Sailing terms

Top 10 Sailing Terms

Imagine that the captain falls ill on your cruise and the only choice is for you to take up the hat and wheel and steer the ship to safety. How would you communicate with the crew? You can try to get by with pirate words like hornswaggle, but real sailing terms can help you better understand the ship about you and the way that it moves.

1. Run

It may seem obvious that a sailboat moves in the direction of the wind. It’s not mandatory, since these ships have adaptations that allow them to move against the wind, as well as with it. However, the common term for following the motion of the wind is known as a run, which requires the least effort by the crew.

2. Skipper

The captain, the head honcho, the big cheese. The skipper tells you to jump and you ask them how high. Not obeying the skipper leads to mutiny, which probably isn’t the best way to spend your vacation.

3. In Irons

You might think this term also has to deal with mutinies, but it’s not as literal as you think. It refers to a boat that is effectively immobilized because the wind is directly in its face and it has no maneuverability. Speaking of which:

4. Eye of the Wind

The direction that wind is heading from, a no-sail zone because the ship will move as fast against the wind as it would riding the docks of Lake Lanier in Georgia.

5. Hiking Out

What happens when a sailboat starts to tip over to one side? Sailboats have a great deal of stabilizing weight, but in the event that the ship needs further stabilization, crew and passengers will literally hang over the edge to pull it back up, an uncommon process called Hiking Out.

6. Close-Hauled

An old salty dog knows the wind better than he knows the back of his hand. Close-hauling is sailing as close to the wind as possible, providing the best angle for sailing if the ship cannot follow the exact motion of the wind.

7. Keel

The keel is the boat equivalent of a fish’s fin. This small flap extends down into the water, providing stability as the ship sails.   Keels use the forward motion of the boat to generate lift to counteract the leeward force of the wind. The rudimentary purpose of the keel is to convert the sideways motion of the wind when it is abeam into forward motion. A secondary purpose of the keel is to provide ballast.

8. Sheets

In addition to the freshly-laundered bedcovers you’ll enjoy on a swanky cruise, sheets refer to the collective lines that are used to change the space or direction of a sail (also known as the rigging). Sheets can be used to adjust the next term:

9. Center of Effort

The center of a sail area that generates the most pull from the wind’s force. Sails are set up to have a particular center of effort; it’s up to the captain to maneuver the ship so that the sail surface catches the wind.

10.  Fun

The most important term is FUN. Sailing is an art form, a sport and requires a little skill. The fun of sailing lasts a lifetime in the memories the friends and acquaintances made along the way.