There are tonnes of it no matter what walk of life … we all use it. Well on the boat it’s no different; we just have some really special words, some of which are important so that everyone uses the same terminology for safety’s sake and some seem just a bit random – like the handy billy aka “Cunningham”… why I ask myself, who or what was/is Billy?

Handy billy

Handy billy

Pointy end doesn’t really hack it with the real boaty people, however, going “downstairs” we seem to get away with, as well as going upstairs and for those of us who weren’t born into boaty lingo, it keeps us vaguely sane – or simply rebellious.

And I noticed that I have even lapsed into jargon in some of my blogs, so here is a quick and easy guide to boaty jargon which I hope will help when I get a bit over excited and start speaking boat lingo.

We have quite an array of sails we can use. The big one that you draw as a child on the boat is the main sail. The ones we use at the front of the boat are the headsails. And what’s more, we have three of them – all called “Yankees” or in our case, Buster. Which on howling gales of nights you can imagine lapses into some other similar not quite as polite name.

So we have big Buster – the Yankee 1, the Yankee 2 and the Yankee 3. Coming backwards there’s then the staysail – the one we must have on deck when we’re motoring, ready to fly in case the engine fails. And then the really big one – the main sail.

The Yankees we use when the wind is in front of the boat (give or take a few degrees) – upwind sailing – that’s the lumpy and leany; bouncy and wet kind of sailing and the spinnakers or kites are the ones we use when the wind is behind us, or downwind sailing – surfing even if we get lucky – more of a rolling; whooshing kind of sailing – think roller coaster rides.

And of the three spinnakers/kites we have the lightweight, or Code 1 – that’s the biggest; the medium weight, Code 2 – that’s the one with our branding all over it and then the heavyweight or Code 3. When we’re struggling for wind we have a “windseeker” and when there’s too much wind there’s the storm sail.


Easy hey?!

The toilets are known as the heads, apparently down to the fact that on the old sailing boats to relieve oneself you would go to the “head” of the boat and let go…..so glad it’s somewhat more civilized these days. Our kitchen is the galley and bed is bunk. Left is port and right is starboard.

Jeepers, then there’s the ropes… but we don’t have ropes, we have halyards and sheets.

Halyards hoist sails and sheets attach to the sail so you can tighten or ease the sail (ish).

Hmmm, what else? Grinding and easing, holding and pulling. Well that’s easy. Tacks and Clews; shackles and snap shackles; luffs and leaches.  That’s enough, even for me. Almost forgot – the knots as well as how to tie them – goodness me, I can almost feel another blog topic coming on.

I did say “almost”…..


1 thought on “Jargon

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