Common Boating Phrases to Know — Palmetto Bay Marina

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Common Boating Phrases to Know

Whether you’re hopping aboard for your first cruise or want to brush up on your boat terminology, this cheat-sheet from our friends at Dockwa will help you to decipher some on-the-water lingo.

After decades of service, we’ve heard it all. Though for many people unfamiliar with boating there are some terms to learn before going out on the water. Palmetto Bay Marina is here to help you with exactly what you need to know to prepare and stay up-to-date with a few important boating terms.

A Few Important Boating Terms

Slip vs. Dock: A slip is the section of a dock in which captains park their boats. The dock can refer to the general area of the marina where the boats tie up (“Let’s head down to the dock”) as well the actual flat floating structure itself (“This dock is badly damaged.”) A marina’s docks can encompass its slips, linear dockage, fuel dock, dinghy dock, and sometimes the ship’s store or office. On or near your slip, you may find cleats (ideally), electrical hookups, water hookup. Down the dock you may find a dock cart for toting gear or provisions, an ice machine, and bathrooms.

Linear Dockage: As opposed to a slip a boat pulls into, linear dockage is a marina configuration which basically docks boats by lining them up end to end along the dock, one boat’s bow to another boat’s stern.

Piling: A piling is a heavy post, like a telephone pole, which is embedded into the sea floor and used to secure docks in place or to which boats can be tied.

Length Overall: When reserving dockage at a marina, when the marina asks for your vessel’s Length Overall (LOA), we’ll need to know your boat’s literal length overall as measured from its aft-most to forward-most appendages, from the tip of your bowsprit to the back of your swim platform.

Height: When booking dockage, the height of your vessel may exclude some marinas or delay your ETA due to bridge height restrictions.

Waterline Length: The length of a boat’s hull where it intersects with the water.

Draft: A boat’s draft is the measurement of vertical distance between the boat’s waterline and the bottom of its keel, and this measurement determines the minimum depth of water over which a boat can safely navigate. When you hear “What does she draw?” the question at hand is, “What depth of water is required for the boat to float?” As a captain requests dockage from a marina, the marinas will likely ask for a boat’s draft as they take the reservation details, and often posts Mean Low Water of its harbor and slips so that potential guests can make the call without an extra VHF or phone call.

Beam: The width of any boat at its widest point. A marina needs to know your beam depending on the size of their slips, or the width of your beam. For example, if a marina has only single-vessel slips for boats up to a 16′ beam, a large catamaran will not fit and will need to go on the linear dockage if available. You may hear beam in other contexts: If a vessel or landmark is abeam, that means it is directly to port or starboard of your boat. If you are sailing on a beam reach, you are sailing a course 90° off the wind, with the wind abeam.

VHF: The VHF is the on-board radio transmitter. Marinas (as well as other boaters, harbor patrols, and the Coast Guard) monitor specific VHF channels. Once you’ve reserved your dockage, a captain will put out a radio call on the channel the marina monitors to let them know he is approaching, request a slip assignment if not provided via the app’s Chat function, or ask for assistance.

Port & Starboard: When facing the bow of a boat, port is to your left and starboard is to your right. You may hear phrases like, “There’s a boat to port,” “Leave the mark to starboard,” or “The gallon of rum is in the starboard aft cabin.”

Windward & Leeward: Windward is the point up wind from the point of reference (i.e., you or the boat you’re on). Leeward is the direction downwind from the point of reference. The side of a ship that is to leeward is the lee side. On a sailboat that is heeling, the windward side is always the high side and the leeward side is the side of the boat closest to the water. When sailing (particularly racing), someone yelling, “Get to windward!” translates to “Please make your way to the high side of the boat immediately if not sooner.”

Forward vs. Aft: Forward can be used a few ways: when you are moving towards the bow, this called “going forward.” Forward also refers to the general area of the boat that is towards the bow. When are you moving towards the rear end of the boat, you are “going aft.”

We encourage you to go out on the water and test yourself with these terms. Read the full list from our friends at Dockwa. We hope you found this information helpful, and for more information on reserving dock space, please reach us by calling at 843.785.5000 or requesting information online.

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