It is your first boat adventure and you want to feel comfortable. There are common boating and yachting terms that will help you understand the process. While boating and yachting are fun, they can be dangerous if you are not familiar with what to do and parts of the sailing vehicle. Read on to discover common language used in boating.

Bow, Stern and Amidship

Simply put, this is the front, back and middle of the boat. The bow is the front f the boat, the stern is the back of the boat and the amidship refers to the middle of the boat. Captains of the boat will direct you to the bow, stern or amidship when they need everyone in one location.


The beam is the widest part of any boat or yacht and is often used to determine angles needed for navigational lights while traveling at sea. The beam is the source of the direction of the boat lights that help with having a clear view of large fish, icebergs or other obstructions in your path.

The Transom

The Transom term is used in reference to smaller boats. it is the back of the boat where the engine is mounted. The transom is one of the most important terms to understand for any small boat lover.

Port And Starboard

Port describes the left side of the boat and starboard describes the right side of the boat. While this may seem simple, it can be confusing depending upon where you are on the boat. If you are facing the bow, the port will be on your left side and the starboard will be on your right. This is a simple trick to help you determine the correct side during a major and dangerous situation where you need to know where to go for safety. During night sailing, when you turn on your lights, the port side is red and the starboard side is green. This helps oncoming boats and yachts to understand your course of direction and who has the right of way for passing each other. When you are approaching a ship and see a green light, then you have the right of way and can pursue your course. However, if the oncoming ship has a red light, then you must stop and allow the oncoming boat or yacht to pass before continuing on course.

Down Below And Ladder

There are many boats and yachts who have a lower level that is referred to as down below. The ladder is the small stairs that help you get to the area below or to the engine room through a hatch. The area down below may have a bedroom on a luxury yacht and an engine room which is the operational site that will ultimately drive the boat or yacht.


A passage for more than one person is reserved for a large yacht. It is often called companionway and is big enough for your companion and you. Having a larger passage way allows both people to quickly get to safety during a storm or other dangerous dilemma.

The Galley

The galley always refers to the kitchen on a boat, cruise ship or yacht. It is a larger area on the boat where you can store food and cook for eating your daily meals. Galleys on cruise ships are large enough to handle stoves and other cooking utensils needed for serving and feeing a large number of people at one time.

The Head

The head of the boat is the bathroom. Yachts will often have elaborate bathrooms that look like home bathrooms. Cruise ships may have smaller bathroom inside the rooms, but larger more elaborate bathrooms in common areas on the ship. Smaller boats may not have a head. People using smaller boats will use an area near the bow as the head or bathroom.

Lines And Hawser

A line on a boat is a rope that has been taken from your home to be used on the boat. Lines will be used for many reasons or emergency situations. When a line is used to tie up cargo ships it is called a hawser.


A map of the sea, ocean and its underwater features is called a chart. These maps can be physically hand written or electronic systems. They help to show you the direction to go and if there will be any underwater obstructions in your way. Always bring a written map in case your electronic chart devices fail.


Fenders are the inflatable rubber bumpers used to protect the hull of the boat. People sailing will throw them over the side of the boat before docking.

Cuddy Cabin or Cabin

The cuddy cabin or cabin refers to the living area on the boat. Large yachts have a bedroom that can be as large as a home bedroom. Cruise ships have multiple cabins for patrons to enjoy. Most cruise ships have smaller cabins for customers to use, with the belief that there is so much to do on the ship, that most people will not be in their cabins for any long periods of time.


The berth is referred to as the sleeping area on a smaller boat. It is also the place where the smaller boat is tied up.

Reading this article will help if this is your first time on a small boat, cruise ship or yacht. For more common language used in boating, visit Understanding the common language used in boating helps a new person going out to sail feel more comfortable with the boating experience. A first time on sea can lead to nervousness, anxiety and feeling lost. Ease your mind by learning these terms on your traveling voyage. Knowing the different parts of a boat, cruise ship or yacht will help you know what the captain of the sea is speaking about when he gives directions to his crew who will in turn give to patrons. This will allow you to settle down and truly enjoy your experience at sea. Using these terms is a basic beginning as you grow in learning more nautical terms.