All You Need To Know About Parts Of A Sailing Boat – Windrider of The Rockies

If you want to be a sailor, it’s essential to know well about your sailing boat. In this way, you can quickly get used to the boat and maneuver it easier. 

One of the ultimate things you should know about a sailing boat is its structure. So, what does a sailing boat consist of? 

Sailing boats come in a wide range of sizes and models, and each has different complexity. But all sailing boats consist of four fundamental components: the hull, keel, rigging, and rudder. Besides, there are dozens of pieces of boat hardware, cabin, and accessories. 

Many parts are similar to those of other boats. But there are also unique parts only found in sailing boats. 

In this article, we will give you detailed explanations for all parts of a sailing boat. Let’s check it out!

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

What does a sailing boat consist of?

Fundamental Parts Of A Sailing Boat

Let’s start with the basic components of a sailing boat. The boat can only operate when it has all these essential parts. 


The hull is the term for the body of a sailing boat. It plays the role of a shell containing the internal parts of the boat.  All the other components of the sailing boat will connect to the hull. 

If the hull gets cracked, water will flow into the boat and sink it. So, the material used for making the hull is very tough. 

Commonly, sailing boats will have a hull made of fiberglass or hardwood. You can also find boats with a metal hull like aluminum or steel.

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

The hull of a boat


The keel is another essential component located along the hull’s bottom. It works as the backbone of the sailing boat. It is the base to mount other pieces of the boat’s frame. 

This item also “splits” the water to keep the boat moving straight instead of sliding sideways. The keel may not be necessary for rowing boats or motorboats, but it is an indispensable part of sailing boats. 

Sometimes, people add some lead when making the keel to make it heavier. A heavy keel will help increase the stability of the boat and prevent boat capsizing. 

However, the keel may hinder the boat when entering shallow water. So, some small sailing boats have a flexible keel. You can pull it up or let it down when necessary. 


The rudder has the function of steering the vessel. Its location is either on or under the boat’s stern. It comes under the shape of a blade that moves to the sides. The movement of the rudder will change the direction of a sailing boat. 

In many sailboats, you can still see the rudder when the boat is on the water. Some other boats have a low rudder that it’s out of sight when operating. There are also retractable rudders that you can take back when towing the boat. 

A sailing boat’s rudder connects with a tiller or steering wheel (or a helm). You can adjust the rudder by turning the tiller or helm. 

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

The rudder has the function of steering the vessel


The rigging of a sailing boat is a set of items on board. It includes many components of mast and sail. They form a system that uses the wind to propel the boat. 


The mast, or sometimes called the spar, is a large and tall pole erecting on the deck of a sailing boat.  It carries all the sails of the boat, and based on it you’ll know the type of the sailboat. 

In most sailing boats, there is only a mast for all sails. But some boats may have several masts for different functions. 

  • The foremast is located near the bow and before the mainmast in a multiple-mast boat. 
  • The mainmast is near the center of the boat and is the highest one.
  • The mizzen mast is shorter than the mainmast and located behind the mainmast. 


As its name suggests, the mainsail is the largest sail of the boat supported by the mainmast. It has the responsibility of catching the wind and helping the boat move forward. 


The triangular sail on the foremast of a sailing boat is the jib. The jib comes in a smaller size than the mainsail. 


In some sailing boats, there is a sail made of nylon fabric. It is the spinnaker with the function of propelling the boat downwind. On windy days, winds will inflate the spinnaker and make it look like a parachute. 


The boom is a rod mounted perpendicular to the lower section of the mast. It works like a throttle controlling the speed of the boat. 

When you pull the boom, the position of the mainsail will change. Thus, you can adjust the boom so that the mainsail will receive more or fewer winds as you want. Remember to stay away from the boom when it’s swinging, or you can get seriously injured. 

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

The boom is a rod mounted perpendicular to the lower section of the mast

Boom vang (kicking strap)

The boom vang, also called kicking strap, is a line connecting the boom with the mast. It can drag the boom down to change the shape of the sail when necessary. 

Topping lift

The topping lift is also a line with the function of holding the form of the boom. It connects the end of the boom with the mast’s top. Due to the topping lift, the boom will still hold its position when you lower the sail. 


Sheets are the ropes connected to the mainsail and jib to control the width of these sails. You can adjust the length of sheets with winches and blocks. 


Halyards are also sailing lines, but their function is raising and lowering the sails. You can also use halyards to raise and lower other items such as flags or spars. 


Parts Of A Sailing Boat

As the mast is very tall, bolting or tying can’t completely secure it to the boat. So, stays are lines keeping the mast staying steadily in the wind. 

The stays of a sailing boat include the forestay and the backstay. They are usually strong cables made of stainless steel. 

The forestay runs from the top of the mast to a fixed point in the bow. The backstay also has an end attached to the mast and another attached to the stern. If one of these stays gets broken, the mast may fall. 

The stays of a sailing boat include the forestay and the backstay


Besides the four main parts, the deck is also an elementary component of a sailing boat. 

The deck is the flat surface covering the hull of the boat. Many other objects connect to the boat through the deck, such as winches or masts. It is also the area where you can stand and walk on the boat. 

The deck often has the same material as the hull. It also has an anti-slip coating to prevent slipping when you walk on it. 


The cockpit of a sailing boat is where you steer and control the boat. You often find the cockpit in the rear of the boat. 

In the cockpit, there are seats with storage lockers for the crew. The controlling items of the boat are all in the cockpit. 

Many sailing boats have a cockpit with the self-draining feature. Generally, the area of a cockpit won’t exceed one-third of the boat’s length. 

Hardware Of A Sailing Boat

Hardware is important for the ordinary operation of the control system and the whole sailing boat. You can learn more about the typical hardware of a sailing boat listed below. 


