Sailing vocabulary is not only for experienced professional sailors. Of course, for them it’s the must to know, however, every beginner can polish his navigation knowledge simply by enlarging basic sailing lexicon. It also helps to significantly improve communication onboard in general that will make your yacht charter even more smooth and relaxed. At the same time, you will avoid awkward situations that may happen when you don’t know the exact name of a boat’s part.

Aft (stern)

Aft (stern)

  • Aft (Stern) – The back part of a ship. So, if you hear that something is located aft, it is at the back of the sailboat.
  • Bow – The front part of the ship. This term mainly serves to define two of the other frequently used sailing definitions such as port (located on the left of the bow) and starboard (located on the right of the bow).
  • Helm – It’s a place where you steer the boat. Normally it has a shape of a big wheel, but sometimes on smaller boats it can be a tiller as a long wooden stick. Both of them can be used to control the yacht’s rudder.
  • Heeling – This term may be applicable when a sailboat leans over in the water whereas pushed by the wind.
  • Keel – It is a long and heavy fin on the bottom of the boat that goes down into the water. It’s necessary for stability and thanks to it modern sailboats are nearly impossible to capsize.
  • Mainsail – The big triangular sail just aft of the sailboat’s mast. This is the largest and most important sail onboard.
  • Port – Anything to the left of the boat if you are facing forward.
  • Point of Sail – The boat’s direction according to the wind. In total there are 8 commonly used points of sail.
  • Starboard – It’s the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. This term is very common due to the fact that the normal “right” and “left” can be confusing while sailing.
  • Leeward (Lee) – It is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing (windward).
  • Lines – Ropes on-board.
Lines on-board

Lines on-board

  • Rudder – It is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal which is located beneath the boat and serves to steer the ship.
  • Tacking – It’s a basic sailing maneuver to turn the bow of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. (Antonym of jibing)
  • Jibing – It’s a basic sailing maneuver to turn the stern of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. (Antonym of tacking)
  • Windward – The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. (Antonym of leeward)


Learning this basic sailing vocabulary will bring you several advantages among which you will have a chance to impress your friends by showing that you really know what you are doing onboard. Being an expert in a field is a good feeling, isn’t it? Additionally, if you go a bit deeper into details, you’ll discover that each navigation term appeared through the sailing tradition where the basic terminology remained the same over ages. Finally, just imagine that some useful words will make you part of the navigation society and it is a good reason to feel proud of yourself. At aBoatTime we will definitely share your triumph with you and wish you nice yacht charter holidays!