Boating Terminology 101

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Our Boating Terminology Guide

Learning the terminology of every industry and culture can be challenging, but the minute you figure it out, you’ll sound like an expert! Every industry has its own lingo and more often than not you need to be part of the community to understand the mix of slang and industry-specific terms that create the lexicon. For example, in golf, a “birdie” represents a type of golf score. In the marketing world, “CTA” means a call-to-action. Law enforcement officers say “alpha charlie” when their assignment is complete and professionals in the financial sector refer to some industries like mining and dredging as “big uglies.” But when you’re renting a boat, you can expect some pretty interesting boating terms.

Boating terminology is more interesting than it sounds

And as it comes to no surprise, the maritime industry is no different. The unique parts of a boat and the rules and regulations that govern national and international maritime laws, call for a specific set of terms that the average Joe might not be familiar with. Unfortunately, those average Joes are the people reserving boat rentals and yacht charters – rightfully so.

If you want to sound like an expert, or just understand the crew on your next yacht charter or boat rental, review the terms below. You’ll sound like a boating expert in no time!

  • Admiralty law – synonymous with maritime law, referring to the rules and procedures governing the boating industry
  • Ahoy – a verbal cue to pay attention, look (fair warning: this term may evoke feelings of being a pirate)
  • Ashore – a point of direction meaning toward the shore or on the shore
  • Backstays – cables on the boat that support the masthead
  • Bank – part of the ocean that is elevated to create a small shoreline
  • Bareboat charter – a type of charter where the renter is responsible for the hiring of the crew and captain
  • Beaching – intentionally running the boat aground, usually on the sand (typically used for loading or unloading)
  • Bear down – to turn away from the wind
  • Bearing – the horizontal distance between two points
  • Boat-hook – a tool with a hook used to gather buoys or other floating objects
  • Bow – the front of the vessel
  • Catamaran – a type of boat with two hulls
  • Drifter – a type of fishing boat
  • Flank – the maximum speed of a ship
  • Flare – a signaling device to be used in distress
  • Galley – the kitchen of the ship
  • Head – the toilet of the ship
  • Hull – the bottom part of the ship (the part of the boat that floats in the water)
  • Inboard motor – a boat with the engine mounted within the hull of the boat (not on the back of the boat)
  • Keel – the central structural basis of the hull
  • Knot – a unit of measurement, used like the mile on land
  • Landlubber – a person who is not familiar with the ocean (FYI – you’ll be a landlubber on your first yacht charter)
  • Master – the captain of a commercial vessel
  • Moor – to attach a boat to a mooring buoy or post
  • Outboard motor – a boat with the engine mounted on the back of the boat
  • Pontoon – a type of boat that has a flat bottom
  • Port – the left side (the port side has a red light at night)
  • sonar – the process of emitting waves in the ocean to determine what objects, if any are close by
  • Starboard – the right side (the starboard side has a green light at night)
  • Stern – the back of the ship
  • True north – the direction of the north pole
  • Wake – the waves created by moving the boat through the water
  • Windward – the direction that the wind is blowing

Note cards are a great way to study

In order to help you learn all of these terms in the best way possible, we suggest making some note cards to help you study. After all, just learning the boating terms listed above can make a big difference and you can go some someone who sounds like it’s their first time on a boat to sound like a seasoned professional. Trust us, your captain will be impressed! So next time, you are planning to rent a boat and hit the water in style just remember this useful guide we made just for you, courtesy of Boatsetter.

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