Boating and Sailing Terms Beginners Should Know


After knowing the basics of how to sail, it is helpful to learn boating terms to give to a better overview of sailing. Being familiar with terms about parts of the ship and other terms used for communication in boating and sailing, is important to help you enjoy this hobby more.

Point of Sail: The boat’s direction relative to the wind. For example, if you’re going straight into the wind, your point of sail is called “in irons.” (Note: This isn’t a good place to be!) If the wind is blowing straight over the side of the boat, that’s called a “beam reach.” There are 8 commonly used points of sail, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before going out.

Helm: Where you steer the boat. Usually this is a big wheel, but on smaller boats it can be a tiller, which is basically a long wooden stick. Either of these can be used to control the boat’s rudder.

Do you know what a bow is? Bow is the front of the ship. It is designed to reduce the resistance of the hull cutting through water. What is a hull? It is the main framework of the ship. The front of the ship is called the aft or stern. The keel is a blade that sticks down into the water from a boat’s bottom. It makes the vessel stable, preventing it from being capsized.

Another unfamiliar term for beginners in boating and sailing is the rudder.

Sailboats steer by means of the rudder, a vertical, blade-like appendage mounted either on the transom (the flat surface of the stern) or under the boat. In both cases the rudder works by deflecting water flow: when the helmsman—the person steering, as likely female as male—turns the rudder, the water strikes it with increased force on one side, decreased force on the other. The rudder moves in the direction of lower pressure. As the rudder goes, so goes the stern, and the boat turns.

Learn more about boat terminology by watching the video below.