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7 Common Terms Every Boater Should Know

Posted by Boat Lover's Towel on

Boating Terms
There are many parts and common boating terms—and sometimes, those parts can get confusing. Luckily, we’re here to help boaters better understand their vessel and create safer experiences on the water.

Why Boating Terminology Matters

Are you a recreational boater that tenses up when asked common boating words and phrases like which side the starboard is on? Don’t worry—no boater is automatically born knowing important boating terminology. However, if you want to become a seafaring connoisseur, learning the language of your vessel will make you sail safer and smarter.

Knowing the different parts of your boat will help you grow into a better boater for yourself and your passengers. Let’s take a look at seven nautical terms you must know before grabbing the helm.

Top 7 Boating Terms & Phrases

Bow & Stern

The front and back of your boat aren’t called the front and back. Instead, these areas of your boat are called the bow and stern. The bow refers to the front of your boat, while the stern refers to the back.

Port & Starboard

You’ve most likely heard the terms port and starboard—but do you know what they mean? When facing the bow, your port is located on the left side of the deck. Your starboard is located on the right side.

An easy way to remember which side your port and starboard are on is by identifying your running lights. When turned on, your red light is on the port side, and your green light is on the starboard side.

Forward & Aft

Forward and aft go hand-in-hand with your bow and stern. Simply put, your forward refers to the bow of your boat, and your aft refers to the rear or stern.


Your hull is the bottom portion of your boat that sits in and on top of the water. It’s worth noting that not all hulls are the same shape. For example, the hull of your pontoon boat is made up of (you guessed it) pontoons. Many boats exhibit the familiar V-shaped hull, which is made of fiberglass.

The Transom

You can find the transom at the stern of your boat. This area is where your motor attaches to your boat.

Bilge Pump

A bilge pump plays a big role in the buoyancy of your boat. This pump is built into the hull and is designed to clear and drain any standing water it detects. Most bilge pumps run automatically, but some need to be turned on with a switch.


Your gunwale refers to the top edges of the sides of your boat—nothing more and nothing less.

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