Let’s start with a few terms for parts of the boat. It will make the learning process easier.
A. The Hull – this is the ‘body’ of the boat.
B. The Deck – the ‘floor’ surface that you walk on.
C. The Mast – the tall ‘stick’ that the mainsail is fixed to.
D. The Mainsail – Usually the biggest sail – its ‘driving force’.
E. The Jib or Genoa – A sail at the front of the boat, triangular in shape – A Jib is smaller than a Genoa.
F. The Boom – A pole that is attached to the mast that supports the bottom of the Mainsail.
G. The Rudder – A substantial board that hangs off the back of the boat and is used to steer the boat through the water.
H. The Spinnaker – Not all boats have these, but they are generally colourful ‘balloons’ that fly at the front of the boat when sailing downwind.
That’s the first part of the new vocabulary – now some parts of the sails themselves.
A. The Mainsail – The large sail attached to the Mast.
B. The Jib – Could also be a Genoa – The Jib is generally smaller than the Genoa.
C. The Clew – the back or ‘Aft’ corner of the Mainsail – also the same name for the aft corner on the Jib. On the Jib it is the corner that the ‘Sheets’ are attached to – the ‘Sheets’ are the lines that control the sail.
D. The Tack – Where the sail is fixed to the boat (Mainsail & Jib) ‘Forward’ at the base of the sail.
E. The Head – the top corner of the sail, where it is pulled up to the top of the mast by a ‘Halyard’.
F. The Leech – The back ‘Aft’ edge of the sail – same for the Jib & the Mainsail.
G. The Luff – The leading edge of the sail (Mainsail & Jib alike again) – If the sail is flapping at the front when you are sailing it is described as ‘Luffing’.
H. The Foot – The bottom edge of the sail, Mainsail & Jib again alike.
I. The Battens – These are more often seen in the Mainsail, but they are strips or rods that are set into pockets on the sail to help it have a better shape and improve sailing performance.
J. The Telltales – These are ribbons or pieces of yarn that display the flow of the wind over the sails – important for sailing efficiently, or ‘trimming’ the sails to get the best performance from the boat.
K. The Stern – The Nautical name for the back of the boat, things positioned towards the back of the boat are described as being ‘Aft’.
L. The Bow – What sailors call the front of the boat, things positioned towards the front of the boat are described as being ‘Forward’.
Sailors have also got special names for the Left & Right hand sides of the boat – from when you are at the Stern, looking towards the Bow – Left is ‘Port’ and Right is ‘Starboard’.
There are many other special nautical terms in sailing but I will save those for another article!
Miramar Sailing School