Originally Posted by AnglaisInHull
There's often more hidden in these than is obvious - does the "devil" in this case refer to some part of a boat that I don't know?
And while I'm thinking about it, I note that the sun's over the yardarm!
The "devil" was a word naming the seam between the garboard strake and the keel
. The garboard strake was/is the lowest and longest plank in a wood vessel, for obvious reasons. In the great days of sail, many ships did not haul out
or even dry out for years, and instead careened. During careening, the seams were recaulked with oakum and pitch. The oakum (old rope
fibers untwisted) was hammered into the seams and sealed thereafter with hot pitch. This process of hammering oakum was known as "paying" oakum into the seam. The devil was not only the longest, but on a careened hull
obviously the most difficult seam to pay, as even on the hardest careened vessel it may be awash, likely also cooling
the pitch. Hence the job was one of the worst on the boat, and hence the expression, which was the second half of the implied counterfactual:
you do x bad thing or it goes bad, THEN
you'll have the devil to pay and no hot pitch!"
It is also the origin of the expression: "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Which now you can see is a bad place to be!