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Yachting & Boating glossary of terms

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The Sailing adventure


Aft deck. The guest area closest to the back of the boat. Often the location of the main outdoor dining area.
Aft cabin. Sleeping quarters beneath the aft or rear section of the boat
Alee. The side of a boat or object away from the direction of the wind.
Aloft. Above deck in the rigging or mast.
Amidships. In the center of the yacht
Anti-fouling paint. A special paint applied to a boat's hull to prevent marine growth.

Alongside. By the side of the ship or pier
Apparent wind. The direction and speed of the wind as felt in a moving boat - the way it 'appears”.
Astern. The direction toward or beyond the back of the boat (stern).
Athwartships. Perpendicular to the yacht’s centerline. 
Aweigh. An anchor that is off the bottom.
Antigua. North of Guadeloupe, a popular destination.
Anguilla. An exclusive destination in the Caribbean. 

Anchor. An object designed to prevent or slow the drift of a ship, attached to the ship by a line or chain; typically a metal, hook like, object designed to grip the bottom under the body of water.
Anchorage. A suitable place for a ship to anchor. Area of a port or harbour

Anchor Ball. Black ball shape that is hoisted to alert other boats the vessel is at anchor

Anchor Light. A all around white light on top of the mast signalling to other vessels we are at anchor at night


Backstay. Support for the mast to keep it from falling forward.
Bareboat. A yacht that you charter and run yourself, without a crew. 
Beam. Measurement of a boat at its widest point. Also, a transmitted radio, sonar or radar signal.
Bearing. Direction to an object from your current position.
Bear off. To turn away from the wind.
Beating. Sailing upwind.
Berth.  1 - A cabin or other place to sleep aboard a boat. 2 - A  boat slip at a dock where the boat can be moored.
Bermuda Triangle. A section of the North Atlantic Ocean off North America in which more than 50 ships and 20 airplanes are said to have mysteriously disappeared.
Bermuda. A British island territory in the North Atlantic Ocean known for its pink-sand beaches such as Elbow Beach and Horseshoe Bay.

Bilge. The bilge is the compartment at the bottom of the hull of a ship or boat where water collects so that it may be pumped out of the vessel at a later time.

Bow. Forward portion/front of a boat.
Bowline. The most popular, and essential knot. It has many uses.
Buoy (normally pronounced "boowie”, but sometimes "boy”). An anchored floating object that serves as a navigation aid or hazard warning. 
BVI. The British Virgin Islands.  A major sailing and yachting area in the Caribbean, near the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The Sailing adventure



Charter yacht broker. A person who specializes in booking personalized yacht vacations on behalf of clients.
Charter terms. The contract under which you charter a yacht. There are different terms used in different parts of the world. Some give you everything on an all-inclusive basis, some give you all meals aboard, some give you no meals aboard, and so forth.
Charter yacht. A yacht that is available for charter/rental.
Cockpit. The outdoor area of a sailing yacht (typically in the stern) where guests sit and eat, and from where the captain may steer and control the boat.
Commission. The fee a yacht’s owner pays to a charter broker for booking a charter.
Crew. The team that operates your charter yacht. The crew can include a captain plus any combination of: mate, deckhand, stewardess, engineer and chef. Some crew has additional skills such as wellness/massage therapy and scuba instruction.
Crewed charter. The charter of a yacht that has a permanent crew aboard who run and manage all aspects of the yacht and charter.
Corsica. A French island north of Sardinia.
Cuba. Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos located in the Caribbean sea.

Cleat. A anvil-shaped hardware on a boat or dock that ropes are attached to for securing them for various purposes

Clew The bottom aft corner of a sail


The Sailing adventure


Decks. the structures forming the approximately horizontal surfaces in the ship's general structure. Unlike flats, they are a structural part of the ship.
Deck hand. A person whose job involves aiding the deck supervisor in (un)mooring, anchoring, maintenance, and general evolutions on deck.

Dinghy. A small boat that a yacht carries or tows. Used for transfers to and from shore, and short day cruises and, if powerful enough, water sports. Also typically called a tender on larger yachts.
Displacement. The weight of water displaced by a hull. Also, a type of hull that smoothly displaces (pushes aside) water as opposed to tipping up and riding on top of it.
Dodecanese. The Dodecanese islands located in the southeastern Aegean Sea, are a group of Greek islands known for their medieval castles, beaches and ancient archaeological sites.
Double cabin. A charter yacht cabin that includes a double bed to sleep two guests. Not to be confused with "twin cabin," which means a cabin with two twin-size beds.
Draft. The depth of a yacht below the waterline, as measured vertically. It is important when navigating shallow water to assure the boat can pass.

