Nautical Terminology

Glossary of nautical terms

General nautical terms:

  • Port - looking towards the front of the vessel, port refers to everything on your left hand side
  • Starboard - looking towards the front of the vessel, starboard refers to everything on your right hand side

Parts of a vessel:

  • Bilge - the compartment/s at the bottom of the hull
  • Bow - the front of the vessel
  • Cabin - an enclosed room
  • Console - Where the vessel controls are located i.e. steering, switches, throttle etc
  • Cleat - device for securing a rope
  • Cuddy - a small cabin
  • Freeboard - distance from the waterline to the gunwale 
  • Gunwale - upper most edge  of the vessels hull 
  • Head - Vessel's toilet
  • HIN - Hull Identification Number
  • Hull - the shell / framework of a vessel
  • Sponson - part of a craft at or below the waterline that extends from the hull to aid stabilty, it also increases floatation and lift when underway
  • Stern - rear of the vessel
  • Transom - the vertical or near vertical wall at the stern of the vessel, (if you have an outboard on a powerboat, this is where it will be attached)
  • Windlass - a mechanical winch mechanism (i.e. anchor windlass)


  • Bowline - a type of knot with a strong loop
  • Drogue - a deliver to slow a boat down or stabilise it in heavy weather (also known as a sea anchor)
  • EPIRB - Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon
  • Fender - a flexible bumper
  • Flare - pyrotechnic signally device
  • Painter - a rope attached to the bow of a vessel
  • PFD - Personal Floatation Device
  • PLB - Personal Locator Beacon
  • Radar - RAdio Detection And Ranging
  • Spring Line - a mooring line that goes from the bow of the vessel to a cleat on the pontoon adjacent to the stern or vice versa from the stern of the vessel to a cleat adjacent to the bow. 
  • VHF - Very High Frequency
  • Warp - a rope used to attach to a fixed object
  • Ahead - going forwards
  • Aft - when you're moving backwards, you're 'going aft' 
  • Aground - when your vessel is in contact with the seabed
  • Astern - going backwards
  • Beam - the width of vessel (usually at widest point)
  • Cavitation - Extreme reduction in pressure on the back side of the blades (often confused with ventilation)
  • Draft - how deep the water needs to be for the vessel to float
  • Ventilation - result of exhaust gases being pulled into propellor blades causing the blades to lose grip, RPM to increase and speed to reduce.
  • Wake - turbulence behind a vessel
  • Wash - the waves a vessel creates as it moves through the water
  • Way - Progress through the water i.e. making way

additional PWC (jetski) nautical terms:

PWC Brand names:

  • Jetski - a brand name owned by Kawasaki
  • Waverunner - a brand name owned by Yamaha
  • Seadoo - a brand name owned by BRP
  • Aquatrax - a brand name owned by Honda

PWC Engines:

  • CLCS (Seadoo) - Closed Loop Cooling System.  
  • OLCS (Yamaha) - Open Loop Cooling System. 

PWC Tech:

  • ETS - Electronic Trim System
  • DESS (Seadoo)- Digital Encoded Security System
  • iBR (Seadoo) - Intelligent Brake and Reverse
  • MPEM - Multi Purpose Electrical Module
  • OTS - Off Throttle Steering
  • RiDE (Yamaha) - Reverse with Intuitive Deceleration Electronics
  • T.D.E - Thrust Directional Enhancer
  • YEMS - Yamaha Engine Management System
  • VTS - Variable Trim System
  • YSS - Yamaha Security System

PWC Hulls:

  • Chine - the sharp change in angle in the cross section of the hull i.e. sides to bottom (hull)
  • Pad - the nearly flat section towards the back of your PWC hull
  • Ride Plate - protects your pump nozzle, adds stability, aids straight line handling, dependant on design can aid cornering
  • Strakes - help create lift when getting onto the plane, enhance tracking, prevent sliding in a turn and increase stability 
  • Sponsons - part of a PWC that extends from the hull to aid stability, add lift and keep the PWC hooked into a turn 
  • S3 (Seadoo) - Stepped, Stable and Strong
  • T3 (Seadoo) - Tight Turning T-Hull

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