Glossary of Nautical Terms
anchor locker – Our main anchors were a 35 lb. and a 45 lb. CQR or “plow.” We stored our spare anchors, including a Danforth that was too small to be much good, in a recessed locker we made on the bow. Our primary anchor, the 45 lb. CQR, was kept on an anchor roller on the bowsprit so it could be lowered quickly.
ballast – Weight added to the keel to stabilize a boat. The sailing ships of yore used rocks. Treasure hunters are often alerted to an old wreck when they find a pile of ballast stones. Ours was melted down railroad tracks that weighted approximately 7,800 lbs.
beam – The width of the hull where it is widest.
beam reach – When the wind is perpendicular to your course. This is by far the best and most pleasant angle for a sailboat.
beat – Sailing into the wind as closely as possible. We were only able to sail about 40 to 45 degrees off the wind.
bilge – The lowest part of the hull where water and glop collects.
block – A nautical pulley that lines pass through used to trim the sails. Ours were made in Canada out of lignum vitae.
bobstay – The cable or chain that goes from the hull, near the waterline, to the end of the bowsprit from which the headstay is attached and goes to the top of the mast for support.
boom – The vertical part of the rigging attached to the mast that holds the bottom of the mainsail and is attached to the main mast. Ours, like the mast, was aluminum.
bow pulpit – Named for what it resembles, it’s a metal piece fitted onto the bowsprit. Part of the boats lifeline, it helps protect the sailor as he works the headsail. Ours was stainless steel.
bowsprit – An extension (in our case a big, solid piece of teak) that is bolted to the deck at the bow and extends out, over the water. It’s secured by the bobstay and two whiskerstays. The purpose of a bowsprit is to increase the amount of sail area.
bridge deck – The part of the deck just aft of cabin that goes from one side of the boat to the other (athwartship).
broad reach – When the wind is more aft than when you’re on a beam reach.
buoy – A float attached to line that goes to a mooring on the ocean floor that’s secure. At the Hacienda Nicoyana they were 55 gallon barrels filled with cement, sunk into the sandy bottom.
caprail – Wood that went around the boat covering the top of the hull.
catamaran – A boat with twin hulls, side-by-side. They are shallow draft and can go faster than a monohull.
chain locker – Located in the bow, below deck, it’s where the chain or line used for anchoring is stored.
chainplate – A steel strap that is bolted to the sides of the hull. This is where the shrouds are attached to the boat.
chart – Paper maps used for marine navigation. We had at least a hundred that we bought used before we left Costa Rica. Today most of it is on computers.
cleat – The piece of marine hardware that looks somewhat similar to the mathematical sign for “pi” where lines are secured. This is usually done in a “figure eight”.
coaming – A vertical piece that surrounds the cockpit. Ours served two purposes. It formed a barrier to water coming down the side decks and as a back support for cockpit seating.
cutter – The cutter rig has single mast located approximately in the middle of the boat. That was us.
dinghy – The little boat that takes people and things like ice from the boat to the shore or to other boats and back again. We called ours “Dulcita” and it was our equivalent of a car.
displacement hull – Displacement is the weight of the water displaced by the hull. La Dulce was a displacement hull in that it extended five feet below the water’s surface. There is a Hull Speed that a displacement hull cannot exceed.
dorade vent – A type of vent that funnels fresh air down below without letting in water. Ours were brass. One was located over our double berth and the other over the galley.
draft – The distance from the waterline to the bottom of the keel. We drew five feet. As a general rule, the deeper the keel goes down the more stable the boat is under sail. The ballast located at the bottom of the keel acts as a counterbalance to the force of the wind on the sails.
fathom – Six feet.
fender – Air filled plastic “bumper” that we used to protect the sides of the hull from the dinghy or a dock.
fiddle – The lip on a table that helps keep things from sliding off under sail.
following Sea – An overtaking sea that comes from astern (behind).
forestay – The rigging between the headstay and the mast that is used for the staysail and to support the mast.
freeboard – The distance from the waterline to the top of the hull (gunwhale).
gaff – A gaff rigged sailboat has sails that are not triangular. At the top of the sail is the gaff that the Head of the sail is attached to. A gaff rigged topsail schooner has triangular smaller sails that are above the main sails.
genoa – A large headsail used in light air.
ground tackle – Anchor and line.
gunwale – The top of the hull’s sides.
halyard – The half line/half cable that runs from the deck, over the mast head, back down to the deck. It is attached to the top of the sail so it can be raised using a winch bolted to the side of the mast.
headstay – The wire rigging that goes from the bowsprit to the top of the mast for the jib and for mast support.
helm – The wheel or tiller that controls the rudder.
jib – The smaller of the headsails that attaches to the headstay. A genoa is the larger.
jibe – When a boat turns to the position that wind blows the boom and mainsail to the other side. A controlled jibe is when you want this to happen. If it happens unexpectedly, the boom goes flying over the cockpit to the other side and can seriously hit someone on the head as it does.
keel – The bottom of the boat.
ketch – A ketch rigged sailboat has a main mast forward and a smaller mizzen mast aft of the main but forward of the helm.
knot – 1. Slightly more that a mile-per-hour (6076 feet-per-hour). A mile is 5280 feet-per-hour.
