A Sea Kayaking Glossary for Your Kayak Tour

Sea kayaking, like all other human pursuits, has its own special vocabulary. Knowing some of the key paddling words can be a big help when you participate on a kayak tour. Here is our sea kayaking glossary from A to F to get you started. Of course, knowing the unusual words found in our glossary of nautical explanations is not required. But they are fun to know and can enhance your enjoyment of sea kayak tour. Casually tossing out some of these salty kayaking words into the conversation will certainly impress your guide and fellow sea kayakers with your nautical knowledge!

Glossary of Nautical and Sea Kayaking Words from A to F

Aft – Toward the rear, or stern, of a kayak.
Astern – Toward the rear of a kayak.
Backpaddle – Using a reverse stroke to paddle backward or slow the forward motion of a kayak.
Ballast – Weight in the kayak such as paddlers and gear increases kayak stability.
Beam – The width of a kayak as measured at its widest point.
Bilge – The low point on the inside of a kayak’s hull where water can puddle.
Bilge pump – A pump used to remove water that collects in the bilge.
Bow – The front or forward end of the kayak.
Brace – A stroke used to provide support and keep the kayak stable. See “high brace” and “low brace.”
Broach – To get pushed off course so that the kayak is unfavorably oriented broadside to waves, currents, or an obstacle. An uncontrolled broach can lead to a capsize.
Bulkhead – A partition inside the kayak that creates a separate watertight compartment for gear stowage and safety buoyancy.
Capsize – The act of flipping or rolling a kayak into an inverted position.
Channel – A section of passable water between islands, reefs, shoals, and other obstructions. See “strait”
Chart – A map for marine navigation.
Cleat – A fitting used for tying lines to. Often attached to the deck of a kayak, they have two protruding horns. We also use them to park our paddles in place when resting.
Cockpit – The opening in the kayak deck in which the paddler sits.
Coaming – The rim of a kayak cockpit to which a spray skirt is attached.
Course – Intended direction for a vessel to travel.
Dead reckoning – A navigational method popular in sea kayaking. Determining position by taking into account such factors as currents, wind speed, and your projected course and speed.
Deck – The upper surface or top of a kayak.
Draft – The distance between the waterline on a kayak and the bottom of the boat’s keel. Kayaks have a very shallow draft.
Draw stroke – A paddle stroke used to move the kayak sideways.
Dry bag – A waterproof bag kayakers use to protect the items they bring with them.
Ebb – An outgoing current created by a falling tide. See “flood” and “slack”.
Eddy – A deflection of the main current caused by an obstruction in the flow such as an island or reef. Eddies often flow in reverse of the main current (a back eddy) and so kayakers who are traveling against the current often seek eddies out to conserve energy.
Eddy line – Typically a visible boundary that separates the opposing currents in an eddy.
Feather – Paddle blades oriented at different angles to minimize drag created by head winds.
Ferry – To move a kayak across a moving body of water by angling the bow into the current so as to minimize drifting down current.
Fiberglass – A lightweight composite material used in the construction of the most expensive kayak hulls such as those used at Sea Quest. Fiberglass is lightweight, strong and creates minimal drag.
Flatwater – Calm river, lake, or ocean water without rapids or high waves.
Flood – An incoming current created by a rising tide. See “ebb” and “slack”.
Flotation – Buoyancy inside the hull to keep the kayak from sinking in the event of capsize.
Following sea – Waves that overtake a kayak from from astern. See “seas”.
Foot brace – A pedal-like foot rest that provides leverage for an efficient paddle stroke, improves stability in rough seas, and in some cases controls the rudder for steering.

Click here for our sea kayaking dictionary from G to R.
Click here for our sea kayak terms from S to Z.

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