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Boating Basics Glossary
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ABAFT - Toward the rear (stern) of the boat.
ABEAM - At right angles to the keel of the boat,
but not on the boat.
ABOARD - On or within the boat.
ABOVE DECK - On the deck (not over
it - see ALOFT)
ABREAST - Side by side; by the side of.
ADRIFT - Loose, not on moorings or towline.
AFT - Toward the stern of the boat.
AGROUND - Touching or fast to the bottom.
AHEAD - In a forward direction.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION - Artificial objects to
supplement natural landmarks indicating safe and unsafe waters.
AIR SLUG - When high pressure air is used to
test-fire a warships torpedo launch system without actually launching a torpedo.
ALEE - Away from the direction of the wind.
Opposite of windward.
ALOFT - Above the deck of the boat.
AMIDSHIPS - In or toward the center of the boat.
ANCHORAGE - A place suitable for anchoring in
relation to the wind, seas and bottom.
Anti-fouling paint -
Paint is intended to deter the growth of barnacles, seaweed and other assorted marine
flora and fauna from the bottom of a metal (or wooden) ship.
ASROC - Antisubmarine rocket.
ASTERN - In back of the boat, opposite of ahead.
ATHWARTSHIPS - At right angles to the centerline of
the boat; rowboat seats are generally athwart ships.
AWEIGH - The position of anchor as it is raised
clear of the bottom.
BATTEN DOWN - Secure hatches and loose objects both
within the hull and on deck.
BEAM - The greatest width of the boat.
BEARING - The direction of an object expressed
either as a true bearing as shown on the chart, or as a bearing relative to the heading of
BELOW - Beneath the deck.
BIGHT - The part of the rope or line, between the
end and the standing part, on which a knot is formed. BILGE - The interior of the hull
below the floor boards.
BITTER END - The last part of a rope or chain.The
inboard end of the anchor rode.
BOAT - A fairly indefinite term. A waterborne
vehicle smaller than a ship. One definition is a small craft carried aboard a ship.
BOAT HOOK - A short shaft with a fitting at one end
shaped to facilitate use in putting a line over a piling, recovering an object dropped
overboard, or in pushing or fending off.
BOOT TOP - A painted line that indicates the
BOW - The forward part of a boat.
BOW LINE - A docking line leading from the bow.
BOWLINE - A knot used to form a temporary loop in
the end of a line.
BRIDGE - The location from which a vessel is
steered and its speed controlled. "Control Station" is really a more appropriate
term for small craft.
BRIDLE - A line or wire secured at both ends in
order to distribute a strain between two points.
BRIGHTWORK - Varnished woodwork and/or polished
BULKHEAD - A vertical partition separating
BUOY - An anchored float used for marking a
position on the water or a hazard or a shoal and for mooring.
BURDENED VESSEL - That vessel which, according to
the applicable Navigation Rules, must give way to the privileged vessel. The term has been
superseded by the term "give-way".
CABIN - A compartment for passengers or crew.
CAPSIZE - To turn over.
CAST OFF - To let go.
CATAMARAN - A twin-hulled boat, with hulls side by
CG - Navy designation for Cruiser.
CHAFING GEAR - Tubing or cloth wrapping used to
protect a line from chafing on a rough surface.
CHART - A map for use by navigators.
CHINE - The intersection of the bottom and sides of
a flat or v-bottomed boat.
CHOCK - A fitting through which anchor or mooring
lines are led. Usually U-shaped to reduce chafe.
CLEAT - A fitting to which lines are made fast. The
classic cleat to which lines are belayed is approximately anvil-shaped.
CLOVE HITCH - A knot for temporarily fastening a
line to a spar or piling.
COAMING - A vertical piece around the edge of a
cockpit, hatch, etc. to prevent water on deck from running below.
COCKPIT - An opening in the deck from which the
boat is handled.
COIL - To lay a line down in circular turns.
COURSE - The direction in which a boat is steered.
CUDDY - A small shelter cabin in a boat.
CURRENT - The horizontal movement of water.
DEAD AHEAD - Directly ahead.
DEAD ASTERN - Directly aft.
DECK - A permanent covering over a compartment,
hull or any part thereof.
DINGHY - A small open boat. A dinghy is often used
as a tender for a larger craft.
DISPLACEMENT - The weight of water displaced by a
floating vessel, thus, a boat's weight.
