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Nautical Terms Part 2: Sailing Science

by Shayne Benowitz

Crew and volunteers raising the mainsail for a sunset sail

Crew and volunteers raising the mainsail for a sunset sail

Ah, the art of sailing… It really is one of the most peaceful and enjoyable pastimes. At Fury, our 65’ catamarans are equipped with two sails to help us harness wind energy, speed, and of course that tranquil feeling that only comes from being under sail. If you’ve ever wondered about the science of sailing and the proper terminology for the parts that make it work, read on.

The mainsail is the largest sail on any vessel. On our catamarans, it’s located close to the center of the ship. When you board our boat, however, you won’t notice the sail because it will be flaked and resting on the boom, the horizontal bar running aft atop the upper cabin. The first thing you’ll likely notice is the mast, the tall vertical bar that reaches to the sky. These two bars are where the mainsail is attached.

Once we’re underway, the mates will gather by the mast and uncoil the halyard line in order to raise the mainsail. Any ropes you see on a boat are called lines. A halyard is a line that is used to raise a sail. Our mainsail is massive and we need all the help we can get to raise it, so don’t hesitate to volunteer. You’ll become an honorary sailor! And remember, you’re pulling the halyard line.

Once the mainsail is raised, the captain may decide to unfurl the jib. The jib is the smaller sail located at the bow and it is wrapped around a roller furler. We don’t raise the jib. We unfurl it using a sheet. A sheet is a line that is used to control the direction a sail moves horizontally. One of the mates will release the jib sheet and allow the captain to unfurl it from his position at the helm.

With both of these sails up, our Fury catamaran becomes a picturesque sailing vessel on the way out to the coral reef. Relax and enjoy the spectacle!

This terminology is used for all sailing vessels. Different types of boats have different rigging and every sail and line has a special name. Now you’ve got the basic knowledge to set sail onto any horizon. Enjoy!

Shayne Benowitz is a Fury crewmember and freelance writer working on her debut novel. For more travel stories and a daily dose of what’s cool around the globe visit her Wanderlust Website at http://web.me.com/shaynebeth.

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