Boating is one of the most thrilling and carefree activities anyone can indulge in, but before embarking on this adventure, it is crucial to get acquainted with boat terminology. Boats have a lot of terms related to their functionality and usage that are not generally used in general language. Understanding the anatomy of a vessel is essential because boats don’t have a front and back instead, they use a bow and stern. The terminology may vary depending on the type of boats, such as sailing boats, motorboats, and small boats, but there are a few terms that are common to all boats. The following article provides an overview of the most common and important terms to help modern boaters navigate smoothly in the marine environment.There are a lot of terminologies involved when it comes to boat usage. Image: Jeanneau.com
Knowing Boat Terminology Is Important For Many Reasons
It is always helpful to learn about the different boat parts and jargon, regardless of whether you are a new boater or a seasoned veteran. Boats are not only made up of the hull, as many people believe. The keel, rudder, mast, and sails are just a few of the many parts that make up a boat. It is important to know the boat's anatomy because when you are out on the water, you will need to navigate your way around. Knowing how to use your compass and understanding nautical terms such as port and starboard is vital. After all, it simplifies things for boaters and prevents confusion.
What are the most important boating terms to know?
Boat vocabulary is a unique language in its own right. The list of words and phrases that might be used to describe a boat can seem endless. But we’re here to help you simplify things. We have created this handy guide to boat terminology so that you can sound like an experienced boater even if you are not!
Basic Boat AnatomyDepending on the type of boat, terminology may vary. But there are some basic terms that everyone should know.
Anchor: Any object designed to prevent or slow the drift of a ship, attached to the ship; usually a metal, or hook designed to grip the solid seabed under the body of water.
Ballast: ballast comes from old ship terminology, from cargo. Ballast is any heavy material that helps to make a ship stable.
Berth: A berth is a bed, often stacked like bunk beds, on a ship. A sleeping area on a boat. Also, a place where a boat is tied up.
Bilge: The bilge is the lowest part of a ship where the bottom curves up to meet the sides. The water that collects there is also called bilge.
Bimini: A type of folding canvas top used to shield occupants from rain and sun.
Bow: The forward end of any boat.
Bulkhead: An upright wall within the hull of a ship, particularly a watertight, load-bearing wall.
Cabin: An enclosed and protected area on a boat.
Cabintop: The flat or curved deck surface above an enclosed structure on a boat.
Casting platform: A raised, open deck on a fishing boat used for casting a fishing rod.
Chine: The part of a boat where its hull sides and bottom intersect.
Coaming: Raised edges, or sides, designed to help keep waves and water from entering a certain area of a boat.
Cockpit: Any semi-enclosed, recessed area that is lower than the surrounding decks, such as the cockpit of a sailboat or a centre-console powerboat.
Companionway: A raised and windowed hatchway in a ship's deck, with a ladder leading below and the hooded entrance hatch to the main cabins.
Console: A raised area above the deck or cockpit that occupants often sit or stand behind while the boat is underway.
Deck: The top of a ship or vessel; flat exterior surface on a boat that people stand on.
Dinette: An area for dining on a boat, typically with a table set between two seating areas.
Flybridge: A steering station, sometimes with a small entertaining space, built atop a boat’s cabin. It’s also sometimes called a ‘flying bridge’.
Funnel: A curved, rotatable tube protruding from the deck of a vessel, designed to direct fresh air into her interior.
Galley: The compartment of a ship where food is cooked or prepared; a ship's kitchen.The cooking area on a ship is called the galley. Image: Jeanneau.com
Gunwale: The upper edge of a boat’s hull sides.
Hardtop: A supported fibreglass or composite roof-like external structure that covers a portion of a boat.
Hatch: The cover or door that closes over any opening in a boat’s deck or cabinet.
Harbour: A place where ships or smaller craft may shelter from the weather, are unloaded/loaded, or stored.
Head: The bathroom of a vessel, which in sailing ships usually projected from the bow and therefore was located in the "head" of the vessel.
Helm: The area of a boat where the steering and engine controls are located.
Hull: The physical portions of a boat that sit in the water.
Inboard engine: An engine that is mounted inside the hull of a boat.
Livewell: A specialised compartment on a boat designed to keep fish, shrimp, and other fishing bait alive.
Locker: An area on a boat where gear is stowed.
Mainsail: Generally the largest sail on a sailing boat.
Mast: A vertical structure, usually made of aluminium, carbon or wood, which supports sails on a sailing boat.
Keel: The lowest portion of a boat’s hull as it sits in the water. Also, a hull appendage improves stability.
