Learning the Parts of a Sailboat

Teach yourself the definitions of the many different sailboat parts

A sailboat is a boat that is propelled either partly or entirely by sails. There are several different types of sailboats and what constitutes a sailboat varies by maritime culture and region. Most sailboats are classified based on their hull configuration, size, purpose, keel type, configuration and number of masts, and the sail plan. The different types of sailboats include cutters, catboats, dinghies, ketches, schooners, sloops, and yawls. There are many different parts that make up a sailboat. Continue reading to learn about the different parts of a sailboat.

  • Backstay – A rod or cable that runs from the stern of the boat to the top of the mast.
  • Block – This is the nautical term that means pulley.
  • Boom – A pole that attached to the mast horizontally and is used for extending the foot of the mainsail.
  • Boom Vang – A device used for holding down the boom.
  • Bow – The front part of a boat.
  • Centerboard – A plate that pivots and is used to lessen leeway and balance the boat.
  • Cleat – A fastening where lines are able to be secured.
  • Halyard – The line that is used to raise a sail; the main halyard raises the main sail.
  • Hull – This is the body of the boat, not including masts, superstructure, or rigging.
  • Jib – A foresail that fits within the foretriangle and the clew does not extend past the mast.
  • Keel – The part of a boat that is fixed underwater and is used to provide stability and prevent drifting sideways.
  • Line – Refers to any pieces of rope located on a boat.
  • Mast – A vertical pole on a boat that is used for supporting sails.
  • Outhaul – A sail control that allows tensioning of the foot and attaches to the clew.
  • Painter – The line attached to a smaller boats bow that is used for tying it to another boat or a dock.
  • Rudder – The movable underwater steering device of a boat.
  • Shackle – A fitting composed of metal that is normally used to connect halyards and sails.
  • Shrouds/Stays – Wires that help to hold the mast upright; the front wire is referred to as the forestay.
  • Spreader – Struts used to increase the power of the shrouds, they are attached to the mast.
  • Stern – The afterpart of the boat.
  • Tiller – A metal or wooden stick that is used to turn the rudder of the boat.
  • Transom – The afterpart of the boat that is square to its centerline.
  • Wheel – The apparatus used for steering.
  • Winch – A drum shaped object made of metal which lines are wrapped around to make trimming easier.

There are many different parts of a sailboat that work together to help the boat move. Learning how to sail can be fun and the first step is becoming familiar with the parts of a sailboat and commonly used sailing terms. For more on sailboat parts and sailing terms, check out the pages below.

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