Vocabulary of Sailing


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Terms and quick definitions dealing with sailing:

  • Abeam: 90 degrees to the centerline of the boat.
  • Afloat: On the surface of the water.
  • Aft: Toward the rear of the boat.
  • Air draft: The height of a sailboat above the water.
  • Anchor: A device used to secure a boat to the bottom of the water.
  • Autopilot: A device that controls the steering of a sailboat.
  • Backstay: A line that supports the mast from the stern of the boat.
  • Beam: The width of a sailboat.
  • Bilge: The lowest part of a boat.
  • Boathook: A pole used to push a boat away from a dock or other object.
  • Boatyard: A place where boats are stored and repaired.
  • Bow: The front of a boat.
  • Broadside: The side of a boat.
  • Buoy: A floating object that marks a hazard or channel.
  • Bulkhead: A partition that divides the interior of a boat into compartments.
  • Cabin: A room on a boat.
  • Captain: The person in charge of a boat.
  • Catamaran: A boat with two hulls.
  • Centerboard: A movable keel that can be lowered to reduce the drag of a sailboat.
  • Channel: A designated route for boats to travel.
  • Chart: A map of an area of water.
  • Cleat: A metal or plastic loop used to secure a rope.
  • Cockpit: The area on a boat where the helmsman sits.
  • Come about: To turn a sailboat around.
  • Crew: The people who sail a boat.
  • Dinghy: A small boat.
  • Dock: A structure that extends into the water and is used to moor boats.
  • Downwind: In the direction the wind is blowing.
  • Equator: The imaginary line that circles the Earth at its widest point.
  • Fender: A device used to protect a boat from damage when it is moored.
  • Fiddlehead: The scroll-like carving at the top of a mast.
  • Flap: A piece of cloth that is used to control the sails of a sailboat.
  • Foredeck: The deck at the front of a boat.
  • Forecastle: The deck at the bow of a boat.
  • Foresail: The sail that is closest to the bow of a boat.
  • Fouled: When a sail is tangled or caught on something.
  • Freeboard: The height of a boat above the waterline.
  • Gale: A strong wind.
  • Harbor: A sheltered area of water where ships can anchor.
  • Helmsman: The person who steers a sailboat.
  • Hull: The body of a boat.
  • Keel: The underwater part of a boat that keeps it stable.
  • Kicker: A small sail that is used to help stabilize a sailboat.
  • Knot: A way of tying two pieces of rope together.
  • Life jacket: A jacket that is worn to keep someone afloat in the water.
  • Mast: The vertical pole that supports the sails of a sailboat.
  • Mooring: To secure a boat to a dock or other object.
  • Nab: A buoy that marks a hazard or channel.
  • Nautical: Related to the sea.
  • Port: The left side of a boat when facing forward.
  • Port tack: When a sailboat is sailing with the wind coming from the left side.
  • Quarter: The side of a boat that is 90 degrees from the centerline.
  • Rudder: A flat piece of metal or wood that is used to steer a boat.
  • Sail: A piece of cloth that is used to catch the wind and move a boat.
  • Sailboat: A boat that is powered by sails.
  • Sea anchor: A device that is used to slow a boat down in rough seas.
  • Shackle: A metal loop that is used to secure a rope.
  • Ship: A large boat that is used for carrying goods or passengers.
  • Shore: The land next to the water.
  • Stern: The rear of a boat.
  • Tack: To change the direction of a sailboat by turning the bow through the wind.
  • Tide: The rise and fall of the water level.
  • Topgallant: The sail that is above the mainsail.
  • Trim: To adjust the sails of a sailboat to get the best performance.
  • Waterline: The line that separates the water from the hull of a boat.
  • Wave: A disturbance on the surface of the water.
  • Windward: In the direction the wind is blowing.

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