Nautical Terms Help Masting , Rigging Projects

Scale Modeling Basics Glossary of Terms

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


ABAFT- Toward the rear (stern) of the boat. Behind.

ABEAM- At right angles to the keel of the boat, but not on the boat.

ABOARD- On or within the boat.

ABOVEDECK - On the deck (not over it - seeALOFT)

ABREAST- Side by side; by the side of.

ADRIFT- Loose, not on moorings or towline.

AFT- Toward the stern of the boat.

AGROUND- Touching or fast to the bottom.

AHEAD- In a forward direction.

AIDS TONAVIGATION - Artificial objects to supplement naturallandmarks indicating safe and unsafe waters.

AIR SLUG- When high pressure air is used to test-fire a warships torpedo launchsystem without actually launching a torpedo.

ALEE- Away from the direction of the wind. Opposite of windward.

ALOFT- Above the deck of the boat.

AMIDSHIPS- In or toward the center of the boat.

ANCHORAGE- A place suitable for anchoring in relation to the wind, seas andbottom.

Anti-foulingpaint -Paint is intended to deter the growth of barnacles, seaweed and otherassorted marine flora and fauna from the bottom of a metal (or wooden)ship.

ASROC- Antisubmarine rocket.

ASTERN- In back of the boat, opposite of ahead.

ATHWARTSHIPS- At right angles to the centerline of the boat; rowboat seats aregenerally athwart ships.

AWEIGH- The position of anchor as it is raised clear of the bottom.


BATTEN DOWN- Secure hatches and loose objects both within the hull and on deck.

BEAM- The greatest width of the boat.

BEARING- The direction of an object expressed either as a true bearing asshown on the chart, or as a bearing relative to the heading of the boat.

BELOW- Beneath the deck.

BIGHT- The part of the rope or line, between the end and the standing part,on which a knot is formed. BILGE - The interior of the hull below thefloor boards.

BITTER END- The last part of a rope or chain.The inboard end of the anchor rode.

BOAT- A fairly indefinite term. A waterborne vehicle smaller than a ship.One definition is a small craft carried aboard a ship.

BOAT HOOK- A short shaft with a fitting at one end shaped to facilitate use inputting a line over a piling, recovering an object dropped overboard,or in pushing or fending off.

BOOT TOP- A painted line that indicates the designed waterline.

BOW- The forward part of a boat.

BOW LINE- A docking line leading from the bow.

BOWLINE- A knot used to form a temporary loop in the end of a line.

BRIDGE- The location from which a vessel is steered and its speed controlled."Control Station" is really a more appropriate term for small craft.

BRIDLE- A line or wire secured at both ends in order to distribute a strainbetween two points.

BRIGHTWORK- Varnished woodwork and/or polished metal.

BULKHEAD- A vertical partition separating compartments.

BUOY- An anchored float used for marking a position on the water or ahazard or a shoal and for mooring.

BURDENED VESSEL- That vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rules, mustgive way to the privileged vessel. The term has been superseded by theterm "give-way".


CABIN -A compartment for passengers or crew.

CAPSIZE- To turn over.

CAST OFF- To let go.

CATAMARAN- A twin-hulled boat, with hulls side by side.

CG- Navy designation for Cruiser.

CHAFING GEAR- Tubing or cloth wrapping used to protect a line from chafing on arough surface.

CHART- A map for use by navigators.

CHINE- The intersection of the bottom and sides of a flat or v-bottomed boat.

CHOCK- A fitting through which anchor or mooring lines are led. UsuallyU-shaped to reduce chafe.

CLEAT- A fitting to which lines are made fast. The classic cleat to whichlines are belayed is approximately anvil-shaped.

CLOVE HITCH- A knot for temporarily fastening a line to a spar or piling.

COAMING- A vertical piece around the edge of a cockpit, hatch, etc. to preventwater on deck from running below.

COCKPIT- An opening in the deck from which the boat is handled.

COIL- To lay a line down in circular turns.

COURSE- The direction in which a boat is steered.

CUDDY- A small shelter cabin in a boat.

CURRENT- The horizontal movement of water. 


DEAD AHEAD- Directly ahead.

DEAD ASTERN- Directly aft.

DECK- A permanent covering over a compartment, hull or any part thereof.

DINGHY- A small open boat. A dinghy is often used as a tender for a largercraft.

DISPLACEMENT- The weight of water displaced by a floating vessel, thus, a boat'sweight.

