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Parts of a Sailboat - Deck Hardware and Sailboat Rigging Terms

Sailboat terms yacht and different parts of a sail boat includes names of boat parts and sailboat part names along with sailboat rigging terms

When learning how to sail, knowing the parts of a sailboat or sailing terminology is important as most sailing lessons refer to these terms. Modern sailing boats differ but the basic boat parts and terminology is the same, from the sailing dinghy to yachts. Recognizing boat terminology aids in communication when at sea between captain and crew. Sailing certificate courses such as RYA, ASA and US Sailing require a basic understanding of these terms.

A sailboat consist of eight basic parts, the hull, tiller, rudder, mainsail, mast, boom, foresail and keel. The hull is the body of the boat and its symmetrical shape helps balance the boat. This then helps in reducing drag, being the backward pull caused by water friction.

As with many sports and professions, sailing has acquired its own terminology. Developed since the time of the Romans or earlier, when sea trade in the Mediterranean was at its height. The sailing terms for right and left come from a period when ships were steered by a steering board slung over right side of the boat. Great force was applied to these boards to make the ship turn.

When coming into port and docking they could not dock on the side the steering board was positioned as it would limit the ability of the ship to manoeuvre. Therefore the other side of the boat, facing the port, became to be named the 'port' side whereas the side of the boat where the steering board was was known as 'starboard'.

No matter what shape it is, the sailboat terms for the front of any boat or yacht deck is called the bow and the back is the stern and the sides of the sailboat are identified by facing the bow onboard the vessel:

Port and Starboard

  • Port side is to the left and
  • Starboard is to the right.

A simple reminder is the saying: ‘There was no red port left in the bottle’. All objects, appearing on the left side of the boat are described as being to port and are designated by the red colour while those on the right side are on starboard and designated by the green colour.

Ahead, means in front, abeam to the side and astern behind the boat. Fore means at or toward the front and and aft, the rear. The beam of a sailboat is its width, measured at its widest point, and its length overall is the length from the most forward part to the most rearward part.

The hull is the body of a boat; the waterline is the dividing line between the hull below the water and the hull above it. The hull above is termed the topsides and the freeboard is the vertical measurement from the waterline to the gunwale or gunnel (where the sides join the deck) and that below the line is the under body. The bow and stern extend ahead of, and behind the waterline, and is called the bow and stern overhangs.

The power source of a sailboat is the wind. This power is captured by the mainsail and the headsail. The mainsail is the larger of the sails that harnesses the wind power to propel the sailboat. The vertical side of this triangular sail known as the sail luff, attaches to the mast at the rear, and the horizontal side known as the sail foot, is secured to the boom. The boom is rotated horizontally from the mast which allows the mainsail to act as a vertical wing.

This wing shape when correctly presented to the wind direction called the Angle of Incidence causes a high and low pressure on either side of the sail which has an effect of sucking the boat forward. Finding the correct angle of the sail to the wind causes the maximum power. The headsail is either a jib, a genoa or a spinnaker. Each of these sails are used for different purposes, depending on which direction the boat is sailing in relation to the wind direction.

The primary purpose of the jib and genoa is to harness the wind power but they also act as a device to increase the wind speed across the mainsail when sailing towards or across the wind direction. The jib has the effect of steering the bow of the boat when the boat is tacking.

Included in the parts of a sailboat is the deck hardware and sailboat rigging terms. Deck hardware is everything mounted on the deck and includes the mast and boom that support the sails and the anchor.

Standing rigging is the wires that hold in place the mast, and running rigging is the ropes or wires used to hoist, lower and control the sails.

Consider the tiller as the boat's steering wheel moving the rudder which steers the boat. As the rudder is at the stern of the boat, the boat is in fact steered from the rear unlike cars which are steered from the front. To steer a boat to the right, pull the tiller to the right side of the boat which causes the rudder to alter its direction.

The keel is a long, slim board jutting out from the bottom of the hull. The keel is aerodynamically designed to cause little drag in the water and to provide balancing force to counteract the force of the sails. It is designed to stop the boat from capsizing as well as stopping the boat slipping sideways when tacking. When it comes to sailing dinghies, a centerboard or daggerboard performs the same purpose as the keel. The centerboard and daggerboard have the advantage of being able to be raised or lowered into the water. These boards are usually down when sailing towards the wind and raised when sailing downwind.

The forefoot is the underwater angle of the bow curving back to the keel (or on some boats, the keel). The heel is the back corner of the keel and the front is referred to as the foot or forefoot. The front face of the keel is the leading edge and the back the trailing edge.

sailboat parts deck hardware

Sailboat rigging sailboat mast hardware sail boat rigging and sailboat parts names terminology