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Aback Wind on the wrong side of the sails.
Abaft Toward the rear of the boat, behind the boat.
Abeam At right angles to, or beside, the boat
Aboard On or in the boat
About Ship And Reef Tops'ls In One With the wind ahead a sailing ship has to proceed on a zigzag course, sailing with the wind on one bow for a certain distance (a board), then crossing the wind to bring it on the other bow. The master gives the order "About Ship!," the men rush to their stations, haul and slack braces, the helmsman puts the wheel down, and the ship is brought on to a new tack. In the old Navy, when reefing, the three big tops'ls would be lowered a little, the reef-tackles hauled on (as to shorten the area of sail exposed to the wind), and the men would race aloft to "pass the "earrings" and tie the reef-points - a "pleat" of sail having been hauled up to the yard to make a new or temporary head to the shortened sail. After the close of the Napoleonic Wars, in the so-called fancy frigates of the British Navy, in order to keep the men active and fit ( in peacetime) these two maneuvers were performed together as a drill, three watches of men racing against each other on different masts.
Above Board Honest, forthright. It's origin comes from the days when pirates would masquerade as honest merchantmen, hiding most of their crew behind the bulwark (side of the ship on the upper deck). They hid below the boards.
Abreast Off the side, even with the boat.
Accommodation ladder A portable flight of steps down a ship's side.
Admiralty Law The "law of the sea."
Adrift Loose from moorings, or out of place.
Advance-Note A piece of paper worth a month's pay, handed to a sailor when he signs on a ship, which can be turned into cash by one of the sailor's relatives after his ship has sailed. In actual fact, the sailor would hand the note to the crimp, boarding house master, or ship chandler, these "gentlemen" cashing it for him at a usurious rate. The reduced amount he received would then buy him some shoddy clothing from the chandler, but would more usually would be splashed on women and booze in dives owned by the above "gentlemen."
Aft, After Toward the stern of the boat.
Afterguard The seamen who are stationed on the poop and quarter deck of the vessel, to attend and work the after sails etc.
Aground When the hull or keel is against the ground
Ahoy Traditional greeting for hailing other vessels, originally a Viking battle cry.
Aloft Overhead, above
Amas The outboard hulls of a trimaran.
Amidships In the center of the boat.
Anchor 1) A heavy metal object designed such that its weight and shape will help to hold a boat in its position when lowered to the sea bottom on a rode or chain.
2) The act of using an anchor
Anchor Chain A chain attached to the anchor. The chain acts partially as a weight to keep the anchor lying next to the ground so that it can dig in better. Chain is also not damaged as much as line when lying on rocks. The weight of the chain also helps to absorb changes in the boat's position due to waves.
Anchor Light A white light, usually on the masthead, visible from all directions, used when anchored.
Anchor Locker A locker used to store the anchor rode and anchor.
Anchor Roller Also called bow roller. A fitting with a small wheel that allows the anchor and chain to roll over when dropping or raising the anchor. Some anchor rollers also have a provision to store the anchor.
Anchor Windlass A windlass used to assist when raising the anchor.
Anchorage A place where a boat anchors, usually an established and marked area.
Apparent Wind The direction of the wind as is relative to the speed and direction of the boat
Armstrong's Patent Sailor term covering muscular, non-mechanical labor.
Astern Toward the stern of a vessel, or behind the boat.
Athwart, athwartships At right angles to the fore and aft or centerline of a ship.
Autopilot A device used to steer a boat automatically, usually electrical, hydraulic or mechanical in nature. A similar mechanism called a self-steering gear may also be used on a sailing vessel.
Auxiliary A second method of propelling a vessel. On a sailboat this could be an engine.
Avast A command to cease or desist from whatever is being done.
Aweather Toward the weather or windward side of the vessel. The opposite of alee.
Aweigh To raise an anchor off the bottom.
- B -  
Backstay A support wire that runs from the top of the mast to the stern
Bail To remove water from the boat
Ballast Weight in the lower portion of a boat, used to add stability
Barge A long, narrow, light boat, employed to carry the principal sea officers, such as admirals and captains of ships of war, to shore.
Barratry Any wrongful act knowingly done by the master or crew of a vessel to the detriment of the owner of either ship or cargo;and which was done without knowledge or consent of owner or owners.
Battens Thin, stiff strips of plastic or wood, placed in pockets in the leech of a sail, to assist in keeping its form
Beam 1) The widest part of a boat.
2) Abeam, at a right angle to the length of the boat.
3) Sturdy wooden timbers running across the width of a boat. Used to support the deck of a wooden boat.
Beam Reach The point of sail with the wind coming from abeam.
Bear away To put the helm up and run off to leeward. To put before the wind.
Bearing The direction of an object from the observer.
Beat To sail on a tack toward the wind.
Beating Tacking. To sail against the wind by sailing on alternating tacks.
Before the mast An expression used to describe the station of seamen who had their accommodations in the forward part of the ship, as distinguished from officers who were berthed aft. Thus a man before the mast meant a common sailor and not an officer.
Belay 1) To make secure
2) To cancel an order;to stop
Bend on To secure one thing to another, as bend a flag onto a halyard.
Berth 1) A place where a boat or ship can be secured.
2) A safe, cautious distance, as in to give something a wide berth."
Between the Devil and the Deep In wooden ships, the "devil" was the longest seam of the ship. It ran from the bow to the stern. When at sea and the "devil" had to be caulked, the sailor sat in a bo'sun's chair to do so. He was suspended between the "devil" and the sea - the "deep" - a very precarious position, especially when the ship was underway.
Bight 1) A loop in a line
2) Bend in a river or coastline.
Bilge The lowest part of the interior of the boat where water collects.
Bilge Pump A mechanical, electrical, or manually operated pump used to remove water from the bilge.
Bimini A cover used to shelter the cockpit from the sun.
Bitt Strong iron post on ship's deck for working or fastening lines
Bitter end The utmost end of a line.
Bleed The Monkey Surreptitiously to remove spirit from a keg or cask by making a small hole and sucking through a straw.
Block One or more pulleys designed to carry a line and change the direction of its travel. A housing around the pulley allows the block to be connected to a spar or to another line. Lines used with a block are known as tackle.
Bloodboat The name applied to the Down Easter "hell-ships" that hailed from the Eastern American seaboard and engaged in the Cape Horn trade, whose masters and mates were all "buckos" or "bullies." The Down Easter Gatherer was the most infamous.
Blue Peter A blue flag with an oblong white center, indicating a ship is about to sail when hoisted, at different periods, at the foremast or mainmast. Its name is said to derive from the French verb partir, to leave;or from Sir Peter Parker (1783), Admiral Cornwallis, known as "Billy Blue";a corruption of "blue pierced";or from "peter", an old name for a cabin trunk.
Bluenose A general nautical term for Canadians, but more especially for Nova Scotian sailing ships and men.
Boat fall Rigging used to hoist or lower ship's boats.
Boat gripe Lashing used at sea to secure a boat hanging from the davits against the strongback and away from the ship's side.
Boat Hook A device designed to catch a line when coming alongside a pier or mooring
Bobstay A wire from the bowsprit to the stem of a boat, just above the waterline.
Bollard A large pillar to which a boat's mooring lines may be tied.
Bolt Rope A rope sewn into the luff of a sail for use in attaching to the standing rigging
Boom A pole securing the bottom of a sail, allowing more control of the position of a sail.
Boom Vang A line that adjusts downward tension on the boom
Boomkin A small outrigger over the stern of a boat.
Bosun Also boatswain, bos'n, bo's'n, and bo'sun, all of which are pronounced "bow-sun." A crew member responsible for keeping the hull, rigging and sails in repair.
Bosun's Chair A chair, traditionally made from a plank and rope, used to hoist workers aloft to maintain the rigging.
Bosun's Locker A locker where tools for maintaining the hull, rigging and sails are kept.
Bosun's pipe Small, shrill silver whistle used by boatswain's mate to pass a call or pipe the side.
