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A sailing ship's rigging was a favorite target during sea battles, since destroying the opponent's ability to maneuver or get away would put you at obvious advantage.  Therefore, one of first the things tended to after a battle was the repair of broken gear, and the repair of the sheets (lines - not "ropes" - that adjust the angle at which a sail is set in relation to the wind) and braces (lines passing through blocks and holding up sails).

The main brace was the principal fore-and-aft support of the ship's masts.  The main brace, being one of the heaviest pieces of running rigging in the ship, was probably seldom spliced if damaged, but probably renewed in total instead.  Splicing this line would have been among the most difficult chores aboard ship, and one on which the ship's safety depended.  This operation was one of such rarity and difficulty in the days of sail, as to warrant the issue of an additional amount of rum to the Ship's Company.  For Sailors today, the term is used to congratulate the company of a ship.  In common usage, the phrase refers to an invitation to have a drink after a hard day (or not so hard day).

Posted on Saturday, September 11, 2004 10:44 AM Day Job , & Etc. | Back to top


Comments on this post: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Is here a flag hoist by which a fleet or squadron commander could order a general "Splice the Main Brace"?
Left by Jack Pavia on Feb 15, 2007 2:37 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Why is it so difficult to ask a simple question?
Left by Jack Pavia on May 09, 2007 9:00 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Flags: Alpha, Delta, two, eight (top to bottom) From the Royal Navy...
Left by NETCS(SW) Nate Stevens on Jun 26, 2007 1:20 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Somebody needs to make up his/her mind. In the definition listed, first it says the braces were used to hold up the sails. (running rigging) Then it said the main brace was a fore-aft line used to hold up the ships masts. (Standing rigging) Then it refers to it as one of the heaviest peices of running rigging. I intend to "splice the main brace" once I get the true origin of the expresstion. So far, I've seen it attributed to both the civil war and revolutionary war. I didn't realize the Brits were involved in our Civil War. Ain't this fun?
Left by Ed Wise on Aug 07, 2007 5:52 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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I can't remember when the rum ration was withdrawn except of course on HM's birthday. My late Dad aka "The Chief" went into mourning as he had to last about 7 long weeks before going "Outside" . I had my first "Tot" at three days old when he and CPO Madin visited me in Freedom Fields Hospital "Guz" When he assured me he dipped my dummy into "Neaters" I had to wait until the age of FOUR when I had a tot at CPO Arthur House's house on Christmas Day in 1963 in the company of also CPO Ray "Lucky" Luckman, CPO Cid Madin, "The Chief" and of course myself. I can report to the Fleet that I awoke in time for Boxing Day Dinner. That Shipmates is probably why I now own my second Pub !! So when was "The Tot" stopped - date please
Left by "The Admiral" on Feb 14, 2008 8:05 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Mr. Bell is correct. Braces are lines that control the yards upon which the squares are bent. Sheets are lines that control the clews, or lower corners of the sails.

Stays are the "principal fore-and-aft support of the ship's masts".


Left by Squarerigger on Feb 20, 2008 9:52 AM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Black Tot Day, the last day that rum was issued in the royal navy, was July 31st, 1970.
Left by Round Rigger on Jun 18, 2008 2:50 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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The last day that rum was issued in the Royal Canadian Navy was March 31st, 1972. I cried that day as the leftover rum was emptied into Halifax harbour.
Left by Donald Courcy on Jul 17, 2008 10:58 AM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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The bastards still aint caught me ARRRRRRRRRR! Still at Larrrrge sailin the severn seas.
Left by Long John Silver on Aug 21, 2008 2:10 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Alpha Delta Two Eight is still part of the signal book used by NATO Navies.
Left by Aging Mariner on May 07, 2009 8:23 AM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Splicing the Main Brace was the most difficult repair to effect at sea. After having done so, the crew was rewarded with an extra tot of rum. AD28 is the signal for Splicing the Mainbrace, but is flown during "Up Spirits." There is a pierside Officer's Club at Naval Station San Diego (commonly called 32nd Street) that is named AD28. The code is listed in ATP 1A, the flag hoist code book for Allied Navies.
Left by SteveF on Oct 12, 2009 3:26 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Bravo,hotel,tango,alpha delta,two.eight is a request to "splice the main brace"(see The Finding Of The Sydney"), but Alpha Delta Two Eight is the signal from someone else for YOU to "splice the main brace"
If someone else wants me to have a drink, who am I to complain?
Left by Furter on Feb 25, 2010 6:56 AM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Apparrantley confusion reigns about the flags that show "alpha delta two eight".
The Commonwealth Navies use pennants for their numbers (which are totally different to the letter flags), while the US Navy has their number flags in the same shape as their letters.
Left by Furter on Feb 25, 2010 7:04 AM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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this info is very confusing
Left by hi on Nov 18, 2010 1:18 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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BH-AD28 was sent by LEUT Perryman to Cheif of Navy a couple of years ago in a signal confirming that they had found the HMAS Sydney that was lost in WWII off the coast of Western Australia.
Commonwealth Navies use both Numeral Flags and Pennants the same as the US Navy.
All allied navies would use the numeral flags 2 and 8 for the signal AD28.

The numeral pennants would only be used when signalling a merchant vessel, and merchant vessells would not understand the signal as they would not have access to the publication that this signal is taken from.

BH-AD28 = Request Permission to splice the main brace.
BA-AD28 = I am splicing the main brace.

There are other Bravo codes that would be used to change the context of a signal.
I am about to...
You are to...
Do not...
etc etc etc...
Left by Fletch on Dec 19, 2010 3:26 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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Can someone help me - is it 'Splice the Main Brace' or 'Splice the Mainbrace'? Wikipedia doesn't help - it uses both terms! I tend to go for 'Main Brace', as there were a number of braces on a sailing vessel of course, but 'Mainbrace' seems more common when talking of the tot.
Left by Norman Wiseman on Aug 25, 2011 3:29 AM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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When the events are recorded on a ship's log the spelling (see USS Kitty Hawk ship history, for example) is: "Spliced the Main Brace".
Left by Rodger Asai on May 15, 2012 8:04 AM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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I am an Ex Communications Yeoman. Splice the Mainbrace is as stated above a term used in making good the rigging on the old sail ships. After a good days work, the Bosun of the ship would order a rum tot for all riggers, hence Splicing the Main Brace. It is also used on the birth of a child to a member of the ships company, ie, Wetting the Babys head. The signal AD28 can be hoisted by flags, or used on voice communication methods and spoken as Alpha Delta Two Eight. AD is the code for Administration within the publication of the codes, and the 28 represents the actual signal coding.
Left by Chris Way on May 15, 2012 11:08 AM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace
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I am no expert but have spent several months sailing a square rigged ship.
In short the brace of a square rig ship is the equivalent to a halyard - hall the yard (arm) - of a modern ship. The Main Sail did not have a halyard (Main Brace) as it was fixed in place. So to splice the main brace was a sailors way of saying time for a drink in the same manner as a golfer will found on the 19th hole.
Left by Clancy on Sep 09, 2014 10:47 PM

# re: Nautical Terminology: Splice the Main Brace.....pls i want to know exact location where the mentioned of signal code AD28
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I requesting the early answer
Left by Fernando 123 on Nov 18, 2015 6:58 AM

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