Shipping terminologies for your guidance

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B/L Port of Discharge

The port where cargo is discharged from its means of transport.


Back and fill

To use the advantage of the tide being with you when the wind is not.


Back Haul

The return trip of a means of transport which has provided a transport service in one direction.



Long lines or cables, reaching from the rear of the vessel to the mast heads, used to support the mast.



A soft covering for cables (or any other obstructions) that prevents sail chafing from occurring.


Balance of Trade

Materials solely carried to improve the trim and the stability of the vessel. In vessels usually sea water is carried as ballast in tanks, specially conceived for that purpose. (See also Ballast).






Materials solely carried to improve the trim and the stability of the vessel. In vessels usually water is carried as ballast in tanks, specially conceived for that purpose.


Ballast bonus

'Ballast Bonus': special payment above the chartering price when the ship has to sail a long way on ballast to reach the loading port.

'Bareboat'. A method of chartering of the ship, leaving the charterer with almost all the responsibilities of the owner.


Baltic and international maritime council

The world's largest private shipping organisation based in Copenhagen, which has been in operation since 1905. BIMCO promotes proper shipping practices and opposes objectionable and unfair import charges, claims, etc. It claims a worldwide membership of 2720, including ship-owners, managers, brokers, agents and others involved in the shipping industry. BIMCO holds observer status with a number of United Nations (UN) organs.



A large area of elevated sea floor.


Bank Guarantee

A guarantee issued by a bank to a carrier to be used in lieu of lost or misplaced original negotiable bill of lading.



Traditional Royal Navy term for a day or shorter period of rest and relaxation.



An EDI message sent to convey the Bayplan on occupied and empty slots in a certain vessel at a particular time.



Large mass of sand or earth, formed by the surge of the sea. They are mostly found at the entrances of great rivers or havens, and often render navigation extremely dangerous, but confer tranquility once inside.


Bar pilot

A bar pilot guides ships over the dangerous sandbars at the mouth of rivers and bays.


Bareboat Charter

A charter in which the bare ship is chartered without crew; the charterer, for a stipulated sum taking over the vessel for a stated period of time, with a minimum of restrictions; the charterer appoints the master and the crew and pays all running expenses. For further information see Demise Charter.



A flat bottomed inland cargo vessel, with or without own propulsion, ideal for transporting goods on canals and rivers.



An act committed by the master or mariners of a vessel for some unlawful or fraudulent purpose, contrary to their duty to the owners, whereby the latter sustain injury. It may include negligence, if so gross as to evidence fraud.



A term of measure referring to 42 gallons of liquid at 60F.



A sailor stationed in the crow's nest.



Trade in which merchandise is exchanged directly for other merchandise without use of money. Barter is an important means of trade with countries using currency that is not readily convertible.


Base Rate

A tariff term referring to ocean rate less accessorial charges or base tariff rate.



A vertical division of a vessel from stem to stern, used as a part of the indication of a stowage place for containers. The numbers run from stem to stern; odd numbers indicate a 20 foot position, even numbers indicate a 40 foot position.


Bay Plan

A stowage plan which shows the locations of all the containers on the vessel.



Deliberately running a vessel aground, to load and unload (as with landing craft), or sometimes to prevent a damaged vessel sinking.



A lighted or unlighted fixed aid to navigation attached directly to the Earth's surface (lights and daybeacons both constitute beacons.)



The width of a vessel at the widest point, or a point alongside the ship at the mid-point of its length.


Beam ends

The sides of a ship. 'On her beam ends' may mean the vessel is literally on her side and possibly about to capsize; more often, the phrase means the vessel is listing 45 degrees or more.



A large squared off stone used for scraping clean the deck of a sailing man-of-war.


Bear down or bear away

Turn away from the wind, often with reference to a transit.



The horizontal direction of a line of sight between two objects on the surface of the earth.

For more information see 'absolute bearing' and 'relative bearing'.



Sailing closer to the wind than about 60° (see also reaching, running and tacking).


Beaufort Scale

The scale describing wind force devised by Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort in 1808, in which winds are graded by the effect of their force (originally, the amount of sail that a fully-rigged frigate could carry).

Beaufort number: 0

Description: Calm

Wind speed (km/h): <1

Wave Height (metres): 0

Sea Conditions: Flat

Land conditions: Calm. Smoke rises vertically.

