Glossary of Sailing Terms
aft: towards the stern or the after part of a boat.
anti-fouling paint: paint use below the water line to keep marine life from growing on the hull.
baggy-wrinkle: gear used to keep the sails from chafing against the rigging. Jest uses sheep skin with the wool-side out.
beam: the widest part of a boat, or a direction related to it, such as a beam wind.
bilge: that part of a boat below the cabin floorboards, where the dirty water collects.
bitter end: the very end of the anchor chain.
boatswain's chair: a board that is hoisted up the mast, in which a seaman can sit and work.
bow: the forward part of a boat.
bulkhead: a partition that divides the below-deck area into compartments.
center-cockpit: a boat that has its cockpit and helm near the center of the hull, with a cabin aft.
cleat: a fitting used to fasten a rope, such as a main or jib sheet.
clew: the lower and aftermost corner of a sail.
come about: to turn the boat so that the bow passes through the eye of the wind. cf. jibe.
cutter: a sailboat with one mast and two headsails.
devil seam: the seam between the deck planking and the outer hull. There isn't much room there, as in the saying "between the devil and the deep blue sea."
double-ender: a boat that comes to a point at the stern, like a canoe.
drifter: a large, lightweight headsail, use when there is little wind.
dry rot: a fungus that destroys wood.
fall off: to turn away from the wind.
fathom: six feet, used in the past to measure depth.
galley: area below where food is prepared.
genoa: a large jib.
gibe: correct term is jibe (or gybe). see jibe.
halyard: a rope used to hoist a sail.
haul in: to pull in, such as the anchor chain.
head: the upper corner of a sail.
heave-to: to shorten sail and secure the helm, so that the boat rides easy in a storm.
hull down: a ship whose hull is below the horizon.
jib: the outermost headsail.
jibe: to turn the boat so that the stern passes through the eye of the wind. cf. come about.
jibstay: part of the rigging that holds the mast up, here, from masthead to bow.
jury-rig: a temporary repair.
keel: the lowest part of the hull.
ketch: a sailboat with two masts, with the taller or main mast forward.
king plank: the center deck plank.
knock down: to be knock over by a sudden gust of wind.
knot: nautical mile, used is measure speed.
lazy guys: gear that keeps the boom and sail from swinging inboard.
leeward: the side or direction opposite the wind.
lie a-hull: to drift without any sails, which is possible in a light sea.
limber holes: holes that let the bilge water flow between the frames.
locker: a compartment where gear is stored.
log: an instrument used to measure speed and distance.
marlinspike: a rigging tool.
masthead: top of the mast.
mizzen: the smaller and after mast on a ketch.
navigation lights: a boat's night lights.
pitch: the up and down motion caused by sailing into a heavy sea.
port: left side facing forward.
reef: to reduce sail.
reeve: to rig a new rope, such as a sheet or halyard.
rig: to set up something, such as an awning.
schooner: a sailboat with two masts, with the taller or main mast aft.
sea anchor: anything used in a storm to keep the bow into the wind.
shackle: a metal fastening use to attach something, such as the anchor to its anchor chain.
sheet: the line used to control a sail.
shrouds: part of the rigging that holds the mast up, here, from masthead to port and starboard sides.
skylight: a window frame in the deck, used to give light below.
sloop: a sailboat with one mast and one headsail.
spinnaker: a large headsail, used by racing boats when sailing down wind.
spreader: wooden struts, used to increase the angle of the shrouds at the upper end of the mast.
starboard: right side facing forward.
staysail: the innermost headsail.
stern: the aft or back part of a boat.
tack: to sail into the wind, first with the wind on one side and then with it on the other.
toping-lift: a line that holds the end of the boom up when the sail is lowered.
topsides: the outer part of the hull above the water line.
transom: the aft end of a boat, where the name is painted.
trysail: a heavy storm sail, used instead of reefing the mail sail.
windward: the side or direction of the wind.