Draught. (See draft)

The Sailing adventure
The Sailing adventure


Earrings. Small lines, by which the uppermost corners of the largest sails are secured to the yardarms.
Embayed. The condition where a sailing vessel is confined between two capes or headlands, typically where the wind is blowing directly onshore.
Extremis. (also known as “in extremis”) The point under International Rules of the Road (Navigation Rules) at which the privileged (or stand-on) vessel on collision course with a burdened (or give-way) vessel determines it must maneuver to avoid a collision. Prior to extremis, the privileged vessel must maintain course and speed and the burdened vessel must maneuver to avoid collision.

The Sailing adventure


Fathom. Depth measurement equaling six feet.

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

First Mate. The Second in command of a ship.

Fleet. A group of yachts that are under management by the same company.

Flemish Coil. A line coiled around itself to neaten the decks or dock.

Flotilla. A group of yachts cruising together.
Flying bridge (or Flybridge). A raised, second-story helm station (steering area) that often also has room for passengers, providing views and a sun deck.

Forestays. Long lines or cables, reaching from the front of the vessel to the mastheads, used to support the mast.

Freeboard. The height of a ship's hull (excluding superstructure) above the waterline. The vertical distance from the current waterline to the lowest point on the highest continuous watertight deck. This usually varies from one part to another

Furling. Rolling or folding a sail on its boom. Many charter yachts today are 'self furling” which take much of the work out of dropping the sails.
French Riviera. A stretch of coastline on the southern part of France. The 'Riviera' doesn't have an official boundary, however, most locals say that from Toulon to the Italian border is considered the 'French Riviera'. 


Galley. The kitchen/cooking area on a yacht.

Gangplank. A movable bridge used in boarding or leaving a ship at a pier; also known as a "passerelle".

Gulet. A type of motorsailer typically found in Turkey. Gulets originated from sponge boats.
Gunwale (Gun-ul). The upper edge of the side of a boat.
Gybe. Also spelled jibe. To change the course of a boat by swinging a fore-and-aft sail across a following wind (eg the wind is blowing from behind the boat).
Gocek. A popular sailing destination in Turkey. 
Gulf. Is a sizable amount of the ocean that penetrates the land. See 'Mexican Gulf'. 


The Sailing adventure
The Sailing adventure


Halyard. Line (rope) used to hoist a sail.
Harbour. An area designated for yachts to moor.
Harbour fees. Charges paid by the yacht, for docking in certain harbours around the world. The rate depends very much on the season and attractiveness of the port.
Harbormaster. The person at a harbour in charge of anchorages, berths and harbour traffic.
Head. Toilet room/Bathroom/Restroom

Headsail. Any sail flown in front of the most forward mast.

Heel. To temporarily tip or lean to one side. Monohulls heel more than catamarans.
Hull. The structural body of the boat that rests in the water and is built to float.



Itinerary. The course a yacht intends to travel while on charter. The itinerary is normally planned in advance but should remain flexible depending on weather conditions and guest preferences.
Idle. When the engines run on 'idle' this means the yacht is just ticking over. 
In Irons. A sailing word to describe a yacht losing her forward momentum when heading into wind. The yacht becomes unsteerable as she loses her way. 
Ischia. Ischia is a volcanic island in the Gulf of Naples, Italy, known for its mineral-rich thermal waters. 
Inboard. When the engine is IN the yacht, as opposed to being attached to the stern - this would be called an OUTboard. 
Close or near the shoreline so line of sight sailing is possible. 
Iron wind. Sailors nickname to the engine. 

The Sailing adventure

Jib. Triangular sail projecting ahead of the mast.
Jibe. See gybe
Jacklines or Jackstays. Lines that run from Aft > forward that your harness can be attached to in bad weather. 

Jury rig (jerry-rig). A temporary fix to something which has broken on the yacht. 


The Sailing adventure
The Sailing adventure


Knot. Boat speed measured in nautical miles per hour.
Kedge. A small anchor that can be thrown overboard to either change the direction of the yacht (pivot point) or to help anchor the yacht further in bad weather.

Keel. The central structural basis of the hull.

Ketch. A two-masted yacht. 
Kicking strap. A name to the line that pulls the boom down to flatten the sail. 

The Sailing adventure


Lee. The side furthest away from the wind.  
Leeward. The side of an object that is sheltered from the wind.
Lee helm. In strong winds, the yacht can have a tendency to move to the lee without the rudder moving position. 

