Boating terminology 101: What you should know
When you decide to book your first trip on a boat, you might be surprised to hear many new phrases and words, whose meanings might puzzle you in the beginning. But do not worry, because it is for this exact reason that we decided to bring our customers closer to our everyday life and the boating terminology that comes with it.
When you finally do find yourself on a speedboat, on its way to one of many exciting locations in the Zadar archipelago, you will be able to differentiate quite easily between all the peculiar terms your experienced speedboat guide will use.
Naval and boating terminology does not differ much; from small dinghies to massive superyachts, the sides of a vessel are consistently named the same. So, regardless if you find yourself on an oil tanker or on a speedboat cruise in the Croatian Adriatic Sea, you will always have some terms that coincide, but others that are totally different. This relates to the size and length of the boats in question, their differences in handling, the number of crew and so on.
Nevertheless, port and starboard remain the same on any boat, as well as the stern and the bow. Now, if you wondering what these terms (and many others) mean, we are happy to introduce you to the interesting (and sometimes quite funny) world of boating terminology.
Tourist-friendly boating terminology that guests on a speedboat tour should be aware of
To be able to enjoy your day trip with Zadar Archipelago in a different and more fulfilling way, learning new information while also enjoying the beauty of the Croatian Adriatic sea is a win-win situation. So, take your time to learn some new words, thanks to our boating terminology review.
• Bow: The front part of the boat.
• Stern: The rear part of the boat.
• Port: The left side of the boat when facing forward.
• Starboard: The right side of the boat when facing forward.
Why is port called port and starboard – starboard? Well, the story goes that, in the time of wooden ships, the rudder would be connected to the wheel and would be positioned slightly to the right side of the vessel, or the side that was used to steer the vessel.
Through linguistic evolution, the side that “steered the boat” became “starboard” or the side from which you steer a boat. On the other hand, portside was named this way because the left side of the vessel was ALWAYS used to dock the boat at port.
This was because the left side was free from any rudder restrictions (since it was on the left side) and was free to operate without fear of entangled lines or rudder failure.
- Aft: Toward the stern or the back of the boat.
- Forward: Towards the bow or the front of the boat.
- Helm: The area where the boat is steered, typically where the steering wheel or tiller is located.
- Throttle: A control used to regulate the speed of the boat’s engine.
- Wake: The waves a boat creates as it moves through the water.
- Buoy: A floating object, often brightly coloured, used for navigation, marking channels, or anchoring points.
- Life jacket (or personal flotation device, PFD): A wearable device designed to keep a person afloat in the water.
- Knot: A unit of speed used in maritime contexts, equivalent to one nautical mile per hour (approximately 1.15 mph or 1.85 km/h).
- Fender: A cushion-like device, usually made of rubber or foam, used to protect the side of a boat when docking or mooring.
- Cleat: A metal or plastic fitting used to secure ropes or lines on a boat.
- Anchorage: A designated area where boats can safely anchor.
- Nautical mile: A unit of distance used in maritime and aviation contexts, equal to 1.1508 miles or 1.852 kilometres.
- Leeward: The side of the boat sheltered from the wind; downwind.
- Windward: The side of the boat facing the wind; upwind.
- Tiller: A lever used to steer a boat, often found on smaller vessels.
- Rudder: A flat, hinged piece of metal or wood at the stern of a boat, used for steering.
- Bilge: The lowest part of a boat’s hull, where water may collect.
- Draft: The vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the boat’s hull, indicating the minimum water depth needed for the boat to float.
- Mooring: A place where a boat can be tied or anchored, often a buoy or a dock.
If you want to learn even more nautical terms – usually found on much bigger boats – you can check out this blog from SuperYachts Croatia.
Funny etymology origin stories, when it comes to boating terminology
We could not resist including some of the funniest stories regarding naval terminology, since maritime culture is a treasure-trove of humorous etymology. Continue reading if you want to experience a “Eureka” moment or just have a bit of fun.
- Bitter end: This term refers to the last part of a rope or chain, particularly when it’s secured to a ship. The term’s origin comes from the “bitts,” large wooden posts on a ship’s deck, where ropes and cables were tied. The end of the rope that remained tied to the bitts was called the “bitter end.”
- Slush fund: the ship’s cook would collect the slushy, fatty residue from boiling meat, selling it afterwards to tallow makers, creating a “fund” from the sale of “slush.”
- Son of a gun: When women were occasionally allowed onboard man-of-war ships for short periods of time if a child was born on the ship, the birth would often occur between the guns on the gun deck. Thus, the newborn would be referred to as a “son of a gun.”
- Groggy: In the 18th century, British Admiral Edward Vernon, nicknamed “Old Grog” because of his grogram cloak, ordered the sailors’ daily rum ration to be diluted with water. The resulting mixture was called “grog.” Sailors who drank too much grog would become “groggy,” a term now used to describe someone who is dizzy and weak.
- Poop deck: The term “poop deck” refers to the elevated deck at the stern of a sailing ship. It comes from the Latin word “puppis,” which means “stern.”
- Scuttlebutt: This term is used to describe gossip or rumours. It originates from the wooden cask, called a “butt,” which held drinking water on a ship. The cask had a hole, or “scuttle,” cut into it for sailors to access water. When gathering around the scuttlebutt, sailors would exchange stories and gossip
- Skyscraper: In its original nautical context, a “skyscraper” was a small, triangular sail set high above the other sails on a tall ship. The term was later adopted to describe tall buildings
We hope that you found our list of boating terminology to be amusing and educational and that we will see you boarding the portside of our speedboats, and then sitting on the starboard side. You can also sunbathe on the bow or dive from the stern while following your skipper`s instructions from the helm.
If, after our short boating terminology introduction, you understand the sentence above, congratulations! You are now officially a speaker of a specific subvariant of professional language that only sailors and maritime personnel are aware of. The only thing left now is to book a day trip with Zadar Archipelago and put your theoretical knowledge to practical use.