Are you getting ready for a sailing trip and find yourself not knowing port from Chianti or starboard from Shiraz? Wait. We’re mixing up wine and sailing, and the purpose of this article is to help you decipher tricky sailing terms. (Although, we won’t judge if you want to pour yourself a glass before you start.)
Sailing Lingo 101
Learning the arcane-sounding jargon associated with sailing will impress your friends, make you sound super cool, and can help you ace trivia night. Even more, if you’re actually participating in a sailing expedition, it’s extremely helpful to know the terminology in case someone expects you to know your left (port) from your right (starboard).
Sailing Terms to Know
PORT: If you are facing forward, this is anything to the left of the boat.
STARBOARD: Again, facing forward, this indicates anything to the right of the boat.
BOW: The front of the boat. Anything near the bow is “forward.”
STERN: The back of the boat. Anything toward the stern is “aft” or “astern.”
LINES: In sailing terms, these are ropes.
HELM: Where you steer the boat. On most boats, this is a wheel, but on smaller boats, it can be a long wooden stick known as a tiller. Both are used to control the rudder.
KEEL: This is the long, heavy fin on the bottom of the boat that sticks into the water to provide stability.
POINT OF SAIL: This refers to the boat’s direction relative to the wind. There are 8 common points of sail as indicated in this illustration.
TACK: This has two distinct and important meanings. As a verb, it means to change direction by turning the bow of the boat through the wind. As a noun tack indicates your course relative to the wind. If the wind is blowing over the port side, you’re on a port track and vice versa.
JIBE: Another way of changing direction by bringing the stern of the boat through the wind. Whether you tack or jibe depends on the situation, your surroundings, and the wind direction.
HEELING: When a sailboat is pushed by the wind and leans over in the water. Sailing aficionados find heeling over as the sails fill and pick up speed absolutely thrilling.
WINDWARD: The side of the boat closest to the wind. This will always be the high side when heeling over.
LEEWARD: The side of the boat furthest from the wind. Conversely, this will always be the low side when heeling over.
MAINSAIL: The large triangular sail just aft of the sailboat’s mast. This is the boat’s largest and most important sail. Along its bottom edge, the mainsail has a thick pole called the boom.
JIB: Forward of the mast, this is the boat’s second most common sail. Unlike the mainsail, the jib does not have a boom.