If you did not take "Boating” as a foreign language, here is a short glossary to help you get by on your first boat trips!

In sailing, the wind dictates the law! You will notice that everything is defined according to the wind’s direction.

Windward and leeward

Windward and leeward: The side facing the wind is called "windward", the other side is "leeward". In addition to being a priority rule, i.e. Starboard tack windward, you must be able to know where to go if you are told to "throw-up leeward" in case of seasickness. A few additional tips: In order for you and your sailing mates to stay dry, please pee leeward gentlemen! 

The points of sail

Tacking: The tack is the side of the boat first hit by the wind, there are thus two tacks - starboard and port. If you are heading in the direction of the boat and take the wind on the right (as in our drawings), you are on starboard tack, on the left is a port tack.


The points of sail: This refers to the position of your boat in relation to the wind. There are four points of sail: Close-haul, beam reach, broad reach, and running downwind. I explain the points of sail in a more complete way in a specific article on that subject.

It may be irresistible to ask your sailing mate to "pull the rope" but at the risk of disappointing you: There are no ropes on a boat! Although, technically they do look quite a bit alike.

The halyards: These are the "ropes" located along the mast. They are used to hoist the sails. A mnemonic device: the halyard hoist!


The sheets: These "ropes" are what adjust the sails. They are on each sail and on each side enabling to tack.


The moorings: Well known thanks to the expression "weigh the anchor", they are used to attach your boat to the pontoon. I advise you all the same to cast them off literally as they might come in handy when mooring to another pontoon!

The different parts of a boat

For everyone to understand each other on board, you all have to speak the same language to ensure fluidity. "Remove the rolls on the side that serve to protect the boat", is a bit too wordy to make someone understand that he must remove the fenders!

The mainsail: This is the main sail of the boat, the one that will make you sing "I set the mainsail and sailed away leeward.”


The jib or Genoa or forestay sail: This sail is set at the front of the boat; usually smaller than the mainsail, its size varies according to the strength of the wind: The less wind there is, the bigger it must be in order to have a larger area to catch the wind and move forward!


The spinnaker: This is the large triangular sail hoisted upwind (downwind or broad reaching). This concave lightweight sail makes it easier to catch the wind and go faster.


The boom: This is the "pole" perpendicular to the mast that holds the mainsail. On smaller lightweight sailing boats - there is no boom.


The spar: It is in a sense "the spinnaker’s boom". It is connected to the mast and the front of the spinnaker securing it. All boats do not have a spinnaker pole. On some boats the spinnaker is directly attached to the bow.


The bow: This is the front of the boat. To define your tack, you will have to set yourself facing the bow.


The mooring fender: The padding on the side that protect the boat!


The bar: This is your steering wheel! You may have a tiller with a metal rod that is directly connected to rudders, or a wheel bar connected to rudders by a pulley system.


The keel: This is under the boat. It is actually a weight that is proportional to the size and weight of your boat that prevents it from overturning. There are no keels on sailing dinghies and catamarans - lightweight sailing boats - hence the possibility of capsizing.


The centreboard: This simply prevents the boat from drifting. When the wind hits your sails, the action of the centreboard prevents the boat from drifting and therefore the boat can move forward.


The rudder blade(s): These are "blades" connected to the bar enabling you to guide the boat, on some boats there are several rudders.


The winch: Is a hand winder that allows increasing human leverage when pulling in the lines. Thanks to the winch and the crank, even slim arms can work the lines!


The cleats: The cleats are used to hold the halyards, once they are blocked.


The piano: I'm not going to play you the violin, the piano is the name given to the set of cleats, all lined up next to each other - it looks like a piano!


The telltales: Do not underestimate these little woollen streamers, thanks to them you can navigate correctly! To be sure of your position, the telltales on each side of the genoa must be aligned.


The shrouds: They hold the mast on both sides of the boat.


The forestay: It is stretched between the top of the mast and the bow. The genoa slips into it when hoisted. There is also a forestay at the back, called a backstay, which connects the top of the mast to the back of the boat. 

You now know the basic equipment on a boat. Once you are out actually sailing, you will learn even more vocabulary and naturally you will also begin to speak like a sailor.

Now that you are ready to attack the essential, I’ll see you on the water?