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Glossary Of Nautical Terms

Nautical terms might sound like a foreign language to beginners but are a proud tradition. They are often practical and will definitely add to your self-confidence once they become part of your own repertoire.

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Aback – describes a sail when the wind strikes it on it’s lee side.

Abaft – towards the boats stern.

Abeam – at right angles to the centre-line of the boat.

Aft – at or near the stern.

A-hull – to ride out a storm with no sails set and the helm lashed to leeward.

AIS – Automatic Identification System.

Amidships – the centre of the boat, athwartships and fore-and-aft.

Apparent wind – the direction and speed of the wind felt by the crew, it is a combination of true wind and that created by the movement of the boat.

ARPA – Automatic Radar Plotting Aid.

Astern – behind the boat; to go astern is to drive the boat in reverse.

Athwartships – at right angles to the fore-and-aft line of the boat.

Azimuth – angular distance measured on a horizon circle in a clockwise direction, usually between an observer and a heavenly body.

Aft cabin – Sleeping quarters beneath the aft or rear section of the boat (sometimes called a mid cabin when located beneath the helm)

Aft deck – On motor yachts, the guest area closest to the back of the boat on the main level. Often the location of the main outdoor dining area.

Alee – The side of a boat or object away from the direction of the wind.

ALOFT – Above the deck of the boat.

Aloft – Above deck in the rigging or mast.

AMIDSHIPS     In or toward the center of the boat.

Amidships – In the center of the yacht

ANCHORAGE – A place suitable for anchoring in relation to the wind, seas and bottom.

Anguilla – An exclusive destination in the Caribbean

Anti-fouling paint – A special paint applied to a boat’s hull to prevent marine growth.

Antigua – North of Guadeloupe, a popular bareboating destination.

APA – Advance Provisioning Allowance. The APA is monies paid to a bank account for the Captain of the yacht to provision on the charterer’s behalf. Key provisioning is fuel, food, drinks, and port fees.  The Captain is obligated to keep all receipts and balance the account for the charterer. At the end of the charter, the Captain provides a full account of expenditures, and any amounts not used will be refunded.

APPARENT WIND – The combination of the true wind and the wind caused by the boat’s own speed

Apparent wind – The direction and speed of the wind as felt in a moving boat – the way it ‘appears”

ASTERN – In back of the boat, opposite of ahead.

ASTERN, TO GO ASTERN – Go backwards, put the engine in reverse.

Astern – The direction toward or beyond the back of the boat (stern).

ATHWARTSHIPS – At right angles to the centerline of the boat; rowboat seats are generally athwart ships.

Athwartships – Perpendicular to the yacht’s centerline. An ‘athwartships berth,” means the bed is parallel to the yacht’s sides instead of to its bow and stern. This can create uncomfortable motion while you sleep.

AUTOPILOT – A device – may be electronic or mechanical – used for keeping the boat on course without having to steer it. It uses a compass, and is attached to the boat’s steering mechanism.

AUXILIARY POWER – An engine that is permanently installed on the boat used for functions other than propulsion (although it occasionally is used to power the boat). Oars are sometimes referred to as the auxiliary power in jest.

AWEIGH – The position of anchor as it is raised clear of the bottom.

Aweigh – An anchor that is off the bottom.


Back – when a wind backs, it shifts anti-clockwise.

Back a sail – to sheet it to windward so that the wind fills it on the side that is normally to leeward.

Backstay – a stay that supports the mast from aft and prevents its forward movement.

Backstay – Support for the mast to keep it from falling forward.

Baggywrinkle – rope, teased out, plaited together and wound around stays, shrouds etc. to prevent chaffing.

BAILER Bucket – for removing water from a boat to prevent it sinking.

BALLAST – A very heavy material, such as lead or iron, placed in the keel of the boat, or in the bilge. It is used to provide stability.

Ballast – extra weight, usually lead or iron, placed low in the boat or externally on the keel to provide stability.

Ballast keel – a mass of ballast bolted to the keel to increase stability and prevent the boat from capsizing.
Batten – a light, flexible strip, fed into a batten pocket at the leech of the sail to support the roach.

Bareboat – A yacht that you charter and run yourself, without a crew. See our Bareboat Page.

Base charter rate – The rate the charterer pays on a charter for the yacht and crew. The base rate does not typically include provisioning or other expenses such as food, fuel, dockage and tip.

BATTEN DOWN – Secure hatches and loose objects both within the hull and on deck.

BEAM – The greatest width of the boat.

Beam – (1) the maximum breadth of the boat, (2) a transverse member which supports the deck, (3) on the beam, an object is at right angles to the centre-line.

Beam – Measurement of a boat at its widest point. Also, a transmitted radio, sonar or radar signal.

Bear away – to steer the boat away from the wind.

Bear off – To turn away from the wind.

BEARING – The direction of an object expressed either as a true bearing as shown on the chart, or as a bearing relative to the heading of the boat.

Bearing – the direction of an object from an observer, measured in degrees true or magnetic.

BEARING AWAY – Turning away from the wind.

Bearing – Direction to an object from your current position.

Beat – to sail a zigzag course towards the wind, close-hauled on alternate tacks.

Beating – Sailing upwind.

Belay – to make fast a rope around a cleat usually with a figure of eight knot.

BELOW – Beneath the deck.

Bend – (1) secure a sail to a spar before hoisting, (2) connect two ropes with a knot.

Bermuda Triangle – A section of the North Atlantic Ocean off North America in which more than 50 ships and 20 airplanes are said to have mysteriously disappeared.

Bermuda – A British island territory in the North Atlantic Ocean known for its pink-sand beaches such as Elbow Beach and Horseshoe Bay.

Berth – (1) place occupied by a boat in harbour, (2) sleeping place on board.

Berth – 1 – A cabin or other place to sleep aboard a boat. 2 – A  boat slip at a dock where the boat can be moored.

Bight – a bend or loop in a rope.

BILGE – The interior of the hull below the floor.

Bilge – the lower, round part inside the hull where water collects.

BILGE PUMP – A pump to remove bilge water. Electric, manual pumps and buckets can be used for this function.

