aft: At or near the stern.
anti-fouling: A type of paint used on the bottoms of boats that repels barnacles, marine grass, and algae.
apparent wind: The direction and speed of the wind felt by the crew. It is a combination of the true wind and the motion of the boat.

backstay: Rope or wire cable supporting the mast running from the mast head to the stern preventing its forward movement.
bail: 1. A hoop-shaped support attached to the underside of a boom used for attaching securing lines. 2. What you do with a bucket when water is leaking into your boat.
ballast: Additional weight, usually lead or iron placed low in the hull to improve stability.
batten: Light flexible strips of wood or plastic placed in batten pockets in the leech of a sail to stiffen or keep it flat.
BCD: Boyancy Control Device used in SCUBA diving. It allows the user to control the amount of air in a vest with air chambers.
beam: 1. The maximum breadth of a boat. 2. On the beam means at a right angle to the centerline.
beam reach: A point of sailing with the wind blowing at a right angle to the boat's centerline.
beat: To sail a zig zag course to windward, close hauled on alternate tacks.
berth: 1. A sleeping place on board. 2. A place occupied by a boat in a harbor.
binnacle: A compass case or stand.
bilge: The lowest part of a vessel's hull interior where water collects.
bimini cover: Canvas shade covering over a boat's cockpit, usually supported by a metal tubing frame.
block: An encased pulley around which rope runs. Used to change the direction of a pull.
boom: A spar used to extend the foot of a sail.
boomvang: A block and tackle used to flatten the mainsail.
bow: The pointy end of a boat. Usually forward.
bowline: A dock line at the bow.
bowline: A handy knot used to make a loop in a line. Simple, strong, and easily untied.
bowsprit: A fixed spar projecting from the bow. Useful for fastening forestays and anchor handling.
boyancy control device: See BCD.
broach: When a vessel running downwind swings broadside to the wind. Can be dangerous in high seas.
broad reach: The point of sailing between a beam reach and a run, when the wind blows over the quarter.
bulkhead: A transverse wall in the hull.
bulwark: Deck railing to prevent people and gear from going overboard.
burgee: A special flag identifying a yacht club or similar organization.

cabin: The enclosed interior of a boat's hull.
Captain: The person responsible when a boat sinks. Not to be mistaken with the helmsman.
chainplate: A metal plate bolted to the hull for fastening shrouds or the backstay to.
charts: Seagoing maps.
cleat: A rigging fitting to which mooring and sail control lines are temporarily attached. Cam or jam cleats provide quick release.
cleat hitch: Sometimes referred to as a cleat knot. A criss-cross hitch used to fasten a line to a cleat.
clew: The aft lower corner of a sail where the foot and leech meet.
clinometer: A guage that tells the angle of heel from vertical.
close hauled: Sailing as close to the wind as possible with the sails trimmed flat.
close reach: The point of sailing between close hauled and a beam reach.
coaming: A raised edge around the cockpit of a boat.
cockpit: The open space aft of the mast where the crew and skipper sit.
companionway: A entrance between the cockpit and the cabin.
come about: To tack, to change direction relative to the wind.
cringle: A sea going grommet.
cutter: A sailboat rig with two separate forestays and two jibs. The location of the mast is usually further aft than  on a sloop.

dead run: Sailing with the wind blowing from exactly aft.
dead reconing: Navigation with the use of your seaman's eye, charts, compass, and visible aids to navigation.
displacement: The weight of the water displaced by a floating hull.
displacement hull: A boat supported by its own buoyancy while in motion.
dockline: Any line used to secure a boat to a dock.
dodger: A canvas, wood, or fiberglass shield over the companionway with a windshield that protects the cockpit from wind and water.
DNF: Abbreviation used in sailboat racing. Stands for Did Not Finish.
DNS: Abbreviation used in sailboat racing. Stands for Did Not Start.
draft: The vertical distance from a boat's waterline to its lowest point in the water.

