A Beginners Guide to Sailing – Sailboat Terminology

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If you are ready to take on the wonderful and relaxing world of sailing, then you will need to learn a few things. Here you will learn the mostly used terminology that you will hear, and soon be using yourself.

Boating Terms

  • SailboatAbeam: This means something lies at a right angel from the boat. Example: The buoy is abeam from us.
  • Aft: The portion of the vessel behind the middle area of the vessel
  • Ahead: This means in front of the boat. Example: The land is ahead.
  • Astern: This means behind the boat. Example: The competition is astern.
  • Beam: This is the widest part of your boat. Example: The boat’s length is 50′, but the beam is 14′.
  • Boom: This is the horizontal ple that extends from the bottom of the boat’s mast.
  • Bow: This is the front of the boat.
  • Crew: These are all those who participate in operating the boat.
  • Forward: This is toward the bow.
  • Freeboard: This is the height of your deck above the water.
  • Helmsman: (also called helmsperson) This is the one that steers the boat.
  • Lee and Leeward: (Pronouncing: “lee” and “loo ward”) This is downwind.
  • Port: 1 – This is the left side when you are looking forward. 2 – This is a window in the side of your boat. 3 – Location where boats and ships dock.
  • Rudder: This is beneath your boat. It is the flat piece of wood, metal, or fiberglass that is used to steer it.
  • Running Rigging: This is all of the lines that control any part of your sails, which includes the sheets, outhaul, and halyards.
  • Skipper: This is the person who is charge.
  • Standing Rigging: This is all of the wires or the cables that hold up the mast.
  • Starboard: This is the right side of the boat when you face forward.
  • Windward: This is towards wind.

Sailing Tips for Beginners

Now that you are aware of the typical terms used while sailing, here is a list of tips to help you when you are a beginner.

  • Choose un-crowded and calm water when you are beginning.
  • Pick a smaller boat.
  • Use a boat rigged with one sail to start.
  • Follow all sailing basics for the safety of you and passengers.
  • Research the wind, tide, and weather conditions.
  • Get familiar with the control of the sails.
  • Capsize to ensure you know how to manage should it happen for real.
  • Show respect to the boom.
  • Memorize the terms.
  • Practice as much as possible.

Learning to sail is very exciting, but make sure to take all rules, regulations, and safety information very seriously!


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Glenn S. Phillips is the CEO of Lake Homes Realty. He is also an author and speaker. When not thinking about real estate and technology, he periodically plays his ugly tuba (complete with a bullet hole), enjoys exploring cognitive thinking, and prefers dark chocolate.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

travel July 28, 2016 at 10:01 pm

Hmm is anyone else having problems with the
images on this blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.

Any responses would be greatly appreciated.


Danielle Dulion August 1, 2016 at 5:45 pm

There is only one image on this article and I do see the picture. Try using this link to see if the image is available. Let us know if you still have trouble. Thank you!


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