Glossary of boating terms

This page explains boating and maritime terms commonly used on this website, such as the parts of a vessel and navigational terminology.

Diagram of boat showing main features and terms

AbaftTowards the stern
AbeamAbreast of or at right angles to the fore and aft line of the vessel
AftTowards the stern or rear of the vessel
Astern, to go asternGo backwards, put the engine in reverse
BowThe front end of the vessel
DistanceWhere 'miles' are referred to on this website, 'nautical' miles are
meant - one nautical mile = 1.852km
Emergency position
indicating radio
beacon (EPIRB)
A small electronic device used in ships and boats that,
when activated in a life-threatening situation, assists rescue
authorities in their search to locate those in distress
Give waySlow, stop, go astern or change course to keep clear of another
GunwalesThe top edge of a vessel's side (pronounced gunnels)
Heave toSteering into the wind and sea making minimum headway
Knot (1)One nautical mile an hour (equal to 1.852km/h)
LeewardThe side opposite to that from which the wind blows
LifejacketProtective device designed to keep the wearer afloat above the
surface of the water. Also known as a PFD.
Making wayVessel under way and moving through the water, using power
or sail
Marine Safety ActThe Marine Safety Act 2010 (Vic)
Marine Safety
The Marine Safety Regulations 2012 (Vic)
MasterA person having command or charge of a vessel (as defined
under s3 of the Marine Safety Act)
Personal watercraft
Any recreational vessel that:
a) has an engine that is used for propulsion
b) has a fully enclosed hull
c) does not retain water on it if it capsizes
d) is designed to be operated by a person standing, sitting
astride or kneeling on the vessel, but not seated within the
vessel, and that is of a kind required by or under the Marine
Safety Act to be registered (s3 Marine Safety Act)
Personal flotation device
An alternative name for a lifejacket
Port sideLooking forward, the left-hand side
SpeedAll speeds are measured in 'knots' - one knot = 1 nautical mile
per hour
StandardsAll equipment referred to in this document must meet
standards detailed under the Marine Safety Act and its
associated regulations and schedules
Starboard side Looking forward, the right-hand side
Stem the tideGo forward against the current
SternThe back end or rear of a vessel
Under wayNot at anchor, made fast to the shore, or aground - if you are
drifting, you are under way
WashWaves made by a vessel making way
WindwardThe direction from which the wind blows (for example, upwind)