Sailing Terms

In order to successfully accomplish your sailing week, you will need to learn a few yacht and sailing specific terms. Learning sailing terms will significantly improve your understanding of your skipper and other sailors that you will encounter along your voyage.

Sailing Yacht

1) The Yacht

Backstays - long lines or cables, reaching from the rear of the vessel to the mast heads, used to support the mast.

Berths/beds - a term used for a sleeping capacity of a yacht.

Bimini - a weather-resistant fabric stretched over a stainless steel frame, fastened above the cockpit of a sailboat or flybridge of a power yacht which serves as a rain or sun shade.

Boom - the other pole that is connected to the mast under 90 degrees.

Bow - a front part of the sailing yacht.

Buoy - a floating object of defined shape and color which is anchored at a given position and serves as an aid to navigation or as a mark for a specific spot.

Cabins - separated room area with sleeping units/beds.

Captain’s desk - a desk with navigation charts, all electric switches, tools and safety equipment that a captain needs for a safe sailing.

Capsize - when a ship or boat lists too far and rolls over, exposing the keel. On large vessels, this often results in the sinking of the ship.

Cleat - a stationary device used to secure a rope aboard a vessel.

Cockpit - an area in front, around and behind of the helm.

Compass - navigational instrument that revolutionised travel.

Deckhand - a person whose job involves aiding the deck supervisor in (un)mooring, anchoring, maintenance, and general evolutions on deck.

Draft - the depth of a ship's keel below the waterline.

Fender - an air- or foam-filled bumper used in boating to keep boats from banging into docks or each other.

Furl/furling sails (Roll) - sails that roll or wrap around the mast or spar to which they are attached.

Galley - a term used for a kitchen on the yacht.

Gennaker - a front sail, usually the largest sail on a yacht, used for situations where wind is facing a yacht under angle of 90 degrees.

Genoa sail - a front sail, located in between a mast and a bow of a yacht. It has a shape of a half balloon.

Halyards - ropes used to lift different kinds of sails and other objects.

Harbor - or haven, is a place where ships may shelter from bad weather, or are stored. Harbors can be man-made or natural.

Head - a toilet or latrine of a vessel.

Helm - a steering wheel on a yacht, usually located at the stern.

Hull - a shell and framework of a flotation-oriented base part of a ship.

Jib sheet - a sheet used to control front sail genoa.

Keel - a central structural basis of the hull.

Lifeboat - a small steel or wood boat located near the stern of a vessel. Used to get the crew to safety if something happens to the mothership.

Mast - a big “pole” that raises over a sailing yacht and holds a mainsail.

Mainsail - a sail of a triangle shape, located in between a mast and a boom. Used for sailing into a harbour and for that reason is a main sail, but it is not the largest sail on a yacht.

Mainsheet - a rope connected to a boom, enabling you to control a mainsail or its tension – amount of wind that is staying/going through the sail.

Marina - a docking facility for small ships and yachts.

Moor - to attach a boat to a mooring buoy, post, or dock.

Pitchpole - to capsize a boat end over end, rather than by rolling over.

Passarella - a little “bridge” on the stern which helps entering from a peer.

Radar - acronym for Radio Detection And Ranging. An electronic system designed to transmit radio signals and receive reflected images of those signals from a target/location in order to determine the bearing and distance of the target/location.

Port side - when observing yacht from the helm, the left side of the yacht.

Rudder - located beneath the boat, a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal that is used to steer the ship (shape of a fin). Larger sailboats control the rudder by a wheel, while smaller sailboats will have a steering mechanism directly aft.

Saloon - a central area in the yacht, with a galley, eating table, captain’s desk and sofas.

Skipper - a captain of a ship.

Spinnaker sail - a front sail, larger than genoa sail and used for downwind sailing.

Starboard side - when observing yacht from the helm, the right side of the yacht.

Stern - a back part of the yacht.

Sway - a vessel's motion from side to side.

Towing - an operation of drawing a vessel forward by means of long lines. Most often in case of a propulsion malfunction.

Winches - devices around which ropes are wrapped, used to lift sails and all kind of heavy objects.


