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About - Used in "coming about", it means to switch to the other tack 

Adrift- Floating free with the currents and tide, not under control. A rope may be adrift if comes out place.

Aft - At, near or towards the stern (back of the boat).

Aground -Touching the bottom.

Anchor - A hook which digs in to the bottom to keep the ship from drifting 2) The act of using an anchor

Apparent Wind-- the direction of the wind as is relative to the speed and direction of the boat


Backstay - A wire support for the mast, usually running from the stern to the head of the mast. 

Battens - Flexible strips of wood or plastic, most commonly used in the mainsail to support the
aft portion, or roach, so that it will not curl. 

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 the boat.

Bilge - A rounding of the hull along the length of the boat where the bottom meets the side.

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. A submarine

Boom - free swinging spar attached to the foot of the sail with forward end pivoting on the mast.

Boom Vang - A system used to hold the boom down, particularly when boat is sailing downwind, so that the mainsail area facing the wind is kept to a maximum. Frequently extends from the boom to a location near the base of the mast. Usually tackle- or lever-operated.

Bow - The front part of the boat.

Bowline - Knot used to form a temporary loop in a line

Bow Line
- A docking line leading from the bow.

Bowsprit - A short spar extending forward from the bow. Normally used to anchor the forestay.

Buoy - An anchored float used for marking a position on the water or a hazard or a shoal and for mooring.


Capsize - When the boat overturns; on its side or upside down. This is normal in dinghys!

Cast Off - To let go.

Catamaran - A twin-hulled boat, with hulls side by side.

Centerboard - A board lowered through a slot in the centerline of he hull to reduce sideways skidding or leeway. Unlike a daggerboard, which lifts vertically, a centerboard pivots around a pin, usually located in the forward top corner, and swings up and aft.

Chain plate - The fitting used to attach stays to the hull.

Cleat - A fitting to which lines are made fast. The classic cleat to which lines are belayed is approximately anvil-shaped.

Clew - For a triangular sail, the aftmost corner.

Clove Hitch - A knot for temporarily fastening a line to a spar or piling.

Close-hauled - a point of sail close to the wind

Cockpit - An opening in the deck from which the boat is handled.

Course - The direction in which a boat is steered.

Cunningham - A mainsail control device, using a line to pull down the mainsail a short distance from the luff to the tack. Flattens the sail.


Daggerboard - A board dropped vertically through the hull to prevent leeway. May be completely removed for beaching or for sailing downwind.

Deck - A permanent covering over a compartment, hull or any part thereof.

Dinghy - A small open boat. It primarily uses the weight of its crew to stay upright.

Dock - A protected water area in which vessels are moored.The term is often used to denote a pier or a wharf.

Docking - Approaching and stopping at the dock on your boat 

DoubleHanded - A term used by the Washington Yacht Club to describe a boat designed to be sailed by two people.

Downhaul - A line used to pull a spar, such as the spinnaker pole, or a sail, particularly the mainsail, down.

Downwind - Away from the direction of the wind.

Draft - The depth of water a boat draws.



Fairlead - A fitting used to alter the direction of a working line, such as a bullseye, turning block, or anchor chock.

Falling Off- Turning the bow away from the direction of the wind (the bow travels in the same direction as the wind)

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. Or A distress signal.

Flying Gybe - When a shift in wind direction causes the sail(s) to unexpectedly switch sides (dangerous!)

Foot - For a triangular sail, the bottom edge.

Fore - Referring to the front of a boat

Fouled - Any piece of equipment that is jammed or entangled, or dirtied.


Gaff - a free swinging spar attached to the top edge of a sail

Give-Way Vessel - A term used to describe the vessel which must yield in meeting, crossing, or overtaking situations.

Gooseneck - The fitting that connects the boom to the mast.

Gunwale - Most generally, the upper edge of the side of a boat.

