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Old 10-24-2002, 07:36 AM
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Halifax, NS, Canada
Posts: 584
Fouled Anchors for the Navy?

If you examine the cap badges and such for Naval personnel, you may notice that the symbol they use is a "fouled anchor", i.e. an anchor that has become entangled in its anchor line. It seems to me that this is a symbol of ineptitude in seamanship, not something the Navy should choose as their emblem.

Is this supposed to be a reminder of the dangers of bad rope-handling, or what? What is the origin and significance of this unusual symbolism?
Old 10-24-2002, 08:18 AM
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: N Va
Posts: 1,742
According to this site:
FOULED ANCHOR- The foul anchor as a naval insignia got its start as the seal of the Lord Howard of Effingham. He was the Lord Admiral of England at the time of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. During this period their personal seal of the great officer of state was adopted as the seal of his office. The fouled anchor still remains the official seal of the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain. When this office became part of the present Board of Admiralty, the seal was retained on buttons, official seals, and cap badges. The Navys adoption of this symbol and many other customs can be directly attributed to the influence of the British Naval tradition. The fouled anchor is among one of them
Old 10-24-2002, 08:24 AM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 41,651
The Oxford Dictionary of Ships and the Sea notes that the fouled achor is used as a decorative element, but that it is retained because it is aesthetically more pleasing. You get the impression that a lot of hunor about the guy who designed it or approved it is floating around, but this is just another case of art not imitating life.
Of course, said my grandfather, stepping from the Time Machine and pulling a gun from his belt, Theres no paradox if I shoot you!
Old 10-24-2002, 09:16 AM
Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Beijing, China
Posts: 21,365
Just FYI: The Navy doesn't use "rope." We use "line." Of course, they're the same thing; however, it's just that the naval terminology is "line."
Old 10-24-2002, 10:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: totally lost
Posts: 427
I don't think that the original idea was a fouled anchor - ships in the old days used some much line and rigging that it must have been impossible to think of a ship without thinking of the lines - every seaman must have spent a thousand times more effort on squaring a line than on hauling an anchor. Maybe the original idea was an anchor and line, not a fouled anchor. Could it be the person designing it was an upper class artistic twit who never physically had to work with anchors and lines, and didn't realize that he (if you insist, she) was showing real sailors would consider a mistake?
Old 10-24-2002, 03:40 PM
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Steppes of Central Asia
Posts: 1,289
"The Navy doesn't use 'rope.' We use 'line.' Of course, they're the same thing; however, it's just that the naval terminology is 'line.' "

Bit if the rope is attached to a sail then it's a sheet, right?
Old 10-24-2002, 07:54 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 14,257
No, only certain lines attached to sails are called sheets. Broadly speaking, the line that is used to control the sail's placement to the wind is the sheet.

For example, the line attached to the top of the sail (to haul it up) is a halyard not a sheet.

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