“Grab a PFD from the v-berth before you head aft, and untie that fender from the port cleat while you’re at it.”
Huh? You’re not alone if you didn’t quite understand all those words.
When you’re on the water, communication is critical — but all too often, boat terminology can sound almost like another language entirely. But understanding instructions is essential to ensuring a safe — and fun — boating experience.
Read on to learn basic boat terminology that’ll enhance your next nautical adventure.
Boat Terminology: Parts and Components
Every component of a boat has its name. Let’s review some basic terms for boat parts:
Berth: Sleeping quarters. A “v-berth” refers to a sleeping area at the very front of a boat, where the sides of the hull meet.
Bilge: The lowest part of a boat; water collects here and, in many crafts, is removed by a bilge pump.
Bow: The front or forward end of a boat.
Cabin: An enclosed space or protected area, often with seating or living quarters.
Cleat: A metal piece where lines — such as dock lines or sail sheets — can be attached.
Deck: A flat area on the boat’s exterior where people can stand or sit.
Fender: A bumper, usually floatable and often made of rubber or vinyl, that attaches to a cleat and hangs off the side of a boat to protect it from hitting the dock or other objects.
Foredeck: The deck closest to the bow.
Galley: An area where food is prepared.
Hatch: Doors or covers that seal off openings in the deck or cabin.
Helm: Where the steering and navigational controls are located.
Hull: The bottom of the boat’s body that sits in the water.
Inboard: A motor that’s mounted inside the hull.
Jib: Sail that’s flown in front of a sailboat’s mast.
Mainsail: Sail that’s flown from the mast and connected to the boom.
Keel: The lowest part of a boat’s hull; the keel is often hefty to provide increased stability in the water.
Outboard: A motor that’s mounted to the boat’s exterior in the back (stern)
PFD: Personal flotation device or life jacket; everyone on a boat should always wear one.
Prop: Blades attached to the engine that spins and propel the boat through the water.
Rudder: A fin-like device attached to the keel and tiller that directs the boat.
Stern: The back end of a boat.
Tiller: A long, slender device connected to the rudder used to steer the boat.
Transom: The very back (stern) of a boat; outboard motors connect here.
Waterline: The line around the hull where the water hits.
Boat Terminology: Directions
When you’re onboard, knowing which side is which is essential. These directional terms will help you stay oriented:
Aft: Toward the stern, or back, of the boat.
Amidship: The central area of the ship.
Forward: Toward the bow, or front, of the boat.
Port: The left side of the boat when facing the bow.
Starboard: The right side of the vessel when facing the bow.
Trim: To move the motor up and down.
Boat Terminology: Measurements
Sizes, amounts, speeds, and other measurements often require their terminology when on the water. Here are a few standard terms to know:
Beam: The height of a boat’s greatest width from port to starboard.
Displacement: The weight of the water displaced by the hull; equals the boat’s weight.
Draft: How far into the water a boat sits, from waterline to keel.
Knots: The speed a boat travels through the water; one knot is equivalent to 1.852 kilometers per hour.
Learning basic boating terminology can help keep you safe while enjoying a day on the water. Protecting your boat and your passengers with boat insurance is also crucial.
Contact Wayfarer Insurance to learn about the right coverage for your vessel, from liability to replacement insurance.