Boating Terms Every Boater Should Know

Like every sporting activity and profession, boating has its own jargon and lingo. This refers to the boating terms that are used by boaters when they are navigating their vessel on the water.

Knowing what these boating terms mean will enable you to communicate better with other boaters, helping you sound like an expert.

In this article, we have listed all the boating terms that every boater should know. Check them out below.

boating terms
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Boating Terms Every Boater Should Know

In this section, we will highlight and explain the basic boating terms used by expert boaters. We will identify the unique parts of a boat before discussing certain boating actions.


The hull refers to the bottom of the boat, the part that sits in the water as it floats.

Hulls are made of different materials, depending on the type of boat that it is. The hull of a V-hull boat is usually made of fiberglass, while that of a pontoon boat is typically made of pontoons.

There are different types of hulls which include planing hull and displacement hull. A displacement hull is a hull shaped to displace water up to the boat’s weight as it plows through it.

On the other hand, a planing hull is known for its speed, as it glides on water smoothly. A twin-hulled boat is known as a catamaran.


A waterline is a line painted on the hull of a boat. This line indicates the point to which the boat sinks.


The cleat refers to metal fasteners that can be used for tying your anchor line or dock line.

Boat Aft

The boat aft refers to the area where the rear or stern of the boat is. In other words, the boat aft is the area towards the back of the boat.


The bow is the area where the front of the boat is located. The most forward part of the hull is part of the bow. A bow line is a docking line that leads from the boat’s bow.


The stern is the opposite area of a bow in a boat. In nautical terms, the back of the boat is the stern. The lazarette is the storage space in the boat’s stern area.

The stern cross-section of a square sterned boat is known as the transom. The motor of the boat is usually attached to the transom area. A stern line refers to a docking line leading from the stern of the boat.


The left-hand side of a boat, when looking forward towards the bow, is known as the port side of your boat. A port tack refers to a situation when the wind is blowing over the port side of a boat.


The right-hand side of a boat, when looking forward towards the bow, is referred to as the starboard side. A starboard tack refers to a situation in which wind is blowing over the starboard side of the boat. 


The gunwale of a vessel refers to the upper edge of the boat’s sides. In other words, the vessel’s sides are known as gunwale.


The chock is a U-shaped fitting through which anchor lines or mooring lines are passed.

Bilge Pump

The bilge pump is a device found in most recreational boats. The function of this device is to clear standing water from the boat.


Forepeak refers to the compartment located in the bow of a small boat.


A chuddy refers to a small shelter cabin in a boat.


The keel of a boat is the backbone of the vessel. It refers to the centerline of the boat running fore and aft.


Midship refers to the center of a boat. It is a location equally distant from the boat’s stern and bow.


The head of a boat refers to the toilet in the vessel. The head is also the upper corner of a boat, particularly a triangular sail.


A pier is a loading platform extending from the shore.


A tiller is a bar used for turning a boat’s rudder.


The hold is a compartment in a large boat usually located below the deck. The purpose of this compartment is to carry cargo. 

Aids to Navigation

Aids to navigation are items, devices, or structures that enable boaters to effectively navigate safe and unsafe waters.

Boat Hook

A boat hook is a short shaft that has a lot of uses. With a fitting at one end, a boat hook makes it easy for boats to put a line over a piling and recover any object dropped overboard.

Sea Cock

A sea cock is the name for the through hull valve found in a boat. The function of a sea cock is to shut off the plumbing or drain pipe between the sea and the vessel’s interior.


A boat’s propeller is known as the screw.


A bulkhead refers to the vertical partition separating compartments in a boat.


The hatch refers to an opening in a boat’s deck fitted with a cover that is usually watertight.

Spring Line

A spring line is a pivot line that is used to hold a boat and prevent it from moving when tied to a dock.

Lubber’s Line

The lubber’s line is a mark on a compass that shows the direction forward parallel to the keel.

Running Lights

Running lights are lights that must be shown on boats underway in the dark. Running lights are required to be used in the period between sundown and sunup.


The heading of a boat refers to the direction in which the vessel’s bow points. 


Trim is the aft balance and fore balance of a vessel.


The knot is the measure of the speed of a boat, which is equal to one nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile is one minute of latitude, which is approximately 6076 feet.


Seamanship refers to the art of being a seasoned boat handler. It covers all boat handling skills such as sail handling, repairs, maintenance, as well as piloting a boat.


Draft refers to the depth of water that a boat draws when it is moving.


A boat is underway when it is in motion. This means that when a boat is not at anchor or dock but drifting or floating, it is underway.


Scope refers to the ratio of the vertical distance between the boat’s bow and the bottom of the water to the length of the anchor rode.


Freeboard is the minimum vertical distance from the gunwale to the surface of the water.


Mooring refers to the act of attaching a boat to a pier or mooring buoy. A buoy is an anchored float used for marking hazards or a position on the water.


Items are generally athwart ships when they are at right angles to the centerline of the vessel.


A vessel is seaworthy when the boat and boat’s gear are in great shape to withstand the usual sea conditions without trouble.

Sea Room

Sea room is the distance that is deemed safe from shore and hazards.


A yacht is a pleasure boat or pleasure vessel.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we will answer some frequently asked questions about boating.

What Is It Called When A Boat Goes Up and Down?

The action of a boat going up and down is known as pitch. When a boat is pitching, the bow and stern rise and fall.

What Is The Movement of A Boat Called?

The movement of a boat called be classified into three major types. These movements are pitch, yaw, and roll.

What Are The Terms For Boat Sides?

The left side of a boat is known as the port, while the right side of a boat is known as the starboard.

What Is It Called When a Boat Leans?

A situation in which a boat leans into the water is known as heeling.


Knowing the right boating terms can save you a lot of time and stress. You get to communicate better with other boaters. You also get to understand the setup of your boat much quicker.

Overall, it is important to practice safe boating habits at all times. Check to see that your boat is seaworthy before setting out. 

Daniel O’Neill
Fishing Expert
Daniel specializes in fly, predator, and saltwater angling. He has practiced angling from a young age, quickly developing his knowledge of fishing fundamentals. His angling journey began in Ireland, primarily targeting rainbow trout on a fly rod. His passion for angling grew extensively as he ventured into other forms of fishing. He primarily targets freshwater and saltwater destinations in Ireland and the UK. His favorite catch to date was a 7lb / 3.6KG thick-lipped mullet from the Northern Irish coast—a prized fish to target on a fly rod. He is now the owner of DON Angling, a business that intends to inform and educate anglers on the best techniques, methods, and etiquette available.
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