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Nautical Terms 101

by Shayne Benowitz

The Atlantic Fury at full sail to the coral reef.

The Atlantic Fury at full sail to the coral reef.

Ahh, the beautiful Atlantic Fury sailing into Key West’s infinite southern horizon… The sail has been raised, and the spectacular coral reef is calling your name. Your captain has introduced himself and the crew and you’re lounging in the sun, taking in the stunning scenery. Suddenly, the captain makes an announcement over the sound system, “Folks, we’ve spotted a pod of dolphins off the starboard bow. We’ll slow down, so you can take a look out for them.” Everyone rallies to their feet, hoping for a glimpse of the porpoises, but he said starboard bow? Where is that? What is he talking about?

When you join us on your Fury adventure, you might enjoy knowing a little bit of nautical terminology. You might even impress one of those cute mates in red board shorts with your knowledge (hint: help out raising the mainsail). Read on and I’ll equip you with the basics so you can walk the walk and talk the talk while you’re out on the water with us.

So what was the captain saying when he called out, “Starboard bow?” Let’s break the boat into four sides. You’re standing on the deck in the front part of the boat. Where are you? That’s the bow. If you turn around to see the captain at the wheel, he’s on the opposite side of the boat. The back of the boat is the stern. Pretty easy so far, right? If you’re facing the bow, look to the right. That side of the boat is starboard. If you look to the left, you’re looking at the port side. So, if the captain says that dolphins can be seen off the port stern, where are you going to go? To the back of the boat on the left hand side. Right? Very good, you’re catching on.

What’s with the funny nautical terminology anyway? Well, back in the days before boats had rudders, they were steered by a large oar positioned on the right hand side of the ship. Starboard comes from the Old English meaning the side of the ship where you steer. Since steering was on the right side, naturally the boats would need to be docked on the left side. Where do you dock a boat? In the port, and so the left side of the boat became known as port. This specialized terminology is important to sailors so that directions are clear no matter what boat you step on and what captain you’re working for.

What’s an easy way to remember these directions? Well, the word port has four letters in it and so does the word left. Port-left, so starboard has to be right, right? Study up, and you’ll know exactly where to look when we spot an amazing loggerhead turtle off the port bow!

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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