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Nautical Terms - page 1


The first step for somebody that is aiming to be a skipper (professional or not) is to have a full knowladge of all the parts and devices of the boat. Is important to know how to name and use them. 

1.1 Parts of the sailboat



The bow is the forward part of the hull of a ship or boat, the point that is usually most forward when the vessel is underway.  A ship's bow should be designed to enable the hull to pass efficiently through the water. Bow shapes vary according to the speed of the boat, the seas or waterways being navigated, and the vessel's function.


The stern is the back or aft-most part of a ship or boat. Originally, the term only referred to the aft port section of the ship, but eventually came to refer to the entire back of a vessel.

Port & Starboard

The port side of the vessel always refers to the same portion of the vessel's structure, and does not depend on which way the observer is facing. The port side is the side of the vessel which is to the left of an observer aboard the vessel and facing the bow, that is, facing forward towards the direction the vehicle is heading when underway and the starboard is to the right of such an observer.

Port & Starboard bow

The starboard surface of a ship's hull that curves inward to the stem, opposite from port bow.

Port & Starboard quarter

A boat's quarter are located ABAFT (behind) the Beam and forward of the Stern on either side of the vessel.


In or toward the part of a ship midway between bow and stern.


Lenght overall

Is measured from the tip of the bow in a straight line to the stern of the pleasure craft, including any rear deck extensions (platforms). Bow sprits; rudders; outboard motors and motor brackets; handles; and other fittings and attachments are not included in the measurement.

Waterline lenght

A vessel's waterline length (abbreviated to L.W.L) is the length of a ship or boat at the level where it sits in the water (the waterline). The LWL will be shorter than the length of the boat overall (length overall or LOA) as most boats have bows and stern protrusions that make the LOA greater than the LWL.

parts of the boat.jpg
parts of the boat.jpg
parts of the boat.jpg

1. Mast

2. Forestay -  is a piece of standing rigging which keeps a mast from falling backwards.

3. The top of the mast

4. Backstay - is a piece of standing rigging which keeps a mast from falling forward.

5. Boom - Is a spar (pole), along the foot of a fore and aft rigged sail, that greatly improves control of the angle and shape of the sail.

6. Boomvang (US) - or kicking strap (UK) is a line or piston system on a sailboat used to exert downward force on the boom and thus control the shape of the sail.

7. In sailing and boating, a vessel's freeboard is the distance from the waterline to the upper deck level, measured at the lowest point of sheer where water can enter the boat or ship.

8. Hull - A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. The hull may open at the top (such as a dinghy), or it may be fully or partially covered with a deck.

9. Keel - Is the bottom-most longitudinal structural element on a vessel. On some sailboats, it may have a hydrodynamic and counterbalancing purpose, as well.

10. Propeller - Is a device with a rotating hub and radiating blades that are set at a pitch to form a helical spiral, that, when rotated, performs an action which is similar to Archimedes' screw. It transforms rotational power into linear thrust by acting upon a working fluid, such as water or air.

11. Rudder - A rudder is a primary control surface used to steer a ship, boat, submarine, hovercraft, aircraft, or other conveyance that moves through a fluid medium (generally air or water).

12. Steering wheel - A ship's wheel or boat's wheel is a device used aboard a water vessel to steer that vessel and control its course. Together with the rest of the steering mechanism, it forms part of the helm. It is connected to a mechanical, electric servo, or hydraulic system which alters the vertical angle of the vessel's rudder relative to its hull. In some modern ships the wheel is replaced with a simple toggle that remotely controls an electro-mechanical or electro-hydraulic drive for the rudder, with a rudder position indicator presenting feedback to the helmsman.

13. Main sail sheet - In nautical usage the term "sheet" is applied to a rope or chain attached to the lower corners of a sail for the purpose of extension or change of direction. The mainsheet is attached to the boom, and is used to control the mainsail.

14. Hatches - Boat hatches are an essential feature of marine vessels, both for aesthetic appeal and functionality. They improve maneuverability on deck and protect valuables below. The fabrication of industrial plastic has reshaped methods for designing and manufacturing watercraft hatches, making it the preferred material for leading boat manufacturers.

15. Topping lift - More rarely known as an uphaul is a line which applies upward force on a boom on a sailboat. Part of the running rigging, topping lifts are primarily used to hold a boom up when the sail is lowered. This line would run from near the free end of the boom(s) forward to the top of the mast. The line may be run over a block at the top of the mast and down to the deck to allow it to be adjusted. For small booms, the topping lift may be run from end of the boom to the backstay or next mast aft. When the sail is raised again, the topping lift is loosened or removed.


16. Transom - Is the horizontal reinforcement which strengthens the stern of a boat. This flat termination of the stern is typically above the waterline. Transoms can be used to support a rudder, outboard motor, or as a swimming and access platform.


17. Cleat - See at page 1.


18. Lazarette  -  Also spelled lazaret of a boat is an area near or aft of the cockpit. The word is similar to and probably derived from lazaretto. A lazarette is usually a storage locker used for gear or equipment a sailor or boatswain would use around the decks on a sailing vessel. It is typically found below the weather deck in the stern of the vessel and is accessed through a hatch (if accessed from the main deck) or a doorway (if accessed from below decks). The equipment usually stored in a lazarette would be spare lines, sails, sail repair, line and cable splicing repair equipment, fenders, bosun chair, spare blocks, tools, and other equipment.

19. Companionway - In the architecture of a ship, a companion or companionway is a raised and windowed hatchway in the ship's deck, with a ladder leading below and the hooded entrance-hatch to the main cabins. A companionway may be secured by doors or, commonly in sailboats, hatch boards which fit in grooves in the companionway frame. This allows the lowest board to be left in place during inclement weather to minimize water infiltration. The term may be more broadly used to describe any ladder between decks.

20. Winch - See at page 1.



21. Coach roof - The portion of the deck raised to give increased headroom in the cabin.

22. Front sail (or Genoa) sheet - The sheet attaches to the clew of the sail, and controls it. The front sail has a sheet on each side, only one of which (the leeward one) will be in use at one time.



Is the most important sail on a boat  to catch the wind and make the boat move, which is placed on the mainmast. It can be made from varius textiles according the usage. For instance, a cruising main sail is made of Dacron. A racing main sail is made of Kevlar or Carbon. It's the most important of the two sails of a sailing boat because of its position. It is located in the middle of the boat and you can have better stearing abilities.   

front sail.jpg

Jib & genoa

The Jib is 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. A genoa sail is a type of large jib or staysail that extends past the mast and so overlaps the main sail when viewed from the side, sometimes eliminating it. It was originally called an "overlapping jib" and later a genoa jib. It is used on single-masted sloops and twin-masted boats such as yawls and ketches.



A cleat is a devise for securing a rope. A horn cleat (like the on in the photo) is the traditional design, featuring two "horns" extending parallel to the deck or the axis of the spar, attached to a flat surface or a spar, and resembling an anvil. 



Winches are drum shaped mechanical devices used to handle halyards, sheets and control lines. One of the important crew skills to learn is winch handling and knowing how to operate a winch correctly. More details in module 'Sailing 2.4'.

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