Boat Building - Parts


  • Angel also virgin or maiden. A Viking invention used in sailing long ships from about the 10th century AD that predates blocks. They served the purpose of a block/jamb cleat in one unit.It was a flat section of wood about 150 high x 120 wide shaped like an angel/butterfly used in attaching stays to the hull. The V shape at the lower part of the "wings" acted as a V jam cleat.
  • Bitts- Two short strong posts often made of steel, located on the fore and aft sidedecks of a heavily built boat or ship, that are designed to take heavy mooring lines.
  • Block a fitting with a circular wheel inside 2 cheeks designed to hold the turn of a rope. Originally made of wood, they are now made of plastic, stainless steel or carbon fibre. They are mainly used in rigging in pairs or quads to allow a single person to operate a sail that creates a lot of force. Similar to a pulley or sheave.
  • Bow - The front and generally sharp end of the hull. It is designed to reduce the resistance of the hull cutting through water and should be tall enough to prevent water from easily washing over the deck of the hull.
  • Bowsprit - A spar that extends forward from the foredeck,outboard of the hull proper. Common in square rigged ships where they were used to attach the outer or flying jib. In modern sailboats they are often made of lightweight carbon and used for attaching the luff of lightweight down wind sails.
  • Breasthook - A roughly triangular piece of wood fitted immediately aft of the stem and between the two inwhales or sheer clamps usually in a wooden dinghy.
  • Bulkhead - The internal walls of the hull.
  • Bulwarks - The upstanding part of the topsides, above the deck, providing safe footing when a boat is heeled.
  • Cam cleat- a mechanical cleat with 2 spring loaded cam jaws, usually made of hard plastic, that clamp onto a sheet. The sheet can be easily pulled forward and upwards to release it but is held tight in the cam jaws when unattended.
  • Catsheads - A short timber(or pair of timbers) that protrudes approximately at right angles from the foredeck of a square rigged sailing ship. Its purpose is to support the weight of the anchor and keep the anchor secure and outboard of the hull to avoid damaging the hull planking.
  • Capstan A horizontal wooden winch secured to the deck of a square rigged sailing ship, used for hoisting the anchor. The capstan was fitted with removable wooden arms fiited into sockets on which the seaman pushed . Seashanties were often chanted to keep the seamen together as they pushed.
  • Carlin - A longitudinal strip parallel to, but inboard of, the inwhale (sheer clamp). It supports the inboard edge of the side deck and the side of the cabin cladding.
  • Chainplate - A strip of strong metal, often stainless steel,through bolted to the topsides and a frame and protruding above deck level to take the load of a stay in a sail boat.
  • Chines - Are long, longitudinal strips on hydroplaning hulls that deflect downwards the spray that is produced by the hull when it travels at speed in the water. The term also refers to distinct changes in angle of the hull sections, where the bottom blends into the top sides of a flat, v or arc bottomed boat such as a skiff, for instance. A multi chine hull has 4 or more chines to allow an approximation of a round bottomed shape using flat panels. It also refers to the longitudinal members inside the hull which support the edges of these panels.
  • Cleat - A fitting designed to tie off ropes. Often T shaped.
  • Deck - The top surface of the hull keeps water and weather out of the hull and allows the crew to operate the boat more easily. It stiffens the hull. Temporary frames(or moulds) can be removed and kept for another boat.
  • Deck beam - A heavy timber running athwartwise(across)from the top of a frame under the deck.It usually has a gentle convex(upward) curve for extra strength, extra head height below deck along the centre line and to allow water to run off the deck when the boat is upright.
  • Dolphin striker - A short spar fitted mid way and vertically downwards,midway along a bowsprit that holds the bobstay and prevents the outboard end of the bowsprit riding upwards under the load of a tensioned headsail.
  • Dorade - A ventilation intake consisting of a cowling connected to a short vertical tube connected to a deck mounted scuppered (Dorade) box,usually made from teak. The cabin intake is offset to prevent water entering the cabin. The upper section swivels to stop breaking seas entering the dorade. Named after the 1931 yacht Dorade where it was first used.