ease: To let out on a sheet to relieve pressure from the wind.

fairlead: A turning block attached to the toe rail used to prevent chafe while routing the jib sheet from it's clew to the cockpit.
fall off: To sail farther from the direction of the wind.
fathom: The measurement used for depth of water. One fathom equals six feet.
flotsam: Floating stuff in the water that can damage your boat, caused by nature.
foot: The lower edge of a sail.
foredeck: The forward part of a main deck.
forepeak: The extreme forward part of a vessel.
forestay: The stay running from high on the mast to the bow. Used for supporting the mast and for attaching a jib or similar sail to.
furl: To roll, fold, or gather a sail when not in use.

gadget: A landlubber term when boating vocabulary is lacking.
galley: The kitchen on a boat.
Genoa: A large head sail which overlaps the main sail, generally 150% of the working jib sail area.
gross tonnage: Measurement of all spaces below upper deck.
ground tackle: A general term used for all anchoring gear.
gunwale: The upper edge of the side of a boat.
guy: A steadying line used for various purposes.

halyard: A line used to hoist a sail.
head: 1. The top corner of a sail. 2. A marine toilet. Usually has a lever for wet and dry and is manually flushed. First flush a few times on wet, then a few times on dry.
headstay: See forestay.
head up: To steer closer to the direction of the wind.
heel: To lean to one side.
helm: The tiller, wheel and other steering gear.
helmsman: Person responsible for steering the boat.
hull: The structural body of a vessel.
hull speed: The theoretical maximum speed a sailboat with a displacement hull can go through the water.

in irons: A sailboat that looses headway while attempting to come about is said to be in irons.

jetsom: Floating stuff in the water that can damage your boat, caused by man.
jib: A triangular sail attached to the forestay.
jibe: To change from one tack to another by turning the stern though the wind. An accidental jibe can be dangerous.
jump up: A Caribbean island term for where the band was playing and the people were dancing.

knot: 1. Boat speed, one knot equals one nautical mile per hour. 2. A method of turning a piece of line through itself for functional or ornamental purposes.
ketch: A sailing vessel with a second mizzen mast aft of the main mast, stepped forward of the rudder post.

lazaret: A hatch or storage compartment accessible from the cockpit.
leech: The aft edge of a triangular sail.
lee helm: The tendency of a boat to turn its bow to leeward unless corrective rudder action is taken.
leeward: The direction toward which the wind blows. The lee side of an island is the one protected from the wind.
lifeline: Line, often wire covered with plastic, rigged around the deck to keep the crew from falling overboard.
luff: 1. The forward edge of a sail. 2. To luff up is to head the boat into the wind.

main mast: The only mast on a sloop. The taller forward mast on a ketch or a yawl.
mast: A vertical spar.
maximum hull speed: Theoretically, 1.34 times the square root of a displacement monohull’s water line length in feet. Speed is in knots.
mizzen: The after most sail on a ketch or a yawl.
mizzen mast. The smaller vertical spar aft of the main mast on a ketch or a yawl.

NAUI: The National Association for Underwater Instructors.
nautical mile: 6076.12 feet or 1852 meters. The unit of measure of distance on charts.
net tonnage: The gross tonnage with deductions for areas not carrying cargo.

off the wind: Sailing with the sheets slacked off, not close hauled.

PADI: The Professional Association for Diving Instructors.
painter: A line attached to a bow of a dinghy for tying it to a boat, dock, etc.
planing hull: A hull designed so forward speed creates water lift reducing friction and increasing speed.
pinch: To sail closer to the wind than close hauled. The sails begin to luff.
port: The left side of the boat looking forward.
port tack: The point of sail with the wind coming over the port side. The sails are on the starboard side.
pulpit: The metal guard rail at the bow of a boat.
pushpit: The metal guard rail at the stern of a boat.

quarter: The porting of a boat between the beam and the stern.

ratlines: Steps made out of wooden strips bolted to the shrouds allowing a person to quickly climb to the spreaders to watch for coral reefs.
reach: Sailing with the wind approximately on the beam.
reef: To reduce the sail area.
reef point: Tie lines placed at intervals horizontally on a sail used to tie loose sail to a boom or the foot of a sail.
roller furling: A system used for wrapping the jib around the forestay.
running: To sail with the wind aft.
running rigging: The adjustable lines used for controlling sails.

