Learn These Key Sailing Terms Before Your Trip

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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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