  • Frame - the transverse shaped material that give a boat its shape. Frames may be solid or peripheral. They may be made of wood, plywood, steel, aluminium or composite materials. They may be removed after construction to save weight or to be reused or left insitu. In ancient shipbuilding the frames were put in after the planking but now most boats are built with the frames first. This gives greater control over the shape. Today frames can be cut directly from a computer programme by a robot, with extreme accuracy. In old heavily built, square rigged ships, the frames were made up of 4 individual timbers called futtocks, as it was impossible to make the shape from a single piece of wood. The futtock closest to the keel was the ground futtock and the other pieces were called upper futtocks.
  • Garboard - The strake immediately adjacent to the keel in a traditional wooden boat.
  • Gooseneck- a universal joint,usually made of stainless steel, that joins the boom to the mast. Many goosenecks can be raised or lowered on a short section of track fixed to the mast.
  • Grab rail- a length of strong wood, often mahogony, or stainless steel tube,with short legs, through bolted to a cabin top, so that crew making their may forward on a sloping and wet side deck have a firm hand hold.
  • Gudgeon- a stainless steel fitting, attached to a rudder head, in pairs, with parallel holes in which the rudder pintle pivots .
  • Gunwale - The upper, outside longitudinal structural member of the hull.
  • Inwhale - The upper, inner longitudinal structural member of the hull, to which topside panels are fixed. In USA this is usually called the sheer clamp.
  • Hatch - A lifting or sliding opening into the cabin or deck for the loading of cargo or people.
  • Heads - marine toilet. An abbreviation of the term catsheads which was the normal place of toileting in square rigger days. Always used in the plural by shippy folk.
  • Hull - The main body of a ship or other vessel, including the bottom, sides, and deck.
  • Hydrofoil-An inverted T or an L shaped keel/dagger board device, with hydro dynamic lifting ability, that extends vertically downwards under the hull. As boat speed increases the hull lifts completely out of the water so drag is reduced and hull speed dramatically increased. The AC 72 ft catamaran New Zealand reached 40 knots in 17 knots of wind with almost no heeling, using hydrofoils in September 2012. Sometimes called foiling or foil sailing. Most commonly used in 11 feet Moth sail boats. Also used in powerboats.
  • Keel - The main central member along the length of the bottom of the boat. It is an important part of the boat's structure which also has a strong influence on its turning performance and, in sailing boats, resists the sideways pressure of the wind
  • Keelson - An internal beam fixed to the top of the keel to strengthen the joint of the upper members of the boat to the keel.
  • King plank - A flat, notched (nibbed)timber laid over the foredeck beams between the front of a cockpit or cabinand the stem. The notches or nibbs are designed so that the tapering deck planks do not end in a point which could be a weak point.
  • Knee - A short L shaped piece of wood that joins or strengthens boat parts that meet at about 60 to 120 degrees. It may be a natural crook (e.g. apple,oak,pohutukawa)or sawn from a larger length of timber or laminated in a wooden vessel. Commonly seen on thwarts to join topsides or keelsons to join transoms. A hanging knee fits upside down e.g. underneath a thwart rather than on top. Hanging knees often support carlins where a full frame would be inconvenient.
  • Mast step - A socket, often strengthened, to take the downward thrust of the mast and hold it in position. May be on the keel or on the deck in smaller craft.
  • Oar A wooden pole flattened at the outboard end so it grips the water when pulled. Oars are normally used in pairs to propel a rowboat forward. Differs from a paddle by being longer and gaining leverage by passing through a rowlock which acts as a fulcrum to prodice forward motion. Modern oars are often made from plastic or hollow carbon fibre in racing oars. A single oar can be leveraged against a U shape notch in the stern of a row boat to scull. The sculler stands and moves the oar in a sideways motion to produce forward motion in calm waters. A balanced oar is one that has weight added (either by extra wood or lead inside the handle)to the inboard end to balance the additional outboard length. In a rowing dinghy with 7–8 feet oars the balance point is about 12 inches outboard of the rowlocks.
  • Parrot beak-a stainless steel fitting on the end of a spinnaker pole, consisting of a mounting with a retractable spring loaded pin that is controlled remotely by way of a cord. When the cord is pulled it releases the spinnaker sheet so the spinnaker can be recovered by crew on deck.
  • Pintle a short section of stainless steel rod, about 6-12mm in diameter, mounted on a stainless steel bracket, that is bolted to the transom of a sail boat, so that the pin is inserted in the gudgeon hole.