Bow The front of the boat
Bowline A knot used to make a loop in a line. Easily untied, it is simple and strong. The bowline is used to tie sheets to sails.
Bowsprit Large spar projecting off the front of a boat. A bowsprit allows better positioning of the forestay to maximize use of the jib or genoa sail.
Box Hauling A method of bringing a close-hauled ship around upon the other tack by throwing the head sails aback, if it refuses to tack and there is no room to wear.
Brace A rope attached to the end of a yard to haul it aft, rotating the sail.
Breakers A wave that approaches shallow water, causing the wave height to exceed the depth of the water it is in, in effect tripping it. The wave changes from a smooth surge in the water to a cresting wave with water tumbling down the front of it.
Breaking Seas With sufficiently strong wind, large waves can form crests even in deep water, causing the wave tops to tumble forward over the waves.
Breakwater A structure built to improve a harbor by sheltering it from waves.
Breast Line A docking line going at approximately a right angle from the boat to the dock
Bridle Span of rope or chain with both ends secured.
Bring by the lee To incline so rapidly to leeward of the course, when the ship sails large, as to bring the lee-side unexpectedly to windward;and by laying all the sails aback expose her to the danger of upsetting.
Brig 1) A two-masted vessel, mostly square-rigged, but with a fore-and-aft mainsail.
2) Naval jail.
Broach To spin out of control, either causing or nearly causing a capsize.
Broad Reach A point of sail where the boat is sailing away from the wind, but not directly downwind
Brow Large gangplank leading from a ship to a pier, wharf, or float;usually equipped with rollers on the bottom and hand rails on the side.
Bucko A bullying and tyrannical officer.
Bulkhead One of the vertical wall-like structures enclosing a compartment.
Bulwarks The sides of a boat above the upper deck.
Buoy An anchored float marking a position or for use as a mooring
Burgoo Oatmeal porridge.
By The Lee Sailing with the wind coming from behind, and slightly to the side, that the sails are on
- C -  
Cachalot The sperm whale, hunted mainly by Yankee whalers in the South Pacific. This name comes from the French word cache, "box," which itself is the name given to a small bony section of the whale's head containing spermaceti, the precious oily substance used for making candles, ointments, and cosmetics. The English-speaking whalemen called this a "case," and because it was often a difficult place from which to extract the oil, it was sometimes called a "hard case." The man engaged in extracting it also became known as a "hard case" and so the term entered the English language for someone who is considered tough.
Camel Large fender float used for keeping vessel off wharf, pier, or quay;usually of one or more logs.
Can A kind of navigation buoy
Canvas Tightly woven cloth used for sails, covers and biminis. Typically made from cotton, hemp or linen. Modern sails are made out of synthetic materials generally known as sailcloth.
Capsize To turn a boat over
Capstan A rotating drum used to haul heavy lines and chains. Similar to a winch, but mounted vertically.
Captain The person who is in charge of a vessel and legally responsible for it and its occupants.
Cast Off To release lines holding boat to shore or mooring, to release sheets
Catamaran A twin-hulled boat. Catamaran sailboats are known for their ability to plane and are faster than single-hulled boats (monohulls) in some conditions.
Catboat A one sail sailboat
Caulking Material used to seal the seams in a wooden vessel, making it watertight.
Celestial Navigation A method of using the stars, sun and moon to determine one's position. Position is determined by measuring the apparent altitude of one of these objects above the horizon using a sextant and recording the times of these sightings with an accurate clock. That information is then used with tables in the Nautical Almanac to determine one's position.
Centerboard A fin shaped, often removable, board that extends from the bottom of the boat as a keel
Chafe Damage to a line caused by rubbing against another object
Chainplates Metal plates bolted to the boat which standing rigging is attached to
Chalk A Score In sailortown pubs it was a common thing for a known sailor customer to be allowed credit, and what he owed for a night's drinking would be chalked up on a blackboard behind the bar. Also see Mind your Ps and Qs.
Chart Maps for boaters are known as charts. Charts are usually issued by government agencies and include information on channels, navigational aids, water depth and hazards.
Chine The location where the deck joins the hull of a boat.
Chock A guide for an anchor, mooring or docking line, attached to the deck
Cleat A fitting used to secure a line to
Clew The lower aft corner of a sail
Close Hauled A point of sail where the boat is sailing as close to the wind as possible
Close Reach A point of sail where the boat is sailing towards the wind but is not close hauled
Coaming A small wall to prevent water from entering the cockpit.
Cockpit The area, below deck level, that is somewhat more protected than the open deck, from which the tiller or wheel is handled
Cold Enough To Freeze The Balls Off A Brass Monkey Has nothing whatsoever to do with simian anatomy. It seems that those neat pyramids of cannonballs were formed by creating a base in a dimpled try called a monkey. Normally, the "monkey" was made of iron, but for dress ship occasions, a brass tray,or monkey, was used. The difference in the co-efficient of expansion (or contraction) between the two metals was often enought to cause the pyramid to topple...hence "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey".
Coordinated Universal Time A time standard that is not affected by time zones or seasons. Time measured in coordinated universal time, labeled with the term zulu. It is used so that people around the world can communicate about time without regard to individual time zones.
Course The direction in which a boat is traveling or intends to travel.
CQR Anchor Also called a plow anchor. Short for coastal quick release anchor. An anchor that is designed to bury itself into the ground by use of its plow shape.
Crackerhash Biscuits broken into pieces and baked with small portions of salt beef or pork.
Crew One or more people who aid in the operation of a boat.
Crimp A person who procures men to serve as sailors or soldiers by tricking or coercing them.
Crow's Nest A small, sheltered platform close to the top of a ship's mast, used by the lookout.
Cruising Guides Books that describe features of particular sailing areas, such as hazards, anchorages, etc.
Cutter A sailboat with one mast and a mainsail and two headsails.
Cyclone A violent, circular storm with heavy rainfall and winds circulating about a calm center of low atmospheric pressure. In the Northern Hemisphere, these storms are called hurricanes. In the Southern Hemisphere, they are called typhoons.
- D -  
Dandyfunk Biscuits pulverized with a belayin' pin (after being put in a canvas bag), the resultant mass being smeared with slush left over from the boiling of salt beef and baked in the galley oven (if permitted by the cook) in a cut down bully tin.
Deck The surface on the top of a boat on which people can stand.
Depth Sounder An instrument that uses sound waves to measure the distance to the bottom.
Devil to Pay The "devil" was the wooden ship's longest seam in the hull. Caulking was done with "pay" or pitch (a kind of tar). The task of "paying the devil" (caulking the longest seam) by squatting in the bilges was despised by every seaman.
Dinghy A small boat used to travel from a boat to shore, carrying people or supplies. Also known as a dink or tender.
Dip Lowering a flag part way in salute or in answer, and hoisting it again.
Displacement The weight of the water displaced by the boat
Distress Signals Any signal that is used to indicate that a vessel is in distress. Flares, smoke, audible alarms and electronic beacons are types of distress signals.
Dock 1) Any platform where vessels can make fast. Docks are often subdivided into smaller areas for docking known as slips.
2) The act of entering a dock.
Dogsbody Sea biscuits soaked in water to a pulp, with added sugar.
Dolphin Cluster of piles for mooring.
Donkey's Breakfast This was the sailor name for the straw-stuffed bag of canvas which up to the Second World War was the only sleeping paillasse used by merchant seamen. It is even referred to in an early sea-ballad of 1400;"A sak of strawe were there right good." As the seamen headed toward his ship on sailing day, with a seabag over one shoulder, he would call on a dockside chandler, buy his donkey's breakfast, and hitch it up over his other shoulder. If it were pouring with rain, he'd sleep that night on its sodden straw, and before the voyage was over the straw would have wormed itself into great knotted lumps and possibly become the home of vicious bedbugs.
Downhaul A line, attached to the tack, that adjusts tension in the sail
Draft 1) The depth of a boat, measured from the deepest point to the waterline. The water must be at least this depth, or the boat will run aground.