2) While sailing

Apparent wind - during close hauled sailing into the wind, you will feel the wind into which you are sailing and the one that is created by the movement of your boat. That wind is called apparent wind.

Beam Reach - at the point when the wind is filling sails under the angle of 90 degrees, we are in the beam reach position of sailing.

Broad Reach - where the wind is entering our sails under the angle between 91 and 170 degrees, we are in the broad reach position and sailing downwind.

Close Hauled - when wind is filling the sails under the angle of 45 degrees, we are in sailing close hauled position.

Downwind - sailing in the same direction as the wind is blowing, or position in which wind is blowing into the stern of your sailing yacht.

Heeling (leaning) - a lean caused by the wind's force on sails.

Jibing - an opposite manoeuvre to tacking, performed when the stern of the yacht is pushed through the wind, so that wind changes from one side to another. Jibing is less performed than tacking since it is more dangerous and complex.

Leeward - in the direction from which the wind is blowing towards the yacht.

Reach - a point of sail from about 60° to about 160° off the wind. Reaching consists of "close reaching" (about 60° to 80°), "beam reaching" (about 90°) and "broad reaching" (about 120° to 160°).

Reef - to temporarily reduce the area of a sail exposed to the wind, usually to guard against adverse effects of strong wind or to slow the vessel.

Sheet - a rope used to control the setting of a sail in relation to the direction of the wind.

Tacking - manoeuvring sailing yacht bow into the wind, so that the wind blowing direction changes from one side to the other, from starboard to port or vice versa.

Vessel - a craft for traveling on water, usually a larger boat of ship.

Sailing Yacht

3) Equipment

Drysuit – fully-closed suit protecting you from harsh conditions on the sea during rough weather.

Life jacket – a personal flotation device, a piece of equipment designed to assist a wearer to keep afloat in water.

Marine tools - always carry basic marine tools with you, you will need it.

Nautical charts - a graphic representation of a maritime area and adjacent coastal regions.

Safety harness - a form of protective equipment wrapped around hips and quadriceps that is an attachment between a stationary (safety fence/lane around the sailing yacht) and non-stationary object (sailor). It is a protection against falls from heights or fall from the boat.

Sailing gloves – very similar to cycling gloves by design (open-finger gloves), used to reduce impact of the friction between hands and ropes which you are holding while sailing.

Sailing jacket, pants, boots, shoes – made out of number of materials which are wind- and waterproof. You can find whole variety of the equipment depending on the conditions in which you will be sailing.

Sunglasses - they have to have UV protection and it would be desirable to be polarized.

Watches - main prerequisite is that the watch is waterproof, there are watches which can perform manoeuvre of a tack or a jib just by the press of a button.


4) Commands

Abandon Ship - an imperative to leave the vessel immediately, usually in the face of some imminent danger.

Aye, aye - Aye, aye - reply to an order or command to indicate that it, firstly, is heard; and, secondly, is understood and will be carried out ("Aye, aye, sir" to officers).

Let go and haul - an order indicating that the ship is in line with the wind.

Man overboard - a cry let out when a seaman has gone overboard.

5) Pirate terms

Ahoy - hello

All hands hoay - everyone get on the deck

Batten down the hatches - a signal to prepare the ship for an upcoming storm

Coaming - a surface that prevented water on the deck from dripping to lower levels of the ship

Cockswain - the helmsman

Dance the hempen jig - to hang someone

Duffle - sailor's belongings

Heave ho - instruction to put some strength into whatever one is doing

Holystone - a sandstone that was used to scrub ships

Jacob's Ladder - a rope ladder that was used to climb aboard ships

Jolly Roger - the famous pirate flag with a skull and crossbones on it

Landlubber - a person who is not incredibly skilled at sea

Old salt - a sailor that has a great deal of experience on the seas

>Poop deck - a deck that is the highest and farthest back

Seadog - an old sailor or pirate

Three sheets to the wind - someone who is quite drunk

Yo Ho Ho - often used to express some sort of cheer, but can also be used to call attention to the speaker.