A beginner’s guide to sailing terminology

Welcome to the exciting world of sailing! Whether you're embarking on a sailing adventure for the first time or looking to expand your knowledge, understanding the most famous sailing terms will enhance your experience on the water. So, grab your compass and let's dive into this beginner's guide to sailing terminology!


The front part of the boat is known as the bow. It’s an important term in this beginner’s guide to sailing terminology as it’s often used to give directions and refer to specific areas of the vessel.


Opposite to the bow, the stern is the back part of the boat. Due to the importance of the stern for navigation and maneuvering instructions, it is important to familiarize yourself with this term.


When you face the bow, the left side of the boat is referred to as the port. Remembering this term is crucial for understanding directions and communicating with other sailors.


Similarly, the right side of the boat, when facing the bow, is known as the starboard. Paying attention to this term will ensure effective communication and prevent confusion.


The Windward is the direction from which the wind is blowing. It’s also important to know this term as it affects the boat’s movement and sail adjustment.

man steering a sailing yacht


The opposite of windward, leeward refers to the direction away from which the wind is blowing. It’s crucial to understand this term when planning your sailing route and adjusting sails.


Tacking is a sailing maneuver used to change the direction of the boat by turning the bow through the wind. It involves crossing the wind from one side to the other, and it’s an essential skill for sailing against the wind.


The jib is a triangular sail at the front of the boat that helps in steering and propulsion. When controlling the boat’s movement, it is vital to understanding the function and purpose of the jib.


The mainsail is the large sail on the main mast of the boat. It captures the wind’s power and therefore provides the primary source of propulsion. Being familiar with the mainsail is essential for controlling the boat’s speed and direction.


The boom is a horizontal pole that extends from the bottom of the mast. It holds the foot of the mainsail and helps control the sail’s shape and angle. Awareness of the boom is important for avoiding accidental contact, known as getting “bonked.”


Another term is the helm, it refers to the steering mechanism of the boat. It includes the tiller or the steering wheel, depending on the type of boat. Understanding the helm allows you to navigate and control the direction of your sailing vessel.


In sailing, a knot is a unit of speed measurement, equal to one nautical mile per hour. This term determines the boat’s velocity and is essential for calculating travel time and planning.

This beginner’s guide to sailing terminology contains just a few of the many terms you’ll encounter on your sailing journey. When gaining more experience, you’ll become more familiar with the unique language of sailors. Embrace the adventure, keep learning, and enjoy the thrill of the open sea with Tubber. Happy sailing!

Set sail now!

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