This was particularly the case when topmasts and topgallant masts became a commonplace and the amount of sail carried increased accordingly. The word was used both as a noun and a verb; a ship was girdled when it was fitted with a girdle.
Subjects: Maritime History.