Dictionary of the Marine
"EASE the ship! the command given by the pilot to the steersman, to put the helm close to the lee-side, or, in the sea-phrase, hard-a-lee, when the ship is expected to pitch or plunge her fore-part deep in the water, while close-hauled. The reason usually given for this practice is, that the sudden movement of the helm prevents the ship's head from falling with so much weight and rapidity into the hollow of the sea, as it would do otherwise: which is presuming that the flow and uncertain effect of the helm is sufficient to retard the certain and violent action of gravity: a position that necessarily infers a very singular theory of mechanics. We shall not endeavour to advance any argument in favour of this practice; only to remark, that it is most religiously observed, both in merchant-ships and his Majesty's navy."
(Submitted by Noel Fri Oct 1, 2004 )
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