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Glossary of Boating Terms: Top 100 You Should Know

Whether you're a seasoned boater or new to the water, there are many specialized terms and phrases used in the boating world that can be confusing. To help you navigate this terminology, we've put together a comprehensive glossary of boating terms. From common terms like "anchor" and "buoy" to more specialized terms like "bow thruster" and "tiller," this glossary covers it all. So whether you're looking to brush up on your boating vocabulary or simply want to learn something new, this guide is the perfect resource.


Anchoring | Boating Equipment | Electrical Systems | General Boating TermsMarine Lighting | Parts of a Boat | Stabilizers | Thrusters | Wipers





A device used to hold a boat in place by digging into the seabed or other bottom surface.

Anchor Chain

A heavy metal chain is used as part of an anchor rode to provide additional weight and prevent chafe.

Anchor Rode

The line that secures the boat to the anchor. It may consist of all chain, all rope, or rope spliced to chain

Anchor Windlass

A powered or manual winch designed specifically for hauling or deploying a boat's anchor. Typically mounted in the bow.

Anchoring Scope

The amount of anchor rode let out when anchoring, relative to the depth of the water. Conventional wisdom is that scope should be six times the depth of the water you're anchoring in.

Bow Roller

A wheel mounted on the bow or sprit of a boat which the anchor rests on when it is up, and which helps the anchor rode smoothly roll over the edge of the boat when being deployed or hauled.


Often referred to as a drum or rope drum, the capstan is used primarily for hauling rope. Can stand alone or be a part of an anchor windlass when paired with a chainwheel.


Located between the anchor windlass and the bow roller to secure the chain and anchor so as to take the load of the anchor off of the windlass.


Part of an anchor windlass. A special wheel with pockets to accommodate a specified chain size for hauling up the chain and anchor. Some chainwheels are designed to handle both chain and rope, which others handle only chain. Also referred to as a gypsy or wildcat


A fitting used to guide an anchor rode and prevent it from damaging the boat.


A fitting used to secure an anchor rode to a boat.

Danforth Anchor

A type of anchor with two flukes designed to dig into the seabed for a secure hold.

Deadweight Anchor

A type of anchor that relies on its own weight to hold a boat in place.

Electric Windlass

An anchor windlass that is powered with an electric motor


One of the pointed arms on the end of an anchor that digs into the seabed.

Grapnel Anchor

A small, lightweight anchor with multiple hooks designed for use in rocky or weedy bottoms.

Horizontal Windlass

An anchor windlass with the main drive shaft oriented horizontally

Hydraulic Windlass

An anchor windlass that is powered with a hydraulic motor

Kedge Anchor

A small, lightweight anchor used as a secondary anchor or for temporary

Manual Windlass

An anchor windlass powered by hand with a handle

Mushroom Anchor

A type of anchor with a wide, flat bottom that provides a large surface area for holding power.


The ratio of the length of anchor rode deployed to the depth of the water.


Metal connectors used to attach chain links or anchor rode to the anchor.


A fitting used to prevent an anchor rode from twisting and kinking.


The part of a vertical anchor windlass that is above deck.

Vertical Windlass

An anchor windlass with the main drive shaft oriented vertically.


A mechanical device used to hoist or lower an anchor.

Windlass Chain

Chain that is manufactured specifically to run through an anchor windlass. It is manufactured so that each link of the chain is exactly the same size as all others certified by the ISO.



Boating Equipment



Automatic Identification System, a system that uses VHF radio to transmit and receive vessel information for collision avoidance.


A sacrificial metal, often zinc, that is meant to erode via electrolysis before more important metals installed on the boat below the water line like propellers and propeller shafts.

Bilge Pump

A pump located in the bilge of a boat or ship designed to pump any excess water that collects there overboard. Typically activated automatically with a float switch as an integral piece of safety equipment.

Bimini Top

A canvas or fabric top that provides shade on a boat.

Boat Cover

A cover used to protect a boat from the elements when not in use.


An electronic navigation device that displays a boat's position on a chart.


A navigational instrument that uses a magnetic needle to show direction.


A cushion used to protect a boat from damage when it is docked or moored.


An electronic device that uses sonar to locate fish underwater.


Global Positioning System, a satellite-based navigation system that provides location and time information.

Ground Tackle

A collective term for the anchor rode and anchor combined.

Holding Tank

A tank on the boat that contains all waste water.


A sound-producing device used to signal other boats or alert people on shore.


Small vertical blades mounted to the transom of a boat perpendicular to the surface of the water that deploy to generate lift on the back of the boat which can both stabilize the riding angle of the boat and help it get on plane faster. See Zipwake interceptors.

Life Jacket

A personal flotation device worn to keep a person afloat in the water.

Marine Radio

A VHF radio used for communication between boats and with harbormasters.

Mooring Buoy

A floating device anchored to the seabed used to secure a boat.


An electronic device that uses radio waves to detect objects and determine their distance and direction.


A flexible, often synthetic material used to tie up or secure items on a boat.

Table Pedestal

A column that mounts to the deck and to a table to support the weight of a table.

Trim Tabs

Small surfaces mounted to the transom of a boat parallel to the surface of the water , used to change the angle of the boat as it runs through the water by angling the tab up or down with an actuator.

VHF Radio

Very High-Frequency radio, a communication device used in the boating industry for emergency calls and ship-to-ship communication.



Electrical Systems


Cable Run

The complete length of electrical cable that connects a power source to a power consumer and back. For example, if a battery is 20-feet away from an electric motor it is powering, the cable run is 40=feet.

Float Switch

A switch that has buoyancy that activates when it begins to float in water, and deactivates when it is no longer floating.

Shore Power

Electrical power provided to a boat from an external source, typically when the boat is docked at a marina.