BIMINI – Weather-resistant fabric stretched over a stainless steel frame, fastened above the cockpit of a sailboat or flybridge of a power yacht which serves as a rain or sun shade.

BITTER END – The last part of a rope or chain. The inboard end of the anchor rode.

Block – a pulley in a wooden or plastic case, consisting of a sheave around which a rope runs. It is used to change the direction of pull.

BOAT – A very broad term for a waterborne vehicle smaller than a ship.

BOAT HOOK – A short shaft with a fitting at one end shaped to facilitate use in putting a line over a piling, recovering an object dropped overboard, or in pushing or fending off.

BOOM – A pole running at a right angle from the mast.

Boot-topping – a narrow coloured stripe painted between the bottom paint and topside enamel.

BOW – The front end of the vessel.

BOW LINE – A docking line leading from the bow.

Bow – Forward portion/front of a boat.

BOWER – The main anchor of a boat – carried at the bow.

BOWLINE – A knot used to form a temporary loop in the end of a line.

Bowline – The most popular, and essential knot. It has many uses, and is easily ‘broken’ even when pulled tight.

BRIDGE – The location from which a vessel is steered and its speed controlled. “Control Station” is really a more appropriate term for small craft.

BRIDLE – A line or wire secured at both ends in order to distribute a strain between two points.

Broach – when a boat running downwind slews broadside to the wind and heels dangerously. It is caused by heavy following seas or helmsman’ error.

Broad reach – the point of sailing between a beam reach and a run when the wind blows over the quarter.

BULKHEAD – A vertical partition separating compartments.

Bulkhead – partition wall in a boat normally fitted athwartships.

BUOY -An anchored float used for marking a position on the water or a hazard or a shoal and for mooring.

Buoy – (normally pronounced “boowie”, but sometimes “boy”). An anchored floating object that serves as a navigation aid or hazard warning.

BURDENED VESSEL – That vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rules, must give way to the privileged vessel. The term in many states has been superseded by the term “give-way”.

BVI – The British Virgin Islands.  A major sailing and yachting area in the Caribbean, near the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.


CABIN – A compartment for passengers or crew.

Cable – distance of measurement equalling 0.1 sea mile, 185 metres, 200 yards

CAPSIZE – To turn over.

Captain-only charter – A yacht that comes with a captain but no additional crew. The captain drives the yacht, and you take care of everything else, including cooking and housekeeping.  Often called Bareboat with Skipper

CAST OFF – To let go.

CATAMARAN – A twin-hulled boat, with hulls side by side.

Centre-board – a board lowered through a slot in the keel to reduce leeway.

Centre-line – centre of the boat in a fore-and-aft line.

CENTREBOARD – A pivoting board that prevents the boat from sliding sideways.

CHAFING GEAR – Tubing or cloth wrapping used to protect a line from chafing on a rough surface.

CHART – A map for use by navigators.

Chart Datum – reference level on a chart below which the tide is unlikely to fall. Sounding are given below chart datum. Datum level varies on country & area.

Charter terms – The contract under which you charter a yacht. There are different terms used in different parts of the world. Some give you everything on an all-inclusive basis, some give you all meals aboard, some give you no meals aboard, and so forth.

Charter yacht broker – A person who specializes in booking personalized yacht vacations on behalf of clients. Also, the firm that person works for, as in Charter Yacht Broker Agency. See our article on why you should use a Charter broker.

Charter yacht – A yacht that is available for charter/rental.

CHINE – The intersection of the bottom and sides of a flat or v-bottomed boat.

CHOCK – A fitting through which anchor or mooring lines are led. Usually U-shaped to reduce chafe.

Claw ring – a fitting, which slips over the boom like a claw, to which the main sheet is attached after reefing the sail.

CLEAT – A fitting to which lines are made fast. The classic cleat to which lines are belayed is approximately anvil-shaped.

Cleat – a wooden, metal or plastic fitting around which a rope is secured.

Clew – the after, lower corner of a sail where the foot and leech meet.

Close reach – the point of sailing between close-hauled and a beam reach, when the wind blows forward of the beam.

Close-hauled – the point of sailing closest to the wind; see also beat.

Close-winded – describes a boat able to sail very close to the wind.

CLOVE HITCH – A knot for temporarily fastening a line to a spar or piling.

COAMING – A vertical piece around the edge of a cockpit, hatch, etc. to prevent water on deck from running below.

COCKPIT – An opening in the deck from which the boat is handled.

Cockpit – The outdoor area of a sailing yacht (typically in the stern) where guests sit and eat, and from where the captain may steer and control the boat.

COIL – To lay a line down in circular turns.

Commission – The fee a yacht’s owner pays to a charter broker for booking a charter. Note – the charterer does not pay the charter broker’s commission directly.

Corsica – A French island north of Sardinia.

COURSE – The direction in which a boat is steered.

Course – the direction in which a vessel is steered, usually given in degrees, true, magnetic or compass.

Crew – The team that operates your charter yacht. The crew can include a captain plus any combination of: mate, deckhand, stewardess, engineer and chef. Some crew has additional skills such as wellness/massage therapy and scuba instruction.

Crewed charter – The charter of a yacht that has a permanent crew aboard who run and manage all aspects of the yacht and charter. See more about Crewed Charter.

Cringle – (1) a rope loop found at either end of a line of reef points, (2) an eye in a sail.

Cuba – Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos located in the Caribbean sea

CUDDY – A small shelter cabin in a boat.

CUNNINGHAM – (also called a Downhaul): Adjusting the tension of a sail’s luff.

CURRENT – The horizontal movement of water.

CYBA  – Charter Yacht Broker Association, one of the primary professional organizations for reputable charter brokers.


DAVIT – Device (like a small crane) for lifting a tender on and off a boat.

DEAD AHEAD – Directly ahead.

DEAD ASTERN – Directly aft.

DEAD RECKONING – Navigating.

Dead run – running with the wind blowing exactly aft, in line with the centre-line.

DEADRISE – The design angle between the keel and horizontal. A vessel with a 0 degree deadrise has a flat bottom where as a a higher degree will indicate a deeper ‘v’ shaped hull.