2) A term describing the amount of curvature designed into a sail.
Dragging Description of an anchor that is not securely fastened to the bottom and moves.
Drift The leeway, or movement of the boat, when not under power, or when being pushed sideways while under power
Dry Dock A dock where a boat can be worked on out of the water. The boat is usually sailed into a dry dock, and then the water is pumped out.
Dukes Slang name for "fists."
- E -  
Ease To loosen or let out
EPIRB Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. An emergency device that uses a radio signal to alert satellites or passing airplanes to a vessel's position.
Equator An imaginary line around the center of the world at Latitude 0°.
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Fairlead A fitting used to change the direction of a line without chafing
Fairway In inland waters, an open channel or midchannel
Fake down Coiling down a line so that each fake of rope overlaps the one underneath and makes the line clear for running.
Fathom A measurement relating to the depth of water, a fathom is the average distance from fingertip to fingertip of the outstretched arms of a man - about six feet.
FCC Rules Federal Communications Commission rules governing radio equipment and operation in the United States and its coastal waters.
Fender A cushion hung from the sides of a boat to protect it from rubbing against a dock or another boat.
Feeling Blue If a ship lost its captain or any of the officers during its voyage, she would fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along her entire hull when returning to home port.
Fetch 1) The distance wind and waves can travel toward land without being blocked. In areas without obstructions, the wind and seas can build to great strength, but in sheltered areas, such as coves and harbors, the wind and seas can be quite calm.
2) The act of sailing to a location accurately without having to tack.
Fiberglass A construction method using layers of woven glass mats that are bonded together with glue.
Fin Keel A keel that is narrower and deeper than a full keel.
Flare A device that burns to produce a bright light, sometimes colored, usually used to indicate an emergency.
Flogging Around The Fleet A punishment for mutiny, insubordination, and desertion carried out in the British and other navies for over 400 years. The victim would be lashed to capstan bars laid athwart the launch, the latter proceeding around all the ships in the harbor, the man being flogged at each gangway until he had had his quota of lashes - up to 300 in extreme cases.
Flotsam Debris floating on the water surface, usually from an accident as opposed to litter or garbage.
Fluke 1) The broad flat parts of an anchor that are designed to grab and hold in the bottom.
2) A fin on a whale.
Foil A winglike surface below the hull that, when moved through water, lifts the hull out of the water, allowing greater speeds.
Foot The bottom part of a sail
Fore, Forward Toward the bow of the boat.
Fore-And-Aft From the bow to the stern.
Forecastle Pronounced as fo'ksul, abbreviated fo'csle. The forecastle is the forward part of the main deck. It derives its name from the days of Viking galleys when wooden castles were built on the forward and after parts the main deck from which archers and other fighting men could shoot arrows and throw spears, rocks, etc.
Foremast The forward mast of a boat with more that one mast
Forepeak The most forward storage area on a vessel.
Foresail A sail placed forward of the mast, such as a jib.
Forestay A line running from the bow of the boat to the upper part of the mast, designed to pull the mast forward. A forestay that attaches slightly below the top of the mast can be used to help control the bend of the mast. The most forward stay on the boat is also called the headstay.
Forestaysail A sail attached to the forestay, as opposed to a jib, which is attached to the headstay.
Foretopmast A mast above the foremast.
Forward Toward the bow to the boat
Foul When a line ends up somewhere it does not belong and becomes jammed. Lines can foul on blocks, winches and other objects on a boat.
Fouled Entangled or clogged
Founder Used to describe a boat that is having difficulty remaining afloat.
Frap To bind lightly by passing lines around;to draw together the parts of tackle or other combinations of ropes to increase tension.
Freeboard The distance from the highest point of the hull to the water
Fufu Band A ship's "orchestra" in the days of sail. Although often including normal instruments - a melodeon, concertina, banjo, fiddle, and/or guitar - at times it would be made up of little more than a fiddle formed from a Havana cigar box, a penny whistle, a paper and comb, a drum shaped from an old paint tin with its top and bottom removed and replaced with pig bladder skins (obtained from the galley if the cook was amicable), and the stamping of the men.
Full and By Said of a sailing vessel when all sails are drawing full and the course steered is as close to the wind as possible. Sometimes known as sailing by and large.
Full Keel A keel that runs the length of the boat. Full keels have a shallower draft than fin keels.
Furl To fold or roll a sail and secure it to its main support
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Gaff A spar or pole extending diagonally upward from the after side of a mast and supporting a fore-and-aft sail.
Gale A storm with a wind speed between 34 and 40 knots.
Gale Force Winds Wind speeds strong enough to qualify the storm as a gale.
Galley The kitchen area on a boat.
Gangway Opening in the bulwarks of the rail of the ship to give entrance at the head of the gangplank or brow;an order to stand aside and get out of the way.
Genoa A large foresail that overlaps the mainsail
Gimball A device that suspends a compass so that it remains level
GMT Time measured in Greenwich Mean Time. Coordinated universal time is the new term. A time standard that is not affected by time zones or seasons.
Gooseneck A device that connects the boom to the mast
GPS Global Positioning System. A system of satellites that allows one's position to be calculated with great accuracy by the use of an electronic receiver.
Great Circle A circle drawn around the Earth such that the center of the circle is at the center of the Earth. Following such a circle plots the shortest distance between any two points on the surface of the Earth.
Green Water A solid mass of water coming aboard instead of just spray.
Greenwich Mean Time GMT for short. Coordinated universal time is the new term. A time standard that is not affected by time zones or seasons.
Grommet A ring or eyelet normally used to attach a line, such as on a sail.
Ground Swells Swells that become shorter and steeper as they approach the shore due to shallow water.
Ground Tackle The anchor, chain and rode
Gunwale, Gunnel The upper edges of the bulwark or wall around the ship's sides, which in men-o'-war was pierced for guns. Gunwale is a corruption of "gun-wall."
Gypsy A windlass or capstan drum.
- H -  
Hair Cut Short Yankee seamen always preferred their hair cut "short back and sides," decrying the English and continental sailor fashion of the queue or pigtail.
Half-Seas-Over Half drunk.
Halyard The line used to raise and lower the sail
Handsomely To execute something deliberately and carefully, but not necessarily slowly.
Harbor An anchorage protected from storms either naturally or by manmade barriers.
Harbormaster The individual who is in charge of a harbor.
Hard Alee The command given to inform the crew that the helm is being turned quickly to leeward, turning the boat windward
Haul Pulling on a line.
Hawse The general region around the ship's head where the hawse-holes, through which the cables pass, are to be found.
Head 1) The front of a vessel.
2) The upper corner or edge of a sail.
3) The top or front of a part.
4) The toilet and toilet room in a vessel.
Head Seas Waves coming from the front of the vessel.
Head To Wind The bow turned into the wind, sails luffing
Heading The actual course of the vessel at any given time.
Headsail Any sail forward of the mast, such as a jib.
Headstay A wire support line from the mast to the bow. Foremost of forestays.
Headway Forward motion
Heave To throw or pull strongly on a line.
Heave 'round To revolve the drum of a winch or windlass so as to pull in a line or anchor cable.
Heave To To stop a boat and maintain position (with some leeway) by balancing rudder and sail to prevent forward movement, a boat stopped this way is "hove to"
Heaving Line A light line used to be thrown ashore, from which a larger rope can then be pulled.
Heavy Seas When the water has large waves or breakers in stormy conditions.
Heavy Weather Stormy conditions, including rough, high seas and strong winds. Probably uncomfortable or dangerous.
Heel, Heeling When a boat tilts away from the wind, caused by wind blowing on the sails and pulling the top of the mast over. Some heel is normal when under sail.
Helm The tiller or wheel, and surrounding area
Helmsman The member of the crew responsible for steering
High Tide The point of a tide when the water is the highest. The opposite of low tide.
Hike Leaning out over the side of the boat to balance it
Hitch A knot used to attach a line to a cleat or other object.