Wire Gauge

The measure of a diameter of a wire; any of a series of standard sizes in which wire is made


General Boating Terms



At, near, or towards the stern of a boat.


The width of a boat at its widest point.


When the boat turns on its side or upside down


A two-hulled boat, with the hulls side by side.


The weight of water displaced by a floating vessel. The way to measure the weight of a boat in water.


The vertical distance from the lowest point of a boat to the surface of the water

Dry Weight

The weight of a boat out of the water


The vertical distance from the surface of the water to the gunwhale of the boat.


Intended direction of travel of a boat; where the bow is pointed.


The process of gliding easily through the water at high speeds with optimal running surface.

Running Surface

All parts of the boat that are in contact with the water while the boat is moving.


The waves created trailing a boat as it moves through the water


The level at which a boat sits in the water.




Marine Lighting


Color Temperature

A way to describe the appearance of light emitted from a fixture or bulb. It is measured in degrees Kelvin (K) on a scale of 1,000 - 10,000


Light-Emitting Diode.


A unit of measure for light intensity referring to the amount of light emitted by a lighting device in a particular direction


Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) describes the color appearance of the light emitted by a lamp, measured in degrees Kelvin (K). Lower CCT values produce a warmer, more yellowish light, while higher CCT values produce a cooler, bluish-white light.


Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a light source's ability to reveal the true colors of an object as compared to a natural light source. The index ranges from 0 to 100, with a higher CRI value indicating that colors appear more natural and vibrant under the given light source.

Kelvin Count

Kelvin is a unit of measurement used to express temperature, often used in the context of color temperature. A lower color temperature (e.g. 2700K) produces a warmer, more yellowish light, while a higher color temperature (e.g. 5000K) produces a cooler, bluish-white light.


A unit of measure for perceived light intensity referring to the total amount of light a light source emits

Navigation Lights

A set of lights, typically colored, shown by a boat or ship at night or in low-visibility weather to indicate its position and orientation, especially with respect to other vessels.

Running Lights

Lights required to be shown on boats underway at night.


Parts of a Boat


Aft Deck

The deck of a boat towards the stern.


The lowest compartment of boat or ship.


The front of a boat.

Bow Sprit

A spar extending forward from a boat's bow


An elevated location from which a large vessel, ship or yacht is steered and its speed controlled.


A vertical partition separating compartments.


The intersection of the bottom and sides of the boat


The deck of a boat towards the bow.


The forward most internal compartment of a boat.


The kitchen area of a boat


The upper edge of the side of a boat.


The restroom area of a boat, ship, or yacht


The location from which you drive the boat, where the steering wheel, tiller, throttle and any associated equipment for steering are located.


The main body of a vessel


The centerline of a boat running for and aft; the backbone of a vessel.

Port Side

Left side of a boat


A vertical plate or board attached to the bottom of a boat on a shaft used for steering a boat by directing water port or starboard as it is turned through the water.


Cabin area of a boat devoted to seating, often combined with a dining table.


A long seat with a back to accommodate several persons at once, typically built-in to the structure of the interior of the boat

Starboard Side

Right side of a boat


The back of a boat.


A lever or handle that is attached to the rudder or outboard motor of a boat and used to steer the vessel by turning the rudder.


The sides of a vessel between the waterline and the deck


Flat surface forming the stern of the boat, typically perpendicular to the surface of the water.






Boat Stabilizers

A system consisting either of a set of fins under the hull or a gyro inside the boat for the purpose of keeping the boat from rocking back and forth in swells.

Gyro Stabilizer

A stabilization system for boats that is mounted internally to the boat and uses a weighted flywheel to produce centrifugal force preventing the boat from rolling side to side in ocean swells.

Stabilizer Fin

A fin, or wing, attached to the bottom of the hull of a boat which pivots on a shaft to provide a stabilizing force preventing the boat from rolling side to side in ocean swells.

Vector Fin

A type of boat stabilizer that uses a small, retractable fin mounted at the stern of the vessel to improve stability and handling. It can be adjusted to direct the thrust in different directions, providing precise control of the vessel's lateral and longitudinal motion.




Azimuth Thruster

A type of thruster that can rotate 360 degrees to provide thrust in any direction.

Bow Thruster

A device mounted in the bow of a boat designed to push the bow of the boat left or right, typically with a propeller that pushes and pulls water perpendicular to the direction the boat is pointing


The lower unit of a bow or stern thruster with internal gears to drive the propeller shaft. The propeller(s) and anode(s) are attached to the gearleg.

Stern Thruster

A device mounted in the stern of a boat designed to push the bow of the boat left or right, typically with a propeller that pushes and pulls water perpendicular to the direction the boat is pointing





Pantograph Wiper

A pantograph wiper system involves two metal arms to connect one wiper motor to one wiper blade. In some cases, the arm is connected to two separate drive shafts coming out of the motor, and in others, one of the pantographic arms is on a stationary pivot while the other is connected to a single drive shaft. Pendulum wiper systems can clear more area of glass than pendulum wipers.

Pendulum Wiper

A single metal arm to connect the wiper motor to the wiper blade, sweeping the glass in a pie-shaped pendulum motion. Pendulum wipers are most commonly found on car wiper systems.

Wiper Arm

A metal arm connecting the drive shaft of a wiper motor to the wiper blade

Wiper Motor

Electric motor used to drive windshield wiper arms & blades


Now that you're familiar with all the important boating terms, it's time to put your knowledge to the test on the water! Whether you're a seasoned sailor or a first-time boater, Imtra has everything you need to make your next voyage a success. From lighting and wipers to thrusters and stabilizers, our top-of-the-line trim control and interceptor systems will ensure that your boat is safe, efficient, and comfortable. Visit our website or contact us today to learn more and start your next adventure!

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