It’s funny how these two terms came up so much over the last two days.
Right on the heels of a lengthy instructor meeting discussion on encouraging our students and members on the proper method for “flaking” sails, the question came up in my Advanced Anchoring class: “Which is correct, ‘faking’ or ‘flaking’ an anchor rode on deck” in preparation for anchoring. I’ve heard this question before and my answer has always been, “I believe the two words are interchangeable”. I promised to get more proof before the end of the class and stated: “my preference is to say that we ‘flake’ a sail and ‘fake’ a coil of line on deck.
Anyway, here is the definitive (sort of) word on the subject:
As a noun, one definition of fake is: a coil of rope ready for running. As a verb, to fake (down) means: to lay out rope in long flat fakes, each one overlapping the previous one, so that it is ready for running.
Okay, now let’s look at the word flake: as a noun, one definition of flake is a single turn or several turns of rope in a coil, more properly called a fake. The term is controversial. In his standard work on knots, Clifford Ashely states that “the dictionary form of fake is unknown at sea… that a flake is a single turn in a coil, and that flaking is coiling in various ways.” On the other hand, reliable references declare that flake is a mispronunciation of fake. Rear Admiral Austin M. Knight, author of Knight’s Modern Seamanship, 1941, uses only fake, which seems to be the choice for most 20th century sailors. As a verb, flake is a variant of fake which usually means coiling by forming a series of loose figure eights.
 Reference: The Sailor’s Illustrated Dictionary, Thompson Lenfestey, Pg. 159.Reference: The Sailor’s Illustrated Dictionary, Thompson Lenfestey, Pg. 169.
Note from Matt: Flake it or Fake it, your choice – but please take the time to stow our sails properly and help us make them last longer!