  • Prod- a very strong ,light, hollow tapered pole, made of carbon fibre, attached to the bow of a modern racing yacht, enabling it to carry a spinnaker or other down wind sail with the luff in line with the centreline of the boat. In some yachts, such as the modern 49er, the prod is retracted through a hole in the bow when sailing upwind. Larger prods, such as on an AC72, are secured by dolpin strikers to prevent to prod bending upwards or breaking.
  • Ratlines (sometimes ratlins) - Groups of side stays on a square rigged ship that have horizontal lines placed for feet, enabling crew to rapidly ascend to the yards.
  • Rib - A thin strip of pliable timber laid athwartwise inside the hull,from inwhale to inwhale, at regular close intervals to strengthen the exterior planking. The rib is often steamed to increase flexibility. The rib is traditionally fixed to the planking by rivets or copper nails bent over on the inside. This method is still used in small clinker built dinghies and similar craft. Ribs are attached after the planking is constructed. Ribs differ from frames or futtocks in being far smaller dimensions and bent in place compared to frames or futtocks which are normally sawn to shape, or natural crooks that are shaped to fit with an adze, axe or chisel.
  • Rigging- wire or rod used to hold up a mast. Since the 1960s stainless steel wire has become universal in the developed world. Elsewhere galvanized wire or even rope may be used because of its availability and cheapness.3 types of stainless steel wire are commonly used. Type 1 x 19 is a non flexible wire used for standing rigging such as stays. Type 7 x 7 is a semi flexible wire used for luff wires in sails,halyards (sometimes plastic coated)trapeze wires and light halyards. Type 7 x 19 is used for all halyards,wire sheets, vangs and strops that must run through a pulley(sheave).The common way of attaching wire is to form a small loop at the end which is fixed in place by clamping a soft metal swage over the free ends. Talurite is a common brand of swagging.The wire loop is then fastened to a rigging screw with a bow shackle to the chain plate. Kevlar rope is sometimes used in place of wire in small sailboats .
  • Rowlock - Pronounced Rolick. A 'U' shaped metal device that secures an oar and acts as a fulcrum during the motion of rowing. Sometimes called an oarlock in the USA. The Rowlock is attached with a swivelling pin to the gunwhale in a row boat. Commonly made from galvanized steel,bronze or plastic. Before the availability of metal the oar was normally levered against 2 wooden pins called Thole pins inserted in the gunwhale. Tholepins are still used in some third world nations. In a narrow row boat the rowlocks are held well outboard in a lightweight outrigger(rigger) which is often equipped with a locking pin to hold the oar securely.
  • Rudder - A steering device usually at the rear of the hull created by a turnable blade on a vertical axis
  • Scuppers - Gaps in the bulwarks which enables sea or rain water to flow off the deck.
  • Shackle- a small, U shape, stainless steel or galvanized steel secured with a screw type pin at the open end of the U. Some types have spring loaded pins that snap shut.
  • Sheave box- a plastic or stainless steel box that holds a pulley that is fixed in postion such as on a mast head so that the angle of the rope (halyard)is restricted.
  • Sheer - The generally curved shape of the top of the hull when viewed in profile. The sheer is traditionally lowest amidships to maximize freeboard at the ends of the hull. Sheer can be reverse, higher in the middle to maximize space inside, or straight or a combination of shapes.
  • Sensor - A small electronic component which can be embedded in a hull skin, keel, rudder, mast, oar or sail of a very-high-performance craft to measure the laminar flow of air or water. Pioneered in New Zealand using technology from Formula 1 racing. Now used in rowing skiffs or racing oars to determine forces such as bending load and optimum angle of attack of the blade. Larger craft such as America Cup boats have readout displays on board so minute changes in sail angle can be related to speed and then duplicated at a later date.
  • Sheet - A rope used to control the position of a sail e.g. the main sheet controls the position of the main sail.
  • Skeg - A long tapering piece of timber fixed to the underside of a keel near the stern in a small boat to aid directional stability, especially in a kayak or rowboat.
  • Spar - A length of timber, aluminium, steel or carbon fibre of approximately round or pear shape that is used to support sails. Such as a mast,boom,gaff,yard,bowsprit,prod,boomkin,pole,dolphin striker .
