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Title: Careening  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, Fancy (ship), John Evans (pirate), Nelson's Dockyard, History of Havana
Collection: Nautical Terms
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


An Old Whaler Hove Down For Repairs, Near New Bedford, a wood engraving drawn by F. S. Cozzens and published in Harper's Weekly, December 1882.

Careening (also known as "heaving down")[1] is the practice of grounding a sailing vessel at high tide in order to expose one side of its hull for maintenance and repairs below the water line when the tide goes out.


The process could be assisted by securing a top barnacles to increase the ship's speed. One exotic method was the ancient practice of beaching a ship on a shingle beach with the goal of using wave action and the shingle to scour the hull.

A beach favoured for careening was called a careenage. Today, only small vessels are careened, while large vessels are placed in dry dock.[2]

Nineteenth century vessels being careened.

A related practice was a Parliamentary heel, in which the vessel was heeled over in deep water by shifting weight, such as ballast or guns, to one side. In this way the upper sides could be cleaned or repaired with minimal delay. Famously,

  1. ^ "careen". The Dictionary of English Nautical Language. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  2. ^ a b Peter Kemp, ed., The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, Oxford University Press, 1976, p. 140.
  3. ^ Gerhard, Peter. 1958. "The tres marias pirates". The Pacific Historical Review 27, (3) (Aug.): 239-44.


See also

Pirates would often careen their ships because they had no access to drydocks. A secluded bay would suffice for necessary repairs or hull cleaning, and such little “safe havens” could be found throughout the islands in the Caribbean and nearly around the world. One group of islands, Tres Marias, became popular when Francis Drake had sailed there in 1579 and quickly became a place for piracy.[3]

19th century painting of vessels being careened.


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