Boater Slang

While we have lived onboard for 4 years now, it was 3 years ago today that we took the Big Left Turn. In cruiser-speak, specifically those who have cruised from the Pacific Northwest, the term 'The Big Left Turn' is used to describe leaving the Straight of Juan de Fuca and entering the Pacific Ocean, turning left to reach southern shores.

While reflecting on this enormous feat I ended up reflecting on other terms cruisers use that may not be familiar with everyone. Below is a list of some of the other words that we have used, some known throughout most cruisers and some, perhaps, only used on board MV Noeta.

(Can't find the source for this image...if anyone knows, let me know!)

Landlubber - A person who lives on land.

Dirt Dweller - the same as a Landlubber

Sunsetter - drinks, often in the cockpit or on a flybridge, during sunset

Docktails - similar to a Sunsetter, but on a dock (not necessarily just at sunset)

Floatails - similar to Docktails, but enjoyed while floating in water

Bitchwings - The pose a boater gives to another boater in an anchorage when they are anchoring too close. Arms spread wide out to the side with a 'are you seriously going to anchor that close' look on their face is the typical bitchwing pose.

Scuttlebutt - Where sailors get together to talk about a race or event after it has taken place. Interestingly, this term has a historical reference. A butt is a wooden cask which holds water or other liquids and to scuttle means to drill a hole, like the tapping of the cask. So, the scuttlebutt was the drinking fountain on the ship and when Sailors gathered around the scuttlebutt they would exchange rumors of the voyage.

Puddle Jump - This is a term that was originally coined for a group of boaters crossing from Mexico to the French Polynesian islands a number of years ago. More recently, some of the same boaters have worked to rename the Puddle Jump to signify how truly immense the journey is. It's more a voyage than a jump.

Boomerang - This is a journey where one cruises out and then back. In Mexico, the term is often used for those who sail to the Hawaiian islands and then return to the states, often Alaska, Canada or Washington.

Noodle - A group of 3 or more Nordhavns. 

Noggle - A group of 3 or more Nordhavn owners.

Wannanoggle - A group of 3 or more people who are Nordhavn fans.

Want to know more about a Noodle, Noggle and Wannanoggle?! Watch this video we made!

Noggle - A group of 3 or more Nordhavn owners.

Chingus - Ok, this one may only be used on Noeta, but a chingus can be used for anything. A stainless steel screw? Sure! A rubberband? Yep! An outboard engine? Why not!? A thingy that you have no idea what it's called? Absolutely. Basically, when someone (Pat) says 'Hand me the chingus', the person passing the item (Alexa) then has to become a mind-reader and mime-interpreter to figure out which chingus to pass. 

Blowboater - A term a powerboater might use to describe a sailboater.

Stinkpotter - A term a sailboater might use to describe a powerboater.

Beer Can Rally - The name for the Wednesday afternoon sailboat races in Banderas Bay, Mexico. It encourages sailors to get off the dock and actually use their sails :)

Boatschooling - Like homeschooling, but on a boat

Galley (boat kitchen), Head (boat bathroom, Berth/Stateroom/Cabin (boat bedroom), Saloon (boat living room/main cabin), this one is also called a Salon sometimes, mostly in the US, but historically Saloon is the correct term - Boaters have their own language when talking about their boat spaces. Often you will be corrected if you use the landlubber term when on a boat. Good luck!

I know that our cruiser friends have other words they could add to this list. Send them to me and I'll update the blog!

The following are phrases you may know...but did you know they have a nautical background? (definitions below are from Don Google)

Above Board

Pirates would hide crew members below decks to fool victims. When all the crewmen were on the deck then -- seeing is believing – the vessel was more likely to be an honest merchant ship.

All hands on deck

Nowadays we gather to discuss some task. Sailors did the same thing, but met on the deck.


This was the word used to describe the deceit of pirates who flew an ensign of national origin other than their own.

Barge In

Most believe this term, used today to describe a tactless appearance or interruption, came about because barges are hard to maneuver.

Clean Slate

Daily logs were kept on a slab of slate. Each new watch officer would erase the previous entries.

Devil to pay

The "devil" seam which ran along the hull at the deck level, was the most difficult to caulk. To "pay" meant to caulk. Voilá. The sailor had to hang off the deck to caulk the seam and was said to be "between the devil and the deep blue sea."

Knows the ropes

It took an experienced seaman to know the function of all the ropes on a sailing vessel.

Mind your P’s and Q’s

Short for pints and quarts of ale. Tavern keepers would keep careful track (mind) the tab, especially, of sailors who were about to ship out.

Passed with Flying Colors

Refers to a sailing ship that distinguished itself by flying all of its pennants and flags (called "colors") when passing other vessels.

Pipe Down
Now used to get someone to stop talking or making noise. Aboard a ship, a boatswain's pipe, or whistle, is used to summon a crew or to relay orders. The sounding of this instrument is referred to as piping. A crew would be 'piped' to a meal for example. To dismiss a crew, the pipe is sounded and the command "pipe down" is given. Because it got much quieter after the dismissal, the command became associated with quieting down.

Shape Up

This was the term helmsmen used to refer to getting back on course to avoid danger.

Under the Weather

The sailor who had to stand watch on the bow taking all the pounding and spray was said to be "under the weather."

Worth their Salt

Salt actually was also used to pay Roman sailors. So any sailor "worth his salt" was worth what he was getting paid.

On our 4 year anniversary, look back at what we had learned after 1 year of cruising!


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