Lee shore. A shore downwind of a ship. A ship which cannot sail well to windward risks being blown onto a lee shore and grounded.
LOA - Length Over All. The length of a charter yacht as measured from 'stem to stern”. This is important because yachts are usually charged a price by the foot for dockage at marinas.
Lazy jack. A sail bag attached to the boom where the mainsail can fall into.
Leech. The aft part of the sail. 
Luff. The forward part of the sail. 
Luffing up. Bringing the yacht into wind - moving the luff of the sail (the forward part of the sail called 'the luff' moves into the wind). 

The Sailing adventure


Mainsail. The largest regular sail on a sailboat.
Main salon. the primary indoor guest area on a yacht’s main deck.
Make fast. To secure a line.
Marina. A place where yachts dock and receive services such as provisioning, water and fuel.  Typically marinas offer protection from bad weather, and have hundreds of slips for yachts of various sizes.  Slips are rented long term or by the day.
Mast. Vertical spar that supports sails.
Master cabin. Typically the best/largest cabin onboard any charter yacht.
Megayacht. A large, luxury motoryacht. No hard and fast definition, but normally crewed luxury yachts 100 feet or longer. Similar to Superyacht.
Midships. Location near the center of a boat.

Mizzenmast (or Mizzen). The third mast on a ship.

Monohull. A yacht with one hull, as opposed to a multihull or catamaran that has pontoons.  While most motor yachts are monohulls, the term typically refers to sailing yachts.
Motorsailor. A yacht built to sail and cruise under power with equal efficiencies, such as a Gulet.  They typically look like sailing yachts, but have strong engines and are often skippered like they are motor yachts.
Motoryacht. A yacht whose primary form of propulsion is engines.
Multihull. A yacht with more than one hull - typically a catamaran (two) or trimaran (three). They can be either powerboats or sailboats.

The Sailing adventure


Nautical mile. A distance of 6,076.12 feet or 1,852 meters, which is about 15 percent longer than a statute mile. Equivalent to one minute of latitude on a navigation chart.
Navigation. All activities that produce a path
Nautical. Anything relating to the sea or yachts. 
Narrows. A narrow part of a navigable waterway. 
Nautical chart. 'Maps' designed specifically for sea navigation. 




Oilskin. Foul-weather gear worn by sailors.
Outhaul. A line used to control the shape of a sail.
Overbear. To sail downwind directly at another ship, stealing the wind from its sails.
Overfall. Dangerously steep and breaking seas due to opposing currents and wind in a shallow area.
Overhaul. Hauling the buntline ropes over the sails to prevent them from chaffing. Also can be used in reference to maintenance
Overreach. When tacking, to hold a course too long.
Owner. Traditional Royal Navy term for the Captain, a survival from the days when privately-owned ships were often hired for naval service.
Ox-Eye. A cloud or other weather phenomenon that may be indicative of an upcoming storm.

The Sailing adventure
The Sailing adventure


Passarelle. The passageway you walk on from the dock to the yacht. Often incorrectly called a gangplank.
Personal flotation device (PFD). A safety vest or jacket capable of keeping an individual afloat.
Pitch. The theoretical distance a propeller would travel in one revolution. Also, the rising and falling motion of a boat's bow and stern.

Pilot. Navigator. A specially knowledgeable person qualified to navigate a vessel through difficult waters, e.g. harbour pilot etc.

Planing hull. A boat hull designed to ride on top of the water rather than plowing through it.
Port (direction). The left side of a boat when facing the bow. Signified by Red. The opposite side from Starboard.  Trick to remember - 'After a party, there’s no red port left”.
Port (place). A marina harbor or commercial dock for boats.
Power cruiser. A motor yacht with overnight accommodations, typically up to 40 feet long.
Preference sheet. A questionnaire that guests fill out before a crewed charter. It alerts the crew to allergies and medical conditions, as well as to preferences for types of food, wine and service. As such, it is an invaluable document for the crew to plan the charter and assists greatly in customer satisfaction.
Private yacht. A yacht that is not available for charter.
Pullman berth. A twin-size bed that is atop another bed, in bunk-bed fashion that adds additional sleeping accommodation to the yacht.  It often 'pulls” out of the wall when needed.

Pusser. Purser, the one who is buys, stores and sells all stores on board ships, including victuals, rum and tobacco. Originally a private merchant, latterly a warrant officer. 

Pump toilet. A marine toilet that requires the user to pump a handle in order to flush.

The Sailing adventure


Quarterdeck. The aftermost deck of a warship. In the age of sail, the quarterdeck was the preserve of the ship's officers.
Quayside. Refers to the dock or platform used to fasten a vessel to.

