Basic Sailing Terminology

Sailing terminology seems to be another language. There are so many names for sails and boat parts that becoming well-versed in sailing lingo can be challenging.

Here is some of the basic sailing terminology:

  • Beam: The width of the sailboat.
  • Bow: The front of the sailboat.
  • Stern: The rear of the sailboat.
  • Astern: Behind the boat.
  • Fore: Towards the bow.
  • Aft: Towards the stern.
  • Port: If you're facing the bow, left.
  • Starboard: If you're facing the bow, right.
  • Rudder: Used for steering, it looks kind of like a fin at the back of the boat. It's attached to the wheel.
  • Tiller: A stick used for steering.
  • Keel: The part of the boat which keeps it from flipping.
  • Capsize: To overturn.
  • Cabin: The area where you sleep.
  • Mast: The tall pole on the boat where the sails hang.
  • Boom: The smaller, horizontal pole attached to the mast.
  • Halyard: A rope which lowers a sail. There are multiple halyards.
  • Mainsail: The largest sail on the boat, it's right behind the mast.
  • Main sheet: The rope which controls the mainsail.
  • Jib: The small sail in front of the mast.
  • Jib sheets: Ropes used for controlling the jib.
  • Cleat: Where you secure a rope, without knotting it.
  • Beat: Sailing into the wind. This is done in a zigzag pattern.
  • Broach: To turn sideways to the wind and waves.
  • Buoy: A brightly colored floating marker.
  • Dinghy: A small boat used to transport people from shore to boats or for rowing.
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