Yachts, Powerboats, and other fun Nautical Phrases

There is a considerable amount of confusion about the words: yacht and powerboat. Are they the same? If not, what is the difference? You might be surprised to know that theses terms are actually interchangeable! Both definitions stating: “A motorboat designed for racing or recreation.”

Now that you’re certified or in the process of becoming certified, isn’t it time you knew the origin of some of the most well known nautical phrases?

  • “High and Dry”: We know this phrase to mean that someone is stranded, without help or hope of recovery. The phrase has not changed meaning much in hundreds of years! In the early nautical days this phrase could mean one of two things. One is that the ship’s occupants were out of fresh water to drink, or two: that the ship had run aground, leaving the ship high on the shore and dry, because the water could not reach it.
  • “Three Sheets to the Wind”: You might already know that the phrase refers to drunkenness, but it may surprise you to know that ‘sheets’ are not sails in this reference. Sheets on a ship were chains fixed to the lower corners of sails in order to keep them in place. If three of these sheets were loose or not attached, the ship could be blown around in the wind. The motion of the ship resembled a drunken sailor’s walk.
  • “Hard and Fast”: A ‘hard and fast’ rule is one that is rigidly adhered to. The phrase typically means that there will be little to no debate or doubt. The nautical origin comes from sailors describing ships that have run aground. This phrase was used to describe a ship that was firmly beached on land. Figuratively speaking, hard and fast means that there won’t be any movement.

Boating is a lifestyle and part of that lifestyle is learning the history and jargon! Keep an eye out for future blogs that will introduce more nautical phrases. Happy boating!