Sailing Glossary

19 February 2020


abeam - At a right angle to the boat; as in: That buoy lies abeam of us.

aboard - On the yacht

aft and after - Direction; as in: Go aft to the stern of the boat.

aground - When the yacht is in contact with the sea bed

ahead - In front of the yacht

aloft - Up or on the rig / mast(s)

anchor. - A hook to secure the yacht to the sea bed

anchor light - A white light displayed in all directions to let other vessels know that you are at anchor.

apparent wind - This is the wind direction and speed that is felt onboard

astern - Behind the yacht.

autopilot - A mechanism to steer the yacht instead of a person

auxiliary engine - An engine used instead of the sails in light winds or close maneuvering



back - A counter-clockwise shift in wind direction. Also a sail that is sheeted on the wrong side of the wind

backstay - A wire support (rigging) at the back of the yacht to the top of the mast

bail - To remove unwanted water from a yacht or dinghy

ballast - Weight used to prevent a yacht from capsizing, usually in a keel

batten - A rigid plastic extrusion used to stiffen the sail and help it retain it’s shape

batten pocket - A slot in the sail to house the batton

beam - The widest part of the yacht

beam reach - The point of sail when the wind is coming across the beam

bear away - Steer the yacht away from the wind direction

bearing - The compass direction to an object

beat - Sailing close hauled

below - Below the deck - downstairs

berth - A bed on board a yacht. Also a yachts parking place

bilge - The lowest part of a yachts hull

bimini - A removable cockpit cover to protect crew from the Sun

binnacle - A structure to mount the Compass and typically the wheel

block - A pulley to change the direction or a rope or line

board - To step on a yacht

boat hook - A pole used as a handle with a hook at the end to pick up a mooring buoy or similar

bolt rope - A rope stitched into the Luff of a sail to strengthen it and also attached the sail to the rigging

boom. -A spar used to support and trim the Main Sail

bosun's chair - A collapsible canvas chair to sit in whilst working aloft on the rigging

bow - The pointy end of the yacht

bow line - A mooring line that prevents the bow from moving away from the pontoon

bowline - A knot that creates a non slipping loop

broad reach - Point of Sail where the wind is between a Beam Reach and Dead Run



cabin - A bedroom

cardinal points - North, South, East, and West

cast off - Releasing the mooring lines for departure

catamaran - A vessel with two hulls

chafe - Wearing of a rope or sail through friction

chart - A map of the sea used for navigation

charter - To hire or rent a yacht

cleat - An object that is fixed to secure a line

clew - The corner of a sail where the Leech meets the Foot

close hauled - The point of sail where you are sailing as close to the wind as possible

cockpit - An area usually at the Stern of a yacht where crew sit and sail the boat from

cockpit locker - A cupboard space in the Cockpit

COLREGS - Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

companionway - The entrance from the Cockpit to the main part of the yacht

compass - A device used to display the direction of magnetic North.

compass rose - Printed on a chart to show Variation and the direction of Magnetic North

course - A heading usually provided in degrees

crew - People engaged in operating the yacht

cringle - A metal eye in a sail to attach a line

cunningham - A line used to tension the Luff of a Main Sail

current - The speed and direction that the sea is moving in



dead reckoning - An approximate position derived from the direction and distance sailed

depth sounder - An electronic device to measure and display the depth of water

deviation - Any error that the compass is giving due to influences onboard

displacement - The weight of water a boat displaces

dodger - A cloth attached to the guard wires to protect the cockpit crew from the weather

downwind - Travelling in the same direction as the wind

draft - The depth of water that the yacht requires to float



ease - To controllably and slowly release a line

ebbing - When the tide is going out

emergency tiller - A backup steering mechanism to be used in a steering failure

estimated position (EP) - A position derived from tidal influences, heading and distance



fairway - A safe navigation channel

fend off - To carefully push away another vessel or hazard to prevent damage

fender - An inflatable buoy to protect the yacht from damage when moored

fix - A confirmed position on a chart

foot - The bottom edge of a sail

foresail - A sail that is forward of the mast, usually attached to the Forestay

forestay - A piece of rigging that is attached to the Bow and the front of the mast

front - The leading edge of a high or low pressure system

full sail - When a yacht is sailing with Main and Head Sail without being reefed

furl - To wrap a sail around itself when not in use or partly used (reefed)



galley - The kitchen

genoa - A large Head Sail which has a Clew that overlaps the mast

gimbal - A way of hinging a cooker to keep it level at sea

give-way vessel - A vessel that should take action to avoid a collision

gooseneck - A fitting used to attach the Boom to the Mast

gybe - To turn the stern of the boat through the direction of the wind



halyard - A line that is used to raise and lower sails

hand bearing compass - A compass used to take a bearing whilst holding it up to your eye