Beaufort number: 1

Description: Light air

Wind speed (km/h): 1.1 - 5.5

Wave Height (metres): 0 - 0.2

Sea Conditions: Ripples without crests.

Land conditions: Wind motion visible in smoke.

Beaufort number: 2

Description: Light breeze

Wind speed (km/h): 5.6 - 11

Wave Height (metres): 0.2 - 0.5

Sea Conditions: Small wavelets. Crests of glassy appearance, not breaking.

Land conditions: Wind felt on exposed skin. Leaves rustle.

Beaufort number: 3

Description: Gentle breeze

Wind speed (km/h): 12 - 19

Wave Height (metres): 0.5 - 1

Sea Conditions: Large wavelets. Crests begin to break; scattered whitecaps.

Land conditions: Leaves and smaller twigs in constant motion.

Beaufort number: 4

Description: Moderate breeze

Wind speed (km/h): 20 - 28

Wave Height (metres): 1 - 2

Sea Conditions: Small waves with breaking crests. Fairly frequent white horses.

Land conditions: Dust and loose paper raised. Small branches begin to move.

Beaufort number: 5

Description: Fresh breeze

Wind speed (km/h): 29 - 38

Wave Height (metres): 2 - 3

Sea Conditions: Moderate waves of some length. Many white horses. Small amounts of spray.

Land conditions: Branches of a moderate size move. Small trees begin to sway.

Beaufort number: 6

Description: Strong breeze

Wind speed (km/h): 39 - 49

Wave Height (metres): 3 - 4

Sea Conditions: Long waves begin to form. White foam crests are very frequent. Some airborne spray is present.

Land conditions: Large branches in motion. Whistling heard in overhead wires. Umbrella use becomes difficult. Empty plastic garbage cans tip over.

Beaufort number: 7

Description: High wind, Moderate gale, Near gale

Wind speed (km/h): 50 - 61

Wave Height (metres): 4 - 5.5

Sea Conditions: Sea heaps up. Some foam from breaking waves is blown into streaks along wind direction. Moderate amounts of airborne spray.

Land conditions: Whole trees in motion. Effort needed to walk against the wind. Swaying of skyscrapers may be felt, especially by people on upper floors.

Beaufort number: 8

Description: Gale, Fresh gale

Wind speed (km/h): 62 - 74

Wave Height (metres): 5.5 - 7.5

Sea Conditions: Moderately high waves with breaking crests forming spindrift. Well-marked streaks of foam are blown along wind direction. Considerable airborne spray.

Land conditions: Some twigs broken from trees. Cars veer on road. Progress on foot is seriously impeded.

Beaufort number: 9

Description: Strong gale

Wind speed (km/h): 75 - 88

Wave Height (metres): 7 - 10

Sea Conditions: High waves whose crests sometimes roll over. Dense foam is blown along wind direction. Large amounts of airborne spray may begin to reduce visibility.

Land conditions: Some branches break off trees, and some small trees blow over. Construction/temporary signs and barricades blow over. Damage to circus tents and canopies.

Beaufort number: 10

Description: Storm, Whole gale

Wind speed (km/h): 89 - 102

Wave Height (metres): 9 - 12.5

Sea Conditions: Very high waves with overhanging crests. Large patches of foam from wave crests give the sea a white appearance. Considerable tumbling of waves with heavy impact. Large amounts of airborne spray reduce visibility.

Land conditions: Trees are broken off or uprooted, saplings bent and deformed. Poorly attached asphalt shingles and shingles in poor condition peel off roofs.

Beaufort number: 11

Description: Violent Storm

Wind speed (km/h): 103 - 117

Wave Height (metres): 11.5 - 16

Sea Conditions: Exceptionally high waves. Very large patches of foam, driven before the wind, cover much of the sea surface. Very large amounts of airborne spray severely reduce visibility.

Land conditions: Widespread damage to vegetation. Many roofing surfaces are damaged; asphalt tiles that have curled up and/or fractured due to age may break away completely.

Beaufort number: 12

Description: Hurricane

Wind speed (km/h): ? 118

Wave Height (metres): ? 14

Sea Conditions: Huge waves. Sea is completely white with foam and spray. Air is filled with driving spray, greatly reducing visibility.

