Whether you are new to boating or looking to refresh your memory on some basics, below are the most significant general phrases that all boaters need to know.
Bilge: The lowest point inside the boat, where water collects. A pump is generally used to remove the water.
Bimini top: A stowable, cloth cover on a folding framework used for providing shade.
Chine: The angle where the hull bottom meets the hull side.
Cleat: A tie-on point, usually on the gunnel, used for mooring the boat.
Fender: A stowable cushion used to keep the boat from hitting the dock.
Gunwale (aka Gunnel): The upper outer edge of the hull.
Head: A toilet on a boat.
Helm: The captain’s (driver’s) position when operating the boat.
Holeshot: The amount of time it takes for the boat to accelerate onto plane.
Hull: The watertight foundation of the boat, allowing it to float on the water.
Jump Seat: A supplemental seat, sometimes folding and hidden, for additional passengers.
Keel: The centerline at the bottom of a boat.
Strake: One or more pronounced ridges running the length of the hull to improve tracking and performance.
Navigation Lights: Lights used in low light and after dark. Port (left) is red, and starboard (right) is green.
Outboard: The boat’s motor, mounted to the transom.
PFD: Personal Flotation Device, commonly known as life jacket.
Plane: The boat’s stance when underway at an optimal running speed
Planing: The bow returning to near horizontal after the initial lift of acceleration.
Prop: The fan-shaped device at the bottom of the outboard that makes the boat move by transferring the power of the motor to the water.
Rubrail: A strip, usually rubberized, that runs along the perimeter of the boat to protect it from damage.
Safety Lanyard or Kill Switch: A lanyard which attaches to the driver’s clothing and turns off the engine in the event that the driver is thrown from the boat.
Ski Pylon/Bar: A rope connection point at the stern for towing skiers, tubers, wakeboarders, etc.
Tracking: The tendency of the boat to move in a straight line naturally.
Transom: The back section of the hull upon which the outboard is mounted.
Trim: The angle by which the outboard is adjusted to improve performance.
Twin Engine: A boat with two outboards.
Wake: The waves caused by a boat’s movement.
Waterline: The point at which the boat sits on the water when loaded.
Port: Left, when in the boat and facing forward.
Starboard: Right, when in the boat and facing forward.
Fore: The forward direction inside the boat.
Aft: The backward direction inside the boat.
Bow: The front of the boat.
Stern: The back of the boat.
Length (LOA): The length of the entire boat from bow to stern, not including the outboard.
Deck Length: The length of a deck, not including the tubes (for pontoons).
Towing Length: The length of the trailered boat with outboard raised.
Storage Length: The length of the trailered boat with outboard lowered.
Beam: The width of the boat at its widest point.
Deck Width: The width of a boat’s deck.
Deadrise: The angle of the hull relative to the waterline.
Draft: The depth of the lowest point of the boat when sitting in the water.
Freeboard: The height of the boat that sits above the water.
Dry Weight: The weight of the boat with no fuel, gear, or people.
Towing Weight: The weight of the trailered boat.
Read on for more boat terms that are specific to pontoons.