Nautical Terms


Aloft and Alow: In the upper and lower rigging of a sailing ship respectively.
Beam and Abeam: A vessel’s width, and at right angles to the the centerline of the ship’s keel, respectively.
Belowdecks: Beneath the solid “weather deck” of a ship. There is no “downstairs” aboard a ship.
Bow and Stern: The forward-most and aft-most extensions of the deck.
Fore and Aft: Forward and rearward aboard a ship. Also “afore” meaning in front of, and “abaft” meaning behind.
Port and Starboard: The left and right direction or side, when facing the ship’s bow.

Parts of a Ship

Bilge: The lowest interior compartment of a vessel.
Bollard: A post to which ropes are secured.
Boom: A fore-and-aft rigged spar supporting the lower edge of a sail.
Bowsprit: A spar extending forward from the bow to support forward sails.
Crow’s Nest: A platform for a lookout near the top of a mast.
Draft: Measure of how deep the ship is, from the keel to the waterline.
Forecastle: The often-raised forward part of the weather deck of a vessel. Also called the “fo’c’sle.”
Gaff: A spar to support the top of a fore-and-aft sail; also a hooked pole for landing fish.
Galley: A vessel’s kitchen.
Helm: A wheel or tiller by which a ship is steered.
Hull: The outer body of a ship.
Jib: A triangular sail suspended from a forward stay.
Keel: The bottom of a hull, and the main source of a vessel’s structural strength.
Lateen Sail: A fore-and-aft rigged triangular sail set on a sloping yard.
Launch: Any small boat used to travel between the ship and a dock, shore, or another ship (such as a gig, cutter, jolly boat, barge, or pinnace.)
Mast: A long spar rising from the keel or deck of a ship and supporting the yards, booms, and rigging.
Mizzen: Any rigging belonging to the aft-most mast of a ship.
Quarterdeck: The part of the deck abaft of the mainmast.
Ratlines: Ropes or lines that serve as steps for going aloft.
Sheet: A rope for adjusting a sail.
Shroud: Any rope converging from both sides of a ship to support a mast.
Spar: Any pole meant to support a sail.
Stay: Any rope for steadying masts on a fore-and-aft axis.
Sterncastle: A ship’s enclosed, aft-most elevated portion.
Transom: The flat back panel forming the stern of a ship.
Waist Deck: The upper deck amidships-the working area of a deck.
Weather Deck: The unenclosed deck or decks of a vessel, which are exposed to the weather.
Yard: The spar from which square-rigged or lateen sails are supported.

Nautical Terms

A Jolly Rogers Tale: Skull & Shackles Kevtor Kevtor