Cruising Sailor’s Glossary

Sailing has its own language.  Cruising sailors carry this a step further.  Here is a helpful guide to some commonly used expressions.

ablution block (n.)A building at a marina containing toilets, showers, laundry facilities, book exchange, notice boards, etc.  If also equipped with a plastic table and chairs it is often the de facto social gathering place for tenants of the marina. 

Admiral (n.) On a cruising boat, one rank above the captain or skipper, which in a cruising couple is usually the female. 

alcohol abuse (v.) The spilling of alcoholic beverages on any part of a boat.  Other than making small offerings to King Neptune when crossing the equator, alcohol abuse is generally unacceptable. 

amp (n.) 1. The basic unit of measure of electrical current.  2. The subject of endless hours conversation, usually amongst males, much to the irritation of the females.   

anchor (n.) Any person or situation that prevents or hampers one from cruising.  

antenna farm (n.) An arch or other support structure, usually near the stern of a boat, where the antennae for various communication and navigation equipment are planted. 

awniker (n.) A special purpose sail, usually made of canvas or similar material, generally flown horizontally by cruising sailors in warm areas.  It provides little, if any boat speed, but does offer welcomed shade and prevents UV damage to sailors and/or deck fittings. 

baksheesh (n.) A gift or bribe, usually made to corrupt government officials in third-world countries to insure that official paperwork is promptly completed or minor infractions are overlooked. 

barking bilge spider (n.) A fart. 

beachball (n.) 1.  A cheap and lightly built production sailboat, often categorized as a “racer/cruiser,”though usually not very well suited for either.  2. A bareboat charter boat. 

beam reach (n.) Generally accepted as the closest point of sail for a cruising sailboat. 

beer-thirty (n.) Time for the first beer of the day, usually around sunset or upon completion of a project that has induced perspiration or dehydration. 

Bendytoy or Beneslow (n.) Beneteau. 

blind herring (n.) A small brown fish, usually spotted floating on the surface of a crowded anchorage, characterized by lack of movement and foul odor. 

blue job (n.) Boat jobs generally handled by the male, such as engine work, plumbing and electrical repairs.

boat bite (n.) Any small cut, scrape, bump, bruise or other injury incurred while sailing or working on a boat. 

boat boy (n.) Abundant in third-world countries, they will perform services such as cleaning, polishing, waxing, varnishing, etc. for slave wages. 

boat brew (n.) Home made beer brewed on board a boat, usually made with commercially available kits and ingredients. 

boat buck (n.) A monetary value equal to $1,000. E.g. I just spent 3 boat bucks on a haulout. 

boat bum (n.)  A person not otherwise gainfully employed who hangs out on boats.

boat butt (n.) A rash-like condition that occurs on one’s butt after sitting for too long on a hard surface with a wet butt.

boat envy (n.) A situation where someone exhibits extreme envy for another’s boat.  It is usually cured when they learn the price of their object of desire. 

BMW (n.) 1. The sort of automobile that is usually sold off so that one can afford to go cruising.  2. Boat Maintenance Worker.  Succeeds BN, which of course is no longer politically correct. 

bommie (n.) A coral head close to the surface of the water, usually strategically placed by the sea Gods to hamper coastal cruising or anchorage in an idyllic location. 

box ticker (n.) A cruiser who circumnavigates in a very short time so they can tick the “I sailed around the world” box, while reading Lonely Planet guides to learn about all the places they sailed past. 

Bruce boulder (n.) A rock or piece of coral, generally about the size, shape and weight of a bowling ball, which has jammed in the claw of a Bruce style anchor, preventing it from setting properly, and sometimes requiring some coaxing by a crowbar to remove.       

