Learn These Key Sailing Terms Before Your Trip


The following are terms related to sailboats and their equipment, including the parts of the boat and how to communicate on one. Enjoy our list of all things nautical.

A to E

F to J

K to O

  • Keel – The lower section of a sailboat’s hull that’s usually permanent and counteracts sideways movement and typically contains ballast
  • Ketch – A type of sailboat with two masts
  • Lanyard – A short cord or line, often used to secure a piece of gear (knife, whistle, etc.) that might be dropped
  • Leech – The back edge of a jib or mainsail (compare to foot and luff, above and below)
  • Lifeline – A line or wire (often vinyl coated) all around the boat that’s held up with stanchions to prevent falling overboard
  • Line – Any piece of rope used on a boat
  • Luff – The leading edge of a jib or mainsail (compare to foot and leech, above)
  • Mainmast – The mast, or the tallest mast of a sailboat with multiple masts
  • Mainsail – The sail affixed to and behind the mainmast
  • Mast – A tall vertical pole on a sailboat to support sails and rigging
  • Mast step – The support structure for the bottom of the mast
  • Mizzen – The smaller aft mast on a ketch or yawl; the mizzensail is affixed to and behind the mizzenmast
  • Multihull – A catamaran (two hulls) or trimaran (three hulls)

  • Outhaul – A fitting to adjust the tension of the foot of the mainsail on the boom

P to T

U to Z

  • Vang – See Boom vang
  • Whisker pole – A pole used to hold out the jib when sailing off the wind
  • Winch – A drum-like device used to pull in lines under strain (halyards, sheets)
  • Windless – A heavy winch used with the anchor rode
  • Yawl – A type of sailboat with two masts, the aft one (mizzen) being behind the rudder post

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