Sailing Vocabulary
Dictionary of Boating Terms

Dictionary of Boating Sailing, Schooners, Naval, Ships, Boat and Seafaring Terms

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B   Sailing Terms  B   

Back- To back an anchor is to carry out a smaller one ahead of the one by which the vessels rides to take off some of the strain.
Backstay- Mast support running to aft deck or another mast.
Backslice- A method of weaving the end of a rope to keep it from unraveling.
Backstaff a navigation instrument used to measure the apparent height of a landmark whose actual height is known, such as the top of a lighthouse. From this information, the ship's distance from that landmark can be calculated.
Backwinded- When the wind pushes on the wrong side of the sail, causing it to be pushed away from the wind. If the lines holding the sail in place are not released, the boat could become hard to control and heel excessively
Bail - Ironrod partially circling the boom to which sheet block is attached 2 To remove water from a boat, as with a bucket or a pump.
Baldheaded Schooner -A schooner without topsails.
Baggywrinkle- chafing gear made from old ropes.
Ballast-Is either pigs of iron, stones, or gravel, which last is called single ballast; and their use is to bring the ship down to her bearings in the water which her provisions and stores will not do. Trim the ballast, that is spread it about, and lay it even, or runs over one side of the hold to the other
Bar-shallow water usually made of sand or mud, usually running parallel to the shore. Bars are caused by wave and current action,
Bare Poles  A sailing vessel in a storm carrying no sail 
Barratry- Any wrongful act knowingly done by the master to the detriment of the owner of either ship or cargo; done without knowledge or consent of owner .
Barge A long, narrow, light boat, employed to carry the principal sea officers, such as admirals and captains of ships of war, to shore.2A long vessel with a flat bottom used to carry freight on rivers. Barges are usually not powered, being pushed or towed by a tugboat instead
Bare Poles- Condition of a vessel  when she has no sails set.
Bark-3 Masted with Sq rigged on fore and main mast
Barge - A long vessel with a flat bottom used to carry freight on rivers. Barges are usually not powered, being pushed or towed by a tugboat instead.
Barnacle-A shell-fish often attached to the submerged parts of a vessel.
Barque: Sailing vessel with three or more masts: fore and aft rigged on aftermast, square rigged on all others.
Barkentine-3 Masted with Sq rigged on fore mast only
Barograph-- An instrument used to keep a record of atmospheric pressure, such as on a paper drum
Barometric pressure- Atmospheric pressure as measured by a barometer.
Batten - a short piece of wood or plastic inserted in a sail to keep it taut
Batten pockets-- Pockets in a sail where battens can be placed to stiffen the sail.
Batten down-Secure hatches and loose objects both within the hull and on deck.
Beacon -A lighted or unlighted fixed aid to navigation attached directly to the earth's surface.
Beam - The widest part of the boat.
Beams Ends- Vessel said to be "on her beam ends" when she is lying over so much that her deck beams are nearly vertical. Method used to repair or paint hull before drydocks.
Beam reach - a point of sail where the boat is sailing at a right angle to the wind
Bearing - The direction of an object expressed either as a true bearing as shown on the chart, or as a bearing relative to the heading of the boat.
Beaufort wind scale- A method of measuring the severity of the force of wind, named after Admiral Beaufort who created the system. 0 is no wind, whereas 12 would be a hurricane.
Bear Off- To thrust away; to hold off. 2 to steer  off wind, shore or approaching object.
Bearing - The direction of an object expressed either as a true bearing as shown on the chart, or as a bearing relative to the heading of the boat
Bear Up- to steer up to the eye of the wind, shore or object.
Short ropes used in several parts of a ship, to confine large ropes,  or to hang up the weather sheets and lee tacks of "the main and fore-sail to the foremost main and fore " shrouds. The noose made at the breast of a block, to make fast the standing part of a fall to, is also called a Becket. (1'1. 2, fig.
Belay - Change order; - To make a line secure to a pin, cleat or bitt.
Belay pin - Iron or wood pin fitted into railing to secure lines to.
Below -Beneath the deck
Bend - to fasten one line to another
Berth-(1) A place for a person to sleep. (2) A place where the ship can be secured. (3) A safe and cautious distance, such as
Bible- A large Holystone
Bight - any part of the rope between the two end.
Bilge- The lowest part of the interior hull below the waterline
Bilge Pump-A mechanical, electrical, or manually operated pump used to remove water from the bilge.
Binnacle A wooden case or box, which contained compasses, log-glasses, watch-glasses and lights to show the compass at night.
Bitter end - the final inboard end of chain or line
Bitt - A vertically posted above deck used to secure line.
Blackbirder - Was the name for ship engaged in the slave trade in the 1800s.
