Sometimes we overlook the obvious or take certain things for granted, especially around novice anglers or boaters. We may use terms about or on our boats that sound like a foreign language to beginners. Our friends at Yamaha put together this basic primer about words, phrases and terms helpful to boaters.
The main body of a boat is the hull. The bilge is the lowest part of the hull, under the deck and below the waterline. However, most aluminum “jon boats” don’t have a bilge. Only the sheet of aluminum separates you from the water.
At the front of the boat, the hull sides come together to create the bow; the stern is where the sides of the hull terminate at the transom in the back of the boat.
The intersection of the bottom and the side of the hull is the chine; the uppermost part of the hull side is the gunwale (pronounced gunnel).
Locations and Directions
The bow is the front of the boat; the stern is the back of the boat. Looking towards the bow, the right side of the boat is the starboard side, and the left side is the port side of the vessel. Some people remember that by remembering the “left” and “port” both have four letters.
Length Overall (LOA) is the distance from the most forward (bow) and aft (stern) parts of the boat, as measured straight along the centerline. Read the fine print in the boat manufacturer’s catalog or owner’s manual – the LOA may or may not include the swim platform and/or bow pulpit (if so equipped).
The widest part of the hull is the beam, and depending on the hull style, the beam measurement could be at the stern, amidships, or nearly anywhere else.
Freeboard is the distance from the surface of the water at the boat’s true waterline (with a typical load in the boat) to the gunwale, measured where the boat sits lowest in the water (often near the stern).
This one is important, so take notes. Draft is how deep your boat sits in the water, determined by the measurement from the (loaded) waterline to the lowest appendage under the hull (usually the tip of the outboard’s skeg, with the engine trimmed down).
Another way to define draft is how much water depth is necessary to float the boat. Around the docks, you may hear someone say a particular boat draws two feet of water – a different way of expressing a boat’s draft.
Knowing the actual draft of your boat, and driving with that in the back of your mind can prevent the costly and potentially tragic results of running aground – hitting the bottom of the lake with the boat or engine.
Yes, we’ve covered a lot of material, and no, you probably won’t retain much initially – it will require re-reading, and applying the terms to your own boat for the information to stick.