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Definition of sailboat

Examples of sailboat in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sailboat.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

1752, in the meaning defined above

Dictionary Entries Near sailboat

sail burton

Cite this Entry

“Sailboat.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sailboat. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of sailboat, more from merriam-webster on sailboat.

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Meaning of sailboat in English

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  • cabin cruiser
  • dragon boat
  • rubber dinghy

sailboat | American Dictionary

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a small model of a person or animal with parts of the body that are moved with strings

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Sailing Terms: A Complete Guide

Sailing Terms: A Complete Guide | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

June 15, 2022

Learning sailing terms when you first get into boating can be a daunting task.

Some sailing terms are logical, like 'fore' means forward or front of the boat, while others might as well be in a different language. Athwartship, for example. Nothing in our daily lexicon gives any clues as to what that might mean. Like it or not, it's time to dust off the old noodle and get to memorizing some new vocab words!

Knowing the difference between a clew and a tack, a luff and a leech, will help you communicate with your sail maker regarding which part of your sail needs resewn. If you need to have your rigging adjusted, you must know the difference between your shrouds and your stays, your standing rigging vs. your running rigging.

By educating yourself in the correct names of all parts of your sailboat, you can avoid situations in which you may need to use terms such as ‘thingy’ or ‘that round part at the end of that thing’. While even the most seasoned sailor occasionally troops over the vernacular, it is always beneficial to have as wide a nautical vocabulary as possible. Many in the sailing community get by without knowing the entire sailing dictionary, but if you’re interested in avoiding vocabulary embarrassment, check out the list I’ve compiled of sailing terms that every sailor ought to know.

I’ve been sailing on and off throughout my life and I know from experience that it is incredibly helpful to know the correct terms for each part of your sails, rigging, and boat.

Sailors are among the kindest, most helpful people you’ll ever meet. But, if you’re looking for help on why you’re not getting the most speed out of your mainsail and you know don’t know the correct terms for each part of the sail, it may be hard to get advice from you fellow sailor on why ‘the back of the mainsail is flappy’. They would be more likely to give useful advice if you’re able to tell them that you’re struggling to keep wind in the roach of your mainsail. Check out my list of sailing terms and see if a few don’t stick. I’ve done my best to include pictures when possible.

Table of contents

Sailing Terms

Abeam : When an object, craft or island is abeam your vessel, that means that it is off the side of your boat. It is 90 degrees from the centerline of your boat.

Abaft : Toward the stern. “Honey, have you seen my boat shoes?” “They’re abaft the navigation table!” This is the opposite of forward.

Aft : In the stern of the boat. For example, the back cabin is referred to as the aft cabin.

Apparent wind : The wind direction and speed which the crew observes to be blowing in combination with the true wind. This is often different from the true wind direction and speed due to the boat's motion.

Astern : The area behind the boat. If you go astern, you are going in reverse.

Athwartship : Directionally perpendicular to the centerline of the boat.

Backing (a sail) : Forcing the sail to take wind into its opposite side by pulling the sail to the opposite side of the boat.

Backstay : The wire that runs from the back of the boat to the mast head. This prevents the mast from falling forward.

Bailer : Any scoop-like container that is used to remove water from within a vessel’s hull.

Ballast : Weight which adds stability to the vessel. The weight usually is composed of lead or iron and placed low in the boat's hull, such as within the keel.

Batten : a thin, flexible strip (often fiberglass) that is inserted into the main sail to help it stay open to the wind. The batten runs from the back edge of the sail (leech) toward the front edge (luff).

Beam : The width of the vessel at its widest point.

Beam reach : Sailing with the wind blowing perpendicular to the direction the boat is traveling.

Bearing off or Bearing away : Steering the boat away from the direction in which the wind is blowing.

Bend : a knot which connects two ropes.

Berth : A slip, a mooring, or a bed within the boat.

Bight : A bend or loop in a rope. When a rope forms a bight, it has changed direction 180 degrees.

Bilge : The lowest area within a boats hull. This area collects water which is then pumped overboard by a bilge pump.

Bimini : The covering over the cockpit. Usually constructed from a stainless steel frame covered with canvas or fiberglass. It provides protection from sun and rain, but not wind.

Binnacle : The pedestal centrally located in the cockpit that generally holds the steering wheel and navigational instruments.

Block : A pulley.

Boom : This pole runs perpendicular to the mast and holds the bottom of the mainsail in place. Its position is adjustable side to side as needed for the wind direction.

Boom vang : A tackle which ensures that the boom does not lift upward from wind pressure in the mainsail.

Boot Top or Boot Stripe : The stripe of tape or paint between the boat's underwater (bottom) paint and it’s above water (topside) paint.

Bow : Front end of the boat

Bowsprit : The forward most protruding pole or platform which some boats possess. This spar allows for the sails and rigging to be attached further forward.

Broach : When a boat sailing downwind accidentally ends up sideways to the waves and heels over dangerously. This can be caused by large seas or poor steering.

Broad reach : Sailing with the wind coming off your stern quarter. If you’re standing at the helm facing the bow, the wind is blowing halfway between the side and the back of the boat.

Bulkhead : The walls in a boat which run athwartship, or perpendicular to the centerline of the vessel.

Capsize : When a vessel tips over past 90 degrees.

Catamaran : A vessel with two hulls.

Centerboard : A retractable keel which helps the sailboat maintain course and stability underway. When raised, the vessel is able to enter shallow waters.

Centerline : An imaginary line that runs from the center of the bow to the center of the stern.

Chainplate : A metal plate that is secured to the boat's hull to which wires supporting the mast are attached. The chainplates may be exterior or interior, visible or hidden.

Chandlery : A store that sells boat supplies and parts.

Cleats : The wooden or metal piece to which ropes are secured.

Chock : A fitting that a line passes through to change direction without chafing.

Clew : The lower back corner of a sail. This is where the foot and leech of the sail meet.

Close-hauled : Sailing as close to the direction the wind is coming from as possible with the sails pulled in tight. (See Points of Sail for infographic.)

Close Reach : Sailing between close hauled and beam reach. (See Points of Sail for infographic.)

Coamings : The lip around a hatch or window which stops water from entering. Also the raised area around the cockpit to keep out water.

Cockpit : The area from which steering occurs. This can be in the center of the boat or in the back of the boat.

Companionway : The doorway into the cabin.

Cotter pin : a bendable metal pin which is inserted into a metal rod then bent to lock it in place.

Daybeacons : Markers for navigation which are on posts. These are red or green.

Dead run : Sailing with the wind coming from directly behind the boat. Sails are fully out to catch the wind.

Dead reckoning : Determining a vessel's position by knowing the direction and speed traveled.

Dinghy : A small boat which is used to travel to shore from the main vessel. This can be propelled oars or a motor.

Dodger : The structure at the front of the cockpit which protects the cockpit and companionway from wind and spray. This is generally made of stainless steel frame covered with canvas and plastic windows. It can also be a solid structure with solid windows.

Dismasting : When the mast breaks off the boat. This can occur due to rigging failure or structural failure of the mast.

Displacement : The weight of the water that would otherwise be in the place of the boats hull.

Drogue : A sea anchor which is deployed to help control the drift of a vessel. It can be constructed like a parachute, bucket, or even a rope dragging behind the boat.

Ebb tide : After high tide when the water is receding towards low tide.

EPIRB : Stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. This device transmits a distress signal to emergency services and notifies them of a vessel's location.

Fairlead: A fitting which encloses a line within a smooth ring and helps guide its direction.

Fathom : A measurement of water depth equal to 6 feet.

Fid : A pointed tool used when splicing a line.

Fiddle : The raised edge around a table which prevents objects from falling off as the boat rocks or heels.

Fix : Determining a vessel's location by using the compass bearing of two or more fixed points of reference such as landmarks or buoys.

Fin keel : A fixed, ballasted keel which is centrally located beneath the hull. It does not run the full length of the hull.

Flogging : When a sail flaps noisily because it is not being filled by the wind.

Flood tide : Time period between low tide and high tide when the water is rising.

Foot : The bottom edge of a sail.

Fore : At or near the bow of a vessel.

Forestay : The wire which leads from the bow to the top of the mast. The forward most sail attaches to the forestay either directly or by use of a roller furling system.

Full keel : A fixed, ballasted keel which runs the full length of the hull.

Furling system : A system around which the sail wraps when not in use and is unwrapped for sailing. This may be around the forestay or within the mast.

Freeboard : The distance on a vessel from the waterline to the deck.

Galley : The kitchen on a boat.

Gelcoat : A colored resin which is painted onto the outside surface of a boat and forms a protective glossy layer.

Genoa : A large forward sail which, when fully extended, comes back past the mast. Larger than a jib sail.

Gimbals : Often attached to a boat's stove, it is the fitting which allows an object to maintain an upright position when a vessel heels.

Gooseneck : The point at which the boom attaches to the mast. It allows the boom to move in all directions.

Ground tackle : The anchor, chain, and line used to fix a boat to the bottom when anchoring.

Gunwale : Pronounced “gunnel”. This is the top edge of a boat's hull.

Halyard : The line which attaches to a sail to raise it.

Hanks : The clips that attach the front edge (luff) of a sail to the forestay.

Hatch : An opening window in the cabin roof much like a skylight.

Head : Bathroom on a boat. Also, the uppermost corner on a sail.

Headway : The forward motion of a vessel through the water.

Heave to : A method of controlling a boat’s position to the waves and limiting headway by backwinding the forward sail and keeping the rudder hard over into the wind.

Heel : The tilt that occurs to a boat's hull when the sails are filled with wind.

In-Irons : When a sailboat is bow into the wind with sails flapping. No steerage is possible as the vessel has no forward motion. (See Points of Sail for infographic.)

Jackline or Jackstay : Lines that are run from the bow to the stern. To these safety lines, sailors attach a lanyard connected to their harness so that they may work on deck without fear of being swept overboard in rough seas.

Jib : A triangular forward sail.

Jib sheets : Lines used to control the jib.

Jibing : Pronounced with a long i sound. Steering the boat from one downwind direction to another downwind direction by turning the stern of the boat through the wind. This will cause the sails to move across the boat to the other side, i.e. from port to starboard.

Kedge anchor : A small, lighter second anchor.

Keel : The bottom most part of a boat's structure. This part provides ballast and stability.

Ketch : A sailboat with two masts. The forward mast is the taller mast.

Knot : Regarding speed, one knot is equal to one nautical mile per hour.

Lazyjacks : Light lines that run from the boom to the mast and help contain the mainsail while it’s being lowered to the boom.

Leech : The back edge of a sail. If the sail is square, then this term refers to the outside edges of the sail.

Lee shore : The shore onto which the wind is blowing. On an island, the side of the island facing into the wind is the lee shore.

Leeward : The direction to which the wind is blowing. If the wind is coming from the north, then south is leeward.

Luff : The forward edge of the sail.

Lying a-hull : When a vessel is drifting with all of it’s sails down.

Mainsail : Pronounce main’sil. The primary sail of a boat that is hoisted up or unfurled from the mast.

Mayday : An emergency call put out over a marine radio when there is clear and present danger to the crew of the vessel.

Mizzen : The shorter mast behind the main mast on a ketch.

Monohull : A vessel with a single hull.

Mooring field : An anchorage in which permanently anchored buoys are present to which vessels may be secured.

Multihull : A vessel with more than one hull such as a catamaran or trimaran.

No-sail zone : This is an area 45 degrees to either side of directly into the wind. It is not possible for a boat to sail in this zone as the sails cannot fill with wind. Tacking is necessary. (See Points of Sail for infographic.)

On the hard : When a vessel is out of the water and being stored on land.

Painter : The line which secures the bow of a dinghy to the main boat.

Pan Pan : Pronounced pon-pon. This is an urgent distress radio call which is used when a vessel needs assistance. It is one step below Mayday.

Points of sail : The vessels course in relation to the direction of the wind.

Port : The left side of the boat when facing forward.

Port tack : Sailing with the wind hitting the port side of the vessel and the sails are out on the starboard side.

Pulpit : The metal rails at the bow of the boat which protect the crew from going overboard.

Pushpit : The metal rails at the back of the boat to protect the crew from going overboard.

Quarter : The back corner area of the boat. This area is 45 degrees behind, or abaft, the beam of the vessel.

Reef : reducing the size of the sail in high winds for the safety of the crew and equipment. This is done by either tying or rolling the sail to the boom or forestay.

Rigging : All the wires and ropes used to hold the mast in place and adjust the sails.

Roach : The outer back edge area of the mainsail. If you were to draw a diagonal line from the head of the sail to the clew (back corner), the roach would be outside this diagonal line.

Roller furling : A system which rolls the sail up when not in use. The sail is stored on the roller either at the mast or boom for the mainsail, and at the forestay for the jib or genoa.

Rudder : Steering fin at the back of the boat. Controlled by a steering wheel or tiller from the cockpit.

Running : Sailing in a downwind direction.

Running rigging : The lines, such as sheets and halyards, which control the sails.

Schooner : A sailing vessel with two or more masts. The mainmast is at the back.

Seacock : a valve which can be open or closed to allow water to flow in or out of a through hull fitting.

Scope : The length of chain and line that is between the anchor and the boat.

Scuppers : Deck drains which allow water to flow overboard.

Securite : Pronounced securi-tay. This is a radio call to provide mariners with local marine safety information.

Shackle : A metal U or D shaped link which has a removable pin through the ends.

Sheet : A line or rope which connects to the clew (back corner) of a sail. It is used to control or trim the sail.

Shrouds : Wires or ropes which run from the deck chainplates to the mast. The shrouds prevent the mast from moving side to side.

Skeg : A section of the hull from which the rudder hangs. It provides a variable amount of protection to the rudder depending on its size.

Sloop : A single masted sailboat with a mainsail and a foresail.

Slugs : Fittings on the front edge (luff) of the mainsail that slide into the mast track for hoisting the sail.

Spinnaker : A large, light, often colorful sail that is used off the bow of the boat for sailing downwind (running).

Splice : Connecting two lines together by weaving their strands together.

Spreaders : The horizontal arms extending out from the sides of the mast.

Spring line : Dock lines positioned from the bow to a midship point on the dock or from the stern to a midship point on the dock. This line configuration helps decrease forward and backward motion of the boat while docked.

Stanchions : The metal posts along the outside edge of the deck through which the lifelines run.

Standing rigging : The wires and ropes, such as the shrouds and stays, that are permanently in place and hold up the mast.

Starboard : The right side of the boat when facing forward.

Starboard tack : Sailing with the wind hitting the starboard side of the boat and the sails out on the port side.

Stays : The wires or ropes which run from the bow and stern to the mast top to keep the mast from moving forward or backward.

Steerage way : When a vessel is moving through the water with enough speed to allow the rudder to steer the boat.

Stern : The back end of a boat.

Storm jib : A small, strong forward sail used in heavy winds.

Swing : The circular motion of an anchored boat around it’s anchor due to wind and water movement.

Tack : The forward lower corner of a sail.

Tacking : Turning the boat across the direction the wind is coming from to change course direction. This causes the sails to travel to the other side of the boat.

Tender : Small boat used to transport from shore to the main boat.

Tiller : A bar which controls the rudder and is used to steer the boat from the cockpit. It is used in place of a steering wheel.

Toe rail : The raised lip around the edge of the deck. This can be constructed of wood, fiberglass, or aluminum. It helps prevent items from rolling overboard.

Topping lift : A wire or rope which runs from the back end of the boom to the mast top. This line controls the height of the boom.

Trysail : A small, strong storm sail that is used in place of the mainsail in high winds.

Trim : To adjust the sails.

Winch : A round, drum-like mechanical device used to pull on a line to raise or adjust sails.

Windlass : A winch used to raise and lower the anchor.

Windward : The direction from which the wind is blowing.

Wing on wing : Sailing downwind with the mainsail out on one side and the foresail on the opposite side.

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Beth lives on board her 1983 30ft S2 sailboat with her husband, 6 year-old son, and her two fur babies. She has been sailing and boating for most of her life. Beth has been blessed to experience cruising in the Great Lakes, the Bahamas, and in Alaska. She loves to travel and adores living on her tiny boat with her family.

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Sailing Basics: 10 Nautical and Sailing Terms To Learn

sailboat short definition

If you’re learning how to sail—or if you’re thinking about purchasing a sailboat of your own—these handy terms can provide a helpful overview of sailing basics you need to become familiar with.

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10 Nautical and Sailing Terms Everyone Should Know

The back of a ship. If something is located aft, it is at the back of the sailboat. The aft is also known as the stern. 

The front of the ship is called the bow. Knowing the location of the bow of the boat is important for defining two of the other most common sailing terms: port (left of the bow) and starboard side (right of the bow). 

Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, port defines the left side of the boat as it relates to the bow or front. 

Read Next: Beginner Sailing Tips

4. Starboard 

Starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, starboard defines the right-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow or front. 

buying a sailboat

5. Leeward 

Also known as lee, leeward is the opposite direction of the wind blowing (windward). 

6. Windward 

The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. Windward is the opposite of leeward (the opposite direction of the wind). Sailboats tend to move with the wind, making the windward direction an important sailing term to know. 

The boom is the horizontal pole extending from the mast’s bottom. The sailboat can harness wind power to move forward or backward. This is done by adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind. 

Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal used to steer the boat. Larger sailboats control the rudder via a wheel, while smaller boats will have a steering mechanism directly aft. 

9. Tacking 

The opposite of jibing, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the boat’s bow through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other. The boom of a boat will constantly shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. 

10. Jibing 

The opposite of tacking, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the stern of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. Jibing is a less common technique than tacking since it involves turning a boat directly into the wind.

Conclusion: Learn Nautical Terms Before Setting Sail!

In conclusion, knowing sailing terms and phrases is an essential skill for anyone who wants to take up sailing as a hobby. It enables sailors to communicate effectively with each other and understand the different parts of the boat and their functions. It also enhances safety and reduces the risk of accidents on the water. 

Therefore, whether you are a seasoned sailor or a beginner, learning these sailing terms can enhance your enjoyment of this exciting and rewarding sport!

Editor’s Note:  This article was updated in April 2023.

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Parts of a sailboat

A Guide to the Different Parts of a Sailboat  

sailboat short definition

Table of Contents

When you use Boatsetter, you have the opportunity to choose from a myriad of different  sailboat rentals  from all over the  United States and beyond . A sailboat is a perfect way to relax on the water, either on a solo adventure or on an excursion with friends and family.

When you rent a sailboat with Boatsetter, you will have the option to book a captained sailboat to enjoy your day out on the water or book bareboat to hone your sailing skills. Either way, you may be interested in the intricacies of a sailboat and its different parts. If this sounds like you, you have come to the right place. In this article, we go in-depth about the different parts of a sailboat so that you can be more knowledgeable about whatever boat you may choose and come away from reading this feeling more confident about the whole sailing experience.

A basic sailboat is composed of at least 12 parts: the hull , the keel , the rudder , the mast, the mainsail, the boom, the kicking strap (boom vang), the topping lift, the jib, the spinnaker, the genoa, the backstay, and the forestay. Read all the way through for the definition of each sailboat part and to know  how they work.

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boat hull

In short, the hull is the watertight body of the ship or boat. There are different types of hulls that a sailboat may have, and these different hulls will often affect the speed and stability of the boat.

Displacement Hulls

Most sailboats have  displacement hulls , like round bottom hulls, which move through the water by pushing water aside and are designed to cut through the water with very little propulsion. The reason these are called displacement hulls is that if you lower the boat into the water, some of the water moves out of the way to adjust for the boat, and if you could weigh the displayed water, you would find that it equals the weight of the boat, and that weight is the boat’s displacement. One thing to know about displacement hulls is that boats with these hulls are usually limited to slower speeds.

Planing Hull

Another type of hull is a planing hull. These hulls are designed to rise and glide on top of the water when enough power is supplied. When there is not enough power behind the boat, these boats often act as displacement hulls, such as when a boat is at rest. However, they climb to the surface of the water as they begin to move faster. Unlike the round bottom displacement hulls, these planing hulls will often have flat or v-shaped bottoms. These are very common with motor-driven water vessels, such as pontoon boats, but they can also be found on smaller sailboats which allow them to glide quickly over the water.

Finally, sailboats can differ depending on the number of hulls that they have. There are three options: monohulls (one hull), catamarans (two hulls), and trimarans (three hulls).

Monohulls , which have only a single hull, will usually be the typical round bottom displacement hull or occasionally the flat bottomed or v-shaped planning hull. Catamarans have two hulls with a deck or a trampoline in between, with the extra hulls providing increased stability. Finally, trimarans have three hulls — a main hull in the middle and two side hulls used for stability. These trimarans have gained popularity because of their excellent stability and ability to go at high speeds.

When evaluating a sailboat , it is important to pay attention to the type of hull that the boat has because the type of hull a sailboat has can drastically change the sailing experience, especially when it comes to stability and speed.

boat keel

All sailboats have a keel, a flat blade sticking down into the water from the sailboat’s hull bottom. It has several functions: it provides counterbalance, life, controls sideways movement, holds the boat’s ballast , and helps prevent the boat from capsizing. When a boat leans from one side to the other, the keel and its ballast counteract the movement and prevent the boat from completely tipping over.

As with hulls, there are a number of different types of keels, though the two most common types of keels on recreational sailboats are the full keel or the fin keel. A full keel is larger than a fin keel and is much more stable. The full keel is generally half or more of the length of the sailboat. However, it is much slower than the fin keel. A fin keel, which is smaller than the full keel, offers less water resistance and therefore affords higher speeds.

A more recent feature on sailboats is the “winged keel,” which is short and shallow but carries a lot of weight in two “wings” that run sideways from the keel’s main part. Another more recent invention in sailing is the concept of the canting keels, which are designed to move the weight at the bottom of the sailboat to the upwind side. This invention allows the boat to carry more sails.

The Rudder 

Boat rudder

A rudder is the primary control surface used to steer a sailboat. A rudder is a vertical blade that is either attached to the flat surface of the boat’s stern (the back of the boat) or under the boat. The rudder works by deflecting water flow. When the person steering the boat turns the rudder, the water strikes it with increased force on one side and decreased force on the other, turning the boat in the direction of lower pressure.

On most smaller sailboats, the helmsman — the person steering the boat — uses a “ tiller ” to turn the rudder. The “tiller” is a stick made of wood or some type of metal attached to the top of the rudder. However, larger boats will generally use a wheel to steer the rudder since it provides greater leverage for turning the rudder, necessary for larger boats’ weight and water resistance.

Boat mast

The mast of a sailboat is a tall vertical pole that supports the sails. Larger ships often have multiple masts. The different types of masts are as follows:

(1)  The Foremast  — This is the first mast near the bow (front) of the boat, and it is the mast that is before the mainmast.

(2)  The Mainmast  — This is the tallest mast, usually located near the ship’s center.

(3)  The Mizzen mast —  This is the third mast closest to the stern (back), immediately in the back of the mainmast. It is always shorter than the mainmast and is typically shorter than the foremast.

The Main Sail

Main Sail

The mainsail is the principal sail on a sailboat, and it is set on the backside of the mainmast. It is the main source that propels the boat windward.

boat boom

A boom is a spar (a pole made of wood or some other type of lightweight metal) along the bottom of a fore-and-aft rigged sail, which greatly improves the control of the angle and the shape of the sail, making it an indispensable tool for the navigation of the boat by controlling the sailes. The boom’s primary action is to keep the foot (bottom) of the sail flatter when the sail angle is away from the centerline of the sailboat.

The Kicking Strap (Boom Vang)

The boom vang is the line or piston system on a sailboat used to exert a downward force on the boom, enabling one to control the sail’s shape. The vang typically runs from the base of the mast to a point about a third of the way out the boom. It holds the boom down, enabling it to flatten the mainsail.

The Topping Lift

The topping lift is a line that is a part of the rigging on a sailboat, which applies an upward force on a spar (a pole) or a boom. Topping lifts are also used to hold a boom up when it’s sail is lowered. This line runs from the free end of the boom forward to the top of the mast. The line may run over a block at the top of the mast and down the deck to allow it to be adjusted.

boat jib

A jib is a triangular staysail set ahead of the foremost mast of a sailboat. Its tack is fixed to the bowsprit, the bow, or the deck between the bowsprit and the foremost mast. Jibs and spinnakers are the two main types of headsails on modern boats.

The Spinnaker

Boat Spinnaker

A spinnaker is a type of sail designed specifically for sailing off the wind from a reaching downwind course. The spinnaker fills up with wind and balloons out in front of the sailboat when it is deployed. This maneuver is called “flying.” The spinnaker is constructed of very lightweight material, such a nylon fabric and on many sailing vessels, it is very brightly colored.

