Introduction History of Royal Navy & Portsmouth Dockyard Latest News

Home

 

GLOSSARY OF SEAFARING TERMS

ABACK The situation of the sails when the wind presses their surfaces against the mast, and tends to force the vessel astern. ABAFT Toward the rear (stern) of the boat. Behind. 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. ALEE Away from the direction of the wind. Opposite of windward. ALOFT Above the deck of the boat. A-HULL The situation of a vessel when she lies with all sails furled and her helm lashed a-lee. A-LEE Opposite direction from that which the wind blows. AMIDSHIPS In or toward the center of the boat. ANCHORAGE A place suitable for anchoring in relation to the wind, seas and bottom. 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. 

BALLAST Weight carried in shipís bottom to improve stability. BARE POLES A ship with no sails set has bare poles. BARK, BARQUE A three-masted vessel having square sails on fore and main masts, and a spanker on the mizzen. BATTEN DOWN Secure hatches and loose objects both within the hull and on deck. BEAM The greatest width of the boat. BEAT To sail obliquely to windward. BEND To make fast, eg to bend a sail onto a yard. A knot used to bend one rope onto another. 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 the boat. 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. BILGES The bottom of a shipís hold, in which waste water tends to collect. BINNACLE A short pillar near the helm on which is mounted the shipís compass. BITTER END The last part of a rope or chain. The inboard end of the anchor rode. BLOCK A wood or metal pulley with sheaves or wheels through which the ropes are rove.  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. BOATSWAIN (Pronounced bo-sín) A non-commissioned officer who has charge of rigging, and who calls the crew to duty. BOBSTAYS Stays or chains used to steady the bowsprit down to the stern or cutwater. BOOM A spar used to extend the foot of a fore-and-aft or studding sail. BOOT TOP A painted line that indicates the designed waterline. 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. BOWSPRIT A large, strong spar standing out from the bows of a vessel, used to support parts of the rigging. BRACE A rope by which a spar or yard is manipulated. BREAM To clean a shipís bottom by burning off weed. 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.  BRIGANTINE A two-masted square-rigged vessel Ė a brig. BRIGHTWORK Varnished woodwork and/or polished metal. BULKHEAD A vertical partition separating compartments. BULWARKS The waist-high Ďwallsí around a vessel, above her deck. BUNTLINES Ropes used for hauling up the body of a sail. 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". BY THE HEAD Said of a vessel when her bows are lower in the water then her stern. Opposite to by the stern. 

CABIN A compartment for passengers or crew. CABLE TIER That part of a vessel where anchor cables are stowed. CAREEN To haul a vessel onto her side in shallow water or on a beach in order to clean or repair her hull. CASCABEL The heavy, round knob at the rear end of a cannon. CAPSIZE To turn over. CAST OFF To let go. CAT HEAD Large timbers projecting from a vessels side to which the anchor is raised and secured. CATAMARAN A twin-hulled boat, with hulls side by side. CAULK To seal the seams of a vessel with oakum and tar. 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. CLAW OFF To beat off a (usually dangerous) lee shore. CLEAT A fitting to which lines are made fast. The classic cleat to which lines are belayed is approximately anvil-shaped. CLEW The lower corner of a square sail, and the after corner of the fore-and-aft sail. CLOSE-HAULED A vessel which is sailing with her yard braces up so as to get as much as possible to windward. 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. COUNTER That part of a vessel between the bottom of her stern and the wing transom and buttock. COURSE The direction in which a boat is steered. CRANK A vessel is crank when inclined to lean over, so that she cannot carry much sail. CROSS-JACK (Pronounced cro-jack) the crossjack yard is the lower yard on the mizzen. CUDDY A small shelter cabin in a boat. CURRENT The horizontal movement of water. CUT-WATER The foremost part of a vesselís prow. 

DAVITS Curved supports projecting over a vesselís sides, fitted with blocks and tackle for the hoisting-up of boats. DEAD AHEAD Directly ahead. DEAD ASTERN Directly aft. DEAD-RISE The difference in height, if any, between those parts of a vesselís floor which rest on the futtock. DECK A permanent covering over a compartment, hull or any part thereof. DECKHEAD The underside of the deck above. 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. DRAUGHT That depth of water which a vessel requires to float her. DROP The depth of sail, from head to foot, amidships. 

EBB A receding current. 

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 block. 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 astern. FORE-AND-AFT In a line parallel to the keel. FOREPEAK A compartment in the bow of a small boat. 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 other equipment. 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 watertight cover. HEAD A marine toilet. Also the upper corner of a triangular sail. HEADING The direction in which a vessel's bow points at any given time. HEADWAY The forward motion of a boat. Opposite of sternway. 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 rules. 

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 harbour. PRIVELEGED VESSEL A vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rule, has right-of-way (this term has been superseded by the term "stand-on"). 

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 boat. RUN To allow a line to feed freely. RUNNING LIGHTS Lights required to be shown on boats underway between sundown and sunup. 

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 hazards. 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 flowing. 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 by rain. 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 forward. 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 bottom. 

THWARTSHIPS At right angles to the centerline of the boat. TIDE The periodic rise and fall of water level in the oceans. 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 sterned boat. 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 is coming. 

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.








©2003 OnlineSimon, All Rights Reserved. Any trademarks belong to their respective owners.
Please view our
disclaimer , contact details and privacy policy for further details.

Powered by OnlineSimon