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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




Wake Moving waves, track or path that a boat leaves behind it, when moving across the waters.
Waterline A line painted on a hull which shows the point to which a boat sinks when it is properly trimmed.
Waterlogged Completely filled with water.
Waterway A river, canal or other body of water that boats can travel on.
Way Movement of a vessel through the water such as headway, sternway or leeway.
Wear Ship Wearing When a sailing ship sails "into" the wind, it necessarily has to zig zag, since it cannot sail directly upwind. The "zigs" and "zags" are called the port or starboard "tack", in relation to the wind direction. Changes of tack through the eye of the wind are called "tacking". If the ship changes "tack" by falling off from the wind, making a downwind turn, and coming back up on the other tack, that is "wearing". Wearing is easier on the ship, though slower, but needs more sea room.
Weather Deck The uppermost deck of a ship; any deck that does not have overhead protection from the weather.
Weather Helm The tendency of a boat to come up into the wind. The helm must be held over to keep the boat from coming.
Whipping Winding twine or heavy thread around the end of a line to keep it from unraveling.
Whisker Pole An adjustable pole connected to the clew of the jib and the mast to hold the sail away from the mast when going downwind.
Widow-maker A term for the bowsprit (many sailors lost their lives falling off the bowsprit while tending sails).
Winch A mechanical device used to pull in a line or chain that may have a heavy load on it, ie, an anchor line or a sheet attached to a sail under pressure, using a gear ratio winding movement.
Wind Shadow Dead air in the lee of another boat or obstruction such as a jetty.
Windjammer Large ship powered by wind and sails, used for pleasure cruising.
Windlass A revolving machine with a horizontal spindle used to raise or lower an anchor.
Windvane A system of lines, pulleys, paddles and clamps that work together with the wind to hold a sailboat on course.
Winward Toward the direction from which the wind is coming.
Working Sails The sails used on a particular sailboat in normal weather conditions.
Working Sheet The sheet that currently is taut and is in use to control a sail. The opposite of the lazy sheet.
Worm Gear A long, rotating gear in the form of a screw, which meshes with the teeth of another gear.