Another name for the spinnaker is the “chute” because it often resembles a parachute, both in the material it is constructed from and its appearance when it is full of wind.

People often use the term genoa and jib as if they were the same thing, but there is a marked difference between these two types of sails. A job is no larger than a foretriangle, the triangular area formed by the mast, the deck or bowsprit, and the forestay. On the other hand, a genoa is larger than the jib, with part of the sail going past the mast and overlapping the mainsail. These two sails, however, serve very similar purposes.

The Backstay

Boat Backstay 

The backstay is a standing rigging that runs from the mast to the transom (the vertical section at the back of the boat), counteracting the forestay and the jib. The backstay is an important sail trip, control and directly affects the mainsail’s shape and the headsail.

There are two general categories of backstays:

1) A permanent backstay is attached to the top of the mast and may or may not be readily adjustable.

2) A running backstay is attached about two-thirds up the mast and sometimes at multiple locations along the mast. Most modern sailboats will have a permanent backstay, and some will have permanent backstays combined with a running backstay.

The Forestay

Boat Forestay 

A forestay is a piece of standing rigging that keeps the mast from falling backward. It is attached at the very top of the mast, or at certain points near the top of the mast, with the other end of the forestay being attached to the bow (the front of the boat). Often a sail, such as a jib or a genoa, is attached to the forestay.

A forestay might be made from stainless steel wire, stainless steel rod or carbon rod, or galvanized wire or natural fibers.

Parts of a sail

Sails are vital for sailboats, made up of complex parts that improve performance and maneuverability. In this section, we’ll  take a closer look at the different parts of that make up the sails. 

Luff – The luff is a vertical sail part that maintains its shape and generates lift by interacting with the wind. It attaches securely with a bolt rope or luff tape for easy hoisting.

Leech – The leech controls air flow and reduces turbulence. Battens or leech lines are used to maintain shape and prevent fluttering.

Foot – The foot of a sail connects the luff and leech at the bottom edge. It helps define the sail’s shape and area. The outhaul is used to adjust its tension and shape.

Head – The sail’s head is where the luff and leech meet. It has a reinforced section for attaching the halyard to raise the sail.

Battens -The b attens are placed horizontally in sail pockets to maintain shape and optimize performance in varying wind conditions. They provide structural support from luff to leech.

Telltales – Sailors use telltales to adjust sail trim and ensure optimal performance.

Clew – The clew is important for shaping the sail and connecting the sheet, which regulates the angle and tension, producing energy. It’s located at the lower back corner of the sail.

Sailing is a favorite pastime for millions of Americans across the country. For some, there is nothing better than gliding across the water propelled by nothing more than the natural force of the wind alone. For both experienced and non-experienced sailors alike, Boatsetter is the perfect place to get your ideal sailboat rental from the mouthwatering Florida keys to the  crystal blue waters of the Caribbean .

Smaller sailing boats are perfect for a single day out on the water, either by yourself or with friends and family. In comparison, larger sailing boats and sailing yachts can allow you days of luxury on longer excursions full of adventure and luxury.

Whatever your sailing dreams are, it is always good to know, for both the experienced sailor and the novice, all about the sailboat’s different parts. In this article, we learned all about the boat’s hull, the keel, the rudder, the mast, the mainsail, the boom, the kicking strap (boom vang), the topping lift, the jib, the spinnaker, the genoa, the backstay, and the forestay, which make up the basic parts of any sailboat you might find yourself on.

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Maritime Page

Glossary of Nautical and Sailing Terms and Abbreviations

Navigating the waters of nautical and sailing terminology can be as challenging as sailing through uncharted waters. This comprehensive glossary covers essential terms and abbreviations, providing a valuable resource for both seasoned sailors and landlubbers alike. The terms are organized alphabetically for easy reference.