Hoist To raise aloft
Holding Ground The type of bottom that the anchor is set in.
Holding Tank A storage tank where sewage is stored until it can be removed to a treatment facility.
Hollow Sea A condition usually occurring where there is shoaling water or a current setting against the waves. The line from crest to trough makes a sharp angle, and consequently the sea is very dangerous.
Holystone Teak, and other wooden decks, were scrubbed with a piece of sandstone, nicknamed as the "holystone", since its use always brought a man to his knees.
Hoosegow On the West Coast of South America jails were called in the Spanish tongues juzgados. Sailing-ship seamen who spent a lot of time behind bars called the phonetically, "hoosegows," and from the Spanish spelling, "jughouses."
Hoosiers Cotton stevedores who worked on the wharves and levees of New Orleans and Mobile. The majority were black, but after the 1840s, Creoles and white sailors who "screwed cotton" were also referred to by this name.
Horseshoe Buoy A floatation device shaped like a U and thrown to people in the water in emergencies.
Hotshot Sometimes aboard ship, iron cannon balls would be heated in the galley fires and then carried in buckets to different parts of the ship to provide a bit of warmth on cold or especialy damp nights. A "hotshot" then became something that provided comfort during uncomfortable times. The term eventually grew to describe a person especially adept at a certain task or skilled.
Hull The main structural body of the boat, not including the deck, keel or mast. The part that keeps the water out of the boat.
Hull down Said of a distant vessel when only her stack-tops and mast are visible above the horizon.
Hunky-Dory The term meaning everything is O.K. was coined from a street named "Honki-Dori" in Yokohama, Japan, whose inhabitants catered to the pleasures of sailors.
Hurricane A cyclone in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, these storms are known as typhoons.
Hydrodynamic A shape designed to move efficiently through the water.
Hydrofoil A boat that has foils under its hull onto which it rises to plane across the water surface at high speed.
- I -  
ICW Intracoastal waterway. A system of rivers and canals along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States allowing boats to travel along them without having to go offshore.
In Irons Having turned onto the wind or lost the wind, stuck and unable to make headway
- J -  
Jacob's ladder Light ladder made of rope or chain with metal or wooden rungs;used over the side and aloft.
Jetsam Debris floating on the water surface, usually cast there as opposed to wreckage.
Jetty A manmade structure projecting from the shore. May protect a harbor entrance or aid in preventing beach erosion.
Jib A triangular sail attached to the headstay. A jib that extends aft of the mast is known as a genoa.
Jib Netting A rope net to catch the jib when it is lowered.
Jib Sheet A sheet used to control the position of the jib. The jib has two sheets, and at any time one is the working sheet and the other is the lazy sheet.
Jib Stay The stay that the jib is hoisted on. Usually the headstay.
Jib Topsail A small jib set high on the headstay of a double headsail rig.
Jibe, Gybe A change of tack while going downwind
Johnny-Come-Lately The name Johnny Raw was a name given to inexperienced British Sailors. In the American Navy the term eventually evolved into Johnny-come-lately and is used to describe the new guy or a newcomer.
Jollyboat A general purpose ship's boat, its name probably stemming from the seventeenth-century name for a small boat - "gellywatte."
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Kedging 1) A method of pulling a boat out of shallow water when it has run aground. A dinghy is used to set an anchor, then the boat is pulled toward the anchor. Those steps are repeated until the boat is in deep enough water to float.
2) A traditionally shaped anchor having flukes perpendicular to the stock of the anchor and connected by a shank. These are less common than modern anchors such as the plow and lightweight anchors.
Keel A flat surface built into the bottom of the boat to reduce the leeway caused by the wind pushing against the side of the boat. A keel also usually has some ballast to help keep the boat upright and prevent it from heeling too much. There are several types of keels, such as fin keels and full keels.
Keelhauling A severe naval punishment in which the victim was hauled from one yardarm to the other under the keel of the ship. The victim rarely survived;he would either be cut to ribbons by the shellfish on the ship's bottom or become bloated with seawater.
Ketch A sailboat with two masts. The shorter mizzen mast is aft of the main mast, but forward of the rudder post. A similar vessel, the yawl, has the mizzen mast aft of the rudder post.
Killick Slang for anchor
Knot One knot equals one nautical mile per hour. This rate is equivalent to approximately 1.15 statute miles per hour, 6,076 feet per hour or exactly 1.852 kilometers per hour.
- L -  
Ladder In a ship, corresponds to stairs in a building.
Lanyard A line attached to any small object for the purpose of securing the object
Larboard The left, or port, side of any craft when facing the bow.
Large To sail large is to run with the sheets eased off when the wind is from abaft the beam and the bowlines are entirely disused so that the sails receive the full effect of the wind.
Lash To tie something with a line.
Latitude Imaginary lines drawn around the world and used to measure distance north and south of the Equator. The North Pole is 90°north, the South Pole is 90°south, and the Equator is at 0°.
Lazarette A small aft storage space for spare parts and other items.
Lazy Jack A line running from above the mainsail to the boom to aid in the lowering of the sail.
Lazy Sheet A line attached to a sail but not currently in use. The line currently in use is known as the working sheet. The working and lazy sheets usually change when the boat is tacked.
Lee The direction toward which the wind is blowing. The direction sheltered from the wind.
Leeboard A board placed alongside a berth to keep its occupant from falling out when a boat heels.
Leech The back edge of a sail
Leeward The direction away from the wind. Opposite of windward.
Leeway The lateral movement of a ship to leeward of her course, estimated from the angle formed between the line of the ship's keel and the line which the ship actually describes through the water.
Liberty Any authorized absence granted for short periods to provide respite from the work environment or for other specific reasons. Liberty is not chargeable to the member.
Life Boat A small boat used for emergencies, such as when the parent boat is sinking.
Life Jacket, Life Preserver, Life Vest A device used to keep a person afloat. Also called a personal floatation device or PFD.
Life Raft An emergency raft used in case of serious problems to the parent vessel, such as sinking.
Lifeline A cable fence that surrounds the deck to assist in the prevention of crew falling overboard
Light A lighted navigational aid such as a lighthouse that can be used at night or in poor visibility.
Lighthouse A navigational light placed on a structure on land.
Lightweight Anchor An anchor that has pivoting flukes that dig into the ground as tension is placed on the anchor. It does not have a stock.
Line On a boat, most ropes are called lines.
List A leaning to one side when not underway. Usually the result of an improperly loaded boat. Heeling is different from a list because it is caused by the forces of wind acting upon a sailboat that is underway. When a boat changes tacks, the direction of the heel will change sides, whereas a list is a continual leaning to the same side under any condition.
Loblolly The gruel or porridge usually served to the surgeon's patient in the sickbay. Another form of burgoo.
Loblolly boy A surgeon's assistant aboard ship.
Lock A device that allows boats to pass between bodies of water having different water levels, such as in a canal. A boat enters a lock, then large doors close behind it. The water level is then either raised or lowered until a second set of doors can be opened and the boat can pass through.
Locker Any storage place on a boat.
Log 1) A device used to measure the distance traveled through the water. The distance read from a log can be affected by currents, leeway and other factors, so those distances are sometimes corrected to a distance made good. Logs can be electronic devices or paddlewheels mounted through the hull of the boat or trailed behind it on a line.
2) A written record of a boat's condition, usually including items such as boat position, boat speed, wind speed and direction, course and other information.
Logbook A book in which the boat's log is kept. Each entry usually contains the time and date of the entry, weather conditions, boat speed and course, position and other information.
Longitude Imaginary lines drawn through the North and South Poles on the globe, used to measure distance east and west. Greenwich, England, is designated as 0°, with other distances being measured in degrees east and west of Greenwich.
Longsplice Slang for marriage.
Loran An electronic instrument using radio waves from various stations to find one's position. The LORAN system is being replaced by the GPS system and will be obsolete in a few years. Many LORAN stations have already stopped providing service.
Low Tide The point of a tide at which the water is the lowest. The opposite of a high tide.
