Sailing is a sport that is rapidly growing in popularity but like all sports it has its own language, terminology and jargon and as a result, novices and beginners can get easily confused or feel intimidated or just lost as to what is happening. The nature of sailing and boats also means it can be especially important in an emergency that everyone understands what is going on and what is being said and that you don’t have to stop and translate what is going on but instead can respond instinctively to any orders or instructions from the captain. . Hopefully the following list will help demystify some of the key phrases and words and help you talk like a sailor.
1: Port and Starboard
Many people often get confused as to which is the port side and which is the starboard side of a boat. However it is very simple, imagine you are standing facing forward on a boat, the port is your left hand side, starboard is the right hand side. So when a boat is turning hard a port, it is turning sharply left whilst hard a starboard is a sharp right turn.
2: Bow and Stern
These are 2 more terms that often confuse people but again its easy to understand. Lets assume you are still standing in your boat and facing forward, the bow is the front of the boat, the stern is the rear of it. The stern can also be known as aft as in the back part of the sailboat.
3: Helm, tiller and rudder
These are what are used to steer the boat. The helm is normally either a wheel on larger boats whilst on smaller boats it can be a long stick known as a tiller. both of these are going to be connected to the rudder, The rudder is a fin or a board that is at the very stern of the boat in the water and when you move the tiller or wheel, you move the rudder and this changes the direction of the boat.
The keel is a long heavy fin on the bottom of the boat that is sticking down into the water. It’s purpose is to keep the boat stable and is one of the main reasons why modern sailboats and yachts are very difficult to capsize.
5: Tacking and jibing
Tack can have 2 meanings, both of them very important. As a verb. to tack means to change the direction the boat is travelling in by turning the bow through the wind. Jibing is the opposite of tacking as it involves turning the stern of the boat through the wind. One thing to be aware of when the boat is tacking or jibing is that the boom will swing from one side of the boat to the other. Therefore you need to keep your wits about you so that you don’t get hit on the head.
As a noun, tack means the direction or course you are on relative to the wind that is blowing. So a port tack means the wind is blowing over the port side or in effect, coming from your left hand side whilst a starboard tack means the wind is coming from your starboard or right hand side.
One thing that becomes immediately obvious when you step on board a sailboat is the number of ropes you will see. These ropes are collectively known as lines. The bow line will be the rope at the bow of the boat used to tie it fast to a dock or pier whilst the stern line will be the similar rope at the back of the boat.
The mast is the tall pole that is located towards the center of the boat and holds up the sails. Larger boats and sailing ships may have more then one mast. A line known as the forestay may extend from the top of the mast to the bow to provide for additional strength for the mast.
A sailboat can have many different types of sails depending on its side. The Mainsail is the boats biggest sail, the large triangular sale at the aft or rear of the mast. Its the boats most important sail and along it’s bottom it will be connected to another pole which is called the boom. The Jib is the second most important sail and is found forward of the mast and does not connect to a boom. There are other smaller sails which can also be used such as spinnakers, staysails and storm jobs and can be used depending on conditions and how fast you actually want to try and go.
Reefing is the idea that a sail can be made smaller by taking some of the sail down or rolling some of it in. This can often be done by using special ropes called reefing ropes or lines and is important if the weather is turning bad or if the boat ride is too rough. By reducing the size of sail used you slow the boat down and get a smoother is slower trip.
10: Windward and leeward
Windward and leeward describe the direction the wind is blowing. Windward is the direction the wind is blowing, leeward is the opposite direction to the way the wind is blowing. Given the importance of wind for sailing its important that a sailor understands the windward and leeward direction of the wind
11: Head and Galley
These are 2 very important terms. especially on longer trips or overnight stays. The head is the on-board toilet whilst the galley is the on-board kitchen. Don’t expect anything too fancy for either of these, function will rule over form and both will be small and compact on most boats.
You can forget about using a car style Sat Nav to find your way around on the sea and instead you will need charts. Charts are basically a sailors map. However instead of roads and train tracks, a sea chart or nautical chart to be exact will give details of a sea area and surrounding coastal land features. It will include details of the coastline, natural seabed features, navigational hazards, tidal information and sea depths as well as location of natural and man made navigation aids, sandbanks as well as man made structures such as bridges and harbors. Understanding a nautical chart will become key as a sailor’s experience progresses in order to sail safely, especially for any longer trips into unfamiliar water. Its important also that an up to date chart is used, the sea bed is constantly changing.
The anchor is a metal hook like device which is used to attach the boat to the sea floor and stop it floating away. The anchor can also be used to slow the boat down. It’s attached to a rope or chain so that it can be hauled aboard when you are ready to set off again. Anchorage is a designated area for boats to anchor in as you cannot simply stop and drop anchor anywhere you want to, especially in busy sea lanes.
However you won’t always be anchoring and instead you might end up mooring your boat. This is when you tie the boat up at a pier or buoy. A buoy is an anchored float that can be used to moor your vessel but can also be used to designate an underwater hazard such as a sunken wreck or a shoal or sandbank.
Fenders are the often colorful balls and cylinders that you might see hanging over the side of a vessel. These are basically cushions or pillows that are there to protect the boat if it were to bang into the pier or another boat. Sometimes old tires can be used as well.
15:Aboard and overboard
Last and by no means least, it is time to get aboard or in other words, get onto your boat. Its best to avoid going overboard as this means you have gone over the side of your vessel. If you hear the captain asking you to batten down the hatches, in effect he is asking you to make sure everything on board is tied down and stored away so that nothing does end up overboard. It’s usually an indication of some bad weather ahead, Don’t forget your life jacket as well just in case you do in up overboard and hear someone shout “man overboard”
So there you have it, a short and simple list of some of the key terms you well come across if you take up sailing.. I hope you found this list of sailing terms useful and that it will help you experience and love the sea and sailing and that it will help ensure that you are no longer a land-lubber. After all and as a famous English author once wrote, there is nothing as much fun as messing around in boats