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Yachtspeak – nautical phrases for charter guests

Taking a vacation by automobile doesn’t require any particular vocabulary skills; however, when you go on a private yacht charter, whether it’s a Virgin Islands yacht charter or Croatia yacht charter, it’s sometimes nice to know some of the terminology used when onboard.

Here are some nautical terms for you that might be helpful to know.

BOW – The forward part of a boat.

STERN – The back of the boat.

BEAM – The greatest width of the boat.

BUOY – An anchored float used for marking a position on the water or a hazard or a shoal and for mooring.

CABIN (or "stateroom") – A compartment (bedroom) for passengers or crew.

CATAMARAN – A twin-hulled boat, with hulls side-by-side.  Can be sail or power, but is usually sail.

CHART – A map for use by navigators. 

HELM (or "Navigation Station") – The area from where the Captain steers/pilots the boat.

CLEAT – A fitting to which lines are tied.  They are usually in somewhat of a "figure8 shape." Cleats are located on the dock and on the boat. (They are often tripped over, if you don’t watch your step!)

COCKPIT – An opening in the deck from which the boat is handled. (Visualize a large sailboat – the "steering wheel" of the boat is located in the cockpit.)

DINGHY (also known as a "tender") – A small open boat. 

"T/T BOATNAME" – Means "Tender To…[boatname]."   NOTE: Most yachts only have 1 tender.  Those with more than 1 tender (aka, dinghy) often have "TTT’s….or tenders for/to their tenders."

FENDER (also known as a "bumper") – A cushion, placed between boats, or between a boat and a pier, to prevent damage.

Yacht fenders - bumpers - cushions placed between boats, or boat and pier, to prevent damage

GALLEY – The kitchen of a boat.

SAILBOAT – A boat powered by wind through sails (with ancillary engine).

POWERBOAT – A boat powered by engine and fuel.

STINKPOTTER – A powerboat enthusiast.

HEAD – A marine toilet/bathroom. 

DAY HEAD – The bathroom that is used by all guests, usually in main area of the boat and not located within a stateroom.

INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY – AKA, "The ICW."  Bays, rivers, and canals along the coasts (such as the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts), connected so that vessels may travel without going into the sea.  Evening charters in Florida often cruise along the ICW to see the holiday lights of the condos lining the waterway, for example.

KNOT (relating to speed) – A measure of speed equal to one nautical mile (6076 feet) per hour.

LOG – A record of courses or operation, kept by the captain/crew. (Charter guests often fill out an entry in a "guestbook" or "logbook" after a charter, as well, to describe their trip.)

PLANING ("on a plane") – As a boat evens out above the water when it is moving/underway, as opposed to still being partially underneath the water, as in before it starts moving. 

PORT – The left side of a boat looking forward. (Also refers to a docking location)

STARBOARD – The right side of a boat, looking forward.

SCREW – A boat’s propeller.  (A "twin screw" is a boat with 2 propellers.)

UNDERWAY – Vessel in motion.

WAKE – Moving waves, track, or path that a boat leaves behind it, when moving across the water.

YACHT – A boat used for pleasure.

There are many other phrases used by "yachtees," but these are basics that will help you navigate your way when onboard a private yacht!

To book your private luxury yacht charter vacation (and practice your "yachtspeak"),
contact 1-800-YACHTCHARTER 
by phone via 1-800-YACHTCHARTER or 305-253-7245
by email via
via twitter @yacht_charters (follow us!)
via our contact form at

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