Boat Terminology!

HEY!! Thanks for stopping in!

There is nothing quite like sailing. Sailing has his way of making you feel a primal instinct of control and freedom. From hoisting your sails, riding the wind, watching the sunrise or set , trimming your sails to coast along side the wind or simply a day of exploring, racing, and learning your boat and what makes it happy. There is really nothing that can compare with the excitement, freedom and shear satisfaction of hard work paying off so you can enjoy a day of  sailing. 

   Over time my goal is to help whoever would like to learn the art of sailing. First you must begin by learning about the boat– The name of its parts, how it’s built, and how sales, Rutter’s, and Center boards work. Later down the road I will teach you how to rig a small sailboat and how to make it go wherever you want it to go and do whatever you want it to do. I will also teach you about safety how to handle bad weather and how to tie the simple knots that Sailors have used for centuries. There are sailing traditions and language that has been sea handed down from the days of Columbus and Drake and Magellan. 


When first learning how to sail basic terminology might feel taxing. At first it might seem hard to remember that Port is left, starboard is right, and a rope is actually a line. An easy way to remember that Port is left by remembering that Port has 4 letters and so does left. It’s also important to remember that these directions Our only true when you are facing the bow which is the front of the boat. And sure I’ll throw in some extra terminology. Bow is the front of the boat and Stern is the back of the boat. Bows are pointed to cut down on drag as the boat goes through the water. When you are looking at the bow of your boat you are looking forward, and when you are looking towards the back of the boat you are looking AFT But don’t worry all of these terminologies will come full circle and you will learn but they are not hard to memorize I will do my best to find illustrations so you can visualize some of this terminology. It is very important that you learn the proper terminology.. If someone yells at you go grab that shackle you don’t want to be embarrassed but not understanding what that means. “It’s much quicker and more precise for the Captain/Skipper to say” grab the main halyard shackle” then to shout “grab that metal thing that looks like a little horseshoe at the end of the rope that holds up the big sail!”By the end of this article you will learn how important it is to follow nautical traditions and how useful they truly are. 

   There are five main parts to a sailboat whether you have the smallest thing or a millionaire yacht loaded with the latest gizmos there are 


1: The body of the boat —The hull

2: The sails which uses the wind to make it go

3: The mast which holds up the sails and which in turn is held upright by a set of wires called shrouds and stays.

4: The rudder which steers the boat by means of a long-handle called a tiller ( Newer and bigger boats don’t necessarily have a handheld tiller But often Store an emergency tiller in case the steering goes out.

5: The Centerboard or Keel which prevents the boat from slipping sideways under pressure from the wind


Rocking is a part of a boat’s natural movement in the water. You will develop strong sea legs as you grow skilled at keeping both yourself and the boat balanced properly. You will learn where to hang on and where is most comfortable to sit, as you get moving or underway(-when the boat is moving and under control) the boat will have the push of wind against the sail. This steadies the boat and reduces the amount of rocking back and forth. Although there are several kinds of sails and masts, This article describes the usual set up or rig ( set up of a boats sails and spars) on small boats with 2 sails and 1 mast. The larger of the two sails are called the Mainsail, and the smaller one is the Jib. 

So for an example the Jib is forward f of the mast. Catching on yet??


Parts of the Sail


The usual shape for sails is the triangle. The forward edge of the sail is called the Luff.

The edge parallel to the deck is the foot , and the aft, sloping edge is the leech. Oh man! I hope you understand what the deck is! If you dont it is the the top of the boat you would walk on to head to the bow  or to stern. 

The top corner of the sail is called the head, The forward corner is the tack and the aft is the corner is the clew.


Fun fact

“The three unusual terms luff, clew, leech– came from the eurpean languages and date back to the times when columbus sailed across the Alantic” – YAY google and wiki!


What the hell is Heeling?

As the wind picks up speed your boat will begin to tip over to one side, Also known as Heeling!, Fun Fact- the hull is designed to sail faster under heel( no more than 15 degrees –I think– excuse me as I am no expert) On smaller basic keel boats you and your crew can keep it from heeling too far by shifting your weight to one side of the boat opposite to the direction it is heeling. ( or also known as the windward side ) By holding onto the main or jib sheet and leaning back you will then create a balance to the boat. This balancing is called Hiking. You will get wet while hiking so dress appropriately. Now.. If the wind changes and you are unable to balance yourself you may become victim to capsizing.


Now what the hell is capsizing?


Well.. Let me first say that keeled boats generally will not tip over, or also known as capsizing. But boats with centerboards, and dagger boards can and sometimes will capsize!

Most small boats and even bigger boats ( we live aboard a self correcting Westerly Sealord Here is a link to our Instagram ) are designed to turn upright without too much difficulty after capsizing. 


What should I do if I capsize?

Capsizing usually results from heeling too far or an accidental jibe. If your boat does go over on its side do not swim away!!!! 

There are several things you must do.. And quickly! First, make sure that noone is trapped under the boat of tangled in the rigging, If they are , obviously HELP THEM GET FREE! Next stand on the center board as quickly as possible to prevent the boat from turning completely upside down. Be sure the main sheet is free and free the jib so the sails will not fill with water when its right side up again. If possible try to swim the bow into the wind or also known as the no sail zone. Then swim back to the side of the boat, grab the gunswale or shrouds and stand on the centerboard, lean back with your weight and the boat should float back upright. Hang up as it becomes upright again and slide your way back into the boat. You may have to use a pail to get the water out unless you have a self bailing boat. The most important information to keep in mind if you have capsized the boat is to never and I repeat never make the decision to abort ship and attempt to swim to shore, The boat floats, and doesnt get tired, and is visible for others to see.  