Bruce Boulder

A Bruce Boulder 

bucket ‘n chuck-it (v.) The use of a bucket for a toilet and then tossing the waste overboard.  While not as aesthetically pleasing as a standard head, it is elegant in its simplicity, lacking any moving parts or plumbing which can break or clog.  This is a favorite of minimalist sailors who also consider electronics and engines as unnecessary newfangled contraptions. 

buddy boating (v.) A group of two or more boats, traveling in close company, generally for social or safety reasons.  Two boats of the same make and model who are buddy boating may be called a catamaran. 

bullet (n.) A sudden and powerful gust of wind, usually experienced during a squall or when sailing or anchored in the lee of rugged terrain during a blow.  

cask wine (n.) Inexpensive wine packaged in a strong plastic/foil bag inside of a cardboard box.  A favorite of cruisers as the box can be removed and the plastic bag will fit almost anywhere, taking the shape of the bilge, locker or storage area in which it is placed.  See also drinkable ballast. 

cast iron spinnaker (n.) The auxiliary engine on a sailboat. 

cat’s paw (n.) a row of vertical tears in the mainsail caused by the release of the reef clew line prior to unfastening the reef points. 

chick boat (n.) A boat crewed entirely by women. 

chicken gybe (v., n.) An alternative to gybing when sailing short-handed, in rough conditions or when feeling lazy.  To avoid the more violent maneuver of bringing the stern through the eye of the wind, the boat instead is steered through a roughly 300 degree tack, finishing up on the opposite gybe.  A.k.a. “wearing ship.” 

Chinese fire drill or clusterfuck (n.) Any sort gear failure, accidental gybe, spinnaker wrap or other situation requiring all hands on deck, usually occurring in the middle of the night in snotty conditions, and accompanied by lots of yelling. 

chumming or feeding the fish (v.) Becoming seasick. 

clicks or mike clicks (n.) Rapid clicking of the microphone key in order to applaud someone or something heard on a VHF or HF radio. 

coconut (n.) 1. The seed of a palm tree.  2. Slang for a native Pacific Islander.  3. A fictitious unit of currency.  E.g. That boat must have cost them a lot of coconuts. 

coconut milk run (n.) The cruising route through the South Pacific Island groups, usually beginning from the east in French Polynesia and finishing to the west in Australia or New Zealand. 

corn-eyed brown trout (.) A fish sometimes spotted in crowded anchorages,  characterized by its very slow motion, brown color, yellow spots and unpleasant odor. 

crab crusher (n.) Any of the traditional style, full keeled, heavy displacement cruising boats, some of which may require the assistance of the auxiliary engine to complete a tack or a gybe. 

cruiseheimer’s (n.) A degenerative disease affecting cruisers, particularly older ones.  The primary symptom is loss of memory.  Similar to CRS (Can’t Remember Shit) syndrome in earthlings.

cruiser bar (n.) A bar that is in close proximity to a marina or anchorage, which is popular with cruisers.  It is characterized by very cheap and usually cold beers, plastic furniture, nautical memorabilia (a.k.a. junk), moldy old yacht club burgees and a cast-off VHF radio hooked up to an old 12 volt battery.  It may also be called a yacht club in the islands. 


The $3 Bar at Musket Cove in Fiji is an iconic cruiser bar

cruising (v.) 1. Extensive boat repair and maintenance in beautiful and exotic places.  2. The slowest and most expensive form of third class travel.  

cruising kitty (n.) 1. An accumulation of savings used to pay for cruising expenses.  2.  The ship’s cat.                                                                                 

delamination (n.) 1. A separation between any of the various layers of a sandwich construction boat.  2. A separation between a couple, partners or crew members on a boat. 

dinghy butt (n.) Wetness of clothing, usually around the seat, which is the result of a dinghy ride in rough or wet conditions. 

dock potato (n.) 1. An owner of a cruising boat that spends extended periods of time in a marina and not much time sailing.  2.  A wannabe cruiser who is waiting till the boat is completely ready (i.e. never) before throwing off the lines and going cruising.   

drag generator (n.) A device towed behind a boat consisting of a weighted propeller and a torque line, which turn a generator attached to the transom, creating electricity.  Because it makes a sound resembling a distressed fish moving through the water, it is commonly attacked by sharks or other large pelagic fish, converting the device into a snarled mess.  

