Please select your home edition
Edition
Wildwind 2016 728x90

Look like a seasoned old salt on your first sail - some nautical terms

by Lee Mylchreest on 24 Feb 2014
Nautical terms - a beginning .. .
So you've just bought your first boat, or you've been invited on board someone else's boat for a sail. What you'll need is some nautical terms to show the rest of the crew how cool you are. You don't want to look like a land lubber when you're trying to impress the Sunday crowd.

The truth is, many nautical terms are extremely confusing, but it's vital to get them right. There are many hundreds of these, but here are few really important ones to start with and make you look like a real cool cat on your next sail:

   
Abandon ship! This is a good one to start with, just in case.  Remember, once you are abandoning, it becomes a ship, not a sailing boat.
Abeam in line with the widest part of the boat. 'Come abeam' to a nearby yacht is the cool way to address a nearby boat
Above board Has nothing to do with honesty, just means 'on the deck and not below'
Admiral Courtesy title given to the galley slave
Adrift When the engine fails and the wind dies, this is what happens
Ahoy The only respectable call from one boat to another – 'Hello', 'Hey', and 'excuse me' are all inexcusable on a boat
Ahull How the boat lies when the sea comes up after being adrift
All hands On a cruising boat usually applies to the 'other half'
   
Anchors aweigh This is a smart call when you are leaving an anchorage – shows you really know your stuff
Ashore Where you end up after too many navigation mistakes. Probably time to leap off and walk home.
Aground Similar to ashore, but still stuck out in the water, and can't even walk home
Athwart Nothing to do with disagreement between the skipper and 'all hands', it means at right angles to the centreline of the boat
Avast The nautical term for 'stop', which is definitely unnautical. 'Avast ye hearties' has a certain ring
Awash What happens when the freeboard is close to, or below, zero.
Aye aye The coolest way of saying 'ok'
Backstays Nothing to do with mother's corsets. The line from stern to masthead, helping to stop the mast from falling over
Bailer Any device which will assist the boat from not being awash
Bank The joint owner of your sailing boat perhaps, but can be a large area of elevated sea floor
Bar What you hope to reach at the end of a day's sailing, or the bank at the entrance to a river.
Bareboat charter Does not relate to the amount of equipment on your charter boat, merely that it comes without crew
Bark Nothing to do with trees or taking your dog along for a sail – it's a sailing vessel with three or more masts, two square-rigged, and the aft fore and aft rigged
Batten down the hatches This is yelled when you see a storm coming, even if you don't have any hatches
Beaching The best thing to do if your boat is sinking – running it onto the nearest beach
Berth This is where the boat is docked, and also where one sleeps – never in the bed, perhaps in a bunk
Bilge The area below the sole – the very bottom of the boat, inside.
Bitter end Nothing to do with your yacht grounding or sinking – it is the loose end of a line or rope
Burgee The small flag denoting club membership – NEVER call it a flag
Cable Very cool to talk in cables. It's 1/10 nautical mile, about 600 feet or 220 metres.
Cape Horn Fever The neatest way to say you're scared as hell
Captain Respectful term used for the skipper of a boat – can be dropped when appropriate
Cast off Much more nautical sounding than saying 'let go the lines'
Charts Never, never, never say 'maps'
Close-hauled Sailing as direct as possible into the wind. Great term to bring out on occasions
Coaming This is a great one to throw around, and means the raised edge of the boat keeping out the water
Cockpit When you're in the cockpit, you are NOT on deck. The deck is the deck, the cockpit is the cockpit
Companionway there are NO stairs on a boat. It's a companionway
Cuddy what you call your allotted cabin if you think it's too small
Decks awash What happens just prior to sinking
Depth Don't whatever you do talk about feet or metres. The cool thing to do, to show just how long you've been sailing, is fathoms. It's a cinch that those under thirty will hever have heard of them
Ensign Flag denoting the nationality of your boat – much cooler than 'flag'
Fluke Wedge-shaped anchor arm that digs into the bottom – digging into the bottom securely, however, should not be a fluke.
Following sea When the waves follow behind your boat, often when sailing downwind.  This is very nautical-sounding.
Freeboard How much freeboard do we have?' does not related to food. It's the distance from the deck to the water.
Gunwale This is pronounced 'gunnel', and is the upper edge of the hull.  If you pronounce it right, you'll be taken for an experienced sailor straight up.
jibing and tacking Don't get them mixed up. When you jibe, you turn AWAY from the wind and the boom will swing and need to be contolled. When you tack, you turn INTO the wind and the boom remains easily under control.
Halyard This is a line used to raise the head of a sail and is usually seen lying flat against the mast
Head The origins of this relate to the fact that the latrine was always in the bow of the boat, not to the intelligence on board – but NEVER call it a toilet.
Hitch Nothing to do with trousers. Any knot which is used to attach a line to a fixed object on the boat
In irons When the boat is into wind and unable to manoeuvre, something to be avoided as it will show immediately that you are a novice
Iron headsail The engine.
Knot It simply isn't cool to talk in Mph or Kph. Knots are the distance measure used
Latitude Think 'Ladder-tude' and you'll never mix up latitude and longitude again
Lee-oh The instruction to tack the boat.  Make sure you either give the correct instruction or know what it is when the skipper calls it.
leeway The distance that the boat is being pushed sideways by the wind.  Good for comments: 'Mmmm, we have quite a lot of leeway here'.
MOB This means 'man overboard'. There's no term for 'woman overboard'. That's because they're more careful
Nay The opposite of aye aye, but not acceptable on a sailing boat when given an instruction
Nautical mile This is the same as a knot – a distance measure, about 1.15 longer than a mile.
Oilies the slang name for wet weather gear (comes from oilskins)
Over-canvassed this is a good term for when there is too much sail up – will impress well
Painter You've got to get this right, and it's nothing to do with painting. This is the rope between the dinghy and the boat.
pitchpole this is when the boat capsizes bow first, rather than by rolling over sideways.  Goes well if you want to tell some imaginary sailing yarn
reaching This is sailing across the wind rather than into it or away from it.
Ready about this is the call to get ready to tack, is called just before Lee-oh
Red to red This is a lovely one to display your nautical knowledge. When you are passing another vessel, it means 'red light to red light' or port to port and is the safest way to pass
reefing Nothing to do with coral or rocks. This is reducing the amount of sail on your boat, without actually removing the sail
Rigging Nothing to do with accountancy. It is the system of masts and lines.
Rode Do use this. It is the name of the line for the anchor – the anchor rode
Rope the only rope on a boat is attached to a bucket. The others are lines or sheets
Shrouds Nothing to do with death. The stays which are used to hold up the mast from side to side
Stay Nothing to do with corsets. They are the wires which hold the mast up, by being attached between the top area of the mast and the deck
Sloop Any yacht with just one mast – much cooler than using 'yacht'
Spindrift If the wind gets high a fine mist of spray is swept from the top of each wave. Very handy in conversation
Springs Very important to know. When berthing a boat, these are the lines which prevent the forward and aft movement of the boat.  'I'll do the springs!' - if you know what to do...
Stanchions The vertical posts on the edge of the deck, supporting the life lines.  DON'T call them posts or any other such substitute.
Stow On a boat, you don't put your gear away, you STOW it
Tack See jibe
Tell tales Nothing to do with the tall tales being told on the boat.  Small pieces of wool or yarn tied to a stay or sail to tell the direction of the wind
Transom The flat surface of the stern of a boat – get it right. It is not 'the stern' or 'the back'
Vang Most commonly the boom vang, a small strut that holds the boom down, attaches from the underside of the boom to the bottom fo the mast
Weigh anchor Much cooler to 'weigh' anchor rather than lifting the anchor.
Wide berth Giving someone one of these does not relate to the size of their bed, but to distance between you and the next boat
Windage the wind resistance of the boat itself – handy phrase, particularly when reaching.  'Mmmm the windage is giving the boat a lot of leeway'.
   
