Boat Lingo

How to Talk Boat

There are a few key terms every boater needs to know. If you don’t understand boat lingo, even the most basic conversations about boats can sound like another language. Some basic terms are covered here to get you started. A trip to Google can unearth any other terms you come across.

Berth: A bed or other place to sleep. Example: “I’m not sure if you have enough blankets in your berth.”

Cabin: Any room for gathering of crew or passengers. Example: “Let’s eat dinner in the cabin. It’s too cold outside.”

Cockpit: Also known as the bridge. The place from which the boat is steered and controlled. Example: “Bring my binoculars up to the cockpit please.”

sailboat diagram
A sailboat has many moving parts, best to get acquainted with boat talk before you talk boat.

Galley: Kitchen. Example: “That guy does his best work in the galley.”

Head: Bathroom and toilet. Example: “There should be some toilet paper in the head but use as little as possible.”

Salon: Living room. Example: “Let’s go have a drink in the salon.”

Settee: Bench seats. Example: “Go sit on the settee and I’ll bring you a cup of tea.”

Stateroom: Bedroom. Example: “Our stateroom was tiny but private.”

V-berth: A berth that is pointy at one end, found in the bow of the boat. Example: “I used the V-berth for storage rather than sleeping.”

Bow: the front of a boat. Example: “Bob, go up to the bow, I’m going to need you to drop anchor soon.”

Stern: the back of a boat. Example: “Everyone get to the stern while I’m docking.”

Forward: moving in the direction of the bow. Example: “I think I put that chart down somewhere forward in the cabin.”

Amidships: in or toward the middle of the boat. Example: “The head is amidships, by the galley.”

Aft: moving in the direction of the stern. Example: “I like to sleep in the aft berth where it’s cooler.”

Port: facing forward, the left side of the boat as well as the area to the left of the boat. Example: “Watch out for that sailboat on your port side.”

Starboard: facing forward, the right side of the boat as well as the area to the right of the boat. Example: “There’s a big ferry on your starboard side.”

Beam: the widest part of a boat. Example: “The nice wide beam on my boat means I have lots of room in my cabin.”

Draft: the maximum depth of a boat. Example: “Check the depth finder to see if we’re going to hit bottom. My draft is 5 feet.”