“Splice the Mainbrace”

Splice the Mainbrace” (AD28)

Is an order given aboard naval vessels to issue the crew with a drink.

Originally an order for one of the most difficult emergency repair jobs aboard a sailing ship, it became a euphemism for authorized celebratory drinking afterward, and then the name of an order to grant the crew an extra ration of rum or grog.

History

Braces are the lines that control the angle of the yards. On the first rate men-o-war, the mainbrace was the largest and heaviest of all the running rigging; the mainbrace on HMS Victory is 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter. Gunners commonly aimed for the ship’s rigging during naval battles, with the mainbrace being the prime target. If the mainbrace was shot away, it was usually necessary to repair it during the engagement; the ship was unmanoeuvrable without it and would have to stay on the same tack. Even repairing it after the battle was a difficult job; the mainbrace ran through blocks, so it could not be repaired with a short splice or a knot. Splicing in a large run of hemp was strenuous work, and generally the ship’s best Able Seamen were chosen to carry out the task under the supervision of the Bosun. On completion of the task, it was customary for the men to be rewarded with an extra ration of rum.Eventually the order “Splice the mainbrace” came to mean that the crew would receive an extra ration of rum, and was issued on special occasions: after victory in battle, the change of a monarch, a royal birth, a royal wedding or an inspection of the fleet.

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