Sailing Terms

All the sailing terms and nautical definitions you need to know plus a bunch you don’t.

Abandon ship – An imperative to leave the vessel immediately, usually in the face of some imminent danger or the rum falling overboard.

Adrift – Implies that a vessel is not under control and therefore goes where the wind and current take her.

Aft-Towards the stern

Aground – Resting on or touching the ground or bottom (usually involuntarily & often involving rum).

Ahead – Forward of the bow.

Ahoy – A cry to draw attention.  Not to be used unless your a gay pirate.

Apparent wind -The combination of the true wind and the headwind caused by the boat’s forward motion.

Ashore – On the beach, shore or land.

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Astern – towards the stern (back) of a boat, behind a vessel.

Athwartships – At right angles to the fore and aft or centerline of a ship.

Awash – So low in the water that the water is constantly washing across the surface

Backstays-Long lines or cables, reaching from the stern of the vessel to the mast head, used to support the mast.

Batten -A stiff strip used to support the roach of a sail, enabling increased sail area.

Beam ends – The sides of a ship. “On her beam ends” may mean the vessel is literally on her side and possibly about to capsize.

Bear away – Turn away from the wind

Beating -Sailing as close as possible towards the wind.  A traditional method of dealing with crew members.

Berth – A bed or sleeping accommodation on a boat.

Bight – a loop in rope or line.

Bilge -The compartment at the bottom of the hull of a ship or boat where water collects and must be pumped out of the vessel.  Where everything ends up.

Bimini – Open-front canvas top for the cockpit of a boat, usually supported by a metal frame.

Boat hook – A pole with a hook on the end, used to reach into the water to catch buoys or other floating objects.

Bowline –  The single most important knot a sailor should know.  If you can’t tie a bowline your not a sailor.

Cape Horn fever — The name of the fake illness a malingerer is pretending to suffer from.

Capsize — When a ship or boat lists too far and rolls over, exposing the keel. On large vessels, this often results in the sinking of the ship.

Clean slate — At the helm, the watch keeper would record details of speed, distances, headings, etc. on a slate. At the beginning of a new watch the slate would be wiped clean.

Clew — The lower corners of square sails or the corner of a triangular sail at the end of the boom.

As the crow flies — A direct line between two points (which might cross land) which is the way crows travel rather than ships which must go around land.

Cringle — A rope loop, usually at the corners of a sail, for fixing the sail to a spar. They are often reinforced with a metal eye.

Cut and run — When wanting to make a quick escape, a ship might cut lashings to sails or cables for anchors, causing damage to the rigging, or losing an anchor, but shortening the time needed to make ready by bypassing the proper procedures.

Cut of his jib — The “cut” of a sail refers to its shape. Since this would vary between ships, it could be used both to identify a familiar vessel at a distance, and to judge the possible sailing qualities of an unknown one. Also used figuratively of people.

Deadrise – The design angle between the keel and horizontal.

Displacement hull– A boat hull designed to travel through the water, as opposed to a planing hull which skims over the surface.

Dodger – A hood forward of a hatch or cockpit to protect the crew from wind and spray.  Usually made of canvas and stainless steel tubing or wood,fiberglass and lexan.

Fall off – To change the direction of sail so as to point in a direction that is more down wind. To bring the bow leeward.


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One Response to Sailing Terms

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