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Your Ultimate Guide to Sailing Terminology

The exhilarating experience of sailing carries with it its own collection of terminology. Whether a person is a beginner, or a seasoned sailor, it is important to acquire a vocabulary of sailing terms. Learning sailing maneuvers and the different parts of a boat are just two of the ways that a person prepares for sailing. An individual who is comfortable with sailing terminology is likely to have more confidence when it comes to safely guiding a boat and can easily convey correct information to others in the event on an emergency. This collection of sailing terminology is provided by Action Boat and Yacht Donation services.

Abeam– The area at a right angle beside a boat aligned with the center of the boat.

Aboard– When something or someone is on or in a boat.

Above Deck– When someone is on deck and not in a cabin underneath.

Aft– Refers to the back area of a boat.

Aloft– A position high above a boat’s deck.

Astern– The area behind a boat.

Bank– An area of shallow water created by a raised portion of the ground.

Barge– An enormous cargo-carrying boat with a flat bottom that transports large pieces of freight, typically accompanied by a tug boat.

Beam– The widest dimension of the hull of a boat.

Bear Away– The act of steering a boat away from the wind.

Below– The area beneath the main deck.

Bend– The act of fastening or securing ropes on a boat.

Bow– The front portion of a boat.

Breaker– A wave that turns to foam as it hits land.

Bridle– A strong connection of cables used for towing ships and boats.

Buoy– A floating marker in the water.

Cable– A heavy length of rope.

Capsize– When a boat turns over in the water.

Careen– When a boat tilts or leans to the side.

Centerline– The center of the boat that spans its full length.

Cleat– A fitting made of metal or other strong material, attached to a boat where a line can be fastened.

Coil– Making loops in a stretch of rope or line in order to properly store it.

Compass– An instrument with a needle that determines direction.

Deck– A floor of a boat.

Dinghy– A small boat carried on board a ship that’s used to transport people to and from the craft.

Ebb tide– When the sea’s tide is going out.

Elbow– A type of knot that connects two ropes.

Even keel– When a boat is sailing in an upright, balanced position.

Fair wind– A wind that is favorable for a particular sailing direction.

Fid– A tool used for splicing a rope.

Foot– The lower edge of a sail.

Fore– Refers to the front area of a boat.

Frap – The technique of wrapping rope around equipment on a boat to keep it steady and secure.

Furl– The act of securely rolling up a sail.

Galley– The area designated for food preparation on a boat.

Girtline– A rope with a block attached to it that is used to transport supplies to high areas on a boat or ship.

Halyard– A type of line used to help hoist a sail.

Helm– The wheel or tiller of a boat.

Hull– The body of a boat.

Inshore– In the direction of a shoreline.

Jib– The sail at the front of a boat.

Keel– A steel piece at the bottom of a boat that supports its frame.

Knot– A measurement of one nautical mile.

Latitude– Location north or south of the equator that is measured in degrees.

Leeward– Sailing in a downwind direction.

Longitude– Location east or west of the prime meridian that is measured in degrees.

Moor– To secure a boat in place with the help of an anchor or heavy cables.

Mooring Line– A heavy cable that secures a boat to a pier.

Nautical– A term relating to sailors and watercraft.

Offshore wind– Air that is moving away from a shoreline.

Pitch– The rising and falling motion of a boat on rough seas.

Port– The left side of a boat.

Put about– The act of changing the course of a boat.

Put in– To sail into a harbor or other stopping place.

Rigging– The collection of ropes, chains, and other equipment that helps to sail a boat.

Rudder– A steering instrument located at the stern of a boat.

Shoal– A shallow area in a body of water.

Starboard– The right side of a boat.

Stay– Heavy cable that gives support to a ship’s mast.

Stern– The back of a boat.

Sternway– The motion of a ship moving backwards.

Stow– To pack or secure equipment on a boat.

Take in– To furl a sail.

Tiller– A metal or wood handle that moves a boat’s rudder.

Trim– The act of adjusting the angle of a boat’s sails.

Undertow– A current deep in the sea that moves in opposition to the levels of water above it.

Unfurl– To open a rolled up sail.

Veer– When a boat moves its stern to the wind and changes its original direction.

Wake– The trail left behind a boat that is moving through the water.

Waterline– The point where the surface of the water meets the hull of a boat.

Weigh Anchor– To lift a ship’s anchor from the bottom of the sea in preparation to sail.

Whitecap– A type of wave that has a foamy, white top.

Windward– Sailing in an upwind direction.

Yard– A pole or rod that gives support to a sail.

Zephyr– A gentle, calm breeze.

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