Nautical term for "stir crazy"?
June 30, 2008 5:24 PM   Subscribe

Is there a sailor's equivalent to the phrases "stir-crazy" and "cabin fever"?

I figure there must be/have been a term for the particular type of heebie-jeebies that one experiences after having been stuck on a ship at sea for months at a time, but I can't find one. Ideally this phrase will have been in existence for hundreds of years.
posted by vraxoin to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, "cabin fever" may very well apply to boats:

From Wikipedia: The phrase may also be associated with ocean-crossing sailing ships in which passengers had to endure weeks and months of slow travel while living in cabins below deck.
posted by rooftop secrets at 5:34 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding rooftop secrets;
cabin fever always implied boats to me, not log cabins.
But then again, I grew up on the coast.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:41 PM on June 30, 2008

The Doldrums?
posted by lekvar at 6:04 PM on June 30, 2008


Webster's has it as:
Cal"en*ture\, n. [F. calenture, fr. Sp. calenture heat, fever, fr. calentar to heat, fr. p. pr. of L. calere to be warm.] (Med.) A name formerly given to various fevers occuring in tropics; esp. to a form of furious delirium accompanied by fever, among sailors, which sometimes led the affected person to imagine the sea to be a green field, and to throw himself into it.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:11 PM on June 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

According to Muppet Treasure Island, cabin fever applies to ships.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:21 PM on June 30, 2008

Channel Fever - U.S. Navy c.1970
posted by Fins at 6:48 PM on June 30, 2008

Inspector.Gadget: That was the first thing I thought of too.
posted by null terminated at 7:04 PM on June 30, 2008

We use the term "Channel Fever" to describe the feeling that you get when the boat enters the channel (ie: heading to dock), after a long hitch at sea. Nothin' in this world like channel fever, I tell you!
posted by MotorNeuron at 7:22 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

like others posters, my fist thought is of the ocean not the woods when i hear "cabin fever."
posted by phil at 8:39 PM on June 30, 2008

Thirding 'channel fever'. It's not quite the same thing as you're looking for, though.

People's emotional state tends to go through phases at roughly the same speeds, give or take, and we have a term for when everyone is at everyone else's throat at sea. That time when, if that guy says that same inane catch phrase just one more fucking time, you're going to stab him. Or if one more person can't stack the plates with the plates and the bowls with the bowls, there's going to be a throwdown on crew's mess.

We call that Hate Week. There usually are two different Hate Weeks on a 90-day patrol, I can't imagine what a sailing-ship ocean crossing would be like.

I try to sleep as much as possible during Hate Week, to avoid every other person on board, and thus not have to kill them.
posted by ctmf at 10:32 PM on June 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

In all the time I've studied maritime history, read sailors' journals, and listened to their songs, I have never run across a term for feeling crazy/confined aboard ship. Looking forward to leave/liberty, yes; acknowledgement that others are driving you crazy, yes; but as far as a specific, clever term for it - I have yet to find one.

"Cabin fever" does strike me as much more likely to come from the era of steamship passenger travel rather than work under sail. Very few sailors on sailing vessels even had cabins; generally just the officers did. Everyone else had their quarters in the fo'c'sle or a large berthing-deck.
posted by Miko at 7:31 AM on July 1, 2008

I have a strong impression of the phrase "cabin fever" deriving from snowbound trappers in Alaska & other frozen north areas. I've never heard it applied to ocean-going accomodations, even though I'm an avid reader of 19th century-style seafarin' yarns.

Citation, anyone?
posted by Aquaman at 8:13 AM on July 1, 2008

There's a 1918 book by that name (involving winter in a cabin). The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms gives a late 1800s date and says it refers to being pent up in a cabin over the winter. Wikipedia's site is the Online Etymology Dictionary: "cabin
1346, from O.Fr. cabane, from O.Prov. cabana, from L.L. capanna "hut," of doubtful origin. Meaning "room or partition of a vessel" is from 1382. Cabin fever first recorded 1918."
posted by Miko at 8:26 AM on July 1, 2008

Too long before the mast.
posted by cinemafiend at 7:32 PM on July 1, 2008

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