haul out - To take a lift a yacht out of the water usually for maintenance

head - The top corner of a sail and also the toilet on a yacht

head to wind - Steering a yacht into the wind direction

head up - Steer the yacht towards the wind direction

heading - The course that is being steered

headsail - The sail that is attached to the Head of the yacht

heave to. - A maneuver to stop the yacht

heel - The angle the yacht is tilting whilst sailing

helm - The tiller or wheel used to steer a yacht

helmsman - The person helming (steering)

hull - The main body of a yacht



in irons - When a yacht is stuck pointing towards the wind

inboard - Inside the boat



jib - A small Head Sail which does not reach the Mast

jury rig - A temporary rig used in the event of a dismasting



keel - The ballast on a  yacht that adds stability and reduces heel and leeway

knot - One nautical mile per hour



lanyard - A line used to secure something to the yacht or crew

lash - To securely tie down

latitude - Angular distance in degrees from the Equator

lazy bag - A zipped bag attached to the Boom to cover the Main Sail when not in use

lazy jacks - Safety lines from the Bow to Stern used to attach crew in case they fall overboard

lead line - A weighted line used to measure the depth of water

leech - The back edge of a sail

leech line - A line used to tension the Leech

life jacket - Inflatable jacket used to provide buoyancy to a man overboard

life raft - An inflatable raft used in the event of an evacuation

lifeline - A safety wire that acts like a fence around a yacht to prevent falling overboard

list - When a boat heels with no outside forces being applied

longitude - The angular distance in degrees east or west of the prime meridian

luff - The front edge of a sail



mainsail - The sail that is hoisted up the mast and controlled by the boom

mainsheet - A line used to trim the angle of the sail to the wind

man overboard - Someone who has fallen off the yacht

mast - A main spar that supports the sails and rigging

mizzen - The aft most sail on a ketch or yawl

monohull - A boat with a single hull

multihull - A boat with two or three hulls



nautical mile - One minute of latitude or about 1.15 statute miles

neap tide - Tides that occur during quarter phases of the moon and not as strong as spring tides



offshore - Out of sight of land

outhaul - A line that is used to tension the Clew of the Mainsail



painter - A bow line for the Dinghy

port tack - This is when you are under sail and the wind is coming from the Port side of the yacht

preventer - A rope that is used to prevent to Boom from swinging across the cockpit during an accidental Gybe

pulpit - A stainless steel frame around the bow of the yacht



reef - The method used to reduce sail area

rig - The Mast

rigging - The Mast, Boom, Spars and Stays that support the rig

right of way - The stand-on vessel that has the obligation to maintain course and speed to avoid collision

running - The point of sail where you are steering same direction as the wind

running rigging - The ropes used to control and trim sails



safety harness - A harness stop used to attach crew to the yacht to prevent falling overboard

sail tie - A rope or strap to wrap around and secure a sail when not in use

saloon - The lounge area inside a yacht

seacock - A valve or tap to prevent sea water from entering the hull

sheet - A rope that is used to control and trim a sail

ship - A large vessel that carries smaller boats as liferafts

shroud - A wire stay that supports the mast

sounding - The depth of water. Soundings are displayed on a chart

spinnaker - A large colorful downwind sail often used when racing

spreader - A horizontal support on the mast to lead the shrouds through

spring tide - The tide at the new and full moon which is higher than the neap tides

stanchion - A vertical metal pole used to support the Guard wires around a yacht

stand-on vessel - The vessel that has the priority in a collision situation

standing rigging - The Shrouds and Stays (rigging) that support the mast

starboard - When facing the bow, Starboard is the ‘right’ hand side

starboard tack - When sailing and the wind is coming from the Starboard side of the yacht

stay - A wire used to support the mast

stern - The back end of a boat

stern line - A rope used to secure the stern of the yacht to a pontoon

stow - To put something away on a boat

storm jib - A small heavy weight Head Sail used in heavy weather

swell - Long waves caused by windy weather elsewhere



tack - To steer the bow of a yacht through the wind, The corner of a sail where the Luff meets the Foot.

telltale - A thin thread or ribbon attached to the sal to show how the wind is flowing over it.

tender - A small boat or dinghy used to get crew ashore when at Anchor

tide - Movement of the sea caused by  the Moon and Sun

tiller - A method of steering when a yacht doesn’t have a wheel

topping lift - A rope used to support the Boom when the Main Sail is not in use.

transit - Used in navigation to line up two or more objects

transom - The back edge of a boat

true wind - The actual wind speed and direction



under power - A yacht is under power when using her engine rather than sails

underway - Moving through the water

upwind - Towards the direction of the wind



vang - A block and tackle used to adjust the angle of the Boom which flattens the Main Sail

variation - The difference in degrees between Magnetic North and True North

veer - The wind shift in a clockwise direction

VHF - Very High Frequency radio used for contact with other ships or the shore



washboard - The door or board that secures the Companionway closed

winch - Used to hold and control ropes that are otherwise too heavy to manage

windward - Towards the wind direction

windward boat - A yacht on the same Tack which is closer to the wind direction

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