When any swashes they can find have been thoroughly buckled, or indeed buckles swashed, swashbucklers might hear the exclamation/order ‘splice the mainbrace!’. I’ve often wondered what a mainbrace was and how you would splice one. So I decided to find out.
It turns out that nowadays the order ‘splice the mainbrace’ has nothing to do with the splicing of braces, main or otherwise, but is in fact an order to issue the crew of a navel vessel with an extra ration of rum or grog.
Originally the order referred to the repairing of the mainbrace, the largest of the lines or ropes that control the angle of the yards on a sailing ship. This was a difficult but essential task, as a ship could not be steered without a mainbrace, which was a prime target during battles, and it was customary for an extra ration of rum to be issued after the mainbrace had been successfully spliced. The order continued to be used after sailing ships were no longer used, but referred just to the extra rum ration rather than to the actual mainbrace splicing, and tended to be made after after victory in battle, or on the occasion of a change of a monarch, a royal birth or wedding, or an inspection of the fleet. [source]
The flags on the right are the maritime signal flags for the order ‘splice the mainbrace’.
The word splice, meaning ‘to join (ropes, cables, lines, etc.) by untwisting and interweaving the strands of the ends so as to form one continuous length’ comes from the Middle Dutch word splissen, the origins of which are uncertain [source].