Lucky bag Locker for stowage of personal gear found adrift.
Luff The front edge of a sail, and the flapping in the wind of the front of the sail (luffing)
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Main Mast The tallest (possibly only) mast on a boat.
Main Sheet The line used to control the boom to control the mainsail.
Main Topsail A topsail on the main mast.
Mainsail The main sail that is suspended from the main mast.
Make Fast To attach a line to something so that it will not move.
Marina A place where boats can find fuel, water and other services. Marinas also contain slips where boats can stay for a period of time.
Marks and deeps The divisions used in marking a hand-held lead line at the second, third, fifth, seventh, tenth, thirteenth, fifteenth, seventeenth and twentieth fathoms, each designated by bits of leather are called marks. The intermediate fathoms, estimated by the leadsman, are called deeps.
Marline spike or marling spike A pointed metal pin with a round head, used by riggers and seamen to separate the strands of rope when splicing and also as a lever when putting on seizing, marling etc.
Marry Placing two lines together, as in hoisting a boat;to sew together temporarily the ends of two lines for rendering through the block.
Marry The Gunner's Daughter Old Navy nickname for a flogging, particularly when across a gun.
Mast Any vertical pole on the boat that sails are attached to. If a boat has more than one mast, they can be identified by name.
Master The person in charge of a vessel. The captain.
Masthead The top of a mast.
Mate An assistant to the captain.
Mayday An internationally recognized distress signal used on a radio to indicate a life-threatening situation. Mayday calls have priority over any other radio transmission and should be used only if there is an immediate threat to life or vessel. It is an anglicizing of the French m'aidez, "help me".
Meridian A longitude line. Meridians are imaginary circles that run through both poles.
Mess 1) To eat
2) A group of crew members eating together
3) The compartment or location for the dining of a select group aboard ship, such as the Officers' mess.
Messenger Light line used for hauling over a heavier rope or cable.
Mind Your P's And Q's An admonishment to stay alert or be on your best behavior. Originated from tavern owners who allowed Sailors to drink "on credit" until they were hired by a ship. P's refers to pints, Q's refers to quarts. Some unscrupulous tavern owners would try to put extra check marks under the P's and Q's columns if they saw the Sailor wasn't paying attention (or was obviously inebriated).
Miss stays To fail in going about from one tack to the other, as a result of which the ship gets its head to the wind, comes to a stand, and begins to fall off on the same tack.
Mizzen Mast A smaller aft mast on a ketch or yawl rigged boat.
Mizzen Sail The sail on the aft mast of a ketch or yawl rigged sailboat.
Mizzen Staysail A small sail that is sometimes placed forward of the mizzen mast.
Monkey fist A knot, with or without a weight enclosed, worked in the end of a heaving line to form a heavy ball to facilitate throwing the line.
Monohull A boat that has only one hull, as opposed to multihull boats such as catamarans or trimarans.
Moor To attach a boat to a mooring, dock, post, anchor, etc.
Mooring An anchor or weight, permanently attached to the sea floor, with a buoy going to the surface, used to hold the boat in a certain area
Mooring Buoy A buoy marking the location of a mooring. Usually attached to an anchor by a small pendant.
Mooring Line A line used to secure a boat to an anchor, dock or mooring.
Morse Code A code that uses dots and dashes to communicate by radio or signal lights.
Motor 1) An engine.
2) The act of using an engine to move a boat.
Motor Sailer A boat designed to use its motor for significant amounts of time and use the sails less often than a normal sailboat.
Mount 1) An attachment point for another object.
2) The act of putting an object on its mount.
Mousing Small stuff seized across a hook to prevent unhooking.
Mudhook Slang for anchor.
Multihull Any boat with more than one hull, such as a catamaran or trimaran.
Mushroom Anchor A type of anchor with a heavy, inverted mushroom-shaped head. Mushroom anchors are used to anchor in mud and other soft ground.
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Nautical Having to do with boats, ships or sailing.
Nautical Mile Distance at sea is measured in nautical miles, which are about 6,067.12 feet, 1.15 statute miles or exactly 1,852 meters. Nautical miles have the unique property that 1 minute of latitude is equal to 1 nautical mile. (There is a slight error, because the earth is not perfectly round.) Measurement of speed is done in knots, where 1 knot equals 1 nautical mile per hour. A statute mile is used to measure distances on land in the United States and is 5,280 feet.
Navigation The act of determining the position of a boat and the course needed to safely move the boat from place to place.
Navigator The person responsible for navigating a boat.
No Quarter To give an opponent no opportunity to surrender. It stems from the old custom by which officers, upon surrender, could ransom themselves by paying one quarter of a year's pay.
Nun A kind of navigational buoy
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Oakum A caulking material used in waterproofing the seams between strakes of planking.
Off The Wind Sailing with the wind coming from the stern or quarter of the boat.
Offshore Away from land, toward the water.
Offshore Wind Wind that is blowing away from the land, toward the water.
Open A location that is not sheltered from the wind and seas.
Out Of Trim Sails that are not properly arranged for the point of sail that the boat is on. The sails may have improper sail shape, or the boat may be heeling too much. These conditions will slow the boat down.
Outboard On the side of the hull that the water is on. Outboard engines are sometimes just called outboards.
Outboard Engine An engine used to power a small boat. Outboard engines are mounted on a bracket aft of the stern of the boat.
Outhaul The line that adjust tension along the foot of the sail along the boom
Outrigger A floatation device attached to one or both sides of the hull to help prevent capsizing.
Overboard In the water outside of the vessel.
Overhead On a ship, equivalent to the ceiling of a building ashore.
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Packet Rats This was the name given to the tough seamen who manned the Western Ocean (Atlantic) packet ships running between Liverpool, New York and Boston in the second and third decades of the nineteenth century. They were Irishmen hailing from New York, Liverpool, or Ireland herself. They were, in the main, great drinkers and singers, but awkward customers to handle. They were good seamen, too - with such men aboard a master could leave the shortening of sail to the last moment and be certain that these sailormen would be out and up aloft in a brace o' shakes and in no time have the sails muzzled and stowed. On the other hand, they weren't "fancy" sailormen, like the men of the clippers;i.e., they weren't interested in "sailorizing" - the arts of splicing, knotting, sewing canvas and so on.
Paddy's Purchase Seaman's scornful name for any lead of a rope by which effort is lost or wasted.
Painted Waterline A painted line on the side of a boat at the waterline. The color usually changes above and below the waterline, and the boat is painted with special anti-fouling paint below the waterline.
Painter A line tied to the bow of a small boat for the purpose of securing it to a dock or to the shore
Parallel Latitude line.
Passage A journey from one place to another.
Peak The upper aft corner of a square fore-and-aft sail.
Pennant A triangular flag
PFD Personal Floatation Device. A device used to keep a person afloat. Also called a life jacket, life preserver or life vest.
Pier A place extending out into the water where vessels may dock. Usually made out of wood or cement.
Pile, Piling A pole embedded in the sea bottom and used to support docks, piers and other structures.
Pilot An individual with specific knowledge of a harbor, canal, river or other waterway, qualified to guide vessels through the region. Some areas require that boats and ships be piloted by a licensed pilot.
Piloting The act of guiding a vessel through a waterway.
Pinch To sail as close as possible towards the wind
Pitch 1) A fore and aft rocking motion of a boat.
2) How much a propeller is curved.
3) A material used to seal cracks in wooden planks.
Plot To find a ship's actual or intended course or mark a fix on a chart.
Plow Anchor Also called a CQR or coastal quick release anchor. An anchor that is designed to bury itself into the ground by use of its plow shape.
Point 1) To sail as close as possible to the wind. Some boats may be able to point better than others, sailing closer to the wind.
2) The named directions on a compass such as north, northeast, etc.
Point Of Sail The position of a sailboat in relation to the wind. A boat with its head into the wind is known as "head to wind" or "in irons." The point of sail with the bow of the boat as close as possible to the wind is called close-hauled. As the bow moves further from the wind, the points of sail are called:close reach, beam reach, broad reach and running. The general direction a boat is sailing is known as its tack.