Blanket - To take the wind  out of another boat sail by moving to his windward. 
Block - A pulley used to gain mechanical advantage,
Block and tackle - A combination of one or more blocks and the associated tackle necessary to give a mechanical advantage.
Bluewater sailing - open ocean sailing, as opposed to being in a lake or sound
Bobstaycable,chain or rod holding down the end of the bowsprit.
Boat -A fairly indefinite term. A waterborne vehicle smaller than a ship. One definition is a small craft carried aboard a ship.
Boat hook -A short shaft with a fitting at one end shaped to facilitate use in putting a line over a piling, recovering an object dropped overboard, or in pushing or fending off.
Boatswain-- Also bosun, bos'n, bo's'n, and bo'sun, all of which are pronounced bosun. A crew member responsible for keeping the hull, rigging and sails in repair
Boatswain Chair - A board rigged with tackle that a crew member can be hoisted aloft.
Bolt rope
- A line rope - sewn into the luff of a sail. The bolt rope fits in a notch in the mast or other spar when the sail is raised.
Bollard - Vertical post on dock for securing lines.
Bone in her teeth -- sailing well underway such that spray is thrown out at the stem of the boat
Boom: - a horizontal spar attached to the bottom edge of of a sail, riding on the mast and controlled by sheet.
Boomkin - A spar projecting from the stern to which is attached a backstay or sheet.
Boom Vang -Any system used to hold the boom down. This is useful for maintaining proper sail shape, particularly when running or on a broad reach.
Boot stripe -- a different color strip of paint at the waterline
Boot Top- A painted line, just above the waterline
Bow - The forward part of the vessel.
Bow line -A docking line leading from the bow.
Bow spring line - A bow pivot line used in docking and undocking, or to prevent the boat from moving forward or astern while made fast to a pier.
Bowline - A knot use to form an eye or loop at the end of a rope.
Bowsprit: - a long spar attached to the Jibboom in the bow; used to secure head sails.
Brace- A rope from the deck to  the end of the  yardarm use to swing yard or trim the Square sail.
Breaking the line - the action of passing one fleets line through the enemy's, with the object of destroying his unity 
Breaker-- A wave that approaches shallow water, causing the wave height to exceed the depth of the water it is in, in
Breast line-- A line attached laterally from a boat to a dock, preventing movement away from the dock.
Breeches buoy-A  circular lifebuoy  used in days now past  by lifesaving crews to extract persons from wrecked vessels, usually fired from a cannon onto the deck of the wrecked vessel.
Bridge -The location from which a vessel is steered and its speed controlled. "Control Station" is really a more appropriate term for small craft.
Brig- is a two-masted vessel with both masts square rigged. On the sternmost mast, the main mast, there is also a gaff sail
Brigantine- is a two-masted vessel fore mast being square rigged
Bright work - varnished woodwork or polished metal
Broach - a turning or swinging of the boat that puts the beam of the boat against the waves, creating a danger of swamping or capsizing
Broad reach - a point of sail where the boat is sailing away from the wind, but not directly downwind
Bugeye Oyster -Chesapeake Bay Oyster dredging boat that was made from either logs or planks had raked masts ketch rigged
Bulkhead - Below deck walls within vessel
Bull Rope: A rope used for hoisting a topmast or topgallant mast in a square rigged ship. 
Bulward - Solid rail along ship side above deck to prevent men and gear from going overboard
Bung - A round wood plug inserted in hole to cover a nail scre or bolt.
Bunk: - a sleeping berth.
A storage compartment aboard a ship for coal or other fuel
BuoyA floating navigation aid.
Buoyage: The act of placing buoys. 2. Establishment of buoys and buoyage systems. Applied collectively to buoys placed or established.
Buntline- Alternative name for brails.
Buoyancy- Degree of floatability
Burdened Vessel - That vessel which, according to the applicable Navigation Rules, must give way to the privileged vessel.
Burgee-- A type of flag used to identify a boater's affiliation
Burthen- A older term used to express a ship's carrying capacity
By the Board: Overboard and by the ship's side.
By the Head: bow lower then stern
By the Lee - sailing with the wind coming from behind, and slightly to the side, that the sails are on.
By the Stern- stern lower then bow
By the Wind-  closehauled to wind

cover The Illustrated Dictionary of Boating Terms: 2000 Essential Terms for Sailors & Powerboaters

From America's leading sailing authority, the first lively, authoritative guide to the language of boating and the sea. From "abaft" to "Zulu," including terms as new as "bowrider" and as old as "starboard," here is the language of pleasure boating--clearly defined terms that today's sailors and powerboaters rely on to make their way safely and happily upon America's waters. Families of related terms are grouped together in special sections




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