A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Nautical or Sailing Terms

It seems that within any discipline a set of specialized terms may exist. To an outsider these words may sound peculiar or unnecessary yet their distinct nature often serves a crucial purpose. When one considers maritime terms within the context of the working environment a more complete picture will begin to emerge. Consider the development of sailing terms, evolving from slang used in various cultures back to the Phoenicians. The sounds which survived the test of time were sharply concise, accurate, and extensive. These aspects lend to immediacy and precision of language in an environment where misunderstandings or delays may lead to peril.

Aback

A square sail is considered aback if the wind is on the forward side of the sail. This will press the sail(s) toward the mast forcing the vessel astern.

Abaft

Positional term used to reference a shipboard object that is further aft than another.

Abaft the beam

Located aft of the beam; indicates the bearing of an object as between the beam and stern.

Abeam

Located to the side of a vessel, amidships, or at right angles.

Ablock

(also: Two Block) Tackle is taken in until both blocks come together.

Aboard

Located on or within the ship.

About

A ship is said to be going about whilst tacking, that is as it changes the wind over the bow to the other tack.

Abox

A square rigger hove to whilst maintaining position.

Abreast

(also: opposite to') Located side by side, alongside, or abeam.

Accommodation Ladder

Portable steps or ladder to climb aboard a vessel.

A-cockbill

Square rigger yards dockside topped up at an angle to clear warehouses, etc., on the dock.

To go on the account

A sailor turned pilot.

Admiralty Knot

Distance measurement for 6080 feet; the International Nautical Mile is 6076.10'.

Adrift

Broken loose from the moorings.

Afloat

Swimming whilst not touching the bottom.

Afore

Forward, opposite of abaft.

Afoul

Tangled or fouled in any way.

Aft

Located at, near, or towards the stern.

After Body

Stern section of a vessel.

After Bow Spring

Bow Spring leading aft on a vessel for docking.

After Brow

An aft portable gangplank.

After Quarter Spring

Spring leading aft from a vessel's bow.

After Waist Spring

Spring coming from amidship and going aft.

After yards

Yards aft of the foremast.

Aground

Stranded, keel or vessel hull resting on the bottom.

Ahead

Toward the bow, in front of the bow

Ahoy

A greeting used in hailing a vessel or boat

A-hull

A vessel hove to under bare poles with the helm alee.

Air or Flotation Tank

Sealed air tank for buoyancy in a capsize

Albatross

Largest sea bird with wing span up to 13' in the Southern Hemisphere.

Alee

To the leeward side; helm is away from the wind

All aback

When wind is pressing against the forward side of square sails

All-a-taunt-O

Ship shape, or all gear hauled in tight

All hands

The entire crew

All in the wind

Pointing too high with all sails shaking

All night in

Maintaining no night watches

All standing

Fully equipped; brought up all standing is a rapid stop.

Aloft

Up above; up the mast or in the rigging.

Alongside

Side by side, by the side of a vessel or pier.

Alow

Below deck, or low in the rigging near the deck.

Alow and aloft

All sails including stuns'ls are set.

Altar

Steps of a drydock.

Amain

On the run, all at once.

Ambergris

Sperm whale intestinal secretion used as a perfume additive to improve the persistence of scent.

Anchor

A hook which digs into the bottom to prevent a vessel from drifting.

Anchorage

A suitable place for anchoring.

Anchor aweigh

Anchor broken away from bottom or coming to the surface.

Anchor hoy

Lighter with derrick for handling heavy anchors.

Anchor Lights

Anchor riding lights carried on anchored vessels.

Anchor watch

Crew deck detail to watch anchored vessel at night.

Anemometer

Instrument for measuring wind velocity.

Aneroid Barometer

Mechanical barometer without liquid. Used rather than liquid based due to vessel movement.

Anti-cyclone

Spiral eddy of wind that is flowing out.

Antifouling Paint

Poisonous boat bottom paint to retard underwater growth.

Anvil Top

Cirrus top or peak of thunderhead.

Apeak

Anchor cable in vertical line with vessel over anchor; position of square rig yards, or oars when vertical or nearly so.

Aport

To the left or port side of a vessel when looking forward.

Apparent wind

Wind direction felt on a sail-boat under way.

Apron

Timber behind lower part of stem above fore end of keel.

Arm

Lower part of sheet and kedge anchors.

Ash breeze

Flat calm requiring engine power or oars.

Astern

In direction of stern or bearing behind vessel.

Athwartship

Across the keel of a vessel.

Atoll

A small circular coral island enclosing a lagoon.

Atrip

The anchor has broken loose from the bottom.

A-try

A sail-boat riding in a gale without any sails set.

Autopilot

Mechanical helmsman steering to a compass heading or pre-set course.

Auxiliary

An engine used as secondary propulsion on a sail-boat.

Aweather

To windward, towards the weather side.

Awning

Tarp covering boat or deck for protection from sun, rain, or snow.

Aye

Yes; a reply that an officer's orders are understood.

Backing

The wind changes counter-clockwise.

Back the Jib

Hold it when coming about till wind is on the lee side.

Backstay

Mast support leading aft to deck or to another mast.

Running Backstays

Temporary or shifting backstays.

Backwater

Stop row-boat movement by reversing direction of oars.

Back Wind

A sail backwinds another with the wind funnelling on the wrong side.

Bag

A sail bags when the leach is taut yet the center of the sail is slack.

Cabin

Enclosed space of decked-over boat hull.

Cable

A large diameter anchor line generally 120 fathoms long.

Call

A bosen's pipe.

Calm

Wind with speed less than one knot.

Camber

Athwartship curve of sailing vessel deck to drain water overboard.

Daggerboard

A plate raised and lowered vertically to reduce leeway.

Dasher Block

Small ensign halyard block at peak of gaff.

Earings

Small ropes to make fast the upper corners of square sails, etc.

Ease

To slack; momentarily luff a sailing vessel with too much wind pressure.

Ease Off

To slacken.

Ease Out

To slack out.

Fag End

Untwisted end of a rope.

Fagged

Ragged, untwisted rope end.

Fairlead

Block or titting to change the lead direction of a line such as a jib sheet.

Fair Tide

Current running with vessel.

Fair Wind

Favorable wind.

Fairway

Navigational channel.

Fake

A single turn of a rope in a coil.

Gadget

Landlubber term before he learns the proper sailing term.

Gaff

Spar for the head of a gaff sail.












Scandalizing

Scandalizing a gaff sail in a strong wind is to harden the topping lift and release the peak halyard.







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