What Are The Parts Of A Boat Called? With 20 Examples

If you have just bought a boat or are thinking about buying one, the boating terminology can initially seem quite overwhelming. 

What Are The Parts Of A Boat Called? With 20 Examples

This article will help you to understand what it means when someone says that they are going to pass on your port side, or when your mechanic says your starboard engine needs a new water pump. 

Therefore, let’s get into what the parts of a boat are called!

What Is The Hull Of A Boat?

The hull of a boat is the main body of a boat. The hull encompasses the bottom, interior and sides of the boat. The hull ultimately serves as the structure of the boat.

There are a variety of hull designs from monohull boats like deep-v hulls, bay boats and skiffs. 

What Is The Bow Of A Boat?

The bow of the boat is the most forward part of the vessel. If you hear someone say “forward” or “fore” they are referring to the front or “bow” of the boat.

As an example: We need to set the bow (front) anchor before we get off of the boat.

So if the bow is at the front of the boat, what is at the back?

What Is The Stern Of A Boat?

The stern is at the back of the boat. It is common for someone to use the word “aft” to describe the furthest back part of the boat. Aft is referring to the stern of the boat.

As an example someone would say: I need to replace the swim ladder on the stern of the boat.

What Is The Transom Of The Boat?

If the stern is the back of the boat, what is the definition of the transom and where is it located? 

The transom connects the two sides of the boat together at the stern of the boat. This part is critical because it anchors the side down and it allows motors to be attached to the back of a boat.

What Is A Boat Chine?

The chine of a boat is where the sides meet the bottom of the boat. You can have hard chines, soft chines or somewhere inbetween.

In simpler terms, a chine refers to angle changes in the cross section of a hull. The sharper the angle, the harder the chine will be. 

A soft chine will be more round and less of a harsh angle. 

What Lights Are Required On A Boat?

Boats that are under 39.4 feet long are required to have three lights on a boat. They include the side markers and all-around light.

The side markers include the red port light and green starboard lights that identify the sides of your boat. This all-around light is bright that will be visible from 360 degrees around your boat.

The side markets and all-around light needs to be visible to other boaters for at least one mile. 

What Is The Port Side Of A Boat? 

The port side of a boat is the left side of the boat. A simple way to remember that port is the left side is they are both spelled with four letters. 

An example someone would say: Look off of the port side at the two porpoises swimming alongside the boat.

What Color Light Is On The Port Side Of A Boat?

The port side of your boat is required to have a side marker that is red in color.

This light indicates to other boaters where the port side of your boat is located so that they can safely pass you while running in low light or no light conditions at night.

What Is The Starboard Side Of A Boat?

As the port side is the left, the starboard side of a boat is the right side of the boat. 

An example someone would say: I am going to dock the boat and tie up on the starboard side of the boat.

What Color Light Is On The Starboard Side Of A Boat?

On the starboard side of your boat, you need to have a side marker that is green in color.

This light indicates to other boaters where the starboard side of your boat is located so that they can safely pass you whilst running in low light or no light conditions at night.

Why Do Boaters Use Port And Starboard Versus Left And Right?

The main reason boaters use these terms is because they apply to the boat so it avoids confusion. The port and starboard of a vessel never change.

If you use left or right on a boat, it can be confusing because no one knows who’s left or right you are referring to. 

If you are facing the stern of the boat and need someone to tie a line on the right side, are you saying their right or your right? This is how it becomes very confusing.

If you say, tie a dock line on the port side, you know that it needs to be tied on the left side of the boat without question. 

What Are Gunwales On A Boat?

Gunwales or sometimes known as gunnels, are the top edge of the side of a boat. The term gunwales comes from where guns would be mounted along the “gun ridge” on sailing ships.

This area was often reinforced to be really strong to hold guns. They are now even more strengthened to hold rod holders for fighting those trophy fish. 

How Boats Are Measured

Beam

The beam of a boat is the measurement of a boat width at its widest point.

Deadrise

The definition of the deadrise is the angle of a boat hulls “V” shape. This will usually be measured in degrees at the transom of the boat even though your deadrise runs the length of the boat.

As an example, a flat bottom boat would have zero deadrise while other deep “V” boats may have a dearise of 50. 

Usually, deadrise is discussed when talking about how comfortable a boat will ride in rougher water.

More deadrise is good for cutting through the water, however a lot of deadrise can be a bad thing when you are stopped to fish. A boat with a lot of deadrise can flop side-to-side while sitting still in the water.

Draft

The draft is the total distance of the boat that sits below the water line. A skiff may have a draft of 7 inches, while a 29 foot power catamaran has a draft at 18 inches.

Boats are often generalized as having a shallow draft or a deep draft. 

Displacement

Displacement is the weight of water displaced by a boat’s hull.

Dry Weight

Dry weight is the weight of a boat without fuel or water on board. Dry weight is a key factor when transporting a boat by a trailer. 

Freeboard

The distance between the waterline of a boat and its gunwales is called a boat’s freeboard.

Boats that have higher freeboards can make passengers feel safer in rough water because they feel better protected from big waves.

Waterline Length

The waterline length of a boat is where the length of a boat’s hull meets the water from the bow to the stern.

Sometimes you will see this abbreviated “LWL” in marketing material. 

Length Overall

As you can guess by the name, the length overall measures a boat from tip to tip. The hull of a boat may be 21-feet long but it has a swim platform that sticks out another 3-feet from the stern.

As a result, a 21-foot boat with a 3-foot swim platform will have a length overall of 24 feet in total. You sometimes see length overall stated as “LOA” for an abbreviation.

Final Thoughts

If you weren’t already an expert on boats, then you should be by now! As previously mentioned, purchasing a boat can be daunting in understanding all the key terms that come with it. 

However, now with you new profound knowledge on these terms, you will be up to speed with every other boatman out there!

Remember, use the key terms when applicable and you will have a fantastic experience on your boat without any other worries. 

Danny White