Boating & Sailing Terms

We are assembling a large collection of boating and sailing terms.
This will be a great resource for all boaters.
To view the page of terms, click on the letter that the term starts with
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safe overhead clearance - A distance that needs to be kept between the mast and overhead electrical lines to prevent electrical arcing.
safety harness - A device worn around a person's body that can be attached to jack lines to help prevent a person from becoming separated from the boat.
safety pin - 1 - Any pin that is used to prevent a fitting from falling open. 2 - A pin used to keep the anchor attached to its anchor roller when not in use.
sail shape - The shape of a sail, with regard to its efficiency. In high winds a sail would probably be flatter, in low winds rounder. Other circumstances can cause a sail to twist. Controls such as the cunningham, boom vang, outhaul, traveler, halyards, leech line, sheets, and the bend of the mainmast all can affect sail shape. Also see sail trim.
sail track - A slot into which the bolt rope or lugs in the luff of the sail are inserted to attach the sail. Most masts and roller reefing jibs use sail tracks. Systems with 2 tracks can allow for rapid sail changes.
sail - A large piece of fabric designed to be hoisted on the spars of a sailboat in such a manner as to catch the wind and propel the boat.
sailboat - A boat which uses the wind as its primary means of propulsion.
sailcloth - A fabric, usually synthetic, used to make sails.
sailing directions - Books that describe features of particular sailing areas, such as hazards, anchorages, etc.
sampson post - A strong post used for to attach lines for towing or mooring.
scale - Climb.
scend - The distance that the trough of a wave is below the average water level. With large waves in shallow water the scend is important to help determine whether a boat will run aground.
schooner - A sailboat with two or more masts. The aft mast is the same size or larger than the forward ones - . Also see ketch and yawl.
scow - A boat with a flat bottom and square ends.
screw - A propeller.
scupper - An opening through the toerail or gunwale to allow water to drain back into the sea.
scuttlebutt - Gossip. People talking about things that may or may not be true, usually about other people or events. The term scuttlebutt evolved from the name of a keg containing water and alcohol that sailors used to gather about before meals.
sea buoy - The last buoy as a boat heads to sea.
sea cock - A valve used to prevent water from entering at a through hull.
sea kindly - A boat that comfortable in rough weather.
sea level - The average level of the oceans, used when finding water depths or land elevations.
sea room - Room for a boat to travel without danger of running aground.
sea - 1 - A body of salt water. A very large body of fresh water. 2 - Any body of salt water when talking about its condition or describing the water around a boat. Heavy for example.
seamanship - The ability of a person to motor or sail a vessel, including all aspects of its operation.
secondary port - A port that is not directly listed in the tide tables but for which information is available as a difference from a nearby standard port.
sector - An arc of a circle in which certain types of navigational lightlights known as sector lights are visible.
secure - To make fast. To stow an object or tie it in place.
semaphore - A method of signaling using two flags held in position by the signaler.
separation zone - A region drawn on a chart to separate two lanes that have shipping vessels moving in opposite directions.
serve - To wind small line around a rope to protect it from chafechaffing and weather.
shake out - To remove a reef from a sail.
she - All boats are referred to as female. She is at anchor. Her sails are set.
sheathing - A covering to protect the bottom of a boat.
sheepshank - A knot used to temporarily shorten a line.
ship - 1 - A large vessel. 2 - To take an object aboard, such as cargo, or water. 3 - To put items such as oars on the boat when not in use.
shoal - 1 - Shallow water. 2 - An underwater sand bar or hill that has its top near the surface.
shore - The edge of the land near the water.
shroud - Part of the standing rigging that helps to support the mast by running from the top of the mast to the side of the boat. Sailboats usually have one or more shrouds on each side of the mast.
side lights - Green and red lights on the starboard and port sides of the boat required for navigation at night. Each light is supposed to be visible through an arc of 112.5, beginning from directly ahead of the boat to a point 22.5 aft of the beam.
sideslip - The tendency of a boat to move sideways in the water instead of along its heading due to the motion of currents or currents.
single sideband - A type of radio carried on a boat to transmit long distances.
skiff - A small boat.
sloop - A style of sailboat characterized by a single mast with one mainsail and one foresail. Also see cutter.
