Important Boating Terminology

The language of boats and boating has been developed over the centuries by those who work at sea and is derived from many different languages.The terms used in boating are different from those used by "landlubbers" for many common items.

For example, "port" means the left side of a pleasure craft when looking forward.

Note that the "port" side of a boat never changes. It makes no difference whether you are looking forward or to the rear - port is always one particular side of the boat.

In an emergency, many seconds of valuable time can be saved by using the correct nautical term for a part of a boat, tools, or actions.You should practice using nautical terms at every opportunity so that their meaning comes to you automatically without mental effort.

The boating and weather terms described below are the minimum terms you will have to know for the Pleasure Craft Operator Card requirements.


Boating Terminology

Vessel includes every description of water craft, including non-displacement craft and seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water
Pleasure Craft a boat, a ship, a vessel, or any other description of water
craft that is used exclusively for pleasure and does not carry passengers or goods for hire, reward, remuneration or any object of profit
Power Driven Vessel means any vessel propelled by machinery
Sailing Vessel means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used
Operate means the action of controlling the speed and course of a pleasure craft
Operator the person in effective charge and control of a pleasure craft
and who is responsible for the pleasure craft
Bow forward part of a vessel
Stern the after part of a vessel
Port the left side of a vessel looking forward.
memory aid:   left and port both have 4 letters
Starboard the right side of a vessel looking forward.
memory aid:   right has more letters than left
  starboard has more letters than port
Beam the width of a vessel
Hull the body of a vessel exclusive of masts, sails, rigging
machinery and equipment
Draft depth of water which a vessel requires to float freely
(depth from water level to bottom of hull or keel)
Waterline (Design) means the waterline at the recommended maximum gross load capacity
Freeboard the height of a vessel's deck above the water level
Transom the flat surface forming the stern of a vessel
Keel the centerline at the bottom of a vessel's hull, on which the rest of the hull is built, in some vessels extended downward as a blade or ridge to increase stability
Bilge the lowest compartment of the boat, below the waterline, where the two sides meet at the keel
Underway a vessel which is not at anchor or made fast to shore or a dock
Wake the disturbed column of water around and behind a moving vessel which is set in motion by the passage of the vessel
Give-way Vessel means a vessel that is required by Collision Regulations to keep out of the way of another vessel
Stand-on Vessel means a vessel that has right-of-way according to Collision Regulations and shall normally maintain a steady course
Restricted Visibility vessels not in sight of one another when navigating in or near an area of restricted visibility
Strong Wind Warning winds with sustained wind speeds in the range of 20 to 33 knots (strong winds).       * 1 knot is one nautical mile per hour, equivalent to 1.85 km/h or 1.1 mph.
Lifejacket A lifejacket is a safety flotation device which is designed to turn you on your back and keep your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious. There are three Canadian-approved lifejackets, ranging from the slowest performing to best performing in terms of the time required to turn you on your back. The colours are red, orange, or yellow for maximum visibility. The approved types are the small vessel lifejacket, the standard lifejacket or the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) lifejacket.
Standard Lifejacket is a lifejacket as described above and is mid-range in the time required to turn a person on their back.
Small Vessel Lifejacket is a lifejacket as described above and is slowest in the time required to turn a person on their back.

Small Vessel Lifejackets are available in a better size range for young people.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) means a buoyant life-saving apparatus other than a lifejacket. A PFD does not turn you on your back and does not offer the same level of protection as a lifejacket for staying afloat. PFDs come in a wide range of approved types, colours, and sizes.