time kent
Sailing Terms
Courtesty of Grolier's New Book of Knowledge

This sail is luffing. What does that mean? (Courtesty of Tim Kent)
There are many technical terms for the parts of a boat and the maneuvers of sailing. Some important sailing terms and their definitions are given here.

ABEAM: Off to the side; 90 degrees from the bow.

AFT: At or toward the stern.

ASTERN: Behind a boat; backward.

ATHWARTSHIPS: At right angles to the fore-and-aft line of the boat.

BALLAST: A weight in the centerboard or keel that helps provide stability.

BATTENS: Long, thin pieces of wood inserted in pockets along the leech of a sail, used to help the sail keep its proper shape.

BEAM: The width of a boat at its widest point.

BILGE: The curved part of the hull below the waterline. Also, the inside of the hull at the very bottom of the boat.

BLOCK: A frame with grooved rollers or pulleys for hauling lines.

BOOM: The pole attached at right angles to the lower part of the mast. The foot of a sail is fastened to it.

BOW: The front of the boat.

BUOY: A floating marker used for navigation.

CAPSIZE: To overturn.

CENTERBOARD: A flat wooden or fiberglass fin let down into the water under the boat from inside a box in the center of the boat. It gives the boat stability and keeps the boat from slipping sideways when going windward.

CLEAT: A metal or wood fitting with two projecting horns or arms, around which lines are secured.

CLEW: The lower outside, or after, corner of a sail.

COCKPIT: The area where the crew sits and the tiller is located.

DINGHY: A small boat, often carried or towed by a larger boat, which is used to get to and from shore.

FOOT: The lower edge of a sail.

FORE-AND-AFT: From front to back; lengthwise.

HALYARD: A line for hoisting a sail.

HEEL: To tilt sideways.

HULL: The body of the boat.

KEEL: A fixed and weighted lead or metal projection, usually V-shaped, from the center of the bottom of the boat down into the water. The keel provides stability.

LEECH: The outside, or after, edge of a sail.

LEEWARD: Away from the wind; the sheltered side.

LUFF: The front edge of a sail; the flapping of sails.

OUTHAUL: A line used to haul the foot of a sail taut along a boom.

PAINTER: A line fastened to the bow of a small boat, used for tying it up to a pier or a mooring.

PORT: The left side of the boat, as you face forward.

QUARTER: The part of the boat between the beam and the stern.

RAIL: The outer side of the boat's deck.

RUDDER: The device that swings in the water at the stern of a boat. It is attached to the tiller and controls the steering of the boat.

SHEAVE: A roller set in a block, often at the top of a mast or the end of a boom, over which a line such as a halyard or an outhaul runs.

SHEET: A line used to trim a sail. A sheet takes the name of the sail it controls, for example, mainsheet, such as jibsheet, and so on.

SHROUDS: Wires or lines that support the mast athwartships.

SPARS: The booms, gaffs, and masts of the boat.

STARBOARD: The right side of the boat, as you face forward.

STAY: Wires or lines that support the mast from bow to stern.

STERN: The rear part of the boat.

TILLER: The wooden arm attached to, and used to control, the rudder of the boat. Some boats have a wheel for steering.

TOPSIDE: The part of the boat between the waterline and the rail.

TRANSOM: The flat or slightly curved surface across the stern of the boat.

WINCH: A mechanical drum, often with a handle, used to pull in sheets and halyards.

WINDWARD: On the side toward the wind; in the direction from which the wind is blowing.

Copyright © 2002 Grolier Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.