Boating Terminology

Below is a list of commonly used boating and nautical terms. If you are a boat owner or are looking to purchase a boat, it is important to know the correct boating terminology to ensure you stay safe while on the water.

Abaft Aft of; towards the stern from a designated location
Aft Towards, at, or near the stern
Amidships In the vicinity of the mid length of a vessel as distinguished from the ends
Anode An electrolyte carrying a positive charge
Ballast Any solid or liquid weight placed in a vessel to increase the draft, to change the trim, or to regulate stability
Beam The maximum breadth of the hull
Berth Where a vessel is docked or tied up
Bilge Intersection of bottom and side. The lower parts of holds, tanks and machinery spaces where bilge water may accumulate
Bow The forward end of a vessel
Broach To be turned 90 degrees off course, usually owing to a wave action from astern
Bulkhead A term applied to the vertical partition walls that divide the interior of a vessel into compartments or rooms
Chine Abrupt change in the transverse shape where a vessel’s side and bottom come together
Cleat A fitting having two arms or horns around which ropes may be made fast
Dead rise Angle rise from the keel to the chine
Derrick A device for hoisting and lowering heavy weights, cargo, stores, etc.
Displacement Hull A hull that moves through water, displacing a weight of water equal to it’s own weight
Dock A place for mooring a vessel, usually between two piers
Draft The depth of the vessel below the water line, measured vertically to the lowest part of the hull, propeller, or other reference point
Electrolysis The effect of an electric current passing through an electrolyte in transferring ions from one part to another
Even Keel A ship is said to be on an even Keel when the Keel is horizontal
Fathom Equivalent to 6 linear feet
Fender The term applied to devices built into or hung over the sides of a vessel to prevent rubbing or chafing against other vessels or piers
Ferro-cement Structural material comprising a relatively thin layer of cement intimately reinforced with steel rods and mesh
Flukes The parts of an anchor that are intended to dig into the bottom
Forecastle (Fo’c’s’le) A superstructure fitted at the extreme forward end of the upper deck
Founder Sink and go to the bottom
Freeboard The distance from the water line to the upper surface of the freeboard deck at the side
Galley A cook room or Kitchen on a vessel
Gangway A passageway, side shell opening, or ladder used for boarding or leaving a vessel
Gunwale The upper edge of a boat’s sides
Halyard Lines used in hoisting sails, signals, flags, etc.
Head Toilet; believed to be derived from ‘vessels head’ when a small platform outside the bulwarks near the bow was the only semblance of sanitary facilities
Helm The wheel or tiller controlling the rudder or outboard motor
Hull The structural body of a vessel
Keel Principal fore-aft component of a vessels framing, located along the centre line
Ketch A vessel with fore and aft sailing rig with two masts, the forward one being somewhat larger than the other
Knot 1 Nautical mile per hour. Nautical mile = 1852 metres
Lee The side away from the wind
Mooring Securing a vessel at a pier or elsewhere by several lines so as to limit it’s movement
Mooring Buoy A floating structure firmly anchored to the bottom and to which a vessel may moor
Nautical Mile 1 nautical mile is an International measurement of distance at sea level (1.85 kms).
Planing Hull A type of hull shaped to glide easily across the water at high speed
Poop A superstructure fitted to the after end of the upper deck
Port Side The left hand side of a vessel when looking forward
Quartering Sea A series of waves approaching a vessel at about 45 degrees off the bow or stern
Rigging Chains, wire ropes, fibre lines, and associated fittings and accessories used to support masts and booms used for handling cargo and stores and for other purposes
Rudder A device used to steer a vessel
Sacrificial Anode Metal parts fitted to the hull of a vessel to provide a transfer of ions to t he cathodic part of an electrolytic coupling and so protect other parts of the vessel that would otherwise waste away through electrolysis
Schooner A sailing vessel fitted with two or more masts carrying fore and aft sails. When it is fitted with two masts, the forward may be shorter than the other
Scuppers Drains from decks to carry off rain or sea water
Shank In an anchor, the straight section between the chain attachment and the flukes
Shoal Water Shallow water
Sloop A sailboat with a single mast and fore and aft rig, usually with a single jib and mainsail
Spring Line A mooring rope oriented at a small angle to the vessels centre line
Starboard Side The right hand side of a vessel when looking forward
Stays Fixed wire ropes leading forward from aloft on a mast to the deck to prevent the mast from bending aft. Backstays lead from aloft to aft
Stern After end of a vessel
Stow To put away. To stow cargo in a hold
Tiller An arm, attached to rudder stock, which turn the rudder
Transom The stern cross section of a square sterned boat
Windlass The machine used to hoist and lower anchors
Yawing Weaving motion of a vessel to port and starboard off course

Ready to book your Boat or Jet Ski Licence course?