DISPLACEMENT HULL- A type of hull that plows through the water, displacing a weight ofwater equal to its own weight, even when more power is added.

DOCK- A protected water area in which vessels are moored.The term is oftenused to denote a pier or a wharf.

DOLPHIN- A group of piles driven close together and bound with wire cablesinto a single structure.

DRAFT- The depth of water a boat draws.


EBB- A receding current.

EMP- Electromagnetic pulse.  An intense but short livedelectronic and magnetic field created by a nuclear explosion.


FATHOM- Six feet.

FENDER- A cushion, placed between boats, or between a boat and a pier, toprevent damage.

FIGURE EIGHT KNOT- A knot in the form of a figure eight, placed in the end of a line toprevent the line from passing through a grommet or a block.

FLARE- The outward curve of a vessel's sides near the bow. A distress signal.

FLOOD- A incoming current.

FLOORBOARDS- The surface of the cockpit on which the crew stand.

FLUKE- The palm of an anchor.

FOLLOWING SEA- An overtaking sea that comes from astern.

FORE-AND-AFT- In a line parallel to the keel.

FOREPEAK- A compartment in the bow of a small boat.

FORWARD- Toward the bow of the boat.

FOULED- Any piece of equipment that is jammed or entangled, or dirtied.

FREEBOARD- The minimum vertical distance from the surface of the water to thegunwale.


GALLEY- The kitchen area of a boat.

GANGWAY- The area of a ship's side where people board and disembark.

GEAR- A general term for ropes, blocks, tackle and other equipment.

GIVE-WAY VESSEL- A term used to describe the vessel which must yield in meeting,crossing, or overtaking situations.

GRAB RAILS- Hand-hold fittings mounted on cabin tops and sides for personalsafety when moving around the boat.

GROUND TACKLE- A collective term for the anchor and its associated gear.

GUNWALE- The upper edge of a boat's sides.


HARD CHINE- An abrupt intersection between the hull side and the hull bottom of aboat so constructed.

HATCH- An opening in a boat's deck fitted with a watertight cover.

HEAD- A marine toilet. Also the upper corner of a triangular sail.

HEADING- The direction in which a vessel's bow points at any given time.

HEADWAY- The forward motion of a boat. Opposite of sternway.

HELM- The wheel or tiller controlling the rudder.

HELMSPERSON- The person who steers the boat.

HITCH- A knot used to secure a rope to another object or to another rope, orto form a loop or a noose in a rope.

HOLD- A compartment below deck in a large vessel, used solely for carryingcargo.

HULL- The main body of a vessel.


INBOARD- More toward the center of a vessel; inside; a motor fitted inside aboat.

INTRACOASTALWATERWAY - ICW: bays, rivers, and canals along thecoasts (such as the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts), connected sothat vessels may travel without going into the sea.



JACOBS LADDER- A rope ladder, lowered from the deck, as when pilots or passengerscome aboard.

JETTY- A structure, usually masonry, projecting out from the shore; a jettymay protect a harbor entrance.


KEEL- The centerline of a boat running fore and aft; the backbone of avessel.

KNOT- A measure of speed equal to one nautical mile (6076 feet) per hour.

KNOT- A fastening made by interweaving rope to form a stopper, to encloseor bind an object, to form a loop or a noose, to tie a small rope to anobject, or to tie the ends of two small ropes together.


LATITUDE- The distance north or south of the equator measured and expressed indegrees.

LAZARETTE- A storage space in a boat's stern area.

LEE- The side sheltered from the wind.

LEEWARD- The direction away from the wind. Opposite of windward.

LEEWAY- The sideways movement of the boat caused by either wind or current.

LINE- Rope and cordage used aboard a vessel.

LOG- A record of courses or operation. Also, a device to measure speed.

LONGITUDE- The distance in degrees east or west of the meridian at Greenwich,England.

LUBBER'S LINE- A mark or permanent line on a compass indicating the directionforward parallel to the keel when properly installed.


MARLINSPIKE- A tool for opening the strands of a rope while splicing.

MIDSHIP- Approximately in the location equally distant from the bow and stern.

MOORING- An arrangement for securing a boat to a mooring buoy or a pier.


NAUTICAL MILE- One minute of latitude; approximately 6076 feet - about 1/8 longerthan the statute mile of 5280 feet.

NAVIGATION- The art and science of conducting a boat safely from one point toanother.

NAVIGATION RULES- The regulations governing the movement of vessels in relation to eachother, generally called steering and sailing rules.


