Study Basic Sailing Terms Before You Learn to Sail

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What basic sailing terms should I know before I learn to sail?

Study Basic Sailing Terms Before You Learn to Sail

If you just signed up for a basic sailing class, you are probably quite excited. We've all seen how majestic sailing can be. It looks effortless as a sailboat glides along the water but it's not. But when you first attend your sailboat lessons, you may feel very overwhelmed. Sailors talk a different language and--at first--it may not make sense. There are a lot of new terms you will be required to learn. What is the keel? What is the rudder? What does it mean when a sailboat is 'running'? Before you begin to learn to sail, it might be helpful to study some of the basic sailing terminology. Here are some terms and definitions to get you started:

  • A hull is the body of the boat.
  • A cockpit is where the crew sits to operate it.
  • A keel is a vertical fin under the boat that adds stability.
  • A rudder is an underwater fin that moves to help with steering.
  • A tiller is a stick used to steer the boat from the cockpit.
  • Rigging is the adjustable lines and hardware used to control the sails.
  • Sheets move sails in and out while halyards move sails up and down.
  • The mainsail is the larger sail that sits behind the mast.
  • The mainsheet is its sheet.
  • A jib is the sail set between the forwardmost mast and the headstay.
  • A headstay is a line of wire or steel rod that supports the mast and adjusts its bend.
  • The port side of the boat is its left side as the boat moves forward.
  • The starboard side is the right.
  • The bow is the front and the stern is the back.
  • A tack is the way the boat is heading in relation to the wind. Tacking is changing direction from one side of wind to the other--while sailing towards the wind.

At first, these terms will seem hard to remember. But the more you are exposed to the 'lingo' of sailing the more it will stick with you. By taking a sailing course through a certified school, you will have the best chance of learning basic sailing in a way that becomes second nature to you.



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