For those new to buying or chartering luxury yachts, yachting language can sometimes be confusing, leaving the inexperienced seafarer out at sea. Even if you know your port from your starboard, there’s still a long list of nautical terms that can trip up the uninitiated. Whether you’re considering a investing in a yacht for sale or chartering a vessel, our handy guide to yachting language will ensure you walk onto your yacht with confidence.
Beam: This is the distance across the widest point of the yacht. If you’re looking for a yacht with large interior volume, look for yachts with a wide beam.
Displacement: The amount of water the hull displaces- ie, pushes out of the way. This is important when selecting your yacht, as full displacement yachts sit low and steady in the water while semi-displacement yachts use some power to lift the bow slightly out of the water, reducing drag and increasing speed.
Draft: The depth of yacht below the waterline, to its bottom point. This is crucial to know as it may impact your yachting experience, from safely exploring shallow cruising grounds like the Bahamas to knowing how close you can anchor to a beautiful beach.
Motorsailer: A yacht that has sails, but also has powerful engines so it can cruise under either mode depending on weather conditions.
Planing yacht: A planing yacht is a fast sports yacht, which uses the power of its engines to lift the bow of the yacht completely above the water, thereby vastly reducing the water drag on the hull and allowing high speeds.
Schooner: A sailing yacht with two or more masts.
Sloop: A sailing yacht with one mast.
Stabilisers: Devices to minimise the yacht’s rolling at anchor or underway. There are fin stabilizers and gyro stabilizers, with the most sought-after systems being ‘zero speed stabilizers’, also known as ‘at anchor stabilizers.’
APA: Advance Provisioning Agreement. The APA is an amount of money paid to the yacht in advance (often around 30% of the charter fee) so the captain and crew can provision your yacht, book berths, and fuel up before your arrival and during your trip. Any monies not used will be refunded at the end of your charter.
Bareboat charter: The rental of a yacht with no crew.
Charter agreement: The terms of your charter, detailing charter costs, what’s included, and your rights and obligations.
Preference sheet: This is a sheet that you’ll fill out before your charter, advising the crew of what foods and drinks you like, preferred music and service style, as well as important info such as allergies.
MYBA and CYBA: Professional yacht broker’s associations.
MYBA Contract: The standard charter agreement used by most charter brokers worldwide.
Tandem charter: Where more than one yacht is chartered. Great for extended family or corporate charters.
Aft: Towards the back. You’ll often hear the ‘aft deck,’ which is at the very rear, but you might also be staying in the ‘aft cabin’, which merely means it’s the cabin closest to the rear of the yacht.
Bow: Front of the yacht.
Foredeck: The deck at the front of the yacht where the anchor is kept. The best place for dolphin watching!
Forward: Towards the front of the yacht.
Midship: The center of the boat.
Port: Left-hand side of the yacht when facing forwards.
Starboard: Right-hand side of the yacht when facing forwards.
Stern: Back of yacht. Also astern: to the back of the yacht, or behind the yacht, eg: ‘The tender is coming astern to take you ashore’ (it’s coming to the back of the boat.)
Berths: Berths equates to beds, or more correctly, sleeping spaces, with a single bunk one berth and a double equating to two berths. This term is generally used on smaller yachts, particularly sailing yachts.
Bridge: This is the place on the yacht’s interior where the captain drives the yacht and the majority of the navigational equipment is kept. Yachts will also have an exterior navigation station, whether a ‘wing station’ just outside the bridge or a flybridge on the upper deck.
Cockpit (Sailing only): The area out on the deck for dining and lounging, also the wheel ‘or helm’ is often located at the rear of the cockpit and the captain will steer the yacht from here.
Flybridge: An upper deck with a helm and navigation systems. The flybridge is normally also a guest space for sunbathing and entertaining.
Galley: Kitchens are known as ‘galleys’ onboard, with the exception of the ‘country kitchen’ sometimes found on US-built yachts.
Head: On motor yachts, bathrooms are rarely called ‘heads’ these days, but the old sailing terminology lives on in ‘dayhead’, which are the small toilets on the main and upper decks, meant for daytime use rather than going back to your cabin.
Hull: The part of the yacht that floats in the water.
Master cabin/stateroom/suite: The biggest and most well-appointed stateroom on the yacht, normally occupied by the yacht’s owner or principal charterer (the person who pays for the charter.)
Passerelle: The ‘plank’ that you board the yacht on. You might know of it as a gangplank or gangway.
Pullman: This is an additional bunk berth that folds up flat against the wall— great for children or additional guests.
Salon/Main salon: The lounge area on the main deck.
Sky Lounge: The upper deck lounge found on larger motor yachts.
Stateroom: On motor yachts and larger sailing yachts, cabins are often called ‘staterooms’.
Sun deck: A lounging, sunbathing, and entertaining space on top of the yacht, exclusively for the use of guests.
Tender: The ‘dinghy’ or small boat that is used to take you from the yacht to go ashore and to coral reefs etc. Small yachts will sometimes tow their tenders; larger yachts will either have a crane to lift their tenders on deck to store while underway or have a ‘tender garage’ to house their tenders.
Aloft: (Sailing only) Up in the rigging or mast. A sailor may need to go aloft to adjust a sail or get a good vantage point.
Heel: (Sailing only) When the yacht leans over to one side under sail.
Knot: Boat speed measured in nautical miles per hour.
Line: It is not a rope, it is a line. Whether cruising on a motor yacht or a sailing yacht, you ‘throw a line,’ you never say ‘throw a rope’.
Nautical mile: About 15 percent longer than a standard mile, at 7076 feet, or 1852 meters. It is equal to one minute of latitude on a navigation chart.
Pitch: The rise and fall of the yacht’s bow as it goes over the waves.
PWC: Personal watercraft. A generic term for Jetskis and waverunners etc.
Rigging: Masts and sails.
It may seem a lot to learn at first, but it’s all very easy to pick up and you’ll be talking like a seasoned yachtie in no time!