SBYRA: The South Bay Yacht Racing Association.
schooner: A two masted vessel with a shorter forward mast.
scope: The length of rope or chain paid out when anchoring or mooring.
SCUBA: Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.
scupper: Drain holes in the deck, toe rail, or bulwarks.
seabands: Wrist bands with a plastic bead that puts pressure on an acupressure point. Many people feel relief from nausea as an effect of wearing them.
shackle: A metal fitting with a pin across the throat, used to fasten line to a sail or anchor and to fasten blocks to a spar.
sheave: A pulley at the top of the mast that the halyard changes direction on as a sail is being hoisted or lowered.
sheet: The line attached to the clew of a sail or a boom used for trimming the sail.
shroud: Wire or rope supporting the mast on either side.
skipper: The Captain of a pleasure boat.
sloop: A single masted sail boat with a mainsail and a head sail.
spar: Any wood or metal pole used to carry or give shape to sails.
spinnaker: A large, light three cornered sail used when sailing downwind. Usually colorful.
spreader: Horizontal strut attached to a mast extending to a shroud. Used to help support the mast.
spring line: A dock line used to control the fore and aft motion of a boat.
stanchion: An upright metal post bolted to the deck to support the lifelines.
standing rigging: The shrouds and stays that are permanently set to support the masts.
starboard: The right side of a boat looking forward.
starboard tack: The point of sail with the wind coming over the starboard side. The sails are on the port side.
stern: The aft portion of a boat.
stern line: The dock line that runs from the stern to a pier.

tack: 1. To turn the boat through the wind. 2. The lower forward corner of a sail.
telltale: A wind direction indicator mounted to the shrouds or sails. Usually made of yarn or ribbon.
tiller: A wooden bar fitted to the rudder for steering.
toerail: A strip of wood or aluminum molding running along the edge of a deck.
topping lift: The line from the mast head to a spar to raise it.
topsides: The part of a boat's hull above the water line.
transom: The stern facing of a hull.
traveler: The fitting which slides in a track used to adjust the angle of a sheet.
trim: To set the sails to the correct angle to the wind.
tripline: A line attached to a floatation device on one end and to an anchor with the other. Used for pulling anchor back off an obstruction, such as an underwater cable.
true wind: The actual direction and speed of the wind.
turnbuckle: A threaded adjustable rigging fitting used for stays, shrouds, and lifelines.

underway: Not made fast to shore, at anchor, or aground.
USYRU: The United States Yacht Racing Union
upwind: To windward of.

vang: A line to steady the boom when off the wind.
V-berth: The forward most V shaped berth in the forepeak.

waypoint: A geographic location stored in the memory of a Loran or GPS electronic navigation system.
weather helm: The tendency of a boat to turn its bow to windward unless corrective rudder action is taken.
whisker pole: A light pole extending from the mast used to hold out the clew of a sail when off the wind.
winch: A mechanical device mounted on deck or to a spar, consisting of a metal drum turned by a handle. Used to provide more purchase when hauling a line taunt.
windlass: A manual or electric winch used to haul in anchor line.
windscreen: Canvas material secured between the lifeline and toerail in the cockpit of a boat.

windward: The direction from which the wind blows.
wing on wing: Sailing with the wind with the sails on opposite sides of the boat.

yacht: A pleasure boat other than a row boat.
yawl: A sailing vessel with a mizzen mast aft of the main mast, stepped aft of the rudder post.
YRA: The Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco


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Keys to the Golden Gate, Copyright © 2002 by Steve Sears