  • Aback : When a sail is aback, the wind fills it from the lee side, pushing it against the mast. This is often unintended and can hinder forward motion.
  • Abaft : Refers to a location on the boat towards the stern, relative to another object or position.
  • Abeam : A direction or position on a boat that is at right angles to its centerline. It’s often used to describe the location of an object or another vessel relative to the boat.
  • Aft : Located at, in, or towards the stern of a boat. It is a directional term indicating the rear part of the vessel.
  • A-hull : A method used by sailors to ride out a storm with no sails set and the helm lashed to leeward. It’s a technique for minimizing strain on the boat during severe weather.
  • AIS (Automatic Identification System) : A tracking system used on ships for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and AIS base stations.
  • Amidships : The central part of a boat, both in terms of length and width. It refers to the area around the middle of the vessel.
  • Apparent Wind : The wind experienced by an observer in motion, combining the true wind and the wind added by the observer’s own speed. It’s important for navigation and sail adjustment.
  • ARPA (Automatic Radar Plotting Aid) : A system that uses radar to track the position and movement of other vessels, assisting in collision avoidance.
  • Astern : Refers to a position or direction behind a boat. It can also describe the action of moving the boat in reverse.
  • Athwartships : A direction or position that is at right angles to the fore-and-aft line of the boat. It’s often used in describing the layout or movement across a vessel.
  • Azimuth : The angular distance measured in a clockwise direction on the horizon, usually from a fixed reference point like north. It’s a key concept in navigation for determining directions.
  • Above Board : Referring to actions or behaviors that are honest, open, and not deceitful. It’s often used to describe dealings or transactions that are legitimate.
  • Abandon Ship : A directive given to leave the vessel immediately, usually in the face of imminent danger. It’s a last-resort order when the ship is no longer safe.
  • Aboard : Being on or within a vessel. The term “close aboard” implies proximity to another ship.
  • Accommodation Ladder : A portable flight of steps down a ship’s side, used for boarding or disembarking.
  • Admiral : A senior naval officer of flag rank, with different levels including Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, and Admiral. This term has historical roots and is key in naval hierarchies.
  • Admiralty Law : A body of law that governs maritime questions and offenses. In the UK, it’s administered by a specific division of the High Court.
  • Adrift : Describes a vessel or object that is not moored, anchored, or otherwise fastened, floating freely. It implies a lack of control and can also refer to misplaced gear.
  • Aground : A state in which a boat or ship is resting on the seabed or ground, often unintentionally. This can occur due to low tide or navigational errors.
  • Ahead : A direction in front of the bow of the boat. Moving ahead means moving forward.
  • Ahoy : A traditional cry to draw attention, often used in hailing a boat or ship. It’s a part of classic maritime communication.
  • Aid to Navigation (ATON) : Devices external to a vessel that assist navigators in determining their position or course, or in identifying dangers or obstructions. These include buoys, lighthouses, and markers.
  • All Hands : Referring to the entire crew of a ship, including both officers and enlisted personnel. It’s often used to summon the whole crew for important announcements or emergencies.
  • Aloft : Above the main structure of the ship, usually referring to the area around the masts and rigging. It’s a term often used when referring to work or lookouts positioned high on the vessel.
  • Alongside : Being next to or by the side of a ship or pier. It’s often used when a vessel is moored or in close proximity to another object.
  • Anchorage : A designated area suitable for anchoring or where ships can anchor. It can refer to a specific part of a harbor or port.
  • Anchor’s Aweigh : This term is used to indicate that the anchor is clear of the sea bottom and, therefore, the ship is no longer secured to its anchoring spot. It signifies readiness to set sail or change position.
  • Anchor Ball : A black shape hoisted at the forepart of a ship to indicate that the vessel is anchored in a navigable area or fairway. It’s a visual signal for other vessels.
  • Anchor Buoy : A small buoy connected to the anchor to mark its position when dropped on the sea floor. It helps in locating and retrieving the anchor.
  • Anchor Chain or Cable : The heavy chain or cable that connects the anchor to the ship, allowing it to be secured to the seabed. It plays a critical role in the anchoring system.
  • Anchor Detail : A group of crew members assigned to handle the ship’s anchoring equipment during anchoring or getting underway. They manage the deployment and retrieval of the anchor.
  • Anchor Light : A white light displayed by a ship at anchor, to be seen by other vessels at night. Larger ships over 150 feet display two anchor lights.
  • Anchor Watch : The duty of ensuring that the anchor is holding and the vessel is not drifting, especially important in rough weather and at night. Many modern vessels use GPS systems with anchor watch alarm capabilities.
  • Armament : Refers to the weapons carried by a ship. Armaments are critical for defense and, historically, for offensive naval actions.
  • Ashore : Describes being on the land as opposed to being on a ship. Often used when crew members leave a ship to go onto land.
  • Astern : The direction toward the back or stern of a vessel. It can also refer to a vessel or object located behind another vessel.
  • Asylum Harbor : A harbor that provides shelter from storms or rough weather. It’s a place of refuge for vessels.
  • ASW (Anti-submarine Warfare) : Activities and equipment focused on combating and defending against submarines. It’s a key aspect of naval warfare.
  • Athwart, Athwartships : Positioned or located at right angles to the fore-and-aft line of a ship. This term is often used in describing the layout of the ship or when something is across the vessel’s centerline.
  • ATON (Aid to Navigation) : Refers to any device external to a vessel that assists in navigation, such as buoys, lighthouses, and beacons. These are critical for safe maritime navigation, providing direction and warning of hazards.
  • Avast : A command to stop or cease what is being done immediately. It’s a traditional naval term used to halt an operation or activity on the ship quickly.
  • Awash : Describes a condition where the deck or surface of the vessel is barely above water, with water washing over it. It can indicate a dangerous situation, especially in rough seas.
  • Aweigh : When the anchor is lifted off the seabed and is no longer holding the ship in place. It signifies the start of a journey or a change in the ship’s position.
  • Aye, Aye : A response indicating that an order has been received, understood, and will be carried out. It’s a common response to commands in naval and maritime operations.
  • Azimuth Compass : An instrument used to determine the position of the sun in relation to magnetic north. It’s crucial for navigation, especially in celestial navigation.
  • Azimuth Circle : A navigational instrument used for taking bearings of celestial objects, aiding in determining the ship’s position and course.
  • Ballast : Ballast refers to material placed in the lower part of a boat or ship to provide stability and improve its handling and balance. It can be water, sand, or other heavy materials, adjusted according to the vessel’s needs to maintain an even keel and optimal performance.
  • Batten : A thin, flexible strip inserted into the sail’s edge, providing stability and shape to the sail, especially in stronger winds.
  • Beam : The widest part of a boat, crucial for stability. It’s a key measurement in determining a vessel’s capacity and handling characteristics.
  • Berth : A sleeping compartment on a boat, or a designated space in a harbor where a vessel can be moored.
  • Bilge : The lowest part of a boat’s interior, where water typically collects and needs to be pumped out to prevent damage.
  • Bilge Pump : A mechanical or manual device used to remove water accumulated in the bilge, essential for maintaining vessel buoyancy and safety.
  • Boom : A horizontal pole attached to the mast, used to extend and control the foot of a sail.
  • Bow : The front or forward part of a boat, often characterized by a pointed shape for cutting through water.
  • Bowsprit : A spar extending forward from a ship’s bow, used to support fore-sails and increase sail area.
  • Bridge : The area on a ship where the command and navigation are conducted, equivalent to a control center on larger vessels.
  • Buoy : A floating device used to mark specific points in the water, like hazards, channels, or anchors.
  • Bulkhead : A structural partition within a ship, dividing various compartments or sections for stability and safety.
  • Back and Fill : A maneuver using the tide’s advantage when the wind is not favorable, typically in narrow channels or during docking.
  • Backstays : Cables or lines extending from the ship’s stern to the masthead, providing support and stability to the mast.
  • Baggywrinkle : A soft covering, usually made from old rope, wrapped around rigging cables to prevent sail chafing.
  • Bar : A large mass of sand or earth formed by sea surges, often found at river mouths or harbor entrances, affecting navigation.
  • Barrelman : A sailor stationed in a crow’s nest, responsible for lookout duties and spotting hazards or other ships.
  • Bar Pilot : A specialist navigator who guides ships through challenging areas like sandbars or river mouths.
  • Beacon : A fixed navigation aid, either lighted or unlighted, attached to the earth’s surface, marking hazards or guiding paths.
  • Bear Away/Down : Nautical terms for steering a vessel away from the wind, often during maneuvers or in response to wind shifts.
  • Bearing : The direction or position of an object, typically another vessel, relative to one’s own position, measured in degrees.
  • Before the Mast : A term referring to the living quarters of enlisted sailors, located in the front part of the ship.
  • Belaying Pins : Rods or bars used to secure ropes or rigging on a ship, typically made of wood or metal.
  • Best Bower : The larger of two anchors on a ship, often the primary anchor used for securing the vessel.
  • Bimini : A protective covering, typically made of weather-resistant fabric, mounted over a boat’s cockpit to shield from sun or rain. It’s a common feature in sailboats and yachts for added comfort.
  • Binnacle : A stand or housing on a ship that holds navigational instruments, including the ship’s compass. It’s essential for maintaining the ship’s course.
  • Bitts : Strong vertical posts on a ship’s deck for fastening ropes or cables, especially important during mooring or towing operations.
  • Bitter End : The final part of a rope or anchor cable. In nautical usage, reaching the ‘bitter end’ means using the entire length of the rope or cable.
  • Boatswain (or Bosun) : A non-commissioned officer on a ship responsible for maintaining the vessel’s rigging, sails, and other equipment.
  • Boom Vang : A device used on sailboats to control the angle and bend of the boom, thereby influencing sail shape and performance.
  • Bow-Chaser : A type of long gun placed at the front of a ship, used for firing directly ahead, especially useful in naval pursuits.
  • Bowline : A type of knot creating a fixed loop at the end of a rope, known for its strength and stability.
  • Bowsprit : A spar extending forward from a ship’s bow, used to increase the area for fore-sails and enhance sailing efficiency.
  • Broaching-To : A sudden veering or turning of a ship, often causing it to face into the wind or waves, potentially dangerous in heavy seas.
  • Bulwark : The extension of a ship’s sides above the level of the deck, providing protection against waves and adding structural integrity.
  • Cabin : Enclosed living space on a boat, offering shelter and accommodations. It can range from basic to luxurious, depending on the vessel.
  • Cable : A large rope or a measure of distance at sea, often used in anchoring or mooring a vessel. It is crucial in various maritime operations.
  • Capsize : The act of a boat turning over in the water, which can be accidental or due to extreme conditions. Capsizing is a critical concern in boating safety.
  • Chart Datum : A reference level on nautical charts, indicating the lowest tide level. It’s essential for safe navigation, especially near shorelines.
  • Cleat : A fitting, often made of metal or plastic, used for securing ropes on a boat. It’s a fundamental piece of hardware for mooring and rigging.
  • Cockpit : The area, usually lower than the deck, where the boat’s controls are located. It’s the primary operating station for steering and maneuvering.
  • Companionway : The set of steps or a ladder leading from the boat’s deck down to the cabin. It serves as the main entry to the interior.
  • Catamaran : A boat with two parallel hulls, offering stability and space. It’s popular for both recreational and racing purposes.
  • Centreboard : A retractable keel that moves vertically, used to reduce sideways movement (leeway) in sailing boats.
  • Clew : The lower aft corner of a sail, where the foot and leech intersect. It plays a crucial role in controlling sail shape.
  • Close-Hauled : Sailing as close to the wind as possible without stalling. It’s a challenging point of sail requiring precise control.
  • Cringle : A reinforced eyelet, often found at the ends of reef lines or on sails, used for securing or adjusting the sail.
  • Daggerboard : A vertically movable fin in smaller sailboats, providing stability and controlling side-slippage.
  • Deck : The top surface of a boat’s hull where crew and passengers stand.
  • Deadrise : The angle formed between the boat’s bottom and a horizontal plane, is important for understanding hull design.
  • Dinghy : A small boat, often used for short trips or as a tender for larger vessels.
  • Dodger : A protective covering over the cockpit area, shielding from wind and spray.
  • Davy Jones’ Locker : Nautical folklore for the seabed, symbolizing the final resting place of drowned sailors.
  • Daybeacon : An unlit navigation marker, visible in daylight, used for identifying locations or hazards.
  • Deadeye : A round wooden block with holes, part of a ship’s standing rigging, used for tensioning shrouds.
  • Deckhand : A crew member responsible for general work on the main deck.
  • Derrick : A lifting device on ships, composed of a mast or pole and a boom, used for cargo handling.
  • Devil Seam : A particularly difficult seam to seal on a ship’s hull, located near the waterline.
  • Dog Watch : A shorter than usual watch period on ships, typically two hours, to rotate duty times.
  • Dolphin : A man-made marine structure of piled beams for mooring or navigational aids.
  • Downhaul : A rope or line used for adjusting the tension on a sail or spar.
  • Draft : The vertical distance from the waterline to the lowest point of a ship’s keel, important for determining navigable water depth.
  • Dredging : The removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of water bodies to deepen them for navigation, environmental cleanup, or land reclamation.
  • Drogue : A device trailed behind a boat to slow it down, particularly useful in heavy weather to control speed.
  • EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) : A crucial safety device that sends out a distress signal in emergencies, helping in the location of vessels in distress.
  • Engine : The power unit used to propel a boat, varying in type and size depending on the vessel.
  • Earrings : Ropes used to secure the top corners of large sails to the yardarms, essential in sail management.
  • Embayed : A situation where a vessel is trapped between headlands, often with winds blowing onshore, posing navigational challenges.
  • Even Keel : Even keel refers to a condition where a boat or ship is perfectly balanced in the water, not tilting to either side. This balance is crucial for optimal performance and safety, ensuring the vessel moves efficiently and remains stable.
  • Extremis : A critical point in navigation rules where vessels in danger of collision must take action to avoid it.
  • EP (Estimated Position) : A navigational term referring to the calculated location of a vessel based on estimations.
  • ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) : The predicted time a vessel is expected to arrive at a destination. Read more: What Is ETA and ETD in Shipping?
  • ETD (Estimated Time of Departure) : The planned time for a vessel’s departure from a port or location. Read more: What Is ETA and ETD in Shipping?
  • Fairlead : A fitting that guides ropes smoothly, preventing friction and wear.
  • Fathom : A unit of depth measurement in maritime contexts, equal to six feet. Read more about fathom as a nautical measurement .
  • Flare : An emergency signaling device emitting bright light, used for distress signaling at sea.
  • Fender : A cushioning device, often air or foam-filled, used to prevent a boat from damaging itself or other objects.
  • Figurehead : A decorative symbol located at the front of older sailing ships.
  • Fireship : Historically, a ship filled with explosives and set on fire, used as a weapon.
  • First Rate : A classification for large, heavily armed warships in the 17th to 19th centuries.
  • Flag Hoist : A series of signal flags strung together to convey messages.
  • Fluke : The wedge-shaped part of an anchor’s arm, essential for securing the anchor in the seabed.
  • Forecastle : A section at the front of a ship, traditionally housing crew quarters.
  • Furl : To roll or wrap a sail around a spar or mast, a common practice in managing sails.
  • Galley : The kitchen area on a boat, equipped for cooking and preparing meals.
  • Genoa : A large jib or foresail, often overlapping the mainsail, used for improved sailing efficiency, especially in lighter winds.
  • Gimbal : A pivoting support allowing an object to remain level regardless of the boat’s motion, commonly used for compasses and cooking appliances.
  • Gudgeon and Pintle : Components of the hinge mechanism connecting the rudder to the boat, crucial for steering.
  • Gaff : A spar supporting the upper side of a fore-and-aft sail, essential in traditional sail configurations.
  • Gangplank : A movable bridge allowing passengers and crew to board or leave a ship, especially at a pier.
  • Garboard : The bottom plank of a boat’s hull, adjacent to the keel, playing a critical role in hull integrity.
  • GPS (Global Positioning System) : A satellite-based navigation system providing location and time information globally, vital for modern navigation.
  • Grapeshot : A type of ammunition used in naval warfare, consisting of small metal balls, effective against personnel rather than structures.
  • Gybe (or Jibe) : A sailing maneuver where the boat turns so its stern passes through the wind, used to change direction.
  • Hank : A fitting used to connect a sail’s luff to a stay.
  • HAT (Highest Astronomical Tide) : The highest level of tide predicted under average meteorological conditions.
  • Hatch : An opening in a ship’s deck for interior access.
  • Head-to-Wind : Position where a boat’s bow points directly into the wind.
  • Headfoil : A streamlined cover around a forestay, with a groove for a headsail’s luff.
  • Heads : Toilets on a boat.
  • Headway : Forward movement of a boat through water.
  • Heave-to : A maneuver in heavy weather to reduce a boat’s headway by backing the jib and lashing the tiller to leeward.
  • Heel : The action of a boat leaning to one side.
  • Halyard (or Halliard) : Line used to hoist a sail’s head or a spar; essential for sail manipulation.
  • Hammock : Canvas bed slung from a ship’s deckhead, used for sailors’ sleeping quarters.
  • Hand Bomber : Historical term for a ship with manually shoveled coal-fired boilers.
  • Hand over Fist : Expression describing steady upward climbing, akin to a sailor ascending a ship’s shrouds.
  • Handsomely : Slow, steady motion, especially when hauling a line.
  • Hank : Fastener attaching a sail’s luff to the forestay, typically featuring a spring-operated gate or snap fastener.
  • Harbor (or Harbour, Haven) : A natural or man-made shelter for ships, providing protection from weather.
  • Haul Wind : Sailing towards the wind’s direction, not the fastest sailing point.
  • Hawse-hole : A hole in the ship’s bow for anchor cables or chains.
  • Hawsepiper : A maritime officer who started as an unlicensed seaman without formal maritime education.
  • Head : The toilet or latrine on a vessel, traditionally positioned at the bow.
  • Head of Navigation : The farthest navigable point on a river for ships.
  • Headsail : Any sail flown in front of a vessel’s foremost mast.
  • Heave : A vessel’s temporary vertical motion, up and down.
  • Heaving to : Stopping a sailing vessel by opposing the helm and sails, causing a leeward drift.
  • Heave Down : Tilting a ship on its side, often for cleaning purposes.
  • Heeling : The leaning of a sailing vessel caused by wind pressure on its sails.
  • Helmsman : Person responsible for steering a ship.
  • Hogging (or Hog) : Hull distortion where the keel’s ends are lower than the center.
  • Hold : The lower part of a ship’s interior, used for storage, such as cargo.
  • Holiday : An unintentional gap in the application of paint or other preservative substances.
  • Holystone : Sandstone block used for scrubbing a ship’s deck.
  • Horn : A sound signal device powered by electricity or compressed air.
  • Horse : Attachment for sheets on a vessel’s deck.
  • Hounds : Attachments for stays on masts.
  • Hull : The shell and structural framework of a ship’s basic flotation section.
  • Hydrofoil : A boat with underwater wings or foils for lift and speed enhancement. Read more about Hydrofoil boats
  • Icebreaker : A ship designed to navigate and break through ice-covered waters, enabling travel in polar regions. Read more about how icebreakers work or the top 10 biggest icebreakers in the world .
  • Icing : A hazardous condition where sea spray freezes upon contact with the ship in cold temperatures (below about -10°C) and high wind speeds (force 8 or above on the Beaufort scale).
  • Idlers : Members of a ship’s crew who are not required to stand watches, typically specialist tradesmen like carpenters and sailmakers.
  • IMO (International Maritime Organisation) : A specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping.
  • Impeller : A rotating component in a pump or engine, used to move water for cooling or propulsion.
  • In Irons : A sailing term for when a boat’s bow is into the wind, causing it to stall and lose maneuverability.
  • In the Offing : Originally meaning in the waters visible from onboard a ship, now refers to something imminent or about to happen.
  • Inboard Motor : An engine mounted inside the boat, typically below the deck, used for propulsion.
  • Inboard-Outboard Drive System : A hybrid marine propulsion system combining features of inboard and outboard motors, often found in larger powerboats.
  • Inclinometer : An instrument used on ships to measure the degree of tilt or inclination, showing the vessel’s angle relative to the horizontal.
  • IRPCS (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea) : A set of international rules governing navigation to prevent collisions between vessels at sea.
  • Isobars : Lines on a weather map joining places of equal atmospheric pressure, crucial for weather prediction and navigation.
  • ITU (International Telecommunication Union) : A United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, including maritime communications.
  • Jib : A triangular sail set forward of the mainmast of a boat, critical for maneuvering and speed.
  • Jack : In nautical terms, it refers to either a flag, specifically flown at the jackstaff at the bow of a ship, or colloquially to a sailor.
  • Jacklines or Jack Stays : Lines, often steel wire with a plastic coating, running from bow to stern on both sides of a ship, used for clipping on safety harnesses to secure crew while allowing deck mobility.
  • Jack Tar : A term for a sailor, historically dressed in ‘square rig’ with a square collar and sometimes a tarred pigtail.
  • Jib : A triangular staysail set at the front of a ship, important for its maneuvering and speed.
  • Jibe (or Gybe) : A sailing maneuver where the stern of the boat turns through the wind, changing the side of the boat the sail is on.
  • Jigger-mast : The fourth or rearmost mast on a ship, generally the smallest on vessels with fewer than four masts.
  • Jollies : A traditional Royal Navy nickname for the Royal Marines.
  • Junk : Old, unusable cordage on a ship, often repurposed by teasing apart strands in a process called picking oakum.
  • Jury : Refers to a temporary replacement for lost or damaged gear on a ship, often improvised in emergencies.
  • Keel : The primary structural element of a boat’s hull, extending along the bottom and often protruding into the water for stability.
  • Keelhauling : A severe maritime punishment involving dragging a person under the keel of a ship.
  • Kedge : A small, light secondary anchor used for additional anchoring or maneuvering.
  • Kelson (or Kelson) : A timber placed immediately above the keel inside a wooden ship, contributing to the hull’s structural integrity.
  • Ketch : A two-masted sailing vessel with a mainmast and a smaller mizzenmast, the latter stepped forward of the rudder post.
  • Kicking Strap (or Boom Vang) : A line or tackle used to control a sailboat’s boom position, pulling it down to maintain a horizontal orientation, especially useful on a reach or run.
  • Killick : A small anchor, symbolically representing a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Navy, or used colloquially to refer to an able seaman skilled in anchor handling.
  • Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter : A naval punishment where a sailor was bent over a cannon’s barrel for a spanking with a cane or cat-o’-nine-tails.
  • Know the Ropes : A phrase indicating thorough familiarity with the ropes and cordage necessary for operating a ship.
  • Ladder : On ships, most ‘stairs’ are called ladders, typically narrow and nearly vertical.
  • Laker : A vessel that operates exclusively on the Great Lakes.
  • Land Lubber : A person inexperienced or unfamiliar with the sea and sailing.
  • Lanyard : A short line used to secure or tether an object, such as a tool, to prevent loss.
  • Larboard : Archaic term for the left side of a ship, now known as ‘port’.
  • Large (By and Large) : Nautical term referring to sailing both with and against the wind.
  • LAT (Lowest Astronomical Tide) : The lowest level that sea tides can reach, used as a reference in charting.
  • Lateral System : Navigation aids system indicating the sides of channels relative to a conventional direction.
  • Lay : Orders related to crew movement or ship’s course; also, the twisting of rope strands.
  • Lay Down : To begin ship construction in a shipyard.
  • Lazy Jacks : Lines or ropes used to assist in controlling a sail when lowering or reefing.
  • League : A unit of distance, often equated to three nautical miles.
  • Lee : The side of the boat sheltered from the wind.
  • Lee Helm : Tendency of a boat to bear away from the wind, requiring the helm to be pushed leeward to maintain a straight course.
  • Lee Shore : A shore onto which the wind blows, posing a risk for ships being blown aground.
  • Leech : The after edge of a sail, particularly susceptible to twist and controlled by the vang and mainsheet.
  • Leeward : The direction toward which the wind is blowing.
  • Leeway : The sideways movement of a ship off its course due to wind pressure.
  • Let Go and Haul : An order indicating alignment with the wind.
  • Letter of Marque and Reprisal : A government license authorizing a privateer to attack enemy ships.
  • Lifeboat : A small, sturdy boat carried on ships, used for emergency evacuation.
  • Lifeline : A safety line or cable running along the sides of a boat.
  • Liferaft : An inflatable raft used for emergency abandonment of a ship.
  • Line : The correct nautical term for ropes used on a vessel, each with a specific name based on its use.
  • Liner : Originally a term for major warships in a battle line; now refers to large, prestigious passenger vessels.
  • List : The lean or tilt of a vessel to one side due to uneven weight distribution.
  • Loaded to the Gunwales : Having cargo loaded up to the ship’s rail; colloquially, being extremely drunk.
  • Loggerhead : An iron tool for driving caulking into seams; historically, also used in fights.
  • Lubber’s Line : A line inside a compass case indicating the ship’s heading.
  • Luff : The forward edge of a sail; ‘to luff up’ means turning the boat’s head into the wind.
  • Luffing : The condition when a sail is not fully filled with wind, often indicated by flapping.
  • Lying Ahull : A storm tactic where all sails are doused and the boat is left to drift.
  • Mainbrace : The brace attached to the mainmast.
  • Mainmast (or Main) : The tallest mast on a ship, supporting the primary sails.
  • Mainsheet : A line used to control the angle and shape of the mainsail, affecting sail trim and boom position.
  • Man of War : A warship from the age of sail.
  • Man Overboard! : A cry indicating that a person has fallen off the ship.
  • Marina : A facility for docking small ships and yachts, often with amenities.
  • Marines Soldiers Afloat : Royal Marines with duties including guarding ship’s officers; formed in 1664.
  • Marinized Engine : An automotive engine adapted for use in marine environments.
  • Mast : A vertical pole on a ship supporting sails and rigging.
  • Mast Step : The socket or base in the keel where the mast is fixed.
  • Masthead : A platform partway up the mast, used for lookout and access to the main yard.
  • Master : The commander of a commercial vessel or a senior naval officer responsible for seamanship and navigation.
  • Master-at-Arms : A naval non-commissioned officer in charge of discipline.
  • Matelot : A traditional Royal Navy term for an ordinary sailor.
  • MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) : The organization responsible for maritime safety and regulation.
  • Measured Mile : A nautical mile measured for testing a ship’s speed.
  • Meridian : An imaginary line on Earth passing through the poles, used in navigation.
  • Mess : An area on a ship where the crew eats; also, a group of crew members who eat together.
  • Mess Deck Catering : A system where a mess group collectively manages and prepares meals.
  • Midshipman : A junior officer in naval training.
  • Mizzen : The shorter after-mast on a ketch or yawl; also, the sail on this mast.
  • Mizzenmast (or Mizzen) : The third mast on a ship, typically on larger vessels.
  • Mizzen Staysail : A light sail set on a ketch or yawl, used in moderate conditions.
  • MLWN (Mean Low Water Neaps) : The average lowest tidal height at neap tides.
  • MLWS (Mean Low Water Springs) : The average lowest tidal height at spring tides.
  • MHWN (Mean High Water Neaps) : The average highest tidal height at neap tides.
  • MHWS (Mean High Water Springs) : The average highest tidal height at spring tides.
  • MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) : A unique identification number for maritime communications.
  • Mooring : Securing a boat to a fixed point like a buoy or dock.
  • Monkey Fist : A weighted ball woven from line, used for throwing a line to another location.
  • Moor : To secure a boat to a mooring point or dock.
  • Nautical Mile : A unit of distance in marine navigation, approximately equal to 1.852 kilometers.
  • Navigation Rules : Guidelines, also known as “rules of the road,” for avoiding collisions at sea and determining responsibility in the event of a collision.
  • Nipper : A short rope used to bind a cable to a moving line (messenger) during anchor operations, facilitating the cable’s movement.
  • No Room to Swing a Cat : A phrase indicating a lack of space, historically referring to crowded conditions on a ship during floggings where there wasn’t enough room to swing the ‘cat o’ nine tails’ whip.
  • Oilskin : Waterproof clothing worn by sailors in foul weather.
  • Oar : A long pole with a flat blade, used manually for rowing a boat.
  • Orlop Deck : The lowest deck in a ship, especially in ships of the line, often covering the hold.
  • Orderbook : A record or list detailing the orders placed with shipyards for the construction of new ships. This term is commonly used in the maritime industry to gauge the level of activity and demand in the shipbuilding sector. Related article: What is a Ship Order Book? A Clear Explanation for Traders and Investors.
  • Oreboat : A vessel, typically found on the Great Lakes, used primarily for transporting iron ore.
  • Outboard Motor : A detachable engine mounted on the stern of a boat, used for propulsion.
  • Overall Length (LOA) : The total length of a boat or ship, measured from the foremost part of the bow to the aftermost part of the stern, excluding attachments like bowspritRelated article: What Do Boat Measurements Mean? 11 Terms Explained! .
  • Outward Bound : Departing from a port or harbor, heading towards the open sea.
  • Overbear : Sailing downwind directly at another ship to steal its wind.
  • Overfall : Dangerous sea conditions with steep and breaking waves, often caused by opposing currents and winds in shallow areas.
  • Overhaul : The action of hauling buntline ropes over sails to prevent chafing.
  • Overhead : The ceiling on a boat, technically the underside of the deck above.
  • Overreach : In sailing, maintaining a tack too long before changing direction.
  • Over the Barrel : A phrase referring to the practice of flogging young sailors over a cannon’s barrel.
  • Outhaul : A rope used to control the shape of a sail, particularly the foot.
  • Overwhelmed : A term for a boat that has capsized or sunk.
  • Owner : A traditional Royal Navy term for the captain, originating from the days of privately-owned ships in naval service.
  • Ox-Eye : A cloud or weather phenomenon signaling the potential onset of a storm.
  • Painter : The bow line used to tow or secure a dinghy or tender.
  • Panpan : An urgency call over the radio, requesting assistance but not in immediate danger.
  • Parrel : A movable loop securing the yard to the mast on a sailing vessel.
  • Part Brass Rags : An expression meaning to fall out with a friend; originates from shared cleaning materials.
  • Pay : The action of filling a seam with caulking or pitch, or lubricating rigging.
  • Paymaster : A naval officer responsible for financial matters, including paying and provisioning the crew.
  • Pier-head Jump : A last-minute assignment of a sailor to a warship just before its departure.
  • Pilot : A navigator or person qualified to steer ships through challenging waters.
  • Pilothouse : An enclosed space on a boat from where it is navigated and controlled.
  • Pipe (Bos’n’s Call) : A whistle used by boatswains to issue commands on a ship.
  • Pipe Down : A signal indicating the end of the day, requiring silence and lights out.
  • Piping the Side : A ceremonial salute using the bosun’s pipe to honor important individuals.
  • Pitch : The up-and-down motion of a vessel’s bow and stern, rotating around its lateral axis.
  • Pitchpole : To capsize a boat end over end, rather than by rolling.
  • Pontoon : A flat-bottomed vessel, often used as a ferry, barge, or float for boarding.
  • Poop Deck : A high deck on the aft of a ship’s superstructure.
  • Pooped : Being swamped by a high, following sea, or colloquially, being exhausted.
  • Port : The left-hand side of a ship when facing forward; marked with a red light at night.
  • Port Tack : When a sailing boat has the wind coming from the port side and the mainsail is on the starboard side.
  • Position Line/Line of Position : A line on a chart indicating a boat’s location, derived from bearings or sightings.
  • Press Gang : Groups used historically by the Royal Navy to forcibly recruit men into naval service.
  • Preventer (Gybe or Jibe Preventer) : A line used to prevent or moderate accidental jibes.
  • Privateer : A privately-owned vessel authorized to engage in warfare under a Letter of Marque.
  • Propeller Walk (Prop Walk) : The tendency of a propeller to push the stern sideways, affecting maneuverability.
  • Prow : A poetic term for the bow of a ship.
  • Pulley : A wheel on an axle designed to support movement and change of direction of a taut cable or belt.
  • Pulpit : A metal guardrail at the bow of a boat, providing safety for the crew.
  • Pushpit : A metal guardrail at the stern of a boat.
  • Pusser : A naval term for the purser; responsible for supplies and provisions on a ship.
  • Quarter : The side of a boat between the stern and the beam, roughly midway along the boat’s length.
  • Quarterdeck : Traditionally, the aftermost deck of a warship, reserved for the ship’s officers; often near the stern.
  • Quay (or Quayside) : A stone or metal platform lying alongside or projecting into water for loading and unloading ships.
  • Queen’s (King’s) Regulations : The comprehensive orders governing the Royal Navy of the UK, issued under the authority of the reigning monarch.
  • Radar : Acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging, an electronic system used for detecting and locating objects using radio waves.
  • Radar Reflector : A device that enhances a vessel’s visibility on radar screens by reflecting radar energy.
  • Range : (1) In navigation, the alignment of two fixed points to guide a vessel; (2) the difference between high and low tide levels; (3) the distance at which a light is visible.
  • Range Lights : Two lights aligned to form a navigational aid or mark a channel’s centerline.
  • Ratlines : Rope ladders on a ship’s rigging to access masts and yards.
  • Reach : A sailing point approximately 60° to 160° off the wind, including close, beam, and broad reaching.
  • Reef : (1) To reduce a sail’s area in strong winds; (2) a rock or coral formation shallow enough to ground a vessel.
  • Reef Points : Cords attached to a sail for securing excess fabric after reefing.
  • Reef-Bands : Canvas strips sewn across sails for added strength.
  • Reef-Tackles : Ropes used in the operation of reefing sails.
  • Reefing Pennant : A strong line used to pull down the sail’s cringle to the boom during reefing.
  • Reduced Cat : A lighter version of the cat o’nine tails, used for disciplining boys.
  • Red Duster : Traditional nickname for the Civil Red Ensign.
  • Rigging : The system of ropes, cables, or chains supporting a ship’s masts and controlling sails. More about Rigging !
  • Rigging Screw : A device used to adjust the tension of a ship’s standing rigging.
  • Righting Couple : The force that restores a ship to equilibrium after a heel alters the relationship between the center of buoyancy and gravity.
  • Rigol : A rim or ‘eyebrow’ above a porthole or scuttle.
  • Roach : The curved part of a sail’s leech, extending beyond a straight line from head to clew.
  • Roll : A vessel’s side-to-side motion, rotating about the fore-aft axis.
  • Rolling Tackle : Pulleys used to secure the yard to the weather side of the mast in rough seas.
  • The Ropes : Refers to the lines used in a ship’s rigging.
  • Rope’s End : A short length of rope used as a tool for summary punishment.
  • Rudder : A flat piece, usually wood or metal, used to steer a ship.
  • Rummage Sale : The sale of damaged cargo, derived from French ‘arrimage’.
  • Running Rigging : The movable rigging of a ship, including lines like sheets and halyards, used to control sails’ position and shape.
  • Sagging : The condition of a ship when a wave trough is amidships, causing the middle part of the ship to bend downward.
  • Sail-plan : A set of drawings showing various sail combinations recommended for different conditions.
  • Sailing Certification : Official recognition of sailing competence by an established sailing educational body.
  • Saltie : A Great Lakes term for a vessel that also sails in ocean waters.
  • Sampson Post : A strong vertical post supporting a ship’s windlass and the heel of the bowsprit.
  • SAR (Search and Rescue) : Operations aimed at finding and helping vessels in distress.
  • SART (Search and Rescue Transponder) : A device used in search and rescue operations to locate vessels.
  • Scandalize : To temporarily reduce the area of a sail without properly reefing it.
  • Scantling : Scantling refers to the set of standard dimensions for parts of a structure or vessel, particularly in shipbuilding. It includes the dimensions for beams, planks, ribs, and other components, ensuring structural integrity and compliance with design specifications and safety standards.
  • Scud : The lowest clouds, observed mostly in squally weather.
  • Scudding : Being carried furiously along by a storm.
  • Scuppers : Openings on the side rails that allow water to drain off the deck.
  • Scuttle : A small opening in a ship’s deck or hull; to sink a vessel deliberately.
  • Scuttlebutt : A barrel for drinking water on a ship; also refers to gossip among sailors.
  • Sea Anchor : A device deployed in water to stabilize a vessel in heavy weather.
  • Sea Chest : A valve on a ship’s hull for water intake for ballast purposes.
  • Seacock : A valve that controls water intake or discharge through the hull.
  • Seaman : A sailor or crew member, often referring to lower ranks.
  • Seaworthy : The condition of being fit and safe for navigating at sea.
  • Securitay : A procedure word indicating a safety-related communication.
  • Seelonce : Request for radio silence during a distress incident.
  • Self-Unloader : A Great Lakes term for a vessel equipped to unload its cargo without external equipment.
  • Sennet Whip : A device used for summary punishment on ships.
  • Shackle : A metal link with a removable pin, used in various shapes for securing items.
  • Sheave : A wheel or roller in a block, over which a rope runs.
  • Sheer : The upward curve of a ship’s lines along its length, viewed from the side. More about Sheers
  • Sheet : A rope attached to the lower corner of a sail for controlling its setting.
  • Ship : A large vessel, traditionally a three-masted vessel square-rigged on all masts.
  • Ship’s Bell : Used for marking time and regulating the crew’s watches.
  • Ship’s Company : The collective term for the crew of a ship.
  • Shoal : Shallow water that presents a hazard to navigation.
  • Shrouds : Part of the standing rigging, running from the mast to the sides of the ship for support.
  • Sick Bay : The medical compartment on a ship.
  • Siren : A sound signal device using electricity or compressed air.
  • Skipper : The captain or master of a ship.
  • Skysail : A very high sail, above the royals, carried by few ships.
  • Skyscraper : A small, triangular sail set above the skysail, used in light winds.
  • Sloop : A single-masted sailing boat with one mainsail and one headsail.
  • Slop Chest : A store aboard a ship selling items like clothing and tobacco to the crew.
  • Slush : Greasy substance from boiling or scraping fat in meat storage barrels, used for greasing rigging.
  • Slush Fund : Money obtained from selling ‘slush’, used for the crew’s benefit.
  • Small Bower (Anchor) : The smaller of two anchors carried at the bow of a ship.
  • Son of a Gun : Originally, children born aboard ship; now used to refer to a mischievous person.
  • Sonar : Sound Navigation And Ranging; a device for detecting objects underwater.
  • Spanker : A sail on the aft-most mast of certain ships, like schooners and barques.
  • Spanker-Mast : The aft-most mast on vessels like schooners and barquentines.
  • Spar : A general term for poles like masts and booms on a ship.
  • Spindrift : Spray blown from wave crests by strong winds.
  • Spinnaker : A large, balloon-like sail used for down
  • Tack (noun) : The lower forward corner of a sail.
  • Tack (verb) : A maneuver where the boat turns so the bow passes through an imaginary line, pointing into the wind.
  • Tacking : Sailing close-hauled on alternate courses so that the wind shifts from one side of the boat to the other.
  • Taking the Wind Out of His Sails : Sailing in a way that steals the wind from another ship.
  • Tang : A metal fitting for attaching rigging to a mast or spar.
  • Tally : The action of hauling aft the sheets towards the ship’s stern.
  • Tailshaft : A metallic shaft connecting the propeller to the power engine, aiding in propulsion.
  • Teazer : A rope used as a punitive device.
  • Tender : A small boat used to ferry people and supplies from a yacht to shore.
  • Three Sheets to the Wind : A term describing a drunken sailor; metaphorically, a ship drifting aimlessly.
  • Tide : The rise and fall of the ocean’s surface due to gravitational forces, mainly from the moon.
  • Timoneer : A steersman of a ship, especially during specific maneuvers.
  • Toe the Line/Mark : To stand in line with toes aligned with a seam on the deck, used in naval parades.
  • Togey : Another term for a rope used as a punitive device.
  • Topgallant : The mast or sails above the topsails.
  • Topmast : The second section of a mast above the deck, carrying the topsails.
  • Topsail : The second sail up a mast, either square or fore-and-aft.
  • Topsides : The part of a ship’s hull above the waterline; also refers to above-water hull.
  • Touch and Go : A situation where the ship’s bottom grazes the seafloor but doesn’t become grounded.
  • Towing : The process of pulling a vessel forward by lines.
  • Track : (1) The course made good by a boat; (2) a fitting on the mast or boom for a sail’s slide; (3) a fitting for a traveller.
  • TrackLink : A GPS tracking app for student logbooks in sailing education.
  • Traffic Separation Scheme : Designated shipping corridors that separate incoming and outgoing vessels.
  • Transom : The flat surface forming the stern of a boat. Read more: What Is a Transom on a Boat? A Beginner’s Guide
  • Travellers : Fittings that slide on a rod or line, commonly used for the mainsheet.
  • Trim : (1) Adjusting the sails; (2) adjusting the boat’s load for optimal fore-and-aft angle.
  • Trimaran : A boat with a main hull and two smaller outrigger hulls.
  • True Wind : The actual wind speed and direction experienced when stationary.
  • Tiller : A lever attached to the rudder, used for steering.
  • Topsail : A sail located above the lowermost sail of a mast, typically in square-rigged vessels.
  • Turtling : A capsizing incident where a sailboat’s mast points straight down and the hull resembles a turtle shell.
  • Turnbuckle : A device used to adjust the tension of a ship’s rigging.
  • Topping Lift : A line used to support the boom of a sailboat when the sail is not raised.
  • Tide : The periodic rise and fall of the ocean’s surface caused by gravitational forces.
  • Toe Rail : A low strip around the edge of a boat’s deck for safety and structural integrity.
  • Under the Weather : Serving a watch on the weather side of the ship, exposed to wind and spray, often leading to feeling ill.
  • In a general sense, a vessel that is moving or navigating, not anchored, moored, or aground.
  • Specifically, a boat is underway when it is not fastened to the shore, at anchor, or aground.
  • Underwater Hull (or Underwater Ship) : The section of a vessel that is submerged in water, typically visible only when the vessel is in drydock.
  • Upper-yardmen : Sailors selected for advanced training or development, often earmarked for higher office or specialized duties.
  • Up Haul : A line used to raise equipment vertically, such as the spinnaker pole on a sailboat.
  • V-berth : A bed or sleeping space located at the bow of a boat, typically in a V-shape.
  • Vang (or Kicking Strap) : A line or rigging used to control the angle of the sailboat’s boom relative to the wind.
  • (1) Describes a clockwise shift in the wind’s direction.
  • (2) To gradually and controlledly pay out an anchor cable or rope.
  • VHF (Very High Frequency) : A radio frequency range used for marine communication.
  • VMG (Velocity Made Good) : A measure of the speed at which a vessel is moving towards its destination, considering both its course and the current.
  • Vanishing Angle : The critical angle of heel beyond which a vessel cannot right itself and risks capsizing.
  • Wake : The trail of disturbed water left behind a boat as it moves through the water.
  • Wales : Thick, strong planks running lengthwise along the lower part of a ship’s side.
  • Watch : A designated period during which part of the crew is on duty, with changes marked by ship’s bell.
  • Watercraft : General term for all types of water transport vessels, including ships, boats, and personal watercraft.
  • Weather Deck : The deck of a ship that is exposed to the weather, usually the main or upper deck.
  • Weather Gage : A favorable position relative to another vessel concerning the wind.
  • Weather Helm : The tendency of a boat to turn into the wind, requiring the tiller to be pulled windward for straight-line sailing.
  • Weather Side : The side of a ship that is exposed to the wind.
  • Weatherly : Describes a ship that sails well into the wind with minimal leeway.
  • Weigh Anchor : The action of lifting the anchor in preparation for sailing.
  • Wells : Sections in the ship’s hold designated for pumps.
  • Wheelhouse : The area of a ship where the steering wheel is located; often synonymous with pilothouse or bridge.
  • Whisker Pole : A lightweight pole used to extend the clew of a headsail, especially when running downwind.
  • White Horses : Waves with foam or spray on their tops, typically formed in strong winds.
  • Wide Berth : Allowing ample space between two moored ships for maneuvering.
  • WGS84 (World Geodetic Survey of 1984) : The most common chart datum used in global positioning systems.
  • Windage : The resistance of a boat to the wind, caused by parts like rigging, spars, and crew.
  • Windbound : Being confined to a particular area due to contrary winds.
  • Windlass : A mechanical device, often horizontal, used for hauling anchor chains or ropes, providing greater mechanical advantage than block and tackle.
  • Winch : A mechanical device with a drum and handle, used to haul or adjust tension on ropes or cables, aiding in sail control.
  • Windward : The direction from which the wind blows; opposite of leeward.
  • Wavelength : The distance between successive crests of radio waves.
  • Vang (or Kicking Strap) : Rigging used to control the boom’s angle, affecting sail shape.
  • X-Band : A frequency band used in radar systems, specifically in the 7.0 to 11.2 GHz range, often used in marine radars for navigation and collision avoidance.
  • XTE (Cross Track Error) : The perpendicular distance a vessel has deviated from its planned track or course between two waypoints. It is a key parameter in navigation to ensure a vessel follows its intended route.
  • Yard : A horizontal spar from which a square sail is suspended on a sailing ship.
  • Yardarm : The outer extremities of a yard. Commonly referenced in phrases like “hanging from the yardarm” or “sun over the yardarm.”
  • Yarr : A traditional acknowledgment of an order or agreement among sailors.
  • Yaw : The motion of a vessel rotating about its vertical axis, causing the bow to swing from side to side.
  • Yawl : A two-masted sailing vessel with the mizzen mast positioned aft of the rudder post.
  • Zincs : Sacrificial anodes typically made of zinc, mounted on a boat’s hull to prevent galvanic corrosion by corroding themselves instead of the more important metal parts of the boat.
  • Zephyr : A gentle, light breeze; often used in nautical contexts to describe mild winds that are favorable for sailing.

