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on August 15, 2021

Do you understand all the boat parts and boating terms? We explain all boat parts and boating terms!

BASIC PARTS ON A BOAT, boating line

Boat parts explained: from bow to stern


Parts of a Boat explained

It is essential to know and understand the parts of a boat. Why is this so important? "the hull needs to be checked for cracks as there is water entering on the bow side." or "your masthead light needs replacement" if this sentence was confusing, then this is why it is crucial. 

Boating terms are different from everyday terms used, for example, we would talk about the kitchen but on a boat, a kitchen is called the galley.

Larger boats, of course, will have a galley, cabins, main deck, etc. Small vessels have the same major parts, but the boat excludes areas like a galley and cabins.

Navigation Lights 

Navigation lights are essential. The manufacturer generally installs navigation lights. Navigation lights indicate the vessel's size; the vessel's angle; the direction the boat is traveling, or if the ship is moving or anchored.

  1. Red and green side Lights: The reason for the red and green light is to show visibility to vessels approaching. The red light indicates the boat's left side, called port, and the green light indicates the boat's right side called starboard. Shines 112.5ﹾ
  2. Masthead light: is located in the front of the boat and shines 112.5ﹾ
  3. All-round white light: Shows visibility all around the vessel. Shines 360ﹾ
  4. Stern light: White light at the back of the boat shows visibility to other vessels. Shines 112.5ﹾ


Boat parts - Bow to stern

A boat's length is measured from the bow of the boat to the stern of the boat

Boating terms & parts

Bow: Boat bow refers to the front of the boat

Port side: Left side of the boat

Stern: Is the back of the vessel and indicated with white navigation lights at night

Propeller: Also known as the prop rotates and powers a boat forward or backward

Cleats: metal fittings used to fasten ropes. Cleats will be on the bow of the boat, on the sides

Starboard side: Right side of the boat 

Parts of a Boat

Gunwale: The gunwale, also known as gunnel, is the Hull's upper edge on the side of the boat/vessel.

Hull: The biggest part of the boat is the "body" of a vessel called the Hull; this includes the bottom side of the vessel. "Hull" is the part of the vessel which sits in water, from the Hull of the vessel to the water surface is referred to as the waterline. There are different structures/forms of "hulls," depending on the type of boat. The hull is the main body of the boat.

Boat parts


The keel is the bottom of the boat that runs from the front of the boat, the term is known as bow and reaches the back of the boat, a term known as the stern. 

The keel is often the first part of a boat/vessel construction. There are different types of keels: Structural keels, "flat plate keel," which is the most common keel for ocean boats, "bar keel," which is for smaller vessels, and Hydrodynamic keels. 


The maximum width of a vessel, the wider the boat/vessel's beam, the more stability it has. There are two types of beams; BOA- Beam overall: overall width of the vessel/ship measured at the nominal waterline's widest point. BOC- Beam on centerline: This is for multi-hull vessels like the catamaran.


The distance from the waterline to the deck level measured at the lowest point of the boat (where water could come on a vessel/ship)


The vertical distance between the waterline and the Hull's bottom known as the keel. The purpose of the draft is to measure the depth of water needed to float a vessel. The draft is measured as the distance from the waterline to the lowest point of the boat.


Boats Draft -  distance measured, waterline depth



a compartment within the boat/ship that holds water, called the Ballast tank. The ballast is located or remains under the waterline; water should move in and out from the ballast tank

boats Ballast



The location where a boat/vessel is moored (attaching boat by cable or rope to the shore or an anchor) a term used in ports and harbors for loading and unloading.




Think of it as a sunroof in a car; the Bimini is a hard top supported by a metal frame that can be raised to provide protection from the sun and can be collapsed when not in use.


This is an enclosed, protected area where you can relax. Cabins can vary in size.

Casting Deck: 

This is a flat surface in front of the boat that can be used for fishing and, for us girls, some fun in the sun "tanning." 

T Top:

This is a t shaped top for center console boats


Casting deck, boat's deck


This is the lowest compartment on a boat/vessel. The bilge can collect water that does not drain off the sides; this is caused by rough seas, rain, or leeks in the Hull or other places. A bilge pump would be used to drain the water. Bilge pump to drain water


The boom is a pole attached to the mast just under the sail. The boom would be attached horizontally to the mast. The mast is a vertical upright structure that carries the sails. The joint that connects the boom to the mast is called "gooseneck" The boom improves control of the sail's angle and shape.


This is the area with kitchen facilities; this might be my favorite part; if someone says kitchen, then I hear food.

Marine Fender: 

Fenders are also known as bumpers. There are many different types of fenders and various sizes. Fenders are located on the boat's side, and it protects the boat from berthing structures; Polyform Fender needs a cover to protect it from sunlight, the Polyform fender should not be left outside it should be stored and taken out when needed. The quantity of offenders/bumpers you need depends on the size of your boat; some would say, "the more, the merrier."

Rule of thumb, for every 5feet (length of the boat), there should be at least two fenders/bumpers. The Placement for fenders is stern, bow, and widest beam.


Fenders left hand side and right side of the boat Hull sides

Rule of thumb, for every 5feet (length of the boat) there should be at least two fenders/bumpers. Placement for fenders; stern, bow, and widest beam.

Clove Hitch or Bowline: 

these are types of knots used to tie fenders/bumpers; learning both knots are essential. The clove hitch ties and unties quickly, and the bowline is a much stronger knot.



Standing rigging & Running rigging: 

standing rigging is fixed lines, wires, or rods that support a mast on sailboats. Running rigging is the rigging of a sailing boat that is used to control sails by lowering or raising sails.

Halyard or Halliard: 

Is a line/rope used to raise a ladder, sail flag, or yard


This is a vertical wall within the hull of a boat or ship; in other words, the Compartmentalization of a boat. The purpose of bulkheads is to divide areas into rooms.


is an enclosed area where the controls of the vessel are situated. 


a structure on the deck of the boat where all the controls are located; steering, ignition, radio, and other electronic devices. The console may have storage space or a toilet in the compartment below.


Boat areas, room inside

Boat's Deck: 

The deck of a boat is known as the upper deck; this is the roof of the Hull. This the surface of a boat where you would work on or walk on.


The dinette is the dining room.


This is a compartment used for beds or bunker beds in front of the boat or ship, the Hull's front. The shape in the front usually is a V shape and therefore is called V-berth.


The hatch is an opening on the deck of the vessel that holds cargo. The hatch gives easy access to any cargo hold in there.




The live-well is a tank used on fishing boats to store the bait and keep the caught fish alive. Freshwater gets pumped into the tank.


the rudder is a control surface used to steer a vessel and is located behind the propeller.




This is a horizontal reinforcement structure that strengthens the stern of a boat and supports the rudder, swim plat, or outboard motor.

Swim plat:  

The swim plat is located at the stern of the boat or on the side of the boat; this is a place where you can get onto the boat.


Swimplat,  stern of the boat

 Boating is fun, understanding the basic parts of a boat is important, knowing the boating terms is vital when you are talking about the left side of the boat use the term port, starboard refers to the right side of the boat, so if you get asked to check the starboard bow, you will know to check the right side on the front of the boat and if someone says port bow it means? Drop a comment and let's see if this blog of basic parts on a boat was helpful. Remember safety comes first so make sure you have your life jackets on!


Parts of a boat explained, visit our online boat store where you can buy boat parts you need Marine Supplies US

1 comment
by Jasmine Hewitt on November 19, 2020

This is a great guide for a novice to learn all the boating terms easily


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