How to Become a Savvy Boater: Nautical Terminology

How to Become a Savvy Boater: Nautical Terminology

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Do you know the difference between a battleship, a frigate, or a destroyer? How about a schooner, a brig, or a bark? These are commonly used terms for sea-going vessels, but what exactly are they? Below are just a few definitions of different types of vessels and nautical terminology that may aid in your quest to become a savvier boater!

Lets start with the military vessels. Some are obvious in their terminology, such as aircraft carrier, submarine, Coast Guard cutter (and FYI,  the definition of a cutter is a small, swift ship), etc.  Here are a few definitions of vessels that are not so obvious in their names:

Battleship: A large warship with HUGE guns.

Destroyer: A fast, maneuverable, and enduring warship, designed to escort larger vessels.

Frigate: A term used for any type and size of warship.

Next, we have the sailing vessels:

Bark: A vessel with at least 3 masts.

Brigg: A vessel with 2 masts.

Schooner: Fore and aft rigged sails with two or more masts, the aftermost mast being taller or equal in height to the first

Catamaran: A vessel with two parallel hulls, usually identical, linked by a deck or “trampoline.”

Trimaran: Same as Catamaran, only with three hulls, linked by a single deck.

Clipper: A square-rigged merchant ship of the 1800s.

Yacht: A pleasure boat, which in America, is used to describe a larger vessel, powered either by sail or engine.

Below are some of the more common and basic terms used in boating:schooner pride

Aft: A term used to refer to the area towards the back or stern of a vessel.

Boom: A spar along the bottom of a sail, used to keep the sail flatter when it is away from the centerline of the boat. A sail can also be rolled up into the boom.

Bow: A term used to refer to the area towards the forward part of a vessel.

Bridge: The location in which the vessel is controlled.

Bulkhead: Vertical partition which separates compartments.

Cleat: A fitting in which lines are secured.

Cuddy: Small shelter cabin in a boat.

Draft: Depth of water a boat draws.

Ebb: Receding tide.

Fathom: A term used to refer to depth. One fathom is equal to 6 feet.

Give-Way Vessel: Term used for vessel that must yield in crossing, meeting, or overtaking situations.

Gunwale: Upper edge of the boat sides.

Hatch: Opening in the deck of a boat with a watertight cover.

sailing toursHelm: The mechanism controlling the rudder, such as the wheel.

Hold: Compartment used for cargo.

Hull: Main body of vessel.

Keel: The backbone or centerline of a vessel running fore and aft.

Leeward: Sideways movement of a boat, controlled by either wind or current (opposite of windward).

Midship: Location of approximate equal distance on a ship from bow to stern.

Mooring: Secures a boat to a pier or a buoy.

Nautical Mile: One minute of latitude or approximately 6,076 feet (which is about 1/8 longer than a regular mile of 5,280 feet).

Port: Left side of vessel, looking forward (opposite of starboard).

Rudder: Vertical plate steering a boat.

Scuppers: Drain holes on a deck.

Set: Direction in which current is flowing.

Spring Line: Pivot line used in docking to prevent boat from moving forward or astern.

Stand-On Vessel: Vessel that has right of way during a crossing, meeting, or overtaking situation (opposite of Give-Way Vessel).

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Starboard: When looking forward, this is the word used to refer to the right side of boat (opposite of Port).

Stem: Forward part of bow.

Stern: Aft part of boat (opposite of bow).

Tiller: Handle or bar for turning ship’s rudder.

Underway: This word is used to describe when a vessel is in motion.

Wake: Moving waves left by boats.

Windward: Toward direction in which wind is coming (opposite of leeward).

Yaw: To steer or swing off course as in high seas.

A wonderful way to put your knowledge to work would be aboard a sailing cruise on The Schooner Pride!  Join the Pride for an afternoon dolphin sail, a sunset harbor cruise, or a moonlight sail. Passengers are always welcome to help raise and trim the sails with the crew! If you like, you may also bring a picnic lunch or snack to enjoy while you relax and take in the beauty of the harbor.

Did you enjoy this post and find it useful? We’d love to hear your feedback in our comments section!

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