Sailing Dictionary

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ABAFT: Extra super salty talk for "aft of", as in "abaft the mast"
AFT: Toward the stern of the boat or behind it.
ANCHOR: A heavy metal device, fastened to a chain or line, to hold a vessel in position, partly because of its weight, but mainly because the designed shape digs into the bottom.


BACKWIND: Hold a sail so the wind pushes its backside.
BEAM REACH: Sailing at 90 degrees to the wind's direction.
BEATING: Zigzagging upwind, sailing closehauled and coming about.
BOW: The front (pointy) end of the boat.
BOW LINE: A docking line leading from the bow.
BOW PAINTER: Line attached to the bow; used to tie the boat to the dock, etc.
BROACH: To round up uncontrollably from a run to a beam reach, heeling over. "If broaching sideway to the sea, our dropsied ship may founder by the lee".
BROACH REACH: Sailing at 90 to 135 degrees to the wind direction.


CAPSIZE: When a boat tips over.
CENTERBOARD: Fin under boat to prevent sideways sailing; swings up for storage.
CHAINPLATE: metal piece on boat that attaches shrouds (wires that hold mast up).
CLEAT: A fitting, usually with two horn-shaped ends, to which lines are made fast. The classic cleat is almost anvil-shaped. Also, to fasten a line using a cleat.
CLEW: Aft corner of a sail (where the outhaul pulls it out, "without a clew").
CLOSE HAULED: Sailing at about 45 degrees to the wind direction.
COME ABOUT: To turn the boat up into the wind and over to change the side the sails are on (also called "tack").
CUNNINGHAM: Line used to pull down on the luff (front edge) of the sail.


DINGHY: A little open boat.


FAIRLEAD: ring used to guide lines.
FALL OFF: Turn the boat more downwind.
FOOT: Bottom edge of a sail.
FORESTAY: The wire between the bow and mast, which keeps the mast from falling backwards when the jib is off.


GOOSENECK: Fitting that attaches the boom to the mast with a flexible joint.


HALYARD: Line used to lift the sails; from "haul yard" since square-rigged boats had yards that were hauled up to lift their sails.
HANK: Plastic or metal clip or snap to hold jib on forestay.
HEAD: The upper corner of a triangular sail.
HEEL: A boat's leaning over to one side, usually because of the wind.
HIKING STICK: Extension on the tiller for steering while hiked out.
HULL: The main body of a vessel.


IN IRONS: A sailboat with its bow pointed directly into the wind, preventing the sails from filling properly so that the boat can move.


JIB: A triangular foresail in front of the foremast.
JIB BOOM: Spar forward of bowsprit to which the the tack of the jib is lashed.
JIB SHEET: Line that controls the trim (angle to the wind) of the jib.
JIBE: Turn away from the wind to cause the sails to flip over to the other side of the boat.


KEDGE: To use an anchor to move a boat by hauling on the anchor rode; a basic anchor type.
KNOT: 1. A measure of speed equal to one nautical mile (6076 feet) per hour. 2. A fastening made by interweaving rope to form a stopper. 3. To enclose or bind an object. 4. To form a loop or a noose. 5. To tie a small rope to an object, or to tie the ends of two small ropes together.


LEECH: Aft (rear) edge of a sail.
LEEWARD: The direction away from the wind; opposite of windward.


MAINMAST: The tallest mast of the ship; on a schooner, the mast furthest aft.
MAINSAIL: The sail set on the mainmast.-the lowest square sail on the mainmast.
MAST: A spar set upright to support rigging and sails.


OUTHAUL: Line that pulls on the clew of the mainsail.


PINCHING: Sailing at less than 45 degrees to the wind, with the sails partly luffing.
PORT: The left side of a boat looking forward; a harbor.
PORT TACK: Sailing with the mainsail on the starboard side of the boat.


REACH: Sailing with the wind coming over the side of the boat.
REEFING: Tying up the bottom of the sail to avoid being overpowered.
RIGGING: The general term for all the lines of a vessel.
RUDDER: A vertical plate or board for steering a boat.
RUN: Opposite of reach - sailing with the wind coming over the stern.


SCULLING: Rowing the boat, i.e. by swinging the tiller back and forth.
SHACKLE: A "U" shaped connector with a pin or bolt across the open end.
SHROUDS: Run from the top of the mast to the port (left) and starboard (right) side of the hull to give sideways support.
STARBOARD: The right side of a boat when looking forward.
STARBOARD TACK: Sailing with the mainsail on the port side of the boat.
STERN: The back end of a boat, usually the square end.


TACK: 1. The forward and lower corner of a sail, ("tack it down"). 2. A boat's heading as determined by the side that its sails are on. 3. Change tacks, usually by coming about.
TILLER: A bar or handle for turning a boat's rudder or an outboard motor.
TRAVELER: Metal bar or other fitting that holds mainsheet blockt.
TRIM: Fore and aft balance of a boat.
TRUE WIND: The actual direction from which the wind is blowing.


WAKE: Moving waves, track or path that a boat leaves behind when moving across the waters.
WHITECAPS: White foamy tops on the waves caused by high winds.
WINDWARD: Toward the direction from which the wind is coming; opposite of leeward.