Get your card today


What are the Different Parts of a Boat?

August 10, 2021

Whether you are looking to buy your first boat or studying before taking your online boating license in Canada, learning about boat anatomy is fundamental to understanding basic boating terminology and being able to quickly identify the common parts of a boat.

Parts of a boat from the front

Here is a visualization of the parts of a boat from the front view:

parts of a boat from the front

Parts of a boat from the side view

Here is a visualization of the parts of a boat from the side view:

parts of a boat from side view

The main parts of a boat

Ready to find out the difference between port and starboard? Here is all the terminology you need to know for each part of a boat.


The main body of a watercraft is called the hull. It is the part of the boat that floats in and sits above the water and runs from front to back.

A hull can be classified into 3 types:

  • Planing hull: As the boat gains speed, the hull glides on top of the water.
  • Pontoon hull: There is a pontoon on either side of the hull to provide flotation.
  • Displacement hull: Hulls used on larger boats designed to propel through water.


The back or rear part of a boat is called the stern. On most boats, the engines are located at the stern, while others use it for storage or seating. The stern shape can influence the way waves break on the back of the boat.


The front or forward part of a boat is called the bow. Bows help boats stay above waves, taking the boat over the next wave instead of breaking the wave in half.


A gunwale is the upper edge of the side of a vessel where the deck meets the hull. It gives the hull additional rigidity.


The helm includes all aspects of steering a boat, such as engine controls, the joystick and wheel. The type of boat will determine everything that goes into making up the helm.


The transom is the section along the stern of your boat where an outboard motor is mounted.


Docking your boat involves the use of metal fixtures to attach a rope or cable from your boat to the dock. These metal fittings are known as cleats.

Navigation lights

Navigation lights are standard parts of most boats. The most common navigation lights are red and green sidelights, as well as all-around white lights, which are found on powerboats.

Port and Starboard

The port refers to the left side of a watercraft looking forward and the starboard refers to the right side of a watercraft looking forward.


The beam of a boat refers to the width of the vessel at its widest point. Larger beams make boats more stable.


The freeboard refers to the distance from the waterline to the gunwale of a boat.


The keel is a beam that runs from the bow to the stern on the bottom of the boat.


The draft refers to the distance from the waterline to the keel of a boat.


Most people are familiar with propellers, which are devices with blades and a rotating hub used to move a boat forward or backward through water.


A boat’s bilge is the lowest point on the inside of the vessel and is designed to collect excess water to be sent back into the lake or sea.


A waterline marks the line that divides the submerged section of a boat from the above-water section.

Get your boat license with Drive a Boat Canada

Now that you are familiar with all the terminology relating to the different parts of a boat, you should be well-prepared to study and take the official online boat test for your Canadian boating license!