Basic Boating Terminology – Boating Articles

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Reviewed – April

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Many of the terms used to describe parts of a boat have their origins in the sailing ships and the man-of-war naval ships of centuries past.

For example: Gunwale is the term used to describe the upper edge of the side of a boat or ship, originally it was where the guns were located. The word ‘starboard’ or the right hand side of the ship was first thought to have come from the early Teutonic ships that dated back to 110BC. These vessels were steered with a paddle or oar (steerboard) mounted on the right hand side of the ship. The Port side, the left hand side of a ship, was the side the ship was normally moored alongside on a dock for loading, hence the side to port.

Here are a few more terms that have stood the test of time and are still used today to describe parts of a boat.

  • BOW: the front of the boat
  • STERN: the back of the boat
  • BEAM: the widest part of the boat
  • BOWSPRIT: a spar or moulding projecting forward of the bow
  • COAMING: an extension of the hull above the deck, such as cockpit surrounds
  • PULPIT: the rail at the front of the boat
  • PUSHPIT: the rail at the stern of a sailing boat
  • CHINE: the angle formed where the bottom of the hull and the topsides meet.
  • DRAFT: the depth the boat sits in the water
  • FAIRLEAD: a fitting on the gunwale that mooring lines are led through
  • FLARE: the curved portion or overhang of the bow.
  • GUNWALE: (pronounced gunnel) where the hull joins to the deck
  • LAZARETTE: a storage space in the aft section of a boat
  • LENGTH OVERALL (LOA): measurement of the boat from extremities of the bow to the extremities of the stern
  • LENGTH OF WATERLINE (LWL): the measurement of the hull that actually sits in the water
  • PORTSIDE: the left hand side of the boat
  • STARBOARD: the right hand side of the boat
  • SCUPPER: a drain hole in the cockpit or deck
  • SHEER: the curve of the deck from the bow to the stern
  • STEM: the leading edge of the bow
  • SKYLARKING: is the act of running about the rigging of a vessel in port
  • TOPSIDE: that part of the boat above the waterline
  • TRANSOM: the flat section of the stern
  • TUMBLEHOME: a designed bulge in the hull between the waterline and gunwale
  • SEACOCK: a valve in the side of a boat to let water in our out
  • LEEWARD: the side of a boat sheltered from the wind
  • SELF DRAINING COCKPIT: an aft cockpit with scuppers to let water out but not in
  • LATITUDE: a line on the earth’s surface joining two points north or south of the equator
  • LONGDITUDE: the angular distance east or west of the prime meridian that stretches from the north Pole to the South Pole and passes through Greenwich, England.

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