Terminology: Parts of a Sailboat

To become ASA 101 certified it is required that you be able to identify the parts of a sailboat listed on this page as well as their function.

Parts of a Sailboat


The watertight body of the boat including the transom, stern, and bow.


The permanent covering over the hull of the boat. The “roof” of the hull.


The very back of the stern of the boat.


A tall spar (pole) erected vertically from the boat that sails attach to, quite often the mainsail.  A ketch and a yawl have two masts where as a sloop has one.


A horizontal spar (pole) along foot of a sail, quite often the mainsail. Used to control shape and angle of the sail.


The forward part of the hull.


The rear part of the hull.

Helm / Tiller / Wheel

Used by the helmsman to alter the angle of the rudder, thereby steering the boat.


The device that steers the boat using motion of water over its surface. A tiller or wheel is used to change the angle of the rudder.

Standing (Fixed) Rigging

Line or wires that are more or less fixed in position. Examples of standing rigging are the shrouds, the forestay, and the backstay.


Standing rigging that holds the mast up from side to side.


Metal piece used to fasten a stay or shroud to the deck or hull of the boat.


A piece of standing rigging that runs from the mast to the transom of the boat. It counteracts the forces applied on the  mast by the forestay and headsail. The backstay is also an important sail trim control and has a direct effect on the shape of the mainsail and headsail.


Mechanical device used to adjust the tension of a line.


Fixed device used for securing a line to either a dock or the deck of the boat.


A case containing sheaves or pulleys that gives mechanical advantage to life heavy weights or tension. Can also be used as a fairlead.


Typically a ring or a hook used to guid a line around objects or keep it out of the way.


Area of the boat where the helmsman sits or stands to steer the boat. Also where other crew or passengers can sit outside the cabin.


Enclosed space of the boat that contains the living quarters, berths, heads, etc. Also known as “down below”.

Parts of a Sailboat


Swivel connection by which the boom attaches to the mast.


Spar used to deflect or spread the shrouds to allow them to better support the mast.

Headstay / Forestay

A piece of standing rigging used to keep the mast from falling backwards. It runs between the mast and the bow of the boat. A headsail is often attached to the forestay.


Upright bar or post used to support another object, quite often the lifeline.


A line that runs around the perimeter of the boat to help prevent occupants from falling out.


Railing at the bow or stern of the boat.

Sailboat Keel


A vertical device extending from the bottom of the boat that converts sideways motion into forward motion as well as providing ballast.

Parts of a Sailboat


A bumper used to protect the sides of the boat while berthing against a dock, other boats, etc.


A line used to secure a boat to a dock.

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