A Non-Boaters Guide to Nautical Terms II

Posted by SkiSafe         0

Have you memorized all boating terminology? Don’t worry, most of us haven’t! Most casual boaters, and even some everyday boaters, are unaware of nautical lingo (not to mention that there are literally thousands of boating terms out there). We have developed a cheat sheet that goes over the most important terms to know, improving communication on the water and the boating experience overall.


  • ABAFT: toward the rear
  • ABOARD: on the boat
  • ABOVE DECK: on the deck
  • ADRIFT: floating without being moored or steered
  • AHEAD: in a forward direction
  • ALOFT: above the deck
  • AMIDSHIPS: toward the center of the boat
  • ANCHORAGE: a spot that is suitable for anchoring
  • ASTERN: back of the boat or opposite of ahead


  • BEAM: width of the boat
  • BELOW DECK: beneath the deck
  • BOW: forward area of the boat
  • BOW LINE: docking line leading from the bow
  • BULKHEAD: vertical wall or partition separating areas or compartments on a boat
  • BUOY: anchored float


  • CABIN: compartment of the boat for passengers
  • CAPSIZE: when a boat turns on its side or upside down in the water
  • CAST OFF: to undo the lines that hold a boat in a fixed position
  • COCKPIT: location aboard the boat that has the helm and seating
  • COURSE: direction to which the boat is steered


  • DEAD AHEAD: directly ahead
  • DEAD ASTERN: directly aft
  • DISPALCEMENT: weight of water displaced by a craft
  • DOCK: structural area where boats are moored
  • DRAFT: water depth needed to support the boat


  • FENDER: cushion placed between two boats – basically a bumper
  • FLARE: distress signal
  • FOREPEAK: a compartment of the bow in a small boat,  such as the anchor locker
  • FORWARD: toward the bow of the boat
  • FOULED: equipment that is jammed


  • GALLEY: kitchen area of the boat
  • GANGWAY: plank or footbridge used to cross over water
  • GROUND TACKLE: anchor and its corresponding equipment, including shackle, chain and line


  • HEAD: a marine toilet
  • HEADWAY: forward motion of the boat
  • HELM: wheel controlling the rudder
  • HOLD: compartment below the deck
  • HULL: main body of the boat


  • INBOARD: toward the center of the boat


  • KNOT: a unit to measure speed of the craft


  • LEE: an area protected by the wind
  • LEEARD: direction away from the wind
  • LEEWAY: sideways movement of the boat


  • MIDSHIP: area of the ship in equal distance between the bow and stern
  • MOORING: putting the boat in a fixed position with a mooring ball secured to the sea floor


  • NAUTICAL MILE: a unit used to measure distance at sea (approximately 2,025 yards)
  • NAVIGATION: steering a boat safely from one area to another aided by charts, radar, GPS and dead reckoning


  • OUTBOARD: towards the boat’s sides


  • PIER: a loading platform
  • PLANING HULL: type of hull shaped to glide more easily
  • PORT: left side of the boat
  • PORT BOW: front left side of the boat
  • PORT QUARTER: rear left side of the boat


  • RODE: anchor line
  • RUDDER: plate or board for steering the boat
  • RUNNING LIGHTS: required lights affixed to the craft that display the aspect of the vessel


  • SCREW: the boat’s propeller
  • SEA ROOM: when the craft is considered a safe distance from the shore
  • SEAWORTHY: when a boat can handle the conditions of the sea
  • SECURE: stow equipment from moving about the boat
  • SLACK: to loosen
  • SOUNDING: a unit of measurement for the depth of the water
  • STARBOARD: right side of the boat
  • STARBOARD BOW: front right side of the boat
  • STARBOARD QUARTER: rear right side of the boat
  • STERN: aft-most part of the boat


  • TIDE: the rising and falling of the sea
  • TOPSIDE: part of a boat’s side above the waterline
  • TRANSOM: the stern cross-section


  • UNDERWAY: when a craft is not moored, anchored or docked but in-route


  • WAKE:  a track in the water left by the movement of the boat
  • WATERLINE: a line painted on the hull of the boat where the boat meets the water; also the position of the “boot stripe” on the hell
  • WINDWARD: toward the direction to which the wind is coming from


  • YAW: to steer off course


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