Climb aboard a sailboat and you may feel like you’ve forgotten your own language. Even after you’ve mastered “fore” and “aft” (not to be confused with “aback” and “abaft”), the vast, highly specific and often bewildering lexicon of yachting can take a serious sailor years to master.
Since we can’t hope to school you in the intricacies of “admirality law” in a single sitting, we’re decoding ten of the most baffling terms you’ll encounter on your yacht trip this summer.
Safe sailing, sea cocks. (What? It’s a valve that keeps water out of the hull).
1. Boom. A giant horizontal pole that secures the bottom of the sail with a habit of swinging suddenly and smacking yachters in the head—thus earnings its name, ‘boom’ (related: ‘accidental jibe’).
2. Accidental Jibe. Sure, it sounds more like Yeezus lyrics than boat terminology, but an accidental jibe occurs whenever the wind shifts so that that the stern passes through the eye of the wind, causing the boom to swing across the deck (and occasionally whack revelers overboard).
3. Guy. If the captain says he’s really preoccupied by a “guy” on deck, he’s probably fiddling with one of the braces used to control the poles in the rigging.
4. Baggywrinkle. When we first heard the term, we thought old-timey sailors were worried about their uniforms getting baggy-wrinkled. Instead, the moniker refers to clumps of vaguely gross-looking frayed rope that protect sails from chafing against the lines.
5. Bimini. No, we’re not talking about the refreshing peach drink (though you’re likely to sip more than a few on your yacht excursion). This practical cover is used to shade the cockpit area from the sun.
6. Cringle. We were hoping the holidays had arrived early, but aboard a boat, “cringle” refers to a small fitting in a sail that allows a line to fasten to it—not the big bearded guy in the red suit.
7. Fathom. Most people can’t fathom life on the open sea, but dedicated yachters can fathom it with exactitude: a single nautical “fathom” equals six feet.
8. Jiffy Reefing. Aboard a boat, jiffy reefing is a method of lowering the sail in sections—sorry to disappoint your stoner cousin.
9. Monkey Deck. Monkey business deserves its own deck, right? Wrong. The ‘monkey deck’ is a false platform built over a permanent deck to provide a broader working area.
10. Pooped. This real, highly-technical term—which we in no way made up—refers to a wave washing over the stern of the boat. Really.
It’s Yacht Week on The Vivant! Share your fantasy yacht with us by tweeting a photo to @TheVivant using the hashtag #yachtweek.