Sailing Manual

by Paul Kylander

Appendix II Glossary of Sailing Terms

Also See AMYA's Definitions Page


- A -

ABEAM--Any location either side of the boat, located on a line at right angles to one running from the bow to the stern.

AHEAD--In front of.

AMIDSHIPS--The portion of a vessel midway between bow and stern; also midway between port and starboard sides.

ANCHORAGE--A sheltered place or area where boat can anchor.

APPARENT WIND--Wind felt on a moving vessel

ASTERN--Behind or backwards.

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- B -

BACKING WIND SHIFT--A counter-clockwise wind shift.

BACKWIND--To hold the mainsail or jib off to the side to cause the wind to blow onto the backside of the sail.

BAIL--To remove water from a boat by hand.

BATTENS--Long, thin, narrow strips of wood that are placed in pockets sewn perpendicular to the leech of a sail and are used to hold the leech out.

BEAM--The greatest breadth of a boat.

BEARING OFF/AWAY--Altering course away from the wind on any course from head to wind until the boat begins to gybe.

BEAT--To sail towards the direction from which the wind blows by making a series of tacks while sailing close-hauled.

BEFORE THE WIND--Sailing with the wind from astern, in the same direction toward which the wind is blowing

BLOCK--A pulley through which a line passes.

BOOM--Pole or spar attached to the mast to which the foot (lower edge) of the sail is fastened.

BOLT ROPE--Rope sewn into the luff and foot of sail for attaching to the mast and boom.

BOOM VANG--A wire or rope running from the boom to or near the bottom of the mast which holds the boom down.

BOW--Forward part of the hull.

BOW PLATE--A plate that fits on the bow of the boat to which the lower end of the forestay is attached.

BROACHING--A sudden swooping around broadside to the wind and waves while running.

BROAD REACH--Sailing with the wind coming from any direction from abeam to on the quarter.

BY THE LEE--Sailing before the wind with the wind coming from the same side that the boom is on.

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- C -

CAST OFF--To let go.

CENTRE OF EFFORT--Centre point of sail area where all the force of the wind can be said to be centred.

CENTRE OF LATERAL RESISTANCE--Centre point of all underwater area of the hull where the hull's lateral resistance can be said to be centred.

CENTREBOARD--A fiberglas or metal blade projecting through the bottom of the hull in centre which prevents the boat from sliding

sideways. It pivots up and back into the centreboard trunk.

CENTREBOARD LINE--A rope or wire attached to the top of the centreboard with which it is raised or lowered.

CENTREBOARD TRUNK--Watertight housing for the centreboard.

CHAIN PLATE--A plate that fits on the side of the boat to which the lower end of a shroud is attached.

CLEAT--A formed fitting in wood or metal to which lines are made fast.

CLEW--The lower after corner of a sail.

CLOSE HAULED--Sailing close to the wind (sails all the way in).

CLOSE REACH--Sailing with sheets eased and the wind forward of the beam (sails out 1/4).

COCKPIT--The box-like well in a boat from which the skipper and crew operate.

COMING ABOUT--Changing tacks by heading up, bow into the wind and past head to wind on the other tack (tacking).

CUNNINGHAM--Line passed through a grommet in the luff of the sail used to flatten the sail by tightening the luff.

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- D -

DAGGER BOARD--A centreboard that slides up and down in a vertical slot.

DECK--The horizontal top on the hull.

DINGHY--A small handy rowing boat, sometimes rigged with a sail.

DISPLACEMENT--The weight of the water displaced by the vessel.

DOWN HAUL--Line attached to the bottom of the boom used to flatten the sail by pulling the boom down, and thus tightening the luff of the sail.

DOWNWIND--In the direction the wind is going. A boat sailing downwind is running with the wind.

DRAFT--The depth of water to a vessel's keel.

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- E -

EASE THE SHEET--To let the sheet out.

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- F -

FAIRLEAD�The fitting that guides the jib or genoa sheets.

FENDER--An object used over the side to protect a vessel from chafing when alongside another vessel or wharf.

FOOT--The bottom edge of a sail from Tack to Clew.

FORE AND AFT--In the direction of the keel.

FORESTAY--A wire running from the upper part of the mast to the bow of the boat.

FREEBOARD--The direction from the waterline to main deck or gunwale.

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- G -

GENOA--A very large jib that overlaps the mainsail considerably.

GYBE--To go from one tack to the other when running with the wind coming over the stern.

GOOSENECK--Hinged fitting on the mast which connects the boom to the mast.

GROMMET--A ring sewn into the sail through which a line can be passed.

GUDGEON--The rings which, with pintles, make up the hinge assembly for the rudder.

GUNWALE--The upper edge of a boat's side.

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- H -

HALYARD--A line used to raise the sail.

HAUL--To pull.

HEAD--Uppermost corner of a sail, or the toilet.

HEADING UP--Turning closer to the wind, up wind.

HEADWAY--Moving ahead.

HEAVE IN--To haul in.

HEEL--To tip to one side, due to wind pressure on the sail or crew on the side.

HELM--The tiller.

HELMSMAN--The one who steers the boat.

HIKING STRAPS--Straps to hook toes under in cockpit.

HULL--The actual body or shell of the boat.

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- I -

IN IRONS--When a tack is not completed and the boat stalls out with the bow pointed directly into the wind.

INSHORE--Toward the shore.

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- J -

JIB--A triangular sail at the bow of the boat.

JIB SHEET--The lines that lead from the clew of the jib to the cockpit and are used to control the jib.

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- K -

KEEL--A fixed centreboard, usually found on larger sailboats.

KNOCK--A wind shift that forces a boat to sail below its mean wind course.

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- L -

LEECH--After edge of a sail.

LEEWARD--The direction away from the wind (opposite of WINDWARD).

