Sailor Speak of the Week – In Irons

The vessel depicted in #1 is in the no-go zone and said to be “in irons.”



  • A sailing craft that is caught dead in the wind and unable to fill her sails on a new tack or make forward way.


Probably earlier than the 17th century.


This term can also refer to a vessel that is poorly trimmed or lightly loaded to the point where her propeller and rudder and ineffective. Obviously, whether aboard a sailing or motor vessel, this is an undesirable state to be in.

The origin of this term is uncertain, but it may come from the practice of someone being in shackles and thus unable to move.


Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic Seaport.

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