DECK – A permanent covering over a compartment, hull or any part thereof.

DECKHAND – The person responsible for cleaning the deck and generally maintaining the a vessel.

Deviation – the difference between the direction indicated by the compass needle and the magnetic meridian, caused by metal objects aboard.

DINGHY – A small open boat. A dinghy is often used as a tender for a larger craft.

Dinghy – A small boat that a yacht carries or tows. Used for transfers to and from shore, and short day cruises and, if powerful enough, water sports. Also typically called a tender on larger yachts.

DISPLACEMENT -The weight of water displaced by a floating vessel, thus, a boat’s weight.

Displacement – (1) the weight of water displaced by a boat is equal to the weight of the boat.

Displacement – (2) a displacement hull displaces its weight in water & is only supported by buoyancy.

DISPLACEMENT HULL – A type of hull that plows through the water, displacing a weight of water equal to its own weight, even when more power is added.

Displacement – The weight of water displaced by a hull. Also, a type of hull that smoothly displaces (pushes aside) water as opposed to tipping up and riding on top of it.

DISTANCE – Where ‘miles’ are referred to as ‘nautical’ miles are meant One (1) nautical mile = 1.852 km

DOCK – A protected water area in which vessels are moored.The term is often used to denote a pier or a wharf.

Dodecanese – The Dodecanese islands located in the southeastern Aegean Sea, are a group of Greek islands known for their medieval castles, beaches and ancient archaeological sites.

Double cabin – A charter yacht cabin that includes a double bed to sleep two guests. Not to be confused with “twin cabin,” which means a cabin with two twin-size beds.

Downhaul – a rope fitted to pull down a sail or spar.

DRAFT – The depth of water a boat draws.

Draft – the vertical distance from the waterline to the lowest point of the keel.

Draft – The depth of a yacht below the waterline, as measured vertically. It is important when navigating shallow water to assure the boat can pass

Drift – (1) to float with the current or wind, (2) the distance a boat is carried by a current in a given time.

Drogue – a sea anchor put over the stern of a boat or liferaft to retard drift.

Drop keel – a retractable keel which can be drawn into the hull.

DSC – Digital Selective Calling.


EBB – A receding current.

ENSIGN – A flag indicating the nationality of a vessel.

EP – Estimated Position

EPIRB – Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon

ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival

ETD – Estimated Time of Departure

EPIRB – Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.


Fairlead – a fitting through which a line is run to alter the direction of the lead of the line.

FATHOM – Six feet.

Fathom – the measurement used for depths of water and lengths of rope. 1 fathom = 6 ft = 1.83m

Fathom – Depth measurement equaling six feet.

FENDER – A cushion, placed between boats, or between a boat and a pier, to prevent damage.

Fethiye – Fethiye is a port on Turkey’s southwestern Turquoise Coast

Fiddle – a raised border for a cabin table, chart table etc. to prevent objects falling off.

FIGURE EIGHT KNOT – A knot in the form of a figure eight, placed in the end of a line to prevent the line from passing through a grommet or a block.

Fix – The position of a vessel as plotted from two or more position lines.

FLARE – A distress signal. Also – the outward curve of a vessel’s sides near the bow.

Fleet – A group of yachts that are under management by the same company, called a fleet manager or CA.

FLOOD/FLOW – A incoming current.

Flotilla – A group of yachts cruising together.

FLYBRIDGE – A driving station above the main level of the boat.

Flying bridge (or Flybridge) – A raised, second-story helm station (steering area) that often also has room for passengers, providing views and a sun deck.

FOLLOWING SEA – An overtaking sea that comes from astern.

FORE-AND-AFT – In a line parallel to the keel.

FOREPEAK – A compartment in the bow of a small boat.

Forestay – the foremost stay running from the masthead to the stemhead, to which the mainsail is hanked.

FORWARD – Toward the bow of the boat.

FOULED – Any piece of equipment that is jammed or entangled, or dirtied.

FREEBOARD – The minimum vertical distance from the surface of the water to the gunwale.

Freeboard – vertical distance between the waterline and the top of the deck.

French Riviera – A stretch of coastline on the southern part of France. The ‘Riviera’ doesn’t have an official boundary, however, most locals say that from Toulon to the Italian border is considered the ‘French Riviera’.

Furling – Rolling or folding a sail on its boom. Many charter yachts today are ‘self furling” which take much of the work out of dropping the sails.


GALLEY – The kitchen area of a boat.

Galley – The kitchen/cooking area on a yacht.

GANGWAY – The area of a ship’s side where people board and disembark.

GEAR – A general term for ropes, blocks, tackle and other equipment.

Genoa – a large headsail in various sizes, which overlaps the mainsail and is hoisted in light to fresh winds on all points of sailing.

Gimbals – two concentric rings, pivoted at right angles which keeps objects horizontal despite the boats motion.
GMDSS – Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.

GIVE WAY – Slow, stop, go astern or change course to keep clear of another vessel

GIVE-WAY VESSEL – A term used to describe the vessel which must yield in meeting, crossing, or overtaking situations.

GNSS – Global Navigation Satellite System.

Go about – to turn the boat through the eye of the wind to change tack.

Gocek – A popular bareboating sailing destination in Turkey.

Gooseneck – the fitting attaching the boom to the mast, allowing it to move in all directions.

Goosewing – to boom out the headsail to windward on a run by using a whisker pole to hold the sail on the opposite side to the mainsail.

GPS – Global Positioning System

GRAB RAILS – Hand-hold fittings mounted on cabin tops and sides for personal safety when moving around the boat.

GROUND TACKLE – A collective term for the anchor and its associated gear.

Guard rail – a metal rail fitted around the boat to prevent the crew from falling overboard.

Gulet – A type of motorsailer typically found in Turkey. Gulets originated from sponge boats, but now offer luxury crewed charters, normally with en-suite bathrooms, large deck space and full service. See more about Gulet Charters.

Gulf – Is a sizable amount of the ocean that penetrates the land. See ‘Mexican Gulf’

Gunwale (Gun-ul) – The upper edge of the side of a boat.

