Anatomy of a Sailboat
Are you curious about sailing and want to know more about sailboats in general? This blog is going to talk about the most basic parts of a sailboat and what they do. Sailboats come in a wide variety of sizes, from the smallest and most basic dinghies to large catamarans and superyachts. No matter the size or shape, most sailboats are made up of the same parts.
Parts of a Sailboat
Hull: The "boat" part of the sailboat. The hull is the waterproof body of the boat. Hulls come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials including wood, fiberglass, aluminum or steel.
Deck: The part of the sailboat you stand on and the top part of the hull. The mast, rigging and all hardware are attached to the deck at various locations.
Cockpit: The location on the sailboat where the boater controls the vessel. It is usually a recessed area that is lower than the surrounding deck. Cockpits can either be open, closed or semi-enclosed spaces.
Rudder: A device found at the stern of the boat below the waterline (where the hull meets the surface of the water) that allows for changing the boat orientation in the water. The rudder is usually controlled by the tiller or wheel.
Tiller/Wheel: This is how you steer the boat. Smaller boats have a tiller, which is a horizontal pole or rod, and larger boats have a wheel. The location on the boat where the tiller or wheel is located is called the helm.
Keel: A large "fin" looking attachment at the bottom of the boat that provides a counterbalance against the force of the wind. The keel helps to prevent sailboats from capsizing. It's also known as a centerboard, daggerboard or leeboard.
Mast: The vertical pole that the sail, or sails, is attached to.
Mainsail: Usually the biggest, and sometimes only, sail on a sailboat. The mainsail is responsible for taking the major part of the wind.
Headsail: A sail that is forward of the mast, toward the front of the boat. The jib and spinnaker are the two main types of headsails on a modern sailboat.
Boom: A horizontal rod at the bottom of the mainsail that functions as support for the sail. The boom is attached to the mast.
Bow: The nautical term for the front part of the boat.
Stern: The nautical term for the back part of the boat.
Port: The left side of a sailboat when you are on the boat and facing the bow.
Starboard: The right side of a sailboat when you are on the boat and facing the bow.
Sailing is a wonderful and rewarding activity. If you're thinking about getting into sailing, consider sewing your own sails and canvas projects. It's a great way to save some money by sewing your own sails, bimini, dodger, boat upholstery and more without having to pay a shop to do the work for you. Plus, we hear all the time from our customers who order our sail kits that sewing their own sails helped them learn more about sailing — and even made them better sailors!
Did you know that Sailrite got its start back in 1969 by selling only sail kits and instructions? We're a valuable resource on all things sailing DIY. We can help you create a custom-made sail or choose from our popular sail kits. Head on over to our sailmaking page to see what resources we have to offer. You won't be disappointed!
Once you have your sail kit ordered, you'll need the right tools, supplies and a sewing machine that can handle sailcloth, webbing and more. Our helpful blog "What Do I Need to Start Sailmaking & Sewing Sails?" (#300460XHT) explains all the tools and supplies we recommend for beginner sailmakers. We also have dozens of blogs and how-to videos on sail repair and sailmaking to guide you through the DIY process. Watch our video, "How to Sew a Sail Kit" (#300367XHT) to see how a Sailrite sail kit is assembled — it's easier than you think!