What are the Sides of the Boat Called?

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: June 24, 2023
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When looking towards the bow, the left-hand side of the boat is called a portside, and the corresponding right side is called a starboard.

Key Takeaways

  • Some of the important boat terms are hull, gunwale, cabin, transom, propeller, bilge, bimini, ballast, cleat, cockpit, helm, etc.
  • Hull is the central part of the boat and it stretches under the waterway to shield the water
  • The cabin is the part of the boat designed for sleeping or spending some time under the deck
  • Transom is also known as a vertical segment that runs from the bottom of the hull and connects two hull sides
  • Bimini is an open-front canvas or composite hardtop placed on top of the boat, supported by a metal frame from the cockpit

Parts and features of a boat

Parts and features of a boat

Before you get off the water to have a beautiful day to sail, it’s good to know about the essential parts and features of the boat. For beginners in boating, did you know that harbor and starboard were the two sides of the vessel and not left and right? I think you should know! Now straight away, let’s look at other vital terms describing the body parts of a boat.


This is the central part of the boat. It is the body or shell of the water vessel and stretches under the waterway to shield water. The shell offers protection to the interior parts of the boat and covers essential features of the boat.


It’s also known as gunnel. It’s an outermost top edge of a boat where the hull and the deck combine. Generally, it improves the overall design and structure of the boat.


Do you know what the cabin is? The cabin is the part of the boat designed for sleeping or spending some time under the deck. It may be a room in which a person lives or an area where many rooms are situated.


What do you think a transom is? It is also known as a vertical segment that runs from the bottom of the hull and connects two hull sides. 


It is a rotating device with blades that rotate under the water to move the boat backward or forward through the water.


It is the bottom part of a boat that sometimes collects excess water. 


Have you heard about Bimini? It is an open-front canvas or composite hardtop placed on top of the boat, supported by a metal frame from the cockpit, to protect against elements such as sun or rain. Most Biminis collapse when not in use and arise again when needed.


Who doesn’t want to travel in a stable vessel? The vessel’s stability is paramount; that’s why ballast is there to enhance it. Ballast is a heavy material or substance placed low in a boat hull to increase the stability of the boat and its performance.


This is a plastic, wood, or metal fitting on top of the hull, where you tie or loop a line when docking your boat.

Casting deck/ platform

This is a surface in the front or at the rear part of the boat, which is slightly elevated to enable you to have a fantastic view of the water and fish without any distractions. 


It is a protected space on the deck, where the steering and controlling of the boat is done, where the helm is located.


Helm is one of the most significant parts of a boat. The steering and controlling point include an engine control, wheel, or joystick.


This is an opening on the deck or cabin that acts as a doorway. Some boats have several hatches, depending on the size and their function.


It is an area in the boat with a dining table and seats used for dining.

Swim platform

This structure is located at the aft portion or transom to help you get into the boat more accessible from the water.


This is a structure raised on a boat’s deck that holds the helm. It may take storage space or a toilet in the compartment below.

Additional terms used in boating

Additional terms used in boating

This part will define and describe other terms used in boating that we haven’t discussed in the above section, and we feel it’s essential for you to know them. Let’s kick-off!

Personal floating device

It’s abbreviated as PFD. This device gives personal buoyancy that will help you have the additional floating ability when you are in the water.


When compared to PFD, a lifejacket has an added advantage. It can turn you on your back even when you are unconscious. They come in three standard colors; they include red, orange, and yellow. They are manufactured with those colors for easy identification and visibility while in the water. We have three Canadian-approved types currently available, which you can choose from. They include;

Standard type lifejackets

Unless you use SOLAS vessels, all other vessels are approved to use these lifejackets. These jackets will turn you on your back and keep your face out of water even when you are unconscious. They come in two sizes, those that weigh less than 40kg (88lbs) and those that weigh more than 40kg (88lbs). If you buy this lifejacket, make sure that it’s red, yellow, or orange, ensure it has a whistle attached to it and must be approved. The only disadvantage is that it’s bulk and uncomfortable compared to PFDs.

Small vessels lifejackets

Just from the name, it’s a lifejacket approved for small vessels. Compared to standard-type lifejackets, small vessels’ lifejackets have the less floating ability. Yes, it will turn you to your back even when you are unconscious to keep your face out of the water, but slowly. They come in two models: keyhole and vest, which are available in three sizes. One for people weighing less than 18kg(40lbs), another one for those weighing between 18kg(40lbs) to 41kg(90lbs), and the last one for those that weigh over 41kg(90lbs). 


Unlike other lifejackets (standard type lifejackets and small vessels lifejackets), SOLAS lifejackets are approved for all vessels and have very high-performance standards. These lifejackets will turn you on your back when in water in seconds, even if you are unconscious. They are available in two sizes; one for those with a weight of less than 32kg (70lbs) and the other for those with more than 32kg(70lbs). They are available in compact inflatable configurations that can inflate manually, automatically, or orally. 


This line is marked on the vessel’s hull that partitions the part of the vessel that is submerged in the water from the part that is above the water. The waterline should not submerge in water. If it does, the vessel is overloaded beyond the maximum load capacity. In addition, the line should not be lower on one side, and if it’s so, that means that the weight is unevenly distributed. These two circumstances pose a danger to the lives of the passengers.

Pleasure craft

It’s a boat, ship, or any other watercraft totally for pleasure. It doesn’t carry passengers; neither does it carry goods or any other object for profit. 


The water needed by a boat to float freely is what we call draft. It is measured as the distance from the waterline to the bottom of the boat.


This is a place in the port or harbor where the ship or boat may moor for loading and unloading purposes. Those in authority to manage the establishment, such as harbormaster and port authority, are the Berths.

Frequently asked questions 

What are the main parts of a boat?

The front part is called a bow, while the rear part is called the stern. A bow is required to meet these two requirements: minimal drag between the boat’s hull and water, and it should also be tall enough to prevent water from splashing quickly. As you look at the bow, the left-hand side of a boat is called a port, and the right side is called a starboard. Are you finding it hard to remember the left and right sides of the boat? Let me give you a memory tip; Use this rule of thumb; the term ‘left’ has four letters, and so does the word ‘port.’ Therefore, remember the left side of the boat is called port, as long as you are sitting looking at the bow! (LEFT /PORT).

Why are the ships painted red below the waterline?

Below the water, there are elements such as barnacles, sea algae, and wood-eating worms, among other, that destroys wooden ships. The ship is being protected from being destructed by those elements by painting red. 

How do boats move?

A boat floats and moves across a water body. It’s powered by a motor, elements such as wind, and waves, or can be powered by itself.

Sum up

As we conclude, we hope that this article will help you, as we have defined some basic parts of the boat and other terminologies used in boating. Furthermore, we have answered frequently asked questions to help you get extra information that we may have failed to give you in the other sections of this article. Enjoy your time on the water!


  • https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/port-starboard.html
  • https://www.boat-ed.com/wisconsinrental/studyGuide/Parts-of-a-Boat-From-a-Side-View/103051_55495/
  • https://www.boaterexam.com/boating-resources/boat-terminology/

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