slot - The opening between the jib and the mainsail. Wind passing through this opening increases the pressure difference across the sides of the mainsail, helping to move the boat forward.
snap hook - A metal fitting with a arm that uses a spring to close automatically when connected to another object.
snatch block - A block that can be opened on one side, allowing it to be place on a line that is already in use.
snub - To suddenly stop or secure a line.
sound - Signals required by navigation rules describing the type of vessels and their activities during times of fog.
south wind, southerly wind - Wind coming from the south.
south - One of the 4 cardinal compass points. South is the direction toward the South Pole and is at 180 on a compass card.
spar buoy - A tall buoy used as a navigational aid.
spar - A pole used as part of the sailboat rigging, such as masts, booms, and gaffs.
spherical buoy - A ball shaped buoy marking a navigational hazard.
spill the wind - To head up into the wind or loosen a sail, allowing the sails - to luff.
spindle buoy - A tall cone shaped navigational buoy.
spinnaker halyard - A halyard used to raise the spinnaker.
spinnaker pole lift - Also spinnaker lift. A line running from the top of the mast, used to hold the spinnaker pole in place.
spinnaker - A very large lightweight sail used when running or on a broad reach.
splice - The place where two linelines are joined together end to end.
spreader - Small pars extending toward the sides from one or more places along the mast. The shrouds cross the end of the spreaders, enabling the shrouds to better support the mast.
spring line - Docking lines that help keep the boat from moving fore and aft while docked. The after bow spring line is attached near the bow and runs aft, where it is attached to the dock. The forward quarter spring line is attached to the quarter of the boat, and runs forward, being attached to the dock near the bow of the boat.
square rigged - A sailboat having square sails hung across the mast.
SSB - Single sideband radio. A type of radio used on a boat to transmit for long distances.
stability sail - A vertical pole on which flags can be raised.
stall - 1 - To stop moving. 2 - Air is sail to stall when it becomes detached from the surface it is flowing along. Usually air travels smoothly along both sides of a sail, but if the sail is not properly trimmed, the air can leave one of the sides of the sail and begin to stall. Stalled sails are not operating efficiently.
standing rigging - The rigging of a boat that does not normally need to be adjusted.
starboard tack - A sailboat sailing on a tack with the wind coming over the starboard side and the boom on the port side of the boat. If two boats under sail are approaching, the one on port tack must give way to the boat on starboard tack.
steadying sail - Also stability sail or riding sail. Any small sail set to help the boat maintain its direction without necessarily moving, as when at anchor or in heavy weather.
steep seas - Tall and short waves caused by water current and wave directions being opposite to the direction of the wind.
steerage way - In order for the rudder to be able to properly steer the boat, it must be moving through the water. The speed necessary for control is known as steerage way.
stem - The forward edge of the bowbow. On a wooden boat the stem is a single timber.
stepped - 1 - A mast that is in place is stepped. 2 - Where the mast is stepped, as in keel stepped or deck stepped.
stern line - A line running from the stern of the boat to a dock when moored.
stern pulpit - Pushpit. A sturdy railing around the deck at the stern.
stern - The aft part of a boat. The back of the boat.
stiff - A boat that resists heeling.
stock - A crossbeam at the upper part of an anchor.
stopper knot - A knot used in the end of a line to prevent the end from running through a block or other narrow space. Stopper knots prevent a line that slips from unthreading itself and getting lost.
storm trysail - A very strong sail used in stormy weather. It is loose footed, being attached to the mast, but not the boom. This helps prevent boarding waves from damaging the sail or the rigging.
stow - To put something away.
strike - To lower.
stuffing box - A fitting around the propeller shaft to keep the bearing lubricated and to keep water out of the boat.
superstructure - Cabins and rooms above the deck of a ship.
swab - 1 - A mop made from rope. 2 - To use such a mop.
swinging bridge - A bridge that swings away from the waterway so that boats may pass beside it.
swinging circle, swinging room - The distance a boat can move around its anchor. Swinging room is important because if other boats or objects are within a boat's swinging circle they may collide.
swivel - A rotating fitting used to keep a line from tangling.
set - The manner in which an object is in place. Are the sails set correctly?

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