Boating learners in the classroom
Learning nautical terminology in the classroom

NauticalTermsIcons  Boating Terminology

There is specialised terminology and language associated with many professions. In boating this is more pronounced, it has its own language which has evolved over centuries to suit the needs of seafarers. Understanding this terminology is important as it underpins boating knowledge and seamanship skill.



A position out to the side of a boat on either side.

Aft Towards the back/stern of the boat.

In the back of the boat.

All-round light
 A light  showing an unbroken light over an arch of the horizon of 360 degrees. A masthead light located on power vessels is an all-round light.

Bar A shallow area formed by sand, mud,gravel, or shingle, near the mouth of a river or at the approach to a harbour which is often dangerous.

Widest part of the boat.

Bow The front of the vessel.

Knot used to form a loop in the end of a line.

Bitter end
The last part of the rope or chain.

Buoy  A floating container anchored to the sea bottom so that it remains in position. Buoys are used to mark channels, moorings , exclusion zones or race courses.

Bombora  A shallow area where waves may break.

Chart Datum
The baseline of tidal height above which tidal levels and predictions are given in Tide Tables.

Colregs International rules for the prevention of collisions at sea.  Known as Collision Regulations - The rules of the road at sea.

Come to
 Point up closer to the wind.

The minimum depth of water a vessel needs to float in.

Ebb tide
A falling or run-out tide.

Enclosed waters
Any port or navigable waterway.

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon

Any navigable channel.

Flood tide
The rising or run-out tide.

The distance from the waterline to the deck.

Reduce speed, stop, go astern or alter course so as to keep out of another vessels path.

Go astern
Reverse engines or travel backwards

Pronounced "gunnel", the top each of the vessel's sides.

Heave to
Steering into the wind and sea making minimum headway

Knots (speed)
One knot is a speed of one nautical mile per hour or 1.852km/hr.

A small line used to join to anything. Example: bucket

Leads (transits)
Marks used in channels and at bar entrances which when in line indicate the centre of the navigable channel.

Lee shore
The shore onto which the wind blows.

The downwind side.

Magnetic north

Magnetic north is the direction that a compass needle points to as it aligns with the Earth's magnetic field. 

On the quarter
Towards the stern, not abeam.

Open waters
Navigable waters which are not enclosed waters. Often referred to as "Ocean waters".

A vessel is said to be planning when it is moving over the top of the water rather than through the water.

Port -side
The left-hand side of a vessel when you are looking forward from the stern and the side on which a red navigation side light is displayed.

Personal water craft is vessel designed to be operated by a person standing, siding astride or kneeling on. It uses waterjet propulsion and has an engine in a watertight compartment.

Quartering Sea
Sea coming on a boats quarter.

The ratio of length of anchor rode in use to the vertical distance from the bow of the vessel to the bottom of the water

Spring line
A pivot line used in berthing or un-berthing preventing the vessel from moving forward or astern while made fast to a dock/jetty.

Stand on
Continue on the same course and speed.

Starboard side
The right hand side of the vessel when you are looking forward from the stern and the side on which a green navigation side light is displayed.

The back or rear of the vessel.

The stern cross-section of a boat.

Fore and aft balance of a boat

Not at anchor or made fast to shore or ground. If you are drifting you are underway.


The direction from which the wind blows.

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