About the author

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I worked as an officer in the deck department on various types of vessels, including oil and chemical tankers, LPG carriers, and even reefer and TSHD in the early years. Currently employed as Marine Surveyor carrying cargo, draft, bunker, and warranty survey.

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Thankfully, modern cruise ships can handle a hurricane season cruise. Due to past experiences and new advancements, crews prove these boats operate well no matter the weather.

Extreme Heat Hazards Faced by Seafarers

Extreme Heat Hazards Faced by Seafarers

What must sailors know to stay safe and make it back to shore healthy and happy? Here’s a closer look at the extreme heat hazards seafarers face and the precautions and procedures they must know before setting sail. 

Learn the Parts of a Sailboat and How to Communicate Them

Essential Words You Need to Know

Pierre-Yves Babelon/Getty Images

The following are terms related to sailboats and their equipment , including the parts of the boat and how to communicate on one. Enjoy our list of all things nautical.

  • Auxiliary - A sailboat's engine, or a sailboat with an engine
  • Backstay - The cable, usually made of wire, running from the stern to the masthead that helps support the mast
  • Ballast - The weight in a sailboat's keel (sometimes in a centerboard) that helps keep the boat from leaning too much
  • Batten - A slat, typically made of plastic, placed in a pocket in the mainsail to help it maintain good shape
  • Beam - The width of the boat at its widest point
  • Bitter end - The free end of a line
  • Block - A pulley-like device used on a boat, with a sheave around which a line runs
  • Boom - The spar, which is usually horizontal, back from the mast to which the foot of a sail is attached
  • Boom vang - A device that prevents the boom from rising and, in some types, lowering
  • Bow - The front section of the boat
  • Cat rig - A sailboat designed for using a mainsail only, with the mast usually located more forward than in a sloop
  • Centerboard - A thin, keel-like structure that can be raised (usually rotated on a hinge up into a centerboard trunk in the hull) that's present on many sailboats without a fixed keel to prevent the boat from being blown sideways
  • Chock - A type of fairlead fitting through which an anchor rode or dock line passes to reduce chafing
  • Cleat - A fitting around which a line is secured
  • Companionway - The entrance area and steps from the cockpit into a sailboat's cabin
  • Clew - The lower rear corner of a sail
  • Daggerboard - Like a centerboard, but raised and lowered vertically instead of rotating on a hinge
  • Daysailer - Generally a small sailboat without a cabin large enough for comfortable overnight cruising
  • Dinghy - A type of small sailboat or a small row or powered craft typically taken along when cruising in a larger sailboat
  • Displacement - The weight of a boat, equal to the weight of water the boat displaces
  • Dodger - A spray shield often made of foldable or removable fabric at the front of the cockpit
  • Draft - The distance from a boat's waterline to the lowest part of its keel
  • Fender - A bumper generally made of rubber hung alongside the boat to prevent the hull from rubbing against a dock or other structure
  • Foot - The bottom edge of a sail (compare to leach and luff, below)
  • Forestay - A cable usually made of wire running from the bow to the masthead that helps support the mast
  • Forward - Toward the bow
  • Freeboard - The height of the deck above the water (the topsides section of the hull)
  • Gate - An opening in the lifelines for boarding the boat, also called gangway
  • Genoa - A large jib sail (the clew extends aft of the mast)
  • Gooseneck - The fitting that attaches the boom to the mast
  • Ground tackle - The collective term for a boat's anchor and anchor rode
  • Gunwale (sometimes gunnel) - The outer edge of the boat's deck and cockpit, also called the rail
  • Halyard - Line or wire used to hoist a sail
  • Hank on - To attach a jib sail to the forestay with small snap hooks called hanks
  • Head - The bathroom of a boat and also the top corner of a sail
  • Helm - The means by which the sailboat is steered: the tiller or wheel
  • Jackline - A line, strap, or wire secured over the deck as an attachment point for the tether of a safety harness
  • Jib - The triangular sail attached to the forestay
  • Keel - The lower section of a sailboat's hull that's usually permanent and counteracts sideways movement and typically contains ballast
  • Ketch - A type of sailboat with two masts
  • Lanyard - A short cord or line, often used to secure a piece of gear (knife, whistle, etc.) that might be dropped
  • Leech - The back edge of a jib or mainsail (compare to foot and luff, above and below)
  • Lifeline - A line or wire (often vinyl coated) all around the boat that's held up with stanchions to prevent falling overboard
  • Line - Any piece of rope used on a boat
  • Luff - The leading edge of a jib or mainsail (compare to foot and leech, above)
  • Mainmast - The mast, or the tallest mast of a sailboat with multiple masts
  • Mainsail - The sail affixed to and behind the mainmast
  • Mast - A tall vertical pole on a sailboat to support sails and rigging
  • Mast step - The support structure for the bottom of the mast
  • Mizzen - The smaller aft mast on a ketch or yawl; the mizzensail is affixed to and behind the mizzenmast
  • Multihull - A catamaran (two hulls) or trimaran (three hulls)
  • Outhaul - A fitting to adjust the tension of the foot of the mainsail on the boom
  • Padeye - A fitting usually made of metal with a loop or hoop to which other gear is attached
  • Pendant (sometimes pennant) - A short line attaching the bow of a boat to a mooring, or a short wire attached to a sail or halyard as an extension
  • PFD - A personal flotation device such as a lifejacket or an inflatable PFD
  • Port - The left side of the boat when facing forward; the opposite of starboard
  • Preventer - A-Line or other device used to prevent the boom from accidentally swinging from one side to the other
  • Pulpit - A rail generally made of stainless steel around the bow or stern typically at the height of the lifelines
  • Rail - the outer edge of the boat's deck and cockpit; also called the gunwale
  • Rig (or rigging) - The mast, boom, and associated equipment including stays, shrouds, sheets, and halyards
  • Rode - The line or chain between an anchor and the boat
  • Roller furler - A device by which a sail is rolled up, such as the jib rolling around a rotating forestay fitting
  • Rudder - An appendage below or on the boat's stern that is rotated by moving the tiller or wheel to steer the boat
  • Safety harness - Personal gear, either a separate harness or one built into a PFD, that attaches to a tether to keep the person on board
  • Sail ties - Short straps or pieces of line used to tie a lowered mainsail to the boom or secure a sail on deck
  • Schooner - A type of sailboat with two or more masts, the forward one being shorter than the main mast
  • Seacock - A valve fitting for closing an opening through the boat's hull (drains, water pipes, etc.)
  • Shackle - A fitting typically made of metal that secures two things together, such as a halyard shackle connecting to a sail
  • Sheet - The line used to let out or trim in a sail; on a sloop, a mainsheet and two jib sheets
  • Shroud - Wire or line stay from the deck or hull supporting the mast on each side
  • Sloop - A type of sailboat with one mast and two triangular sails (main and jib)
  • Sole - The floor of the cockpit or cabin
  • Spinnaker - A lightweight sail used downwind, often ballooning in front of the boat
  • Spreaders - Metal struts on the mast that hold the shrouds out from the mast for a better support angle
  • Stanchions - Short metal poles around the boat's perimeter that support the lifelines
  • Starboard - The right side of the boat (when facing forward); opposite of port
  • Stay - Wire or line from the deck or hull to support the mast; stays include the forestay, backstay, and shrouds (on the sides)
  • Tack - The bottom front corner of a sail
  • Telltales - Pieces of yarn or ribbons on the luff of a sail to help with trimming, or fastened to shrouds to show the wind direction
  • Tether - A short line or strap that runs between a safety harness and a point of attachment on the boat to prevent going overboard
  • Tiller - A long handle connected to the rudder or rudder post on many sailboats for steering
  • Topping lift - A wire or line from the masthead that holds up the boom when the sail is lowered
  • Topsides - The area of outer hull above the waterline
  • Traveler - A fitting allowing the mainsheet attachment to the boat to be adjusted side to side
  • Vang - See Boom vang
  • Whisker pole - A pole used to hold out the jib when sailing off the wind
  • Winch - A drum-like device used to pull in lines under strain (halyards, sheets)
  • Windless - A heavy winch used with the anchor rode
  • Yawl - A type of sailboat with two masts, the aft one (mizzen) being behind the rudder post

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150+ Nautical Terms: Illustrated Guide

Sailing and nautical terms have been refined over centuries, forming a unique glossary that can leave even the most seasoned wordsmiths scratching their heads.

Today, we’ll look at the terminology of words and names used at sea to help you through even the saltiest conversations.

Terms for the components a sailboat consists of

Let’s start with terms for the parts a sailboat is put together from. These refer to each component and explain what they are.

The main parts

Mast : The mast is the big, tall spar that holds up the sails! Some boats have more than one mast.

Mainsail:   The mainsail is the sail behind the mast and on top of the boom. Often just referred to as “the main.”

Boom:  The spar that sticks out behind the mast.

Rudder:  The rudder is also a fin sticking down under the boat but is located back towards the stern and connected to the wheel or tiller, enabling you to steer the vessel.

Headsail:  The sail(s) in front of the mast. Many boats have more than one headsail and can be of different sizes and shapes.

Spreader:  The fins or wings that space the shrouds out from the mast.

Hull:  This is the body or structure of the boat. Monohulls have one hull, catamarans have two hulls, and trimarans have three hulls – you get the point.

Keel : This is the heavy fin sticking down under the middle of the boat, allowing it to sail. There are many different keel designs, but they are all heavy, and their job is to keep the vessel stable and track through the water under sail.

Helm: This is the position where you steer the boat. Usually, this is a wheel, but it can also be a tiller on many vessels.

Cockpit: The cockpit is the boat’s steering position and where you will find the helm.

Transom: The flat surface across the stern of the boat.

Bow and Stern: The bow is the front part of a boat, while the stern is the rear end. 

Midship:  By some called amidships – The center of the boat.

Beam: The widest part of the boat. It is also referred to as the sides on the middle of the vessel.

Waterline: This is the part where the hull (body) of the boat meets the water. Many ships have a painted stripe to mark the waterline, indicating the boat’s load. If you have too much stuff on board, the waterline goes underwater, and it is time to do some housekeeping!

Freeboard: The vertical part of the ship side between the water and the deck.

Deck: The deck is the “floor” of the boat when you are outside. You have probably heard the term “All hands on deck!”

Spar: The general term for a pole made of a solid material like wood or metal used to support a boat’s sail. The mast, boom, spreaders, etc., are defined as spars.

Gooseneck:  This fitting connects the boom to the mast and allows it to move horizontally and vertically.

You can read more about the different parts of a sailboat in this article.

The standing rigging which holds the sails

Forestay:  The forestay   is a wire that runs from the bow to the top of the mast. Some boats, like the Cutter rig, can have several additional inner forestays in different configurations.

Furling system:  Most sailboats have their headsail on a furling system, a tube running along the forestay from the bottom furler drum to the masthead swivel. 

Backstay/Aft stay:  The wire that runs from the aft of the boat up to the top of the mast.

Shrouds:  On most common cruising boats, there are usually four shrouds on each side to support the mast from sideways motion. The shrouds are generally made of wire but can also be rods or Dyneema lines. The  cap shrouds  run from the masthead through the tips of the spreaders down to the deck. The  intermediate shrouds  run from the lower part of the mast, through the lower spreaders, and to the deck. The  lower shrouds  run from the mast under the lower spreaders down to the deck – one forward and one aft on both sides. This is called  continuous rigging .

Turnbuckle:  The fitting that connects the shrouds to the  chainplate  on the deck. These are adjustable, allowing tensioning of the rig.

Chainplate:  A fixed strong point bolted on the deck. Usually reinforced with a backing plate underneath. 

You can read more about the standing rigging in this article .

The running rigging which operates the sails

Line:  The running rigging on a sailboat often consists of lines, a type of rope with a smooth surface that works well when used on a winch. 

Halyard:  This is the line you use to hoist and lower the sail. 

Sheets:  The sheet is the line you use to  control a sail . The  mainsheet  controls the angle of the mainsail and is attached between the boom and the  mainsheet   traveler . The two headsail sheets are connected to the sail’s clew (lower aft corner) and run back to each side of the cockpit.

Outhaul:  The outhaul is attached to the clew of the mainsail and used to adjust the foot tension. 

Topping lift:  A line attached to the boom’s end runs through the masthead and down to the deck or cockpit. Used to lift and hold the boom and also function as a spare main halyard.

Downhaul:  A line used to lower with. Typically used to lower the mainsail when reefing and lowering the spinnaker and whisker poles.

Reef line:  Depending on your setup, these lines are used to reduce the sail area of the mainsail.

Shaking a reef: When we sail with a reefed sail and want to increase the sail area back to full, we call it shaking the reef.

Equipment used to operate the running rigging

Block:  A pulley with a sheave wheel. These are used to change the direction of a pull on a line or rope and give a mechanical advantage. 

Mainsheet Traveler:  The traveler is a horizontal track attached to the mainsheet through a series of blocks. The traveler enables you to adjust the boom from side to side or lock it at an angle.

Cars:  The cars are pulleys or blocks attached to a track on the side decks that your headsail sheets run through. They are used to control the angle of the sheet between the clew and the deck. 

Jammer:  The jammer is used to lock a line in place. Most sailboats use these for locking the halyards, mainsheet, outhaul, reef lines, traveler lines, boom vang lines, etc. 

Spinnaker Pole:  A spar used to wing out a headsail when sailing off the wind, particularly the Spinnaker. 

Whisker Pole:  Similar to the spinnaker pole, but typically built lighter and attached to a track on the mast. These can be found in fixed lengths or adjustable lengths. 

Boom Vang/Rod Kicker:  A compression pole is used to tension the boom downwards. 

You can read more about the running rigging in this article.

Deck gear and hardware

In-mast furling:  A furling system that furls the mainsail in and out of the mast as opposed to the traditional way where the mainsail is secured to the boom and is hoisted and lowered on a track behind the mast.

In-boom furling:  A furling system that furls the mainsail in and out of the boom. 

Stack Pack:  Also called  Lazy Bag or Lazy Pack . A bag with a zip attached to the boom where the mainsail is stored when unused.

Lazy Jacks:  A set of lines running from the stack pack to the mast guides the mainsail up and down from the Stack Pack and prevents it from falling on the deck. 

Masthead:  Not to be confused with the term masthead rigging. Out of context, the masthead is the top of the mast.

Winch:  A metal drum that gives you a mechanical advantage when tightening lines.

Sprayhood:  The windshield of the boat that protects the people in the cockpit from sea spray. Some ships have canvas spray hoods that can be folded down or removed. Others have solid sprayhoods, often called a  hard dodger  or a  doghouse .

Bimini:  The cockpit’s roof protects you from the elements and provides shelter from spray, rain, and burning sun rays! A bimini can be made of canvas or hard material. The hard bimini is usually called a  hardtop .

Outboard:  Short-term for an outboard engine, which usually belongs to the dinghy.

Cruisers:  What we sailors often call ourselves. Especially those of us living onboard. Although salty, we are definitely handy to have on board as we are also electricians, mechanics, plumbers, and you name it.

Fenders:  Like Captain Ron said in the movie, the rubber bumper things you hang off the side of your boat to prevent it from scratching against something like the key side or another boat. Conveniently also used to sit on or as a backrest while relaxing on the deck.

Boat Hook:  A long stick with a hook at the end. Used to grab lines, items, and stuff that is too far to reach by hand, like cushions flying overboard. It is also convenient as a tool to push the boat away from another ship or the key. Or to push mud or clay off the anchor . Or catch a wild flying halyard. Most vessels have them on board, and you want one or two. (They tend to get lost at sea).

Guard Rail:  This can be a flexible wire or a solid metal rail surrounding the boat to prevent us from falling overboard. Some also use a net as an addition for increased safety.

Pushpit:  The metal guard rail around the stern of the boat. This is where the guard rail is secured on the stern. A common place to mount the BBQ, life raft, and the outboard for the dinghy. 

Pulpit:  The metal guardrail on the bow. This is where the guard rail is secured onto the bow.

Stanchion:  The metal bar that keeps the guard rail in place around the boat between the pushpit and the pulpit.

Arch:  A big structure usually made of stainless steel on the back of a boat. Often used to mount a variety of items like antennas, radars, solar panels, wind generators, etc.

Ground Tackle:  This consists of your  anchor , your anchor  chain,  the link between the two, and the connection between the chain and your boat. The ground tackle is basically the system that holds your boat to the ground.

Windlass:  The winch that hoists or lowers the anchor and chain. Most boats have one on the bow, and some have one on the stern, too. These incredible things can be electrical or manual (some are both) and are essential to anchor your boat when not in a port or marina. Try to haul the anchor manually once – you’ll put a windlass on the top of your wish list pretty quickly…

VHF   Radio:  Very High-Frequency Radio that broadcasts on the VHF network and makes you able to communicate with others around you. Sadly, you won’t be able to tune in to your favorite radio show on these. Still, they are invaluable at sea for communication.

Chart Plotter:  A navigation computer that shows various information on a screen, like charts, routes, radar images, etc.

Parts below the decks

Companionway:  The “front door” of the boat. This is where the steps lead from the cockpit or deck down below. It is usually opened and closed using a hatch, two doors, or a plate.

Galley:  The kitchen of a boat is never to be called a kitchen. Always use the term galley when you are onboard!

Saloon:  This is the boat’s living room and usually where you find the settee and dinette.

Settee:  The couch in a ship.

Dinette:  This is the area where you can sit down at a table and eat your dinner. It’s also perfect for consuming rum in good company and a game of cards.

Cabin:  These are the “rooms” onboard but might not necessarily be the “bedrooms.”

Head:  There are no bathrooms on a boat, only heads. If your skipper tells you to go and clean the head, getting out the shampoo won’t do you any good.

Nav station:  Usually a chart table and a console with mysterious instruments like radios, chart plotters, radar screens, and all sorts of complicated electronics. This is often where adventures are planned and the skipper’s favorite seat onboard. (At least, that is my favorite and where all this content is created!).

Bilge:  The space in the bottom of the hull where water collects and sometimes a storage space for all sorts of things. It usually contains a  bilge pump  to pump out water that finds its way into the boat in various places. You may have heard the phrase: “Treasures of the bilge.” Now you get it!

Berth:  A place in the boat where you can sleep. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bed and can often include the sleeping space in the salon. The term  sea-berth  usually refers to a sleeping position where you are tucked well in and can sleep when the boat is heeling over and moving around.

V-berth:  The bed in the front cabin is shaped like a V.

Bulkhead:  A wall inside the boat, usually supporting the structure.

Terms used for directions and navigation

Port and Starboard : Port refers to the left side of the boat when facing the bow (front), while starboard signifies the right side. 

Windward and Leeward : The windward side refers to the side of a boat facing the wind, while the leeward side is the side sheltered from the wind. These sailing terms also apply to geographic features, like islands or coastlines, that offer protection from the wind.

Chart : A nautical chart is a map specifically designed for marine navigation, depicting water depths, shoreline features, navigational aids, and potential hazards.

Compass : A compass is an essential navigational instrument that indicates magnetic north, allowing sailors to determine their heading and steer their vessels accordingly.

Course : The course is a vessel’s intended direction of travel, expressed in degrees from true or magnetic north.

Heading : The heading is the actual direction a vessel points, also expressed in degrees from true or magnetic north.

Latitude : Latitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies a location’s distance north or south of the equator, measured in degrees, minutes, and seconds.

Longitude : Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies a location’s distance east or west of the Prime Meridian, measured in degrees, minutes, and seconds.

Waypoint : A waypoint is a specific location, defined by its latitude and longitude, that serves as a reference point for navigation.

Bearing:   The angle between the observer’s position and a distant object, measured in degrees from true or magnetic north.

Fix : A fix precisely determines a vessel’s position using various navigational methods, such as bearings, GPS, or visual landmarks.

Dead Reckoning : Dead reckoning is a method of estimating a vessel’s current position based on its previous position, speed, and course over time.

Tide : Tides are the regular rise and fall of sea levels caused by the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and Sun. 

Current : Current refers to the horizontal movement of water in a particular direction. Currents can significantly affect a vessel’s speed and course, so make sure to consider them when sailing and navigating.

Buoy: A buoy is a floating device anchored in a body of water, such as an ocean, sea, lake, or river, to serve various purposes, including navigation, marking channels, identifying hazards, or indicating mooring locations.

The names of different sails and their parts

Mainsail:  The mainsail is the sail behind the mast and on top of the boom. 

Genoa :  A Genoa is a headsail that extends past the mast and overlaps the mainsail. 

Jib :  A Jib is a headsail that does not overlap the mainsail. 

Staysail:  A staysail is usually found on cutter rigs and is the sail set on the inner forestay.

Yankee:  A yankee headsail is used similarly to a Genoa or Jib but has a high-cut clew and is often used on cutter-rigged boats together with a staysail.

Mizzen sail:  A mizzen sail is typically a small triangular sail set on the aft mast of a boat with several masts, like the ketch rig.

Storm sail:  A storm sail is a small, strong sail to be used in heavy weather conditions where the headsail is furled to the point where its shape doesn’t give you drive anymore or/and when you want a smaller mainsail than your reefing setup allows you. The storm sails provide stability in the vessel in heavy weather sailing.

Spinnaker:  A Spinnaker is a symmetric light wind sail used to sail off the wind at deep angles between 120 and 180 degrees.

Gennaker:  A Gennaker is a cross between the Genoa and Spinnaker. It has the same type of light fabric as the Spinnaker but is asymmetrical like a Genoa with a tack set on the bow and a sheet led back from the clew to the stern of the boat.

Code Zero:  A code zero sail is a cross between a Genoa and a Gennaker. It is also designed for light wind with its lightweight fabric but has a different shape than a Gennaker. This makes it able to be used while sailing upwind, unlike the Gennaker.

Parasailor:  A parasailor is similar to a spinnaker but with some differences. It has a double-layer wing that inflates as the sail gets filled with air. This wing works like a batten and keeps the leech out while generating lift on the bow, making it effective between 70 degrees and all the way down to 180 degrees dead downwind.

The different parts of a sail

Tack:  The tack of the sail is the lower forward corner.

Clew:  The clew of a sail is the lower aft corner.

Head:  The top corner of a sail. 

Foot:  The foot of the sail is logically the bottom part of the sail between the clew and the tack.

Luff:  The luff is the front edge of the sail between the tack and head.

Leech:  The leech is the aft part of the sail between the clew and head. 

Telltales:  Telltales are small ropes, bands, or flags attached to the sail to give you an indication of the airflow around your sail. 

Battens:  Battens are slates or tubes inserted in pockets on the mainsail to help it keep its shape better and increase its lifespan.

Learn more about the different types of sails in this guide . 

Terms used when we talk about wind and weather

Gust : A gust is a sudden, brief increase in wind speed, often accompanied by a change in direction.

Squall : A squall is a sudden, strong wind that typically lasts for a short period and is often associated with rapidly changing weather conditions, such as thunderstorms or cold fronts.

Barometer : A barometer is an instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure. Changes in atmospheric pressure can indicate upcoming weather changes.

High-Pressure System : A high-pressure system is an area of relatively high atmospheric pressure, characterized by sinking air and typically associated with calm, clear weather.

Low-Pressure System : A low-pressure system is an area of relatively low atmospheric pressure, characterized by rising air and typically associated with clouds, precipitation, and potentially stormy conditions. Sailors usually refer to these systems as a “low.”

Front : A front is a boundary separating two air masses of different temperatures and humidity levels. Fronts are associated with changes in weather conditions and can cause sudden wind shifts and varying wind strengths.

True Wind Speed, or TWS: The actual wind speed affecting you at a point when you are standing still.

True Wind Direction, or TWD: The direction the wind is blowing from.

