It’s a Coxswain’s Certificate but why a Coxswain?

Many will already know what is involved in obtaining training in and qualification of a Coxswain’s Certificate. There is however, an interesting history attached to the Coxswain qualification of which, many will not be aware.

Let’s go back and see…

A small boat with oars
Tenders come in all shapes and sizes but the smallest are powered by oars as in times past.

In the Middle English period (from about 1150 through 1500) there was a word, Cokbote which we understand was a type of small boat on board or towed behind a larger boat or ship . They were muscle powered by being rowed and often used to transport people and goods from the ship to shore. It’s been suggested that cokbote may originate in the Latin “caudica” (dug-out canoe), via the Latin word “caudex” (tree trunk). It bears a resemblance to a “cogbote”, being a wooden ship which originated in the 10th century. So the “cokbote” is what we would refer to today as a “tender”; a  boat used to service larger vessels.

Medieval knight in helmet on ancient wall background
Swains attended upon knights but because they were not nobility, nobody took their photos…

Let’s dig back a little further into the Old English period of the Anglo Saxons (from the fifth century through to the Norman Conquest of 1066) and we discover the word, “swain” (from the Norse word for “lad”, being sveinn). A swain was a young man who attended upon a knight but not generally descended from nobility. This was unlike a squire who was born of noble origins and was a sort of “apprentice knight” and became a knight himself. Swains were not valued as highly as squires and probably had a tougher and maybe shorter life but served an essential purpose to support the knight. This most likely included a lot of “go fer” type of running around.

So let’s look at the combination of these two words into the current word coxswain which dates from the fourteenth century where it meant “officer in charge of a ship’s boat and its crew,” (Online Etymology Dictionary). It’s interesting that the same dictionary states that the word “cox” derives from Old French “coque” or “canoe”

It’s interesting to discover where the origins of modern words lie, especially unusual words such as “coxswain” which is usually pronounced “coxsun”.

What is important though, is that you should book your Coxswain’s Certificate training course with the Australian Coast Guard Maritime academy. Check out our course calendar at http://acgma.edu.au/events/ to choose a course that best fits your timetable.

Once you’ve decided which course suits you best, contact us via http://acgma.edu.au/contact/ or call us on 1300 358 101.

You won’t regret your decision to train with the Australian Coast Guard Maritime Academy. The name says it all.



1 Comment

  • Peter Casey

    I live in Redcliffe, Queensland and wish to commence a coxswain grade1NC course and an ESS course . Is the course starting 31/10/2016 full? Are the course details for early 2017 published yet? Thank you, Peter Casey

Leave a Reply