GUNWALE/S – The upper edge of a boat’s sides (pronounced gunnels).

Guy – a steadying rope for a spar a spinnaker guy controls the fore-and-aft position of the spinnaker pole; the foreguy holds the spinnaker pole forward.

Gybe – to change from one tack to another by turning the stern through the wind.

Gybe – Also spelled jibe. To change the course of a boat by swinging a fore-and-aft sail across a following wind (eg the wind is blowing from behind the boat).


Halyard – rope used to hoist and lower sails.

Halyard – Line (rope) used to hoist a sail.

Hank – fitting used to attach the luff of a sail to a stay.

Harbor fees – Charges paid by the yacht, and normally passed on to the charterer, for docking in certain harbors around the world. The rate depends very much on the season and attractiveness of the port.

Harbormaster – The person at a harbor in charge of anchorages, berths and harbor traffic.

Harbour – An area designated for yachts to moor.

HARD CHINE – An abrupt intersection between the hull side and the hull bottom of a boat so constructed.

HAT – Highest Astronomical Tide.

HATCH – An opening in a boat’s deck fitted with a watertight cover.

Hatch – an opening in the deck giving access to the interior.

HEAD -A marine toilet. Also the upper corner of a triangular sail.

HEAD UP – Sailing closer to the wind.

Head-to-wind – when the bows are pointing right into the wind.

Head – Toilet room.

Headfoil – a streamlined surround to a forestay, with a groove into which a headsail luff slides.

HEADING – The direction in which a vessel’s bow points at any given time.

Heads – toilets.

HEADWAY – The forward motion of a boat. Opposite of sternway.

Headway – the forward movement of a boat through the water.

HEAVE TO – Steering into the wind and sea making minimum headway

Heave-to – to back the jib and lash the tiller to leeward used in heavy weather to encourage the boat to lie quietly and to reduce headway.

Heel – to lean over to one side.

Heel – To temporarily tip or lean to one side. Monohulls heel more than catamarans.

HELM – The wheel or tiller controlling the rudder.

HELMSPERSON – The person who steers the boat.

HITCH – A knot used to secure a rope to another object or to another rope, or to form a loop or a noose in a rope.

HOLD – A compartment below deck in a large vessel, used solely for carrying cargo.

HULL – The main body of a vessel.

Hull – The structural body of the boat that rests in the water and is built to float.


Idle – When the engines run on ‘idle’ this means the yacht is just ticking over. Often referred to in fuel rates “Rates include fuel with engines at idel”

In Irons – A sailing word to describe a yacht losing her forward momentum when heading into wind. The yacht becomes untearable as she loses her way.

INBOARD – More toward the center of a vessel; inside; a motor fitted inside a boat.

Inboard – When the engine is IN the yacht, as opposed to being attached to the stern – this would be called an Outboard.

Inclusive charter rate – The cost of a charter that includes nearly all expenses, including the yacht and crew, food, alcohol (within reason), fuel and dockage.

Inshore – Close or near the shoreline so line of sight sailing is possible.

Iron wind – Sailors nickname to the engine.

IRONS – Boat is pointing into the wind, sail is flapping and probably also going backwards.

IRPCS – International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

IMO – International Maritime Organization

ITU – International Telecommunication Union

Ischia – Ischia is a volcanic island in the Gulf of Naples, Italy, known for its mineral-rich thermal waters.

Isobars – lines on a weather map joining places of equal atmospheric pressure.

Itinerary – The course a yacht intends to travel while on charter. The itinerary is normally planned in advance but should remain flexible depending on weather conditions and guest preferences.


Jackeline’s – Lines that run from Aft > forward that your harness can be attached to in bad weather.

Jackstay – a line running fore-and-aft on both sides of the boat to which safety harnesses are clipped.

JACOBS LADDER – A rope ladder, lowered from the deck, as when pilots or passengers come aboard.

JETTY – A structure, usually masonry, projecting out from the shore; a jetty may protect a harbor entrance.

Jib – Triangular sail projecting ahead of the mast.

Jibe – See gybe

Jury – a temporary device to replace lost or damaged gear.

Jury rig (jerry-rig) – A tempory fix to something which has broken on the yacht.


Kedge – a small, light second anchor.

Kedge – A small anchor that can be thrown overboard to either change the direction of the yacht (pivot point) or to help anchor the yacht further in bad weather. Often used then yachts “raft up”.

KEEL – The centerline of a boat running fore and aft; the backbone of a vessel.

Keel – the main backbone of the boat to which a ballast keel is bolted or through which the centre-board passes.

Ketch – a two-masted sailing vessel with a mizzen mast slightly smaller than the main and stepped forward of the rudder stock/post.

Ketch – A two-masted yacht.

KICKER (also called a Vang) – A device used to keep the boom from rising.

Kicking strap – a line used to pull the boom down, to keep it horizontal, particularly on a reach or run.

Kicking strap – A name to the line that pulls the boom down to flatten the sail.

KNOT – A fastening made by interweaving rope to form a stopper, to enclose or bind an object, to form a loop or a noose, to tie a small rope to an object, or to tie the ends of two small ropes together.

KNOT – A measure of speed equal to one nautical mile (1.852km) per hour.

Knot – Boat speed measured in nautical miles per hour.


Lanyard – a short line attached to one object, such as a knife, with which it is secured to another.

LAT – Lowest Astronomical Tide – Chart Datum

LATITUDE – The distance north or south of the equator measured and expressed in degrees.

LAYLINE – The course on which your boat, sailing close – hauled on starboard tack, can just make a windward mark which is to be rounded to port is the starboard – tack lay line for that mark, and the most windward line on which you would

LAZARETTE – A storage space in a boat’s stern area.

Lazy jack – A sail bag attached to the boom where the mainsail can fall into.

LEAGUE – A unit of length, normally equal to 3 nautical miles

LEE – The side sheltered from the wind.

Lee Helm – the tendency of a boat to bear away from the wind.

Lee helm – In strong winds, the yacht can have a tendency to move to the lee without the rudder moving position.

Lee shore – a shore onto which the wind is blowing.