Pollywog Person who has never crossed the line (equator).
Poop Deck A boat's aft deck.
Pooped When a wave breaks over the stern of the boat.
Port 1) A place where ships go to dock.
2) The left side of the boat from the perspective of a person at the stern of the boat, looking toward the bow. The opposite of starboard. The Vikings called the side of their ship its board, and they placed the steering oar, the "star" on the right side of the ship, thus that side became known as the "star board." Because the oar was in the right side, the ship was tied to the dock at the left side. This was known as the loading side or "larboard". As "larboard" and "starboard" were too similar, the phrase became the "side at which you tied up to in port" or the "port" side.
Port Tack Sailing with the wind coming from the port side, with the boom on the starboard side
Porthole A French shipbuilder put holes in the side of the ship in order to mount the cannon inside the ship and covered them with small doors. These doors protected the cannon from weather and were opened when the cannon were to be used. The French word for "door" is "porte". Evolved to mean any opening in the ship's side, whether for cannon or not.
Pound The action of a boat's bow repeatedly slamming into oncoming waves.
Pram A type of dinghy with a flat bow.
Prevailing Winds The typical winds for a particular region and time of year.
Preventer A line run forward from the boom to a secure fitting to prevent the boom from swinging violently when running.
Prime Meridian The longitude line at 0°, which runs through Greenwich, England.
Privileged Vessel The ship with the right of way
Prop Slang for propeller.
Propeller An object with two or more twisted blades, designed to propel a vessel through the water when spun rapidly by the boat's engine.
Propeller Shaft The spinning shaft from the engine to which the propeller is attached.
Prow The part of the bow forward of where it leaves the waterline.
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Quarter The side of a boat aft of the beam.
Quarterdeck 1) Afterpart of the upper deck.
2) Portion of the weather deck which is reserved for the use of the officers.
Quarters 1) Living space
2) Assembly of the crew
Quay A section parallel to the shore for docking and unloading vessels.
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Rack A sailor's bed.
Radar An electronic instrument that uses radio waves to find the distance and location of other objects. Used to avoid collisions, particularly in times of poor visibility.
Radio An instrument that uses electromagnetic waves to communicate with other vessels. VHF (very high frequency) radios are common for marine use, but are limited in range. SSB (single sideband) radios have longer ranges.
Radio Beacon A navigational aid that emits radio waves for navigational purposes. The radio beacon's position is known and the direction of the radio beacon can be determined by using a radio direction finder.
Raft 1) A small flat boat, usually inflatable.
2) To moor with more than one boat tied together, usually using only one boat's anchor and rode.
Rail The edge of a boat's deck.
Rake A measurement of the top of the mast's tilt toward the bow or stern.
Ratline One of the small lines traversing the shrouds and forming rope ladders used by seamen for going aloft.
Reach Sailing with a beam wind
Ready About Prepare to come about
Reef 1) To partially lower a sail so that it is not as large. This helps prevent too much sail from being in use when the wind gets stronger.
2) A line of rock and coral near the surface of the water.
Reefing Lines Lines used to pull the reef in the sail.
Reeve To pass the end of a rope through any lead, such as a sheave or fairlead.
Rhumb Line A line that passes through all meridians at the same angle. When drawn on a Mercator chart, the rhumb line is a straight line, because the Mercator chart is a distortion of a spherical globe on a flat surface. The rhumb line results in a longer course than a great circle route.
Ride Out To weather a storm, either at sea or at anchor.
Riding Sail Also called a stability sail. Any small sail set to help the boat maintain its direction without necessarily moving, as when at anchor or in heavy weather.
Rig 1) A combination of sails and spars.
2) To prepare the rig before sailing.
Rigging The wires, lines, halyards and other items used to attach the sails and spars to the boat. The lines that do not have to be adjusted often are known as standing rigging. The lines that are adjusted to raise, lower and trim the sails are known as running rigging.
Right To return a boat to its upright position.
Rigid Inflatable A small inflatable boat that has a solid hull but has buoyancy tubes that are inflated to keep it afloat.
Roaring Forties A region between 40°South and 50°South where westerly winds circle the earth unobstructed by land.
Rode The line and chain that connect the anchor to the boat
Roll A side-to-side motion of the boat, usually caused by waves.
Roller Furling A method of storing a sail, usually by rolling the jib around the headstay or rolling the mainsail around the boom or on the mast.
Roller Reefing A system of reefing a sail by partially furling it.
Rope Traditionally, a line must be over 1 inch in size to be called a rope.
Row A method of moving a boat with oars.
Rowboat A small boat designed to be rowed by use of its oars. Some dinghies are rowboats.
Royal Mast The small mast next above the topgallant mast.
Rub Rail, Rub Strake, Rub Guard A rail on the outside of the hull of a boat to protect the hull from rubbing against piles, docks and other objects.
Rudder A flat surface attached behind or underneath the stern, used to control the direction the boat is traveling.
Rudder Post The post that the rudder is attached to. The wheel or tiller is connected to the rudder post.
Run Aground To take a boat into water that is too shallow for it to float in;the bottom of the boat is resting on the ground.
Runner Also known as running backstay. Adjustable stay used to control rake of the mast.
Running 1) A point of sail where the boat has the wind coming from aft of the boat.
2) Used to describe a line that has been released and is in motion.
Running Backstay Also known as a runner. Adjustable stay used to control rake of the mast.
Running Bowline A type of knot that tightens under load. It is formed by running the line through the loop formed in a regular bowline.
Running Lights Navigational lights that are required to be used when a vessel is in motion.
Running Rigging The rigging used to raise, lower and adjust the sails.
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Safety Harness A device worn around a person's body that can be attached to lines to help prevent the person from becoming separated from the boat.
Sail 1) A large piece of fabric designed to be hoisted on the spars of a sailboat in such a manner as to catch the wind and propel the boat.
2) The act of using the wind to propel a sailboat.
Sail Shape The shape of a sail, with regard to its efficiency. In high winds, a sail would probably be flatter, in low winds rounder. Other circumstances can cause a sail to twist. Controls such as the outhaul, halyards, sheets and the bend of the main mast all can affect sail shape.
Sail Trim The position of the sails relative to the wind and desired point of sail. Sails that are not trimmed properly may not operate efficiently. Visible signs of trim are excessive heeling and the flow of air past telltales.
Sailboat A boat which uses the wind as its primary means of propulsion.
Sailcloth A fabric, usually synthetic, used to make sails.
Salt Horse Salt beef. On account of its string-like qualities it was also known as "junk," a name for a certain type of bulrush from which rope was made in ancient times. Because it was kept in a barrel called a "harness cask," there arose the idea of a "horse" in its "harness."
Sampson Post A strong post used to attach lines for towing or mooring.
Sand Bar An area in shallow water where wave or current action has created a small, long hill of sand. Since they are created by water movement, they can move and may not be shown on charts.
Satellite Navigation Navigation using information transmitted from satellites.
Scale Climb.
Schooner A sailboat with two or more masts. The aft mast is the same size as or larger than the forward one(s).
Screw A propeller.
Scud To run before the wind in a storm.
Scull Moving the rudder back and forth in an attempt to move the boat forward
Scupper An opening through the toe rail or gunwale to allow water to drain back into the sea.
Scuttle To sink a boat.
Scuttlebutt Drinking fountain. Also, a rumor, usually of local importance.
Sea 1) A body of salt water. A very large body of fresh water.
2) Any body of salt water when talking about its condition or describing the water around a boat. Heavy seas for example.
Sea Anchor A device designed to bring a boat to a near stop in heavy weather. Typically, a sea anchor is set off the bow of a boat so that the bow points into the wind and rough waves.
Sea Buoy The last buoy as a boat heads to sea.
Sea Level The average level of the oceans, used when finding water depths or land elevations.
Seagoing A vessel designed to be able to cross oceans.
