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Major Parts of a Ship

The parts of a ship vary, depending on what kind of ship it is, but a few general parts are common to all ships. Knowing the parts of a ship will increase your understanding when reading about boating related topics, and will also help you orient yourself when on board a ship. Many of the terms used to describe parts of ships are very old, as humans have been building, sailing, and talking about ocean going vessels for thousands of years.

The core of a ship is the structural keel, a heavily reinforced spine which runs along the bottom of the ship, in the middle. The keel supports the structure of the ship, and is the first part of the ship to be built, since it serves as a foundation. Some ships also have a hydrodynamic keel designed to increase their performance efficiency, which takes the form of a streamlined projection from the bottom of the ship to help it move quickly and smoothly through the water. The framework for the hull or shell, the body of the ship, is attached to the keel.

The hull is the most visible part of a ship, because it is the body of the watercraft. The hull makes the ship buoyant while providing shelter to those on board, and is divided by bulkheads and decks, depending on the size of the ship. Bulkheads are compartments which run across the ship from side to side, creating isolated areas in the ship, while decks are analogous to the floors of a house. A small ship may only have one primary deck, while larger ones may have over 10 decks, stacked from top to bottom.

The very bottom of a ship is known as the bilge, and the top is usually called the top deck. The top deck is broken up by the bridge, a covered room which serves as the command center for the ship. On larger ships, the top deck may have several levels, designed to isolate various types of the ship. A larger ship may also have several deck areas topside, including the poop deck, the deck in the rear of the ship, and the afterdeck, located directly behind the bridge. The rig, including masts, rigging, and sails, rises up from the top deck.

The front region of a ship is called the bow, and the rear is the stern. When someone is fore, they are in the front of the boat, while a sailor located amidships would be in the middle of the ship, and a person to the rear of the ship is aft. The right hand side of a ship is starboard, and the left is port.

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