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to vail


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An old seafaring word meaning to lower sails in token of submission or salute. A foreign warship meeting another in its own territorial waters or narrow seas would vail its topgallant sails as a salute and acknowledgement that ownership of the waters through which it was sailing was represented by the other ship. A merchant ship would similarly vail its topsails. See also salutes at sea.

Subjects: Maritime History.


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