Outboard well: A recessed area on a boat just forward of where an outboard engine is mounted.
Outboard engine: An engine that is generally mounted to the transom of a boat that has a self-contained engine block, transmission, and lower drive unit.
Pod drives: Inboard engines are mounted above articulating drive units that protrude through the bottom of the boat.
Propeller: A rotating device that is paired with an engine to propel a boat through the water.
Rigging: The lines and wires that support and help control a spar or mast.
Rubbing strake: A protective outer element on the hull sides that helps protect the hull from damage.
Rudder: A vertical hull appendage that controls steering.
Saloon: A room in the cabin on a boat that’s usually the primary entertaining area.A platform, usually on the transom, allows swimmers to easily climb back onto a boat. Image: Alfastreet-marine.com
Swim platform: A structure on the stern of a boat designed to make getting in and out of the water easier.
Scuppers: Deck drains that drain water from rain and sprays overboard.
Sheer Line: The outline of a boat’s deck at the gunwale from bow to stern.
Stateroom: An enclosed cabin in a boat with sleeping quarters.
Stern: The aft most section of a boat’s hull.
Stern drive: A propulsion system consisting of an inboard engine with a steerable drive system that is mounted to the transom.
T-Top: A metal structure on a boat that is often topped with a section of canvas or a hardtop to protect occupants from sun, spray, and rain.
Tiller: A wood, metal, or composite handle that is connected to the rudder(s) or a small outboard and used to steer a boat.
Toerail: A wood or fibreglass rail or fiddle located around the outside edge of a boat’s deck, usually situated near where the hull sides meet the deck.
Topsides: The portion of a boat’s hull that is above the waterline.
Transom: The aft most section of a boat that connects the port and starboard sections of the hull.
Trim tabs: Adjustable metal plates on a boat’s hull bottom or transom that help adjust the boat’s running attitude, pitch, and roll as it moves through the water.
V-Berth: A berth that is situated in the bow of a boat.
Boat Measurements TermsLength is measured from tip to tip. Width is measured from side to side near the rear of the boat.
Beam: The measurement of a boat’s width at its widest point.
Course: The direction in which a vessel is being steered, usually given in degrees.
Deadrise: The angle of a powerboat hull’s “V” shape, typically measured in degrees at the transom.
Displacement: The weight of water displaced by a boat’s hull. A boat’s displacement is equal to its weight at any given time, with any given load.
Draft: The total distance a boat penetrates the water, from waterline to keel or appendage bottom.
Dry weight: The weight of a boat without fuel or water on board.
Freeboard: The distance between a boat’s waterline and the top of its gunwales.
Length Overall: The overall length of a boat, as measured from its aft-most to forward-most appendages.
Waterline Length: The length of the hull where it intersects the water, from bow to stern. “The yacht has a waterline length of 102 feet.”
Boat Direction TermsUnderstanding the four points of a ship's compass is crucial for communicating directions.
Abaft: Direction towards the rear, or stern, of a boat. Abaft means “in the back.”
Forward: Toward the bow of the boat, or closer to the bow than another item being referenced.
Port: The left side of a boat when facing forward.
Starboard: The right side of a boat when facing forward.
Boat Docking And Mooring TermsEssential boat mooring and docking terms all boaters must know.
Bow Line: Dock lines secured to the bow of a boat that limits its movement.
Cleat: A metal or plastic fitting used to securely attach a line.
Dock: A place where a boat is parked on the water.
Dock Float: A roto-moulded plastic tank, flat on all four sides and foam-filled, used as the foundation to build a floating boat dock.
Fender: An inflatable cushion used to protect a boat from contact with pilings, docks, piers, bulkheads, or other boats.
Finger pier: A flat slender walkway that branches out from a dock and divides two slips.
Halyards: Ropes are used to raise and lower the sails on a sailing boat.
Mooring: This word refers to multiple forms of tying a boat. You can call a permanently anchored float with an attachment point a mooring; you can call a docking line a mooring line, and when your boat is tied up in its slip you can say it’s moored.
Mooring Snubber: An elastic rubber device used to prevent a dock line from breaking due to the heavy movement of a boat docked on water.
Painter: A rope attached to a small dinghy is used to tie it up.
Piling: A long cylindrical piece of wood or metal driven into the bottom that is used to secure docks in place or to tie boats up to.
Pontoon: A flat walkway secured to pilings that boats tie up to. Docks can either be fixed or floating.
Sheets: Lines used to control the sails on a sailing boat.
Spring line: Dock lines are used to prevent a boat from moving forward and aft.
Stern line: Dock line secured to the stern of a boat that limits its movement.