Nautical or Sea Terms

Every Sea Scout must be familiar with the language of the sea, which may sometimes seem a little quaint to land-lubbers, but which has grown up through the long years.

The Parts of a Ship

After part: The rear half of the ship.

Admidship: Where the fore and the after part meets.

Fore and Aft Midship Line: The line dividing the ship from stem to stern.

Fore Part: The front half of the ship.

Hull: The main body of the ship.

Port Side: The left-hand side of the ship when facing towards the stem.

Starboard Side: The right-hand side of the ship when facing towards the stem.

Stem: The extreme end of the fore part.

 Stern: The extreme end of the after part.


Aft: From any point in the ship towards the stern.

Athwartship: Across the ship from side to side.

Bottom: The sides round the hull below the water line.

Bows: the hull surfaces in the fore part which are rounded to meet the stem. (Starboard and Port.)

Decks: Horizontal surfaces of ships.

Draught: The height of the waterline above the lowest part of the keel.

Forecastle: The fore end of the upper deck between the bows.

Forward: From any point in the ship towards the bows.

Freeboard: The height of a ship’s deck above the water line.

Quarterdeck: The after part of the upper deck.

Ship’s Side: The sides around the hull above the water line.

Superstructure: Any part of the hull which is built above the upper deck. The decks below are called the main deck, middle deck, lower deck, platform deck, etc., according to the size of the ship.

Upper Deck: A deck exposed to the weather.

Waist: The remaining deck between the quarterdeck and the forecastle.

Describing Position

Below: Inside the ship between the decks.

Hatch: A square opening in the deck.

In: A seafarer serves “in” a ship.

Ladder: That which gives access to the deck above.

On Board: When a seafarer joins a ship.

General Terms

Beam: The width of a ship measure athwartship at the widest point of the hull.

Bulkheads: Walls in a ship.

Deadlights: Port hole doors for darkening a ship and keeping it watertight.

Deck: Underfoot (floors).

Deck Head: Overhead (ceiling). Ports: Ship’s windows.

Scuttles: Thick glass of ports.

Position of Outside Objects Relative to the Ship

Abeam: Directly at right angles to the fore-and-aft line.

Abreast: Level with, in line with.

Ahead: Directly in advance.

Alongside: Side by side, and touching.

Astern: Directly in rear.

Movement of Objects on Board

A seafarer speaks of going “forward”, “below”, “on deck” and “aloft”, i.e., anywhere in the rigging of a mast. They use the same expressions for shifting an object, always reckoning in terms of the ship: thus, they may shift an object “aft”, or “further forward”, or “inboard” or “nearer the ship’s side”.