If you want to be a boater, you’ll need to learn a new vocabulary because boats don’t have a front and back, or a kitchen and a bathroom. Here’s a guide to basic nautical terminology, specifically having to do with the parts of a boat.
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1. Ballast – Weight in the form of heavy material (water, metal or stone) placed low in a boat hull to improve stability and performance of the boat.
2. Berth – A bed or bunk if it’s in a boat or a slip for a boat to dock in.
3. Bilge – The lowest part of a boat hull that sometimes collects water.
4. Bimini – A canvas or composite (hard) top attached to a boat to provide protection from sun and rain.
5. Bow – The front of the boat. Multihulls may have two or three bows.
6. Bulkhead – An upright wall within the hull of a boat that may add structural integrity or a separation of living spaces.
7. Cabin – A room inside the boat, which can refer to the entire interior or just one room designed for sleeping.
8. Casting deck/platform – A surface at the front or back part of a boat that’s elevated so you can fish without obstructions and have a better view of the water.
9. Cleat – A wood, plastic or metal fitting onto which you tie or loop a line. This can be on a boat or a dock.
10. Cockpit – A protected, somewhat enclosed space on deck, usually from where a boat is controlled or steered.
11. Console – A raised structure on the deck of a boat that usually holds the helm or steering station and may include a toilet or stowage space in the compartment below.
12. Deck – The exterior flat surface of a boat.
13. Dinette – An area of the boat with a table and seats used for dining.
14. Flybridge – Also referred to as a “flying bridge” this is the area on top of a boat cabin, which usually holds a steering station and sometimes a social space.
15. Galley – A boat kitchen, which may be inside the boat or outside on deck.
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16. Gunwale – Also known as gunnel, this is the outermost top edge of a boat hull, usually where the deck and hull come together.
17. Hardtop – A top or roof added to a boat cabin-top or console. It serves to protect the driver and sometimes also passengers from the elements.
18. Hatch – An opening in the deck or cabin of a boat that serves as a window or door.
19. Helm – The steering station, which includes engine controls and a wheel or joystick.
20. Hull – The body or shell of the vessel.
21. Livewell – A tank designed to keep caught fish or bait alive during fishing.
22. Propeller – A rotating device with blades designed to move a boat forward or backward through the water.
23. Rigging – The wires, cables or lines, which support a mast on a boat.
24. Rudder – An appendage below the waterline that steers the boat.
25. Saloon – A room in a boat that is an interior social space used like a living room in a house.
26. Stern – The back part of the boat.
27. Swim platform – A structure fixed to the transom or aft portion of the boat designed to make getting onto the boat from the water or dock easier.
28. T-top – A metal or composite structure designed to hold a canvas or hardtop to protect the boat driver from the sun.
29. Transom – The back of the boat that comes up from the hull bottom and connects the two hull sides together.
30. V-berth – A bed in the bow of a boat. Since bows are usually pointy, the bed or the room that holds that bed is V-shaped.