Is your vocabulary sea-worthy?

By: Olivia Seitz
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Avast, ye mateys! Most nautical terminology doesn’t involve talking like a pirate, but it does require knowing a thing or two about directions and proper names. Will you be able to keep up when you hit the high seas?

What is a group of vessels sailing together called?

A group of ships that sail as one is called a fleet. It could refer to a group of fishing boats as well as to an armed group in war.

When not sailing the seas, you would tie or otherwise secure your boat to a ______.

A mooring is something permanently affixed to the ground so you can tie up your boat and keep it from floating away!

Which underwater part of a boat is critical for steering?

The rudder is an underwater fin that makes it much easier to steer the boat. Turning a steering wheel will adjust the rudder's orientation.

The waves created by a boat are called its...

The wake from a large ship can cause some serious rollers that rock smaller boats. Most regions have "no wake" zones where ships have to dock at low speed with the engine basically off.

______ float in the water to guide navigation.

Buoys are usually brightly colored floating orbs or cones used to designate different waterway areas. They could be used to zone off swimming-only areas or mark a mooring location, for example.

A ship's kitchen is called the...

The galley is the place to be if you want to know what kind of chow is for dinner. Unless you're planning on helping, the cook is likely to shoo you away.

The long, vertical wooden object that supports the sails of an old sailing ship is called...

The pieces of wood, called spars, are arranged to form the mast, which upholds the sails on a sailing vessel. A "full rigged" ship would have more than one mast.

What does it mean for an officer to "conn" a ship?

The word "conn" is believed to be a shortened form of the word conduct and was also used to describe the tall structures where sailors and officers could go to navigate (called "conning towers").

The front of a boat is called the...

If you're planning to recreate the scene from the "Titanic" movie when Jack and Rose look forward to a new future, you'll need to run to the bow of the boat.

The center line down the middle bottom of the boat is the...

The keel has been compared to the backbone of a boat and serves as the dividing line between port and starboard.

If water starts bubbling up from the bottom of your ship, you've probably sprung a leak in the ______.

The hull is, effectively, the main structure or body of the boat. In other words, it's the base and sides of the thing that floats!

If you're told to "batten down" an object, you're supposed to...

If you're about to embark on a voyage, it's important to make sure loose items are properly stowed. You might be told by a sailor to "batten down" that luggage you left in the hall.

The command center of a vessel is known as the...

Bridge is often used for large vessels, and some suggest that smaller vessels have a "control station" rather than a true bridge. But if it's your boat, you can call it the bridge if you want to.

What would you use to adjust the position of a sail?

The boom is a shaft of wood attached to the mast that allows you to turn the sail so you can harness the wind. In a small sailboat, you might need to when the boom is adjusted!

Fishermen will often ______ the water to attract fish.

Chumming the water is a common tactic to draw more aquatic creatures to your boat. Fishermen and tour guides are both known to chum the water for a flurry of activity.

What word is used to describe the cables and other miscellaneous equipment for sails?

The rigging is used in conjunction with the mast to control the sails and perform other functional roles. Many ships will carry some spare rigging since it's so important.

If a sailor tells you to look starboard, he's telling you to...

It's easy to get directions confused when it's not a simple "left" or "right," but "right" is in the eye of the beholder, whereas starboard never changes. Starboard refers to the right side of the boat and the water in that direction.

Which part of the boat is port?

Port refers to the left side of the boat. If you hear there are dolphins breaching port side, you'll want to run to the left (the boat's left, not necessarily yours) and look out on the water!

The entrance from the inside of a ship to an outer portion of the ship is called a...

A door opening out to the deck or some other exterior portion of the ship is called a hatch. It's often depicted with a large wheel to open it, but many modern hatches can be opened with a latch.

Ballast is used for...

Ballast is usually attached to the exterior of the boat to help balance it out and make the trip a smoother ride. Common choices for ballast include lead, iron and sand.

What's the difference between a boat and a ship?

A general rule of thumb is that if you can fit a boat on a bigger boat, then the small one is still just a boat and the bigger one is a ship, rather than a boat.

If it's a sunny day, you might want to pull down your boat's...

A bimini top is a canvas covering commonly used in ski boats, pontoons and other small watercraft. It serves as temporary shelter from the rays of the sun.

A great place to stop for a little while is called...

Anchorage is any place that will do for dropping anchor. It must have the right depth and wind conditions, and it usually has favorable currents as well.

The hanging ladder on a ship is called ______.

The term is most often applied to the rope ladder used by passengers to embark or disembark a vessel, but can be applied to most ladders on a vessel.

If a ship heels, it...

If you have the pleasure of being on a vessel that heels, you might want your motion sickness pills. Heeling describes any leaning or tipping motion to either side that doesn't result in the boat flipping over.

If the helmsman yells, "Ready about," what should you do?

"Ready about" means the sailor at the helm is about to turn the ship, and the boom will swing across the deck. If you're on deck, you'll need to duck in order to avoid being lobbed in the head.

The regular motion of a ship on water with waves is called...

The mesmerizing up and down motion or gentle side-to-side feeling of being on a boat is described as pitch. It can be much more severe in difficult weather, but on a calm day it can be soothing (if you're not prone to motion sickness, that is).

The direction of the wind is ______, but the opposite is ______.

If you're traveling with the wind, you're going leeward; if you're chugging away against the wind, you're going windward.

If an officer tells the crew to "stand on," what does he want?

Stand on is an order for the helmsmen (and crew) to continue the course and maintain current speed. Effectively, if you're told to "stand on," you don't need to change a thing.

What is an "orlop" deck?

The Titanic had an influence in introducing this term to non-nautical folks. The orlop deck was used for stowing equipment and may have housed things like coal and fresh water.

What does it mean to yaw?

A ship can yaw during bad weather or from really terrible steering. The origin of the word 'yaw' is actually unknown. It became a popular nautical term seemingly out of nowhere in the 1500s.

The upper deck of a ship, the one that's exposed to the elements, is called the ______.

It's tempting to think the name "poop" deck comes from the availability of its surface to the whims of birds, however, the name originates from a French word (la poupe) referring to the stern of the boat.

Which of the following is a scuttlebutt?

The word scuttlebutt has evolved a bit over the years: it initially referred to the sailors' water cask and now can be used to describe a water fountain or the type of person to gossip around the water cooler.

Turning a sailboat to change which side is facing the wind is called...

Tacking and jibing are two different techniques for steering a sailboat, but tacking is the more common one since jibing requires facing the wind head-on.

The back end of the boat is known as the...

If a sailor tells you to scurry to the aft, he means get to the back of the boat. Both "stern" and "aft" refer to this rear-most position.

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