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English Afloat

Postyacht - view towards Replot

The world of boating probably contains more strange and unfamiliar words than almost any other activity. One reason for this is a very long history going back thousands of years, involving contact with almost all the coastal-living cultures in the world.

If you are a landlubber, the moment you step onto a boat you are going to say something wrong. Boats have no front, no back, no walls, no ceilings, no floors, no kitchens, no bedrooms, no beds, no living rooms, indeed no rooms at all. Most of the these nautical words have been in use for centuries.

So, let’s begin.

Back – stern
Bed
– bunk (‘berth’ if you are counting them, as in ‘a four-berth boat’)
Bedroom
– cabin
Ceiling
– deckhead
Cupboard
– locker
Headlight
– search light (for close work in harbours etc), or tunnel light (on a canal boat). Except in tunnels, boats do not use light to see where they are going. The crew need their night vision to see in the dark.
Floor
– cabin sole on a small vessel, or ‘deck’ (inside or outside) on a larger one. 
Front
– bows
Kitchen
– galley
Left (looking forward)
– port
Left side – port side
Living room
– saloon
Right (looking forward)
– starboard
Right side – starboard side
Room
– cabin
Shower room
– shower cabin
Side lights
– port and starboard navigation lights (red to port, green to starboard)
Steering position
– helm
Skylight
– decklight
Sofa
– settee
Sofa bed
– settee berth
Storage
– stowage
Toilet
– head
Towrope
– hawser
Wall
– bulkhead
Windows
– yes, some boats have windows, but the classic round ones are called ‘portholes’.

There are many many more. I look forward to your questions 🙂

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