Dinghy Glossary

Information kindly provided by www.go-sail.co.uk

A-C

Abaft

Toward the stern of a boat, but outside.

Abeam

Direction at right angles to the centre-line of a boat.

Adrift

Floating without any means of propulsion and without mooring.

Aft

Toward the stern of a boat.

Aground

When a boat is stranded on the shore, or on the bottom of the body of water, it is said to have ‘run aground’.

A-lee

To leeward - opposite to the source of the wind-side of a boat.

All standing

To have all sails flying when running before the wind.

Aloft

Overhead, above deck level.

Amidships

In the middle of the boat.

Anchor

Any type of hook or weight used to grip the bottom and attached by a cable prevent the boats drifting. There are different types of anchors.

Apparent wind

The combination of the true wind and the wind caused by the boat's own speed. This is the wind felt on the boat, as well as the one shown by the telltales.

Ashore

To be on or to go to the shore.

Aspect ratio

Concerns sails - the ratio of height to the length. A narrow but tall sail has a high aspect ratio, and a wide but shorter sail has a low aspect ratio.

Astern

Behind the boat.

Athwartship

At right angles to the centreline of the boat.

Autopilot

A device - may be electronic or mechanical - used for keeping the boat on course without having to steer it. It uses a compass and is attached to the boat's steering mechanism.

Auxiliary/Auxiliary power

An engine permanently installed on the boat. Unfortunately it has to be used sometimes to power the boat. The engine is also usually used to recharge the batteries.

Back a sail

To hold a sail in such a way, that the wind will fill it from the opposite to usual side. This manoeuvre is used to slow down the boat (as if applying brakes), or to force a boat to tack when in irons.

Backing wind

A change in wind direction running counter-clockwise (ie from west to southwest).

Backstay

A rigging wire used to keep the mast from moving forward, as well as to vary the amount of bend in the mast. A permanent backstay goes to the transom. Running backstays go to each gunwale.

Backwinded

If your sails are filled with the wind on the opposite side to what you want (e.g. if trimmed for the starboard tack, but getting wind from the port side), you are said to be ‘backwinded’.

Bail

To get rid of water accumulated in the boat. Dinghies are often fitted with self bailers which, when opened, drained water out of the boat.

Ballast

A very heavy material, such as lead or iron, placed in the keel of the boat, or in the bilge. It is used to provide stability. In sailing dinghies the crew uses their weight as ballast.

Bare poles

In a very strong wind it is possible to be propelled by the force of the wind on only the mast and the boom. To sail in such a way is called ‘bare poles’.

Battens

Thin strips of wood or plastic inserted into batten pockets used to stiffen the leech (to preserve the shape of the sail).

Beam

The widest part of the boat.

Bearing

The direction - based on the compass heading.

Bilge

Lower part of the hull.

Block

A device containing at least one sheave (pulley wheel) for altering the direction of a rope.

Boom

A spar (a wooden or metal pole) attached to the mast at a right angle, used to support the foot of a sail.

Boltrope

A reinforcing rope along the luff or foot of the sail, it slides into a slot along the edge of a spar (mast, boom).

Bow

The front end of a boat.

Bobstay

Brace from the end of a bowsprit to the lower point of the stern.

Bollard

Strong point for securing a rope. This may be ashore or on another vessel.

Bowsprit

A spar attached to the bow of a boat, along its centreline. The forestay can be attached to it - thus allowing for a greater sail area.

Broad Reach

Sailing with the wind slightly aft of the beam.

Bulkhead

Upright partition across the boat.

Buoy

Any object floating as a marker and anchored to the bottom. It may be used as a navigational aid, a means of mooring or as an indicator of a racing course.

Buoyancy

Force which enables anything to float. Many boats have built in buoyancy tanks in case of the hull being holed or capsizing.

Buoyancy Aid

Safety garment to keeps its wearer afloat but (in Britain) one without the qualities that permit it to be called a lifejacket.

Burgee

Small flag often at the mast head which is often used to indicate wind direction.

Catamaran

A twin-hulled craft.

Centreboard

A pivoting board that prevents the boat from sliding sideways.

Centreline

The centre of the boat - from stern to bow.

Chart

A nautically specialized map.

Chine

The angle between the side and bottom of a boat.

Cleat

A fitting for securing a line. It can be wooden, metal or nylon.

Clew

An aft corner of a triangular sail.

Close Hauled

Sailing as close as possible to the wind.

Cockpit

The rear boat area where the crew operates the boat (also referred to as the area below decks).

Crew

People who operate a boat. ‘Crew’ in a two-man sailing dinghy usually refers to the person operating the jib sail / spinnaker.

Cringle

Rope loop or eye formed in sail or net.

Cuddy

Shelter on a boat not large enough to be a cabin.