Land conditions: Very widespread damage to vegetation. Some windows may break; mobile homes and poorly constructed sheds and barns are damaged. Debris may be hurled about.

Scale now reads up to Force 17 determining varying strengths of hurricane:

13 Bft > 72-80 kts

14 Bft > 81-89 kts

15 Bft > 90-99 kts

16 Bft > 100- 108 kts

17 Bft > 109- 118 kts


Before the mast

Literally, the area of a ship before the foremast (the forecastle). The term is most often used to describe men whose living quarters are located here, officers being quartered in the stern-most areas of the ship (near the quarterdeck). Officer-trainees lived between the two ends of the ship and become known as 'midshipmen'. Crew members who started out as seamen, then became midshipmen, and later, officers, were said to have gone from 'one end of the ship to the other'.



To make fast a line around a fitting, usually a cleat or belaying pin.

An order to halt a current activity or countermand an order prior to execution.


Belaying pins

Bars of iron or hard wood to which running rigging may be secured, or belayed.


Belly Cargo

Freight accommodation located below the main deck.



A knot used to join two ropes or lines. For more information see hitch.



It is the result of vertical forces acting on a ship because of local differences between weight and buoyancy. The total of these forces should be zero; otherwise a change of draft will occur. At sea the bending moment will change as a result of wave impact which then periodically changes the buoyancy distribution.

Note: The maximum allowed bending moment of a vessel is restricted by the class bureau to certain limits, which are different under port and sea conditions.


Beneficial cargo owner

Referring to the importer of record, who physically takes possession of cargo at destination and does not act as a third party in the movement of such goods.



The entity to whom money is payable

The entity to whom a Letter of Credit is issued

The seller and the drawer of a draft


Bermudan rig

A triangular mainsail, without an upper spar, which is hoisted up the mast by a single halyard attached to the head of the sail. This configuration, introduced to Europe about 1920, allows the use of a tall mast, enabling sails to be set higher where wind speed is greater.


Berne Gauge

Railways: the most restrictive loading gauge (standard measure) or the lowest common denominator of loading gauges on the railways of continental Europe.



The place beside a pier, quay, or wharf where a vessel can be loaded or discharged.


Berth (moorings)

A location in a port or harbour used specifically for mooring vessels while not at sea.


Berth (sleeping)

A bed or sleeping accommodation on a boat or ship.


Berth Liner Service

This is a regular scheduled steamship line with regular published schedules (port of call) to and from defined trade areas.


Berth or Liner Terms

This is an expression covering assessment of ocean freight rates generally implying that loading and discharging expenses will be for the ship owner's account, and will usually apply from the end of the ship's tackle in port of loading to the end of the ship's tackle in port of discharge.


Berth Terms

Shipped under a rate that does not include the cost of loading or unloading.


Best Bower (anchor)

The larger of two anchors carried in the bow; so named as it was the last, best hope.

Between the Devil and the deep blue sea

For more information see Devil seam.






The bilge is the compartment at the bottom of the hull of a ship or boat where water collects so that it may be pumped out of the vessel at a later time.


Bilge keels

A pair of keels on either side of the hull, usually slanted outwards. In yachts, they allow the use of a drying mooring, the boat standing upright on the keels (and often a skeg) when the tide is out.


Bilged on her anchor

A ship that has run upon her own anchor, so the anchor cable runs under the hull.


Bill of Exchange

Used in connection with Letters of Credit, akin to a bank cheque. This is also known as a draft in the U.S.


Bill of Health

The Bill of Health is the certificate issued by local medical authorities indicating the general health conditions in the port of departure or in the ports of call. The Bill of Health must have been communicated before departure by the Consul of the country of destination.

When a vessel has 'free pratique' (i.e. a clean bill of health), this means that the vessel has a clean Bill of Health certifying that there is no question of contagious disease and that all quarantine regulations have been complied with, so that people may embark and disembark.


Bill of Lading

A document that establishes the terms of a contract between a shipper and a transportation company that moves freight between specified ports for a specified charge. This is usually prepared by the shipper on forms issued by the carrier, serving as a document of title, a contract of carriage and a receipt for goods.

There are many different types of B/Ls:

Amended B/L: Requires updates that do not change financial status (slightly different from corrected B/L).

Cancelled B/L: Used to cancel a processed B/L usually per shipper's request. (different from a voided B/L).

