Once we was as near as nothin' nipped by a tall ship off Tergoes Sands in a snowstorm. She had the wind of us, and spooned straight before it, shootin' all bow guns. Frankie fled inshore smack for the beach, till he was atop of the first breakers. Then he hove his anchor out, which nigh tore our bows off, but it twitched us round end-for-end into the wind, d'ye see, an' we clawed off them sands like a drunk man rubbin' along a tavern bench. When we could see, the Spanisher was laid flat along in the breakers with the snows whitening on his wet belly. He thought he could go where Frankie went.'

This is from "Simple Simon" by Kipling.

I can not understand the meanind the sentences below.

*She had the wind of us, and spooned straight before it,
*Frankie fled inshore smack for the beach,

I am glad if some one kindly teach me.

  • 3
    spoon, "to go right before the wind, without any sail". The sea-mans dictionary, or, An EXPOSITION and demonstration of all the parts and things belonging to a SHIPPE : together with an explanation of all the termes and phrases used in the practique of navigation. Henry Mainwaring, London. 1644.
    – TimR
    Nov 27, 2017 at 13:44
  • 3
    smack means "directly, straight".
    – TimR
    Nov 27, 2017 at 13:45
  • 2
    Later definitions of spoon (e.g. Websters, 1864) describe it as "to go steadily and swiftly, as before a strong wind; to be driven before the wind without any sail, or with only a part of the sail spread".
    – TimR
    Nov 27, 2017 at 13:50
  • 2
    to have the wind of another ship is to be upwind of it, and thus in a position to block the wind from reaching the sails of the downwind ship.
    – TimR
    Nov 27, 2017 at 13:56
  • 2
    If it makes you feel better, with all the old nautical jargon in this sentence, even as a native speaker I have little or no idea what's happening to the ship in this passage.
    – Andrew
    Nov 27, 2017 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


Like another commenter said, as a native speaker, I have a lot of trouble understanding this too. Usually when I read books like this, I just skip parts like this and hope I can manage to get the overall meaning. Here would be my best guess at the meaning:

"She had the wind of us, and spooned straight before it"

She refers to the other ship that almost ran into the narrator's ship. I think that "had the wind of us" means that this other ship was either "down-wind" or "up-wind" from the narrator's ship. Probably up-wind, meaning that the wind was blowing this other ship into the narrator's ship. I'm not exactly sure what "spooned straight before it" means, but my best guess is that this ship really caught the wind with its sail, meaning that it was being quickly/directly blown towards the narrator's ship.

"Frankie fled inshore smack for the beach"

Frankie sailed straight to the beach.

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