  • Spinnaker- sometimes called a kite in Australia or New Zealand. A large, lightweight, down wind sail used on for and aft rigged yachts such as sloops to dramatically increase sail area. The sail is hoisted by a halyard attached by a ring to the head of the sail. The windward, luff, corner is secured by a sheet often called a preventer. The preventer runs through a parrot beak attached to the end of a spinnaker pole. Until recently the pole was usually secured by a parrot beak to a ring on the lower mast. The leeward, clew, corner is controlled by a sheet. In double luff(parallel sided) spinnakers, the 2 sheets are interchangeable.In some very modern racing yachts the pole is replaced by a prod which is fixed in place at the bow. Some spinnakers are single luff, which are flatter and with a longer luff enabling them to be carried more easily on a reach. In small planning sailboats such as 18ft skiffs,huge spinnakers cause dramatic increases in speed and spectacular, on the edge, sailing.
  • Spring - The amount of curvature in the keel from bow to stern when viewed side on. The modern trend is to have less spring in order to have less disturbance to water flow at higher speeds to aid planing.
  • Stanchions - A series of narrow but strong posts, often made of marine grade stainless steel, designed to hold life lines around the outer edge of a deck. Stanchions are often attached to both the deck and a toe rail or bulwark for added strength.
  • Stainless steel- mild steel to which small percentages of copper, chromium and sometimes nickel are added to make a very strong steel that is does not rust much. Marine grade stainless steel 316 containing more nickel, is even more rust resistant. Can be made into rod, tubes, sheet or pressed into a wide variety of shapes for marine fittings.
  • Stays/shrouds - Standing or running rigging which hold a spar in position e.g. sidestay, forestay, backstay. Formerly made of rope, these days usually stainless steel wire.
  • Stem - A continuation of the keel upwards at the front of the hull
  • Stern - The back of the boat
  • Stern sheets a flat area or deck, inboard of the transom in a small boat. It may contain hatches to access below decks or provide storage on deck for life saving equipment.
  • Strake - A strip of material running longitudinally along the vessel's side, bilge or bottom. Sometimes called a stringer.
  • Synthetic rope-There are 4 common ropes in use.Polyester, also called Dacron or Terylene, is a strong, low stretch rope,usually plaited (braided) used for running rigging Nylon is a strong, but elastic rope, used for mooring lines and anchor warps as it resists shock loads. It is usually laid(twisted)so that it is easier to grip when hauling. Polypropylene is a light, cheap rope, that floats. It is much weaker than the previous ropes. It breaks in sunlight. It is usually laid construction. Commonly used on commercial fishing boats using nets. Kevlar is an extremely strong fibre that is now made into ropes with almost no stretch. Expensive. Suited to halyards instead of stainless steel wire. Often used on racing yachts to replace polyester when powerful winches are used. Kevlar ropes can be much smaller in diameter than polyester for the same strength. This saves windage on a racing yacht. Usually braided.
  • Thwart - A seat, usually transverse, that is used to maintain the shape of the topsides in a small boat.
  • Tiller- A handle made of wood,steel or Carbon fibre that is attached to the top of a rudder,often via a post, which enables the helmsman to steer the boat.
  • Tiller extension-A long, lightweight handle attached to the forward end of the tiller which enables the helmsman to steer from a position from the sidedeck or outboard of a sidedeck on a high performance yacht.For example from a trapeze.
  • Toe rail - A upright longitudinal strip of timber fastened to the foredeck near the sheer. It is placed so that crew working on the foredeck can brace their toe or foot against it especially when the boat is heeled.
  • Topsides - The side planking of a boat from the waterline to the sheer.
  • Transom - A wide, flat or slightly curved, sometimes vertical board at the rear of the hull, which, on small power boats, is often designed to carry an outboard motor. Transoms increase width and also buoyancy at the stern. On outboard boats the stern is often the widest point to provide displacemewnt to carry a large outboard and to resist the initial downward thrust of a planning craft. Sometimes the term tuck is used in a sail boat.
  • Wind pennant-a small wind indicator balanced on a pivot, usually fitted to the mast head, to indicate wind direction.Can be made of plastic, stainless steel or sail cloth.
  • Yard - A heavy spar fitted to a square rigged ship. Each square sail hangs from its own yard. Sails are furled by seamen who bend over the yard and use both hands to haul up the sail. The yard's position is altered by sheets leading from the ends of the yard down to the deck.

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