How about another awesome ASA quiz, where you get compliments or a wisecrack. The last two have been about terminology and we’ve had feedback saying that they were too easy. Here’s a quiz generated from our Sailing Made Easy textbook designed to be a bit more challenging. Good luck!
Okay, here’s another quick little quiz of sailing terms born from our Sailing Made Easy book.
In our first Sailing Terms Quiz only 50% of you got all the questions right! Let’s see if you can all do a little better this time!
Test your sailing knowledge with these 5 questions – if you get them all right, the quiz will give you compliments. If you make a mistake, the quiz may act like a wise guy. Either way, it’s fun. Ready?
Okay, here’s a quick little quiz of sailing terms born from our Sailing Made Easy book. Test your sailing knowledge with these 5 questions – if you get them all right, the quiz will give you compliments. If you make a mistake, the quiz may act like a wise guy. Either way, it’s fun. Ready?
Knowing the right sailing terms to use on board a boat is not JUST a way of sounding super cool and impressing your friends. (Though it works for that, too.) It’s actually very useful, and sometimes crucial in communicating while you’re sailing. Some of the vocabulary used on board boats can sound arcane, which it is! That’s part of what’s fun about it; we’re still using terms that have been used by sailors for hundreds of years. So when you know your terminology, you’re participating in the grand sailing tradition, and you don’t have to say, “Can you hand me that…thing?”
Here are the key sailing terms you’ll want to know as you begin learning to sail!
- Port: Facing forward, this is anything to the left of the boat. When you’re onboard, you can use this term pretty much any time you would normally say “left.”
Starboard: Facing forward, this is anything to the right of the boat. Same deal as “port”–only the opposite.
- Bow/Stern: The bow is the front of the boat, the stern is the back. Anything near the front of the boat is referred to as being “forward,” and anything toward the back is “aft” or “astern.”
- Point of Sail: The boat’s direction relative to the wind. For example, if you’re going straight into the wind, your point of sail is called “in irons.” (Note: This isn’t a good place to be!) If the wind is blowing straight over the side of the boat, that’s called a “beam reach.” There are 8 commonly used points of sail, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before going out.
- Helm: Where you steer the boat. Usually this is a big wheel, but on smaller boats it can be a tiller, which is basically a long wooden stick. Either of these can be used to control the boat’s rudder.
- Keel: The keel is a long, heavy fin on the bottom of the boat that sticks down into the water. It provides stability and is the reason why modern sailboats are nearly impossible to capsize.
- Heeling: This is the term for when a sailboat leans over in the water, pushed by the wind. There’s nothing else like the thrill of heeling over as your sails fill and your speed picks up!
- Tack: This term has two distinct meanings, both of them very important. As a verb, to tack is to change direction by turning the bow of the boat through the wind. As a noun, your tack is the course you are on relative to the wind. For example, if the wind is blowing over the port side, you are on a port tack. If it’s blowing over the starboard side, you’re on a…you guessed it…starboard tack.
- Jibe: A jibe is another way of changing direction, in which you bring the stern of the boat through the wind. Whether you choose to tack or jibe entirely depends on the situation–what’s around you, and the direction of the wind.
- Windward: The side of the boat closest to the wind. When heeling over, this will always be the high side.
- Leeward:The side of the boat furthest from the wind. When heeling over, this will always be the low side.
- Lines: On board a boat, this is what you say instead of “ropes.”
- Mainsail: The big triangular sail just aft of the sailboat’s mast. As the name suggests, this is the boat’s largest and most important sail. Running along its bottom edge, the mainsail has a thick pole called the boom.
- Jib: The next most common sail on any boat. The jib can always be found forward of the mast, and unlike the mainsail, does not have a boom.
Getting familiar with these sailing terms is an important step. Not only will you sound like you know what you’re doing, you’ll quickly begin to realize that with the right practice and training, you really DO know what you’re doing!
No one knows quite how sailing began, though it’s certainly been going on for thousands of years. For example, way back in 1200 BC the Greeks launched 1,000 ships and sailed to Troy, and subsequently Odysseus went on one of the worst Mediterranean sailing charters in history trying to get home again.
Like most things, the creation of a sail probably started as an accident–someone somewhere held a piece of cloth up to the wind and noticed that it made their canoe/raft/piece of driftwood move faster. From those humble beginnings, the idea of using a sail to move through the water went on to change the world forever.
So how did it happen?
For at least a thousand years, the primary type of sailing ship was the square-rigger. A square-rigged sail is, not surprisingly, square, and is designed to have the wind push on it from the back and propel the boat forward. A simple and effective idea, and square-rigged ships drove world travel, commerce, and warfare for hundreds of years. But it had its limitations. The main problem was that you could ONLY sail running with the wind at your back, or at a very limited angle to it. Not very convenient if your destination lay in the other direction. The only answer was to start rowing (or in the case of the Romans and Egyptians, have your slaves do it).
As technology improved, sails began to be cut differently, into the more familiar triangular shape we see today. The materials also changed, from natural fabrics like hemp and cotton to nylon and polyester. But it wasn’t actually anything to do with the sail that caused the massive change from square-riggers to modern boats with more points-of-sail. It was the hull design. Shipwrights in the 18th and 19th centuries improved upon their design, taking them from wide, ponderous tubs to sleek and efficient keelboats. So the next time you’re flying along close-hauled, spare a thought for those hardworking ship designers of yesteryear!
It was a long process of incremental changes and innovations that got us where we are today. Of course, an airplane wing works on the same principles as a sail, so all those centuries of messing about in boats laid the groundwork for human flight. Now airplanes are returning the favor: Fans of the America’s Cup look on in awe as AC45 catamarans slice through the water at speeds above 30 knots. The mainsail of an AC45, which resembles a spaceship more than a sailboat, is made of rigid plastic, and is referred to as a “wing sail.” Whether or not these sails have any mainstream future for the average sailor remains to be seen, but it’s proof that there is still plenty of room for innovation.
Sails conquered earth’s watery frontiers, and space could be next. With the field of solar sails growing, who knows where sailing will take us next? Want to know more about the sail and other parts of a sailboat? Enroll in a local, basic sailing course at an ASA sailing school near you!