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Boat Terms For New Boaters

Here are a few basic terms they should know:


  • Port: if you are facing the front of the boat, the port side is the left side (A trick to remember is that the word left has four letters and so does the word port.)
  • Starboard: if you are facing the front of the boat, the starboard side is the right side
  • Bow: refers to the front area
  • Helm: the area where the captain drives the boat
  • Aft/Stern: the back
  • Gunwale: (pronounced gunnel) the top horizontal surface on the sides of the boat
  • Berth: the sleeping area, usually inside a cabin or a console
  • Galley: the kitchen
  • Head: the bathroom
  • Dock lines: ropes used to tie the boat to the dock, or to other boats
  • Cleat: metal hardware with two points (called horns) that is used to secure the boat to a dock with a rope
  • Fender: a small bumper (often made of inflatable rubber) that typically hangs off the boat and is used to keep it from being damaged when it bumps into the dock
  • Wake: waves that occur behind a boat when it moves
  • Propeller: a device on the bottom of the engine that spins and helps to propel the boat through the water
  • Cockpit: the area in the back of a boat - often where fishing takes place or where guests can ride
  • Console: an area on the boat where you can sit or stand; on some boats, this is where you steer
  • Windlass: a machine some boats have that electronically drops and picks up the anchor
  • VHF: a marine radio used to communicate with other boats or to call for help