Sailing Terminology


Towards the back of the boat

Anchor Winch:     

The winch used to raise the anchor and its chain




To reverse


Width at the widest part of the boat

Beam Reach:                  

The point of sail with the wind on the beam of the boat


The lowest part inside of the boat




The horizontal bar that is attached to the mast and to which the bottom of the sail is attached


The front of the boat


The spar projected from the bow. It takes one or more headsails.

Cardinal Marks:   

Poles with 2 black arrows which point in various directions on top. Each variation of the arrows represents a direction of the compass (N, S, E, W). Representing geographical danger, they state which side of the mark on which to pass: ie. the west cardinal mark means to pass on the western side of the mark.


The lower back corner of a sail.


The area at the stern of the boat in which the rudder controls are set. Item of interest: This term originally pertained to the area in which the coxswain was located.


A fitting attached to which lines and ropes are secured

Cutter Rig:  

The use of the genoa and staysail simultaneously. The additional sail assists in increasing the boat speed.


Placed at the stern of the boat, this is a hoist used to raise the dinghy (we only place Little G here when in port).

Devil’s Claw (dog):

A metal claw placed upon a rope that is attached to the anchor chain. The rope is tied off to a cleat on deck. This helps in alleviating the strain placed upon the anchor winch assembly.


Sea anchor. This is used to slow the boat in heavy seas

Genoa (genny):     

A large foresail that overlaps the mainsail

Gunwale (gunnel):

The top edge of the boat’s sides


The ropes that are used to pull the sails up.


Tiller or steering wheel

In Irons:               

When a sailing boat is caught within the no wind zone that encompasses the 45 degree angle on either side of the boat’s bow. The boat stops moving and can be pushed backward.


Speed at which the boat travels. 1 knot equals 1.852km/hr

Lateral Marks:

The red and green posts placed in channels. Green marker means starboard. Red marker means port.


The lines that run from east to west

Lee Shore:           

The shore onto which the wind blows


The hand rail connected to the outer edge of the boat


The lines that runs from north pole to south pole

Main Sail:             

The large sail connected to the mast and boom

Mooring Lines:     

The lines used to secure the boat to the jetty, moorings etc

Nautical Mile:       

This equals one minute of latitude. Approximately 1,820metres (1.820km)


The rope that attaches the dinghy to the boat.

Port Side:

Left hand side of boat when looking forward from the back of the boat (stern).


The guardrail around the bow (front) of the boat


The guardrail around the stern (back) of the boat

Samson Post:       

A vertical post on the boat used for mooring lines


A rope attached to the clew of the sail. It helps to control the sail. The main sheet is attached to the boom


A smaller sail placed in front of the genoa. When set it sits closer to the mast. Used when the wind is exceptionally strong, coming from inside of 30 degrees on the nose, or when conditions are sloppy, it assists in stabilising the boat.


The back of the boat.

Spring Lines:    

Securing ropes that extend from the fore and aft of the boat to prevent the boat from moving (i.e. the back spring prevents the boat from moving backwards).

Starboard Side:

Right hand side of boat when looking forward from the back of the boat (stern).


To move the bow of the boat through the wind

To Port:

To move to the left.

To Starboard:       

To move to the right.


Two genoas sewn together to form a massive foresail. Used in light winds, generally when the wind is behind. They can be used as a genoa on a beam reach.