The A-Z Glossary of Boating Terms and Phrases

Do you need a glossary of Nautical Terms and Phrases, or are you a rugged old seadog?

Can you tell your boom from your bumkin and your tumblehome from your baggywrinkle?

If not, then this glossary of seafaring jargon should cast some light on your darkness...

From Sprit to Topping Lift...

Sprit ~ A boom or spar used to extend a fore and aft sail which extends diagonally from the mast.

Spritsail ~ A sail which is extended or rigged from a sprit.

Spring tides ~ The greater high tides that occurs when the gravitational pull of the sun and moon coincide.

Squall ~ A sudden - but usually short - period of high wind often accompanied by heavy rain.

Stall ~ A sail is said to stall when the air flowing over it breaks up, causing the sail to lose drive.

Stanchion ~ Upright metal posts attached to the deck providing support for the guardrails or lifelines.

Standing Part ~ The part of a line which is not used when making a knot.

Standing Rigging ~ The stays and shrouds that are permanently set up to support the masts.

Starboard ~ The right hand side of a boat looking forward.

Starboard Tack ~ A boat is on the starboard tack when the wind strikes the starboard side first and the boom is over to the port side.

Starboard Side To ~ Placing the starboard side of the vessel against a quay or pontoon.

Stay ~ A wire which supports the mast in a fore-and-aft direction. Part of the standing rigging.

Staysail ~ The aftmost headsail of a 'cutter' rig. Read more about the cutter rig...

Steerage Way ~ The minimum speed required to maintain control of a boat via the rudder.

Stem ~ The bow or cutwater. In a wooden vessel it's the vertical timber to which the planks are attached.

Stern ~ The rear end of a boat.

Stern Post ~ The structural timber at the after end of a wooden hull on which the rudder is frequently hung.

Stern Tube ~ The tube through which the propeller shaft runs.

Sternway ~ The stern-first, backward movement of a boat.

A storm jib and trysail are the ones to set when heaving-to in heavy weather.

Storm Sails ~ Small heavily constructed sails for use in heavy weather. Read more about storm sails...

Storm Jib ~ A small, very robustly built headsail for use in heavy weather.

Storm Trysail ~ A small mainsail hoisted in its own separate track on the mast to set with the storm jib. The right rig for heaving-to in heavy weather.

Storm Spinnaker ~ A heavy-weather spinnaker used by brave sailors.

Artwork by Andrew Simpson

Stinkpot ~ A term used by sailors to describe powerboats. Not one of the most polite nautical terms and phrases, particularly if you own one.

Stringer ~ A fore-and-aft member of a boat, fitted to strengthen the frames

Strop ~ A loop of rope or wire used to attach a block to a spar or make a sling.

Strum Box ~ A filter fitted to the end of a bilge pump hose to prevent the pump from being blocked by debris.

Stuffing Box ~ A device to prevent water entry around the propeller shaft.

Surf, to ~ To slide down a wave in the manner of a surfer.

More Boating Terms and Phrases, beginning with T...

Tack ~ (1) The lower forward corner of a sail. (2) To turn a sailboat through the wind so that it blows on the other side of the sail.

Tack Pennant ~ A short length of wire or non-stretch rope used to raise the tack of a headsail clear of the deck.

Tacking ~ The zigzag course of a boat sailing upwind.

Tackle ~ An arrangement of blocks and rope to produce mechanical advantage.

Tang ~ A metal fitting by which the standing rigging is attached to the mast.

Telltale ~ A lightweight ribbon attached to the luff or leach of a sail that indicates the airflow over it.

Tender ~ A small open boat powered by oars or an outboard motor, used to travel back and forth from a boat at anchor.

Terminal Fitting ~ A fitting at the end of a stay or shroud – usually a tang at the top for attachment to the mast and a bottlescrew or turnbuckle at the bottom for attachment to a chain plate.

Tide ~ The vertical rise and fall of the oceans caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, and to a lesser extent, the sun.

Tidal Stream ~ The current set up by the rise and fall of the tide.

Tideway ~ Relatively shallow parts of the sea where the effects of tidal stream are apparent.

Tiller ~ The attachment to the rudder stock which enables the helmsman to steer the boat from the cockpit.

Toe Rail ~ The raised strip of wood, aluminium extrusion, or fibreglass moulding, that runs around the edge of the deck.

Topping Lift ~ A line that takes the weight of a boom, preventing it from dropping.

An essential item of sailboat rigging hardware - the toggle

Toggle ~ This small but vital piece of rigging hardware should be fitted between all chain plates and rigging screws, as it allows articulation in both fore-and-aft and athwartships directions.

Without it, bending stresses would be applied to the rigging hardware and dismasting could be the disastrous outcome.

Read more about sailboat rigging...

Next: Boating Terms and Phrases from Topsides to Yawl...

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