Miscellaneous ship terms.

The following are nautical terms used for various ship’s fittings and structures:
Deck head. This is a ceiling in a ship.
Bulkhead. This is a wall in a ship.
Hatch. This is an opening in a deck to allow vertical access between decks. These can be small hatches for the passage of personnel between decks , the loading of small items of stores or cargo hatches which must be very large to cater for the cargo handled.
Hatch coamings. These are the raised sides of a hatch onto which a hatch cover is fitted to make them water-tight.
Hatch covers. This is the metal cover fitted to the hatch coaming to seal the decks from one another.

Examples of small hatches .

Large cargo hatches.

Watertight doors. Metal doors in watertight bulkheads equipped with a rubber seal and a number of steel door clips to ensure that the door has a watertight fit when closed. Like a hatch the bulkheads are equipped with a coaming to prevent water from spilling along the deck from one compartment to the next.

Examples of watertight doors.

Galley. This is the ship’s kitchen.
Heads. This is the toilet or lavatory in a ship.
Cabin. This is room where a crew member sleeps.
Guard rails. These are the wire or metal fences around the upper deck and superstructure decks to prevent crew from falling over the side.

Guard rails.

Bulwark. This is the solid metal extension of the ship’s side along the outer edges of the upper deck. Their purpose is the same as that of the guard rails.

Bulwark surrounding the foc’sle (Port of London Authorities).

Stanchion. This is an upright post used to secure lines or rails, ie guard rails.
Davits. These are the metal devices used to raise and lower the lifeboats on a ship.

Example of one of many different types of davits (Shipchandler at Saint-Petersburg) .

Derrick. This is a long spar (pole) which is hinged at the foot which is used like the jib of a crane to load and discharge cargo.

Basic design of a derrick (Admiralty manual of seamanship).

Gunwhale. This is the upper edge of a boat’s side.
Gangway. The wood and steel/aluminium “bridge” used for personnel to come aboard and go ashore. Used by vessels with smaller freeboards.

Gangway (merchant navy) or brow (naval) (UPNOVR).

Brow. A naval term for a gangway.
Catwalk. A raised gangway running fore and aft, in a low freeboard ship (ie oil tanker)for the safety of personnel in a rough sea with water breaking over the upper deck.

Catwalk aboard a tanker.

Breakwater. A low raked steel barrier built across the forecastle to stop heavy seas from sweeping aft.

Typical breakwaters aboard a naval vessel (Royal Navy MOD UK).
(The two V shaped breakwaters are situated just forward of the frigates gun turret).

Jack. The national flag of a country.
Jackstaff. The short mast right on the point of the forecastle where the national flag of a warship is flown when at anchor or lying alongside a quay or jetty.
Ensign. This is a flag displaying the country and the arm of service to which a ship belongs. It is usually flown right aft on the poop deck or at the gaff of the main mast.
Accommodation ladder. This is a stairway which is lowered and mounted over the ship’s side (outboard) for persons to come aboard whilst the ship is at anchor. On ships with a large freeboard, the accommodation ladder is used when alongside between the quay and the upper deck.

Accommodation ladder fully rigged (Safety 4 Sea).

When a person comes onto a ship, he/she comes aboard. Once on the ship, he/she is on-board. If he/she leaves the ship, they go ashore.
When a ship is lying next to a jetty or quay, it is alongside.
When a person comes onto the upper deck, he/she is said to be on deck. When they go below decks then they are between decks.
Scuttle or Port hole. The round shaped window in the ship’s hull or superstructure. They can be either fixed (cannot be opened) or they can be hinged on one side so that they may be opened.
Deadlight. This is a hinged round metal cover which is fitted over the scuttle on the inside which can be closed to provide extra strength to the scuttle and shut out any unneeded light at night.

Scuttle and deadlight .

Fairlead. A fairlead is a metal device either fixed to the deck or cut into the bulwark through which the mooring wires/hawsers are led.

Roller fairlead.


Bollard. A bollard is a round metal device that looks like a cotton reel which is mounted on the upper deck (and ashore). Its purpose is to provide a securing point for the berthing wires/hawsers.

Twin bollards aboard a vessel .

Bollards ashore.

Bitts. Bitts perform the same function as bollards but are meant for a lighter load.
Guillotine. This is a metal device mounted on the forecastle and fitted between the hawse pipe and the capstan/windlass. The anchor cable passes through it and is fitted with a hinged plate which can be lowered onto the anchor cable to prevent it from moving.


Bullring. A round metal fitting on the stem through which hawsers or wire ropes are passed when towing or being made fast to a mooring buoy.


Scupper. A scupper is an opening in the ship’s side at deck level which allows water which has broken over the deck to flow off and back into the sea.
Monkey island. The deck immediately above the bridge is referred to as the “monkey island”. It usually has a compass fitted on it and it is sometimes used to conn the ship when coming into harbour.

Monkey Island atop the bridge .

Mast. Masts are vertical metal structures mounted either on the weather deck or above the bridge. They can take the form of thick, tall, steel “poles” or smooth sided or latticed structures. Their purpose is to act as topping for derricks or to carry navigation lights or to carry antennas for radios and/or radar. On sailing ships a mast is used to carry sails.
Funnel. This is the metal structure mounted on the superstructure through which the ship’s engines exhaust gasses pass.
Screws. The screws of a ship are its propellers that propel the ship through the water.
Rudder. This is the device at the stern mounted aft of the propellers which is used to steer the ship.
Anchor. This is a heavy metal device carried in the bows of the ship which is used to secure the ship when lying off shore.

Various types of anchor.

When the ship drops her anchor(s), the anchor(s)are let go. When the vessel recovers her anchor(s), she weighs anchor.
When a vessel is stuck on some rocks or sand she is said to be aground.
If a vessel is not made fast to the shore , or at anchor or aground, she is known to be adrift
Capstan. This is the device which has a curved (“waisted”) drum or rundle mounted on a vertical spindle driven by steam, electricity or hydraulics. It is used for working hawsers or warps.
Cable holder. This is a sprocket wheel mounted on a spindle which is used solely for working cables for anchors.
Windlass. This a horizontally mounted combination of a capstan and cable holder. It is driven by steam, electric motor or hydraulic motor.


Hawse pipe. This is the pipe running through the forecastle on either side of the ship through which the anchor cable is fed and attached to the anchors.
Naval pipe. This is s a pipe running through the forecastle into the cable locker where the anchor cable is stored. The pipes are situated just astern of the windlass and the anchor cable is fed around the cable holder into the cable locker via the naval pipes.
Winch. A winch is a horizontally mounted device used for hauling ropes, hawsers and running rigging. It is also used with derricks for the loading and discharging cargo.

Typical electric winch.

Bow/stern thrusters. These propellers mounted athwartships in tunnels built into the hull near the bow or stern which are used when coming alongside to push the bows/stern sideways.