The wind was taking off in gusts, and the rain was putting down the swells. I made out a patch of beach that looked less like death than the rest of the arena, and I decided to drive in on a gust under the spitfire-sprit -- and, if she answered her helm before she died on us, to humour her a shade to starboard, where the water looked better. I stayed the foremast; set the spritsail fore and aft, as though we were boarding; told Sulinor to have the rudders down directly he cut the cables; waited till a gust came; squared away the sprit, and drove.

(This is from "The Manner of Men" by Kipling.)

I can't understand the meaning of this phrase:

to have the rudders down directly

  • Can you edit your question and explain a little more about what's puzzling you? I assume you know what a rudder is, but I wouldn't want to spend 20 minutes telling you what "down directly" means only to find out that "have the rudders" was the part that was confusing you.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 0:31
  • Is this a question about nautical terminology? If I was reading this for enjoyment, I would skim over this and not even bother trying to understand it. I know what words like mast, sail, board, and gust mean, and that's enough to determine that understanding this section is not necessary for me to understand the story. Without wanting to discourage or sound critical of the questioner, I wonder if questions about the terminology of specialist fields belong here. Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 0:56
  • @RossMurray Have a heart! A lot of the fun of reading Kipling is the joy he takes in the practise and technical language of craftsmen and professionals. Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 1:19

1 Answer 1


Roman-era vessels did not have true rudders, but steering oars mounted on the vessel's flanks. These (like driving oars) could be raised out of the water when they were not needed; and in fact they are raised at this point in the story, because the boat is at anchor. Qabil tells Sulinor to "have the rudders down" (lower them into the water) "directly" (immediately, as soon as) the anchor cables are cut, because they will both slow the vessel down a little as it moves toward the shore and permit him to steer a little more precisely toward the safest point of beaching — "a patch of beach that looked less like death than the rest of the arena."

  • Thank you so much, StoneyB. It is so helpful as before!! Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 2:36

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