Them's Sailin' Words! Sailing Vocabulary You Should Know Before You Begin Basic Cruising Courses

Recreation & Sports Blog

Every sport and recreational hobby has its own set of vocabulary words. Take skiing, for example. Anyone who learns how to ski needs to know the difference between "cross-country" and "downhill,"  and the difference between "slalom" and skiing downhill with numerous natural obstacles that one needs to avoid. The same holds true for the sport of sailing. If you have recently signed up to take basic cruising courses and learn a few things about sailing, you should familiarize yourself with sailing terminology. Here's a quick ten list to get you started.

Starboard: Starboard refers to the right side of the boat. It does not change and it is always the right side of the boat as you face the front of it.

Port: Port refers to the left side of the boat. Again, this does not change, and it is always the left side of the boat as you face the front, or prow.

Prow: The prow of any boat, regardless of size or type, is the front of the boat.

Forward: When your instructor tells you to face forward on the boat, you are facing the forward, or prow, of the boat, not just facing forward while talking or listening to your instructor.

Stern: This is the back end of the boat.

Aft: Aft refers to your position while standing on the boat. In this case, it means you are standing and facing the back, or stern.

Rudder: Rudders are the "fins" that help steer your sailboat through the water. They are connected to the till or tiller, which is the main control for steering your sailboat once your sails have caught a fair amount of wind.

Till, or Tiller: This is the part of the sailboat that allows you to steer through the water. The handle of the till is connected to the rudder(s), which is/are below the surface of the water and move back and forth like paddles when you turn the till to starboard or port.

Headsail: Your headsail is the big sail on the front of your boat. The headsail catches wind from behind and propels the boat forward. If you cannot catch a breeze with your headsail, you use your mainsail to catch a breeze coming from the side of the sailboat. This will help turn the boat in such a way so that your headsail can catch the wind and move again.

Mainsail: Your mainsail is the smaller sail found behind your headsail. It is your go-to sail when your headsail cannot catch a wind and you are left bobbing along in the water. The mainsail can be manipulated to find a breeze and then use that breeze to turn the sailboat around until your headsail can catch the wind and begin to move again. 

Contact a company like Trillium Marine Services for more info about cruising courses.

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