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Sailing Jargon You Should Know Before Your First Sail

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

Sailing is a great way to spend a day out on the water, but it can be confusing if you don't know the lingo. Here are some common sailing terms you should know before your first sail.


Aft - Towards the back/stern of the boat. For example, "move aft" or "look aft."


Bow - The front/pointy end of the boat. Never say "the ship's bow," as this is a term used only for naval vessels. Instead, say "the bow of the boat."


Bulkhead - A wall on a boat, typically found below deck.


Clew - The lowest corner of a sail, attached to the boom.





Cockpit - An area where the crew sits that is protected from the elements by a coaming.


Tack - Changing direction so that the wind blows across the bow of the boat from one side to the other. When tacking, you will turn the boat through the eye of the wind. Say "we're going to tack" or "tack when ready." Don't say "tack ship" as this again is a naval term.


Heel - When a boat leans to one side due to wind or waves. You may hear someone say "we're heeling over." To correct this, you can let out sails or move weight around in order to bring the boat back upright. Heeling shouldn't be too extreme as it can capsize a vessel.


By familiarizing yourself with some basic sailing terms, you'll be ready for your next trip out on the water! Just remember, when in doubt, ask your experienced friends or charter company for clarification - they'll be happy to help you enjoy your time sailing.

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