Nautical Terms

Nautical terms PDF Print E-mail
Glossary of Nautical Terms and PhrasesSome nautical terms used on small craft.

Abeam at a right angle to the length of the vessel 
Abreast off the side, level with the vessel 
Adrift  vessel without means of propulsion, not under control 
Aft toward the stern (rear) of the vessel, behind
Aground  when a vessel is in water too shallow for it to float in, i.e. the vessel’s bottom is resting on the sea bottom or submerged rocks
Ahead go in forward direction
Amidships centre of vessel
Anchor  heavy metal object designed so that its weight and shape will help to hold a vessel in its position when lowered to the sea bottom on a line 
Anchor locker  storage space for the anchor rode and anchor 
Anchor windlass  device used to assist when raising the anchor 
Anti-fouling paint applied to the bottom of a vessel to prevent barnacles and other organisms from growing on the vessel’s bottom 
Ashore on land
Astern to reverse, go in backward direction
Awash deck level with surface of water
Aweigh to raise and retrieve anchor
Beam greatest breadth of vessel
Bearing direction of one point with respect to another
Berth · place for a person to sleep while on board a vessel�
· docking place for vessel in harbour 
Bilge lowest part of vessel’s interior where water collects
Bilge pump  mechanical, electrical, or manually operated pump used to remove water from the bilge 
Binnacle housing containing compass
Bite when anchor penetrate bottom substrata and hold
Bollard post at bow for securing lines
Bow front section of vessel
Bow-eye ring fitting for securing line to bow of vessel
Breaking seas  with sufficiently strong wind, large waves can form crests even in deep water, causing the wave tops to tumble forward over the waves
Broach vessel broadside to crests of waves
Bulkhead interior partion or wall on vessel, usually watertight for added safety
Buoy floating device used as a navigational aid by marking channels, hazards and prohibited areas
Cabin an enclosed compartment in a vessel; used as shelter or living quarters
Cable unit of measurement, one tenth of a nautical mile
Capsize when vessel turns upside down
Cast off let line go free
Catamaran  twin hulled vessel
Cavitation aerated water around spinning propeller causing propeller to lose grip and proposion
Celestial navigation method of using the stars, sun and moon to determine one’s position at sea using a sextant and time intervals
Center line imaginary line running from bow to stern along the middle of the vessel
Channel navigable path or waterway through reefs, shoals or shallow water
Chart representation (‘map’) of the sea, both at the surface and bottom, indicates depths, navigational aids, shorelines and hazards
Chine joint of freeboard and hull bottom
Cleat  “T” shaped fixture for securing lines 
Coastal navigation method of using landmarks to determine one’s position at sea using a compass and bearings
Compass  instrument using the earth’s magnetic field to point to the direction of the magnetic north pole
Crown bottom part of anchor
Danforth anchor  lightweight anchor with pivoting flukes and no stock, hold on all types of bottoms 
Davit  device that projects beyond the side of the vessel to raise objects from the water
Dead ahead  position or direction directly in front of the vessel
Deadrise measurement of the angle between the bottom of a vessel and its widest beam. A vessel with a 0º deadrise has a flat bottom, high numbers indicate deep V shaped hulls 
Deck  horizontal topmost ‘floor’ of the vessel
Depth sounder  instrument that uses sound waves to measure the distance to the bottom 
Displacement  volume of water displaced by vessel when afloat
Displacement hull  type of hull that only floats, even when in motion, as opposed to a type of hull that allows a vessel to skim or plane across the surface of the water
Draft depth of water required to float a vessel
Dragging when anchor is not holding
Drogue device streamed astern to keep stern up to the waves in a following sea
Ebb reflux of tide
Eddy  water currents moving in circular patterns
Electronic navigation  use of echo sounders, radio, and various electronic satellite and land based position finders (GPS) to determine a vessel’s location 
EPIRB Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon – emergency device that uses a radio signal to indicate a vessel’s position in distress
Fathom depth measurement equaling 6 feet (182 cm) in soundings
Fender  object hung over side of a vessel to cushion contact with other objects 