Lee – The side furthest away from the wind.

Leech – (1) the after edge of a triangular sail, (2) both side edges of a square sail.

Leech – The aft part of the sail.

LEEWARD – The direction away from the wind. Opposite of windward.

Leeward – away from the wind, the direction to which the wind blows.

Leeward – The side of an object that is sheltered from the wind.

LEEWAY – The sideways movement of the boat caused by either wind or current.

Leeway – the sideways movement off its course as a result of the wind blowing on one side of the sails and hull.

LENGTH OVERAL (LOA) – The total length of a boat.

LENGTH WATER LINE (LWL) – The length of the boat touching the water.

LIFE BUOY – Floating safety ring to assist in “person overboard” situations.

LINE – Rope and cordage used aboard a vessel.

List – a boat’s more or less permanent lean to one side, owing to improper distribution of weight.

LOA – Length Over All. The length of a charter yacht as measured from ‘stem to stern”. This is important because yachts are usually charged a price by the foot for dockage at marinas.

LOG – A record of courses or operation. Also, a device to measure speed.

Log – (1) an instrument for measuring a boats speed and distance travelled through the water. (2) to record in a book the details of a voyage.

LONGITUDE – The distance in degrees east or west of the meridian at Greenwich, England.

LUBBER’S LINE – A mark or permanent line on a compass indicating the direction forward parallel to the keel when properly installed.

Luff – The forward edge of a sail. To luff up is to turn the boat’s head right into the wind.

Luff – The forward part of the sail.

LUFFING – Pointing the boat into the wind – sail flapping.

Luffing up – Bringing the yacht into wind – moving the luff of the sail (the forward part of the sail called ‘the luff’ moves into the wind).

Luxury Yacht – a crewed charter yacht the strives to provide 5-star service to its charterers including cuisine, water sports, housekeeping, and navigation. See our Luxury Yacht Charter Page.


Main salon – the primary indoor guest area on a yacht’s main deck.

Mainsail – The largest regular sail on a sailboat.

MAINSHEET – Line that controls the position of the mainsail.

Make fast – To secure a line.

MAKING WAY – Vessel under way and moving through the water, using power or sail

Marina – A place where yachts dock and receive services such as provisioning, water and fuel.  Typically marinas offer protection from bad weather, and have hundreds of slips for yachts of various sizes.  Slips are rented long term or by the day.

Marinized engine – an auto engine which has been specially adapted for use in boats.

MARK – An object the sailing instructions require a boat to pass on a specified side.

mark on port tack is the port – tack lay line.

MARLIN BOARD – Like a swim board. A small deck on the aft (rear) of the boat to make accessing the water easier.

MARLINSPIKE – A tool for opening the strands of a rope while splicing.

MAST – A pole usually going straight up from the deck (height can be tuned for different body weights), used to attach sail and boom.

Mast step – the socket in the keel in which the base of the mast is located.
MCA – Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Mast – Vertical spar that supports sails.

Master cabin – Typically the best/largest cabin onboard any charter yacht.

Measured mile – a distance of one nautical mile measured between buoys or transits/ranges ashore, and marked on the chart.

Megayacht – A large, luxury motoryacht. No hard and fast definition, but normally crewed luxury yachts 100 feet or longer. Similar to Superyacht.

Meridian – an imaginary line encircling the Earth which passes through the poles and cuts at right angles through the Equator. All lines of longitude are meridians.

MHWN – Mean High Water Neaps.

MHWS – Mean High Water Springs.

MIDSHIP – Approximately in the location equally distant from the bow and stern.

Midships – Location near the center of a boat.

Mizzen – (1) the shorter after-mast on a ketch or yawl.

Mizzen – (2) the fore-and-aft sail set on this mast.

MLWN – Mean Low Water Neaps.

MLWS – Mean Low Water Springs.

MMSI – Maritime Mobile Service Identity.

Monohull – A yacht with one hull, as opposed to a multihull or catamaran that has pontoons.  While most motor yachts are monohulls, the term typically refers to sailing yachts.

MOORING – An arrangement for securing a boat to a mooring buoy or a pier.

Motorsailor – A yacht built to sail and cruise under power with equal efficiencies, such as a Gulet.  They typically look like sailing yachts, but have strong engines and are often skippered like they are motor yachts.

Motoryacht – A yacht whose primary form of propulsion is engines.

Multihull – A yacht with more than one hull – typically a catamaran (two) or trimaran (three). They can be either powerboats or sailboats.

MYBA – The Worldwide Yachting Association – originally the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association (pronounced ‘Mee ba”). An international yacht brokers’ association based in the Mediterranean, one of the primary professional organizations for reputable charter brokers.

MYBA Contract – A contract used for luxury yachts, that has become the standard in the Mediterranean and many other parts of the world.  Offers protections for charterers in case of cancellation and clearly states the legal rights of all parties to the charter.


Narrows – A narrow part of a navigable waterway.

Nautical chart – ‘Maps’ designed specifically for sea navigation.

NAUTICAL MILE – One minute of latitude; approximately 1.852kms

Nautical mile – A distance of 6,076.12 feet or 1,852 meters, which is about 15 percent longer than a statute mile. Equivalent to one minute of latitude on a navigation chart. See our Charter Distance and Cost Calculator here.

Nautical – Anything relating to the sea or yachts.

NAVIGATION – The art and science of conducting a boat safely from one point to another.

NAVIGATION LIGHTS – Red, green and white lights required by vessels between sunset and sunrise and in restricted visibility.

NAVIGATION RULES – The regulations governing the movement of vessels in relation to each other.

Navigation – All activities that produce a path

Nun – Navigational, cone-shaped buoy (in IALA A = port in IALA B = starboard)


OBSTRUCTION – Is an object that a boat could not pass without changing course substantially to avoid it. e.g. a mark, a rescue boat, the shore, perceived underwater dangers or shallows.

OUTBOARD – A detachable engine mounted on a boat’s stern.

OUTHAUL – An adjuster that tensions the sail’s foot.

Outhaul – a rope used to pull out the foot of a sail.