Clean B/L: No recorded irregularities in packing or general condition of all or any part of the shipment.

Combined B/L: Covers cargo moving over various modes of transport.

Consolidated B/L: Combined or consolidated from two or more B/Ls.

Corrected B/L: One that requires an update which results in money or other financially-related changes.

Domestic B/L: Non-negotiable primarily containing routing details; used by truckers and freight forwarders.

Express B/L: Non-negotiable where there are no printed copies of original B/L.

Freight B/L: A contract of carriage between a shipper and forwarder (usually an NVOCC - Non-vessel owning common carrier); a non-negotiable document.

Hitchment B/L: Covering parts of a shipment which are loaded at more than one location. Usually consists of two parts: hitchment and hitchment memo. The hitchment portion usually covers the majority of a divided shipment and carries the entire revenue.

House B/L: Issued by a freight forwarder or consolidation covering a single shipment, containing the names, addresses and specific description of the goods shipped.

Intermodal/Multimodal/Combined Transport B/L: Covering cargo moving by various modes of transportation.

Long Form B/L: One with the complete Terms & Conditions on the back of the document.

Memo B/L: Unfreighted with no charges listed.

Negotiable B/L (To Order B/L): B/L names are legal and by endorsement, the shipper can transfer the title of the goods to the bank representing the buyer or directly to the buyer of the goods.

Non-Negotiable/Straight Consignment B/L: File copy. Used when goods are consigned directly to a named consignee and not negotiable.

On-Board B/L: Validated at the time of loading to transport. Common types: on-board air, boxcar, container, rail, truck or vessel.

Optional Discharge B/L: Covering cargo with more than one discharge point option possibility.

Order B/L: Issued to the order of a party, usually the shipper, whose endorsement is required to effect its negotiation.

Order Notify B/L: Issued usually to the order of the shipper with the additional clause that the consignee is to be notified upon arrival of the merchandise. Such mention of the consignee does not give the consignee title to the merchandise.

Original B/L (OBL): Part of the B/L that has value, especially when negotiable; remaining parts are informational file copies.

Received-for-Shipment B/L: Validated at the time cargo is received by ocean carrier to commence movement but before being validated as 'on-board'.

Reconciled B/L: Set which has completed a prescribed number of edits between the shipper's instructions and the actual shipment received. This produces a very accurate B/L.

Short Term/Short Form B/L: One that does not have written terms & conditions on the back of the document.

Split B/L: One of two or more B/Ls which have been split from a single B/L.

Stale B/L: A late B/L. In banking, one that has passed the time deadline of the L/C and is void.

Through B/L: Blanket documentation when multiple carriers of various transport modes are involved.

Voided B/L: Those absorbed in the combined process. Different from Cancelled B/L.


Bill of Sale

A document that confirms the transfer of ownership of certain goods to another person in return for money paid or loaned.


Bill to Party

Customer designated as party paying for services.


Bimini top

Open-front canvas top for the cockpit of a boat, usually supported by a metal frame.



A punitive instrument.



The stand on which the ship's compass is mounted.


Binnacle list

A ship's sick list - the list of men unable to report for duty traditionally given to the officer or mate of the watch by the ship's surgeon. The list was kept at the binnacle.



A post mounted on the ship's bow, for fastening ropes or cables.


Bitter End

The anchor cable is tied to the bitts, when the cable is fully paid out, the bitter end has been reached. The last part of a rope or cable.


Blanket Bond

A bond covering a group of persons, articles or properties.


Blanket Rates

A rate applicable to or from a group of points. A special rate applicable to several different articles in a single shipment.


Block Stowage

Stowing cargo destined for a specific location close together to avoid unnecessary movement.


Blue Peter

A blue and white flag (the flag for the letter "P") hoisted at the foretrucks of ships about to sail. Formerly a white ship on a blue ground



To gain access to a vessel.



A relatively small, usually open craft or vessel designed to float on, and provide transport over, water. An inland vessel of any size.



A pole with a hook on the end, used to reach into the water to catch buoys or other floating objects.


Boatswain or bosun

A non-commissioned officer responsible for the sails



A stay (wire/chain) that holds the bowsprit downwards, counteracting the effect of the forestay. This is usually made of wire or chain to eliminate stretch.



