Important Terminology

Learning to sail is more than getting your sea legs. In order to truly understand the nuances of sailing and racing, you must learn important terminology. All our aspiring club members must pass a simple vocabulary test to gain entry—here are a few necessary terms to start your studying.


Bow—The front of the ship. This is a very important term, as all other sailing directions relate to the bow.


Port—The left side of the ship when facing the bow.


Starboard—The right side of the ship when facing the bow.


Aft/Stern—The back of the sailboat when facing the bow.


Windward—The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. Sailboats tend to move with the wind, making this a very important term.


Leeward—The direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing.


Rudder—A flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal used to steer the ship. Located beneath the boat, the rudder can be controlled via a wheel or steering mechanism at the stern.


Mast—­The upright post at the center of the sailboat used to secure the main sail.


Boom—The horizontal pole which extends from the bottom of the mast. This secures the bottom of the main sail; adjusting the boom allows the sail to capture wind, thus creating momentum and speed.


Jibing—A basic sailing maneuver referring to the turning the stern through the wind so that the wind changes from one side to the other. The boom of the sailboat will shift from one side to the other. This maneuver involves the boat turning directly into the wind.


Tacking—The opposite of jibing. This basic maneuver refer to turning the bow of the boat through the wind, resulting in a turn.