Overall Length (LOA) – the boat’s extreme length measured from the foremost part of the bow to the aftermost part of the stern excluding bowsprit, self-steering gear etc.

OVERBOARD – Over the side or out of the boat.

Owner-operator – A person who owns and skippers a charter yacht, instead of hiring a captain to perform charters for guests.


Painter – the bow line by which a dinghy, or tender is towed or made fast.

Panpan – Urgency call requesting assistance.

Passarelle – The passageway you walk on from the dock to the yacht. Often incorrectly called a gangplank.

Pay out – to let a rope put gradually.

Personal flotation device (PFD) – A safety vest or jacket capable of keeping an individual afloat.

PFD – Personal Flotation Device – Lifejacket. They come in categories 1, 2 & 3 depending on usage and are compulsory in Australia.

PIER – A loading platform extending at an angle from the shore.

PILE – A wood, metal or concrete pole driven into the bottom. Craft may be made fast to a pile; it may be used to support a pier.

PILOTING – Navigation by use of visible references, the depth of the water, etc.

PITCH – A vessel’s motion, rotating about the beam axis, so the bow pitches up and down.

Pitch – The theoretical distance a propeller would travel in one revolution. Also, the rising and falling motion of a boat’s bow and stern.

PLANING – A boat is said to be planing when it is essentially moving over the top of the water rather than through the water.

PLANING HULL – A type of hull shaped to glide easily across the water at high speed.

Planing hull – A boat hull designed to ride on top of the water rather than plowing through it.

PLIMSOL LINE – The mark on the hull of a ship that shows where the waterline is when the boat is at full capacity.

Point of sailing – the different angles from the wind on which a boat may sail, the boats course relative to the direction of the wind.

PORT -The left side of a boat looking forward. A harbour.

Port – the left hand side of the boat looking forward.

Port (direction) – The left side of a boat when facing the bow. Signified by Red. The opposite side from Starboard.  Trick to remember – ‘After a party, there’s no red port left”.

Port (drink) – A strong, sweet, typically dark red fortified wine, originally from Portugal. (Well not exactly a nautical term, but lots of yachties like a good port after dinner!)

Port (place) – A marina harbor or commercial dock for boats.

PORT TACK – Wind across the port side.

Port tack – a boat is on a port tack when the wind strikes the port side 1st & the main sail is out to starboard.

Position line/line of position – a line drawn on a chart as a result of taking a bearing along which a boat’s position must lie. Two position lines give a fix.

Power catamaran – A multihulled powerboat with two identical side-by-side hulls. Characterized by excellent fuel mileage and less rolling in the water than a monohull powerboat.

Power cruiser – A motor yacht with overnight accommodations, typically up to 40 feet long.

Preference sheet – A questionnaire that guests fill out before a crewed charter. It alerts the crew to allergies and medical conditions, as well as to preferences for types of food, wine and service. As such, it is an invaluable document for the crew to plan the charter and assists greatly in customer satisfaction.

Private yacht – A yacht that is not available for charter.

PRIVELEGED VESSEL – A vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rule, has right-of-way.

Provisioning sheet – A questionnaire that guests fill out before a bareboat charter. It tells the management company what foods and other supplies you want to have to wait for you when you arrive for your vacation.  It’s not mandatory, as many bareboaters prefer to provision themselves when they arrive.

Pullman berth – A twin-size bed that is atop another bed, in bunk-bed fashion that adds additional sleeping accommodation to the yacht.  It often ‘pulls” out of the wall when needed.

Pulpit – a metal guard rail fitted at the bows of a boat to provide safety for the crew.

Pump toilet – A marine toilet that requires the user to pump a handle in order to flush.

Pushpit – a metal guard rail fitted at the stern.

PWC – Any recreational vessel that is of a kind that is required to be registered and that: is power driven, has a fully enclosed hull, does not retain water on it if it capsizes or is designed to be operated by a person standing,


QUARTER – The sides of a boat aft (behind) of amidships (middle of ship).

Quarter – the portion of the boat midway between the stern and the beam.


Range – (1) see transit.

Range – (2) of tides, the difference between the high and low water levels of a tide.

Range – (3) the distance at which a light can be seen.

Reach – to sail with the wind approximately on the beam , all sailing points between running and close hauled.

Reach – To sail across the wind.

REACHING – Sailing with the sail eased.

Reef – to reduce the sail area by folding or rolling surplus material on the boom or forestay.

REEFING – Reducing the amount of sail area.

Reefing pennant – strong line with which the luff or leech cringle is pulled down to the boom when reefing.

Rhumb line – a line cutting all meridians at the same angle, the course followed by a boat sailing in a fixed direction.

RIB (rigid inflatable boat) – An inflatable boat fitted with a rigid bottom often used as a dinghy or tender.

Riding sail – small sail hoisted to enable a boat to maintain steerage way during a storm.

RIG – The arrangement of a boat’s mast, sails and spars.

Rigging screw – a deck fitting with which the tension of standing rigging is adjusted.

Roach – the curved part of the leech of a sail which extends beyond the direct line from head to clew.

ROLL – A vessel’s motion rotating from side to side, about the fore-aft axis. “List” is a lasting tilt in the roll direction

ROPE – In general, cordage as it is purchased at the store. When it comes aboard a vessel and is put to use it becomes line.

RUDDER – An underwater vertical plate or board for steering a boat.

RUN – To allow a line to feed freely.

Run – to sail with the wind aft and with the sheets eased well out.

Runabout – A kind of small, lightweight, freshwater pleasurecraft intended for day use.

RUNNING – Sailing before the wind with the sail out.

RUNNING LIGHTS – Lights required to be shown on boats underway between sunset and sunrise.

Running rigging – all the moving lines such as sheets and halyards used in the setting and trimming of sails.


SAIL TRIM – The position of the sails relative to the wind and desired point of sail.

Sailing yacht – A yacht whose primary method of propulsion is sailing. Nearly all sailing yachts have engines in addition to their sails.

SAND BAR – An area in shallow water where wave or current action has created a small, long hill of sand. Since they are created by water movement, they can move and may not be shown on a chart.

SAR – Search and Rescue.

