Parts of a Sailboat

Learning the parts of a sailboat can be confusing at first if you’re not used to the language however, learning sailboat parts and knowing them will be easy after reading this guide!

Here Are the Basic Parts of a Sailboat:

  • Hull
  • Deck
  • Keel
  • Centerboard
  • Cockpit
  • Mast
  • Rudder
  • Sail
  • Boom
basic parts of a sailboat

If you want to remember them in that order, then we came up with a little phrase or mnemonic for you to take home with you:

Divide the first four into this phrase:

“How Do Kittens Cry?”

Then the second half of phrase becomes:

“Can’t Make Real Strong Brandy”

Mnemonics are great and they’re silly with randomness but repeat the two phrases to yourself and you’ll never forget the basic parts of a sailboat!

Understanding Sailboat Parts is Important

When operating a live and active sailboat with a team or another sailor, it’s important to know the different parts and what they’re functions are. This is because a sailor needs to be in control of their boat at all times. Knowing the names and locations of these different boat parts is like understanding anatomy for a doctor, to put it another way.

Sailboat Hull

The sailboat’s hull is actually the boat in it’s entirety. This is the true body of the boat. It is made of the boat’s frame and keeps water out. Structurally speaking (if you don’t know how to build a simple boat – don’t worry), the hull is where we mount everything.

Hull Composition

You’ll find that hulls are comprised of metals (steel) and man-made substances like fiberglass. Some hull’s are made out of wood.

Sailboat Deck

The deck of a sailboat overlays the hull. If there’s a cabin available on your sailboat, the deck is where sailors stand on when the boat is in motion. It’s function is basic but a vital part of the boat:

The deck is where most hardware for the sailboat is mounted. Much like a hull, the deck can be composed of similar material with a coating of gripping material (prevent sailor’s from slipping).

Sailboat Keel

The keel can be located at the very bottom of the hull and one of the most important parts of a sailboat as it should NOT be damaged. The length of the keel provides stability on the water’s surface and provides for a way to keep the boat on path. A keel will usually be made of whatever the rest of the hull is made of. So if the hull is made from wood, you can expect the same for the keel.

The Centerboard

It’s important to note that common sailboats won’t come with an elongated fin for their keel setup. To alleviate that, sailboats will come equipped with a knife looking board, called the centerboard.

The centerboard sticks out underneath the boat at approximately one yard from the center. These little guys are retractable making them a perfect setup when towing. You won’t find centerboards on boats that go deep out to sea as those require long fins for the keel.

The Cockpit

A sailboat’s cockpit can be located at the back of the boat where it functions as a place for sailors to control steering, the engine, and various sails. A cockpit is just like it sounds, you are in the mecca of the boat, controlling everything that goes on from it.

The Sailboat Mast

In any sailboat, the mast is identified as that very large pole coming out from the deck. The mast functions as an attachment point between the sail and the boat itself. You may have seen sailboats with multiple masts and single mast setups as well.

Boat’s Rudder

Next on our list, you’ll find the rudder which steers the vessel. It’s location is at the stern of the boat. In basic terms, the rudder is a slab that hinges from side to side. To put it in another way, the rudder is a primary control surface used to steer a boat or any number of objects that move through water.

The Sailboat’s Sail

This is an easy one, right? Let’s cover it any ways for sake of completion. The sailboat’s sail is what allows for a boat to be pulled forward. There are different parts of a sail. Moreover, there are some best materials for a sail to be made out of.

Sail parts include:

The aft, the jib, and sometimes a spinnaker. The aft – rear – on a solo mast boat will be called the mainsail where it’s the largest out of both. The jib is the forward sail and is smaller. sail on a single-masted boat is called the mainsail, and it’s the largest of the two primary sails.


Finally, we arrive at the Boom in our parts of a sailboat adventure. Simply put, the boom is a rod which is hinged and extends at a 90 deg angle from the mast. You’ll find that it’s mounted at the lower part of a mast where it controls the side-to-side movement of a mainsail. Ironically, if you get in the way of a boom, you might get boomed off the boat by accident. Be weary!

Wrapping up the different parts of a sailboat

We covered briefly the different sailboat parts you will encounter when operating or sailing in the various waterways. These different boat parts are methodically planned out and put together from the front of the boat (Bow of the boat), to the stern of the boat (back of the boat or aft of the boat).

Part of the Boat Still Left to Learn (Next time!)

part of the boat

Now that we covered the regions and ‘must-know’ parts of a boat, you can turn your attention to the remaining terms and functions to get a full understanding.

Listed below are additional parts of a sailboat worth noting and learning. The World Sailing Charters crew will be sure to publish a guide for the rest of them, so come back soon!

Additional Parts of the Sailboat:

  • Backstay –Rod/cable from the stern to top of mast.
  • Block – Nautical term for “pulley”
  • Boom Vang – A device used for holding down the boom.
  • Bow – The front part of a boat.
  • Cleat – A fastening where sailors secure lines/ropes.
  • Halyard – Line that will raise a sail.
  • Line – Any pieces of rope on a boat.
  • Outhaul – Sail control that provides foot tension. It attaches to the clew.
  • Painter – Smaller boat line attached to the bow.
  • Shackle – A fitting made of metal. Used too connect halyards and sails.
  • Shrouds/Stays – Wires that help to hold the mast upright (front wire = forestay)
  • Spreader – Struts used to increase the power of the shrouds, they are attached to the mast.
  • Tiller – Stick used to turn the rudder.
  • Transom – The after-part of the boat that is square to its centerline.
  • Wheel – Used for steering.
  • Winch – A drum shaped object made of metal which lines are wrapped around. This makes trimming easier.

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