D-G

Daggerboard

Lifting keel that moves up and down through its case or trunk (instead of pivoting like a centreboard). A Mirror dinghy uses a daggerboard.

Displacement

Weight of water a craft displaces when afloat.

Draft

Depth a hull is immersed, from the surface of the water to the lowest point of the hull, keel or other extension.

Ease

Let out.

Ebb

Stream due to the dropping or falling of the tide.

Ensign

A flag indicating nationality of the vessel.

Fairlead

A piece of hardware or equipment (such as a block) used for leading the jib sheets from the deck to the cockpit. It is located astern of the beam, on each side of the boat.

Fair Wind

Following wind.

Fall Off

Turn away from the wind when sailing.

Fender

Protective pad fitted around a boat (sometimes applied to hanging pads).

Foil

An attachment on the forestay, comprising a groove into which the luff of the jib can be fed.

Foot

The bottom edge of the sail - the one attached to the boom.

Fore/Forward

To, at or near the front of the boat.

Foresail

A foresail is the sail (such as a jib) located immediately in front of the main mast. It is attached to the forestay.

Forestay

Sometimes called a jibstay, or a headstay. A cable supporting the mast, running from the bow to the top of the mast.

Furl

Roll up a sail.

Gaff

A spar in a gaff rig (four sided sails) to which the top side of the sailed is attached.

Garboard

The lowest part of a hull next to the keel. The planks each side of the keel are the 'garboard strakes'.

Genoa

Large jib sail with considerable overlap on the mainsail.

Give-way vessel

A boat that has to stay clear of the right-of-way, or stand-on boat.

Go About

Change tack to bring wind to the other side.

Gooseneck

Universal joint fitting that links the end of the boom to the mast.

Goose Winging

Sailing before the wind with the jib held out to the opposite side of the mainsail.

Gudgeon

Part of a rudder hinge with a hole to take the pintle.

Gunwale

Top side of a boat.

Gybe

Change direction with the wind aft so that the sails are blown across the boat.

H - M

Hank

A snap - plastic or stainless steel - attached to the luff of the jib, used to attach the jib to the forestay.

Halyard/Halliard

A line used to raise things on a boat, for example ‘the main halyard’ is the line used to raise the mainsail. Part of running rigging.

Harden a Sheet

Haul it in.

Hatch

A small opening with a ‘door’ on deck, allowing entry under the deck.

Head

The top part of a triangular sail or a toilet in a cruiser.

Headboard

Wood or metal plate fixed in the head of a sail.

Headsail

Any sail located in front of the main mast.

Heave to

Adjust sails and rudder so boat stops safely.

Helm

Tiller or other steering gear.

Hull

The body of the boat.

Inboard

Within the boat.

In irons

All way lost when attempting to tack. The boat is pointing into the wind with the sails flapping - it will not pay off to either tack by its own momentum and is temporarily out of control.

Jaws

The horns on the end of a gaff (fits each side of the mast).

Jib

The front sail.

Jib Sheet

The line used to pull the jib in or let it out.

Keel

A weighted extension of a boat running below it that prevents the boat from sliding sideways.

Kicking Strap

Light tackle angled from the boom to a lower part of the mast or some point on the floor of the boat. Used to tension the boom. Also known as the boom vang.

Kite

Sometimes used to indicate spinnaker.

Knot

A nautical term for speed: one nautical mile per hour. Also a term indicating a method used to tie a line.

Lanyard

Thin line holding gear in place. The lashing on the end of a shroud.

Lash

To tie something using a light rope.

Leeboards

Alternative to a keel – prevents a boat moving sideways through the water. Arranged on each side of the hull, but only one on the leeside is lowered.

Leech

The aft edge of a triangular sail - the one that's not attached to anything.

Lee shore

Shore on which the wind is blowing from seawards.

Leeward

The direction to which the wind is blowing.

Lifejacket

Buoyancy garment. In Britain the name is reserved for one that will turn a person the right way up. Otherwise it’s called a buoyancy aid.

Luff

The fore edge of a sail.

Luff up

To bring the boat's bow so close to the wind that the leech of the sail begins to flap.

Lug

Four-sided sail that goes forward as well as aft of the mast.

Mainsail

The largest sail (apart from the spinnaker).

Mainsheet

The line used to pull the mainsail in or let it out.

Mast

The pole attached to the deck at the right angle, holding up the sails.

Masthead

The top of the mast.

Mizzen

The sail set on the second (aftermost, or rear) mast - as on a ketch.

Mooring

Permanent anchorage. It consists of a heavy weight (or anchor), a chain of a certain length and a buoy. Mooring is also often used for piers, instead of pilings.

N - S

Nautical almanac

A book published annually, containing all current data: navigational, tidal, astronomical etc.

