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15 Sailing Terms To Know Before You Set Sail

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

Are you going on a sailing trip? Do you want to have an idea of sailing terms what the skipper means when calling out, "coming about" or "jibing".

We have put together this beginner sailing terms list for you to gain a basic understanding of sailing before leaving the dock. This list is not in alphabetical order because we think you will have a better understanding of these sailing terms from when you first board the boat.

Beginner Sailing Terms Simplified

Bow: The front of the boat.

Stern: The back of the boat.

Port: The Left side of the boat. Remember by thinking "port" is four letters and "left" is four letters.

Starboard: The right side of the boat.

Helm: The part that houses the wheel and electronics for navigating and steering the boat.

Hull: The body of the boat. For sailboats, popular terms are monohull or multi-hulled (catamaran).

Dock Lines: The ropes "lines" that are used for tying the boat to the dock.

Boom: A large horizontal pole that holds the bottom (foot) of the mainsail. It's attached to the mast.

Mast: A large verticle pole that supports the sails.

Mainsail: The large sail that is behind the mainmast.

Jib Sail: The general term for a head sail that is located closest to the bow of the boat.

Sheets: These are the "ropes" that connect to the lower corner of the sails.

Halyard: These are the "ropes" that connect to the tops of the sails which are used for hoisting the sails.

Jibing: A sailing maneuver when the wind is at the back of you (heading downwind) and you turn the stern of the boat across the wind. The sails will be mostly out filled with wind.

Tacking: A sailing maneuver when you sail the bow of the boat into the wind by turning the bow across the wind. Picture a zig-zag pattern.

We know this is not an exhaustive list of sailing terms. However, we wanted to provide you with a few key sailing terms so that you feel more comfortable and confident when sailing.


Before you set sail, you can also take a FREE Beginner's Sailing Course from the American Sailing Association (ASA). How cool is that! We are not affiliated with ASA, but we did take the course and we think it's a great introductory course to learn sailing terms before you go sailing.

Bon Voyage!

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Hello! I'm Tiffany, a creative travel writer, mother to three awesome kids, and Floridian. We like to visit beautiful Florida resorts and beaches, Florida State Parks, and explore destinations by boat. I like to write about our travel adventures and provide tips to other families traveling or relocating to the Sunshine State.


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