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full to the gunwales

As full as possible; filled up to the very top. A gunwale (also called a "gunnel") is the uppermost part of the side of a boat or fortification. The car is full to the gunwales, so if you want to bring anything else, you'll have to hold it on your lap. That old bookstore was full to the gunwales with just about any book you could hope to find.
See also: full, gunwale, to

to the gunwales

As full as it can be; to the very top. A gunwale is the uppermost part of the side of a boat or fortification. The car is packed to the gunwales, so if you want to bring anything else, you'll have to hold it on your lap. You should have seen this old book store. There were books stacked to the gunwales!
See also: gunwale, to
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
At the very moment that Thor gripped his hammer and raised it aloft, the giant fumbled for his bait knife and cut Thor's line off at the gunwale.
"Visitors to the Imperial War Museum can witness 24 notches carved on the boat's gunwale marking the crew's first 24 days adrift; marks of hope and determination.
The mast of one vessel sports a basketball hoop, while a pool slide descends from its stern; a seesaw sits on the gunwale of the other boat--the effect is Theodore Gericault's Raft of the Medusa reimagined as a pleasant diversion.
From close behind it was a dramatic sight - an explosive parting of the birch and McCoy hanging way out on the port gunwale. Before the next he seemed already beaten, the 'jump' was even worse and there was the recordbreaking champion hurting on the turf.
At my canoe, a paddle painted with a single blue fist leaned against the gunwale. Every man's paddle was unique, and I recognized this one immediately.
In my home state of Minnesota a lucky bowfisher bagged the current world record carp in 1991, an 85-pound leviathan that dragged his boat around for some time before the archer could wrestle the fish over the gunwale! Of course, most of us will never see a fish like that.
Those same begin to assault the intruder, the four of them pushing him further and further toward the gunwale where they push the unfortunate overboard.
The wooden molding plane just felt right as I watched the thin curls of spruce peel from the gunwale while I finished shaping the rounded profile.
Tie him to the gunwale, head down, says the lieutenant.
For their own safety, the two rescuers should lift together, and bring the swimmer into the canoe in stages -- arms over gunwale, torso over gunwale, one leg over, etc.
But when the houseboats line up gunwale to gunwale in a cove thick with blue exhaust, the river becomes a student paradise and every parent's worst nightmare.
During the rescue operation, Officer Mick single-handedly maneuvered his boat into the wind while battling ocean waves breaking in over the gunwale. While doing this, he also had to remove a dive door, attach a line to a boat cleat, and toss the line to the nearest victim.
When she edges alongside the boat and exchanges glances with me, I reach over the gunwale and lay my hand on her flank.
The subsequent photos recorded what for the life of me I can't recall seeing: Russ howling with glee in the stern and John in the bow, a hand on either gunwale, gritting his teeth.
The Viking is about 78 feet long, 17 feet wide, and 6.5 feet high from the bottom of the keel to the gunwale. Its black oak planks are fastened together with thousands of iron rivets.