Neap Tide

When the tide range is the least - rising less and dropping less than the other tides during the four week cycle

Outhaul

A device located on the aft part of the boom, used to secure the clew, so that the foot is kept tense.

Painter

A rope used for mooring, particularly on a dinghy.

Pay off

Allow the boat to turn leeward.

Piling

A thick post supporting or mooring a dock or pier. It is deep inside the seabed and projects above the water level.

Pintle

Part of a rudder hinge that fits into a gudgeon.

Port side

The left side of the boat.

Port Tack

Sailing with the wind coming over the port bow.

Pram

Dinghy without a stem, but the planks meet at a point at gunwale level or on a bow board like a transom. A Mirror dinghy is a pram type boat.

Pulpit

Metal tubular guard rail at the bow.

Quarter

Direction between astern and abeam is 'on the quarter' (the corner between the gunwale and the transom on each side).

Rake

Slope, particularly of a mast.

Reach

Sail with the wind abeam, or almost so.

Reef

Reduce the area of a sail.

Rigging

The assembly of the boat.

Roach

Area between the curved leech of a mainsail and a straight line between the head and the clew.

Roller Reefing

Reefing by rolling some of the mainsail around the boom or the jib around the forestay.

Rowlocks

Used as guides for oars.

Rudder

The underwater, movable plate used for steering, and for providing resistance to sideways motion caused by waves and wind. Controlled by the person at the helm using a tiller or steering wheel.

Sheave

Pulley wheel over which a rope passes.

Sheet

A line used to trim sails.

Shroud

The wires holding the mast at the sides.

Sloop

A single-masted craft with a mainsail and one sail forward of the mast.

Spar

A general name for all masts, booms, gaffs, and bowsprits.

Spinnaker

Light parachute shaped head sail.

Spreaders

The wooden or metal struts attached horizontally to the upper section of the mast, on both sides. They widen the angle of the shrouds and thus provide a better support for the mast.

Spring Tide

Tide with the greatest range in a four week cycle.

Stand-on vessel

A boat that has the right-of-way over the give-way vessel. It must maintain its course and speed.

Starboard Side

The right side of the boat.

Starboard Tack

Sailing with the wind coming over the starboard bow.

Stays

Wires supporting the mast - fore and aft.

Stern

The back of the boat.

T - Z

Tack

Sail a zigzag course towards the wind. Also means the lower part of a sail.

Tackle

A system of ropes and blocks used to obtain a mechanical advantage or purchase.

Telltales

Short pieces of yarn attached to the shrouds, or the sails. At the shrouds they indicate the direction of the wind (the apparent wind), and at the sails they help to check the air flow over the sail, so that proper trimming is easier.

Thwart

Crosswise member, provides hull stiffness and forms a seat in the boat.

Tiller

A spar attached to the rudder by the rudder head, used to control the direction of the boat. A steering wheel is another mechanism.

Topping Lift

Rope used to support the boom when it is not held by the fully hoisted sail.

Topsides

The part of the hull above the water.

Trampoline

The space on a catamaran, usually made of some kind of mesh, located between the two hulls. It's a place for the crew (like a cockpit on dinghies and cruisers).

Transit

Two or more objects observed in line. Used for navigation.

Transom

Board forming the flat aft end of a hull.

Trapeze

Belt/seat arrangement slung from the mast to support a person outboard with his/her feet on the gunwale. Gives greater leverage when using body weight to balance the boat.

Traveler

A track (usually metal) with a sliding fixture. The fixture usually holds the main sheet and the sliding allows for changing sail angles.

Trim

How a boat floats, its attitude.

Trimaran

A three-hulled boat.

Turnbuckle

Tension device using right- handed and left-handed threads for adjustment. Also called a rigging screw when used on shrouds.

True Wind

The strength and direction of the actual wind blowing. While sailing, the true wind is never felt – it’s always a combination of the true wind, and the boat's speed (called the apparent wind), and it’s always a little forward to the true wind.

Trysail

A very small sail, used in heavy weather instead of a mainsail.

Una Rig

Boat rigged with a single sail.

Up wind

Object nearer the direction the wind is coming from (than the observer).

Vang

Steadying rope.

Veer

Turn away from the wind. A wind change clockwise. To veer a cable is to let it out more.

Wake

Disturbed water left astern.

Warp

Strong rope used for anchoring.

Wear

Sailing in a circle to change direction downwind to avoid a gybe. May also mean turning away from the wind, as in veer.

Winch

A mechanical device used to assist in pulling on lines. It is a reel-like part of the hardware.

Windlass

Type of winch particularly used in raising an anchor.

Windward

Towards the direction from which the wind is blowing.

Yard

Spar supporting the top of a four- sided sail, like a gaff but with part of the spar passing across the mast.

Yaw

Swinging unintentionally from side to side of the intended course.

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