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Parts of a Yacht: Understanding your Sailboat

Are you a beginner in sailing? Before you learn to sail, understanding the different parts of a yacht is very essential. You could thus get a grasp of the complete functionality of your sailboat and start learning to sail with confidence and knowledge of your yacht. Though the modern yacht designs differ when looked intrinsically, the basic parts and mechanisms among all varieties would be more or less the same. Here is a listing of the fundamental parts of a sailboat and their respective functions.


  • Starboard: If you are facing forward, the starboard will be on the right side of the boat.
  • Port: If you are facing forward, the left side of the boat is its port.
  • Cockpit: This is where the control and steering of the sailboat is located. Again, in case of large ships, the cockpit would be an enclosed control hub called the pilot house in the ship.
  • Companion’s way: This is the path leading down below from the cockpit. It can also be seen as an entrance or doorway from the cockpit.
  • Deck: The floor or the flat surface of the boat is called the deck. In case of large ships, there may be many floors or decks.
  • Cabin trunk: It is found ahead of the cockpit and it houses around the cabin.
  • Rudder: The rudder is immersed into the water below the sailboat as a fin appendage which is used to steer the boat aided by a mechanical steering or a tiller. It is a foil which provides, along with the keel, a high resistance against any lateral movement that may occur. In an instance where the wind pushes the boat sideways, this keel and rudder act in opposition to the wind and support the forward motion of the sailboat, preventing the vessel’s slippage to the side.
  • Bow: this is the front part of a boat. In case of a catamaran, there will be two hulls and the bow will be ahead of both. There will be three hulls for a trimaran.
  • Stern: The rear part of the boat is the stern. Usually, the motors (if any) would be attached to push the boat further in case of sail failure.
  • Bow and stern pulpit: The railings provided for safety constitute the bow and stern pulpit. These help to prevent people over boarding the boat. They are sometimes used to mount or hang necessary items like lines, floatation devices etc. Also, the lifelines are also hung from these and navigation lights when sailing in the dark.
  • Lifelines: The conventional lifelines are usually rope or wire/ metal lines coated with plastic. They help in emergency situations, for instance, a passenger going overboard.
  • Keel: This is also an underwater appendage with numerous important functions. It acts as an immersed wing that prevents the boat from being carried away alongside and maintains focus for better forward movement. Also, a keel is usually weighted with lead, on a mono-hull sailboat, so as to function as a counterweight to hold the boat upright when the wind blows hard and tries to push over the sailboat.

A clear understanding of the parts of a yacht lays a good foundation for you to begin sailing confidently.

Alisia Goodwin is a freelance blogger and currently writes for US Yachts. Elan Yachts dealer Australia by US Yachts are well known.

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