Seamanship The ability of a person to motor or sail a vessel, including all aspects of its operation.
Secure To make fast. To stow an object or tie it in place.
Seizing Tying two lines, or a spar and a line, together by using a small line.
Set 1) To put an object in place.
2) The manner in which an object is in place.
3) The direction that a current is moving.
Sextant A navigational instrument used to determine the vertical position of an object such as the sun, moon or stars. Used with celestial navigation.
Shackle A metal U-shaped connector that attaches to other fittings with the use of a pin that is inserted through the arms of the U.
Shake Out To remove a reef from a sail.
Shank The long bar part of an anchor. The flukes are at one end of the shank, and the stock is at the other.
She All boats are referred to as female.
Shear Pin A pin attaching one part to another that is designed to break if excessive loads are applied;for example, to connect the propeller to the propeller shaft so that the pin can break if the propeller strikes something, preventing damage to the propeller and engine.
Sheathing A covering to protect the bottom of a boat.
Sheave A wheel used to change the direction of a line, such as in a block or at the top of the masthead.
Sheer 1) The fore and aft curvature of the deck.
2) A sudden change of course.
Sheet A line used to control a sail's trim. The sheets are named after the sail, as in jib sheet and main sheet.
Shellback Person who has crossed the equator and been initiated.
Ship 1) A large vessel.
2) To take an object aboard, such as cargo or water.
3) To put items such as oars on the boat when not in use.
Ship biscuit Hard bread, much dried, consisting of flour, water or milk, salt, which does not deteriorate when stored for long periods and therefore is suitable for use on board ship for up to a year after it was baked. Also called hard tack.
Shipshape Neat, orderly and ready to use.
Shoal 1) Shallow water.
2) An underwater sand bar or hill that has its top near the surface.
Shore The edge of the land near the water.
Shoreline Where the land meets the water.
Shove Off To push a boat, as from a dock or from another boat.
Shroud Part of the standing rigging that helps to support the mast by running from the top of the mast to the side of the boat.
Side Lights Green and red lights on the starboard and port sides of the boat, required for navigation at night. Each light is supposed to be visible through an arc of 112.5°, beginning from directly ahead of the boat to a point 22.5°aft of the beam.
Sideslip The tendency of a boat to move sideways in the water instead of along its heading due to the motion of currents or winds.
Signal Halyard A halyard used to hoist signal flags.
Single Sideband A type of radio carried on a boat to transmit long distances.
Sink 1) To go to the bottom of the water.
2) To cause an object to go to the bottom of the water.
Skeg Any flat protrusion on the outside of the hull that is used to support another object, such as the propeller shaft or rudder.
Skiff A small boat.
Skin The outside surface of a boat. Usually used when describing a fiberglass or other molded hull.
Slack 1) A line that is loose.
2) To ease a line.
Slide Also called a lug. Metal or plastic pieces attached to the forward edge of a sail to allow easy hoisting of a sail.
Sling 1) Lines used to hoist heavy or awkward objects.
2) The act of using such lines to hoist heavy or awkward objects.
3) Ropes used to secure the center of a yard to the mast.
Slip A space between two docks or piers where a boat can be moored.
Sloop A style of sailboat characterized by a single mast with one mainsail and one foresail.
Slot The opening between the jib and the mainsail. Wind passing through this opening increases the pressure difference across the sides of the mainsail, helping to move the boat forward.
Snap Hook A metal fitting with a arm that uses a spring to close automatically when connected to another object.
Snatch Block A block that can be opened on one side, allowing it to be placed on a line that is already in use.
Snifters Savage squall met off the coast of Tierra del Fuego.
Snub To suddenly stop or secure a line.
Son Of A Gun When sailors managed to sneak a woman on board while in port, the gun deck was the favorite place for amorous activities. Later when the woman returned seeking paternity support but didn't know the father's name, the child was logged in as a "Son of a Gun".
Sound 1) To measure the depth of the water.
2) A long wide body of water that connects other large bodies of water.
3) A long, wide ocean inlet.
Sounding The depth of the water as marked on a chart.
Spar A pole used as part of the sailboat rigging, such as masts and booms.
Spinnaker A very large, lightweight sail used when running or on the point of sail known as a broad reach.
Spinnaker Halyard A halyard used to raise the spinnaker.
Spinnaker Pole Sometimes spinnaker boom. A pole used to extend the foot of the spinnaker beyond the edge of the boat and to secure the corner of the sail.
Spinnaker Pole Lift Also spinnaker lift. A line running from the top of the mast, used to hold the spinnaker pole in place.
Spitfire A storm jib. A small jib made out of heavy cloth for use in heavy weather. Sometimes brightly colored.
Splice The Mainbrace The main brace was the principal line controlling the rotation of the main sail. Splicing this line was one of the most difficult chores aboard ship, and one on which the ship's safety depended. It was the custom, after the main brace was properly spliced, to serve grog to the entire crew. The phrase has become an invitation to have a drink.
Spreaders Struts used to hold the shrouds away from the mast
Spring Line Docking lines that keep the boat from drifting forward and back
Squall A sudden intense wind storm of short duration, often accompanied by rain. Squalls often accompany an advancing cold front.
Square Rigged A sailboat having square sails hung across the mast.
Square Sail A square sail hung from a yard on the mast. Best used when sailing downwind.
SSB Single sideband radio. A type of radio used on a boat to transmit for long distances.
St. Helena Soger To call a seaman a "soger" or "soldier," casting aspersions on his seamanlike qualities, was one of the worst epithets one could use in the days of sail. Shortly after the execution of Admiral Byng and the French taking of Minorca from Britain (1756), other derogatory epithets came into use among naval seamen - e.g.,"Port Mahon soger" and "Port Mahon baboon."
Stability Ability of a boat to keep from heeling or rolling excessively, and the ability to quickly return upright after heeling.
Stability Sail Also riding sail or steadying sail. Any small sail set to help the boat maintain its direction without necessarily moving, as when at anchor or in heavy weather.
Staff A vertical pole on which flags can be raised.
Stall 1) To stop moving.
2) Air is said to stall when it becomes detached from the surface it is flowing along. Usually air travels smoothly along both sides of a sail, but if the sail is not properly trimmed, the air can leave one of the sides of the sail and begin to stall. Stalled sails are not operating efficiently.
Stanchion A post near the edge of the deck, used to support lifelines.
Starboard The right side of a boat, from the perspective of a person at the stern of the boat and looking toward the bow. The opposite of port. The Vikings called the side of their ship its board, and they placed the steering oar, the "star" on the right side of the ship, thus that side became known as the "star board."
Starboard Tack A course with the wind coming from starboard and the boom on the port side
Statute Mile A mile as measured on land, 5,280 feet or 1.6 kilometers. Distances at sea are measured in nautical miles.
Stay Lines running fore and aft from the top of the mast to keep the mast upright. Also used to carry some sails. The backstay is aft of the mast, and the forestay is forward of the mast.
Staysail A triangular sail similar to the jib, set on a stay forward of the mast and aft of the headstay.
Stem The forward edge of the bow. On a wooden boat, the stem is a single timber.
Step 1) A fitting for the bottom of the mast.
2) The act of placing the foot of the mast in its step and raising the mast.
Stepped 1) A mast that is in place.
2) Where the mast is stepped, as in keel stepped or deck stepped.
Stepping The Mast In the days of wooden ships and iron men a gold coin was placed under the main mast when the ship was built. The coin was to pay the toll to the ferryman (the reaper) to cross the river Styx if the ship was sunk.
Stern The aft part of a boat.
Stern Light A white running light placed at the stern of the boat. The stern light should be visible through an arc of 135°, to the rear of the boat.
Stern Line A line running from the stern of the boat to a dock when moored.
Stiff A boat that resists heeling.
Stock A crossbeam at the upper part of an anchor.
Stopper A mechanical device or knot used to keep a rope from running.
Stores Supplies on a boat.
Storm Jib Sometimes called a spitfire. A small jib made out of heavy cloth for use in heavy weather. Sometimes brightly colored.
