Glossary of Terms

At the suggestion of some readers, I've created this glossary to deal with all the Aussie-isms and sailing terms which crop up in 'King of the Beach'. If there are any that flummox you, that aren't included on this list, please contact me


Bareboat: renting a yacht and sailing it yourself without qualified skipper or crew. Usually bareboat companies will give you a few hours' tuition with a skipper before turning you loose with one of their boats unsupervised.

Bastard: definitely a term of affection in Australia.

Biro: the brand name of a ballpoint pen. Has become the generic term, at least in Australia.

Boaties: someone who works, lives, eats, breathes boats. An example of the Aussie habit of either shortening words, or adding -ie or -o to them. See also deckies, Joshy, Tez, Gaz, and Jo-Jo. Cadie will probably end up as Cades or Cado, just you wait, matie.

Bommies: short for bombora, and aboriginal word meaning submerged rock. Basically a bommie is a pillar of coral growing up from the sea bed, or reef, that never penetrates the surface of the water, even at low tide.

Boom: the long horizontal spar, hanging low on the mast that the biggest sail is supported by. Swings freely, allowing for controlling the position of the sail relative to the wind direction. I totally just made that up.

Bow: the sharp bit at the front of a boat.

Buggered: as in 'that's me buggered'. Aussie for 'oh dear, I'm really in a mess now'.

Bushwhacked: kidnapped, hijacked, forced into something under duress.

Cyclone: the southern hemisphere equivalent of a hurricane. Cylones spin in the opposite direction to hurricanes, but that's the only difference. Cyclone season in Australia runs from December to March. They rarely travel further south than the Tropic of Capricorn but it's not unheard of.

Deckies: deckhands.

Digger: nickname for Australian soldiers. It's come to be used more generally as another word for 'mate'.

Divemaster: qualified scuba diver who's also certified to teach. Many bareboat companies, resorts etc will subcontract to a divemaster to come in with equipment and teach their clients the basics to the point where they can get certified.

Dope: oh come on, you know what dope is ... weed, grass, MJ, mary-jane, marijuana, Mullimbimby madness ...

Driving on the left: is what we do in Australia. This means the steering wheel is on the right, which would put Cadie and Jo (who's driving) on Rosa's right.

Dual cockpit: the Beneteau 50 has two wheels at the helm, one on the port (left) and one on the starboard (right) side. This is known as the crew cockpit. Additionally, in front of the helm, is a large area of seating for passengers, and includes a central table.

Fart-arsing: the act of wasting time in a frivolous fashion.

Forepeak: the compartment located at the bow of the boat, forward of the mast. In the Seawolf's case it houses a small cabin consisting of two single berths, a head, and a shower.

G'day: also spelled gidday. A bastardisation of 'good day'. Contrary to some glossaries of Aussie terms, I have NEVER heard it used as a way of saying goodbye. Strictly hello.

Genoa: a large foresail which takes the place of the jib. Can be furled without taking it down. No, really.

Head: sailing talk for bathroom, specifically the toilet. On the Seawolf, each cabin has its own head and shower.

Hectare: Metric unit of area. One hectare is about 2.5 acres. A bloody lot of dirt, in other words.

Helm: the steering wheel.

Hooning around: the act of being young, in charge of a vehicle, and intent on looking cool by driving like a complete goose, complete with peel-outs, rubber-burning and loud rap music.

Jackaroo: A farm hand who usually rides either a horse or, these days, more likely a motorbike or four-wheel drive, around the property, doing repairs or rounding up sheep or cattle. A female jackaroo is a jillaroo. Really.

Leeward side: the opposite side from which the wind is blowing. In other words, if you are standing at the helm, looking forward and the wind is coming from the starboard (right), then the port side (left) is to leeward.

Loopies: derogatory, but somewhat affectionate term for tourists. Fairly specific to the Whitsundays as far as I can tell. Never heard it anywhere else.

Low 30's celsius: not Fahrenheit. For example, 33 degrees C is about 91 degrees F.

Mackay: a town in north Queensland, about an and a half's drive south of Airlie Beach.

Main drag: the main street.

Mainsail: the main, um, sail.

Master's ticket: the qualification needed to skipper a boat. Requirements vary depending on the length of the vessel and the purpose of the boat, but usually include a certain number of logged hours as a deckhand, plus a written and oral exam.

Mate: buddy, pal, friend. The most common Aussie term of endearment, inextricably linked with the idea of mateship, an intrinsic part of Aussie bonding.

Michelin Guide: a snooty restaurant rating guide that awards one to three stars with three being the highest. Very few restaurants earn three and businesses have folded on the basis of losing a star.

Mob: group of people. Rural types talk about mobs of sheep.

Moreton Bay bug: a shellfish, smaller than a lobster, but with meat that can be prepared in much the same ways as lobster can be. For mine, it's sweeter than lobster meat. Delicious.

No worries: absolutely no problems, whatsoever. My pleasure.

Pentridge Prison: Australia's most infamous jail, where all the reaaaaaaaally bad boys are kept.

Quids: dollars, bucks, rupees, readies, moolah, cash, Oxford scholars.

Sheila: a woman. Probably originates from the Aussie male's inability to remember too many names at a time. See also the Monty Python Bruces sketch.

Smartarse: smartass.

Starboard: the right-hand side. Opposite of port.

Stiletto: a small, very thin, incredibly sharp knife which can be easily hidden.

Stubbies: small bottles of beer or cider. Half a dozen of them in a six-pack, 24 in a slab.

Supergrass: the ultimate grass, ie. someone who has turned 'state's evidence', an informant. Usually a criminal who cuts a deal to avoid prosecution or have their sentence reduced.

Tack: to turn the boat so that the wind exerts pressure on the opposite side of the sail.

Taipan: a particularly nasty brand of Australian snake. It's found mostly along the non-desert areas of north and north-east Australia (from Brisbane to Darwin). It is an aggressive, large, slender snake, and may be coloured any shade of brown but always has a rectangular head (large in proportion to the body) and red eyes. Venom output is high and causes neurotoxicity, coagulopathy, and rhabdomyolysis, and the amount retrieved from just one milking from one taipan is enough to kill many million mice. Paralysis is difficult to reverse unless treated early. Untreated, a good bite will almost certainly be fatal. So there.

Tannoy: public address system.

Tinny: a small, usually aluminium, dinghy. Also refers to a can of beer. Also means lucky. For example: "Geez you tinny bastard, how'd you land that fish? Now toss me another cold tinny, before I chuck you out of the tinny."

Townies: big city folks.

Transom: the flat, or sometimes curved terminating structure of the hull at the stern of a boat. That's the blunt, back end of the boat.

Tucker: Aussie for food.

Tyres: this really is how most of the English-speaking world spells those round rubber things on each corner of the car.

Ute: Short for utility. A work vehicle, usually consisting of a cab and a tray. But not usually any bigger than a standard sedan when it comes to engine size. Americans would probably call them a truck.

Winches: geared winding-type gizmos attached to the deck. The sheets (lines used to control the position of the sails) pass through them. Winding them allows for the hoisting and pulling down of sails, and in lower gears, for the fine adjustment of the sails. Bloody hard work, especially on bigger yachts.

Wrinklies: parental units.

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Page updated March 18, 2002.