True Wind Angle, or TWA: The angle between your boat’s heading and wind direction.

Apparent Wind Speed, or AWS: The wind affecting the boat while in motion.

Apparent Wind Direction, or AWD: The direction of the wind in relation to your boat underway.

AWA  –  Apparent Wind Angle: The angle to wind while you are underway

Beaufort Scale : The Beaufort Scale is a system used to measure wind speed, ranging from 0 (calm) to 12 (hurricane). You can learn more about it at MetOffice here .

Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale: A scale describing hurricane wind speeds in categories from 1 to 5.

Learn more about the difference between actual and apparent wind in this guide .

Terms we use when cruising at speed under sail

Port Tack:  When the wind blows on the port side of your sails

Starboard Tack:  When the wind blows on the starboard side of your sails

Tacking: When you steer the boat from a starboard tack to a port tack and vice versa  upwind .

Gybing:  When you steer the vessel from a starboard tack to a port tack and vice versa  downwind .

Heeling : When the wind fills the sails and leans the boat over to the side.

NM:  Nautical Miles

Kt:  Knots – A measurement of speed used on boats.

Deg: Short for degrees

SOG: Speed over Ground, usually measured by GPS

SOW:  Speed over Water, usually measured by the boat’s speed log transducer.

COG:  Course Over Ground, the direction your boat is  moving  towards.

HDG:  Heading, the direction your boat is  pointing  towards.

Boom preventer:  A line or rope tied to the end of the boom and led forward of the mast to prevent it from swinging over when sailing off the wind.

Overpowered:  When wind overpowers the boats’ ability to steer a straight course. This typically happens when you try to sail above your boat’s hull speed, carrying too much sail area in relation to the wind, or your sails are poorly trimmed.

Hull Speed: The speed your boat has achieved when its created wave has the same length as the hull’s water length. Many displacement sailboats (the ones that don’t plane on top of the water) get hard to steer when going faster than this. You can learn more about how to calculate your hull speed in this guide: https://sailingellidah.com/average-distance-sailed-in-a-day/

Pro Tip:  Your COG and HDG will sometimes differ due to wind and current pushing you sideways.

Terms for the boats heading in relation to the wind

These sailing terms are best known as our points of sail and describe the vessel’s heading in relation to the wind:

Close Hauled:  When sailing close-hauled, the vessel’s heading is as close to the wind as possible, typically between 35-50 degrees.

Close Reach:  When sailing at an angle between 50 and 80 degrees, give or take.

Beam Reach:  The wind comes in from the side.

Broad Reach:  When bearing away from 90 degrees to around 135 degrees.

Running:  When sailing downwind.

You can learn more about the 5 points of sails in this guide : 

Final Words

I know there are a lot of nautical words and terms to keep track of, but luckily, no one expects you to know them all right away. You’ve probably already taken note of the most important ones, which means you’ve taken a giant leap in the right direction. Keep at it; you’ll speak like the saltiest seadog before you know it.

Did I forget to mention any terms you know of? Let me know in a comment below!

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Skipper, Electrician and ROV Pilot

Robin is the founder and owner of Sailing Ellidah and has been living on his sailboat since 2019. He is currently on a journey to sail around the world and is passionate about writing his story and helpful content to inspire others who share his interest in sailing.

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Ocean Sail Lust

Basic Sailing Terminology: Sailboat Parts Explained

Sailing is a timeless activity that has captivated the hearts of adventurous souls for centuries. But, let’s face it, for beginners, sailing can be as intimidating as trying to navigate through a dark, labyrinthine maze with a blindfold on. The vast array of sailing terminology, sailboat parts and jargon can seem like a foreign language that only the most experienced seafarers can comprehend.

Fear not, intrepid sailor, for this comprehensive guide on basic sailing terminology for beginners will help you navigate the choppy waters of sailing jargon with ease. From learning the difference between the bow and stern to mastering the intricacies of sail trim, this article will equip you with all the knowledge you need to confidently take to the seas. So hoist the mainsail, batten down the hatches, and let’s set sail on this exciting journey of discovery!

Parts of a Sailboat

Before you can begin your sailing adventure, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different parts of a sailboat. From the sleek bow to the sturdy keel, each component plays a vital role in keeping your vessel afloat and propelling you forward through the waves.

Basic Sailing Terminology

  • Hull The main body of the boat that sits in the water and provides buoyancy and stability.
  • Bow The front of the boat that meets the water and helps to determine its direction.
  • Stern The rear of the boat where the rudder and motor are located.
  • Deck The flat surface of the boat that you stand on, which can include various features such as seating, storage compartments, and hatches.
  • Cockpit The recessed area of the deck where the skipper and crew sit or stand while sailing, which allows for easy access to the sail controls and provides protection from the wind and waves.
  • Keel The long, fin-shaped structure beneath the waterline that helps to keep the boat stable and upright.
  • Rudder The flat, vertical surface located at the stern of the boat that is used to steer and control the direction of the boat.
  • Tiller or wheel The mechanism used to steer the boat, either in the form of a tiller (a handle attached to the rudder) or a wheel (similar to the steering wheel of a car).
  • Mast The tall, vertical pole that supports the sails and allows you to catch the wind and move through the water.
  • Boom The horizontal pole extending off the bottom of the mast that holds the bottom edge of the mainsail.
  • Mainsail The large, triangular-shaped sail attached to the mast and boom that captures the wind’s power to propel the boat forward.
  • Jib The smaller, triangular-shaped sail attached to the bow that helps to steer the boat and balance the force of the mainsail.
  • Rigging The network of ropes and cables that hold the mast and sails in place and help control their movement.

Sail Terminology

Understanding the terminology associated with sails is critical to becoming a successful sailor. Here are 12 of the most important sail terms you should know, along with brief explanations for each:

Basic Sailing Terminology

  • Luff The forward edge of a sail that is attached to the mast, allowing you to adjust the sail’s shape and angle to catch more wind.
  • Leech The aft edge of a sail that is attached to the boom, which helps to control the sail’s shape and release the wind as needed.
  • Foot The lower edge of a sail that is attached to the boom, which helps to control the sail’s shape and power.
  • Head The top of a sail that is attached to the mast and controls the sail’s overall shape and angle.
  • Battens The long, thin strips inserted into the pockets of a sail to help maintain its shape and stiffness.
  • Clew The bottom corner of a sail that is attached to the boom or sheet, which helps to control the sail’s shape and power.
  • Tack The bottom forward corner of a sail that is attached to the boat or a line, which helps to control the sail’s shape and power.
  • Sail Area The total area of a sail, which is measured in square feet or meters.
  • Sail Draft The curve or depth of a sail, which affects its performance and power.
  • Sail Shape The overall form and contour of a sail, which is critical for catching the wind effectively.
  • Reefing The process of reducing the sail area by partially lowering or folding the sail, which can be necessary in strong winds or heavy seas.
  • Furling The process of rolling or folding a sail to reduce its size or stow it away, which is often used when entering or leaving port or in rough conditions.

Wind Direction and Sail Positioning

Understanding wind direction and sail positioning is crucial for successful sailing. Here are the key terms you need to know:

Types of Wind

Basic Sailing Terminology

  • Apparent Wind The wind that is felt on the boat, which is a combination of the true wind and the wind generated by the boat’s movement.
  • True Wind The actual direction and strength of the wind.

Points of Sail

You can find a detailed explanation of the points of sail here

Basic Sailing Terminology

  • Close-Hauled Sailing as close to the wind as possible, with the sail set at a sharp angle to the boat.
  • Beam Reach Sailing perpendicular to the wind, with the sail set at a right angle to the boat.
  • Broad Reach Sailing with the wind at a diagonal angle behind the boat, with the sail angled away from the boat.
  • Running Sailing directly downwind, with the sail on one side of the boat.

Other Terms

Basic Sailing Terminology

  • Windward The side of the boat that is facing the wind.
  • Leeward The side of the boat that is sheltered from the wind.
  • Sail Trim Adjusting the sail and rigging to maximize the power and efficiency of the sailboat.

Navigation Terminology

Navigating a sailboat requires an understanding of a variety of nautical terms. Here are some of the most important terms you should know:

  • Starboard Side The right side of a boat
  • Port Side The left side of a boat
  • Compass A device used for determining the boat’s heading or direction.
  • Bearing The direction from the boat to a specific point on land or water.
  • Chart A map or nautical publication that displays water depths, navigational aids, and other important information for safe navigation.
  • Latitude The angular distance between the equator and a point on the earth’s surface, measured in degrees, minutes, and seconds.
  • Longitude The angular distance between the prime meridian and a point on the earth’s surface, measured in degrees, minutes, and seconds.
  • Course The direction in which the boat is traveling.
  • Plotting The process of marking a course on a chart or map.
  • Waypoint A specific point on a navigational chart or map that serves as a reference point for plotting a course.

Basic Sailing Terminology

  • Tacking This maneuver involves turning the bow of the boat through the wind in order to change direction. To tack , the sailor will turn the helm towards the wind until the sails begin to luff, then quickly steer the boat in the opposite direction while adjusting the sails to catch the wind on the new tack.
  • Jibing This maneuver is similar to tacking, but involves turning the stern of the boat through the wind. To jibe, the sailor will steer the boat downwind until the sails begin to luff, then quickly turn the stern of the boat in the opposite direction while adjusting the sails to catch the wind on the new tack.
  • Heading up This maneuver involves turning the boat closer to the wind in order to sail upwind. To head up, the sailor will turn the helm towards the wind while simultaneously trimming the sails in to maintain speed and prevent the boat from stalling.
  • Falling off This maneuver involves turning the boat away from the wind in order to sail downwind. To fall off, the sailor will steer the helm away from the wind while simultaneously easing the sails out to catch more wind and accelerate the boat.
  • Docking This maneuver involves bringing the boat alongside a dock or other fixed object in order to moor or disembark. To dock, the sailor will typically approach the dock at a slow speed while using lines and fenders to control the boat’s position and prevent damage.

Knots and Lines

Learning the right knots and lines to use is essential for any sailor. Here are some of the most important knots and lines to know:

Basic Sailing Terminology

  • Bowline This is a versatile knot used for many purposes, including attaching a line to a fixed object, such as a mooring or cleat.
  • Square Knot A simple knot used to join two lines of the same diameter.
  • Clove Hitch A quick and easy knot for attaching a line to a post or piling.
  • Figure-Eight Knot A knot used to stop the end of a line from unraveling.
  • Cleat Hitch A knot used to secure a line to a cleat.
  • Sheet Bend A knot used to join two lines of different diameters.

Basic Sailing Terminology

  • Main Halyard A line used to raise the mainsail.
  • Jib Sheet A line used to control the angle of the jib.
  • Mainsheet A line used to control the angle of the mainsail.
  • Jib Furling Line A line used to furl the jib.

Sailing Safety

  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) These are the life jackets or vests that you must wear when on board to ensure your safety. Choose a PFD that fits you properly and is appropriate for your body weight.
  • Tethers and Harnesses These are designed to keep you attached to the boat and prevent you from falling overboard. Make sure to clip yourself onto the boat when you’re on deck or going up to the mast.
  • Man Overboard ( MOB ) Drill This is a critical safety procedure to practice with your crew. Learn how to quickly identify and recover someone who has fallen overboard.
  • Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) An EPIRB sends a distress signal and your location to rescue services in an emergency. Make sure it’s properly registered and in good working condition.
  • Navigational Lights Ensure your boat has the required navigational lights and know how to use them properly. These lights help other boats see you in low-light conditions.

Remember that safety is always the top priority when sailing, and it’s essential to take it seriously.

Basic Sailing Terminology

Sailing Terminology Conclusion

As we come to the end of our sailing terminology crash course, it’s important to remember that the world of sailing is vast and varied. Learning even the basics can be a daunting task, but with practice and perseverance, you’ll be able to hoist your sails and set a course for adventure.

Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or just starting out, understanding the terminology is crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable voyage. From the parts of the boat to the knots and lines, each aspect plays a significant role in the overall sailing experience.

So, as you prepare to embark on your next sailing adventure, keep in mind the importance of safety, navigation, and proper etiquette on the water. And remember, when all else fails, just hoist the Jolly Roger and hope for the best! (Just kidding, don’t actually do that.) Happy sailing!

What is the difference between apparent wind and true wind?

Apparent wind is the wind felt by the sailor on the boat, while true wind is the wind direction and speed relative to the ground.

What are the points of sail?

The points of sail are the directions that a sailboat can travel in relation to the wind. They include upwind, close-hauled, beam reach, broad reach, and downwind.

What does it mean to be “on a reach”?

Being “on a reach” means sailing with the wind coming from the side of the boat, at a perpendicular angle to the boat’s direction.

What is tacking?

Tacking is the maneuver used to turn the boat’s bow through the wind, allowing the boat to change direction while still sailing upwind.

What is jibing?

Jibing is the maneuver used to turn the boat’s stern through the wind, allowing the boat to change direction while sailing downwind.

What is the difference between windward and leeward?

Windward is the side of the boat that is facing into the wind, while leeward is the side of the boat that is sheltered from the wind.

What is a boom vang?

A boom vang is a line used to control the position of the boom, which helps control the shape and position of the sail.

What is a cleat?

A cleat is a device used to secure a line to the boat, allowing the sailor to adjust the tension of the line without having to hold onto it constantly.

What is a winch?

A winch is a mechanical device used to control lines and adjust sails. It typically consists of a drum and handle that can be turned to wind or unwind a line.

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Parts Of a Sail Explained (Illustrated Beginners Guide)

Are you curious about sail mechanics and how they engage the wind? In this illustrated guide, we'll explain the various sail components and how they work together to propel a sailboat. From the head to the foot, the tack to the clew, we'll break down each part and give you a solid foundation to build on as you learn to trim sails and navigate the open sea.

A sail, which is a large piece of fabric that is attached to a long pole called the mast, uses the wind to pull a sailboat across the water. It has various parts, such as the head, tack, clew, luff, leech, foot, mainsail, jib, and batten. These components determine the shape and efficiency of the sail.

Let's break down all these terms and descriptions to understand how each component interacts with each other. So, whether you're a seasoned sailor or a beginner, you'll have a better grasp of sail trim and optimal performance on the water.

  • The primary parts of a mainsail include the head, tack, clew, luff, leech, and foot.
  • Some critical elements of the jib include the sheet, genoa, and headstay.
  • Asymmetrical spinnakers are designed for off-wind sailing and have a more rounded shape, while symmetrical spinnakers are used for downwind sailing and have a more traditional, triangular shape.
  • The most common fabrics used for making sails are traditional fabrics like cotton and flax, and modern fabrics such as polyester and nylon, Dacron, Mylar, and laminates.
  • Be sure to learn how to properly trim, reef, clean, flake, and store your sails for durability and optimal performance.

sailboat short definition

On this page:

Parts of a sail and their functions, mainsail components, jib components of a sailboat, components of spinnakers, sail controls and settings, sail care and maintenance, sail materials and construction.

In this guide, we'll focus on the three main types of sails : Mainsail, Jib, and Spinnaker.

Mainsail is the primary sail on your boat

The mainsail is the largest sail on a sailboat and is typically attached to the mast and boom. It is found aft (rear) of the mast. It's attached to the boat through a track or sail slide, which allows it to move up and down.

Jib is a triangular sail placed in front of the boat

The jib is a smaller sail that is attached to the bow of the boat and works in conjunction with the mainsail to control the direction and speed of the boat. It helps to improve the boat's handling and increase speed, working in tandem with the mainsail.

In some cases, larger jibs called genoas are used to capture more wind, thus increasing the boat's speed.

Spinnaker is designed for sailing downwind

The spinnaker is a large, colorful, and lightweight balloon-shaped sail designed for sailing downwind. It captures the wind from the rear, pushing the boat forward with added speed and stability.

In this section, you'll find a comprehensive explanation of the primary components of a sail and their functions:

Head is the uppermost corner of a sail

The head of the sail refers to the uppermost corner where it connects to the top of the mast. Knowing the location of the head is essential, as it helps you identify the top of the sail and allows you to properly hoist and secure it in place.

Tack is the lower front corner of a sail

The tack is where the lower front corner connects to the base of the mast, or the boom. This important point helps you determine the sail's orientation and affects its overall shape and efficiency. By adjusting the tension at the tack, you can control your sail's performance and handling in various wind conditions.

Clew is the lower rear corner of a saisl

The clew is where the sheets attach to control the sail's angle to the wind. Adjusting the tension on the sheets can change the sail's shape and ultimately influence the boat's speed and direction. Becoming familiar with the clew will help improve your sailing skills and ensure smooth maneuvers on the water.

Luff is the front edge of the sail

The luff is the forward edge of the sail that runs along the mast. It's crucial to maintaining a tight and efficient sail shape. When sailing upwind, pay close attention to the luff, as it can provide valuable information about your sail's trim. A properly trimmed sail will have a smooth luff, allowing the boat to move efficiently against the wind.

Leech is the rear edge of the sail

The leech is opposite the luff. It plays a critical role in controlling the overall shape and efficiency of your sail. Watch the leech carefully while sailing, as excessive tension or looseness can negatively affect your sail's performance. Adjusting your sail's trim or using a device called a "boom vang" can help control the shape and tension of the leech.

Foot is the bottom edge of the sail

The foot is running between the tack and the clew. It helps control the shape and power of the sail by adjusting the tension along the boom. Ensure the foot is properly trimmed, as this can impact your boat's performance and speed. A well-adjusted foot helps your sail maintain its proper shape and operate at optimal efficiency while out on the water.

In this section, we'll look at some critical elements of the jib: the sheet, genoa, and headstay.

sailboat short definition

Sheet is the line used to control the position and trim of the sail

The jib sheet is the line used to control the jib's angle in relation to the wind. You adjust the sheet to get the best possible sail trim, which greatly affects your boat's performance. The jib sheet typically runs from the jib's clew (the lower rear corner of the sail) through a block on the boat's deck, and back to the cockpit, where you can easily control it.

When adjusting the jib sheet, you want to find the perfect balance between letting the sail out too far, causing it to luff (flutter), and pulling it in too tightly, which can cause heeling or poor sail shape. Make small adjustments and observe how your boat responds to find the sweet spot.

Genoa is a larger jib used to capture more wind

A genoa is a larger version of a standard jib. It overlaps the mainsail, extending further aft, and provides a greater sail area for improved upwind performance. Genoas are categorized by the percentage of overlap with the mainsail. For example, a 130% genoa means that the sail's area is 30% larger than the area of a jib that would end at the mast.

Genoas are useful in light wind conditions, as their larger surface area helps your boat move faster. However, they can become difficult to manage in strong winds. You might need to reef (reduce the size) or swap to a smaller jib to maintain control.

Headstay provides a support structure for the jib

The headstay is a crucial part of your boat's standing rigging system. It is the cable or rod that connects the top of the mast (the masthead) to the bow of the boat. The headstay helps maintain the mast's stability and provides a support structure for the jib.

The tension in your headstay plays a significant role in the jib's sail shape. Proper headstay tension will create a smooth, even curve, allowing your jib to perform optimally. If the headstay is too tight, the sail may be too flat, reducing its power, whereas a loose headstay can result in a sagging, inefficient sail shape.

A spinnaker is a sail designed specifically for sailing off the wind , on courses between a reach and downwind. They are made of lightweight fabric, often brightly colored, and help maximize your sailing speed and performance.

sailboat short definition

Asymmetrical spinnakers are designed for off-wind sailing

Asymmetrical spinnakers are usually found on modern cruising and racing boats. They're designed for a broader range of wind angles and have a more forgiving shape, making them easier for you to handle. Key components of an asymmetrical spinnaker include:

  • Tack : This is the front, lower corner where the sail connects to the boat. A tack line is used to adjust the sail's position relative to the bow.
  • Head : The top corner of the sail, where it connects to the halyard to be hoisted up the mast.
  • Clew : The aft corner of the sail, connected to the sheet, allowing you to control the angle of the sail to catch the wind effectively.

You can find a step-by-step guide on how to rig and hoist an asymmetrical spinnaker here .

Symmetrical spinnakers are used for downwind sailing

Symmetrical spinnakers are more traditional and usually found on racing boats, where downwind performance is critical. These sails are shaped like a large parachute and are split into two identical halves. Key components of a symmetrical spinnaker include:

  • Head : Similar to the asymmetrical spinnaker, the head is the top corner connected to the halyard.
  • Clews : Unlike an asymmetrical spinnaker, a symmetrical spinnaker has two clews. Both are connected to sheets and guys, which help control the sail's shape and movement.
  • Spinnaker Pole : This is a horizontal pole that extends from the mast and is used to project the windward clew outwards and hold the sail open.

Handling a symmetrical spinnaker can be more challenging, as it requires precise teamwork and coordination. If you're new to sailing with this type of sail, don't hesitate to seek guidance from experienced sailors to improve your technique.

In this section, we'll explore sail controls and settings, which are essential for beginners to understand for efficient sailing. We'll discuss trimming, and reefing, as sub-sections.

sailboat short definition

Trimming your sails for speed and stability

Trimming is the process of adjusting your sails to optimize them for the current wind conditions and desired direction. Proper sail trim is crucial for maximizing your boat's speed and stability. Here are some basic tips for sail trimming:

  • Pay attention to the telltales, which are small ribbons or yarn attached to the sails. They help you understand the airflow over your sails and indicate whether they're properly trimmed.
  • Use the sheets, which are lines attached to the clew of your sails, to adjust the angle of your sails relative to the wind.
  • In light winds, ease the sails slightly to create a more rounded shape for better lift. In stronger winds, flatten the sails to reduce drag and prevent excessive heeling.

Reefing your sails for control and balance

Reefing is the process of reducing the sail area to help maintain control and balance in stronger wind conditions. It's an essential skill to learn for your safety and the longevity of your sails. Follow these steps to reef your sails:

  • Head into the wind to reduce pressure on the sails.
  • Lower the halyard (the line that raises the sail) until the sail reaches the desired reefing point.
  • Attach the sail's reefing cringle (reinforced eyelet) to the reefing hook or tack line.
  • Tighten the new, lower clew (bottom corner) of the sail to the boom with the reef line.
  • Raise the halyard back up to tension the reduced sail.

Take proper care of your sailboat to ensure that it remains in top condition. In this section, we will discuss the key aspects of sail care and maintenance, focusing on cleaning and storage.

sailboat short definition

Steps to clean your sails

Keeping your sail clean is crucial for its longevity and performance. Follow these simple steps to maintain a spotless sail:

  • Rinse with fresh water after each use, paying extra attention to areas affected by saltwater, debris, and bird droppings.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush and a mild detergent to gently scrub away dirt and stains. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials, as they may damage the fabric.
  • Rinse again thoroughly, ensuring all soap is washed away.
  • Spread your sail out to air-dry, avoiding direct sunlight, which may harm the fabric's UV protection.

Ways to store your sails

Sail storage is equally important for preserving the lifespan of your sail. Here are some tips for proper sail storage:

  • Fold or roll your sail : Avoid stuffing or crumpling your sail; instead, gently fold or roll it to minimize creases and wear on the fabric.
  • Protect from UV rays : UV exposure can significantly reduce the life of your sail. Store it in a cool, shaded area or use a UV-resistant sail cover when not in use.
  • Ventilation : Ensure your sail is stored in a well-ventilated area to prevent mildew and stale odors.
  • Lay flat or hang : If space allows, store your sail laid out flat or hanging vertically to reduce the risk of creasing and fabric damage.

Flaking your sails when not in use

Flaking is the process of neatly folding your sails when they're not in use, either on the boom or deck. This helps protect your sails from damage and prolongs their lifespan. Here's how to flake your sails:

  • Lower the sail slowly, using the halyard while keeping some tension on it.
  • As the sail comes down, gather and fold the sail material in an accordion-like pattern on top of the boom or deck.
  • Secure the flaked sail with sail ties or a sail cover to prevent it from coming undone.

sailboat short definition

Traditional fabrics used to make sails

In the early days of sailing, natural materials like cotton and flax were used to make sails. These fabrics were durable, breathable, and held up well in various weather conditions. However, they would eventually wear out and lose their shape due to the constant exposure to UV rays and seawater.

While traditional fabrics like cotton and flax were once commonly used for sailmaking, they have largely been replaced by synthetic materials like polyester and nylon due to their superior strength, durability, and resistance to mildew and rot. However, some sailors and sailmakers still use cotton and other natural fibers for certain applications, such as traditional sailmaking or historical recreations.