SART – Search and Rescue Transponder.

Schooner – a boat with two or more masts with the mainmast aftermost.

SATELLITE NAVIGATION (SAT. NAV.) – A form of position finding using radio transmissions from satellites with sophisticated on-board automatic equipment.

Schooner – A large sailboat with two or more masts where the foremast is shorter than aft mainmast.

SCOPE – The ratio of length of anchor line in use to the vertical distance from the bow of the vessel to the bottom of the water.

SCREW – A boat’s propeller.

SCUPPERS – Drain holes on deck, in the toe rail, or in bulwarks or (with drain pipes) in the deck itself.

Scuppers – holes in the toe rail which allow water to drain off the deck.

SEA COCK – A through hull valve, a shut off on a plumbing or drain pipe between the vessel’s interior and the sea.

SEA ROOM – A safe distance from the shore or other hazards.

Sea room – room in which a boat can manoeuvre clear of land or other dangers.

Securitay – Procedure word identifying a safety call.

Seelonce – radio silence (French) requested during distress incident.

Seacock – a valve which shuts off an underwater inlet or outlet passing through the hull.

SEAMANSHIP – All the arts and skills of boat handling, ranging from maintenence and repairs to piloting, sail handling and rigging.

SEAWORTHY – A boat or a boat’s gear able to meet the usual sea conditions.

SECURE – To make fast.

Sedan cruiser – A type of large boat equipped with a salon and a raised helm or bridge.

Semi-displacement hull – A hull shape with soft chines or a rounded bottom that enables the boat to achieve minimal planing characteristics (see Planing hull).  This increases the top potential speed of the yacht.

SET – Direction toward which the current is flowing.

Set – (1) to hoist a sail.

Set – (2) the way in which the sails fit.

Set – (3) the direction of a tidal current or stream.

SEXTANT – A navigational instrument used to determine the vertical position of an object such as the sun, moon or stars. Used with celestial navigation.

Shackle – a metal link with a removable bolt across the open end, of various shapes D, U

Sheet –  the rope attached to the clew of a sail or to the boom, enabled it to be controlled or trimmed.

SHIP – A larger vessel usually thought of as being used for ocean travel. A vessel able to carry a “boat” on board.

Shrouds – ropes or wires usually in pairs, led from the mast to chain plates at deck level to prevent the mast falling sideways, part of the standing rigging.

Skin fitting – a through-hull fitting where there is a hole in the skin through which air or water passes. A seacock is fitted for when the hole is not in use.

Skippered bareboat – A bareboat that has been chartered with a skipper, but no other crew. The skipper’s responsibility is navigating the boat and assuring the safety and wellbeing of the charterer.  The skipper may cook and provision, but this is not a requirement. Also known as a captain-only charter or skipper-only charter.

Sky lounge – The indoor guest area on the bridge deck of a luxury motor yacht. Often less formal than the main saloon, and sometimes ideal for cocktail parties, happy hour or children’s activities, especially if the weather is not perfect.

SLACK – Not fastened; loose. Also, to loosen.

Sloop – a single-masted sailing boat with one mainsail and one headsail.

SOG – Speed Over the Ground.

SOLAS – Safety of Life at Sea.

SOUNDING – A measurement of the depth of water.

Spar – a general term used for any wood or metal pole, e.g mast or boom, used to give shape to sails.

SPEED – All speeds are measured in ‘knots’ One knot = 1 nautical mile per hour

SPINNAKER – A very large lightweight sail used when running or on a broad reach.

Spinnaker – a large, light balloon shaped sail used when reaching or running.

SPINNAKER POLE – Sometimes called a spinnaker boom. A pole used to extend the foot of the spinnaker beyond the edge of the boat, and to secure the corner of the sail.

Splice – to join ropes or wires by unlaying the strands and interweaving them.

SPREADER – Small spars extending toward the sides from one or more places along the mast. The shrouds cross the end of the spreaders, enabling the shrouds to better support the mast.

Spreaders – horizontal struts attached to the mast which extend to the shrouds and help support the mast.

SPRING LINE – A pivot line used in docking, undocking, or to prevent the boat from moving forward or astern while made fast to a dock.

SQUALL – A sudden, violent wind often accompanied by rain.

SQUARE KNOT – A knot used to join two lines of similar size. Also called a reef knot.

Stabilizers – A feature that helps to prevent a Motoryacht from rolling too drastically, especially in bad weather, greatly improving the comfort of the guests. The most advanced form is a zero-speed stabilizer, which works both underway and at anchor.

Stall – a sail stalls when the airflow over it breaks up causing the boat to lose way.

Stanchion – upright metal post bolted to the deck to support the guard rails.

Standing part – the part of a line not used when making a knot, the part of a rope which is made fast or around which the knot is tied.

Standing rigging – the shrouds and stays which are permanently set up and support the mast.

STARBOARD – The right side of a boat when looking forward.

Starboard – right-hand side of the boat looking forward.

STARBOARD TACK – Wind across the starboard (right) side.

Starboard tack – a boat is on a starboard tack when the wind strikes the starboard side first and the boom is out to port.

Starboard – The right side of a boat when facing the bow. Opposite of Port.

Stay – wire or rope which supports the mast in a fore-and-aft direction, part of the standing rigging.

Steerage way – a boat has steerage way when it has sufficient speed to allow it to be steered, or to answer the helm.

STEM – The forward most part of the bow.

Stem – The most forward section of the hull.

STERN – The back end or rear of a vessel

STERN LINE – A docking line leading from the stern.

Stern – Aft (back) portion of a boat.

Sternway – the backward, stern-first movement of a boat.

STOW – To put an item in its proper place.

STRONG WIND WARNING – A warning for small craft when winds of 25 knots are expected.

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

SWAMP – To fill with water, but not settle to the bottom.

Swim platform – The space at the back of the yacht from which you typically can go swimming or board a dinghy. Lately, these have become entire pool/beach areas on some of the larger luxury yachts.

SWIMBOARD – A platform at the back of the boat to allow easy access to the water.


Tack -(1) the lower forward corner of the sail.

