Glossary of Sailing Terms

Baltimore Clipper

Schooner rigger vessels known for their speed that became famous during the War of 1812 as blockade-runners and privateers and subsequently notorious as slave ships after the slave trade was outlawed by international agreement. Their hulls were long and low with sharp ends and a deep V shape below the waterline. These design features were later incorporated into the true clipper ships that first appeared in the 1840s.

 

Beam

The width of a vessel at its widest point.

 

Boom

Spar that runs along the foot of a fore-and-aft sail.

 

Bow

Front end of a vessel.

 

Brig

Two masted square-rigged vessels.

 

Come About

To turn the vessel so that the bow goes through the eye of the wind.

Also known as tacking as it involves a switch from one tack to the other.

 

Draft

The distance below the water line that a vessel’s keel extends.

 

Fore-and-Aft Sail/Rig

A sail that is attached to the mast or stay along its leading edge can carry the wind on either surface depending on the tack and sets parallel to the vessel when in its neutral position. A fore-and-aft rig one that carries that type of sail.

 

Formast

The shorter mast further forward on a schooner rig.

 

Foresail

The sail carried on the foremast on a schooner rig.

 

Fore Staysail

The sail carried inside and below both the jib topsail and jib and set on a wire cable (stay; see standing rigging) that runs from the bowsprit to the foremast.

 

Freeboard

The distance between the waterline and the level of the deck on a vessel when it is level.

 

Gaff

Spar that runs along the top of a fore-and-aft sail in a traditional schooner rig.

 

Hull

Main body of a vessel.

 

Jib

The sail carried inside and below both the jib topsail and jib and set on a wire cable (stay; see standing rigging) that runs from the jib-boom to the foremast.

 

Jib-Boom

The extension of the bowsprit on the bow of a vessel.

 

Jib Topsail

The sail carried furthest forward in front of the foremast. It is set on a wire cable (stay; see standing rigging) that runs from the end of the jib-boom to the top of the foremast.

 

Jibe

To turn the vessel so that the stern passes through the eye of the wind. The maneuver results in a change of tracks. In a square rigged vessel this maneuver is known as wearing.

 

Leeward

Away from the direction that the wind is coming from.

 

Mainmast

The taller mast that is further back on a schooner rig.

 

Points of sail

The relative angle of sailing vessel to the wind. See points of sail diagram.

 

Rig

The arrangement of masts and sails on a vessel.

 

Rudder

Vertical piece of wood attached to the stern of a vessel, which allows it to be steered.

 

Running Rigging

The lines on a sailing vessel that move either to raise or adjust the sails.

 

Schooner

Two masted fore-and-aft rigged vessel generally used in the fisheries and the coastal trade.

 

Square Fore Topsail

A square sail carried on the foremast below the top gallant on the type of schooner rig common on the Baltimore Clippers.

 

Square Sail/Rig

A sail that is attached to the mast along its center carries the wind on only one surface and sets across the vessel (“square” to the vessel) when in its neutral position. A square rig is one that carries primarily that type of sail (most will carry some fore-and-aft sails as well).

 

Standing Rigging

The lines on a sailing vessel (usually wire cable) that hold up the masts. The standing rigging is made up of Stays, which run up to the masts from the forward and back ends of the vessel and Shrouds that run up from the sides of the vessel.

 

Stern

Back of a vessel.

 

Tack

A course defined by which side of the vessel that the wind is on. Stated as either Starboard Tack (wind on the right side of the vessel) or Port Tack (wind on the left side of the vessel). As a verb, to tack means to change course so that the tack changes. (See come about)

 

Top Gallant

The square sail carried at the top of the foremast on the type of schooner  rig common on the Baltimore Clippers.

 

Windward

Toward the direction that the wind is coming from.

 

"All We Want Is Make Us Free"  - Sengbe Pieh