Parts of a Sailboat

Basic Sailboat Terms

Rudder: A spade-like object at the back of the boat that steers the boat by deflection of the water.

Tiller: The lever that controls the rudder. Larger boats have a wheel instead of a tiller.

Winches: A mechanical device used to increase pulling power on a line. (purchase)

Gooseneck: The fitting that connects the boom to the mast. It works like a swivel allowing the boom to move up and down and swing from side to side.

Keel: The weighted fin at the bottom of the boat that keeps the boat from slipping sideways through the water.

Bow: Front end of the boat.

Stanchions: Vertical posts that hold lifelines in place.

Pulpit: Safety rail at the bow of the boat.

Stern: Back end of the boat.

Port: The left side of the boat when facing forward.

Starboard: The right side of the boat when facing forward.

Basic Standing Rigging

Mast: The large vertical stick that supports the sail and boom.

Boom: The horizontal stick used to hold and extend the foot of the main sail.

Forestay: The wire (cable) that supports the mast from the bow and prevents the top of the mast from moving aft.

Backstay: The wire that supports the mast from the stern and prevents the top of it from moving forward.

Shrouds: The wires that support the mast from the sides and prevent it from moving sideways.

Turnbuckle: Device for adjusting tension on shrouds and stays.

Basic Running Rigging

Halyards: Lines or wire rope used to hoist (raise) the sails.

Sheets: Lines used to control the sails.

Outhaul: Line used to tighten or tension the foot bottom edge) of the sail.

Downhaul: Line used to tighten or tension the luff (forward edge) of the sail. Boom Vang: Line used to pull the boom down. It prevents the boom from lifting which causes the top part of the sail to twist.

Topping Lift: Holds the end of the boom up and prevents it from falling into the cockpit when the main sail is lowered.

Basic Sail Terms


Head:Top corner. (Where halyard connects to sail)

Tack: Bottom forward corner.

Clew: Bottom back corner.

Luff: Forward edge.

Foot: Bottom edge.

Leech: Backedge.

Cringle: Metal reinforcement ring.


Battens: Wood or plastic strips that act as stiffeners for the sail. They help keep the leech from fluttering.

Batten Pockets: Pockets sewn into the trailing edge of the sail to hold the battens.

Roach: The unmeasured sail area along the back edge of the Sail.

Cunningham: The cringle (grommet) on the luff of the sail used to achieve luff tension for draft control. (sail shaping)

Reef Points: The row of points where the reef ties (gaskets) are attached to the sail. These are used for shortening sail in strong winds.

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