A common American term, meaning the movement of a tractor, without trailer over the highway.



A set of wheels built specifically as rear wheels under a container.



From 'bol' or 'bole', the round trunk of a tree. A substantial vertical pillar to which lines may be made fast. Generally on the quayside rather than the ship.



A device fitted on a chassis or rail car to hold and secure the container.


Bona Fide

Latin for in good faith; without dishonesty


Bond Port

Port of initial Customs entry of a vessel to any country (first port of call).


Bonded Goods

Dutiable goods upon which excise duty has not been paid - i.e. goods in transit or warehoused pending use. The bond is the agreement entered into by the owner of the dutiable goods with the Customs and Excise Authority in which he promises to pay the duty when the goods are released for final distribution or use or in the event of them being lost or stolen.


Bonded Jacky

A type of tobacco or sweet cake.


Bonded Warehouse

Warehouse approved by the Customs Department and under bond or guarantee of compliance with revenue laws. Goods are held until duties are paid and are normally stored in a bonded warehouse.



A type of bird that has little fear and therefore is particularly easy to catch.


Booby Hatch

A sliding hatch or cover.



Arrangements with a carrier, often a shipping line or airline, for the acceptance and carriage of passengers or freight. A space reservation on a vessel for carriage of goods at previously agreed for terms and conditions.


Booking Number

The reservation number used to secure equipment and act as a control number prior to the completion of a bill of lading. It is also the common reference for the carrier, the client and the terminal, truckers, etc..



A spar attached to the foot of a fore-and-aft sail. During certain sailing maneuvers, the boom moves rapidly from one side of the boat to the other.

Sailors must take care not to obstruct this movement with their head. Failure to do so can give one insight into the origins of the name "boom"...


Boom Vang or Vang

A sail control that lets you apply downward tension on a boom, countering the upward tension provided by the sail. The boom vang adds an element of control to sail shape when the sheet is let out enough that it no longer pulls the boom down. Boom vang tension helps control leech twist, a primary component of sail power.



Masts or yards, lying on board in reserve.


Bottom Air Delivery

A type of air circulation in a temperature control container. Air is pulled by a fan from the top of the container, passed through the evaporator coil for cooling and then forced through the space under the load and up through the cargo. This type of airflow provides even temperatures.


Bottom Side Rails

Structural members on the longitudinal sides of the base of a container.



Pledging a ship as security in a financial transaction. Money can be borrowed against a ship, or its equipment, repaid with interest upon the ship's arrival at port, and forfeited should the ship sink.



The front of a ship.


Bow Thrusters

A small propeller or water-jet at the bow, used for manoeuvring larger vessels at slow speed. This may be mounted externally, or in a tunnel running through the bow from side to side.



A type of knot, producing a strong loop of a fixed size, topologically similar to a sheet bend. It is also a rope attached to the side of a sail to pull it towards the bow (for keeping the windward edge of the sail steady).



To pull or hoist.



A spar projecting from the bow used as an anchor for the forestay and other rigging.



A colloquial shipping phrase. A common term for an ocean-going freight container.


Box Car

A closed rail freight car.


Boxing the compass

To state all 32 points of the compass, starting at north, proceeding clockwise. The phrase is sometimes applied to a wind that is constantly shifting.



To furl or truss a sail by pulling it in towards the mast, or the ropes used to do so.



The handle of the pump, by which it is worked.


Brake horsepower

The measure of an engine's horsepower without the loss in power caused by the gearbox, generator, differential, water pump, and other auxiliary components such as alternator, power steering pump, muffled exhaust system, etc. 'Brake' refers to a device which was used to load an engine and hold it at a desired RPM. During testing, the output torque and rotational speed were measured to determine the 'brake horsepower'.


Break bulk

Break bulk



Palletised packaged goods that are not containerised. To break bulk is to unload and distribute a portion or all of the contents of a rail car



A structure above the weather deck, extending the full width of the vessel, which houses a command centre, itself called by association, the bridge.


Bridge Point

An inland location where the cargo is received by the ocean carrier and then moved to a coastal port for loading.


Bridge Port

A port where the cargo is received by the ocean carrier and stuffed into containers and then moved to another coastal port for loading onto a larger vessel.


Bring to

Cause a ship to be stationary by arranging the sails.



