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

Abaft Towards the stern
Abeam Abreast of or at right angles to the fore and aft line of the vessel
Aft Towards the stern or rear of the vessel
Astern, to go astern Go backwards, put the engine in reverse
Bow The front end of the vessel
Distance Where 'miles' are referred to on this website, 'nautical' miles are meant
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
FreeboardThe distance between the waterline and the deck, or upper edge of the side of a small boat. Relevant to loading and stability
Give way Slow, stop, go astern or change course to keep clear of another vessel
Gunwales The top edge of a vessel's side (pronounced gunnels)
Heave to Steering into the wind and sea making minimum headway
KnotOne knot = one nautical mile an hour (1.85kph)
Leeward The side opposite to that from which the wind blows
Lifejacket Protective device designed to keep the wearer afloat above the surface of the water. Also known as a PFD.
Making way Vessel under way and moving through the water, using power or sail
Marine Safety Act The Marine Safety Act 2010 (Vic)
Marine Safety
The Marine Safety Regulations 2012 (Vic)
Master A 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 (PFD) Lifejacket
Phonetic alphabetAlfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu
Port side Looking forward, the left-hand side
Speed All speeds are measured in knots
Standards All 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 tide Go forward against the current
Stern The back end or rear of a vessel
Underway Not at anchor, made fast to the shore, or aground. If you are drifting, you are underway.
Wash Waves made by a vessel making way
Windward The direction from which the wind blows (for example, upwind)

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