A first step in obtaining a Boat Operator’s Card is learning some basic boating terms. Knowing and using these terms correctly will reduce the risk of miscommunication or misunderstanding and therefore increase boating safety. Here is a list of some useful words and their meanings. There is of course more boating terminology than is listed here.
Abeam A direction at right angles to the side of the boat.
Aft At or towards the rear of the boat.
Beam The width of a boat (at its widest point).
Bearing An object’s direction from a boat.
Bilge The lowest point of a ship’s inner hull.
Bow The forward part of a boat.
Buoy A floating aid for navigation.
Dead Ahead Directly ahead.
Draft The depth of water a boat requires in order to float freely.
Fenders Various devices that serve to cushion the boat from shocks and to protect its sides.
Freeboard The distance between the level of the water and the upper edge of the hull of the boat.
Give Way Vessel The boat that does not have the right of way. This boat must take early and adequate action to keep well clear of the Stand On Vessel.
Gunwale The upper edge of a boat’s sides.
Helm The wheel or tiller controlling the rudder or outboard motor. The place you steer from.
Hull The body of a boat, excluding masts, sails, rigging, machinery, and equipment.
Knot One nautical mile per hour. Equivalent to 1.85 km./h. o r 1.1 mph.
Lee The side opposite to that from which the wind blows.
Operator The person responsible for the boat. He or she is in effective charge and control of the boat.
PFD Personal Flotation Device.
Pleasure Craft A boat, a ship, a vessel, or any other water craft that is used exclusively for pleasure and does not carry passengers or goods for hire, reward, renumeration or any object of profit.
PWC Personal Watercraft.
Port The left side when looking forward on a boat.
Power Driven Vessel Any boat propelled by machinery.
Radiotelephony A marine VHF radio device (monitor channel 16).Note at this time you are required to have a restricted operator’s certificate to operate a VHF radio.
Restricted Visibility Means any condition in which visibility is restricted by fog, mist, falling snow, heavy rainstorms, sandstorms or any other similar causes.
Rode The line or chain that joins the anchor to an anchored boat. (The part of the anchor line directly attached to the anchor.)
Sailing Vessel Any boat under sail, provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used.
SOLAS Safety of Life at Sea.
Stand On Vessel This boat has the right of way, and should maintain its course and speed. However, this boat must take evasive action if the Give Way Vessel does not.
Starboard The right side when looking forward on a boat.
Stern The aft part of a boat.
Transom The outside part of a boats stern.
Unmanned Vessel A boat that is not under control.
Unseaworthy Unfit for a sea voyage.
Wake The disturbed column of water around and behind a moving boat, which is set into motion by the passage of the boat.
Waterline (design) The level at which the water is designed to reach on the sides of the boat, during fair weather and the boat properly loaded. (Related to the freeboard.)