A sudden movement in navigation, when the ship, while scudding before the wind, accidentally turns her leeward side to windward. The term is also used to describe the point when water starts to come over the gunwhale due to this turn.


Broken Stowage

The loss of space caused by irregularity in the shape of packages.

Any void or empty space in a container not occupied by cargo.



A person or firm that establishes a connection between a buyer and a seller. Brokers operate in many fields: insurance, steamship transport, securities, drafts, and other phases of foreign trade. Not only do brokers bring buyers and sellers together, but they help to negotiate and close contracts and agreements between them.



Freight forwarder/broker compensation as specified by the ocean tariff.


Brussels Tariff Nomenclature

The old Customs Co-operation Council Nomenclature for the classification of goods. This has now been replaced by the Harmonised System.



The chief bosun's mate (in the Royal Navy), responsible for discipline.


Bulk Cargo / Bulk Freight

Goods that are shipped loose - not in packages or containers (e.g. grain, coal, sulfur).


Bulk Freight Container

Refers to a container with two or three portholes on the top and discharge hatches in the doors; allows the container transport of free-flowing bulk commodities such as grain, iron ore and coal.



1. Upright partition dividing compartments on board a vessel. The functions of bulkheads are:

To increase the safety of a vessel by dividing it into compartments.

To separate the engine room from the cargo holds. To increase the transverse strength of a vessel.

To reduce the risk of spreading fire to other compartments.

2. A vertically mounted board to provide front wall protection against shifting cargo and commonly seen on platform trailers (road cargo).

3. A partition in a container, providing a plenum chamber and/or air passage for either return or supply air. It may be an integral part of the appliance or a separate construction.


Bull Rings

Cargo-securing devices mounted in a floor of containers that allow lashing and securing of cargo.



The extension of the ship's side above the level of the weather deck.



A private boat selling goods.


Bumpkin or Boomkin

A spar, similar to a bowsprit, but which projects from the stern. May be used to attach the backstay or mizzen sheets.

An iron bar (projecting out-board from a ship's side) to which the lower and topsail brace blocks are sometimes hooked.



(Tank) spaces on board a vessel to store fuel.


Bunker Adjustment Factor

Adjustment applied by shipping lines to offset the effect of fluctuations in the cost of bunkers.

Also known as Bunker Contribution or BUC, and also Fuel Adjustment Factor, or FAF.


Bunker Charge

An extra charge added to an ocean carrier's freight rates. Also known as FAF (Fuel Adjustment Factor).



A maritime term referring to fuel used aboard the ship. Bunker fuel is technically any type of fuel oil used aboard ships. It gets its name from the containers on ships and in ports that it is stored in; in the days of steam they were coal bunkers but now they are bunker-fuel tanks.

For more information see HFO.


Bunting Tosser

A signalman who prepares and flies flag hoists. He is also known in the American Navy as a skivvy waver.



One of the lines tied to the bottom of a square sail and used to haul it up to the yard when furling.



A floating object of defined shape and colour, which is anchored at a given position and serves as an aid to navigation.



The upward force extended by the vertical component of integrated pressure acting on the hull below the waterline; usually calculated as being equal to the weight of the water displaced by the hull.


Buoyed up

Lifted by a buoy, especially a cable that has been lifted to prevent it from trailing on the bottom.


Bureau of Export Administration

The primary U.S. Government export control authority.


Bureau Veritas

Bureau Veritas S. A. (formerly BVQI, Bureau Veritas Quality International) is an international certification agency. The company started in 1828 in Antwerp as Bureau de Renseignements pour les Assurances Maritimes (Information Office for Maritime Insurance), a classification society. In 1829, the company was renamed Bureau Veritas. By this time it already had 10000 ships in its register. Today, Bureau Veritas is one of the world's largest global Conformity Assessment and Certification organisations.

In addition to certifications, they are a worldwide leading firm in providing HSE expertise (Health, Safety and Environmental).

Today the headquarters are in Neuilly-sur-Seine, nearby La Défense. The company went public on the Paris Bourse in October 2007.


Buyer's Market

A 'buyer's market' is considered to exist when goods can easily be secured and when the economic forces of business tend to cause goods to be priced at the purchaser's estimate of value. In other words, a state of trade favourable to the buyer, with relatively large supply and low prices.


By and large

By means into the wind


By the board

Any items to have gone overboard.