Just a Little Further

Boat and Sailing Terminology

Ballast – added weight on a boat to give it more stability or in our case “dead batteries” or anything useless adding weight and taking up space.

Below decks or down below – literally “below the decks” or the living quarters of our boat

Berth – bunk or bed or the bedroom on a boat

Bilge – the lowest part of the interior of the boat’s hull. This is where all water and liquids collect.

Chandlery – A store which specializes in selling nautical and maritime equipment and gear to ships and boats.

Cockpit – the sunken area of the deck on a sailboat where the helmsman sits and steers the boat

Deck – the floor of the boat extending from one side to the other; some boats have several decks

Dinghy – any small portable boat used by a larger vessel; our transportation from Nine of Cups to shore; ours is known as a RIB-type (rigid inflatable boat). We haul it and stow it on the foredeck when we’re underway.

Foulies/weathers – foul weather clothing (jacket with hood and bibs or pants) which is usually warm and waterproof for storm conditions

Galley – kitchen

Hatch – an opening in the deck which leads below. These are fitted with locking hatch covers to prevent water from coming inside the boat.

Haul-out / haul – Taking the boat out of the water to do maintenance or repairs, usually with a TravelLift® or on a rail or slipway.  In Australia, they call it “slipping”.

Head – bathroom or toilet on a boat

Helm – on our boat, it’s the wheel; on some boats, it’s a tiller arm. Whatever device controls the rudder and allows you to steer the boat.

Helmsman – the person at the wheel who is steering the boat

Jerry jugs – portable, plastic containers (~5-8 gallon capacity) which we use to haul gasoline, diesel or water. The gasoline and diesel jugs are kept on deck. The collapsible water jugs are stowed below.

Keel – the lowest member of a boat’s framework; the backbone of the boat. There are many different size and shapes of keels. Keels are usually full of heavy material, in our case lead. We have a cutaway 4′ modified full keel which extends 7′ below the waterline. This provides us with excellent stability, but limits our accessibility to shallow waters.

Keel-stepped mast – A mast can either be deck-stepped, that is attached to the deck OR it can be keel-stepped in which case, the mast passes through the deck and is attached inside the keel at the bottom of the boat.

List – leaning to one side or the other

Lockers – cupboards. If it’s long, it’s a hanging locker; if you store wet clothes and/or wet gear in it, it’s a wet locker.

Main halyard – the line which is used to raise the main sail; when detached from the sail, it can be used for lifting other things.

Mast boot – A seal between the mast and deck collar.

Nav station – the navigation table or station usually where the displays and electronics are located down below

Porthole – an opening “window”

Portlight – a non-opening “window”

Reef – in terms of sailing, a reef is taken when we want to reduce the amount of sail. We have three “reef points” which allow us to reduce sail a little at a time as needed when the wind increases.

Rudder – a flat, paddle-like board which is attached to the rear of the boat, under the waterline, which allows us to steer and turn.

Saloon or salon – the dining/living room of our boat

Settee – our “sofa”; upholstered bench seats on either side of the saloon

Sole – the name given to the floor of a cabin even though this might also be a deck

Speed/depth transducer – a sensor on the bottom of the boat which connects to a display in the cockpit and provides the boat’s speed and the depth of the water.

Stateroom – bedroom or cabin

TravelLift® – A huge vehicle used to haul boats out of the water. The boat is put in slings while still in the water and the boat is raised and then slowly moved to another location for the repair/maintenance.

Underway – when a boat is moving fast enough for the rudder to have effect when it’s turned; otherwise we’re drifting

VHF – “Very High Frequency” radio. We use this for short distance radio transmissions between boats or when we’re contacting a marina or a bridgekeeper, for instance.

Watermaker – a piece of equipment which allows us to make our own fresh water aboard. Through a process known as reverse osmosis, we can take sea water and make it potable.

Wheel – a steering wheel which controls the rudder

Winch – a mechanical device used to take in, let out, or adjust the tension of a line. Ours are manual and require a winch handle as a crank to wind the device. We use winches in the cockpit to raise the mainsail and control the foresails. We have a total of 14 winches aboard Nine of Cups. We also use a winch to haul the dinghy from the water, for example. When Marcie is using the winch…she’s a winch wench.

Windlass – an electric winch which is used to haul the anchor

Windlass chain counter – displays the amount of anchor chain (in feet) that has been deployed


References for navigation and boat terms:

Annapolis Book of Seamanship – John Rousmaniere      ISBN 0-671-24687-9

Overlook Illustrated Dictionary of Nautical Terms by Graham Blackburn ISBN 0-87951-124-9































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