Storm Sail The storm jib and storm trysail. Small sails built from heavy cloth for use during heavy weather.
Storm Trysail A very strong sail used in stormy weather. It is loose footed, being attached to the mast but not the boom. This helps prevent boarding waves from damaging the sail or the rigging.
Stow To put away
Surf The breaking waves and resulting foam near a shore.
Swab 1) A mop made from rope.
2) To use such a mop.
Swallow The place between the sheave and housing of a block, through which a line is run.
Swamp To fill with water.
Swell Large smooth waves that do not break. Swells are formed by wind action over a long distance.
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Tack 1) The lower forward corner of a triangular sail.
2) The direction that a boat is sailing with respect to the wind.
3) To change a boat's direction, bringing the bow through the eye of the wind.
Tacking 1) To change a boat's direction, bringing the bow through the eye of the wind.
2) To tack repeatedly, as when trying to sail to a point upwind of the boat.
Tackle Lines used with blocks in order move heavy objects.
Taffrail The upper part of the ship's stern, usually ornamented with carved work or molding.
Tail 1) The end of a line.
2) A line attached to the end of a wire to make it easier to use.
3) To gather the unused end of a line neatly so that it does not become tangled.
4) To maintain tension on a line coming off a winch.
Take In 1) To remove a sail.
2) To add a reef to a sail.
Telltale A small line free to flow in the direction of the breeze. It is attached to sails, stays in the slot and in other areas, enabling the helmsman and crew to see how the wind is flowing.
Tender A small boat used to transport crew and equipment from shore to a larger boat
Three Sheets to the Wind Someone who has too much to drink. The reference is to a sailing ship in disarray or uncontrolled, with its sheets flapping loosely in the breeze.
Ticket-O'-Leave Men Convicts permitted a certain amount of parole, but not allowed to leave the country, especially in the case of those from the penal settlements of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania).
Tidal Current Also called tidal stream. The flowing of water caused by the rising and lowering tidal waters.
Tide The predictable, regular rising and lowering of water in some areas due to the pull of the sun and the moon. Tidal changes can happen approximately every six or 12 hours, depending on the region. To find out the time and water levels of different tides, you can use tide tables for your area. The period of high water level is known as high tide, and the period of low water level is known as low tide.
Tiller Controls the rudder and is used for steering
Toe Rail A small rail around the deck of a boat. The toe rail may have holes in it to attach lines or blocks. A larger wall in place of the rail is known as a gunwale.
Tom Cox's Traverse Work done by a man who bustles about doing nothing. Usually amplified by adding "running twice round the scuttle butt and once round the longboat".
Top Heavy A boat that has too much weight up high.
Topgallant 1) Situated above the topmast and below the royal mast on a sailing vessel.
2) Higher than the adjoining parts of a ship:said of a rail, deck, etc.
Topmast A mast on top of another mast.
Topping Lift A line that holds up the boom when it is not being used, also the line that controls the height of a spinnaker pole
Topsail 1) On a square-rigged vessel, a sail directly above the lowest sail on a mast.
2) On a fore-and-aft-rigged vessel, the next sail above the gaff of a fore-and-aft sail.
Topsail Schooner A fore-and-aft-rigged schooner carrying a square topsail and a topgallant sail on the foretopmast.
Topsides The sides of the hull above the waterline and below the deck.
Tow To pull a boat with another boat, such as a tugboat towing a barge.
Towing Light Running lights that should be used by boats when towing to indicate that a tow is in progress.
Trade Wind Winds in certain areas known for their consistent strength and direction. Trade winds are named because of their reliability, allowing for planned voyages along the routes favored by those winds.
Trailing Edge The aft edge of a sail, more commonly called the leech.
Transit Also called a range. Two navigational aids separated in distance so that they can be aligned to determine that a boat lies on a certain line. Transits can be used to determine a boat's position or to guide it through a channel.
Transom The back, outer part of the stern
Traveler A bar with an attached block, allowing more controlled adjustment of sail trim.
Trim 1) To haul in on a sheet to adjust the sail trim.
2) Sail trim.
3) A properly balanced boat that floats evenly on its waterline. Improperly trimmed boats may list or lie with their bow or stern too low in the water.
Trimaran A boat with a center hull and two smaller outer hulls called amas.
Trip Line A line attached to the end of an anchor to help free it from the ground.
Trysail Also called storm trysail. A very strong sail used in stormy weather. It is loose footed, being attached to the mast but not the boom. This helps prevent boarding waves from damaging the sail or the rigging.
Tugboat A small, powerful boat used to help move barges and ships in confined areas.
Tuning The adjustment of the standing rigging, the sails and the hull to balance the boat for optimum performance
Turn to An order to begin work.
Turnbuckle A metal fitting that is turned to tighten or loosen the tension on standing rigging.
Two-blocked When two blocks of a tackle have been drawn as closely together as possible.
Typhoon A cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, these storms are known as hurricanes.
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Underway A vessel in motion is underway.
Unfurl To unfold or unroll a sail. The opposite of furl.
Upwind To windward, in the direction of the eye of the wind.
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Veer 1) To let anchor cable, line, or chain run out by its own weight.
2) A shifting of the wind direction, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counter-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
VHF 1) Very High Frequency radio waves.
2) A radio that transmits in the VHF range. VHF radios are the most common communications radio carried on boats, but their range is limited to "line of sight" between the transmitting and receiving stations.
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Waist The central part of a ship. The portion of the upper deck between poop and forecastle.
Wake Waves generated in the water by a moving vessel.
Wardroom Officers' mess and lounge abroad a ship.
Watch The time each division of crew has duty:
  • Afternoon Watch - noon to 4 p.m (The nautical day begins at noon.)
  • Dogwatch - One of the two-hour watches between 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • First Watch - 8 p.m. to midnight
  • Middle Watch - midnight to 4 a.m.
  • Morning Watch - 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Forenoon Watch - 8 a.m. to noon
Waterline The line where the water comes to on the hull of a boat. Design waterline is where the waterline was designed to be. Load waterline is the waterline when the boat is loaded. The painted waterline is where the waterline was painted. Actual waterline is where the waterline really is at any given time.
Waterlogged Completely saturated with water.
Waterway A river, canal or other body of water that boats can travel on.
Way The progress of a boat. If a boat is moving it is considered to be "making way."
Weigh To raise, as in to weigh anchor.
Whack After the Merchant Shipping Act of 1845, with its food allowance tables for seamen, sailors would demand their "whack" or full amount of food from the master if they thought they were being given short rations.
Wharf A quay. A section parallel to the shore for docking and unloading vessels.
Wheel One of two methods used to steer a boat. A wheel is turned in the direction that the helmsman wants the boat to go. On smaller boats, a tiller usually is used, and it steers in the opposite manner.
Whisker Pole A spar used to help hold the jib out when sailing off the wind.
Whistling For Wind Based on a very old tradition that whistling at sea will cause a wind to rise.
Whistling Psalms To The Taffrail Giving good advice that will not be taken.
Winch A metal drum shaped device used to assist in trimming sails
Windlass A mechanical device used to pull in cable or chain, such as an anchor rode.
Windward In the direction of the wind. Opposite of leeward.
Working Sails The sails used on a particular sailboat in normal weather conditions.
Working Sheet The sheet that currently is taut and is in use to control a sail. The opposite of the lazy sheet.
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Yacht A sailboat or powerboat used for pleasure, not a working boat.
Yard A spar attached to the mast and used to hoist square sails.
Yard Arm The end of a yard.
Yaw Swinging off course, usually in heavy seas. The bow moves toward one side of the intended course.
Yawl A two-masted sailboat with the shorter mizzen mast placed aft of the rudder post. A ketch is similar, but the mizzen mast is forward of the rudder post.
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Zephyr A gentle breeze. The west wind.
Zulu Used to indicate times measured in Coordinated Universal Time, a successor to Greenwich Mean Time, both of which are time standards not affected by time zones or seasons.