drinkable ballast (n.) Beer, wine, spirits or other beverages, stored below the water line in sufficient quantities so as to add to the righting moment of a sailboat.  When the destination is reached, it can be appropriately and festively consumed in an effort to lighten ship. 

dry boat (n.) 1.   A boat that does not leak.  2. An oxymoron.  There is no such thing.  3. A boat on which drinking alcoholic beverages is not permitted while on passage or otherwise. 

dumpster diver (n.) A modern day treasure hunter who rummages through marina dumpsters or garbage cans looking for discarded items that they can either use on their own boat or convert to cash at a swap meet, on-line auction or at a used boat parts dealer. 

earring (n) 1. A small gold hoop worn by old time sailors, the purpose of which is believed to have been to pay for their burial if their body washed ashore. 2. A line tied through the reef clew and around the boom of the mainsail when reefed in order to prevent a cat’s paw or row of tears in the sail should the reef line come free, chafe through or be let go by an absent-minded sailor prior to unfastening the reef points. 

earthling (n.) someone who lives in a land dwelling, as opposed to one floating on the


expat (n.) Someone who is either wanted by someone, or not wanted by anyone back in their native country. 

fizzboat (n.) A small runabout or fast power boat. 

flashlight (n.) A container for storing dead batteries.

floaterhome or floatabago (n.) A liveaboard boat. 

floating footpath/sidewalk (n.) A ferro-cement boat. 

follower (n.) A person who follows to another VHF or HF radio channel and eavesdrops, on a conversation between two other parties. 

foot-itis (n.) A form of claustrophobia suffered by sailors.  The only known antidote is a larger boat. 

F. O. (n.) A derogatory term used by persons who work on other people’s boats, referring to the owner; an abbreviation for Fucking Owner. 

fun locker (n.) Liquor cabinet. 

fun meter (n.) The knot meter, particularly when sailing very fast. 

furback (n.) A person who has not yet made a trans-equatorial passage.  Also pollywog. 

garage (n.) A large lazarette or other storage area on a boat or mega yacht where the dinghy and/or other gear, toys and possibly even a motorcycle or small car are stored.   

garage sale (n.) The cluttered appearance of the decks of a boat that doesn’t have sufficient below decks storage space for all her gear and toys.  The collection of jerry cans, fenders, SCUBA tanks, water toys and other gear, making it unsafe, if not nearly impossible to move about.  E.g.  That boat looks like it’s having a garage sale. 

genny sailing (n.) A lazy or relaxed form of sailing using only an unfurled genoa or other headsail.   

ghosterly (n.) An extremely light breeze. 

gin palace (n.) A posh power boat, generally used for very short voyages and very long parties. 

glory hole (n.) An underwater crevice, cave or lava tube full of lobsters.   

Hans Crustacean (n.) A Hans Christian boat. 

hit the bricks (v.) To run aground on something hard such as a coral reef or rock bottom. 

hood ornament (n.) A guest or crew member on a boat who lacks any real sailing ability and is aboard primarily for their ornamental skills. 

hurricane hole (n.) A well protected anchorage used by sailors for refuge during heavy weather.  Some hurricane holes (e. g. Puerto Escondido, Mexico) become permanent homes for boats left unattended at anchor.  Said boats occasionally drag anchor or break free from their poorly maintained moorings in a strong blow, creating a hazard to other boats seeking protection. 

kid boat (n.) A cruising boat that has one or more children living aboard.  Kid boats often cruise in company with each other. 

knife knot (n.)  A knot that has become impossible to untie.    

line, the (n.) The Equator.                    

Indonesia 2005 588

Crossing “the line”

lurker (n.) A person who listens in to a VHF or HF radio net (see “net”) without checking in, gathering, but not sharing any information. 

meat hook (n.) A fishing lure trailed behind a boat purely for the purpose of catching fish for food.  It is usually rigged on a very heavy line and a large reel or winch, eliminating the sporting aspect of fishing. 

megayacht owner (n.) Someone who works hard to keep his crew living in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.  

mordida (n.) A gift or bribe made to a Hispanic government official to insure that official paperwork is promptly completed or a minor infraction, a.k.a. beeg problema  is overlooked. 

