Are you a proud new boat owner eager to learn your way around your prized vessel? Here’s a quick crash course for the top 16+ pieces of boat terminology you need to know – before the neighbour comes over and grills you about your latest acquisition.
1. Boat (not ship)
Unless you’ve acquired a vessel with massive cargo space (i.e., big enough to carry a boat) you don’t have a ship. You might have a big boat or a little boat, a bowrider, a cabin cruiser, a sloop, a daysailer or a catamaran – but when in doubt, just call your boat a boat.
2. Bow and stern, port and starboard
The bow is the front of the boat, and the stern is the rear. Astern means “at the rear”. If looking straight out over the bow, port is to your left and starboard is to your right.
3. Forward, aft and amidships
Forward is toward the bow, aft is toward the stern and amidships is at the central area of the boat.
Used primarily for boats with sails and rigging, this means the area above the surface of the deck.
This means alongside. “The other boat came up abeam so we could trade information.”
You dock your boat at the dock, which is usually a flat walkway attached to pilings you can tie your docking line (rope) to. Once secured, your boat is docked.
Tying your boat to the dock or to a permanently anchored float is known as mooring, and your boat when docked will be moored. Your docking line can also be called a mooring line.
The cleat is a plastic or metal fitting to which you can secure your mooring or docking line. When you undo the rope, you cast off and become unmoored.
Your bow line attaches the bow to the dock, your stern line attaches the stern to the dock and spring lines are additional mooring lines preventing the boat from moving forward or aft.
This is the exposed, flat exterior surface of the boat, where you can stand or sit. The upper deck may be a raised portion to allow for a better view.
The steering and engine (if applicable) are located in the helm. If you take the helm, you take over the boat’s direction and/or speed.
The physical sides of the boat that sit in the water. If something floats up to the boat, it’s generally hull-side. The transom connects the aft-most portion of the port and starboard hull.
The physical sides of the boat that sit above the surface of the water.
14. Keel, draft, and beam
The keel is the lowest part of the boat in the water. The depth to which the bottom of the keel reaches is the draft. The beam is the measurement of the boat at its widest point, port to starboard.
15. Galley, head and berth
The galley is where food is prepared on board the boat. The head is the bathroom. The berth is where you sleep (typically belowdecks), and also refers to where the boat is typically docked. “We moored the boat at our usual berth, then sought our berths for the night before going ashore in the morning.”
The knot is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, or exactly 1.852 kilometres per hour. A boat travelling at a speed of 20 knots would be going just over 37 km/h.
There is plenty more to learn when it comes to boat terminology, but this guide should give you a fair start on the jargon.