DISPLACEMENT HULL - A type of hull that plows
through the water, displacing a weight of water equal to its own weight, even when more
power is added.
DOCK - A protected water area in which vessels are
moored.The term is often used to denote a pier or a wharf.
DOLPHIN - A group of piles driven close together
and bound with wire cables into a single structure.
DRAFT - The depth of water a boat draws.
EBB - A receding current.
EMP - Electromagnetic pulse. An intense but
short lived electronic and magnetic field created by a nuclear explosion.
FATHOM - Six feet.
FENDER - A cushion, placed between boats, or
between a boat and a pier, to prevent damage.
FIGURE EIGHT KNOT - A knot in the form of a figure
eight, placed in the end of a line to prevent the line from passing through a grommet or a
FLARE - The outward curve of a vessel's sides near
the bow. A distress signal.
FLOOD - A incoming current.
FLOORBOARDS - The surface of the cockpit on which
the crew stand.
FLUKE - The palm of an anchor.
FOLLOWING SEA - An overtaking sea that comes from
FORE-AND-AFT - In a line parallel to the keel.
FOREPEAK - A compartment in the bow of a small
FORWARD - Toward the bow of the boat.
FOULED - Any piece of equipment that is jammed or
entangled, or dirtied.
FREEBOARD - The minimum vertical distance from the
surface of the water to the gunwale.
GALLEY - The kitchen area of a boat.
GANGWAY - The area of a ship's side where people
board and disembark.
GEAR - A general term for ropes, blocks, tackle and
GIVE-WAY VESSEL - A term used to describe the
vessel which must yield in meeting, crossing, or overtaking situations.
GRAB RAILS - Hand-hold fittings mounted on cabin
tops and sides for personal safety when moving around the boat.
GROUND TACKLE - A collective term for the anchor
and its associated gear.
GUNWALE - The upper edge of a boat's sides.
HARD CHINE - An abrupt intersection between the
hull side and the hull bottom of a boat so constructed.
HATCH - An opening in a boat's deck fitted with a
HEAD - A marine toilet. Also the upper corner of a
HEADING - The direction in which a vessel's bow
points at any given time.
HEADWAY - The forward motion of a boat. Opposite of
HELM - The wheel or tiller controlling the rudder.
HELMSPERSON - The person who steers the boat.
HITCH - A knot used to secure a rope to another
object or to another rope, or to form a loop or a noose in a rope.
HOLD - A compartment below deck in a large vessel,
used solely for carrying cargo.
HULL - The main body of a vessel.
INBOARD - More toward the center of a vessel;
inside; a motor fitted inside a boat.
INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY - ICW: bays, rivers, and
canals along the coasts (such as the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts), connected so
that vessels may travel without going into the sea.
JACOBS LADDER - A rope ladder, lowered from the
deck, as when pilots or passengers come aboard.
JETTY - A structure, usually masonry, projecting
out from the shore; a jetty may protect a harbor entrance.
KEEL - The centerline of a boat running fore and
aft; the backbone of a vessel.
KNOT - A measure of speed equal to one nautical
mile (6076 feet) per hour.
KNOT - A fastening made by interweaving rope to
form a stopper, to enclose or bind an object, to form a loop or a noose, to tie a small
rope to an object, or to tie the ends of two small ropes together.
LATITUDE - The distance north or south of the
equator measured and expressed in degrees.
LAZARETTE - A storage space in a boat's stern area.
LEE - The side sheltered from the wind.
LEEWARD - The direction away from the wind.
Opposite of windward.
LEEWAY - The sideways movement of the boat caused
by either wind or current.
LINE - Rope and cordage used aboard a vessel.
LOG - A record of courses or operation. Also, a
device to measure speed.
LONGITUDE - The distance in degrees east or west of
the meridian at Greenwich, England.
LUBBER'S LINE - A mark or permanent line on a
compass indicating the direction forward parallel to the keel when properly installed.
MARLINSPIKE - A tool for opening the strands of a
rope while splicing.
MIDSHIP - Approximately in the location equally
distant from the bow and stern.
MOORING - An arrangement for securing a boat to a
mooring buoy or a pier.
NAUTICAL MILE - One minute of latitude;
approximately 6076 feet - about 1/8 longer than the statute mile of 5280 feet.
NAVIGATION - The art and science of conducting a
boat safely from one point to another.