OUTBOARD- Toward or beyond the boat's sides. A detachable engine mounted on aboat's stern.

OVERBOARD- Over the side or out of the boat.


PIER- A loading platform extending at an angle from the shore.

PILE- A wood, metal or concrete pole driven into the bottom. Craft may bemade fast to a pile; it may be used to support a pier (see PILING) or afloat.

PILING- Support, protection for wharves, piers etc.; constructed of piles(see PILE)

PILOTING- Navigation by use of visible references, the depth of the water, etc.

PLANING- A boat is said to be planing when it is essentially moving over thetop of the water rather than through the water.

PLANING HULL- A type of hull shaped to glide easily across the water at high speed.

PORT- The left side of a boat looking forward. A harbor.

PRIVELEGED VESSEL- A vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rule, hasright-of-way (this term has been superseded by the term "stand-on").


QUARTER- The sides of a boat aft of amidships.

QUARTERING SEA- Sea coming on a boat's quarter.


RODE- The anchor line and/or chain.

ROPE- In general, cordage as it is purchased at the store. When it comesaboard a vessel and is put to use it becomes line.

RUDDER- A vertical plate or board for steering a boat.

RUN- To allow a line to feed freely.

RUNNING LIGHTS- Lights required to be shown on boats underway between sundown andsunup.


SATELLITENAVIGATION - A form of position finding using radiotransmissions from satellites with sophisticated on-board automaticequipment.

SCOPE- Technically, the ratio of length of anchor rode in use to thevertical distance from the bow of the vessel to the bottom of thewater. Usually six to seven to one for calm weather and more scope instorm conditions.

SCREW- A boat's propeller.

SCUPPERS- Drain holes on deck, in the toe rail, or in bulwarks or (with drainpipes) in the deck itself.

SEA COCK- A through hull valve, a shut off on a plumbing or drain pipe betweenthe vessel's interior and the sea.

SEAMANSHIP- All the arts and skills of boat handling, ranging from maintenenceand repairs to piloting, sail handling, marlinespike work, and rigging.

SEA ROOM- A safe distance from the shore or other hazards.

SEAWORTHY- A boat or a boat's gear able to meet the usual sea conditions.

SECURE- To make fast.

SET- Direction toward which the current is flowing.

SHIP- A larger vessel usually thought of as being used for ocean travel. Avessel able to carry a "boat" on board.

SLACK- Not fastened; loose. Also, to loosen.

SOLE- Cabin or saloon floor. Timber extensions on the bottom of the rudder.Also the molded fiberglass deck of a cockpit.

SOUNDING- A measurement of the depth of water.

SPRING LINE- A pivot line used in docking, undocking, or to prevent the boat frommoving forward or astern while made fast to a dock.

SQUALL- A sudden, violent wind often accompanied by rain.

SQUARE KNOT- A knot used to join two lines of similar size. Also called a reefknot.

STANDING PART- That part of a line which is made fast.The main part of a line asdistinguished from the bight and the end.

STAND-ON VESSEL- That vessel which has right-of-way during a meeting, crossing, orovertaking situation.

STARBOARD- The right side of a boat when looking forward.

STEM- The forward most part of the bow.

STERN- The after part of the boat.

STERN LINE- A docking line leading from the stern.

STOW- To put an item in its proper place.

SWAMP- To fill with water, but not settle to the bottom.


THWARTSHIPS- At right angles to the centerline of the boat.

TIDE- The periodic rise and fall of water level in the oceans.

TILLER- A bar or handle for turning a boat's rudder or an outboard motor.

TOPSIDES- The sides of a vessel between the waterline and the deck; sometimesreferring to onto or above the deck.

TRANSOM- The stern cross-section of a square sterned boat.

TRIM- Fore and aft balance of a boat.


UNDERWAY- Vessel in motion, i.e., when not moored, at anchor, or aground.


VBOTTOM - A hull with the bottom section in the shape of a "V". 


WAKE- Moving waves, track or path that a boat leaves behind it, when movingacross the waters.

WATERLINE- A line painted on a hull which shows the point to which a boat sinkswhen it is properly trimmed (see BOOT TOP).

WAY- Movement of a vessel through the water such as headway, sternway orleeway.

WINDWARD- Toward the direction from which the wind is coming


YACHT- A pleasure vessel, a pleasure boat; in American usage the idea ofsize and luxury is conveyed, either sail or power.

YAW- To swing or steer off course, as when running with a quartering sea.

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