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In a short story by Edward Page Mitchel called The Last Cruise of the Judas Iscariot, which goes on in Maine, he tells the story of a schooner with three masts, which never goes to sail without ending in a disaster. People have some kind of superstition and think the devil has something to do with it. Anyway, its commander decides to set her in an important cruise. The narrator describes her in this cruise saying: She seemed suddenly struck with a sense of decency and responsibility, for she came around into the wind without balking, dived her nose playfully into the brine, and skipped off on the short hitch to clear Tumbler Island, all in the properest fashion.

I wonder what does he mean by "skipped off on the short hitch"?

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  • skip off = take off, run away; hitch = ride, trip. Sep 16, 2018 at 20:26

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A short hitch a sailing term, in this case a quick turn of short duration.

Sailing Strategy: Wind and Current [google books]

... but constant – enough to keep the boats sailing at about 2 knots through the ... it is therefore necessary to take a short hitch on the starboard tack to come up to ...

to skip - to avoid, a slight bound or spring. hop, skip, and jump

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'Skipped off' describes the lively response of the schooner.

'On the short hitch,' which is a completely separate idea, describes the course which has been set to sail round Tumbler Island as just a short reach.

hitch, shift a little away or aside; a short abrupt movement. (Shorter OED)

It is also a fraction of a Knot, a nautical mile.

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