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Glossary of terms used in sailing

A square sail is aback with the wind on the forward side. The sails are pressed toward the mast forcing the vessel astern.
A shipboard object being further aft than another.
abaft the beam
aft of the beam; bearing of object between beam and stern.
A term denoting position on the side of a vessel, amidships, or at right angles.


two block
Tackle taken in until both blocks come together.
On or within the ship.
A ship is said to be going about, while tacking, as it changes the wind over the bow to the opposing tack.
A square rigger hove to while maintaining position.
A term describing position "opposite to", side by side, alongside, or abeam.
accommodation ladder
Portable steps or ladder for climbing aboard a vessel.
Square rigger yards dockside topped up at an angle to lower overhead clearance.
to go on the account
A phrase for a sailor turned pilot.
Admiralty knot
A unit for tracking distance, approximately 6080 feet.
A vessel having broken loose from it's moorings whilst untended, unoccupied, or otherwise without the knowledge of the crew.
The distance a vessel maintains original course after rudder is put over.
Swimming while not touching or unable to touch the bottom or sea-floor.
Term denoting a location or direction forward. Afore is opposite of abaft.
Tangled or fouled in any way.
Position at, near, or towards the stern.
after body
The stern or rear section of a vessel.
after bow spring
A bow spring line (rope) leading aft on a vessel to secure whilst docking.
after brow
An aft portable gangplank.
after quarter spring
A spring line (rope) leading aft from a vessels bow to secure whilst docking.
after waist spring
A spring line (rope) coming from amidship and going aft, used to secure a docking vessel.
after yards
A unit of distance, denoting yards aft (behind) of the foremast.
A term denoting a stranded vessel's keel or hull resting on the sea-floor or bottom.
A direction or position toward or in front of the bow of a vessel.
A colloquial greeting used in the hailing a vessel or boat.
A vessel 'hove to' under bare poles with the helm alee.
air or flotation tank
A sealed air tank for buoyancy used in the event of a capsized vessel.
The largest sea bird with a wing span up to 13 feet, lives in the Southern Hemisphere.
all aback
Condition whereby wind is pressing against the forward (front) side of square sails.
"ship shape", all gear hauled in tight, items secured.
all hands
Term for the entire crew.
all in the wind
pointing too high with all sails shaking.
all night in
Not maintaining a night watch.
all standing
fully equipped
up above; up the mast or in the rigging.
Positioned side by side, by the side of a vessel, or pier.
Located below deck or low in the rigging near the deck.
alow and aloft
All sails are set.
steps of a drydock.
on the run, all at once.
Sperm whale intestinal secretion gathered and used to blend perfume.
A hook which digs into the bottom or sea-floor to prevent a vessel from drifting.
A suitable location for anchoring.
anchor aweigh
Anchor broken out of bottom or coming to surface.
anchor hoy
lighter with derrick for handling heavy anchors
anchor lights
Signal lights, illuminated on anchored vessels.
anchor watch
Term for crew deck detail to watch over an anchored vessel at night.
An instrument mounted or hand-held, used to measure wind velocity.
aneroid barometer
An instrument for measuring atmospheric pressure, usually consisting of an enclosed container whose height changes with air pressure changes. The change is indicated by a connected dial or arm which moves in concert with the changing height. This more rugged design is contrasted with the traditional barometer which uses a glass column of liquid mercury.
A spiral eddy of wind with an outward flow.
antifouling paint
A poisonous boat bottom paint intended to slow or prevent underwater growth of barnacles and other nuisance growth on a submerged hull.
anvil top
A shape specific to a cloud; cirrus top or peak of thunderhead.
anchor cable in vertical line with vessel over anchor; position of square rig yards, or oars when vertical or nearly so.
to the left or port side of a vessel when looking forward.
apparent wind
wind direction felt on sailboat under way.
timber behind lower part of stem above fore end of keel.
Lower part of sheet and kedge anchors.
ash breeze
A flat calm requiring engine power or other non-wind propulsion.
A term for position or location in direction of stern or bearing behind a vessel.
A term describing position or location across the keel of a vessel.
A small typically circular coral island enclosing a lagoon.
A term describing when an anchor has broken free from the bottom.
A sailboat underway in a gale with no sails set.
A device which automatically maintains steering to a compass heading while underway.
An engine used as secondary propulsion in a sailboat.
to windward, towards the weather side.
tarp covering boat or deck for protection from sun, rain, or snow.
Yes; A response that a superior's orders are/were understood.
The wind changes counterclockwise.
mast support leading aft to deck or to another-mast.
running backstays
temporary or shifting backstays.
stop rowboat movement by reversing direction of oars.
back wind
a sail backwinds another with the wind funneling on wrong side.
a sail bags when the leach is taut yet the center of the sail is slack
baggy wrinkle
chafing gear made from old rope.
balanced rudder
part of rudder area is forward of rudder post.
baldheaded schooner
schooner without topsails
