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

Nautical terms - a beginning
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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.
Abeamin line with the widest part of the boat. 'Come abeam' to a nearby yacht is the cool way to address a nearby boat
Above boardHas nothing to do with honesty, just means 'on the deck and not below'
AdmiralCourtesy title given to the galley slave
AdriftWhen the engine fails and the wind dies, this is what happens
AhoyThe only respectable call from one boat to another – 'Hello', 'Hey', and 'excuse me' are all inexcusable on a boat
AhullHow the boat lies when the sea comes up after being adrift
All handsOn a cruising boat usually applies to the 'other half'
  
Anchors aweighThis is a smart call when you are leaving an anchorage – shows you really know your stuff
AshoreWhere you end up after too many navigation mistakes. Probably time to leap off and walk home.
AgroundSimilar to ashore, but still stuck out in the water, and can't even walk home
AthwartNothing to do with disagreement between the skipper and 'all hands', it means at right angles to the centreline of the boat
AvastThe nautical term for 'stop', which is definitely unnautical. 'Avast ye hearties' has a certain ring
AwashWhat happens when the freeboard is close to, or below, zero.
Aye ayeThe coolest way of saying 'ok'
BackstaysNothing to do with mother's corsets. The line from stern to masthead, helping to stop the mast from falling over
BailerAny device which will assist the boat from not being awash
BankThe joint owner of your sailing boat perhaps, but can be a large area of elevated sea floor
BarWhat you hope to reach at the end of a day's sailing, or the bank at the entrance to a river.
Bareboat charterDoes not relate to the amount of equipment on your charter boat, merely that it comes without crew
BarkNothing 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 hatchesThis is yelled when you see a storm coming, even if you don't have any hatches
BeachingThe best thing to do if your boat is sinking – running it onto the nearest beach
BerthThis is where the boat is docked, and also where one sleeps – never in the bed, perhaps in a bunk
BilgeThe area below the sole – the very bottom of the boat, inside.
Bitter endNothing to do with your yacht grounding or sinking – it is the loose end of a line or rope
BurgeeThe small flag denoting club membership – NEVER call it a flag
CableVery cool to talk in cables. It's 1/10 nautical mile, about 600 feet or 220 metres.
Cape Horn FeverThe neatest way to say you're scared as hell
CaptainRespectful term used for the skipper of a boat – can be dropped when appropriate
Cast offMuch more nautical sounding than saying 'let go the lines'
ChartsNever, never, never say 'maps'
Close-hauledSailing as direct as possible into the wind. Great term to bring out on occasions
CoamingThis is a great one to throw around, and means the raised edge of the boat keeping out the water
CockpitWhen you're in the cockpit, you are NOT on deck. The deck is the deck, the cockpit is the cockpit
Companionwaythere are NO stairs on a boat. It's a companionway
Cuddywhat you call your allotted cabin if you think it's too small
Decks awashWhat happens just prior to sinking
DepthDon'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
EnsignFlag denoting the nationality of your boat – much cooler than 'flag'
FlukeWedge-shaped anchor arm that digs into the bottom – digging into the bottom securely, however, should not be a fluke.
Following seaWhen the waves follow behind your boat, often when sailing downwind.  This is very nautical-sounding.
FreeboardHow much freeboard do we have?' does not related to food. It's the distance from the deck to the water.
GunwaleThis 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 tackingDon'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.
HalyardThis is a line used to raise the head of a sail and is usually seen lying flat against the mast
HeadThe 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.
HitchNothing to do with trousers. Any knot which is used to attach a line to a fixed object on the boat
In ironsWhen the boat is into wind and unable to manoeuvre, something to be avoided as it will show immediately that you are a novice
Iron headsailThe engine.
KnotIt simply isn't cool to talk in Mph or Kph. Knots are the distance measure used
LatitudeThink 'Ladder-tude' and you'll never mix up latitude and longitude again
Lee-ohThe instruction to tack the boat.  Make sure you either give the correct instruction or know what it is when the skipper calls it.
leewayThe distance that the boat is being pushed sideways by the wind.  Good for comments: 'Mmmm, we have quite a lot of leeway here'.
MOBThis means 'man overboard'. There's no term for 'woman overboard'. That's because they're more careful
NayThe opposite of aye aye, but not acceptable on a sailing boat when given an instruction
Nautical mileThis is the same as a knot – a distance measure, about 1.15 longer than a mile.
Oiliesthe slang name for wet weather gear (comes from oilskins)
Over-canvassedthis is a good term for when there is too much sail up – will impress well
PainterYou've got to get this right, and it's nothing to do with painting. This is the rope between the dinghy and the boat.
pitchpolethis is when the boat capsizes bow first, rather than by rolling over sideways.  Goes well if you want to tell some imaginary sailing yarn
reachingThis is sailing across the wind rather than into it or away from it.
Ready aboutthis is the call to get ready to tack, is called just before Lee-oh
Red to redThis 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
reefingNothing to do with coral or rocks. This is reducing the amount of sail on your boat, without actually removing the sail
RiggingNothing to do with accountancy. It is the system of masts and lines.
RodeDo use this. It is the name of the line for the anchor – the anchor rode
Ropethe only rope on a boat is attached to a bucket. The others are lines or sheets
ShroudsNothing to do with death. The stays which are used to hold up the mast from side to side
StayNothing 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
SloopAny yacht with just one mast – much cooler than using 'yacht'
SpindriftIf the wind gets high a fine mist of spray is swept from the top of each wave. Very handy in conversation
SpringsVery 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...
StanchionsThe vertical posts on the edge of the deck, supporting the life lines.  DON'T call them posts or any other such substitute.
StowOn a boat, you don't put your gear away, you STOW it
TackSee jibe
Tell talesNothing 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
TransomThe flat surface of the stern of a boat – get it right. It is not 'the stern' or 'the back'
VangMost 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 anchorMuch cooler to 'weigh' anchor rather than lifting the anchor.
Wide berthGiving someone one of these does not relate to the size of their bed, but to distance between you and the next boat
Windagethe wind resistance of the boat itself – handy phrase, particularly when reaching.  'Mmmm the windage is giving the boat a lot of leeway'.
  
 
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