Tack -(2) to turn the boat through the wind so that it blows on the opposite side of the sails.

Tack (sail) – The lower corner of a sail.

Tack (sailing) – Each leg of a zigzag course typically used to sail upwind.

TACKING – Changing direction by turning into the wind.

Tacking – working to windward by sailing close-hauled on alternate courses so that the wind is first and one side then on the other.

Tandem charter – A charter that includes more than one yacht.

Tang – a strong metal fitting by which standing rigging is attached to the mast or other spar.

TENDER – A small boat used for moving passengers from shore to the main boat or ‘mother boat’.

Tender – or dinghy, a small boat used to ferry people and supplies from a yacht to shore.

Tender – A boat that a yacht carries or tows used for transfers to and from shore, and short day cruises and watersports. Also sometimes called a dinghy.

TIDE – The periodic rise and fall of water level in the oceans.

Tide – the vertical rise and fall of the oceans caused principally by the gravitational attraction of the moon.

TILLER – A bar or handle for turning a boat’s rudder or an outboard motor.

Toe rail – a low strip of wood or moulding running around the edge of the deck.

Topping lift – a line from the mast head to a spar normally the boom which is used to raise it.

TOPSIDES – The sides of a vessel between the waterline and the deck; sometimes referring to onto or above the deck.

Track – (1) the course a boat has made good.

Track – (2) a fitting on the mast or boom onto which the slide on a sail fit.

Track – (3) a fitting along which a traveller runs used to alter the tension of the sheets.

TRANSOM – The stern cross-section of a square sterned boat.

Transom – The rear section of the hull connecting the two sides.

TRIM – Fore and aft balance of a boat.

Trim – (1) to adjust the angle of the sails, by mean of sheets so that they work most efficiently.

Trim – (2) to adjust the boats load and thus the fore-and-aft angle at which it floats.

TRUE WIND – The strength and direction of the actual wind blowing. While sailing, the true wind is never felt – it is always a combination of the true wind, and the boat’s speed (called the apparent wind), and it is always a little forward to the true wind.

True wind – the direction and speed of the wind felt when stationary at anchor or on land.

True wind – The direction and velocity of wind as measured on land, distinct from apparent wind which is how it appears on a moving yacht.

Turn buckle – used to tighten the standing rigging.

Twin cabin – A yacht cabin that features two twin beds, often best-suited for children or friends.


UNDERWAY – Vessel in motion, i.e., when not moored, at anchor, or aground.

Underway – a boat is underway when it is not made fast to the shore, at anchor or aground.

Up haul – is a line to raise something vertically for example the spinnaker pole.


V BERTH – Bunks forming a V at the front of a boat

V BOTTOM – A hull with the bottom section in the shape of a “V”.

V SHEET – A fluorescent orange-red coloured sheet (1.8×1.2m) with a large black “V” printed in the middle. V-Sheets are required to be carried by all vessels operating off shore. They can be spread over the deck of a boat or flown as a

V-berth – A bed or berth located in the bow that has a V-shape.

Vang – see kicking strap.

VAT – Value-added tax (TVA in France). An tax sometimes charged to charter guests who book boats in certain nations, most often in Europe. VAT can add 20 percent or more to your bill.

Veer – (1) the wind veers when it shifts in a clockwise direction.

Veer – (2) to pay out anchor cable or rope in a gradual controlled way

VHF – Very High Frequency

VMG – Velocity Made Good

Very happy – The state that most charterers are in the majority of the time they are aboard their yacht!

VHF – Very high frequency; a bandwidth designation commonly used by marine radios.

VICL – Virgin Islands Charter League, an organized group of charter yacht owners in the U.S.

Virgin Islands – Membership in this group indicates a yacht owner’s willingness to be part of the larger charter community and to follow its standards.

VIP cabin – Typically the second-best cabin onboard any charter yacht.


WAKE – Moving waves, track or path that a boat leaves behind it, when moving across the waters.

Wake – the disturbed water left astern of a boat.

Wavelength – distance between radio waves.

WASH – Same as Wake – Waves made by a vessel making way

WATERLINE – A line painted on a hull which shows the point to which a boat sinks when it is properly trimmed

Waterline – The intersection of the hull and the surface of the water.

WAY – Movement of a vessel through the water such as headway, sternway or leeway.

Waypoint – The coordinates of a specific location.

Weather helm – a tendency of a boat to turn into wind.

Weather side – the side of the boat on which the wind is blowing.

Weigh Anchor – To raise the anchor.

Wet head – A bathroom that serves as both the toilet/sink area and the shower compartment, meaning the sink and toilet get wet when you use the showerhead.

Whisker pole – a light pole used to hold out the clew of a headsail when running.

WGS84 – World Geodetic Survey of 1984 (most common chart datum).

Winch – a winch is a mechanical device consisting usually of a metal drum turned by a handle around which a line is wound to give the crew more purchasing power when hauling taut a line.

Windage – those parts of a boat which increase drag for example rigging, spars, crew etc.

Windlass – a winch with a horizontal shaft and a vertical handle used to haul up your anchor chain.

Windlass – Rotating drum device used for hauling line or chain to raise and lower an anchor.

WINDWARD – Toward the direction from which the wind is coming (upwind).

Windward – the direction from which the wind blows toward the wind (opposite to leeward).

Windward Islands – The Windward Islands are the southern, generally larger islands of the Lesser Antilles, within the West Indies


XTE – Cross Track Error. Perpendicular distance off track between two waypoints.


Yawl – a two-masted boat with the mizzen stepped aft of the rudder stock / post.

YACHT – A pleasure vessel, a pleasure boat. Can refer to sail or power vessel.

Yacht – A sailing or Motoryacht designed for pleasure boating that typically ranges from 40 to 100+ feet long.

Yachting – The experience of being on a yacht.

Yaw – To veer off course


Zero-speed stabilizers – The most sophisticated type of motor yacht stabilizers that keep the yacht from rolling both underway and at anchor, significantly improving their comfort.

ZINC BLOCK – A sacrificial block of metal, usually zinc, to be eaten away by electrolysis under water, saving your underwater metal parts