The Sailing adventure


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" in order to determine the bearing and distance to the "target".
Radar reflector. A special fixture fitted to a vessel or incorporated into the design of certain aids to navigation to enhance their ability to reflect radar energy. In general, these fixtures will materially improve the visibility for use by vessels with radar.

Reach. To sail across the wind.


  1. 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.

  2. Reef: Rock or coral, possibly only revealed at low tide, shallow enough that the vessel will at least touch if not go aground.

RIB (rigid inflatable boat). An inflatable boat fitted with a rigid bottom often used as a dinghy or tender.

Rigging. The system of masts and lines on ships and other sailing vessels.Runabout. A kind of small, lightweight, freshwater pleasurecraft intended for day use.

Running rigging. Rigging used to manipulate sails, spars, etc. in order to control the movement of the ship. 



Sailing yacht. A yacht whose primary method of propulsion is sailing. Nearly all sailing yachts have engines in addition to their sails.
Semi-displacement hull. A hull shape with soft chines or a rounded bottom that enables the boat to achieve minimal planing characteristics (see Planing hull).  This increases the top potential speed of the yacht.
Schooner. A large sailboat with two or more masts where the foremast is shorter than aft mainmast.

Scuppers. An opening on the side rail that allows water to run off the deck.

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

Shrouds. Standing rigging running from a mast to the sides of a ships.

Skipper. The captain of a ship.

Spinnaker. A large sail flown in front of the vessel while heading downwind.

Spinnaker pole. A spar used to help control a spinnaker or other headsail.

Standing rigging. Rigging which is used to support masts and spars, and is not normally manipulated during normal operations.

Stay. Rigging running fore (forestay) and aft (backstay) from a mast to the hull.

Staysail. A sail whose luff is attached to a innerforestay.

Starboard. The right side of a boat when facing the bow. Opposite of Port.
Stem. The most forward section of the hull.
Stern. Aft (back) portion of a boat.
Swim platform. The space at the back of the yacht from which you typically can go swimming or board a dinghy. 

The Sailing adventure
The Sailing adventure


Tack (sail). The lower corner of a sail.
Tack (sailing). Each leg of a zigzag course typically used to sail upwind.
Tandem charter. A charter that includes more than one yacht.
Tender. A boat that a yacht carries or tows used for transfers to and from shore, and short day cruises and watersports. Also sometimes called a dinghy.
Transom. The rear section of the hull connecting the two sides.

Travellers. Small fittings that slide on a rod or line. The most common use is for the inboard end of the mainsheet; a more esoteric form of traveller consists of "slight iron rings, encircling the backstays, which are used for hoisting the top-gallant yards, and confining them to the backstays".

True wind. The direction and velocity of wind as measured on land, distinct from apparent wind which is how it appears on a moving yacht.
Twin cabin. A yacht cabin that features two twin beds, often best-suited for children or friends.



Under the weather. Serving a watch on the weather side of the ship, exposed to wind and spray.
Under way. A vessel that is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground.
Underwater hull. or underwater ship. The underwater section of a vessel beneath the waterline, normally not visible except when in drydock.

The Sailing adventure

V-berth. A bed or berth located in the bow that has a V-shape.
VAT. Value-added tax (TVA in France). An tax sometimes charged to charter guests who book boats in certain nations, most often in Europe. VAT can add 20 percent or more to your bill.

Vanishing angle. The maximum degree of heel after which a vessel becomes unable to return to an upright position.

VHF. Very high frequency; a bandwidth designation commonly used by marine radios.


The Sailing adventure
The Sailing adventure


Waterline. The intersection of the hull and the surface of the water.

Wake. Turbulence behind a ship.

Waypoint. The coordinates of a specific location.

Weatherhelm. If the helm was centered, the boat would turn towards the wind (weather). Consequently, the tiller must be pulled to the windward side of the boat in order to make the boat sail in a straight line. See leehelm.

Weigh. To raise the anchor.
Windlass. Rotating drum device used for hauling line or chain to raise and lower an anchor.

Windward. In the direction that the wind is coming from.

Windward Islands. The Windward Islands are the southern, generally larger islands of the Lesser Antilles, within the West Indies
Wet head. A bathroom that serves as both the toilet/sink area and the shower compartment, meaning the sink and toilet get wet when you use the showerhead.

The Sailing adventure



Yacht. A sailing or Motoryacht designed for pleasure boating that typically ranges from 40 to 100+ feet long.
Yachting. The experience of being on a yacht.
Yaw. To veer off course.


The Sailing adventure


The Sailing adventure
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