Basic Intro: Parts of Boat & Points of Sail

Lesson One: Basic Intro

So you’ve never been on a boat before, but you want to learn about sailing? Starting a new job on a sailboat?  Going sailing with your girlfriends family for the first time? Know a little bit, but really wish you knew a little more? This is an awesome place to start!

Parts of the Boat:

parts of the boat

This is a great cheat sheet for parts of the boat – assuming you will be learning on a sloop (one-masted sailboat with a mainsail and a jib).  The most important parts for beginners to remember are the following:

  1. Mast – the vertical pole that holds up your sails.
  2. Boom – the horizontal pole that is attached to the mast and is used to extend the foot of the main sail.
  3. Main Sail – the sail that is attached to the mast and runs aft.
  4. Main Sheet – the line attached to the boom that controls the main sail.
  5. Jib – the sail at the front of the boat.
  6. Jib Sheets – notice the “s” – there are two and these are the lines that control the Jib.
  7. Rudder – a boat’s movable underwater steering board.
  8. Tiller – attached to the rudder, this is what we steer with!
  9. Centerboard or Keel – balances the boat and reduces leeway.
  10. Bow – Front of the boat
  11. Stern – Back of the boat
  12. Port Side – the left side of the boat if you’re looking towards the bow.
  13. Starboard Side – the right side of the boat if you’re looking towards the bow.

– OR –

You could ignore everything you just read and be this guy:

parts of the boat

Points of Sail

You may want to know how a sailboat moves.  Modern sailboats use aerodynamic lift just like an airplane.  This, in combination with the centerboard or keel, allows the boat to move forward even if the wind isn’t directly behind you. If you’re interested in exactly how it works, this guide is written from a physics perspective and is very detailed.  For our purposes, a general idea is good enough. It is not possible to sail directly into the wind.  Imagine a flag flapping in the wind – on a boat this is called luffing.

points of sail

For the beginners, suffice it to say that you cannot sail directly into the wind.  Reading over the other terms is a good idea, but memorization is not crucial at this point.  You can remember that if you are trying to point your bow closer to the wind, you are sailing “in” to the wind or “upwind”.  If you are trying to point your bow away from the wind, you are heading “off” the wind or “downwind”.  This is what most instructors will use to describe how they’d like you to steer.

Here’s a more entertaining version:

points of sail