LINE--A rope.

LIFT--A wind shift that allows a boat to sail above its mean wind course.

LUFFING--When the forward part of the sail is fluttering.

LUFF UP--To steer the boat more into the wind, thereby causing the sails to flap or luff.

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- M -

MAINSAIL--The sail set on the mainmast.

MAINSHEET--The line that controls the angle of the mainsail in its relation to the wind.

MAST--The vertical pole or spar that supports the boom and sails.

MASTHEAD--The top of the mast.

MAST SLOT/GROOVE--(also called sail slot) the opening up the back (aft) edge of the mast in which the mainsail luff rope slides when it is hoisted. Some masts have an external sail track.

MAST STEP--The fitting in the bottom of the boat in which the bottom or heel if the mast sits. (The step is on the deck in the boat


MAST TANGS--Fittings on the mast to which the forestay and shrouds attach.

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- N -


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- O -

ON A TACK--A boat is always on one tack or the other; that is the sail is always on one side or the other.

OUTHAUL--A line used to haul out the clew or after corner of a sail on the boom.

OVERTAKING--Passing another vessel.

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- P -

PAINTER--A rope secured in the bow of a small boat, used for tying up or towing.

PINCH--To sail too close to the wind so that the sails start to luff.

PINTELS--Pins which, with gudgeons, make up the hinge assembly for the rudder.

PLANE--When a sailboat rises up on its own bow wave and reaches speeds far in excess of those normally associated with its waterline


PORT--The left-hand side of the boat as you face the bow.

PORT TACK--The tack a boat is sailing on when the wind is coming over the port side.

PRIVILEGED VESSEL--One that has the right of way.

PUFF--A sudden burst of wind stronger than what is blowing at the time.

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- Q -


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- R -

RAKE--The angle of a vessel's masts from the vertical.

REACHING--Sailing across the wind or any course between close-hauled and running (close, beam, broad).

READY ABOUT--An expression used to indicate that the boat is about to tack.

REEF--The rolled up part of a sail, tied with the reef lines, that is used to reduce sail area for heavy winds.

REEF LINES--Short pieces of line fastened to the sail at reef points, used for tying a reef to reduce sail area.

RIGGING--A general term applying to all lines, stays and shrouds necessary for spars and sails.

RUDDER--A movable flat blade hinged vertically at the transom of a boat as a means of steering. It is controlled by a tiller or wheel.

RUNNING--Sailing with the wind coming from behind the boat with the sail out at right angles to the wind.

RUNNING RIGGING--The part of a ship's rigging which is movable and reeves through blocks, such as halyards, sheets, etc.

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- S -

SAILING BY THE LEE--Sailing on a run with the wind coming over the stern from the same side as the boom (danger of gybing).

SECURE--To make fast; to make safe.

SHACKLE--A U-shaped piece of iron or steel with eyes in the ends, closed by a shackle pin.

SHEET--A line that controls the angle of the sail in its relation to the wind.

SHOVE OFF--To leave; to push a boat away from a pier or vessel's side.

SHROUDS--Wire side stays running from the upper part of the mast to both the starboard and port sides of the boat. The forestay and shrouds form a triangle which supports the mast in an upright position.

SIDE SLIPPING--When the boat is moving sideways (to leeward).

SLACK--Not fastened; loose. Also, to ease off.

SLOT--The gap between the jib and the main sail through which the wind is funnelled.

SPREADERS--Poles used to push the shrouds outboard.

SQUALL--A sudden and violent gust of wind often accompanied by rain.

STANDING PART--The fixed part of a rope--the long end, when tying knots.

STANDING RIGGING--The part of a ship's rigging which is permanently secured and immovable; e.g. stays, shrouds, etc.

STALLING--The turbulent effect of air on the lee side of a sail when trimmed in too far.

STARBOARD--The right side, facing the bow from aft.

STARBOARD TACK--The tack a boat is sailing on when the wind is coming over the starboard side .

STAYS--Rigging that supports the mast, shrouds.

STERN--The after (back) part of a boat.

STOW--To put in place.

SWAMP--To sink by filling with water.

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- T -

TACK-- 1. (Part of a sail) Lower forward corner of a sail.
TACK-- 2. (relating to course) The heading a boat is on or changing course to.

TACKING--Turning from one tack to the other as the bow passes through head to wind. (Also called coming about)

TAUT--With no slack; strict as to discipline.

TELLTALES--Ribbon or yarn strips attached to rigging or sails to indicate wind action or direction.

THWART--Support for centreboard trunk and hull across the beam at mid length.

TILLER--A bar used to control the rudder.

TILLER EXTENSION--Hinged extension of the tiller which allows the skipper to control the tiller while hiking or sitting forward.

TOPSIDE--Above the deck.

TRANSOM--The portion of the stern to which the rudder is attached.

TRAVELER--Line which runs across the transom, and which the mainsheet travels on.

TRIM--To adjust the sail so that the wind catches it perfectly.

TURNBUCKLE--A metal appliance consisting of a thread and screw capable of being set up or slacked back and used for setting up

standing rigging.

TURTLE--To tip the boat over so that the mast is pointing to the bottom of the lake.

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- U -

UNDERWAY--Said of a boat moving and under control of the helmsman. Technically, a boat is underway when not aground, at anchor, or .made flat to the shore.

UPWIND--In the direction from which the wind is coming. A boat sailing upwind is sailing toward the wind.

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- V -

VEER--A clockwise wind shift.

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- W -

WEATHER HELM--When the tiller has to be held off the centre line and toward the weather side or wind to keep a boat on its course.

WEATHER SIDE--The windward side.

WIND SHADOW--The area affected by the turbulent air from a sailboat's sails.

WINDWARD--The direction from which the wind is coming.

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- X -


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- Y -


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- Z -


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