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Nautical Terms and Phrases

The letters of the alphabet are listed with their corresponding phonetic alphabet term. The phonetic alphabet is used when spelling terms over a radio so that the listener does not confuse one letter for another.

The terms will show up below the list of letters when you click a letter.

A - Alpha N - November
B - Bravo O - Oscar
C - Charlie P - Papa
D - Delta Q - Quebec
E - Echo R - Romeo
F - Foxtrot S - Sierra
G - Golf T - Tango
H - Hotel U - Uniform
I - India V - Victor
J - Juliet W - Whiskey
K - Kilo X - X-Ray
L - Lima Y - Yankee
M - Mike Z - Zulu




Labor A vessel is said to labor when she rolls or pitches heavily.
Lacing Rope used to lash a sail to a gaff, or a bonnet to a sail. Also, a piece of compass or knee timber, fayed to the back of the figure-head and the knee of the head, and bolted to each.
Land Breeze An evening wind coming from the land.
Land Ho The cry used when land is first seen.
Landlocked Surrounded by land.
Lash To tie something down or together with line.
Lateral Resistance The use of a keel, centerboard, daggerboard or leeboard to keep a boat from being pushed sideways by the wind.
Latitude East and west circle lines running parallel to the Equator at 0 degrees, measuring distance north and south at 90 degrees.
Lattitude The distance north or south of the equator measured and expressed in degrees.
Launch A small boat used as transport to a larger vessel. Second meaning, to set a boat or ship afloat.
Lay The twist of a line's strands, if twisted left, it is left laid.
Lazarette A storage space in the stern area of a boat.
Lazy Sheet A line attached to a sail but not in use when the boat is on the opposite tack as opposed to the working sheet.
Lead Line A weighted line, knotted at fathoms, lowered from the deck and used to determine water depth
Leading Wind A fair wind. More particularly applied to a wind abeam or quartering.
League Three nautical miles.
Ledges Underwater rock ridges and mountains that rise near the surface of the sea.
Lee The side sheltered from the wind.
Lee Cloth Usually a piece of canvas attached to a berth and fastened so as to keep one in bed when heeled.
Lee Helm Sailing with the tiller over to leeward by force of the wind.
Leech The trailing edge of a sail.
Leech Line An integrated line in a sail used to tighten the leech to create the proper shape in various wind conditions.
Leeward The direction away from the wind. Opposite of windward.
Leeway The sideways movement of the boat caused by either wind or current.
Lie To To stop the progress of a vessel at sea, either by counter-bracing the yards, or by reducing sail so that she will make little or no headway, but will merely come to and fall off by the counteraction of the sails and helm.
Lifeline A line running between the bow and stern of a boat to which the crew can attach themselves to prevent them from being separated from the boat.
Lift A sudden wind shift away from the bow.
Light Sails Sails, such as the spinnaker, reacher and reaching stay sail used when running or reaching.
Lighters A barge used to load and unload ships not lying at piers, or to move cargo around a harbor; to unload.
Lighthouse A navigational light placed on a structure on land.
Limber Boards A ceiling plank next to the keelson that could be removed to access the bilge and limberways.
Limbers Holes in the bilge crossframes to allow bilge water to drain to the lowest point.
Limberways Notches cut fore-and-aft through the bottom of the floors, allowing water to run through the bilge to the pumps.
Line Rope or cord used aboard a boat.
List When a boat leans to one side.
LOA Common abbreviation for length over all which is the length of the vessel including all rigging.
Lock A device that allows boats to pass between bodies of water having different water levels, such as in a canal. A boat enters a lock, then large doors close behind it. The water level is then either raised or lowered until a second set of doors can be opened and the boat can pass through.
Log A record of courses or operation.
Long-splice Joining ends of two lines so that the splice will pass freely through a block.
Longitude The distance in degrees east or west of the meridian at Greenwich, England.
Loose-footed A sail not attached to a boom or secured to a boom at the track and clew only.
Loran A positioning systems using broadcast radio waves from a known positions to determine your location. Is being replaced by GPS which operates by satellite signals.
Low Tide The point of a tide at which the water is the lowest. The opposite of a high tide.
Lubber's Line A mark or permanent line on a compass indicating the direction forward parallel to the keel when properly installed.
Luff To alter course more nearly into the wind. Second meaning, the leading edge of a sail.
Lug Still A sail used in boats and small vessels, bent to a yard, which hangs obliquely to the mast.
Lurch The sudden rolling of a vessel to one side.