An Expert's Guide to Nautical Terminology

By Courtnie Packer
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There is nothing like spending a little time out on the water. Boating is a hobby that individuals of all ages enjoy. It is a pastime that encompasses much needed knowledge such as boat types, tools, structures and more. And because there is so much involved in this hobby, it can be difficult to know it all and truly get a good grasp on what this sport is all about.

Whether you are riding in a sailboat or driving a remote control boat, enhancing your nautical knowledge can make your boating excursion even more enjoyable and you can become an expert in no time. Below are several boating terms that will help make you a pro when it comes to life out on the water.

Aft: The rear of a boat.

Aloft: Above the deck on a boat.

Aweigh: An anchor that is raised high enough to clear the bottom of the ocean, lake or other body of water.

Beam: The beam is a measurement of the widest part of a boat.

Bitt: A bitt is a vertical post on the dock to which docking lines are secured.

Cast off: A term used to describe a ship's departure from the shore. It comes from the act of untying the docking lines and throwing (casting) them onto the deck of the departing boat.

Flat-bottom boats: This type of boat has a flat hull. These boats are mainly used in calm waters because the flat hull makes the boat unstable in uneven and rough waters. Also, items and individuals on this boat must be positioned very carefully to avoid flipping the boat with an unbalanced load.

Head: This term has two meanings. First, the head can refer to as the upper corner of a triangular sail. It also refers to the toilet.

Hull: The hull is the part of the boat that sits in the water. There are several different types of hulls, including flat, round, multi and v-shaped.

Mayday: When there are problems while people are out on the water, "Mayday" is the universal distress signal they use to call for help on their radios. This lets other individuals on the same radio frequencies know that a ship is in serious trouble.

Mooring: The area on a pier or dock to which boats are tied to secure them.

Multi-hull boat: This type of boat has several hulls on the bottom of the boat, which provide ultimate stability. The multiple hulls make it much easier to balance large loads. Many houseboats and pontoon boats have multi-hull construction.

Nautical Mile: A nautical mile is a much different type of measurement than a mile on land. A nautical mile is one minute of latitude, or 6,076 feet.

Round-bottom boats: Round-bottom boats have a round hull. Round-bottom boats include sailboats and canoes. A round hull does not stabilize the boat as well as other hull types can, and it is common for this type of boat to tip over if operated clumsily.

Sounding: A sounding is a measurement of the water's depth at any given point. Soundings are regularly included in charts.

Underway: Underway is a term used to describe a moving boat, especially at the beginning of a voyage.

V-shaped boats: These boats have a v-shaped hull that provides enhanced stability and control. You will see a v-shaped hull on many speedboats and racers.

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