Modern fabrics used to make sails

Modern sail materials, such as Dacron, Mylar, and laminates, are more resilient and longer-lasting than traditional fabrics. These materials are lightweight, strong, and resistant to UV rays and water damage.

Dacron : Dacron is a popular material for sails because of its durability, UV resistance, and ease of maintenance. It's a type of polyester fabric that is often used for making cruising sails. Dacron offers excellent shape retention and resistance to stretch, making it ideal for both beginners and experienced sailors.

Laminate materials : Laminate sails are made by bonding multiple layers of materials like Mylar, polyester, and Kevlar. These sails offer better shape and performance compared to their fabric counterparts, making them popular among racers. However, they tend to be more delicate and may not be suitable for long-term cruising.

Mylar films : Mylar films are used in laminate sails for their excellent strength-to-weight ratio and shape retention. These films are often sandwiched between other materials, such as polyester or Kevlar, to enhance the sail's resistance to stretch and load handling. However, Mylar sails can be susceptible to delamination and abrasion, requiring extra care and regular inspection.

Sail stitching for shape and durability

Sail stitching is an essential aspect of sail construction, helping to maintain the sail's shape and durability. Various stitching techniques can be used, such as zigzag, straight, and triple-step sewing. The choice of stitching type depends on the sail's purpose and expected loads. In addition, using UV-resistant thread ensures that the stitching lasts longer under harsh sun exposure.

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Cutter-Rigged Sailboat Definition: Everything You Need to Know

by Emma Sullivan | Aug 12, 2023 | Sailboat Lifestyle

sailboat short definition

Short answer cutter-rigged sailboat definition:

A cutter-rigged sailboat is a type of sailing vessel characterized by its rigging configuration, which includes a single mast set further aft and multiple headsails. This design offers versatility in various wind conditions, providing better control and balance while sailing.

1) What is a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat? A Comprehensive Definition

A cutter-rigged sailboat is a versatile and elegant type of sailing vessel that offers sailors a range of benefits and capabilities. With its distinctive rigging setup, the cutter sailboat has long been favored by sailors for its maneuverability, stability, and ability to handle different wind conditions. In this comprehensive definition, we will delve into the intricacies of the cutter rig and explore why it remains a popular choice among sailing enthusiasts.

At its core, a cutter-rigged sailboat features a specific arrangement of sails and mast configuration. Unlike other types of rigs like sloop or ketch, a cutter possesses two headsails – both the jib and staysail. The jib is usually larger and set forward to catch the main flow of wind, while the staysail sits between the foremost mast (known as the foremast) and the mainmast. This arrangement provides maximum control over different wind speeds and directions. While some smaller cutters may have only one mast, larger vessels often boast multiple masts, creating an impressive silhouette on the water.

One of the main advantages of a cutter rig is its versatility in handling various weather conditions . The combination of a large jib upfront with its increased surface area allows for heightened propulsion when sailing downwind or with favorable winds behind you. On the other hand, when facing challenging upwind conditions where close-hauled sailing is required, a smaller but easily controllable staysail comes into play. This dual headsail setup gives sailors better options for optimal sail configurations depending on wind angles – an invaluable feature that makes cutters ideal for long-distance cruising or racing.

Additionally, stability plays a crucial role in determining why many sailors opt for cutter-rigged sailboats . With two headsails set in front of your boat ‘s centerline but balanced proportionately around it, there’s less chance of being overpowered by strong gusts or unsteady winds compared to single-headsail rigs like sloops. This inherent stability allows for better control and reduces the risk of a sudden broach, which can be particularly crucial when sailing in harsh or unpredictable conditions.

Not only does the cutter setup provide superior handling, but it also enhances safety on the water. Since the staysail can easily be brought down or adjusted independently from the larger jib, sail changes are more manageable and less physically demanding for crew members. This flexibility is particularly vital during challenging weather conditions, as it minimizes time spent on deck in potentially dangerous situations .

Beyond its functional advantages, there’s an undeniable aesthetic appeal to cutter-rigged sailboats that captivates sailors and admirers alike. The imposing presence of multiple masts adorned with gracefully billowing sails creates an aura of classic beauty that pays homage to traditional sailing vessels of old. Whether cruising leisurely along coastlines or partaking in thrilling racing competitions, a cutter’s stylish design ensures you’ll turn heads wherever you go.

In conclusion, a cutter-rigged sailboat is a comprehensive embodiment of functionality, style, and adaptability on the water. With its distinct two-headsail setup providing excellent control across varying wind conditions, it stands out as an ideal choice for serious sailors seeking an enhanced sailing experience. From its versatility to stability and safety benefits – not to mention its timeless elegance – no wonder cutters remain cherished by seafaring enthusiasts worldwide who appreciate both tradition and innovation in their voyages.

2) Understanding the Cutter-Rigged Sailboat: Definition and Characteristics

Are you a sailing enthusiast looking to explore different types of sailboats? If so, then understanding the cutter-rigged sailboat is essential. This unique and versatile vessel has its own distinct features and characteristics that set it apart from other types of sailboats . So, let’s dive into the world of the cutter-rigged sailboat , exploring its definition and noteworthy qualities.

First, let’s start with the definition. A cutter rig is a specific type of sailing rig configuration typically found on smaller to medium-sized boats. Unlike other rigs such as sloops or ketches, which have only one headsail (the foresail), the cutter rig features multiple headsails.

The most prominent feature of a cutter rig is its dual headsails – a jib and staysail. The jib is the larger headsail located forward of the mast, while the staysail is positioned between the mast and forestay (the primary vertical support for the mast).

Why two headsails? Well, this setup provides incredible versatility and adaptability in various wind conditions. By utilizing both sails in combination or individually, a sailor can easily adjust their sail plan to maximize performance based on wind strength and direction.

Let’s talk about some remarkable characteristics that make the cutter rig stand out:

1. Upwind Performance: The presence of two headsails provides increased control when sailing upwind, allowing for better pointing ability into the wind. The staysail helps balance out the forces acting on the boat, reducing weather helm (the tendency of a boat to turn towards the wind) compared to other rig configurations .

2. Offshore Capabilities: Cutter rigs are renowned for their seaworthiness. With their ability to handle heavy weather conditions offshore, many serious cruisers prefer this rig type for long-distance voyages or bluewater sailing adventures .

3. Redundancy and Safety: Having two separate headsails not only enhances performance but also acts as a backup in case of damage or failure. If one headsail gets damaged, the sailor can simply drop it and continue sailing with the remaining sail. This redundancy is particularly useful during extended cruising or when sailing far from shore.

4. Versatility in Sailing Conditions: Cutter-rigged sailboats excel in a wide range of wind conditions, from light airs to strong winds. The ability to switch between different combinations of sails allows sailors to optimize their performance regardless of the prevailing weather conditions on their journey.

5. Ease of Handling: Despite having multiple sails, cutter rigs can be easily managed by a small crew or even single-handedly. The sail area is distributed across the two headsails, making them more manageable compared to larger single headsails found on sloops or ketches.

So there you have it – an introduction to understanding the cutter-rigged sailboat and its defining characteristics. From increased upwind performance to offshore capabilities and versatility in various weather conditions, this rig configuration offers a unique sailing experience that avid sailors find both thrilling and practical.

If you’re looking for a vessel that combines adaptability, safety, and ease of handling without compromising performance, then exploring the world of cutter-rigged sailboats might be your next exciting venture!

3) Step-by-Step Guide to Defining a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat

Welcome to our step-by-step guide on defining a cutter-rigged sailboat. If you’re new to the world of sailing or simply curious about this particular rigging style, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re envisioning sweeping journeys across the open seas or peaceful cruises along the coastline, understanding the intricacies of a cutter-rigged sailboat will equip you well for your adventures.

Step 1: Understanding the Basics Before delving into the specifics, let’s start with some fundamental knowledge. A cutter rig consists of multiple sails and is one of the most versatile options for sailboats . It typically features three sails: a foresail (the headsail), a mainsail, and a smaller third sail known as a staysail.

Step 2: Exploration and Considerations Now that we have grasped the general concept, it’s time to dive deeper into what makes a cutter rig unique. One key characteristic lies in its ability to handle various wind conditions exceptionally well due to its versatility. This adaptability ensures safety and efficiency even when facing unpredictable weather patterns during your sailing journeys.

Moreover, consider how different materials can affect performance while designing your ideal cutter-rigged boat. Sails made from modern materials such as polyester or nylon are durable and lightweight, enabling more efficient manipulation of wind power.

Step 3: Factors Influencing Cutter Rig Choices Defining your sailboat requires weighing several factors impacting your desired experience . First and foremost, think about your preferred cruising grounds – whether it’s serene lakes or challenging ocean waters – as this significantly influences sail arrangement decisions.

Furthermore, consider elements like mast height and placement; these variables directly impact how effectively the boat harnesses wind power for optimum performance. An experienced naval architect or yacht designer will be an invaluable resource when making these choices.

Step 4: Essential Equipment Next up is selecting essential equipment that complements your intended sailing lifestyle. When defining a cutter rig, it is crucial to invest in robust and reliable hardware to guarantee smooth sailing . Pay close attention to components such as winches, blocks, and furling systems, which all contribute to ease of handling and overall safety.

Step 5: Expert Advice Consulting with seasoned sailors or professionals within the sailing community can significantly enhance your understanding and decision-making process. Engaging in forums or seeking advice from experienced yacht brokers can provide valuable insights into different cutter rigs available on the market today.

This additional expertise ensures that you choose a cutter-rigged sailboat tailored specifically to your needs and desires while balancing practicality and performance.

Step 6: Balance Between Style and Functionality Ensuring your sailboat reflects your personal aesthetic preferences is also an essential aspect of defining a cutter rig . From sleek lines to elegant finishes, embrace the opportunity to infuse your unique style into the boat’s design without compromising its functionality.

Step 7: Maintenance and Upkeep Lastly, once you’ve defined your dream cutter-rigged sailboat , it’s important to consider maintenance requirements. Regular cleaning, inspection of equipment for wear and tear, as well as staying up-to-date with technological advancements will guarantee longevity and reliability throughout your sailing adventures .

Whether it’s chasing sunsets or conquering challenging waters, following this step-by-step guide will assist you in defining a cutter-rigged sailboat that fulfills all your nautical aspirations. With careful consideration of each component alongside expert input, you’ll be primed for unforgettable voyages while captivating fellow sailors with both the elegance and efficiency of your chosen rigging style.

4) Frequently Asked Questions about the Definition of a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat

Frequently Asked Questions about the Definition of a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat

When it comes to sailboats, there are numerous rigging options available, each with its own unique set of characteristics. One such design that has captivated the sailing community for generations is the cutter rig . Known for its versatility and performance capabilities, cutter-rigged sailboats have become a popular choice among experienced sailors. If you’re curious to learn more about this type of sailboat rig, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions to demystify the definition of a cutter-rigged sailboat.

Q: What exactly is a cutter-rigged sailboat? A: A cutter rig refers to a specific arrangement of sails on a boat , consisting of two or more headsails and a mainsail. Unlike other rig configurations like sloops or ketches, where only one headsail is present in front of the mast, cutters feature multiple headsails set on separate forestays. The most common setup includes a staysail forward of the mast and a larger headsail (typically referred to as the genoa) on the foretriangle.

Q: Why would someone choose a cutter rig over other rig types ? A: One significant advantage of the cutter rig lies in its versatility and adaptability to various weather conditions . With two or more headsails onboard, sailors have greater control over their boat ‘s power and balance. The option to reef or furl both headsails independently allows for efficient sail area reduction during high winds while maintaining excellent maneuverability when under power alone. This makes cutters particularly appealing for long-distance cruising or offshore passages.

Q: Are there any disadvantages to choosing a cutter rig? A: Like any design choice, there are trade-offs associated with opting for a cutter-rigged sailboat. While offering enhanced flexibility compared to other rigs, cutters require additional hardware such as multiple forestays and halyards which may increase maintenance requirements. Additionally, the complex sail plan can require more crew effort and expertise to handle effectively, especially during maneuvers and sail changes. However, with proper training and experience, these challenges can be overcome.

Q: Can a cutter-rigged sailboat perform well in racing? A: While cutter rigs are not commonly found on the race circuit as they once were, that doesn’t mean they lack performance capabilities. Due to their ability to carry multiple headsails of varying sizes, cutters excel in heavy weather conditions where wind strength is typically higher. In races that encompass offshore or longer passages, cutters can often showcase their advantage over more limited-rigged vessels like sloops or Bermuda rigs.

Q: Are there any famous examples of cutter-rigged sailboats ? A: Yes! Some iconic examples of cutter-rigged sailboats include the historic Joshua Slocum’s Spray, which he sailed solo around the world in the late 19th century, and Eric Tabarly’s splendid Pen Duick series racing yachts. These vessels demonstrated the capabilities and enduring appeal of this rig type .

In conclusion, a cutter rig offers sailors an adaptable and versatile solution for their sailing needs. With its ability to handle various weather conditions while maintaining maneuverability and control under power alone, it’s no wonder why this rig configuration has stood the test of time. Although it requires some additional maintenance considerations and sailing proficiency compared to other options such as sloops or ketches, those who value performance and flexibility will find a cutter-rigged sailboat a worthy choice for both cruising adventures and competitive racing endeavors.

5) Exploring the Key Features of a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat: A Detailed Definition

In the world of sailing, there are a plethora of sailboat designs and rigging setups to choose from. Each configuration offers unique advantages and characteristics that cater to different sailing styles and conditions. One popular choice amongst avid sailors is the cutter-rigged sailboat.

What exactly is a cutter-rigged sailboat , you may ask? Well, let’s delve into this fascinating topic and explore the key features that make this rigging setup stand out.

At its core, a cutter-rigged sailboat is defined by its multiple headsails and specific mast placement. Unlike traditional sloop-rigged sailboats with just one headsail (the jib), cutters carry two headsails – the jib on the forestay and a smaller staysail on an inner stay called the second forestay. This additional headsail provides enhanced maneuverability, especially in heavier wind conditions or when sailing close to the wind.

The positioning of these sails allows for better balance and control. The jib acts as the primary driving force while the smaller staysail helps fine-tune and adjust sail trim for optimal performance in varying wind speeds. This configuration gives sailors greater flexibility and control over their vessel, making it easier to adapt to changing weather conditions or maneuver through tight spaces like crowded harbors or narrow channels.

One major advantage of a cutter rig is its versatility in handling different points of sail . Whether you’re beating upwind, reaching across open waters, or running downwind with strong winds at your back, a well-designed cutter rig can excel in all these scenarios. The ability to set various combinations of sails enables sailors to maximize their boat’s aerodynamic efficiency regardless of which way the wind blows.

In addition to its superb adaptability on different points of sail , another standout feature of a cutter rig is its reliability in heavy weather conditions. With two separate headsails instead of relying solely on one large genoa like many sloop rigs, a cutter rig offers increased sail area options without sacrificing safety. By reefing down and using the smaller staysail as the primary driving force, sailors can maintain control even in strong winds, reducing the risk of overpowering the boat.

Moreover, the presence of two forestays not only reinforces mast stability but also opens up possibilities for adding additional headsails or storm sails if needed. This further enhances a cutter-rigged sailboat’s versatility and adaptability to different sailing conditions, offering peace of mind to sailors heading out into more challenging waters.

It’s important to keep in mind that while cutter rigs come with numerous advantages, they may require slightly more effort and skill to manage compared to simpler rigging setups. The need for multiple sheets and halyards means more lines cluttering the deck, potentially leading to increased complexity when setting up or adjusting sails . However, with practice and experience, managing a cutter rig becomes second nature.

In conclusion, exploring the key features of a cutter-rigged sailboat reveals a versatile and reliable sailing configuration that appeals to seasoned sailors seeking enhanced maneuverability and adaptability on various points of sail. With its unique combination of two headsails and specific mast placement, this rigging setup offers both performance and safety in a wide range of conditions. So if you’re considering upgrading your current sloop rig or looking for a new sailboat altogether, don’t overlook the allure of a well-designed cutter rig – it just might be the perfect choice for your next sailing adventure!

6) Expert Insights: How to Define and Identify a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat

Title: Expert Insights: Mastering the Art of Defining and Identifying Cutter-Rigged Sailboats

Introduction: Ahoy, sailing enthusiasts ! Welcome to another exciting installment of our Expert Insights series. Today, we embark on a voyage delving into the intricacies of defining and identifying cutter-rigged sailboats. Whether you are a seasoned sailor or an aspiring seafarer, this comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge necessary to navigate the dazzling world of cutter rigs. So hoist your sails, batten down the hatches, and let’s set course for enlightenment!

What is a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat? Imagine an elegant vessel gracefully slicing through the water; that’s a cutter-rigged sailboat in all its glory. A cutter rig is characterized by having multiple foresails—a mainsail located closest to the mast, supplemented by two foresails mounted ahead called the jib and staysail. This configuration differentiates it from sloop rigs, where only one headsail (the jib) embellishes the mast.

1) The Power Behind Cutter Rigs: The secret to their popularity lies in versatility and performance. Cutter-rigged sailboats excel at various points of sail due to their flexible sail plan. While close-hauled (sailing as close to wind direction as possible), you can harness immense power by using both foresails simultaneously—balancing speed and maneuverability.

2) Benefits Beyond Mighty Winds: Cutter rigs not only capture more wind but also distribute it efficiently across multiple sails—enabling enhanced control during gusty conditions. These additional foresails provide options when experiencing changes in weather or sea states while cruising offshore or navigating congested harbors.

3) Identify with Ease: Distinguishing a cutter rig at first glance may seem perplexing, especially if you’re new to sailing terminology . However, one crucial telltale sign is evident—the presence of two headsails. The jib, commonly the largest fore-and-aft sail, unfurls ahead of the mast while the staysail—often smaller—is typically set on a forestay between the bow and mast.

4) Rigging Setup: Cutter-rigged sailboats possess a unique rigging setup to accommodate multiple foresails harmoniously. In addition to the mainmast, they typically feature an inner forestay reaching from the masthead to a point near or on the deck. This inner stay provides support for setting and controlling the staysail separately from the larger jib.

5) Sail Controls & Tactics: Understanding how to effectively control your cutter rig is key to mastering its potential. Utilize various lines and winches to haul in or release each sail independently, allowing for precise adjustments depending on wind conditions. For optimal performance, consider employing windward sheeting angles, fine-tuning sail twist, and applying proper reefing techniques when necessary.

Conclusion: Congratulations! You’ve successfully navigated through our expert insights on defining and identifying cutter-rigged sailboats with finesse. Armed with this newfound knowledge, you can confidently embark on your next sailing adventure or engage in enthusiastic conversations with fellow sailors about their awe-inspiring rigs . Remember, cutter rigs offer a combination of power, versatility, and charm that captivates both spectators and seasoned mariners alike. Fair winds and smooth seas await as you join the ranks of those who harness the magic of these remarkable vessels!

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Glossary: essential terms a sailor should know

  • Glossary: essential terms a sailor should know

We have put together a comprehensive list of essential sailing terms to enhance your nautical knowledge. Delving into diverse areas such as meteorology, navigation, and boat equipment, our glossary covers sail types, boat components, and crucial units of measurement and abbreviations that every sailor should be familiar with. Plus, you'll find terms unique to charter boats, the boat rental process, safety at sea, signalling aids, and modern sailboat technology.

Anchor windlass is a mechanical device used to hoist and lower the anchor and its chain on a boat. It operates under high tension and typically has its own circuit breaker to protect it from electrical overloads. When using an anchor windlass, it is essential to allow for short breaks during operation to prevent it overheating and any resultant damage to the equipment.

Anticyclone is an area of high air pressure.

Apparent wind is the wind we perceive when we are on board and results from the vector sum of the real wind and the wind generated by our motion while sailing. The topic of apparent wind is covered in detail in our article — Apparent vs. true wind .

Autopilot is a device designed to steer a boat along a predetermined course. It independently adjusts the rudder as required, ensuring the vessel follows the set path to its destination as accurately as possible. 

Baby net or safety net is a safety feature that prevents small children from falling off the deck into the water. It is a net similar to a fishing net, which is installed along the boat's railings. A baby net does not come as standard with a rental boat, so always discuss it with the salesperson when booking if you want to order the net from the charter company. We discuss safety features in our article — Sailing with kids: how to keep all of you safe and happy .

children's nets

Safety nets on the boat effectively prevent children from falling into the water.

Barber hauler is a sail control device used to adjust the angle of the jib or genoa sail in relation to the wind, mostly found on more sporty boats. It consists of a line or tackle system attached to the clew of the sail, allowing sailors to fine-tune the sail's position for optimal performance and improved windward efficiency.

Bathing or swim platform , is a foldable structure located at the stern of a boat, providing easy access to the water for swimmers or during training activities. When sailing, it is advised to keep the bathing platform closed and secured in place, rather than left extended.

Batten is the reinforcement in the mainsail. Mainsails are generally classified based on their shape and construction, with variations such as full-batten, partial-batten, or no-batten mainsails.

Beaufort scale  is a widely recognized scale in the sailing world. It categorizes wind forces and their corresponding effects on sea surface conditions, allowing skippers to estimate wind strength visually. By observing the behaviour of the sea surface and the wind's impact on it, sailors can use the Beaufort scale to make informed decisions about their sailing course and speed.

Bearing compass is a type of compass that is used to determine the bearing, or direction, of an object or location relative to the compass itself. It is commonly used in navigation to determine the direction of a distant landmark or to maintain a specific course while sailing.

Bimini  is an alternative term for a sun canopy that provides shade for the helmsman's station and the rear portion of the cockpit. In the rain, it serves as a slight protection from the water. Often, however, sailors fold it up for sailing, and sometimes there is no other way to do it, as the mainsail sheet passes through it.

Boom is a horizontal spar, typically made of aluminum or carbon fiber, that attaches to the mast and holds the foot of the mainsail. It runs perpendicular to the mast and is held in place by a combination of topping lift, mainsheet, and outhaul.

Bora is a powerful, cold wind originating from the north to north-east that frequently affects the Adriatic Sea. It can pose a significant risk to sailors navigating the region. To learn more about the Bora and its impact on sailing in Croatia, check out The Bora: the scourge of the Adriatic .

Bow thruster  is a mechanism located at the bow of a vessel that assists with maneuvering while in port. It is not intended to replace the main engine and should not be used while sailing. The primary function of a bow thruster is to help shift the boat's bow to port or starboard. It's essential to operate the bow thruster with caution, as it has a high voltage. Use short, intermittent presses (2-3 seconds) rather than prolonged holds to prevent the bow thruster from burning out and becoming inoperable.

Bowsprit is a spar that extends from the bow of a sailboat. It is used to attach the forestay, which supports the mast, and to extend the sail area forward. On historic ships it is slightly angled upwards towards the sky. On more modern boats it extends straight out from the bow and may be retractable or foldable to make docking and storage easier.

Brackish water is water that is neither salty like the sea nor fresh like freshwater streams. Its salinity is somewhere in between. It is most often found at the mouths of rivers or in lakes by the sea.

Breeze is a periodic wind phenomenon caused by differences in air temperature between day and night. According to the time when it occurs, it is distinguished between day (sea) and night (land). The breeze is a beautiful sailing breeze. Read more about breezes in our guide — Understanding land and sea breezes: how they can affect your sailing .

Buoy field  is an arrangement of multiple buoys within a bay, anchored to concrete blocks on the seabed. Typically, a fee is charged by the operator for using these buoys, but the cost is generally lower than docking at a pier or marina.

Cardinal marks are navigational aids that indicate the location of safe water relative to a hazard. They are named after the four cardinal points: North, East, South, and West.

Cardinal marks chart for sailors

Cardinal marks

Charter company owns the boats that are available for rental and acts as a partner to businesses like ours. We feature their boats in our search portal .

Check-in is the process of taking over a charter boat. You can find out more about what you need to look out for in our guides Boat check-in: examining a yacht down to the last screw and Inspecting your rental boat: a complete checklist and guide

Check-out is the handing over of the boat to the charter company at the end of your yacht charter holiday.

Cirrus clouds are characterized by their wispy, hair-like appearance, resembling algae, tufts, or manes. These clouds are translucent, cast no shadow of their own, and have extremely fine fibres.

Cleat  is a metal object attached to the deck of a boat used to secure the boat. It may also be on a pier.


Cleats can also be found on the pier.

Cockpit is an area towards the rear of a sailboat, typically designed for the crew to steer, navigate, and control the boat. It is the central location where the helm, rudder, and various lines, winches, and controls for sails are accessible.

