Nautical Literacy 101: A Bitt to the Bitter End


Nautical literacy 101 is presented to demystify nautical terms with definitions that may even be obscure to your  professional luxury charter yacht crew. Astound your friends with your erudite command of marine verbiage while sipping cocktails on the aft deck.

Nautical Terminology 101: Bitts to the Bitter End


From the old Norse word “bitt” or beam. In nautical terminology, bitts are a standard part of shipboard equipment.  Most commonly bitts are a pair of posts fixed on the deck that sailors wrap rope around in a figure eight, for securing lines that do not require a knot. The end of the anchor line secured to a sturdy post on the deck is also called a bitt.


Nautical Terminology 101: Curious to the Bitter End

Without etymological connection to the adjective, the nautical term bitter was first recorded in Captain John Smith’s Seaman’s Grammar of 1627. It meant the end of a cable or rope that remained fixed on board ship when it was being paid out through the bitts.

Bitter End

1. The line was paid out in order to set the anchor.  However, if the water was deeper than anticipated the rope would pay out to the bitter end.

The bitter end of any line is the loose, unsecured end.

2. The free end of the rope used as a “motivator”.  Sailors were often motivated with a whipping from their shipmates with loose ends of rope. That was the end of the rope that often made sailors bitter.

3. The end of a rope that sometimes hangs over the side of a ship and is closest to the ocean.  The very end is “salty” or “bitter” since it often trails in the water.

Nautical Terminology 101: The Bitter End

4. British nautical term for a metal block with a crosspin used for tying lines to, found on piers. The bitter end is the end of the anchor “cable” that connects to the anchor bitts in the cable locker under the forecastle or poop using the bitter pin.

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