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One Hundred Boating Terms Everyone Should Know

According to Garmin, with so many new boaters that have eventuated as a result of COVID, “being a responsible boat owner does take a little bit of work — and that includes learning the lingo”. They say “Not only are you going to want to know what it means when someone says they need to hit the head, but it’s also an issue of safety. The more you know, the better prepared you are in the event of an accident — or to avoid one”.

With this, Garmin have release 100 terms they say you should know before taking your boat out for its next spin.

Abaft – Behind the boat, or toward the rear

Abeam – On either side of the boat

Aft – Back (or stern) of the boat

Aids to navigation –  Artificial markers indicating safe or unsafe waters

AIS – Automatic identification system that allows you to identify any vessel in your immediate area that is broadcasting an AIS signal

All-round light – A light shining unbroken over the horizon at an arc of 360 degrees

Anchor light – A light that must be shown when anchored at night

Astern – Back of the boat

Autopilot – Self-steering devices that can steer your vessel on a preset course or heading

Aweigh – The position of an anchor when it is raised above the bottom

Bathymetry – The measurement of underwater depths, usually shown as contour lines and depth soundings

Batten down – Secure loose objects and hatches on the boat

Beam – Widest part of the boat

Bearing – The direction of an object, either shown on the chart as a true bearing or relative to the heading of the boat

Bight – The part of rope or line on which a knot is formed

Bilge – The interior of the hull below the floorboards

Bilge Pump – Clears standing water from the boat

Bitter end – Last part of the rope or chain

Boat hook – A tool used as a docking and undocking aid, usually with a blunt tip for pushing during undocking and a hook for docking

Boat switch – A panel used to control the vessel’s electrical functions

Boot top – The area between the water lines of a ship when fully loaded and when unloaded

Bow – Front of the boat

Bowline – A knot that forms a loop at the end of a line

Center console steer – Boat steered via a steering wheel located at the console at the center of the boat

Chart datum – The baseline of tidal height in tide tables

Chartplotter – A device that integrates GPS data with electronic navigational charts; most chartplotters also offer sonar support

Cleat – A fixture used to secure a boat to a dock

Cockpits – The area on a vessel where the main consoles are located

COLREGs – Collision regulations, or the laws that prevent collisions on the water

Come to – Point up closer to the wind

Currents – The horizontal movement of water

Docking light – Headlights on a boat that are meant to be used in close quarters

Draft – The minimum amount of water a boat needs to be able to float

DSP – Digital signal processing is the technology that is built into Fusion’s premium stereos that ensures optimised audio reproduction by minimising distortion, customising audio profiles based on specific speaker locations and protecting speakers from being overloaded with excess power

Ebb tide – When the water goes back away from the shore (opposite of rising tide)
EPIRB Emergency position indicating radio beacon

Fishfinder – A device that uses sonar waves to detect fish and other objects underwater

Flood tide – When water comes to the shore (rising tide)

Flybridge – An elevated open deck above the main bridge of a boat, usually equipped with duplicate vessel controls

Forward – Toward the direction of the bow

Four-cycle motor – Internal combustion engine in which the piston completes four separate strokes while turning the crankshaft

Freeboard – The distance from the waterline to the deck of the vessel

Galley – The cooking area of a vessel

Gib – A metal fitting that holds a member in place or presses two members together

Give-way – To slow down, stop or alter course to avoid the path of another boat

Go astern – To go backwards, or reverse engines

Gunwale – The top of each of the sides of the boat

Head – The toilet on a boat

Heave to – Steering into the wind

Helm – The area from which you steer the boat

Hull – The part of your boat that rides both in and on top of the water

Impeller – Part of the boat’s engine cooling system that pumps cold water into it to cool it down

Inboard motor – An engine enclosed within the hull of the boat

Knots – A unit of speed — one knot is one nautical mile per hour

Lanyard – A small line joining an object to the boat

Leads – Markers used in channels or bar entrances that indicate the middle of the channel
Lee shore The shore the wind is blowing toward

Leeward – The downwind side of the boat

Live sonar – Technology that allows you to see what’s happening around your boat in real time

Lower unit – Part of the outboard that takes the power and rotation from the engine and transfers them to the prop shaft and the propeller

Magnetic north – The direction in which all compass needles point

MFD – Multifunction display— typically a chartplotter at its core with support for multitudes of capabilities, like sonar, radar, autopilot, vessel data, audio control, etc.

Nautical chart – A type of map used by mariners that shows detailed water and shoreline features, such as depths, aids to navigation, obstructions and other features essential for navigation

Nautical mile – Historically defined as the meridian arc length corresponding to one minute of latitude; today the international nautical mile is defined as 1,852 metres (1.15 miles)

Navigation light – A light affixed to a boat that shows everyone the size and type of vessel, whether you’re underway or at anchor and what direction you’re travelling

On the quarter – Toward the stern

Open waters – Waters that are not enclosed

Outboard motor – Motor designed to be affixed to the outside of the hull on the transom

Outriggers – Long poles mounted to a boat that are swung out to the sides and are designed to hold fishing lines

PFD – A personal flotation device, like a life jacket

Planing – When a boat moves over the top of the water rather than through it

Port – Left (when facing the front of the boat)

Port-side – The left hand side of the boat on which a red navigational side light is displayed

PWC – Personal watercraft

Quartering sea – When water comes in on a boat’s quarter

Radar – Uses radio signal to detect objects and their positions

RMS power – The term used to describe the continuous power handling for a specific speaker or subwoofer; this is also used to describe the continuous power output of an amplifier

Scanning sonar – ClearVu/SideVu: Sonar that uses a thin, wide beam to provide clear images of structure and fish below the boat, as opposed to the cone-shaped beam used by traditional and CHIRP traditional sonar

Scope – The length of deployed anchor rode relative to the depth of the water

Side console steer – Boat steered via a steering wheel located at the console on the starboard side.

Sonar black box – A depth sounder that helps to find fish

Spring line – A pivot line used in docking, undocking or preventing the boat from moving while docked

Stand on – Continue with the same course and speed

Starboard – Right (when facing the front of the boat)

Starboard side – The right hand side of the boat, on which a green navigational side light is displayed

Stern – Back of the boat

Thruster – A transversal propulsion device built into, or mounted to, either the bow or stern of a ship or boat to make it more manoeuvrable

Tides – The rise and fall of water levels due to the attraction of the moon and sun

Tiller steer – Boat motor that is steered and throttled up/down via a lever/handle attached to the motor

Transducer – Turns electrical energy into a high frequency sound wave, serving as an antenna for a boat’s sonar system

Transom – Stern cross-section of the boat

Trim – Fore and aft balance of the boat

Trolling motor – Electric outboard motors that push or pull small boats

Two-cycle motor – Internal combustion engine that completes a power cycle with two strokes of the piston during one power cycle; this power cycle being completed in one revolution of the crankshaft

Underway – Another word for drifting; not at anchor

VHF – Very high frequency radio

Windlass – Anchor winch

Windward – The direction the wind is blowing from

Well done Garmin for creating their list.

Locally, a comprehensive list of boating terminology was developed by a number of prominent, well versed Aussies boaters for the BIA’s Discover Boating website.  To view the list produced for the local community, visit the Discover Boating Glossary here.