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Marine Glossary Terms

Learn marine and sailing terms quickly by searching through the information available below.

Nautical mile : A unit of length used in navigation - 1,852 meters/1.15 miles

Navy : The organization of military vessels of a country

Noreaster : Northeaster. A storm blowing from the northeast

Northeaster : Noreaster. A storm blowing from the northeast

Oakum : Loose hemp or jute fiber obtained by unravelling old ropes. When impregnated with tar it was used to caulk seams and pack joints in wooden ship

Oar : A pole used to propel or steer a boat

Oarsman : A person who rows a boat

Outhaul : Places backward tension on the clew of the mainsail. Flattens the lower one-third of the mainsail

Pole Lift : Line controls height of spinnaker pole

Port : The left side of the boat (when facing forward)

Port Tack : Wind is coming from the port (left) side of the boat

Quarterdeck : The stern area of a ship's upper deck. Normally reserverd for the commanding officers

Quay : A wharf along the shore where vessels can dock to load and unload cargo or passengers

Reaching : When the boat is traveling approximately perpendicular to the wind, this is called reaching. A 'close' reach is somewhat toward the wind, and 'broad' reach is a little bit away from the wind (a 'beam' reach is with the wind precisely at a right angle to the boat). For most modern sailboats, reaching is the fastest way to travel. Different boats have different performance characteristics: on some boats, the beam reach is the fastest point of sail; on others, a broad reach is faster.

Rudder : The device used to steer a vessel

Running downwind : Sailing with the wind coming directly at the stern of the boat or behind the boat. This is usually when a spinnaker is used.

Running Rigging : Lines which control and adjust the sails

Sheet : Line used to adjust a sail against the force of the wind. The mainsail has 1 sheet. The jib has a working (windward) sheet and a lazy (leeward) sheet. (Main sail sheets, jib sheets, spinnaker sheets)

Shoal : A shallow area, often an underwater sandbar visible at low tide

Shrouds : Cables which give lateral stability to the mast

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