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October 5, 2015 Charter sail, Sailing

Parts of a Sailboat

People feel understandably overwhelmed by the nomenclature or parts of a sailboat. Yet many of the terms are derivative of common sense, and other parts have become part of the lexicon as veritable metaphors. Let’s look at a few parts so that you have a rudimentary knowledge and will show some verbal sea legs on the next charter sail along the York River. A few of the terms have links for further study.

BOOM – This is the big swinging metal (or wood) bar that moves back and forth as the boat shifts direction. It is aptly named because it will boom you in the head if you don’t duck.

STERN – The back of the boat, or anything else.

PULPIT – A small railing at the front of the boat designed to keep crew from falling overboard. Think of a pastor talking from the church pulpit, or more accurately the Pope talking from his pulpit.

COCKPIT – The place in the boat where everyone sits and where the boat is steered from. NASCAR races have pit crews that take care of the cars. It’s analogous to that.

SHROUDS – Big wires that hold up the mast. Think of them as shrouds of protection.

CENTERBOARD – Board that drops down into the center of the boat. It’s used to stabilize the boat in wind and to point better into the wind.

LINES – The ropes all over the boat. Never call them ropes. It’s a boat thing.

HALYARDS – Lines used to haul the sail up so we can haul ass under sail.

SHEETS – This is counter-intuitive in that people think the sails are like sheets. In fact, these are the lines that pull the sails back and forth.

TRAVELER – Sliding rack that enables the entire mechanism of the mainsail to travel back and forth to spill wind. Alternatively you can let the mainsheet out to spill wind.

FORESTAY – Big wire that holds up the mast before the boat.

BACKSTAY – Wire that holds up the mast in the back of the boat.

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