While there are many different types of sailboats on the water, most of these boats share some basic parts. One of the first steps to learning to sail is to learn the basic names of these basic sailboat parts, so you can reference them on the water. This article will describe some of these parts in easy to understand terms and identify their likely location on the boat.

Sailboat Parts

Sail - this is the part that differentiates a sailboat from a motorboat. A sailboat may have one sail or many sails depending on the rig. The sail is used to capture the wind and propel the vessel forward. Sails can be made from natural or synthetic materials.

Mast - This is the tall pole that sticks out of the boat and is usually made of metal or wood. The number of masts on a boat is one thing that determines the type of sailboat. The taller mast is called the main mast.

Boom - This is the pole that runs along the bottom of the sail and commonly hits people in the head. Similar to the mast, the boom can be made of wood or metal, and helps position the sail to best capture the wind.

Helm and Tiller - The helm is essentially the steering wheel. A tiller is smaller pole of wood or metal that is used to control the direction of the boat and is generally found on smaller boats. Both of these steering mechanisms are connected to the rudder.

Rudder - This is a piece of wood, metal or fiberglass on the stern of the boat that helps to change the vessel's direction. The helm or the tiller is attached to the rudder. When you move the helm or tiller, you are also moving the rudder and causing the boat to change directions.

Hull - The hull is the bottom part the boat or the part that you sit in or on and includes the part of the boat that is underwater. Sailboats can have one hull or be multi-hulled.

Centerboard and Keel - Most sailboats have a centerboard or a keel that is located underwater underneath the hull and resembles the fin on a fish. A keel is generally permanently attached to the hull and is filled with ballast. A centerboard can be raised or lowered from the boat and is usually relatively lightweight.

Stern - The back of the boat

Bow - The front of the boat

Lines Onboard a Sailboat - There are many lines with various purposes aboard a sailboat including sheets, halyards, dock lines, outhauls, downhauls, cunninghams, travelers, and vangs.

There are many other parts on a boat that are not included on this list, but this contains most of the basic sailboat parts