Time to Batten down the hatches as the weather agency AEMET have issued a yellow alert storm warning for Ibiza and Formentera which predicts up to 20 litres of rain per square metre.

The alert was published at 17:00h Friday and lasts until 08:00h Saturday.

We hope the good folk setting up at Playing for change in Cala Llonga miss the worst of it.

Origin of “Batten Down Hatches”. 

Ships’ hatches, more formally called hatchways, were commonplace on sailing ships and were normally either open or covered with a wooden grating to allow for ventilation of the lower decks. When bad weather was imminent, the hatches were covered with tarpaulin and the covering was edged with wooden strips, known as battens, to prevent it from blowing off. Not surprisingly, sailors called this ‘battening down’.

The above was explained in the definitive record of history of nautical language, Admiral W H Smyth’s 1867 encyclopaedia The Sailor’s Word Book. He calls it ‘battening of the hatches’ but it is clearly the same expression:

“Battens of the hatches: Long narrow laths serving by the help of nailing to confine the edges of the tarpaulins, and keep them close down to the sides of the hatchways in bad weather.”

The misspellings ‘battern down the hatches’ and ‘baton down the hatches’ are sometimes found in print. ‘Batons’ are sticks or staffs, which makes that particular misspelling plausible. ‘Batterns’ are a form of stage lighting.

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