You will use cleats to secure all lines and ropes to the boat’s deck. Besides, cleats are very helpful in keeping items from falling overboard. 

You will have to learn how to make a cleat knot before going for a sail. These knots are very tight and won’t slip out under any external impact. But you can untie them quickly when you need them. 

Besides, you need to know that cleats are different from clam cleats. Clam cleats secure lines by spring force, and you need to adjust them frequently. 

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

A cleat with the cleat knot


In nautical terminology, blocks refer to pulleys. They are indispensable in the rigging of a sailing boat. 

Force regulation and distribution are the functions of boat blocks. With these pulleys, you can lift heavy objects or make adjustments effortlessly. 


You can find winches on the sides of a sailing boat. They are mechanical equipment responsible for force transmission. 

The use of winches is to adjust lines on the boat. The one-way locking mechanism of these winches allows you to raise or lower a line and keep it in the proper position. 

Winches are cylindrical with a hole, so you can easily reel the rope. In some large sailing boats, you can control winches from the cockpit. 


On a sailing boat, hatches will be used at the entrance to the boat’s cabin or storage chamber. The water-resistance of hatches keeps the cabin out of water when you want to check the boat’s interior. 

Pulpits and stanchions

Each sailing boat has a fence around it for safety. Pulpits are the platforms for the fence on the front and rear of the boat. The pulpits on the front are the bow pulpit, and the one on the rear is the stern pulpit. 

The vertical bars forming the frame and supporting the lifeline of the fence are stanchions. Most sailing boats have stanchions and lifelines made of steel. 

Tiller or helm

The use of a tiller or helm is to adjust the rudder and steer the sailing boat. 

A tiller is a long stick with an end attached to the rudder of the boat. To change the direction of the rudder, you will move the tiller to the opposite side.

A helm comes in the shape of a wheel and has the same working mechanism as the steering wheel of a car. By turning the helm, you will turn the boat. 

Small sailing boats often use tillers, and helms are more available in large boats. 

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

Helms of a sailing boat

Navigation Components Of A Sailing Boat

When you are in the sea, all around you is water, and you can’t rely on anything to navigate. Therefore, there are always navigation items on sailing boats. 

They not only help you to find direction but also notify other boats of your boat’s location. Below are some navigation devices commonly used on a sailing boat.


Whether you are sailing on a small or large boat, it will surely have a compass. It is the most fundamental and reliable navigation item. 

Compasses on sailing boats will always help you define the direction no matter how the boat rolls on the water. You will find a compass in the most visible position in the boat’s cockpit.


Like compasses, charts are also a navigation item used by sailors a very long time ago. Through a chart, you will know the water depth and positions of boat channels on the sea.

Currently, most sailing boats use electronic navigation charts with GPS integration. But you should learn to read and carry a traditional chart as a backup. 

In case you have no electricity to operate the electronic chart, you can use the traditional chart instead. It will help you steer your boat to a safe place and avoid dangerous water areas.

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

You should learn to read and carry a traditional chart 

Navigation lights

Navigation lights are also essential navigation items in every sailing boat. They will indicate your location and your intended route. Thereby, other boats can recognize and avoid collisions with your boat. 

All sailing boats will have green lights and red lights mounted on the bow. The green light is on the left side (the port), and the red light is on the right side (the starboard) of the boat. 

In this way, other boats will know whether they are opposite to or behind your boat. In some states, you may need to install stern navigation lights. 

VHF radio

Phone networks may be unavailable when you are in the sea. The popular communication system for marine use is the VHF radio. 

VHF radios can help you contact other boats or harbors. You can also ask the coast guard or towing service for help through VHF radios. 

You should learn the call signs and make a list of channels. Thereby, you can communicate with the right people in each specific situation. 

Common Cabin Components Of A Sailing Boat

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

Inside the cabin of a sailing boat

The cabin is the space below the deck of a sailing boat. The crew will live in this space during the voyage. 

Cabins are available in most large sailing boats. Small sailing boats often have rudimental cabins or no cabins. Also, the size of cabins varies depending on the boat. The position of a cabin is often in front of the cockpit. 

Some boats have large cabins with full equipment and facilities. You can cook and bathe in separate areas, and the sleeping area is spacious. In some other boats, the cabin is only large enough for seating and a sleeping area. 

Here are some parts commonly found in the cabin of a sailing boat.


The berth of a cabin is where the crew sleep. When berths are not in use for sleeping, sailors will convert them to seats or tables. 

Some berths have an arrangement in a V shape in the bow position. Some others are located on both sides of the cabin and will become couches when not in use. There are also pole berths that you can stow away with no effort. 


Bilge is the internal part between the cabin’s floor and the bottom of the boat. It contains any water that flows into the boat and then pumps it out. So, a bilge always comes with a pump to drain water and avoid boat sinking. 


The use of portlights is natural lighting and ventilating the cabin. You can also look through these windows to see the space outside the boat. Portlights are watertight, so waves can’t let water in and wet the cabin.

Parts Of A Sailing Boat

Portlights of a sailing boat


Sailors call the sailing boat’s toilet the head. Medium-sized and large-sized sailing boats often serve for long journeys, so most of them have a toilet. 

Generally, the head usually occupies a small corner in the cabin and integrates the bathroom. The water and waste will go through a pipe draining out of the vessel. 

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Final Words

Above are all you need to know about parts of a sailing boat. The construction of a sailing boat is quite complicated for a lot of components. Apart from the basic parts, the others may vary depending on each sailboat. 

You should know well about the parts of the sailing boat you will travel on. In this way, if something goes wrong with anything, you can handle it more easily. 

Thank you for following this post!

Reference: Guide to The Different Parts of a Sailboat 

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