Word of the Day: Skippertak

I was reminded of this most excellent Norwegian word when catching up on one of the threads on maritime leadership styles. Loosely translated, it means “Captain’s effort”, and refers to a concentrated exertion of such intensity as to be unsustainable. It is mostly used in reference to leaving everything to the last minute, but can also be used in other settings, as in “Come on boys, we need to make a skippertak to clean up this mess.”

The etymological roots lie in the idea of a captain who has spent his day reading at his desk, and comes fully rested on deck while the crew is struggling with some arduous task. Brushing people aside, he heaves on that halyard like a man possessed, setting the topsail in no time flat with little assistance. He then grumbles something about how the days are gone when men were made from steel, and goes back down below to write poetry. Thoroughly humbled by his immense energy, the men redouble their efforts, or at least so he hopes.

This is one of those words that doesn’t have an English equivalent that I’m aware of, which is a shame, because it’s quite useful.


An English equivalent would have been nice when I was sailing C/M. On the round-the-world voyage east-bound the clocks are being advanced making the days shorter. That would make the captain tired so as the trip progressed he’d sleep in later and later.

I’d get up at 03:30 hrs for watch, eat at around 0800 hrs and then work till lunch. After lunch I’d take a break and then get up before 1600 to get caught up before going back on watch.

But Captain Skippertak would get up in time for morning coffee, drink coffee with the chief and the two of them would hatch some big plans requiring the C/M to hit the deck hot…starting at 1300 hrs.