navathome 660x82Barz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best EyewearInSunSport - NZ

Related Articles

The C Beetle Project
Every now and then something comes along your way and you just have to read it. Every now and then something comes along your way and you just have to read it. Such is Phil Smidmore’s tale of Mick Miller and if I could be so bold as to implore you to read, then I know your life will be the better for it!
Posted today at 2:20 am
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug
Kids Polarised Sunglasses from Barz Optics
Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Each pair are supplied with a neoprene case and sunglass retainer.
Posted on 4 Aug
Reducing weight aloft with composite backstays
Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Every kilogram you take out of the rig is roughly equivalent to 4kg added to the bottom of your keel!
Posted on 26 Jul
Bavaria STYLE 46 Australian Premiere at Sydney International Boat Show
For everyone who appreciates luxury on the water, the STYLE package is now available for the Cruiser 46 and Cruiser 51?. For everyone who appreciates luxury on the water, the STYLE package is now available for the Cruiser 46 and Cruiser 51?. Making the most of your time on board, be it with family or friends, is becoming more important. Yacht owners want certain levels of comfort and an onboard living experience coupled with versatility.
Posted on 26 Jul
What to look for when buying a modern lifejacket
There is no doubt that modern lifejacket design has changed considerably. There is no doubt that modern lifejacket design has changed considerably and one of the biggest drivers of this change has been due to personal ownership. Rather than crew relying on lifejackets being on-board a boat, they want to own their own lifejacket as part of their kit bag.
Posted on 25 Jul
The New Bavaria Cruiser 34 - you won't believe this is a 34' yacht!
The Sydney International Boat Show sees the World Premiere of the Bavaria Cruiser 34 - 2 Cabin version. The Sydney International Boat Show sees the World and Australian Premiere of the Bavaria Cruiser 34 - 2 Cabin version. The new Cruiser 34 offers more space and more comfort than ever before with a bigger cockpit, dual helms and ergonomically designed seating. This is the first time the entry level Bavaria cruiser has been offered in twin helm!
Posted on 19 Jul
Navathome Australia brings RYA Theory to your door
The RYA Cruising Syllabus has been built up over years of best practice development in Sail and Power Boat skippering. The Royal Yachting Association Cruising Syllabus has been built up over years of best practice development in Sail and Power Boat skippering. Split into a theory and practical syllabus the training modules take you in steps from a Start Yachting orientation through to Yachtmaster for either power or sail.
Posted on 5 Jul
Free $US3,000 Carbon Vang with SouthernFurl boom orders in July
Southern Spars is giving a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July Southern Spars is giving away a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with all of their SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July. Carbon gas vangs make a great addition to the furling boom package, though if you’d prefer to keep your existing one, Southern Spars will offer you a 5% discount on the price of your boom instead.
Posted on 29 Jun
Newport Bermuda Race - High Noon takes honours
As the Newport Bermuda Race fleet rushed to the finish line on Monday in the wake of the first-to-finish boat, As the Newport Bermuda Race fleet rushed to the finish line on Monday in the wake of the first-to-finish boat, the powerful 100-foot grand prix Comanche, to the surprise of many they were led by an unusual boat and crew. High Noon, at 41 feet, is fully 59 feet shorter than Comanche and tens of feet shorter than many other entries.
Posted on 22 Jun