Sailing Terms with the letter 'F'

Fathom- A unit of length equal to 6 feet (1.8 m), roughly measured as the distance between a man's outstretched hands.

Fender- An air or foam filled bumper used in boating to keep boats from banging into docks or each other.


Figurehead- Symbolic image at the head of a traditional sailing ship or early steamer.

Fireship- A ship loaded with flammable materials and explosives and sailed into an enemy port or fleet either already burning or ready to be set alight by its crew (who would then abandon it) in order to collide with and set fire to enemy ships.

First rate-The classification for the largest sailing warships of the 17th through 19th centuries. They had 3 masts, 850+ crew and 100+ guns.



  1. To repair a mast or spar with a fillet of wood.

  2. To secure an anchor on the side of the ship for sea (otherwise known as "catting".)

First Lieutenant-In the Royal Navy, the senior lieutenant on board; responsible to the Commander for the domestic affairs of the ship's company. Also known as 'Jimmy the One' or 'Number One'. Removes his cap when visiting the mess decks as token of respect for the privacy of the crew in those quarters. Officer i/c cables on the forecastle. In the U.S. Navy the senior person in charge of all Deck hands.

First Mate-The Second in command of a ship.

Flag hoist- A number of signal flags strung together to convey a message, e.g. "England expects...".

Flank- The maximum speed of a ship. Faster than "full speed".

Flatback- A Great Lakes slang term for a vessel without any self unloading equipment.

Flemish Coil- A line coiled around itself to neaten the decks or dock.

Flog- To beat, to punish.

Fluke- The wedge-shaped part of an anchor's arms that digs into the bottom.

Fly by night- A large sail used only for sailing downwind, requiring little attention.

Following sea- Wave or tidal movement going in the same direction as a ship.

Foot- The bottom of a sail.

Footloose- If the foot of a sail is not secured properly, it is footloose, blowing around in the wind.

Footrope- Each yard on a square rigged sailing ship is equipped with a footrope for sailors to stand on while setting or stowing the sails.


Forecastle- A partial deck, above the upper deck and at the head of the vessel; traditionally the sailors living quarters. Pronounced "focsle". The name is derived from the castle fitted to bear archers in time of war.

Founder- To fill with water and sink → Wiktionary.

Fore- Towards the bow (of the vessel).

Forefoot-The lower part of the stem of a ship.

Foremast jack-An enlisted sailor, one who is housed before the foremast.

Forestays-Long lines or cables, reaching from the front of the vessel to the mast heads, used to support the mast.

Freeboard-The height of a ship's hull (excluding superstructure) above the waterline. The vertical distance from the current waterline to the lowest point on the highest continuous watertight deck. This usually varies from one part to another.

Full and by- Sailing into the wind (by), but not as close-hauled as might be possible, so as to make sure the sails are kept full. This provides a margin for error to avoid being taken aback (a serious risk for square-rigged vessels) in a tricky sea. Figuratively it implies getting on with the job but in a steady, relaxed way, without undue urgency or strain.

Furl-To roll or wrap a sail around the mast or spar to which it is attached.