Boat parts

All across the country, boating is growing in popularity as people discover the fun and enjoyment that this recreational pastime offers. Although boating provides hours of enjoyment, it can also be very dangerous if the participants are not aware of the safety factors that must be considered. It is the intent of this curriculum to lay out the basics that must be considered in order to make your boating experience a pleasant one.

Bow of the boat

The forward part of a boat.

The bow of a boat

Stern of the boat

The after part of the boat.

The stern of a boat

Port side of the boat

Port refer to the left side of the boat when looking forward, toward the bow of a boat.

Port side of the boat

Starboard side of the boat

Starboard refer to the right side of the boat when looking forward, toward the bow of a boat.   

Starboard side of the boat

Beam of a boat

The beam is the greatest width of the boat.

Beam of a boat

Freeboard of a boat

The minimum vertical distance from the surface of the water to the gunwale.

Freeboard of a boat

Cockpit of a boat

A cockpit is a name for the location of controls of a vessel.

cockpit of a boat

Waterline of a boat

Waterline is the line where the hull of a ship meets the surface of the water (waterline).

Waterline ship

Draft of a boat

Draft is the depth of water a boat draws

Draft of a boat

Propeller of a boat

Propeller is a type of fan that transmits power by converting rotational motion into thrust.

Propeller boat

Rudder of a boat

rudder is a primary control surface used to steer a boat,  that moves through water.

Rudder boat


A cabin or berthing is an enclosed space on a boat.   

cabin boat

Helm or dashboard of a boat

The dashboard is an instrument panel in a boat.

Helm or dashboard boat

Transom of a boat

The transom is the area of the boat where the motor is attached. The transom is located on the stern of the boat.

transom boat


A cleat is a kind of hook with two ends which is used to hold ropes, especially on boats.

cleat boat

Gunwale on a boat

The gunwale, is the top edge of the hull of a ship or boat.

What is the difference between gunwale and gunnel?

With the frequent pronunciation of 'gunnel' (similar to funnel), it has now become an accepted alternate spelling, reflecting the evolving language usage.

Gunwale of a boat or gunnel

Swim platform on a boat

A swim platform is a structure on the stern of a boat designed to make getting in and out of the water easier.

swim platform for boats

Navigation lights

A set of lights shown by a ship at night to indicate its position and orientation, especially with respect to other vessels.

Navigation lights boats

Deck of a boat

A deck is a permanent covering over a compartment or a hull of a boat.

deck of a boat

Keel on a boat

Keel is the centerline of a boat running fore and aft; the backbone of a vessel.

Keel of a boat


Ballast is the extra weight you add to the boat to make it heavier so it displaces more water, which helps create a larger wake for surfing or wakeboarding. 



Located at the lowest point inside a boat, the bilge serves as a reservoir for collecting excess water. Equipped with a pump, this essential component works to eliminate accumulated water ensuring a dry and safe vessel.



A protective covering added to a boat's cabin-top or console, protecting the driver and possibly passengers from the elements.



A Bimini is a canvas or composite (hard) top that is affixed to a boat  that provides shade and protection from the sun and rain.



A boat hatch is the covering/portal through which the storage, cargo or additional living space within a boat can be accessed from your boat deck.



The boat's console is the central hub for all controls, from steering and ignition to trim control, radio, and other electronic devices and switches.


Orientation on a boat


boat directions

Abeam to starboard

At right angles to the keel of the boat, but not on the boat. It means that the object is straight out from the starboard beam.


Abeam to starboard

Abeam to port

At left angles to the keel of the boat, but not on the boat. It means that the object is straight out from the port beam.


Abeam to port

Aft of a boat

Also known as astern – is at the rear of the boat, also called the stern. Toward the stern of the boat.


aft boat definition

Forward or ahead of a boat

Toward the bow of the boat.

boat ahead - boat forward
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