heavy material stowed inside a sailing vessel to provide stability.
ballast tanks
double bottom water tanks pumped out or flooded at will.
shoal or bank
capstan bars
heavy timbers that work the capstan.
bare poles
sailing vessel in a gale with no sails set.
sailing bare
sailing with the sheets set too tight
ship's boat used by flag officers.
Thames Barge
roomy, flat bottom English cargo vessel.
bark (barque)
A 3-masted, square rigged fore and main.
A 3-masted, square rigged only on foremast.
A small shell fish often found on the bottom of boats and other submerged surfaces.
barney post
A short Star class cockpit post with a jam cleat for the main sheet.
A meteorological instrument that measures changes atmosphere pressure.
A dishonest action
barrier reef
Exposed corral reef along a coast.
Thin rigid strip inserted in a pocket on a sail to keep its shape.
Term for an unemployed seaman on the beach.
Used to indicate hazards or other types of navigation information.
beak-head grating
Another word for the bathroom on a boat, term originally specific to naval vessel.
The maximum width of a vessel.
beam reach
Wind at right angles to keel.
An object bears in the direction a person is looking.
bear down
To approach a vessel from the windward direction.
The apparent direction of an object as related to a vessels heading or compass reading.
bear off
To steer away from the wind, shore, or object.
bear up
Steering towards the eye of the wind, shore, or object.
Advancing windward on alternate tacks.
When a boat's sails hang limp and lifeless without wind.
An eye or loop made out of fibre or rope wire.
Pieces bolted to outer bowsprit end to reeve foretopmast stays thru.
A change in a spoken order or directive, e.g. "Belay that order!". Also to secure a line to a cleat or pin.
belaying pin
A iron or wooden pin fitted into railing to secure lines.
bell buoy
A navigational buoy with a bell warning rang by wave motion.
The fullness of a sail when it is filled with wind.
belly strap
Passing rope beneath a boat when carrying out a kedge anchor.
beneath or under the deck (seldom called downstairs).
bench hook
A hook with swivel in cloth counteracting pull of sailors needle.
A knot where one rope is secured to another.
to bend
to make fast a sail to a spar or stay
to bend a cable
To secure a cable to an anchor.
bending shackle
Hardware that connects a chain or cable to an anchor ring.
A term for a boat ran aground at high tide where the following the high tide, can't float.
bermudian sail
British term for marconi or jib-headed sail.
A boat dock or anchorage. Also a place where a person sleeps aboard a boat.
berth deck
Lower complete deck used for berthing near waterline.
between decks
The space between decks.
A bend in a rope. Alternatively, a bend in shore making a cove, bay, or inlet.
A curve of hull between keel and gunwale. Alternatively the largest diameter of a cask.
bilge blocks
Blocks in a dry dock upon which a ships bilge rests.
Term for the situation which arises when a ship's bilge is broken.
bilge keel
keels at turn of bilge to reduce vessel rolling motion.
bilge water
The water that drains into and collects in a vessels bilge.
bilge ways
Timbers bolted together and propped under a keel for launching.
The point at the end of an anchor fluke.
bill board
An inclined metal plate for the anchor to rest on without marring deck.
bill of health
A port health certificate obtained as a vessel clears port.
bill of lading
A receipt from a vessel for cargo received.
A compass stand containing compensating magnets.
The anchor takes hold of the sea bottom.
bitter end
The last inboard link of anchor chain or the end of the anchor line.
Deck posts used to secure mooring or towing lines.
black gang
Old term for an engine crew when coal was the principle fuel.
The back side of an anchor palm, also the flat part of oar or propeller.
A windward sailboat takes the wind out of the sails on a sailboat too leeward. A bridge, building, or headland can also blanket sails.
Frames to support pulleys, to increase rope pull, or change line pull.
A steep shore or a full-bowed vessel.
A windward tack or leg when sailing closehauled.
boat hook
A pole with a hook used to retrieve a mooring buoy or ring.
bosun's chair
A canvas or wood seat or sling used to lift a man needing to working high above deck e.g. in the rigging or on the mast.
boatswain's chest
A chest containing bosun's tools.
An officer or crewman in charge of line, boats, rigging, etc.
Rod, chain, or wire from stem to cutwater securing bowsprit.
Vertical posts on dock to secure hawsers.
Chafing gear for trestle tree rigging.
Early round iron bolts without threads that had to be peened over with a hammer.
bolt rope
A rope which is sewn around along a sails edge to increase sail-cloth strength.
Spray at stem or cutwater when a vessel is underway.
Additional sail area laced to bottom of square sails or jibs.
booby hatch
A small raised hatch.
A horizontal spar to extend the foot of a sail.
Spars that extend and support studding sails.
boom cradle
boom crutch
A support for boom with it's sail furled.
boom horse
A metal traveler for a sheet block.
boom irons
Rings of yards for studding-sail booms to be rigged out.
A spar which projects from the stern, used to secure backstay.
boot top
Term for the different color stripe of paint along the waterline.
The Marine law term for mortgaging ships.
wind bound
Term to describe an adverse headwind keeping a sail-boat in port.
The front section of a boat.
bow breast
A forward mooring line used for docking.

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