January 29, 2020

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Basic Sailboat Terms

February 16, 2015


Following are terms related to sailboats and their equipment. Go here for terms related to the act of sailing.


Auxiliary - A sailboat's engine, or a sailboat with an engine


Backstay - The (usually wire) cable from the stern to the masthead, helping support the mast


Ballast - The weight in a sailboat's keel (sometimes in a centerboard) that helps keep the boat from heeling too much


Batten - A (usually plastic) slat placed in a pocket in the mainsail to help it maintain good shape


Beam - The width of the boat at its widest point


Bitter end - The free end of a line


Block - A pulley-like device used on a boat, with a sheave around which a line runs; see photo here of mainsheet block and tackle on a small boat


Boom - The (usually horizontal) spar back from the mast to which the foot of a sail is attached; see photo here


Boom vang - A device that prevents the boom from rising (and in some types, from lowering)


Bow - The front section of the boat


Cat rig - A sailboat designed for using a mainsail only, with the mast usually located more forward than in a sloop


Centerboard - A thin keel-like structure that can be raised (usually rotated on a hinge up into a centerboard trunk in the hull); present on many sailboats without a fixed keel to prevent the boat from being blown sideways


Chock - A type of fairlead fitting through which an anchor rode or dock line passes, to reduce chafing


Cleat - A fitting around which a line is secured; see How to Tie a Cleat Hitch


Companionway - The entrance area and steps from the cockpit into a sailboat's cabin


Clew - The lower rear corner of a sail


Daggerboard - Like a centerboard, but raised and lowered vertically instead of rotating on a hinge


Daysailer - A (usually) small sailboat without a cabin larger enough for comfortable overnight cruising


Dinghy - A type of small sailboat; a small row or powered craft typically taken along when cruising in a larger sailboat


Displacement - The weight of a boat (equal to the weight of water the boat displaces)


Dodger - A spray shield (often of fabric, foldable or removable) at the front of the cockpit


Draft - The distance from a boat's waterline to the lowest part of its keel


Fender - A (usually rubber) bumper hung alongside to prevent the hull from rubbing against a dock or other structure


Foot - The bottom edge of a sail (compare to leach and luff)


Forestay - The (usually wire) cable from the bow to the masthead, helping support the mast


Forward - Toward the bow


Freeboard - The height of the deck above the water (the topsides section of the hull)


Gate - An opening in the lifelines for boarding the boat; also called gangway


Genoa - A large jib sail (the clew extends aft of the mast)


Gooseneck - The fitting that attaches the boom to the mast; see photo here of a small sailboat's gooseneck


Ground tackle - Collective term for a boat's anchor and anchor rode


Gunwale (sometimes gunnel) - the outer edge of the boat's deck and cockpit; also called the rail


Halyard - Line or wire used to hoist a sail; see photo here


Hank on - To attach a jib sail to the forestay with small snap hooks (called hanks)


Head - The bathroom of a boat; also the top corner of a sail


Helm - The means by which the sailboat is steered: the tiller or wheel


Jackline - A line, strap, or wire secured over the deck as an attachment point for the tether of a safety harness


Jib - The triangular sail attached to the forestay


Keel - The (usually permanent) lower section of a sailboat's hull that counteracts sideways movement and typically contains ballast


Lanyard - A short cord or line, often used to secure a piece of gear (knife, whistle, etc.) that might be dropped


Leech - The back edge of a jib or mainsail (compare to luff and foot)


Lifeline - A line or wire (often vinyl coated) all around the boat, held up with stanchions, to prevent falling overboard


Line - Any piece of rope used on a boat


Luff - The leading edge of a jib or mainsail (compare to leach and foot)


Mainmast - The mast, or the tallest mast of a sailboat with multiple masts


Mainsail - The sail affixed to and behind the mainmast


Mast - A tall vertical pole on a sailboat to support sails and rigging


Mast step - The support structure for the bottom of the mast


Mizzen - The smaller aft mast on a ketch or yawl; the mizzensail is affixed to and behind the mizzenmast


Multihull - A catamaran (two hulls) or trimaran (three hulls)


Outhaul - A fitting to adjust the tension of the foot of the mainsail on the boom


Padeye - A (usually metal) fitting with a loop or hoop to which other gear is attached


Pendant (sometimes pennant) - A short line attaching the bow of a boat to a mooring, or a short wire attached to a sail or halyard as an extension


PFD - Personal flotation device (such as a lifejacket or inflatable PFD)


Port - The left side of the boat (when facing forward); opposite of starboard


Preventer - A Line or other device used to prevent the boom from accidentally gybing from one side to the other


Pulpit - A (usually stainless steel) rail around the bow or stern typically at the height of the lifelines


Rail - the outer edge of the boat's deck and cockpit; also called the gunwale


Rig (or rigging) - The mast, boom, and associated equipment including stays, shrouds, sheets, and halyards


Rode - The line or chain between an anchor and the boat


Roller furler - A device by which a sail is rolled up, such as the jib rolling around a rotating forestay fitting


Rudder - An appendage below or on the boat's stern that is rotated (by moving the tiller or wheel) to steer the boat


Safety harness - Personal gear (a separate harness or may be built into a PFD) that attaches to a tether to keep the person on board


Sail ties - Short straps or pieces of line used to tie a lowered mainsail to the boom or secure a sail on deck


Schooner - A type of sailboat with two or more masts, the forward one being shorter than the main mast


Seacock - A valve fitting for closing an opening through the boat's hull (drains, water pipes, etc.)


Shackle - A (usually metal) fitting that secures two things together, such as a halyard shackle connecting to a sail


Sheet - The line used to let out or trim in a sail; on a sloop, a mainsheet and two jibsheets


Shroud - Wire or line stay from the deck or hull supporting the mast on each side


Sloop - A type of sailboat with one mast and two triangular sails (main and jib);


Sole - The floor of the cockpit or cabin


Spinnaker - A lightweight sail used downwind, often ballooning in front of the boat


Spreaders - Metal struts on the mast that hold the shrouds out from the mast for a better support angle


Stanchions - Short metal poles around the boat's perimeter that support the lifelines


Starboard - The right side of the boat (when facing forward); opposite of port


Stay - Wire or line from the deck or hull to support the mast; stays include the forestay, backstay, and shrouds (on the sides)


Tack - The bottom front corner of a sail


Telltales - Pieces of yarn or ribbons on the luff of a sail to help with trimming, or fastened to shrouds to show the wind direction


Tether - A short line or strap that runs between a safety harness and a point of attachment on the boat, to prevent going overboard


Tiller - A long handle connected to the rudder or rudder post on many sailboats for steering


Topping lift - A wire or line from the masthead that holds up the boom when the sail is lowered


Topsides - The area of outer hull above the waterline


Traveler - A fitting allowing the mainsheet attachment to the boat to be adjusted side to side


Vang - See Boom vang


Whisker pole - A pole used to hold out the jib when sailing off the wind


Winch - A drum-like device used to pull in lines under strain (halyards, sheets)


Windless - A heavy winch used with the anchor rode


Yawl - A type of sailboat with two masts, the aft one (mizzen) being behind the rudder post


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