Sailing Jargon Buster

sailing jargonThis is certainly not a definitive list of all of the nautical terms or Sailing jargon.  There is a great list on wikipedia this is more a summary of the most often used ones.  Many of these terms use terms defined later in the list so you might need to scroll down. We love to hear about the most bizarre and obscure jargon terms – especially niche ones from little sailing communities so drop us a line.

If you can think of anything that needs to go on the list – just leave a comment-Even the ‘not so legit’ terms

Sailing Jargon – or Terms

Term Definition
Port Tack When you have the wind on your port side (left)
Starboard Tack When you have the wind on your starboard side (right)
Aft At or near the stern
Astern Behind or near the back of the boat
Batten Strips of wood or plastic supporting the sail’s leech
Beam Maximum width of boat
Bear away Turn the boat away from the wind
Block Pulley
Boom Support for the foot of the sail
Boom vang Pulley for the foot of the sail
Bow Front of the boat
Centreboard Plate below the boat that stops you sliding sideways
Cleat Fitting to secure ropes
Clew Lower corner of the sail, nearest the back of the boat
Current Water flow produced by the tide
Down Wind Away from the wind
Drag Resistance of the boat moving through the water or air
Foils Collective term for centreboard and rudder
Foot Lower edge of a sail
Forestay Wire leading from the near the top of the mast to the bow
Gooseneck Swivel fitting on the mast to which the boom is attached
Goose-wing When the jib is set on the opposite side to the mainsail
Gunwhale The edge of the boat on the windward side of the boat, on which you may sit, when tacking
Gybe To turn the stern through the direction of the wind
Halyard Rope or wire used to hoist and lower a sail
Head-to-wind Pointing directly into the wind
Heel Angle at which the boat angles when sailing
Jib Smaller forward sail
Leech Aft edge of sail
Leeward The side away from the wind
Leeway Sideways drift produced by wind and current
Luff Forward edge of a sail
Luff up To turn the boat towards the wind
Mainsail Larger sail aft set on the mast
Mainsheet Rope used for trimming mainsail
Mast Vertical spar supporting the sails
No go zone Area into which a boat cannot sail directly into the wind
OCS On Course side (ie over the line before the start gun)
Outhaul Rope used to tension the foot of the sail
Pinching Sailing too close to the wind and slowing the boat
Reaching Sailing directly across the wind
Reef To reduce the size of the sails in strong winds
Running Sailing with the wind
Sheet Rope used to trim a sail
Sheet in To pull on the sheet adjusting the position of the sails
Sheet off To ease out the mainsheet
Shrouds Wires from the top of the mast to the side of the boat
Spinnaker Large lightweight triangular sail for off wind sailing
Tack Turning the bow of the boat through the wind
Tide A rise or fall in water level produced by gravitational pull on the earth’s surface
Tiller/Wheel Devices which allow the skipper or helmsman to steer the boat
Trim the sails Adjusting the sails in and out as the wind changes direction and strengths
Upwind Towards the wind
Windward Side close to the wind