NAVIGATION RULES - The regulations governing the
movement of vessels in relation to each other, generally called steering and sailing
OUTBOARD - Toward or beyond the boat's sides. A
detachable engine mounted on a boat's stern.
OVERBOARD - Over the side or out of the boat.
PIER - A loading platform extending at an angle
from the shore.
PILE - A wood, metal or concrete pole driven into
the bottom. Craft may be made fast to a pile; it may be used to support a pier (see
PILING) or a float.
PILING - Support, protection for wharves, piers
etc.; constructed of piles (see PILE)
PILOTING - Navigation by use of visible references,
the depth of the water, etc.
PLANING - A boat is said to be planing when it is
essentially moving over the top of the water rather than through the water.
PLANING HULL - A type of hull shaped to glide
easily across the water at high speed.
PORT - The left side of a boat looking forward. A
PRIVELEGED VESSEL - A vessel which, according to
the applicable Navigation Rule, has right-of-way (this term has been superseded by the
QUARTER - The sides of a boat aft of amidships.
QUARTERING SEA - Sea coming on a boat's quarter.
RODE - The anchor line and/or chain.
ROPE - In general, cordage as it is purchased at
the store. When it comes aboard a vessel and is put to use it becomes line.
RUDDER - A vertical plate or board for steering a
RUN - To allow a line to feed freely.
RUNNING LIGHTS - Lights required to be shown on
boats underway between sundown and sunup.
SATELLITE NAVIGATION - A form of position finding
using radio transmissions from satellites with sophisticated on-board automatic equipment.
SCOPE - Technically, the ratio of length of anchor
rode in use to the vertical distance from the bow of the vessel to the bottom of the
water. Usually six to seven to one for calm weather and more scope in storm conditions.
SCREW - A boat's propeller.
SCUPPERS - Drain holes on deck, in the toe rail, or
in bulwarks or (with drain pipes) in the deck itself.
SEA COCK - A through hull valve, a shut off on a
plumbing or drain pipe between the vessel's interior and the sea.
SEAMANSHIP - All the arts and skills of boat
handling, ranging from maintenence and repairs to piloting, sail handling, marlinespike
work, and rigging.
SEA ROOM - A safe distance from the shore or other
SEAWORTHY - A boat or a boat's gear able to meet
the usual sea conditions.
SECURE - To make fast.
SET - Direction toward which the current is
SHIP - A larger vessel usually thought of as being
used for ocean travel. A vessel able to carry a "boat" on board.
SLACK - Not fastened; loose. Also, to loosen.
SOLE - Cabin or saloon floor. Timber extensions on
the bottom of the rudder. Also the molded fiberglass deck of a cockpit.
SOUNDING - A measurement of the depth of water.
SPRING LINE - A pivot line used in docking,
undocking, or to prevent the boat from moving forward or astern while made fast to a dock.
SQUALL - A sudden, violent wind often accompanied
SQUARE KNOT - A knot used to join two lines of
similar size. Also called a reef knot.
STANDING PART - That part of a line which is made
fast.The main part of a line as distinguished from the bight and the end.
STAND-ON VESSEL - That vessel which has
right-of-way during a meeting, crossing, or overtaking situation.
STARBOARD - The right side of a boat when looking
STEM - The forward most part of the bow.
STERN - The after part of the boat.
STERN LINE - A docking line leading from the stern.
STOW - To put an item in its proper place.
SWAMP - To fill with water, but not settle to the
THWARTSHIPS - At right angles to the centerline of
TIDE - The periodic rise and fall of water level in
TILLER - A bar or handle for turning a boat's
rudder or an outboard motor.
TOPSIDES - The sides of a vessel between the
waterline and the deck; sometimes referring to onto or above the deck.
TRANSOM - The stern cross-section of a square
TRIM - Fore and aft balance of a boat.
UNDERWAY - Vessel in motion, i.e., when not moored,
at anchor, or aground.
V BOTTOM - A hull with the bottom section in the
shape of a "V".
WAKE - Moving waves, track or path that a boat
leaves behind it, when moving across the waters.
WATERLINE - A line painted on a hull which shows
the point to which a boat sinks when it is properly trimmed (see BOOT TOP).
WAY - Movement of a vessel through the water such
as headway, sternway or leeway.
WINDWARD - Toward the direction from which the wind
YACHT - A pleasure vessel, a pleasure boat; in
American usage the idea of size and luxury is conveyed, either sail or power.
YAW - To swing or steer off course, as when running
with a quartering sea.