Morgan Outhouse (n.) Morgan “Out Island.” 

motor-sailor (n.) A boat with a large motor and small sails that generally requires the use of both to achieve cruising speed. 

mowing the lawn (v.) Cleaning the bottom of the boat.

mud map (n.) A crude map, usually depicting a “secret” anchorage, dive spot or glory hole, hand drawn on the back of a beer stained napkin, coaster or matchbook, the quality of which is likely to be inversely proportional to the blood alcohol content of its maker. 

naviguesser (n.) The person who, through the use of charts, cruising guides, pilot books, visual bearings, various mechanical and electronic devices and a high degree of luck, guides a vessel to a destination, intended or otherwise. 

net (n.) 1. A device placed in busy channels or coastal waters by fisherman for the purpose of catching fish and/or boat propellers.  2. A regular VHF or HF radio schedule where cruisers can check in, report their location, share pertinent local and weather information or catch up with cruising friends.  It is usually a volunteer effort run by and for cruisers in a particular geographical area such as the Caribbean, Mexico, the South Pacific, etc. 

net controller (n.) The person who orchestrates a radio net.  Usually a volunteer who enjoys talking on the radio, has good radio skills and a strong radio signal. 

noserly (n.) Any breeze that is coming more or less from the direction in which one is attempting to sail. 

no wrench day (n.) An extremely rare day in a cruising sailor’s life, on which they have not made any boat repairs, and everything on board was working.  Some cruisers fly flags to denote such a day.  “No wrench” flags (a small flag depicting a wrench with a red circle and bar over it) have been known to have an exceptionally long useful life. 

official Stamp (n.) A rubber stamp of extreme importance in governmental agencies, particularly in third-world countries. All official documents are stamped with one or more official stamps as they are signed neatly, but illegibly by officials wearing perfectly pressed uniforms.  As a savvy diplomatic gesture, a cruiser should have their own ship’s official stamp and counter stamp all official documents stamped by the official.  Stamp! stamp! stamp! stamp!

offshore drilling (v.) Having sex while sailing. 

oxygen (n.) Wind, clear air. 

park (v.) 1. To run aground. 2. To sail into an area with no wind and become becalmed. 

Park Avenue Boom (n.) A boom with a wide, flat top surface (like Park Avenue) to allow for easier stacking of a folded mainsail and to permit a person to crawl/sit on top of the boom for purposes of sail maintenance. 

parrothead (n.) A Jimmy Buffet fan, quite common among cruising sailors. 

pink job (n.) Tasks on a boat usually handled by the female, such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and provisioning.

pirate boat (n.) Any old or traditional style sailboat with a long bowsprit, lots of decorative wood, ratlines, wooden railings, and perhaps even big windows in the transom, often seen flying the skull and crossbones flag. 

Pollywog (n.) see furback 

princess dock (n.) A dock near an anchorage for landing and tying up dinghies.  They are preferred, especially by females, to beach landings. 

pyrotechnics (n.) An electrical storm. 

race (n.) A spontaneous competition which occurs any time two or more boats are heading in the same direction.

racing stripes (n.) Also Marina del Rey racing stripes.  Fenders left hanging out while sailing.  A faux pas akin to walking out of a restroom with a trail of toilet paper attached to your pants.  

radio head (n.) Someone who loves to talk on the radio, and can be constantly heard hailing, answering calls or intruding into other’s conversations.  To be clearly understood, they typically repeat every transmission at least twice and often spell any slightly questionable words with the phonetic alphabet.  E.g. Boring, that’s Bravo Oscar Romeo India November Golf. 

roller snarling (n.) A term for roller furling often used by traditional sailors who prefer hank on sails. 

rubber duck, rubber ducky (n.) Inflatable dinghy. 

rum front (n.) An alcohol induced storm, usually occurring late at night during a party, leaving crew members feeling dehydrated and headachy the next morning. 

