Buying a boat? We explain some common boating terms

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Buying a boat can be a confusing time for anyone who isn’t well-versed in maritime jargon. Here are some of the major boating-related terms explained in language that even the most hesitant landlubbers can understand.

What is Ballast?

“Ballast” is any weight, solid or liquid, placed inside a vessel to regulate its stability.

What is the Bow?

“Bow” is the front (or fore-section) of a boat.

What is the Bow eye?

“Bow Eye” is a stainless steel U-bolt attached to a boat’s bow stem (the bow’s most forward section), used for attaching a tow line or trailer winch hook.

What is the Beam?

The “beam” is the width of the widest part of the boat.

What is a Breakaway lanyard?

A “break away lanyard” is an emergency safety cable on a boat trailer that activates the trailer brakes if the trailer suddenly detaches from the tow vehicle during transit.

What is a Center console?

A “center console” is a type of motorboat that has the operator’s steering console located halfway between bow and stern in the “center” of the boat. This permits greater freedom of movement while fishing.

What is the Chine?

The “chine” is part of the hull where the bottom of the boat connects with its sides. It can be rounded or angled.

What is a Cleat?

A “cleat” is a wooden or metal fitting with two arms, around which ropes can be secured.

What is an EPIRB?

An “E.P.I.R.B” is an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) that is used for marine search and rescue. It transmits at 406 megahertz (MHz) in conformance with AS/NZS 4280.1.

What is a Fender?

A “fender” is a cylindrical or round cushion that is used to protect a boat’s outer hull.

What is a Gunwale?

A “gunwale” is the top edge or ‘lip’ of a boat.

What is a Jack plate?

The “jack plate” is the device an outboard motor is mounted on. It can be used to raise or lower the motor.

What is a Mooring?

A “mooring” is a fixed structure that a boat can be secured to, such as a jetty, pier, or mooring buoy.

What is a Nautical mile?

A “nauticle mile” is the measurement of distance at sea level; equal to 1.85 kilometres.

What is Occulting?

“Occulting” is when a navigation light is flashed on and off, with the periods of light longer than periods of darkness (similar to a lighthouse).

What is the Rode?

The “rode” is the anchor line. It can be a chain, cable, rope, or more often a combination of the three.

What are Scuppers?

“Scuppers” are deck drains for rain or seawater.

What is Scope?

“Scope” is the ratio of the length of anchor line (rode) to the depth of the water. In practice and dependent on conditions, this is often between 5:1 and 8:1.

What is the Stern?

The “stern” is the back (or aft section) of a boat.

What are Surge brakes?

“Surge brakes” are hydraulic trailer brakes that are activated when the trailer moves forward against the tow vehicle during a stop.

What is a Tender?

A “tender” is a vessel that attends to a larger boat or ship, usually to supply goods and provisions or ferry passengers to and from shore.

What is the Transom?

The “transom ” on a square stern boat, is the rear cross-section of the hull that connects its sides.

What is the Trim?

The “trim” is a boat’s balance, both front-to-back and laterally (side-to-side), when it is in the water. ‘Equal trim’ means it is evenly balanced. ‘Trimmed by the bow’ means the bow is sitting lower in the water than the stern.

What is a Windlass?

The “windlass” is a machine used to raise and lower the anchor.

If you’re also looking to purchase a boat trailer, check out our six quick tips.
And don’t forget to do a boat launch safety check before hitting the waves.


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