K flag

K As a flag, or flashed in Morse code, -0-, it means, ‘I wish to communicate with you’. In the phonetic alphabet it is Kilo, pronounced ‘key-low’.


A relatively light and secondary anchor used for a variety of purposes, such as backing up the main or Bower anchor, or for a temporary stop when great security is not required. To anchor in that way is ‘to kedge’. To Kedge off is to haul the boat off the mud, or into another position, by laying the kedge anchor out from the dinghy. To make such work easier and lighter, the kedge is normally used with a rope cable rather than chain.


A word with several associated meanings. In the first place it is the principal fore-and-aft timber member of a boat’s backbone. To the keel proper may be bolted a Ballast keel of iron or lead. The first kind of keel is a structural component, the second a dynamic component with the functions of holding the boat upright and reducing her leeway. In the second category are Bilge keels, or Twin keels. These may be fitted to a hull which has a structural keel, or to a moulded resinglass hull which has no such member. But even if the boat has a real keel, her bilge keels would in that case not be attached to it: they would be carried by bilge-stringers or bilge-plates, one to each side of the hull. A False keel is added externally, beneath the keel proper, to increase the draft – for example to give a rowing boat additional area to resist lateral drift.


A fore-and-aft timber fitted above the keel, and above the transverse Floors which link the frames. The complete backbone structure may consist of the keel timber, the Hog, which is wider and shallower to provide a landing for the Garboards, and above that, sandwiching the floors, the keelson.


A two-masted sailing boat, with the after or mizzen mast forward of the rudder. Well, that’s one definition, and its corollary says that a Yawl has the mizzen aft of the rudder. But it is not always as simple as that, and when deciding whether to call a boat ketch or yawl one must pay attention to the proportions of her main and mizzen sails. A yawl will have a mizzen amounting to only a quarter, or at most a third the area of the main, whereas a ketch’s mizzen will be from fifty per cent upwards. In boats of less than about forty feet, the drawback with either two-masted rig is that the mizzen and its rig takes up useful space in the region of the cockpit and after deck – and costs more.


A large upstanding timber, usually the head of a frame prolonged above deck level, whose purpose is to belay warps. Not to be found in yachts and small pleasure craft, but would be found on a larger and older boat, often in the form of two uprights with a cross-bar.


See Aramid.

Kicking strap

A tensioned strop to prevent the boom from lifting. Usually run¬ning from the foot of the mast to meet the boom at about forty-five degrees, but in a more sophisticated arrangement its lower end runs in a curved track or Horse on deck, thus giving a vertical pull.


In a wooden boat, a strong central timber in the deck. More than just a deck plank, it will often be several inches thick, especially in the region just abaft the Stem where it may make a base for Bitts or anchor Windlass.


A distinctive spoke on a steering wheel to show when the wheel is centred.

Kitchen rudder

A steering device in the form of a pair of metal clamshells enclosing the propeller. When the shells are open the water flows directly aft. By closing them aft of the rudder they form a rounded ‘bucket’ which turns the water flow forward and thrusts the boat astern. With the shells open they may be turned in unison, to port or starboard to steer the boat. (Spelled with a capital K after the name of the inventor.)


A light-weight, light-weather sail, flown high up. Slang for spinnaker if you hadn’t guessed!


Approximately L-shaped pieces of timber, or metal, used to support Thwarts or deck beams, or indeed to strengthen the joint between any two components meeting at something near a right angle. Hanging knees are fitted vertically, Lodging knees horizontally. A wooden knee may be cut from a piece of timber with suitable grain, or it may be laminated by bending and gluing thin strips.


See windshift.


Knots, like Bends and Hitches, are ways of joining rope to something else. But don’t ask me which is which, I’ve said my little piece under Hitch.

Knot (speed)

Generally used as a term for a speed of one Nautical Mile an hour. Some people get very cross if you talk about ‘knots an hour’, while others delight in producing seemingly sound arguments in support of that usage. In fact, and in real life, when people talk about knots they mean speed, not distance.


A relatively sharp curve in a frame or in the contour of a hull. This is one of those terms which are freely used by boatbuilders and designers but which are hard to get hold of until you actually know. If you think of a traditional timber boat and liken her frames to fmgers you get the point. The numerous breed of Laurent Giles-designed Westerly Boats (Pageant, Centaur, Renown, etc.) all show knuckle in their Bows.