Code Zero is a unique sail that isn't found on all sailboats. It is similar to a larger, deeper genoa but made from a lighter material. The sail is equipped with its own furling line and endless loop for easy deployment and storage.

COG (Course Over Ground) refers to the direction of a vessel's movement measured in relation to the earth's surface or the seabed.

COLREG  is a shortened term in English that stands for the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. These regulations provide rules for watercraft operation, ensuring clear right-of-way guidelines.

Cumulus clouds are generally puffy and white, with a flat base and a rounded top. They can have a cauliflower-like appearance, and their edges may be well-defined or fuzzy. 

Cunningham is a type of rope that runs from the base of the mast to the lower edge of the mainsail, allowing the sailor to stretch the edge of the sail downward. It is typically located on the side of the mast that is opposite to the outhaul.

Cyclone is an area of low air pressure.

Dew point  is the temperature at which the air becomes saturated with water vapour and begins to condense into dew.

Dinghy , also known as a tender , is a small boat often used by sailors to transport themselves and their supplies to and from their anchored or moored boat. Dinghies can be inflatable or made of hard materials like fiberglass or aluminum.

Dodger,  also known as  sprayhood,  is a protective structure mounted at the front of the cockpit on a sailboat. It shields the cockpit and companionway from wind, spray, and waves, providing shelter and improved comfort for the crew

EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is an emergency distress beacon that is used to transmit a distress signal to rescue authorities in the event of an emergency situation

Fender is a cushioning device made of rubber, plastic or foam that is used to protect a boat's hull from damage when it is moored against a dock, pier or another vessel. 

Flare is a signalling device used to call for help in an emergency. Its misuse is punishable.

Fog horn is a signalling device that produces loud, low-pitched sound blasts to warn other vessels of the presence of your boat in conditions of reduced visibility, such as fog or heavy rain.

Foil is a hydrodynamic device that is used to lift the hull of a boat out of the water and reduce drag. Foil technology is also used in other water sports such as windsurfing, kiteboarding, and wingfoiling.

foiling catamaran

This is what a foil looks like on a racing catamaran.

Gangway is a temporary bridge or walkway that connects a boat to a dock, allowing people to move between the two structures.

Gennaker is an additional sail that is similar to a genoa. It is made of lighter material, which makes it ideal for lighter winds. Gennakers often have distinctive colours, and there are several reasons why sailors might want to rent and try one out.  Check out our 5 reasons to rent a gennaker .

Genoa , also known as genoa jib , is a type of sail that is positioned forward of the mast and is used on sailing boats. It typically covers the area from the mast to the bow of the boat, and is larger than the mainsail. It can range in size from 100% to 150% of the foretriangle, which is the triangle formed by the mast, forestay, and deck.

GPS , which stands for Global Positioning System, is a satellite-based navigation system that provides location and time information anywhere on Earth. Sailors can use an electronic GPS device to accurately determine their position on the water.

Gulets are double-masted boats designed and built based on traditional Turkish wooden sailing boats. One of the typical destinations for gulets, which we also offer, is Turkey.

Gybe or jibe is a sailing maneuver where the sailboat's stern is turned through the wind to change the wind direction from one side of the boat to the other, usually while sailing downwind. The boom of the sail swings across the boat during a gybe, and it should be performed carefully to prevent accidents and damage to the boat and crew.

Harness is a safety device used in sailing that is attached to a sailor's body or life jacket and secured to the boat's deck with a buckle to prevent falling overboard.

Halyard  can is a rope used to raise different types of sails such as the mainsail, jib, genoa, spinnaker, and gennaker. Each sail will typically have its own dedicated halyard to hoist it up the mast.

Hatch is an opening on the deck or cabin top of a boat used for ventilation, access, or as an emergency exit.

Horseshoe life buoy is a U-shaped buoyant device made of foam or other buoyant material, and is used as a safety device in the event of a person falling overboard. It is typically kept on board a boat, often near the stern on the railings.

Impeller is a small component (propeller) in the engine that provides suction and circulation of seawater in the engine cooling. Because it is such a crucial component, you will usually find a spare one on board.

Isobar is a line on a synoptic chart that connects two points where the atmospheric pressure is the same.

Isolated hazard refers to a navigational mark or buoy placed in the sea to indicate a potential danger, such as a shoal, rock, or other underwater obstruction located in open water. While it is possible to sail around an isolated hazard, it is generally recommended to maintain a safe distance by navigating around it in a larger arc.

Isotherm is a line connecting two points of the same temperature.

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Jib is the term for a headsail that fills no more than 100% of the area between the forestay and the mast.

Jugo , also known as Sirocco , is a moody and unpredictable south to south-easterly wind found in the Adriatic. Find out more about it in our guide — The Croatian Jugo wind: when and where it occurs and why to be on the lookout! !

Keel , which is the heaviest component located beneath a boat and has the lowest center of gravity, plays a vital role in maintaining the vessel's stability. It typically accounts for up to 40% of the boat's weight and can have a fin or bomb shape. The keel's primary purpose is to stabilize the boat and prevent it from capsizing by helping to restore it to a horizontal position when it is tilted due to wind or waves.

Kicker , also known as a boom vang or vang , is a mechanical device consisting of ropes or a piston that is connected between the deck, boom, and the base of the mast. It is used to control the shape of the mainsail by adjusting the tension on the leech of the sail and controlling the boom's vertical position.

Knot can be the one on the rope or also a unit indicating the speed of the boat. It's equivalent to 1.852 kilometres per hour.

Lazy bag (sometimes called a lazy pack  or stack pack ) is a large cover designed to store a folded mainsail on the boom.

lazy bag

The lazy bag is attached to the boom and the mainsail falls into it when it is folded.

Lazy jacks are lines holding the lazy bag.

Leech  or  leach is the back edge of the sail.

Libeccio or Lebić  is a south-westerly to westerly wind and is typical of northern Corsica, the coast of France, Italy and also the Adriatic, where it usually arrives just after the Jugo/Sirocco. Read more about this wind in our article — The Libeccio/Lebić: a stubborn, unpredictable wind .

LOA  stands for  Length Overall , which is the maximum length of a vessel measured from the foremost point of the bow to the aftermost point of the stern, typically along the waterline.

Logbook is a document where a sailor writes down details of a voyage including weather, the boat's course, position and other information.

Mainsail , sometimes also referred to colloquially as the "main," is the sail that is hoisted up the mast of a sailboat.

Mainsheet track or traveller  is the rail on which the   mainsheet car or block moves back and forth, allowing for adjustment of the angle of the mainsail relative to the wind. Racing boats typically have the mainsheet track located in the cockpit for maximum adjustability, while recreational sailboats may have it located closer to the mast.

Marina is just another name for a harbour for recreational boaters. A marina often has social facilities, a shop, offices of charter companies, etc.

Marinero is a Spanish term for a marina worker who assists with various tasks, such as helping boats to dock and providing assistance to boaters with any issues or needs they may have while in the marina.

Mast is a tall vertical spar that supports the sails on a sailing vessel. It is typically located in the center of the boat and is stepped (or mounted) on the keel or deck. The mainsail is hoisted up the mast and attached to it, while the jib or headsail is usually attached to the forestay, which is a cable or wire that runs from the top of the mast to the bow of the boat. 

Meltemi  is a dry northerly wind that occurs mainly in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, from late May to late September. Read more about this wind in our guide — The Greek Meltemi: friend or foe? .

Mistral  is a cold wind found, for example, in France. It works on a similar principle to the Croatian bura. For more information, check out our article — The Mistral: a turbocharger for experienced sailors .

MOB stands for Man Overboard , which refers to the emergency situation where a crew member has fallen into the water and immediate action is required to retrieve them. Find out more in — Man Over Board (MOB): a step-by-step guide .

Mooring  can refer to any type of permanent anchor or buoy to which a boat can be tied up .  Commonly on the Adriatic, it consists of a concrete block on the bed and a rope leading to shore. The boats are then moored to it at the pier or jetty. It is a very convenient and easy way to moor a boat.

Mooring bollard  is a sturdy vertical post or pole, often made of metal or wood, that is used as a mooring point for boats.

Mooring bollard

Bollards serve both recreational boats and transport or cargo ships. Therefore, it is often large in size.

Mooring hook is pole with a hook used by boaters to grab onto a mooring buoy or other floating object in the water and retrieve the mooring rope attached to it.

Nautical flag alphabet (International Code of Signals) is a special set of characters, words and flags that sailors around the world use to communicate.

Nautical alphabet

The nautical alphabet is also used in aviation.

Nautical mile is a unit of distance at sea. 1 NM equals 1.852 m. But be aware that it differs in length to a land mile!

Occluded front  is a type of weather front that occurs when a fast-moving cold front overtakes a slower-moving warm front. This results in the warm air being lifted off the ground and creating clouds and precipitation.

Offshore typically refers to sailing or boating in open water, away from the coast or shore. This type of sailing can involve more challenging conditions and requires greater skill and experience. Read more about it our article — Beyond the shoreline: 10 things to consider when offshore sailing .

Outboard engine or outboard motor is a small portable engine designed to power a dinghy. It is ordered as an extra with the boat rental.

Outboard motor and seagull

What the seagull's sitting on is an outboard motor.

Outhaul is a control line on a sailboat that adjusts the tension of the mainsail foot, which is attached to the boom. It allows the sailor to control the depth and shape of the mainsail along the boom.

Plotter is an electronic device used for navigation that displays and tracks the boat's position and movement using GPS technology. It is often located in the cockpit.

Port (side) is the term for the left-hand side of the boat when facing forward.

Porthole  is a term for a small, usually circular window on a boat or ship.

Preventer  or boom preventer is an auxiliary line or rope that is rigged from the end of the boom to a sturdy point on the deck, mast, or other secure attachment point on the boat. The purpose of the preventer is to restrict the boom's movement and prevent an accidental or unintentional jibe, which can happen when sailing downwind or on broad reach courses.

Propeller is a device consisting of blades that rotate to provide propulsion for a boat's engine. It is often located at the stern (back) of the boat and is powered by the boat's engine.

Propwalk is a phenomenon that occurs when a boat's propeller produces a lateral force that causes the boat's stern to move to one side when the engine is in gear. This is particularly noticeable at slow speeds and when maneuvering in tight spaces, such as a marina or dock.

Propwash is the turbulence created by the rotation of the propeller. Propwash deflecting off an angled rudder allows even large boats to turn in a tighter space.

Quebec flag signal (yellow) in the International Code of Signals means "My vessel is healthy and I request free pratique" which is a signal made by a ship entering port to request permission to enter and clear customs and immigration. It is usually used when sailing abroad. To learn more about crossing borders, take a look at Can you cross national borders with a charter boat?

Reefing  is a technique used to reduce the area of the sail in order to maintain control of the boat and prevent it from being overpowered in strong winds. Charter boats usually have 2 or 3 degrees of reefing available.

Railing  is another term for the guardrails around a yacht.

Rigging refers to the system of ropes, wires, and hardware that support and control the sails and masts on a boat or ship. It includes not only the mast, boom, and standing rigging (wires or rods that support the mast), but also the running rigging (ropes that control the sails), such as halyards, sheets, and control lines.

Rudder blade is the part of the steering system that is underwater. A boat may have one or two rudder blades.

Safety line is a line running along the deck of the boat by which sailors fasten their harnesses to prevent them from falling into the water when the boat is heeling or in large waves. The safety line is not automatically installed on the boat and must be installed separately.

Self-tacking jib is a type of headsail that is specifically designed to tack without the need for adjusting the sail position or manually pulling on the sheets. The sail is attached to a track or a traveler that runs athwartships on the boat and allows the sail to pivot and change sides without having to be moved or adjusted manually.

Shackle is a small metal device used to attach a line to a sail. It is used to connect the sail to the halyard or other lines on the boat. It can also be used to connect different sails together or to connect a sail to a spar or other structural element of the boat.

Sheet is a rope or line used to control the angle and shape of a sail. There are different sheets for different sails, such as the mainsheet for the mainsail, the jib sheet for the jib sail, and the spinnaker sheet for the spinnaker sail.

Shrouds are actually a type of standing rigging, which are the fixed lines or wires that support the mast of a sailboat. They run from the mast to the sides of the boat, and help to keep the mast upright and stable.

Spreader  is a horizontal strut that extends from the mast to the side of a sailboat, providing support for the mast and helping to spread the shrouds that support the mast.

Spinnaker pole  is a long and sturdy pole used to hold the clew (bottom corner) of a spinnaker sail out from the mast of a sailing boat.

Steering wheel is the device used to control a boat's direction. It is connected to the rudder blade through a steering mechanism. Boats can have one or two steering wheels depending on size and design.

Storm sails are special sails, usually orange in colour, whose small surface area and strong material allow sailing in storms. The sails are not installed on the boat all the time, they need to be unpacked from the hold when needed. Ask at check-in where the storm sails are located on the boat.

storm sails

Storm sails often have a distinctive colour.

Skipper is just another name for the captain, the skipper of a yacht. Would you like to become a skipper too? Take a look at our sailing courses .

Spinnaker is a large, lightweight and often colourful sail that is designed to be used when sailing off the wind, such as on a reach or a downwind leg.The spinnaker is attached to the boat's mast and is supported by a spinnaker pole.

Spin-out refers to a situation in which a boat, while sailing downwind, loses control and starts turning towards the wind.

Sprayhood is a protective covering, typically made of canvas or other durable material, that is installed over the companionway (entrance to the cabin) of a sailboat. Its primary purpose is to shield the cockpit and the interior of the boat from wind, spray, and rain while underway

SRC stands for Short Range Certificate , which is a certification required for operating a marine VHF radio.

Starboard is the term used to describe the right-hand side of a boat when facing forward.

Stay is a term used to refer to a piece of rigging that helps support the mast of a sailing vessel. It typically runs from the top of the mast to the bow of the boat, forming a triangle shape along with the mast and the boat's deck.

Stratus is a type of low-level cloud characterized by its uniform, featureless appearance that often covers the entire sky.

Synoptic map , also known as a weather map, is a graphical representation of current weather conditions created using data collected from weather stations, satellites, and other sources.

Tack is the maneuver of turning the sailboat against the wind.

Telltales are pieces of yarn or fabric that are attached to a sail, stay, or rigging on a sailboat. They are used as a guide for trimming or adjusting a sail by providing information about the airflow around the sail.  

Telltales on a sail

Telltales on a sail

Tender is another word for dinghy.

Tiller is a rod used to move the rudder blade and control the direction of the boat. It is often used on smaller sailboats instead of a steering wheel. In case of an emergency, there might be a spare tiller onboard as a backup.

Topping lift  or topenant is a line that runs from the end of the boom to a point high on the mast, which supports the boom and prevents it from dropping too low when the mainsail is not raised.

Trade wind is a wind that blows steadily towards the equator from the northeast in the Northern Hemisphere and from the southeast in the Southern Hemisphere, usually found in tropical regions.

Transom is the reinforced vertical portion located at the stern of a boat. It connects the sides of the boat, giving it form and structure. The transom is also where an outboard motor is typically attached to the vessel and where the boat's name may be painted.

True wind is the actual wind that exists in the environment and is not affected by the motion of the body or the vessel. It is the wind that would be felt if the vessel were stationary.  Find out more in our article — Apparent vs. True Wind .

We found nothing for this letter except in the nautical alphabet (U: Uniform – you are heading into danger). If you can think of something to go here, get in touch.

Venturi wind is a localised wind flow originating and blowing out of a strait, for example between hills or rocks.

VHF  (short for Very High Frequency ) is electromagnetic waves that allow radio communication between ships, aircraft, ports, etc. 

Winch  is a mechanical device consisting of a drum that rotates either manually or powered by an electric or hydraulic motor. The rope or line is wrapped around the drum and as it rotates.


Drum-shaped rope winch.

Wind vane (otherwise known as a weather vane, wind indicator or a wind sock) is a small device at the end of the mast whose arrow indicates where the wind is blowing from.

If you can think of a term that could be here, please write to us.

Which of our boats will you take out on the waves?

Practice your sailing terminology on the water. get in touch and we'll find the perfect sailing boat for you..

Denisa Nguyenová

Denisa Nguyenová

ASA / American Sailing

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Sailboat Anguilla

Sailing Terms Everyone Should Know

By: American Sailing Sailboats

Knowing the right sailing terms to use on board a boat is not JUST a way of sounding super cool and impressing your friends. (Though it works for that, too.) It’s actually very useful, and sometimes crucial in communicating while you’re sailing. Some of the vocabulary used on board boats can sound arcane, which it is! That’s part of what’s fun about it; we’re still using terms that have been used by sailors for hundreds of years. So when you know your terminology, you’re participating in the grand sailing tradition, and you don’t have to say, “Can you hand me that…thing?”

main sheet

photo by b. cohen

Here are the key sailing terms you’ll want to know as you begin learning to sail !

  • Port: Facing forward, this is anything to the left of the boat. When you’re onboard, you can use this term pretty much any time you would normally say “left.” Starboard: Facing forward, this is anything to the right of the boat. Same deal as “port”–only the opposite.
  • Bow/Stern: The bow is the front of the boat, the stern is the back. Anything near the front of the boat is referred to as being “forward,” and anything toward the back is “aft” or “astern.”
  • Point of Sail: The boat’s direction relative to the wind. For example, if you’re going straight into the wind, your point of sail is called “in irons.” (Note: This isn’t a good place to be!) If the wind is blowing straight over the side of the boat, that’s called a “beam reach.” There are 8 commonly used points of sail, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before going out.
  • Helm: Where you steer the boat. Usually this is a big wheel, but on smaller boats it can be a tiller, which is basically a long wooden stick. Either of these can be used to control the boat’s rudder.
  • Keel: The keel is a long, heavy fin on the bottom of the boat that sticks down into the water. It provides stability and is the reason why modern sailboats are nearly impossible to capsize.
  • Heeling: This is the term for when a sailboat leans over in the water, pushed by the wind. There’s nothing else like the thrill of heeling over as your sails fill and your speed picks up!
  • Tack: This term has two distinct meanings, both of them very important. As a verb, to tack is to change direction by turning the bow of the boat through the wind. As a noun, your tack is the course you are on relative to the wind. For example, if the wind is blowing over the port side, you are on a port tack. If it’s blowing over the starboard side, you’re on a…you guessed it…starboard tack.
  • Jibe: A jibe is another way of changing direction, in which you bring the stern of the boat through the wind. Whether you choose to tack or jibe entirely depends on the situation–what’s around you, and the direction of the wind.
  • Windward: The side of the boat closest to the wind. When heeling over, this will always be the high side.
  • Leeward: The side of the boat furthest from the wind. When heeling over, this will always be the low side.
  • Lines: On board a boat, this is what you say instead of “ropes.”
  • Mainsail: The big triangular sail just aft of the sailboat’s mast. As the name suggests, this is the boat’s largest and most important sail. Running along its bottom edge, the mainsail has a thick pole called the boom.
  • Jib: The next most common sail on any boat. The jib can always be found forward of the mast, and unlike the mainsail, does not have a boom.

  Getting familiar with these sailing terms is an important step. Not only will you sound like you know what you’re doing, you’ll quickly begin to realize that with the right practice and training, you really DO know what you’re doing!

Try our online sailing term quizzes: Sailing Terms 1 | Sailing Terms 2 | Sailing Terms 3 | Sailing Terms 4

Learning to Sail

  • ASA 101: What You’ll Learn ASA 101 is your introduction to Basic Keelboat Sailboat and is your key to a lifetime of sailing.
  • How To Sail Sailing a boat is part art and part skill but few activities offer such a variety of pleasures as sailing. Something special occurs when you cast off the lines and leave your cares at the dock.
  • 7 Tips For The Beginning Sailor There are the obvious things you need when you go sailing, sunscreen, a hat, a windbreaker, non-skid shoes, and wind. However, what do you really need to be ready to head out on the water?
  • How To Learn To Sail You won’t have to buy a boat or learn a new language or buy a new wardrobe to get a taste for sailing. You can dictate how much you want to experience.
  • Learning To Sail Is Just The Beginning Sailing means different things to different people. At ASA we understand that learning to sail is just the beginning of a relationship with a lifestyle that is infectious. Where will sailing take you? We have a few ideas but how you view sailing is the most important.
  • What Is Your Role on a Boat? What type of sailor are you and what role do you take on the boat? Your ASA sailing education will prepare you to be a skipper on a sailing vessel and with that comes the responsibility of keeping your crew safe and ensuring the safety of the vessel you are sailing.

Related Posts:

Aerial view of the deck of a sailboat in Caribbean waters

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Boating Beast

A to Z of Nautical Terms: A Complete Glossary of Boat Terminology

John Sampson

Are you a new boat owner? Whether you bought a jet ski or a 40-foot cabin cruiser, you’re going to need to understand the lingo while you’re out on the water. Here’s a glossary of basic nautical terms to have you sounding like a sailor.

Toward the stern of the vessel.

A sail position with the wind striking on its leeward side.

Around or near the stern of the vessel.

At a right-angle to the boat’s center-line.

Lashing the helm to the leeward side to ride out bad weather without the sails set.

The center of the deck of the vessel between the fore-and-aft.

Automatic Identification System.

Apparent Wind

The speed and direction of the wind combined with the boat’s movement and the true wind speed and direction.

To look behind the boat while driving in reverse.

Automatic Radar Plotting Aid.


At a right-angle to the aft-and-fore line of the vessel.

The act of measuring the angular distance on the horizon circle in a clockwise method, typically between a heavenly body and an observer.

When the wind starts to shift in an anti-clockwise direction.

Back a sail

Sheeting the sail to the windward direction, so the wind fills the sail on the leeward side.

The stay supports the aft from the mast, preventing its forward movement.


The teased-out plaited rope wound around the stays or shrouds preventing chaffing.

Iron or lead weights are fixed in a low-access area of the vessel or on the keel to stabilize the boat.

A flexible and lightweight strip feeds into the sail leech’s batten pocket, supporting the roach.

Ballast Keel

A ballast bolted to the keel, increasing the vessel’s stability to prevent capsizing.

The widest point of the vessel or a traverse member supporting the deck. On the beam, objects are at a right-angle to the center-line.

Taking the action of steering the vessel away from the wind.

To tag a zig-zagging approach into the wind or close-hauling with alternate tacks.

The object’s direction from the observer measured in magnetic or true degrees.

To fasten the rope around the cleat using a figure-8 knot.

Securing the sail to the spar before hoisting it or connecting two ropes using a knot.

A sleeping quarters on a boat or a slip occupied by a vessel in a marina or harbor.

The loop or bend in a knot.

The round, lower part of the hull where the water collects.

The pulley fixed inside a plastic or wooden casing with a rope running around a sheave and changing to pulling direction.


The narrow-colored stripe is painted between the topside enamel and bottom paint.

The heeling action of the boat when it slews to the broadside while running downwind. Abroach usually occurs in heavy seas.

Broad Reach

The point of sailing the vessel between a run and the beam reach with the wind blowing over the quarter.

The partitioning wall in the vessel athwartship.

A measurement of distance equal to 0.1-sea mile, 185-meters, or 200-yards.


The center of the vessel along the aft-to-fore line.


A board lowers through a slot on the keel for reducing leeway.

The fitting slipping over the boom like a claw. It attaches to the main sheet after you finish reefing the sail.

Chart Datum

The reference level on the charts below which the low tide level. The sounding features below the chart datum. The datum level varies depending on country and area.

The metal, wooden, or plastic fitting used to secure ropes.


The skill of sailing close to the wind, also known as beating.

The lower, aft corner of the sail where the leech and foot meet.

Close Reach

The point where you’re sailing between the beam reach and the close-hauled or when the wind blows toward the forward of the beam.

The direction that you steer the vessel in degrees. Mariners can use true or magnetic readings or use a compass to plot the course.


The act of sailing a boat close to the wind.

The rope loop at either end of the line reef points or an eye in a sail.

The difference between the direction indicated by the magnetic meridian and the compass needle, caused by carrying metal objects aboard the vessel.

Sailing with the wind blowing to the aft, in line with the center-line of the vessel.


The displacement hull design displaces boat weight in the water and is only supported by its buoyancy.

The weight of the water displaced by the vessel is equal to the vessel’s weight.

The rope used to pull down the spar or sail.

To float the vessel with the wind or current. Or the distance covered by the boat while drifting in the current, measured in time.

The distance between the lowest point on the keel and the center-line of the vessel measured as a vertical distance.

The sea anchor thrown over the stern of a life raft or boat or to reduce drift.