Well folk! If you are interested in learning more terminology here are a list of naught nautical terms to study!


Abeam–At right angles to the side of the boat

Aft– Towards the stern or back of the boat

Aloft– up

Adminship– the middle of the boat from side to side or from front to back

Anchor- a heavy metal object used to hold the boat in place when it is not at a dock or Mooring Buoy

Anchor rode– a line for the anchor

Backstay- a cable supporting the masked runs from Stern to the top of the mast.

Bare Poles- Sailing without sails set, generally in heavy wind.

Battens–Flat pieces of wood or fiberglass to use to flatten the leech edge of the sail

Beam –the widest part of your boat.

Beam reach– a point-of-sale With the Wind coming directly over the side of your boat

Bearing– The direction of one object from another measured in degrees from North, or measured relative to the Boat Center Line.

Beat (to Windward)– to sail close to the wind to reach a place lying upwind of you.

Block– The nautical term for pulley

Boltrope– reinforcing rope sewn along the foot of the sail

Boom- The part of my boat that my crew member always hits with his head– Also known as a spar running at the right angle from the mass to hold the foot of the sail.

Bow– pronounce as in a dog’s bark not as in bow and arrow which is the front end of the boat.

Bowline– this strong not create a loop in the end of a line that doesn’t slip and is easy to untie

Broadreach- a point-of-sale between a beam reach and running between 90 and 100 degrees away from the wind

Capsize– to turn over

Cast off– to untie from a dock or Mooring.

Centerboard– a pivoting board that prevents a boat from sliding sideways

Cleat hitch– secures line to a horn cleat 

Clew– The aft lower corner of the sail

Close Hauled– A point-of-sale with a wind coming from just forward of the bow sailing as close to the wind as possible.

Close reach– A point-of-sale between close-hauled and beam reach between 45 and 90 degrees to the wind 

Cockpit- An area inside the hull where the captain and crew operate.

Compass–  a magnetic device that indicates the direction of magnetic north

Downwind- sailing with the wind behind on a broad reach or a run.

Ease off– to let out.

Fall off– to move the bow away from the wind.

Foresail– the forward most sail on a boat.

Forstay– cable supporting the Mast, running from the bow to the top of the mast.

Furl– to roll up a lowered sail and secure it.

Gunswale– the top edge of the side of the hull

Halyard– a line used to hoist sails.

Head– the top corner of a sail.

Heading– the direction your boat is going

Headsail– a cell set forward of the mast

Heave to– receptor cells and the rudder so the boat does not sell you do this when you Want to Hold Your Position

Heel- meaning the boat to one side in response to the wind

Helm–The teller or will that controls the rudder

Horn Cleat– a horn shaped metal fitting bolted to a boat or dock used to secure lines

Hull– the main body of a boat

Jam Cleat–similar to a horn cleat but with a pinched and that secures a line on one wrap around 

Jib–He had sailed  set forward of the mast.

Jibe– to turn around by putting the stern of a boat through the wind

Jibsheet– a line used to pull the gym in or let it out

Keel– a for-and-aft extension below the boat that prevents the boat from slipping sideways 

Leech– the alft and longest edge of a triangular sail

Leeward–The direction away from the wind.

Leeway– sideways motion of the boat caused by wind pressure.

Line– rope to sailors

Loose footed–a cell secured to the bloom only at the tack and the clew

Luff– the forward edge of a triangular sail

Luffpoint– moment at which a sail is out too far and begins to ripple at the forward Edge.

Magnetic north– the point near the North Pole toward which the needle of a compass is strong

Main sail– the largest sale on the mainmast

Mainsheet– a line used to pull the main seal in or let it out

Make fast– to secure a line by tying a knot or hitch.

Mast –a tall spar  that holds up sails 

Mooring–an anchored float to tie up to.

No sail-zone– a pie slice shaped Area 45 degrees on either side of the wind direction.

Outhaul –Shortline at the clue corner of the Mainsail used to secure the foot

Point of Sail– the boat’s position in relations to the wind

Port– the left side of the boat when you’re looking forward

Rig– the setup of a boat sales and spars

Rudder- a flat board behind the stern and that steers a boat.

Running–A point-of-sale With the Wind directly behind the boat

Shakle–horseshoe shaped metal fitting that closes with a key secures lines and sails

Sheets- lines used to trim sail

Shrouds– wire cables that hold up the Mast, running from the top of the Mast to the side of the boat. 

Slack water–the. At the turn of the tide when the water is still neither rising or falling.

Spar– nautical term for a mast boom or gaff

Stall– when I sail has lost its wind and no longer act as an airfoil you might stall a sail to slow down.

Starboard– the right side of the boat when you were looking forward

Stays- wire cables that hold up the Mast running for and aft

Stern– the back end of the boat

Stopper knot- a knot that prevent lines from slipping through an opening

Tack– the forward lower corner of a sail or  the direction of the wind on sails

Telltale–yarn tied to the shrouds to indicate wind direction

Tiller– a long handle attached to the rudder for steering a boat

Timber Hitch– a series of Loops that can come undone with one pull on the end of the sheet

Transom– if flattened back end of a boat normally where the dinghy is stored

 Underway–When the boat is moving and under control

Winch– a gear drone that makes it easier to pull lines

Windward– the direction the wind is coming from


Well! I hope this helps out! I did plenty of research from google and from some good old fashion Books!


Please support my blog by clicking any link below and purchase anything through amazon 🙂 Even if it isnt sail related, Buy what you want from amazon after clicking a link so I can get some bloggin pennies:)

Learn how to sail with these books 

The complete sailing manual

Sailing made easy

Sailing for dummies

Learning to Sail


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