Nautical Terminology   Leave a comment

I’m never sure whether to add explanations of sailing terms in my posts. Using them without defining them is so mush easier and it usually doesn’t really matter what they mean. However, as we get into more sailing and technical explanations become necessary, I thought a page of definitions might be useful. I will try to refer back to this page in posts with a lot of boat lingo and add new definitions as needed. This list is a work in progress so there is more to come.

Basic Boat “Zones”

Bow: The front; the pointy end; related to forward (adj.) or fore (adj.)

Stern: The back of the boat; related to aft (adj.)

Port: the left side of the boat. I remember this because port has fewer letters than starboard and left has fewer letters than right.

Starboard: The right side of the boat.


Main: The furthest aft sail on our sloop rigged boat. The main is hoisted up a track on the aft side of the mast and the foot attaches to the boom. Ours is made of dacron (basic, durable sail cloth).

Jib/Genoa: The sail in the front of the boat; also called a headsail. The front edge of the sail attaches to the forstay or roller furling. This sail is also made of dacron.

Spinnaker: Another kind of headsail. There are countless nicknames, including the kite and the chute, both of which describe this sail well. It’s big, light, billowy, often brightly colored, and used when sailing downwind.

Multi-Purpose Genoa (MPG): We added one of these to our sail inventory for light air and downwind reaching. It is made of nylon like a spinnaker but is shaped more like a big genoa.

Solent: This nifty little sail was brought to our attention by our sailmaker, Joe of Practically Sailing. The Solent Stay runs from somewhere near the top of the mast to the deck just aft of the forstay. We had one of Pirat’s original sails modified for this purpose. It attaches to the stay with hanks (little metal clips) and the whole shebang can be pulled forward with a purchase system leading back to the cabin top (where all our control lines are). We’ll use this sail when reefing the bigger jib is still too much sail for the amount of wind. All we have to do is furl the jib, pull the hanked-on, bagged solent forward on the stay and raise it.

Storm Jib: Our smallest headsail; another modified original sail. The storm jib will also go on the solent stay, when the solent is too big of a sail.

Standing and Running Rigging (Standing rigging is any rigging that doesn’t really move. Running rigging is all the control lines for the sails etc., at least that’s how make the distinction).

Forestay/Headstay: Attaches at the top of the mast and the very bow of the boat. The Roller furling, a device that rolls the jib around itself for storage, acts as the forestay on Pirat.

Backstay: Attaches at the top of the mast and the very stern of the boat. Ours is hydraulic so it can be adjusted easily to tighten the rig by pulling the top of the mast backward.

Mast and boom: I was going to skip these, but the mast is the big pointy thing on the boat and the boom is another big, hollow, metal thing that hinges onto the mast and sticks out perpendicularly.

Lines: There are no ropes on boats, only lines, at least when they have a purpose. The main halyard is a line.

Sheets: Sheets specifically control sails in the “in and out” dimension. Jib sheets attach to the clew, the loose corner of the sail, and can be pulled in or eased to bring the sail in or out. Same goes for the mainsheet.

Halyards: Attach to the head, or top, of a sail and pull it up. There’s a jib halyard, main halyard, spinnaker halyard

Posted March 31, 2010 by Rachel

0 responses to Nautical Terminology

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Pingback: Kris

    • Pingback: Rachel

  2. Pingback: Some terminology « Oia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *