The Different Parts of a Boat: A Basic Guide

Ahoy, me hearties! All hands on deck! Today, you lily-livered landlubbers will earn your sea legs!

Boating terminology has come a long way since pirates ruled the seas, but it can still be confusing for newcomers. The seemingly endless list of boating terms can be an annoying barrier to communication and can ruin a fun day out on a boat.

To help you become a capable crew member, we’ve put together a list of the most common parts of a boat.

Directional Definitions

Before you climb on board, you’ll need to learn some of the unusual words used to describe the different parts of a boat. Let’s get started with words that describe the areas of a boat:

Bow and Stern

The front end of a boat is known as the bow, while the back end is called the stern. If something is towards the stern of a boat, it is referred to as being “aft”. 

Port and Starboard

If you are looking forward towards the bow, the left side of the boat is referred to as port. The right side is referred to as starboard.

Structure of the Boat

Next, we’ll go through the names of the structural elements of a boat. These are the parts that make up the body of the vessel.


The hull is the shell or body of the boat that rests in the water. The waterline refers to the line on the hull where the body intersects the water.


The deck is the exterior floor of the boat. This is where passengers and crew can walk around.


The gunwale refers to the top edges of the side of the boat. This reinforced band was originally added to sailing warships to counter the force created by firing the ship’s guns.


The transom is the area at the stern of a boat where the port and starboard sides meet. The appearance of the transom varies on different types of boats.

On some boats, this area consists of a flat platform that supports the boat’s engine. On other boats, there may be a swim platform or a solid back panel depicting the boat’s name.


The helm refers to the area where the steering and engine controls are located. Helm can also refer to the wheel used to steer the boat.


The propeller is located at the stern of the boat. Powered by the engine, the propeller blades help to push the boat through the water, driving it forwards.

Without a propeller, your boat won’t go anywhere. When buying a boat, it is important to purchase the best propeller for your craft.

Covered Areas

Whether you are out at sea or sailing on a lake, you’ll need cover to protect you from harsh weather conditions. Here are some of the areas of a boat that provide shelter to passengers and crew:


A cabin is an enclosed room that sits on the deck of a boat. Cabins provide complete protection from the elements. Not all boats will have a cabin.


A bimini is a canvas sheet that is stretched between poles to shield people from the sun and rain. Biminis can be collapsed and stored away when not in use. A bimini is open-sided, so it does not provide protection from waves or spray. 


Some boats use motors or oars to push them through the water, others use sails. Here are some words to brush up on if you pay a visit to a sailboat:


The mast refers to a long pole that rises from the hull or deck. The mast supports the sails on a sailboat.

Mainsail and Jib

The mainsail is the largest sail on a sailboat. The jib is the smaller of the two sails.  

Now You Can Name the Different Parts of a Boat

Whether you want to hit the high seas or explore your local waterways, it is helpful to know your way around a boat. Learning the names of the different parts of a boat is your first step towards feeling at home on the water.

Soon, you’ll be spitting out boating terminology like an old pro!

Be sure to browse through the rest of our articles for more fascinating content!