2. The way rope or line is tied. A bowline is the most used because it can be untied no matter how much pressure was put upon it. When reefing the main we tied off the reef points with square knots.
latitude – North and south measurement used in navigation.
lazarette – A storage locker in stern of the boat.
lead line - Though we had a crude electronic fathometer that told us the depth of the water, we came to rely on our lead line which is a piece of lead tied on to a line with a knot tied every fathom or six feet. When we were anchoring, the one of us on the bow would throw it forward until we could feel the lead hit the bottom. With the help of our charts, we could determine the best place to drop anchor.
lee – The side sheltered from the wind.
lifeline – The cable or line that goes through the stanchions for the crew’s safety. A mini fence, we had a double lifeline. One at the top and one in the middle that were wire covered with a plastic coating. They were swaged at the end and the fittings were attached to turnbuckles to adjust the tension.
line – Rope becomes “line” once it is onboard.
longitude – East and west measurement used in navigation.
mid-ship – The middle of the boat as in mid-ship cockpit.
nautical mile – One minute of latitude or approximately 6076 feet, which is about 1/8 longer than a statute mile.
planing hull – A type of hull shaped to glide across the top of the water. It has a shallow draft as opposed to a displacement hull.
port – The left side of a boat looking forward. A good way to remember the difference between port and starboard is that port and “left” have the same number of letters.
running lights – Fastened to the bow pulpit were our 12V running lights—red light on the port side and a green on the starboard. Any boat that saw both at the same time knew we were on a collision course. Likewise, if we saw the same, they were coming right at us. The stern light is white. All of ours were electric. The only kerosene running light we had was the stern lantern that we used to light the cockpit at night. If it was dark and there was boat traffic we used it as an anchor light.
running rigging – The rigging used when under sail—halyards, sheets, etc.
safety harness – Worn at night or in rough weather, the sailor attaches it to some sturdy part of the boat to avoid being washed overboard as he/she goes about shipboard duties. Ours had straps that went around our waist and over our shoulders. Sewed to them was a line with two clips. When moving or crawling around, one could remain clipped onto something while the other clip was fastened closer to your destination.
schooner – A schooner has two masts. The aft is taller than the forward mast.
scope – The length of anchor line in relationship to the water’s depth. The more scope the better the anchor will hold. We always used at least three-to-one, usually more.
scuppers – Drain holes in the deck and hull sides.
settee – A sailboat couch.
shroud – Or sidestay, the cables that attach to the side of the hull to support the mast. The upper shroud goes over the spreader to the top of the mast—one per side. The lower shrouds go from the hull to the base of the spreaders—two per side.
sole – Cabin floor.
spreader – These are attached to both sides of the mast to make the main shroud more structurally effective. Ours were spruce and about three feet long.
stainless steel – A type of steel that, through alchemy, doesn’t rust. Regular steel is the strongest but it easily rusts in a saltwater environment. The stainless steel part of the brew is not as strong so, ideally, the perfect mixture keeps enough of the steel for strength and the right amount of stainless to prevent oxidation.
stanchion – A metal post that is fastened to the deck through which passes the lifelines that surround the boat like a fence for the safety of the crew.
standing rigging – The cables that support the mast and bowsprit.
starboard – The right side of the boat looking forward.
staysail – Generally the smaller sail that is positioned in between the mast and the headsail. In heavy weather we often ran with reefed main and staysail only—no headsail.
swage – The swage is the end piece of the wire rigging allowing it to be attached to the mast or turnbuckle, which is attached to a “chain plate” that is bolted to the hull. Ours were stainless steel that I put on the end of the wire and ran through a compression devise that squashed it into the wire.
tack – A sailboat can go only so close to the direction the wind is coming from. For us 45 degrees was about as close as we could get. If our destination was in the 80 to 90 degrees we couldn’t sail directly to, we would have to change direction by tacking to reach our destination. To alert crew the helmsman advises, “prepare to tack” then he or she turns into the wind. When the sails start flapping, the sheet on what was the lee side is let go and the sheet on the other side is winched into position from the cockpit. We had bronze Barlow two-speed hand winches positioned on top of the coaming.
transom – The squared off rear of a hull.
trimaran – Three hulls. The center is generally used for living quarters and the outer ones for stability under sail
turnbuckle – A steel or bronze fitting that is attached to the lower end of the standing rigging and is used to adjust the tension. Ours were heavy Wilcox Crittendon bronze.
waterline – Calculated by the Nautical Engineer this is where the boat should theoretically sit when she in in the water.
whiskerstay – The wire rigging that goes from the end of the bowsprit to the sides of the hull for support.
yawl – A yawl rigged sailboat has a main mast forward and a smaller mizzen mast located aft of the cockpit
La Dulce Mujer Pintada specifications:
Length Over All (LOA) – 38'
Length at the Waterline (LWL) – 29.5'
Beam – 11.5'
Draft – 5'
Displacement – 21,500 lbs.
Auxiliary Power – 36 hp Volvo MD-3B three cylinder diesel
Ballast – approximately 7,800 lbs.
Water – 200 gal.
Fuel – 50 gal.
Mast – 44' (from the waterline it was 49' to the top)