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Ships & boats - names of stuff

December 2, 2011
Posted at 4:00 pm

Some might wonder why my characters are walking around on a cabin sole, when most of us are walking around on the soles of our shoes. Here's the deal:

I realize the terms which apply to a ship or boat may seem arcane, but that is the proper word. This is from a Wikipedia entry:

"An enclosed space on a boat is referred to as a cabin. Several structures make up a cabin: the similar but usually lighter structure which spans a raised cabin is a coach-roof. The "floor" of a cabin is properly known as the sole, but is more likely to be called the floor (a floor is properly, a structural member which ties a frame to the keelson and keel). The vertical surfaces dividing the internal space are bulkheads."

I have a 30-foot sailboat, and it's always fun to introduce the proper terms to my friends who come aboard for a cruise out into the San Juan Islands.

The deck is the topsides walking surface. The sole is the cockpit and interior walking surface; walls are bulkheads, the cabin has a coach-roof, the windows are port-lights, the door is a companion-way, the corridor is a passage-way, stairs are ladders (my boat has a three-step ladder to go below (never "down") into the cabin. The sliding cover is a hatch, the kitchen is a galley, the cupboards are lockers, the beds are berths, and the toilet is a head ... and so on. Then we have fore, aft, abaft (behind), port (left side of vessel) and starboard.

Since my boat is a fiberglass hull laid up in a mold, it doesn't have floors, frames and stringers, but it does have a keel. Oh, the ceiling in a boat is the lining inside the hull, screwed to vertical spacers to insulate and hold things away from the damp insides of the outer hull. Most modern boats have molded inside liners rather than ceiling.

There .. that's a quick course in boat terminology (smile) ...