Sailors would study the shape of the land when they first saw it to see if they recognised any features; a hill or a range of hills. Charts and navigation was never that accurate so it was important to study "the lay of the land" so they could get a better idea on where they were.
By SailingQuiz November 2019 Category: Nautical Saying
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What does Lay of the land mean?
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Definition of the nautical phrase "Lay of the land".