For a new boat owner, understand the lingo for commonly used terms on the vessel can be challenging. When someone helps you come along the dockside and refers to certain parts of your new ride, it can become an embarrassing experience to do something wholly opposite. It may even result in playing ping pong with neighboring boats. Understand the commonly used boat terminology to avoid any confusion.

Most Commonly Used Boat Terminology


What is the bow of the boat?


The boat’s bow is the most forward section.
 It is commonly the most elevated area of the vessel from the water to push water to the side and not directly up and over into the boat. 


What is the stern of the boat?


The stern is located near the back of the boat. 
In some cases, it is entirely at the rear end. When standing at the back, you would be looking down into the water. 


What is a swim platform?


A swim platform is an area in the back just above the water line to access the water for swimming easily.
This is what can be confusing, some boats are equipped with swim platforms, and some are not. 
Understand if the boat has a swim platform, the stern is located forward of this.


What is the helm of the boat?


The boat’s helm is where you drive the vessel from; the steering wheel and engine control will be located here and facing the bow. 


What is the left side of a boat called?


When seated at the helm and looking forward, the boat’s left side is called the port side.
The navigational light affiliated with the port side is red in color.


What is the right side of the boat called?


Opposite of the port side and located on the right side when facing forward is the starboard side. 
A green-colored navigational light represents the starboard side.


What is the draft of the boat?


The draft of the boat is the depth of the vessel below the waterline.
It is crucial to know the draft. Running too shallow can cause significant damage to the boat and motor.  
Avoid areas that to shallow for the draft.


What is the beam of the boat?


The boat’s beam is the distance from the port to the starboard side at the widest part.
Know your beam length to avoid pulling into a marina slip that does not have the allowable space.


How To Determine The Length Of A Boat?


The length of a boat is determined by measuring in a straight line from the tip of the front to the stern on the back. 
Note that swim platforms are not included in the overall length.
Knowing the length is essential again to be sure the boat will fit appropriately into a marina slip.


What is a Gunwale?


Gunwales are the tops of the sides of the boat. 
These can be very wide for walking or extremely narrow based on the make of the boat.

What is a cleat?


A cleat is a metal fitting that a dock line can be tied to.
Cleats secure the boat to the dock when it is not in use. 


What is freeboard?


Freeboard is the measurement from the waterline to the upper edge on the side of a boat. 
If you’re standing with your feet on the deck notice how the side of the boat reaches on your legs, this will give you a better idea of the freeboard.


Low freeboard boats can leave you at greater risk of falling overboard.


Now that you are all caught up on the terminology of your vessel the next time someone throws a command at you you will know how to maneuver the boat. While it may seem overwhelming at first, you’ll catch on real quick. Enjoy your time on the water, it will leave you with long-lasting memories.