Sailing Glossary

Aft:  Towards the stern.

Aground:  Resting on or touching the ground or bottom.

Anchor:  A heavy metal hook designed to prevent or slow the drift of a boat, attached by a chain.  Also called a hook.  Heritage had two anchors at the bow, one of which was a Danforth.

Anchorage:  A designated place for boats to anchor.

Anchor watch:  While anchored, crew members are assigned to ensure that the anchor holds in rough weather or when the captain isn’t sure the anchor will hold.

Beam:  The widest point of the boat.  Heritage had a ten-foot beam.

Berth:  A bed on a boat or a space in a port or harbor, where a boat can tie up. Heritage could sleep seven —  uncomfortably.

Bilge:  The compartment at the bottom of the boat’s hull, where water collects to be pumped out later.  In the case of Heritage, again and again and again.

Binnacle:  The stand on which the ship’s compass is mounted.

Bitt:  The post mounted on the ship’s bow to attach a line either to tie to a dock or to be towed.

Boat hook: A pole with a hook on one end designed to grab anything beyond reach.

Boom:  A spar to support the foot of a fore-and-aft-sail.

Bow:  The front of the boat.

Bowsprit:  A spar (wooden pole) projecting from the bow to support the forestay and other rigging.

Broach:  When the boat is crosswise to the waves and water starts to come over the side.

Bulwark:  The ship’s side that extends above the hull.

Cleat:  A metal or wooden device to secure a line on a boat or a dock.

Coaming:  The raised edge of a hatchway to keep out water. It’s often a backrest for cockpit seating.

Cockpit:  The location from which the boat is steered, usually in the stern. This is where the seating is as well.

Companionway:  A raised hatch with a ladder leading below deck.

Compass:  The navigational instrument that shows North, South, East and West directions.

Dinghy:  A small open boat carried aboard a yacht for taking the crew ashore.

Dodger:  The canvas awning that provides some shelter to the cockpit and companionway.

Draft:  The depth of a ship’s keel below the waterline. Heritage had a six-foot draft.

Fathom:  A unit of length equal to six feet.  

Fender:  A bumper used in boating to keep boats from banging into docks or each other.

Following sea:  Wave action that is traveling in the same direction as the boat.

Forepeak:  The part in the cabin between the foremast and the bow, usually a cramped space for two berths.

Gaff: The spar that holds the upper edge of a fore-and-aft sail.

Galley:  The boat’s kitchen. Heritage had a small sink with fresh and salt-water faucets, a refrigerator, a gimbeled propane stove installed in Costa Rica, and various cubbies for dishes and food.  

Halyard:  The line, or rope, used to raise the sail.

Hatch:  An opening between the deck and the cabin, protected with a hatch cover.

Head:  The boat’s bathroom.  Aboard Heritage, the head was located to the left of the companionway stairs as you descended into the cabin. The toilet often did not work. The head also had a small saltwater-only sink.  

Heeling:  The lean caused by the wind’s force against the sails.

Helm:  The steering mechanism.

Jib:  A triangular sail at the front of the boat.

Jibe:  The opposite of tacking. Turning the boat so that the wind changes from one side to the other.  It can swing the boom violently from one side the the other.  

Jury rig:  A makeshift repair.

Keel:  The weighted fin below the hull that helps to keep the boat upright.

Leeward:  The side of the boat furthest from the wind.  When heeling over this will always be the low side.

Lines:  On board a boat, this is what you call ropes.

Luff:  The forward most section of a sail.

Mainsail:  The large sail just aft of the mainmast.  As the name suggests tis is the boats largest and most important sail.  Along its bottom edge, the sail is fasted to a thick pole called a boom.

Mast:  The vertical pole on a boat that supports the sails. Heritage was a schooner with a mainmast and a foremast.

Monkey fist:  A ball woven out of line used to provide heft to heave the line to another boat or dock.

Moor:  To attach a boat to a mooring buoy or post.

Open Roadstead:  An anchorage that is in the lee of the land, but otherwise unprotected, so is subject to changing wind conditions and swells.  

Painter:  A small diameter line attached to the bow of a dinghy.

Port:  The left side of the boat facing forward.

Ratlines:  Rope ladders rigged from bulwarks to the topmast to enable easier access aloft.

Reef:  To temporarily reduce the area of the sail exposed to the wind.

Rolly:  An anchorage with a strong swell that causes the boat to roll from side to side as much as twenty degrees is called rolly.  Often found at open roadsteads.

Rudder:  Located beneath the stern of the boat, the rudder is attached to the steering mechanism, in the case of Heritage, to the wheel.

Sheet:  The line, or rope, that controls the horizontal movement of the sail.  

Starboard:  The right side of the boat facing forward.

Stern:  The rear part of the boat.

Taff rail:  The rail around the stern of a ship.

Transom:  The surface at the stern of the boat, where the boat’s name and port of origin are displayed.  

Watch:  A time period during which a crew member is on duty.  We generally had four-hour watches on Heritage, except when the weather was bad.

Winch:  The mechanism, usually in the cockpit, that you use to tighten the sheets.  

Windlass:  A mechanism with gears and a handle, mounted at the bow to give a mechanical advantage to raising an anchor.

Windward:  The direction that the wind is coming from.