Fittings equipment required and placed on a vessel in preparation for its active service
Flare outward curve of a vessel’s sides at and near the bow; emergeny signalling device
Flood inflow of tide
Fluke triangular plate on arm of anchor
Following sea a sea in which the waves are moving in the same direction as the vessel
Foredeck forward topside part of the deck 
Forward  toward the front of a vessel
Foul jammed, stuck with respect to an anchor or line
Freeboard distance between the gunwales and the waterline 
Gale wind with speeds between 34 to 47 knots 
Galley kitchen area on a vessel
Gear general name for boating equipment
GPS Global Positioning System. A system of satellites that allows one’s position to be calculated with great accuracy by the use of an electronic GPS receiver
Gunwales top end of hull sides
Harbour safe anchorage protected from storms either naturally or by man-made barriers
Hatch covered opening in deck
Heel for a vessel to incline to one side
Helm all machinery used to steer vessel
Hull main structural body of the vessel, excluding deck, mast, or superstructure
Hydrofoil a vessel that has foils under its hull onto which it rises to plane across the water surface at high speed in more comfort
Inboard an engine that is mounted inside the vessel
Inlet a bay or cove along a river, sea or lake coast line
Jetty man-made structure projecting from the shore or a harbour
Keel line on the bottom of the vessel, “backbone” of vessel
Knot · unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour. 1 knot = 1.852 km/h
· a method of attaching a rope or line to itself, another line or a fitting
Lanyard short length of thin line used for securing
Lashing tie tightly by repeated twisting of cord or twine
Lee side side facing away from wind or sea
Line nautical name for rope
List inclination of vessel away from normal horizontal centre of gravity line
Log record of course travelled or operations/events
LORAN Long-range navigation system that uses radio signals transmitted at specific times. An onboard receiver computes position by measuring the difference in time of signal reception
Navigate practice of determining position and course at sea
Making water vessel leaking
Mayday international spoken distress signal
Midships halfway between a ship’s stem and stern
Moor to secure a vessel by attaching it to a fixed object or mooring buoy
Overboard movement away from vessel, over the sides into water
Painter length of line secured at bow, for towing or making fast
Pitching vertical motion when bow rises and falls
Plane vessel moving across water surface at speed with minimal water displacement by hull
Port left-hand side of vessel looking forward
Rode line connecting anchor with vessel
Roll sidewise rotational motion of vessel
Rudder device attached upright to the stern of a vessel and used to steer it
Scupper opening to drain excess water from deck
Sea-anchor device used to reduce vessel’s drift before wind or to keep bow into sea
Shackle metal coupling appliance
Shank shaft of anchor
Shoal sandbar or rising bottom that forms a shallow place, which is a danger to navigation
Shotline accurately marked line with weighted end to measure depth
Skeg metal extension on outboard motor’s leg to protect propeller
Spindrift scudding spay at sea, usually occur at high wind speeds
Squall a strong wind with sudden onset and more gradual decline, lasting for several minutes
Sounding depth of water
Starboard righthand side of craft looking forward
Steer to control craft movement when underway
Stem the foremost part of a ship’s hull
Stern after-end of craft
Stowing proper way to store gear on vessel
Strake raised elevation on hull to improve handling and planing
Swamp vessel filled with water over sides
Tackle arrangement of ropes and blocks for obtaining purchase
Thimble curved metal/nylon plate to prevent chafing of rope eyes at ends
Transom flat area across stern
Trim arrangement of load mass, longitudinal balance
Twine cord twisted from fabric strands
Underway vessel moving under own power
Veer to change direction while underway
Wake water pattern astern of vessel underway
Wash waves created by passage of vessel in motion
Weatherside side facing wind or sea
Wet-deck hull is sealed or self-draining
Winch machine that has a drum on which to coil a rope, cable or chain for hauling, pulling or hoisting
Windlass machine designed to raise or lower an anchor
Yaw when vessel runs off course steered


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