Sea of Broken Dreams (n.) Specifically referring to the Sea of Cortez, or Mexico in general. The first stop on a planned/dreamed circumnavigation that has becomes a permanent cruising ground. 

set ‘em and forget ‘em (v.) Cruiser’s method of sail trim. 

shellback (n.) A sailor who has previously sailed across the equator and has earned the privilege of hazing or otherwise humiliating any furbacks or pollywogs  on board during a trans-equatorial passage.= 

short roding (v.) The dubious practice of anchoring to a very short rode in a cozy anchorage in close proximity to lots of other boats.  It can result in an exciting game of “bumper boats” if a squall or sudden blow comes through, causing any boats to drag anchor. 

Southern Cross (n.) 1. A constellation in the southern hemisphere, shaped roughly like a kite, which is the southern hemisphere equivalent of the North Star. 2. The name of a great sailing song recorded by Crosby, Stills and Nash. 

spare parts (n.) Items carried, theoretically as replacements in the event a part breaks or wears out.  Spare parts generally rust, corrode, decompose or go missing at about the same rate as the working parts, so are typically rendered useless by the time they are actually needed. 

spynoculars (n.) Optical instrument consisting of two small telescopes attached together, used for spying on other boats in a marina or anchorage, or perving on neighboring boat’s crew who are skinny dipping or bathing on deck. 

stingray shuffle (v.) Dragging one’s feet when beach landing a dinghy or walking in shallow water with a sand bottom in order to avoid accidentally stepping on a stingray and suffering a painful sting. 

stink pot/stink boat (n.) Derogatory terms for power boat.  Many stinkboaters suffer a bad connotation by sailors because of a few who are noisy, inconsiderate, or speed through confined waters or calm anchorages throwing up huge wakes, sometimes causing damage and spilling drinks.= 

sundowner (n.) Any adult beverage enjoyed just before, during or after sundown, usually with cruising friends.    

sun gun (n.) Sextant. 

Swannabe (n.) Any sailboat designed to copy or imitate the appearance a Nautor Swan, generally at a small fraction of the cost of the original item. 

swapping paint (v.) A minor collision with another boat or fixed object. 

t-bone (v.) To run into another vessel, at an angle roughly perpendicular to the centerline. 

ticket (n.) Any sort of Coast Guard License. 

Thai takeaway (n.) A young Asian girl taken on board as a crew and/or companion, usually by a single male cruiser. 

tinnie (n.) An aluminum dinghy. 

torch (n.) A container for storing flat batteries.

toys (n.) Items such as surfboards, kayaks, kite surfers, bicycles and scooters carried by cruisers for recreational purposes at a cruising destination.   

triatic stay (n.) On a sailboat with more than one mast, a stay that connects the top of each mast, insuring that in the event of a dismasting, that all spars are involved in the “gravity storm.”  It also provides an easy place for a long line of birds to roost, so that their shit lands squarely on the deck. 

TBT (n.) Tri-butyl tin.  A highly toxic substance used in commercial shipping grade anti-fouling paint.  Sometimes procured separately from a chemist by cruisers and added, on the sly, to their own bottom paint to increase its anti-fouling properties.   

tuck (n.)  A reef in a sail.  E.g. Let’s take a tuck in the main. 

tummy tuck (n.,v.) A recut of a headsail that has stretched out and has too much draft. It consists of cutting the sail from a point near the head down to the middle of the foot, and then re-sewing it after removing the excess material. 

visa run (n.) A quick trip made to a neighboring country, solely for the purpose of renewing one’s visa so as to prevent overstaying.   

Wetsnail (n.)  A Westsail boat, though a proven cruising design, it is so called due to its rather sluggish performance characteristics. 

white boat (n.) Any megayacht.  So called because most of them are painted white. 

wind generator (n.) A small windmill attached to a boat primarily for the purpose of generating electricity, with the added side benefit of insuring other boats will anchor well away due to the annoying noise they emit. 

Windex (n.)  An arrow at the top of the mast that points towards where you want to go. 

wine o’clock (n.) The time of day when it is appropriate to enjoy a glass of wine, usually late in the afternoon or early in the evening.


Leave a Reply