Digital Selective Calling (a function on Marine radios ).

A retractable keel drawn into the vessel’s hull.

Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon.

Estimated Position.

Estimated Time of Departure.

Estimated Time of Arrival.

The fitting adjusting the feeding line allows you to change the direction of the lead line.

The raised border on cabin tables, chart tables, preventing objects from falling off the surface.

Measurement of water depth and rope lengths.

  • 1 Fathom = 6-feet = 1.83-meters.

The vessel positioning plotted by two or more positioning lines.

The vertical distance between the top of the deck and the waterline.

The closest stay running between the masthead and stemhead, hankering the mainsail.

A large-size headsail is available in various sizes, overlapping the mainsail before hoisting in fresh to light winds on all sailing points.

Two concentric rings pivot at right-angles to keep objects horizontal despite the swaying motion of the boat.

Global Navigation Satellite System.

Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.

To change tack by turning the boat into the eye of the wind.

Booming out the headsail in a windward position using the whisker pole to hold it on the opposite side of the mainsail.

The fitting anchoring the mast to the boom, allowing free movement in all directions.

This metal rail surrounds the boat’s edges, allowing easy gripping to prevent falling overboard.

Turning the stern through the wind to change from one tack to another.

The spinnaker guy controls the steadying rope for the spar through the aft-fore position of the spinnaker pole. The foreguy keeps the spinnaker pole in the forward position.

Global Positioning System.

The rope hoisting the lower sails.

Highest Astronomical Tide.

The fitting for attaching the sail’s luff to a stay.

The deck opening provides the crew with access to the berth or cabin interior.

The streamlined surround of a forestay featuring the groove allows for the sliding attachment of the luff sides of the headsail.


When the bow of the vessel points into the direction of the wind.

The forward motion of the vessel through the water.

The toilet.

The action of backing the jib and lashing the tiller to the leeward side in rough weather conditions. The heave-to encourages the vessel to reduce headway and lie quietly.

When the vessel exaggeratedly leans to one side.

International Maritime Organization.

International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

International Telecommunication Union

The lines on weather maps joining places with equal atmospheric pressure.

The temporary device for replacing damaged or lost gear.

The line running from aft-to-fore on both sides of the vessel. The jackstays allow for the clipping attachment of safety harnesses to prevent being lost at sea when falling overboard.

A secondary, smaller, lightweight anchor.

A dual-masted sailboat featuring a mizzen mast that’s slightly smaller than its mainmast, with a stepped forward position of the rudder post/stock.

The center-line of the vessel features the attachment of the ballast keel, allowing for the lowering of the center-board.

Kicking Strap

The line for pulling down the boom or keeping it in the horizontal position when on a run or reach.

A short length of line attached to an important object that you don’t want to lose, such as the jet ski key. The lanyard can connect to your wrist or lifejacket.

The aft edge of the triangular sail. Both side-edges of a square sail.

Lowest Astronomical Tide.

The shore on which the wind is blowing.

The natural tendency of vessels to bear away from the direction of the wind.

Moving in a direction away from the wind. The direction in which the wind is blowing.

The vessel’s leaning to one side due to improper distribution of weight in the boat’s hull.

The leading edge of the sail. Luffing up is turning the head of the boat into the wind.

The sideways motion off course resulting from the wind blowing on one side of the hull and sails.

The instrument for measuring the distance and speed of a boat traveling through the water. It is also the act of recording the details of a voyage in a logbook.

Marinized engine

A car engine or motorbike motor adapted for use in watercraft.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The keel socket locating the base of the mast.

Measured Mile

The distance marked on charts measures one nautical mile between islands at sea or onshore ranges.

The short after-mast on the yawl or ketch.

This imaginary longitudinal line circling the earth, passing through both poles, cutting at right-angles through the equator.

Mean Low Water Neaps.

Mean High Water Neaps.

Mean High Water Springs.

Mean Low Water Springs.

Maritime Mobile Service Identity.

The rope used for pulling out the sail’s foot.

Overall Length (LOA)

The extreme length of the vessel. The measurement from the aftmost point of the stern to the foremost points of the bow. This measurement excludes the self-steering gear, bowsprit, etc.

An emergency call requesting immediate assistance.

The bowline on a tender or dinghy for towing or making fast.

To gradually let out the rope.

The left-hand side of the vessel when looking forward.

Point of Sailing

The angles of the wind allowing for the sailing of the boat. Or the boat’s course relative to its direction and the direction of the wind.

Your vessel is on its port track when the wind is striking the boat’s port side first, and the mainsail is out to the starboard side.

Line of Position/Position Line

The line on charts shows the bearing of the vessel and the position where the boat mist lie. Or two positional lines providing a location fix.

The steel guard rail fitted to the bow to provide additional safety for the crew when working around the boat’s edge.

The steel guard rail fitted around the stern of the boat to prevent the crew from falling overboard.

The section of the vessel midway between the beam and the stern.

The difference in water levels between the high and low tides is the range of tides. Or the distance at which you can see the light.

The act of reducing the sail surface area through folding or rolling additional materials onto the forestay or boom.

Reefing Pennant

The sturdy line allowing you to pull down the leech cringle or luff to the boom while reefing.

When sailing with the wind blowing onto the beam, with all sailing points between close-hauled and running.

Riding Sail

The small sail you hoist to maintain the steerage way during stormy weather.

The imaginary line cuts through all meridians at the same angle. Or the course of the vessel moving in a fixed direction.

Rigging Screw

The deck fitting allowing for tensioning of the standing rigging.

The act of sailing with the wind to the aft of the vessel and with the sails eased into the wide-out, full position.

The curve in a leech sail extending beyond the direct line formed from clew to head.

Running Rigging

All moving lines like halyards and sheets used for trimming and setting sails.

Search and Rescue.

A vessel with two or more masts and the mainmast featured in the aftermost position.

Search and Rescue Transponder.

The toe-rail holes allowing water to drain off the deck.

The room in which the vessel can maneuver clear of submerged dangers.

The shut-off valve for the underwater outlet or inlet passing through the vessel’s hull.

This is French for “radio silence.” You’ll use it when reporting a distress call or incident at sea.

The act of hoisting a sail. Or how the sails fit or the direction of a tidal stream or current.

A procedure word for identifying safety calls.

A steel link featuring a removable bolt crossing the open end. The shackle comes in various designs, from “S” to “U” shapes and more.

The cables or ropes typically fund in pairs, leading from the mast to the chainplates at the deck level. These shrouds prevent the mast from falling to the side, and it’s part of your standing rigging.

The rope attaching to the boom to the sail’s clew allows for the trimming and control over the sail.

Skin Fitting

A through-hull fitting featuring a hole in its skin allows for air and water passing. The seacock is the accessory used for sealing the cavity when not in use.

A boat with a single-masted design for one headsail and one mainsail.

The general term for any metal or wooden pole on board a boat. The pole gives shape to the sails.

Safety of Life at Sea.

Speed Over the Ground

A lightweight, large balloon-shaped sail for running or reacting.

The horizontal struts attach to the mast and extend to the shrouds to assist with supporting the mast.

The act of joining wires or ropes using a weaving process interlacing the fibers in the cable or rope.

The sail will stall if the airflow over the sail surface breaks up, causing the vessel to lose its momentum.

Standing Part

The part of the line you don’t use when making a knot. Or the part of a rope you use to tie around the knot.

The metal post bolted to the deck in an upright position to support the guard railing.

Standing Rigging

The stays and shrouds provide permanent support to the mast.

Starboard Tack

The vessel is on the starboard tack when the boom is out to post, and the wind strikes the boat’s starboard side.

The right-hand side of the vessel when looking forward.

The rope or wire supports the mast in the fore-and-aft direction. It is a part of the standing rigging for your boat.

The sternward movement of the vessel towards the backward direction.

Steerage Way

The vessel has steerage when it reaches sufficient speed, allowing for steering or answering the helm.

The loop of rope or wire attaches the spar to the block to make a sling.

The railing around the vessel’s stern prevents the crew from falling overboard. Modern yachts do not have the elegant wooden railing of older models. Instead, they feature tubular steel or aluminum railings, called Pushpits.

Telegraph Buoy

The buoy marks the position of a submerged cable.

To pull on the end of the rope or cable, wound around a winch.

The compass mounted over the captain’s berth, allowing for the easy reference to what’s going on in the vessel’s helm.

The metal fitting forming eyes at the end of cables, wires, or ropes.

A description for any small boat, usually inflatable models. These boats will take supplies and people between a larger vessel and the shore.

Thermal Wind

The wind occurring from the difference in the heating of the sea and the land by the sun. The sun heats the land faster than the sea, resulting in the onshore wind from the sea replacing the air rising over the land, causing the “sea breeze” phenomenon.

Thumb Cleat

A small cleat featuring a single horn.

The wooden pegs featuring vertical pairs in the gunwale for constraining the oars for rowing.

Topping Lift

The rope linking the mast to the boom end. It supports the boom, allowing for its lowering and raising.

The progress on the vessel’s journey over the ocean. The trajectory line of the boat.

The sides of the hull between the waterline and the deck.

The netting stretching across the hulls of a catamaran.

A watch period or watch duty at the helm of the vessel.

Traverse beams forming part of the stern and fixed to the sternpost of a wooden ship.

Tricolor Lamp

A lamp displaying red in proper port sectors, green in the starboard sectors, and white astern. Some authorities permit the tri-color light on smaller boats instead of conventional stern and bow lights.

Turk’s Head

A decorative knot featuring variable numbers of interwoven strands that form a closed loop.

The direction and velocity of wind measured by stationary observers. Apparent wind is wind experienced by moving objects.

Sturdy steel fittings used for attaching standing rigging to the spar or mast.

The low, forward corner of the sail. Or the action of turning the boat through the wind to get it to blow on the other side of the sails.

Sailing close-hauled to work windward on an alternate course. The wind is on one side then the other.

The low strip of steel, wood, or strapping running along the edge of the deck. You’ll use it in combination with the hand railing to hold your feet to the deck to prevent falling overboard.

The rise and fall of the ocean are caused by the moon’s gravitational effect on the earth and the ocean.

The line moving from the mast had to the spar or the boom used in raising it.

To adjust the sail angle using sheets to achieve optimal efficiency from the sail. Or it describes the action of adjusting the load, influencing the fore-and-aft angle at which it floats.

The course of the boat making good on its travel plan. A fitting of on the boom or mast to the slide on the sail fit. The fitting along which the traveler runs for altering the sheet tension.

The speed and direction of the wind when anchored, stationary on the water, or land.

Turn Buckle

The apparatus used for tightening the standing rigging on the vessel.

A line used in raising something like a spinnaker pole vertically.

The vessel is underway when it releases it fastening to shore when it is not aground or at anchor.

See kicking strap.

The wind will veer when shifting in a clockwise direction. Veering can also mean paying out anchor rope or cable in a controlled manner.

Velocity Made Good

Very High Frequency

The disturbed water left behind (astern) the boat as it moves forward in the water, usually caused by a motor.

Weather Helm

The tendency of the vessel to turn into the wind.

The distance between the radio waves.

Weather Side

The side of the vessel to which the wind is blowing.

World Geodetic Survey of 1984 (most common chart datum).

A mechanical device featuring a cable or line attached to a motor. The winch pulls the boat aboard the trailer and helps with the vessel’s launch from the trailer. The winch also gives more pulling power to withdrawing nets or other apparatus from the water.

Whisker Pole

A lightweight pole used for holding the clew out of the headsail when on a run.

The winch features a vertical handle and a horizontal shaft used in hauling up the anchor chain.

The parts of the vessel that increase the drag on the boat. Examples would be the spars, rigging, etc.

The direction from which the wind blows toward the wind (the opposite way to leeward).

Cross Track Error. The perpendicular distance between two waypoints off track.

A dual-masted vessel with its mizzen stepped aft of its rudder post/stock.

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Politics latest: Chancellor appears to let slip when election could be

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has nodded to when the election could finally be held. It comes after a former minister warned Tory plotters against ousting Rishi Sunak before the vote, as his mooted replacement - Penny Mordaunt - gave short shrift to suggestions she could become prime minister.

Tuesday 19 March 2024 19:15, UK

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

  • Politics Hub With Beth Rigby is live - watch in stream above
  • Chancellor hints at October election  | The dates PM could pick
  • Drakeford gives emotional resignation statement
  • Mooted Sunak rival responds to leadership rumours
  • Shadow chancellor delivers major speech on economic vision
  • Ed Conway: Why Labour's struggling to set itself apart on economy
  • Follow Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge on WhatsApp
  • Listen to Politics At Jack And Sam's  wherever you get your podcasts
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker and (earlier)  Faith Ridler

Our deputy political editor Sam Coates is one of the journalists in the audience for Rachel Reeves's prestigious lecture in the City tonight.

"At the heart of it is this promise of stability," says Sam.

"Her argument is stability brings growth, a return to something better."

The hour-long speech spends some time criticising the Tories for "chopping and changing", says Sam, both on the party's plans and the sheer number of prime ministers it's gone through in recent years.

"She makes this criticism of instability even though you just had some chopping and changing from the Labour Party themselves," Sam notes.

That's on the commitment to spend £28bn a year on green investments, which the shadow chancellor was key to torpedoing.

Sam says this speaks to the caution at the heart of her pitch to voters.

"The question is whether stability is enough, gets growth and more tax money that can fund better public services," he says.

She may risk her cautious approach "binding the hands of her party too much" should it get into government.

Labour's Rachel Reeves, the woman who could become Britain's first female chancellor, is delivering a major speech tonight about the party's economic policy.

You can get the main points in our 18.41 post .

Ahead of that, she spoke with our economics and data editor Ed Conway about her plans - and Ed didn't come away with a great deal of clarity about how she'd set herself apart from the Tories...

Rachel Reeves is on the cusp of becoming Britain's first female chancellor.

A job she's apparently wanted all her political life.

Tonight, she’s delivering the prestigious Mais lecture ( see 18.41 and 18.39 posts ) - a big deal in the financial world. 

And she'll explain how her economic vision boils down to one simple world: stability.

No bold moves on tax, spending or borrowing. 

Tough fiscal rules. Iron discipline. Protections for the Bank of England.

A stronger independent fiscal watchdog.

If it doesn't sound that exciting, well, that's because it isn't.

And that's to the disappointment - perhaps - of some in her party, as well as some voters who maybe want more. 

In fact, tonight, Sharon Graham of the Unite union has said Labour's growth plan is "for the birds" ( see 17.20 post ).

The union boss is clear: "Meddling and tinkering" around the edges isn't going to deliver the serious growth Britain needs.

But believe it or not, that is the plan.

What Ms Reeves has been doing for the past two years is making sure Labour's trusted on the economy. And she's intensely political about not giving the Conservatives any room to undermine that message.

Let's not forget economic competence is a top election priority. 

And if you want proof - it was Ms Reeves who torpedoed the £28bn a year in borrowing for green investment. 

That was to kill off that Tory attack. And she's not going to give them more ammo before election day.

When you're 20 points ahead in the polls, why rock the boat? Ms Reeves reckons stability itself brings the change. 

Politics Hub   is live now on Sky News, presented by  Beth Rigby .

The fast-paced programme dissects the inner workings of Westminster, with interviews, insights, and analysis - bringing the audience into the corridors of power.

Beth will be joined by Tory MP  Stuart Andrew  from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, after the government introduced long-awaited legislation to create a football regulator ( read more ).

Also on the show is Labour shadow minister  Nick Thomas-Symonds .

On Beth's panel tonight are:

  • Jess Phillips , Labour MP and Beth's  Electoral Dysfunction  co-host;
  • Jonathan Gullis , Tory MP for Stoke-on-Trent North.

Watch Politics Hub  from Monday to Thursday on Sky channel 501, Virgin channel 602, Freeview channel 233, on the  Sky News website  and  app  or on  YouTube .

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is giving the annual Mais Lecture at the Bayes Business School.

See below for the key points of her speech. We'll be updating the post as the speech goes on:

  • The UK is in a moment of "flux" in the economy like the 1970s, and supply side reform is also needed;
  • She proposes three key ways forward - guaranteeing stability, streamlining investment, and reform;
  • The collapse in productivity growth is the reason behind the collapse of real-time wage growth;
  • A course change is needed to improve the UK's competitiveness, but also increase living standards and ensure a healthy democracy;
  • She criticises "stop-go" capital investment, which has seen long-term projects gutted due to short term headwinds, as well as a poorly negotiated and rushed Brexit deal for the country's poor economic performance;
  • Cutting spending during a period of low interest - the austerity era - was a drastic mistake;
  • The 2008 financial crisis heralded a new age of issues with globalisation, highlighted by scenarios like supply chains being disrupted by Houthi rebels;
  • Growth must be built on a wide base, as the world is inherently insecure;
  • It is no longer enough for a state to get out of the way of the economy and only intervene sparingly - but the UK does not need to retreat into itself, but rather increase trade with others without exposing itself too much to external shocks;
  • The Bank of England will retain its independence and keep a 2% inflation target;

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is outlining what a Labour government would do to generate growth, as she delivers the annual Mais Lecture at the Bayes Business School.

Watch live in the stream below - and we'll have a separate post shortly on all the main points from her speech.

Never mind election speculation, the really big rumour of the day has been who might be the next James Bond.

Reports suggest it's going to be Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the British star who's appeared in films like Tenet, Kick-Ass, Godzilla, and Avengers.

Never mind what casting directors make of him, what about Number 10?

After all, Bond's bosses need a solid relationship with the PM…

"It's an iconic role, and I'm sure he'll do a good job," Rishi Sunak's spokesman said today.

Just make sure you stick to the plan, 007.

One year ago, Rishi Sunak made five pledges for voters to judge him on.

The prime minister met his pledge to halve inflation by the end of 2023, leaving four pledges outstanding.

However, he is faring less well with his other pledges.

It has been confirmed the UK is now in recession, which means the PM's pledge to grow the economy is not being met.

With the general election approaching, how is Mr Sunak doing on delivering his other promises?

You can see the progress for yourself below.

We've been reporting this afternoon on the chancellor's appearance at a House of Lords committee, where he appeared to suggest the general election will happen in October.

Ministers have been coy on specifics until now, only going as far to say that autumn is likely.

Since Jeremy Hunt's comment earlier, we've been narrowing down the potential dates we could finally go to the polls (see pinned post).

You can watch the moment he seemed to let the likely month slip below:

The Sky News live poll tracker - collated and updated by our Data and Forensics team - aggregates various surveys to indicate how voters feel about different political parties.

Labour is still sitting comfortably on a roughly 21-point lead, averaging at 44.1% in the polls, with the Tories on 23.1%.

In third is Reform UK on 11.3%, followed by the Lib Dems on 9.8%.

The Green Party stands at 5.8%, and the SNP on 2.9%.

See the latest update below - and you can read more about the methodology behind the tracker  here .

Be the first to get Breaking News

Install the Sky News app for free

sailboat short definition


  1. Understanding Sailboats and Sailing

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  1. Things on our sailing boat that just make sense ⛵️ #sailing #shorts

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    The meaning of SAILBOAT is a boat usually propelled by sail. a boat usually propelled by sail… See the full definition ... Recent Examples on the Web With time running short, ... Share the Definition of sailboat on Twitter Twitter. Kids Definition. sailboat. noun. sail· boat ˈsā(ə)l-ˌbōt

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    Sailboats are powered by sails using the force of the wind. They are also referred to as sailing dinghies, boats, and yachts, depending on their size. Sailboats range in size, from lightweight dinghies like the Optimist dinghy (7'9") all the way up to mega yachts over 200 feet long. The length is often abbreviated as LOA (length overall), which ...


    SAILBOAT definition: 1. a small boat with sails 2. a small boat with sails 3. a boat with one or more sails used to move…. Learn more.

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    A sailboat or sailing boat is a boat propelled partly or entirely by sails and is smaller than a sailing ship. Distinctions in what constitutes a sailing boat and ship vary by region and maritime culture. ... They are popular in youth sailing programs for their short LOA, simple operation and minimal maintenance. They have three (or fewer ...

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    one mast. triangular mainsail (called a Bermuda sail) a foresail (also called the jib) fore-and-aft rigged. medium-sized (12 - 50 ft) Fore-and-aft rigged just means "from front to back". This type of rigging helps to sail upwind. Any sailboat with one mast and two sails could still be a sloop.

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    Starboard, tack, jib…. Well, no worries. In this article, I'll go over the most important sailing terms for beginners. This is a great resource for beginning sailors that need an overview of the most important sailing terms without drowning in it. For a comprehensive list, check out this Wikipedia glossary of nautical terms.

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    sailboat: 1 n a small sailing vessel; usually with a single mast Synonyms: sailing boat Types: show 4 types... hide 4 types... catamaran a sailboat with two parallel hulls held together by single deck catboat a sailboat with a single mast set far forward sharpie a shallow-draft sailboat with a sharp prow, flat bottom, and triangular sail; ...

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    Often just referred to as "the main.". Boom: The spar that sticks out behind the mast. Rudder: The rudder is also a fin sticking down under the boat but is located back towards the stern and connected to the wheel or tiller, enabling you to steer the vessel. Headsail: The sail (s) in front of the mast.

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    Sailing vocabulary is riddled with plenty of words that you think you know the meaning of but they seem to mean something entirely different once you get out on the water. In fact, quite a few words or sayings have multiple meanings on a sailboat. Have no fear, your sailing education will give you the knowledge to decipher what the captain and ...

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    1. Introduction. Sailing has always captivated the human imagination, and one type of sailboat that has left an indelible mark in maritime history is the schooner. With its distinctive design and graceful sails, the schooner embodies timeless elegance and the romance of the open sea. In this article, we will explore the definition of a schooner ...

  16. Basic Sailing Terminology: Sailboat Parts Explained

    Sailing as close to the wind as possible, with the sail set at a sharp angle to the boat. Beam Reach. Sailing perpendicular to the wind, with the sail set at a right angle to the boat. Broad Reach. Sailing with the wind at a diagonal angle behind the boat, with the sail angled away from the boat. Running.

  17. Sailing Terms and Phrases: A Comprehensive Guide to Nautical Jargon

    Short answer sailing terms and phrases: Sailing terms and phrases refer to language specific to the sport of sailing. They include terms related to boat parts, sailing maneuvers, wind direction, and navigation. Understanding these terms is crucial for effective communication and safe sailing practices. Understanding the Basics: A Guide to Sailing Terms and PhrasesWelcome aboard,

  18. Parts Of a Sail Explained (Illustrated Beginners Guide)

    When sailing upwind, pay close attention to the luff, as it can provide valuable information about your sail's trim. A properly trimmed sail will have a smooth luff, allowing the boat to move efficiently against the wind. Leech is the rear edge of the sail. The leech is opposite the luff. It plays a critical role in controlling the overall ...

  19. Cutter-Rigged Sailboat Definition: Everything You Need to Know

    Short answer cutter-rigged sailboat definition: A cutter-rigged sailboat is a type of sailing vessel characterized by its rigging configuration, which includes a single mast set further aft and multiple headsails. This design offers versatility in various wind conditions, providing better control and balance while sailing.

  20. Key sailing terminology every sailor should know

    Anchor windlass is a mechanical device used to hoist and lower the anchor and its chain on a boat. It operates under high tension and typically has its own circuit breaker to protect it from electrical overloads. When using an anchor windlass, it is essential to allow for short breaks during operation to prevent it overheating and any resultant damage to the equipment.

  21. Sailing Terms You Need To Know

    Here are the key sailing terms you'll want to know as you begin learning to sail! Port: Facing forward, this is anything to the left of the boat. When you're onboard, you can use this term pretty much any time you would normally say "left.". Starboard: Facing forward, this is anything to the right of the boat.

  22. A to Z of Nautical Terms: A Complete Glossary of Boat Terminology

    A short length of line attached to an important object that you don't want to lose, such as the jet ski key. The lanyard can connect to your wrist or lifejacket. ... Sailing close-hauled to work windward on an alternate course. The wind is on one side then the other. Toe Rail. The low strip of steel, wood, or strapping running along the edge ...

  23. Glossary of nautical terms (A-L)

    A short movable bar of iron or hard wood to which running rigging may be secured, or "belayed". Belaying pins are inserted in holes in a pin-rail. bell See ship's bell. bell rope A short length of line made fast to the clapper of the ship's bell. bell buoy A type of buoy with a large bell and hanging hammers that sound by wave action. below

  24. New extremism definition unveiled because 'democracy at risk from far

    The definition describes extremism as "the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance" that aims to "negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of ...

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