Maritime Musings

Glossary o’ sailing terms.

Becky asked me to define some sailing terms. I may update this occasionally.

  • Aft– toward the back of the boat.
  • Aloft–up in the rigging
  • Block– a pulley. It is part of a block and tackle system (pronounced with a hard A). Our pulleys are made out of wood and metal hardware, and we are sanding and oiling them.
  • Bomb shelter– this is peculiar to the Denis Sullivan. Right now we are living in the basement of the Discovery World Museum.
  • Bulkhead– wall
  • centerboard– runs from fore to aft on the keel. It keeps the boat from going sideways. We like the centerboard.
  • fo’c’sle– literally, “forecastle,” it is where the sailors sleep. It is forward of the foremast, hence “forecastle.”
  • fore-and-aft sail– a sail that runs down the center of a boat, from forward to aft. This is opposed to a square sail, which is perpendicular (or squared) to the centerboard of the boat.
  • Forepeak– within the angle of the bow. Storage area that also often contains the anchor chain locker. It is dark, and damp, and full of rust, and another good place to keep supplies.
  • forward– toward the front of the boat
  • Galley– the kitchen
  • Head– toilet
  • Lay– “go” or “do” or “start” as in “Lay aft” when you’ve done something wrong, because you have to go aft to talk to the mate or captain.
  • Lazarette– or “Laz.” A storage area under the aftermost deck on a boat. Paint supplies, tools, spare lines. I’ve been painting our laz intermittently for the past few weeks, and unintentionally getting high on paint fumes because it’s so poorly ventilated. And yes, I have been wearing a respirator.
  • Main Hold– The biggest cabin, which has most of our bunks. It would have been used for storage in the past
  • Main Saloon–some boats call the main hold that. The Virginia does, anyway, and that is where the crew eats on that boat. When there was a crew :(
  • Overhead– Ceiling
  • Pilot House– A cabin that is level with the deck on the DS, but can be slightly above or below. You don’t have to go all the way below deck to get in to it usually. It has our navigation systems, charts, and is usually attached to the captain’s cabin.
  • Port– when you face the bow, the left side of the boat
  • ratlines– the rope ladder that takes you aloft
  • Rick Box– Also peculiar to the Sullivan, a big cabinet that lives between the mainmast and the galley hatch that holds paint supplies and some tools. It was built by our wonderful volunteer, Rick.
  • Rudder– controls direction of the boat
  • Running Rigging– lines on the boat that move, and are part of a block and tackle system.
  • Sole–floor
  • Starboard– when you face the bow, the right side of the boat. 500 years ago there would have been a steering board on the right side of a vessel, hence “starboard.”
  • Standing Rigging– Lines that don’t move. Usually metal cable stays. These guys keep the masts from flopping around, which is nice.
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