Really basic sailing vocabulary

Photo by Malnino

Although I’m the one that knows how to sail in our household, I’m not a stickler for nautical vocabulary. I’ve been known to say “grab that thingamajib” more than once.

However, things go smoother if everyone has some basic words for the things around them when chartering. Here’s the list I’d start with:

  • Boat parts.
    • Main sail. The sail that is on the mast. Not always the bigger sail.
    • Jib. The sail at the fore of the boat.
    • Mainsheet. Sheets are lines/ropes that control sails. The mainsheet controls the mainsail.
    • Jibsheets. The jibsheets control the jib. One on each side.
    • Fore stay. Connects the top of the jib to the bow of the boat.
    • Dinghy (I’ve never had anyone have trouble with this one!)
    • Fenders. But you shouldn’t give people too hard a time if they call them bumpers.
    • Lines. Any rope with a purpose.
    • Boom, horizontal pole that holds out the bottom of the mainsail
    • Galley. The kitchen. And how everything should be put away. (On a recent trip to Lake Powell we had everything go flying off the counter – including 6 bottles of alcohol. Luckily for us, none of them broke. But they should have been stored.)
    • Mast. That big pole sticking up in the middle of the boat.
    • Painter. The dinghy line. Always watch it when using your engines in reverse!
    • Block. A pulley.
    • Buoy. A float that either marks something. The various types are often distinguished by color.
    • Cleat. And how to attach a line to it.
    • Head. The bathroom. And how to flush it properly every single time!
  • Sailing directions.
    • Aft/bow/stern, port/starboard. There’s a reason people don’t use right and left on a boat (it gets very confusing) and so it helps to have everyone know what you are talking about.
    • Trim. Adjust the sails.
    • Leeward/windward.
    • Apparent wind. The wind as it feels to the crew, includes the movement of the boat. As opposed to true wind.
    • Luff. Sails flapping because you’re too close to the wind. (Also a part of the sail.)
    • Bear away. Turn away from the wind
    • Come about. Turn through the wind.
    • Ready about. Prepare to come about (to change directions), watch your head!
    • Reef. Take down some sail. Make your sail smaller.
    • Tacking. Sailing upwind, by sailing as close to the wind as possible on alternate sides, zigzagging.
    • In irons. Stuck pointing straight into the wind. And what to do and what to (not) worry about.
    • Jibing. The opposite of tacking, turning through the wind but with your stern to the wind.

And of course, don’t forget the man overboard procedure! If someone goes over board (intentionally or not) while the boat is moving, yell “man overboard”, keep your eye on them at all times and point to them.

If you have someone that really wants to learn, I’d also teach them some knots.

What do you cover with your non-sailing crew before and during a charter?