Guy - A line used to control the end of a spar. A spinnaker pole, for example, has one end attached to the mast, while the free end is moved back and forth with a guy.

Gybe - When the stern of the boat passes through the wind.


Halyards - Lines used to hoist or lower sails or flags.

Head - The top corner of a sail. Also a marine toilet.

Heading - The direction in which a vessel's bow points at any given time.

Heading Up - Turning the bow towards the wind direction. This is is also known as bearing uppointing up, or turning higher.

Headsails - Any sail forward of the foremast.

Headway - Forward motion of boat opposite to sternway

Heeling - Where the boat leans/tilts away from the wind--thus, you will want to sit on the side of the boat opposite your sail to compensate for this.

Helm - The wheel or tiller controlling the rudder.

Helmsman - Sailor who steers the boat.

Hiking Stick - An extension of the tiller that enables the helms man to sit at a distance from it.

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.

Hull - The main body of a vessel.


Inboard - More toward the center of a vessel; inside; an engine fitted inside a boat.

Inspection port - A watertight covering, usually small, that may be removed so the interior of the hull can be inspected or water removed.


Jibe - see Gybe



Leeward - The boat or object which is further away from the direction the wind is coming from

Lines - What ropes on a boat are called.

- Part of the Boat: This is the back edge of the sai . Verb: As in "to luff your sails" means to let them start luffing (flapping in the wind).

 - When the sail has a ruffling, inconsistent shape and flaps in the wind. Either from poor sail trim or from pointing into the wind direction (No Go Zone)


Main Sheet - The line that attaches to the center of the boom


No Go Zone - Sailboats cannot sail directly upwind. If a boat is pointed too far upwind (aka "into the direction of the wind)", it will not move forward. The arc in which boats are pointed too far upwind is called the No Go Zone.



Port - The left hand side of the boat. When there are lights on the boat, it is given the color red.

Port Tack - When the boom is on the starboard (right) side of the boat. A.k.a. the wind is hitting the port (left) side of the boat first.



Reaching - Sailing across (perpendicular) to the wind direction

Right Of Way - Boats that do NOT have Right-of-Way must steer to avoid collisions with boats which do have Right-Of-Way.


Sailing by the lee - When the wind comes over the same side of the boat as the boom. This can lead to accidental jibes, which is potentially dangerous to boat and crew because the uncontrolled motion of the boom.

- Paddling with the rudder by moving the tiller from side to side (imagine a fish's tail).

Sheeting in
 - Pulling the sail closer to you by pulling on the main sheet. It rotates the sail towards the centerline of the boat

Sheeting out - Letting the sail move away from you by adding slack to the main sheet (the line that attaches to the center of the boom). The sail is rotating away from the centerline of the boat.

SingleHanded - A term used by the Washington Yacht Club to describe a boat designed to be sailed by one person.

Starboard - The right hand side of the boat. When there are lights on the boat, it is given the color green.

Starboard Tack - When the boom is on the port (left) side of the boat. A.k.a. when the wind is hitting the starboard (right) side of the boat first.

Stern - The back of the boat


Tack - Two definitions: It is used to indicate which side of the boat the wind is hitting first--i.e. Port Tack (when the boom is on the Starboard side) and Starboard Tack (when the boom is on the Port side). It is also a maneuver where you turn the boat such that the bow of the boat rotates through the wind direction, causing the boat to go from pointing diagonally upwind with the wind on one side of the boat to the other side of the boat.

 - see Stern

Trim - The shape of your sail and/or angle of the sail compared to the wind direction

Trimming - The action of pulling in or letting out on the main sheet (the line that attaches to the center of the boom) to control the shape and angel of the sail compared to the wind direction.

Turtle - When a boat turns completely upsidedown in the water. Don't panic--in a dinghy this is fine! It just takes a little more effort to get the boat back up :)


Upwind - Towards the direction the wind is coming from.



Windward - The boat or object which is closer to the direction the wind is coming from